Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects for 2016
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Corey Seager, SS, Grade A: Age 21, hit .293/.344/.487 between Double-A and Triple-A then .337/.425/.561 in 27 big league games. Should continue to hit for power and average, may wind up a more complete hitter than his brother Kyle. Can handle shortstop at least in the short run, has everything needed to be a star.
2) Julio Urias, LHP, Grade A: Age 19, a little more human in 2015 but still excellent for his age, posted 2.77 ERA in 74/15 K/BB in 68 innings in Double-A but was hit hard in two Triple-A starts, innings limited by operation to address his eye condition. Throws four quality pitches for strikes with amazingly good pitchability for one so young.
3) Jose De Leon, RHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 23, combined for 2.99 ERA with 163/37 K/BB in 114 innings between High-A and Double-A, hard to believe he was an anonymous 24th round pick two years ago, better conditioning and mechanics made all the difference with 90+ velocity, strong change-up helps too, can be number three starter.
4) Alex Verdugo, OF, Grade B+/B: Age 19, hit .295/.325/.394 in 421 at-bats in Low-A then .385/.406/.659 in 91 at-bats in High-A against considerably older competition. Walk rate down compared to 2014 but strikeout rate remains very low, I think more home run power will come, former pitcher collected 24 outfield assists. I am the high guy on him, others are more skeptical for various reasons. Rated as an aggressive Grade B entering 2015 and I couldn’t just leave him with that grade after a season like this.
5) Frankie Montas, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 22, posted 2.97 ERA with 108/48 K/BB in 112 innings in Double-A in White Sox system, 4.80 ERA with 20/9 K/BB in 15 major league innings, acquired in recent Todd Frazier trade. Clocked as high as 100 but secondary pitches (slider, change) remain inconsistent, as does his command, and many observers (not all) project him as a reliever.
6) Cody Bellinger, 1B, Grade B: Age 20, hit .264/.336/.538 with 30 homers, 103 RBI, 52 walks, 150 strikeouts in 478 at-bats in High-A. Got to his power much more frequently, trading off contact and batting average. Impressive glove, runs well enough to handle some outfield, will be interesting to see his bat outside the California League.
7) Yusniel Diaz, OF, Grade B: Age 19, signed out of Cuba last month for $15,500,000 plus another $15,500,000 in international bonus pool overage tax. Physical specimen with speed, raw power, strong arm, would have been a first-round pick if eligible for 2015 draft and is graded accordingly, risk is high until we see him against pro pitching but he performed well in Cuba at a young age before defecting. Could be a real multi-category beast.
8) Grant Holmes, RHP, Grade B: Age 19, posted 3.14 ERA with 117/54 K/BB in 103 innings in Low-A, 86 hits, can hit mid-90s but didn’t show as much polish as expected with secondary pitches and command. Workhorse body, needs more consistency to avoid turning into Ethan Martin.
9) Willie Calhoun, 2B-OF, Grade B: Age 21, fourth round pick from Yavapai Junior College, clubbed 31 homers in juco then hit .316/.390/.519 in pro ball with 11 homers, 35 walks, 38 strikeouts in 285 at-bats between rookie ball, Low-A, High-A. This is an aggressive grade but I am putting down a marker on this bat due to special combination of power and strike zone judgment. Glove at second base is quite poor and he’s likely an outfielder but bat is entrancing.
10) Austin Barnes, C, Grade B-: Age 26, hit .315/.389/.479 with 35 walks, 36 strikeout, 12 steals in 292 at-bats in Triple-A, .207/.361/.276 in 29 at-bats in majors. Solid receiver can also play infield if need be, unusual athleticism for a catcher, older prospect but has always hit well due to excellent eye, gap power, outplays his tools.
11) Jharel Cotton, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, posted 2.41 ERA with 114/31 K/BB in 96 innings at four levels, primarily in Double-A/Triple-A, 20th round pick out of East Carolina in 2012 took off after steadying velocity in the 90s and improving change-up into an excellent pitch. Breaking stuff still comes and goes, but with more consistency could be a fine fourth starter, could also fit into bullpen with more chance for dominance in that role.
12) Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 19, another Cuban, signed for $16,000,000 plus another $16,000,000 fine, hasn’t pitched in US yet. Prototype projection arm, can hit 98 and more possible, many questions about breaking stuff, change-up, command make him high-risk, high-reward investment.
13) Trayce Thompson, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, acquired from White Sox in Frazier trade, has always had excellent tools but bat didn’t take off until 2015 when he cut his strikeout rate drastically, hitting .260/.304/.441 in Triple-A then .295/.363/.533 in the majors (122 at-bats). Power, defense stand out but ’15 was out of context. Real improvement or illusion? White Sox may have been selling high so consider the risk, but upside is a regular who can hit 20 homers.
14) Zach Lee, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, long-time denizen of Dodgers prospect lists had impressive season in Triple-A, 2.70 ERA with 81/19 K/BB in 113 innings, 107 hits in the Pacific Coast League. Has settled in as command-oriented inning-eater, rebounding nicely from poor 2014 campaign.
15) Micah Johnson, 2B, Grade C+/B-: Age 25, hit .315/.376/.466 with 28 steals in Triple-A but just .230/.306/.270 in 100 at-bats for the White Sox, losing job after opening season at second base. Defensive troubles and lack of power are issues and he’s not young as prospects go, but speed and line drive hitting will get him more chances.
16) Chase De Jong, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, acquired from Blue Jays for bonus pool money, posted combined 3.43 ERA with 129/33 K/BB in 136 innings between Low-A and High-A, rebounding from shaky 2014. Average fastball, good curve, change-up needs more polish but he throws strikes, potential number four starter.
17) Chris Anderson, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 4.74 ERA with 100/68 K/BB in 133 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, heavy fastball in 92-94 range sometimes higher, slider and change-up have big league potential but overall sense of command needs work. Some project him as a starter but I think he winds up in pen.
18) Ross Stripling, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, Tommy John survivor posted 3.83 ERA with 55/19 K/BB in 67 innings in Double-A after returning. Classic number four starter type with low-90s fastball and assorted secondaries, should be ready for a trial sometime in 2016.
19) Walker Buehler, RHP, Grade C+: Vanderbilt talent will miss 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery, quality mid-rotation arm if he recovers properly.
20) Kyle Farmer, C, Grade C+: Age 25, hit .337/.395/.515 in Cal League, .272/.311/.392 after moving up to Double-A. Converted infielder has developed into sharp defensive catcher, can still play third base quite well, makes contact but lacks home run power though he did knock 40 doubles this year.
OTHER GRADE C+: Jordan Paroubeck, OF: Jacob Rhame, RHP; Jacob Scavuzzo, OF.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Imani Abdullah, RHP; Scott Barlow, RHP; Ralston Cash, RHP; Brendon Davis, INF; Caleb Dirks, RHP; Mitch Hansen, OF; Starling Heredia, OF; Nolan Long, RHP; Jacob Rhame, RHP; Josh Sborz, RHP; Andrew Sopko, RHP; Ronald Torreyes, INF; A.J. Vanegas, RHP
This farm system speaks for itself. I will be around in the comments thread the next couple of days to answer questions and discuss.