Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. The PDF version of the book will be released later this week.
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 20, hit .349/.402/.602 with 50 doubles, 20 homers, 40 walks, 115 strikeouts in 475 at-bats split between High-A and Double-A, no diminution in production after promotion. No doubts about the bat, consensus remains that he will wind up at third base in the long run but should be very good with the glove there. All-Star upside.
2) Julio Urias, LHP, Grade A: Age 18, posted 2.36 ERA with 109/37 K/BB in 88 innings in High-A, 60 hits. That’s the offense-heavy California League and he was just 17 years old most of the season. Velocity continues upward, excellent curve, excellent change, strong command, strong mound presence, a unique talent.
3) Joc Pederson, OF, Grade A-: Age 22, hit .303/.435/.582 with 33 homers, 100 walks, 149 strikeouts, 30 steals in Triple-A, but .143/.351/.143 in 28 major league at-bats. PCL environment was friendly of course and tools assessments remain more solid than excellent but he dramatically improved his platoon splits and has nothing left to prove in the minors. Broad skill base should make him valuable even if batting average is lowish.
4) Grant Holmes, RHP, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 18, posted 3.72 ERA with 58/13 K/BB in 48 innings in rookie ball, 39 hits, 2.32 GO/AO. 2014 first round pick with heavy fastball, power curve, and solid command for his age, number two starter projection assuming the change-up progresses and he stays healthy.
5) Alex Verdugo, OF, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 18, hit .353/.421/.511 with 20 walks, 18 strikeouts, 11 steals in 11 attempts over 190 at-bats in rookie ball. 2014 second rounder with spectacular debut, many preferred him as a pitcher but Dodgers loved the bat and early results are outstanding, excellent across the board skills and tools in the early going.
6) Chris Anderson, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, 4.62 ERA with 146/63 K/BB in 134 innings in the California League, 147 hits. Erratic campaign but improved as season progressed, low/mid-90s heavy fastball, erratic slider and change-up arsenal. Number three or four starter assuming secondaries and command continue to progress, reliever if they remain problematic.
7) Jose De Leon, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, posted 2.22 ERA with 119/21 K/BB in 77 innings between 54 innings in Pioneer League and 23 in Midwest League, 58 hits. Excellent ratios, reports on this former 24th round pick are positive but I’d like to see more than 23 innings in full-season ball before jumping on the bandwagon completely. Bumped fastball up to 94-95 with improved breaking ball after getting in better condition.
8) Scott Schebler, OF, Grade B-: Age 24, hit .280/.365/.556 with 23 doubles, 14 triples, 28 homers, 10 steals, 45 walks, 110 strikeouts in 489 at-bats in Double-A. Good set of physical tools and skills have improved steadily, still questions about strike zone judgment/contact against the best pitching but broad skill base will help. Trade bait?
9) Darnell Sweeney, OF-INF, Grade B-: Age 24, .288/.387/.463 in Double-A with 34 doubles, 14 homers, 77 walks, 117 strikeouts in 490 at-bats. Toolsy switch-hitter showing power increases and much improved strike zone judgment, runs well but very inefficient as a stealer (15 steals but caught 16 times), still refining erratic glovework.
10) Austin Barnes, C-2B, Grade B-: Age 25, acquired in trade with Marlins, hit .304/.398/.472 between High-A and Double-A, 31 doubles, 13 homers, 69 walks, just 61 strikeouts in 463 at-bats, 11 steals. Older prospect but has always played well, not his fault the Marlins did not promote him as quickly as performance warranted. Good strike zone judgment, surprising pop, solid defensive catcher and a solid second baseman, too. Reputation is growing.
11) Julian Leon, C, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 19, Mexican catcher signed at same time as Urias, hit .332/.420/.565 with 12 homers, 31 walks, 53 strikeouts in 223 at-bats in Pioneer League. Reports on bat are very positive, pointing to power and relatively refined approach. Reports on defensive tools are mixed but results are okay so far, threw out 30% with low error and passed ball rates for context. Will have to see about the glove but highly promising bat.
ANALYST NOTE: I am firm on the Top 11 but the spots below this are essentially interchangeable. The first slots are weighted towards guys who can contribute soon.
12) Pedro Baez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, former third baseman took well to pitching, 3.86 ERA with 38/13 K/BB in 42 innings in high minors, 2.63 ERA with 18/5 K/BB in 24 innings in majors. Big league results are no fluke, he has the stuff and control is quite good especially for someone just new to the mound.
