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Dodgers Top 5 Prospects: Midseason checkup

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Let's use the minor leagues' midway point to revisit and track progress of the Dodgers' Top 5.

Tulsa's Alex Verdugo
Tulsa's Alex Verdugo

1. Julio Urias, LHP

The 19-year-old Mexican sensation takes over the org's top spot - for now - in light of Corey Seager's graduation.

Urias received a somewhat surprising call-up to the big club in late May following a two-month masterclass in PCL pitching. His handful of MLB outings have been a mixed bag, but it seems he's rounding into form and may log enough innings to remove himself from prospect lists.

Urias' stuff comes as-advertised, but the Dodgers' understandably cautious handing of the teenager will be a focal point this summer. It's apparent they not only have a 90-pitch limit per outing, but also a yearly innings max for him that will likely necessitate a move to the pen as early as August.

2. Jose De Leon, RHP

The former 24th round pick out of Southern U retains his spot as the team's #2 despite early injury woes and a host of high-end talent behind him.

De Leon has missed a month and a half this season between a minor ankle ordeal and bout of shoulder soreness. Upon his return from the shoulder, it's clear the team is slow-playing it to make sure he's right - he's been lifted after three innings in each outing.

The brief 2016 glimpses we've gotten of De Leon have shown no dropoff in his electric stuff. An optimist's view would be that the missed time may provide a window for him to help the Dodgers' big club in August and beyond. After throwing 114 innings last year and with just 11 in the bank this year, De Leon is a candidate to soak up some of Urias' innings and provide back-end/bullpen help in general to their injury-ravaged staff.

Of course to be considered for a promotion, De Leon will need to stay healthy himself. The late bloomer will likely see several more starts in the PCL before it'd become a possibility, but he has the sharp secondary pitches and advanced pitching acumen to serve as an impact arm if the Dodgers need to reach down for one.

3. Alex Verdugo, CF/RF

Verdugo has dismissed any notions that his second half breakout last year was fueled by the CAL League. The 20-year-old has cemented his status as the top bat in the system by both muscling up in the power department and doubling up his walk rate. These are encouraging signs for a player nearly four years younger than Texas League average.

There's been no change to Verdugo's defensive profile. Considered one of the top two-way players in the '14 draft, his cannon arm would fit snugly in RF if that's the final destination. Commenter jaroche6 noted that Verdugo set a Great Lakes (MWL) record with 21 assists last year.

But a closer look reveals the Dodgers likely have centerfield ambitions for their talented lefty. Verdugo has split the position with Tulsa teammate Andrew Toles this year and though he doesn't have the high-end speed every team loves to have out there, he may represent LA's best hope for a farm-grown centerfielder.

It's not hard to envision a scenario where Verdugo continues to display his precocious hit tool at the upper levels, and he may really do some damage when he's let loose at the PCL launchpads. If that comes to pass, he seems likely to get the nod in center at Dodger Stadium when his time comes. He should have more juice in his legs than future-Joc Pederson, as well as the superior left arm.

4. Frankie Montas, RHP

Montas arrived at the club along with Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson after the Dodgers wormed their way into a three-team offseason heist with the Reds and White Sox.

Even with a profile that some feel will fit best in the bullpen, Montas makes the grade on the team's top 5 on the strength of his high-90's heat and devastating slider. Similar to De Leon, the Dodgers showed extreme patience with Montas following offseason rib surgery and started him off in the OKC bullpen.

The 23-year-old Dominican product proved his health and stuff from the 'pen, and on June 9th the team reversed course in putting Montas in the AAA rotation. The early results have been encouraging (8 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, BB, 10 K), and even as an unfinished product, he's yet another option to help the big-league staff this summer.

To be sure, Montas needs a number of refinements to reach his ceiling as an impact starter. The changeup needs work, and a lack of stamina effects his command late in games. But he possesses the triple-digit gas that so few have, and I trust LA's development team to get the most out of him. The Dodgers have enviable talent percolating at seemingly every level, so Montas will need to capitalize on his rotation chance to keep his lofty ranking.

5. Grant Holmes, RHP

Holmes was the first-round selection in a bang-up 2014 Dodger draft class that also includes Verdugo, Brock Stewart, and Trevor Oaks in the top seven rounds.

Holmes has performed as expected over his first dozen CAL League appearances. He's getting hit a little harder with the Quakes, but has balanced it out by cutting the walks nearly in half (7.8 BB%) compared to last year (12.3%).

The 20-year-old's stuff has continued to look crisp this season with Rancho, as a recent game report from BA helps to corroborate.

Holmes frequently touches 95 with the heater, though he works most efficiently a couple notches below that. The low 80's slider is more like a power curve but continues to be his go-to offspeed offering. His high 80's changeup is coming along and has flashed at times.

Holmes