13) Chris Reed, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.22 ERA with 111/55 K/BB in 137 innings in Double-A but was crushed after moving up to Triple-A (10.97 ERA, 37 hits in 21 innings). Good low-90s sinker but slider and change-up didn’t work too well against advanced hitting in PCL environment, granted sample was small. Back-end starter or reliever projection.
14) Zach Lee, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 5.38 ERA with 97/54 K/BB in 151 innings in Triple-A, 177 hits. Albuquerque/PCL not an ideal environment for his assets. Durable, throws strikes, although stuff has backed up from a couple of years ago. Fifth starter at this point, but might play up in relief.
15) Joe Wieland, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, another Tommy John case, acquired from Padres who had him on short leash last year coming back, 3.03 ERA with 36/6 K/BB in 39 innings in the minors, 7.15 ERA with 8/5 K/BB in 11 major league innings. Like Lee and Stripling, back end starter who relies on command but could be good if durability is there.
16) Ross Stripling, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, missed 2014 with Tommy John surgery. Great track record when/if healthy, minor league career 2.47 ERA with 154/36 K/BB in 164 innings, low 90s, three solid secondaries, great feel.
17) Yimi Garcia, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, another solid relief option, 3.10 ERA with 69/18 K/BB in 61 innings in Triple-A, 1.80 ERA with 9/1 K/BB in 10 big league innings. Nothing left to prove in the minors,
18) Zachary Bird, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, posted 4.26 ERA with 110/55 K/BB in 119 innings in Low-A. Outstanding athleticism and arm, excellent upside behind only Urias and Holmes, still learning to pitch. A step forward with secondary pitches and command will push him well up the list.
19) Enrique Hernandez, 2B, Grade C+: Age 23, trendy prospect after hitting .319/.372/.484 at three minor league stops last year, hit .284/.348/.420 in 24 games for Astros then was quickly flipped to Marlins where he hit .175/.267/.425, then traded to Dodgers. Has pop, but batting average/OBP out of career context last year. Solid second baseman, can also play outfield, you can rank him much higher if you believe the breakout was for real. I am not sure.
20) John Richy, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick last year out of UNLV, posted 3.74 ERA with 31/11 K/BB in 34 innings in debut, solid three-pitch mix, could advance rapidly as Ross Stripling did until his injury.
21) Cody Bellinger, 1B, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .328/.368/.503 with 14 walks, 35 strikeouts in 195 at-bats. Unusual 6-4, 180 build, very impressive defensive first baseman with a feel to hit, but power development will determine his future.
22) Jharel Cotton, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 4.05 ERA with 138/34 K/BB in 127 innings in Cal League, 113 hits. Curveball and change have come along nicely, fastball varies between 88 and 95 MPH depending on when you see him, throws strikes. Probably a reliever.
23) Jake Rhame, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, sixth round pick from a Texas junior college in 2013, posted 2.00 ERA with 90/14 K/BB in 67 innings, 48 hits. Ridiculous strikeout rate based on legitimate fastball/slider combination.
OTHERS: Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS; Scott Barlow, RHP; Jeff Brigham, RHP; Ralston Cash, RHP; Danny Coulombe, LHP; Joey Curletta, OF; Kyle Farmer, C; Carlos Frias, RHP; Alex Guerrero, 2B; Adam Liberatore, LHP; Michael Medina, OF; Chris O’Brien, C; A.J. Vanegas, RHP.
The Dodgers farm system was weak a few years ago due to lack of pecuniary investment, but once the scouts had the money to do their jobs properly again the talent level improved quickly and dramatically. New Baseball Operations president Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi (hired from the Athletics) and staff inherit a system burgeoning with talent.
If you want hitters, the Dodgers have two of the top premium prospects in baseball with Corey Seager and Joc Pederson. Alex Verdugo from the 2014 draft looked outstanding in his debut and could rate as highly as Seager and Pederson a year from now. Scott Schebler, Darnell Sweeney, and trade acquisition Austin Barnes may be role players but should be damn good ones, while Julian Leon and Cody Bellinger at the lower levels could also become regulars if they develop properly. There are some intriguing tool sets who could also develop (outfielders Joey Curletta and Michael Medina in particular). I don’t know what the Dodgers will do with Alex Guerrero and while the stats at Albuquerque were pretty good the scouting reports were considerably less sanguine.
While the hitters have impact at the top, the pitching has broader depth. Julio Urias might be the best pitching prospect in baseball (I will have a read on that in a few more days). 2014 first rounder Grant Holmes is highly promising of course and there is a huge group of C+/B- arms including several who are ready for major league trials. This group could be middle or back-end starters, solid relievers, and tasty trade bait.
Overall, there is impact and depth and plenty of talent for Friedman and company to work with.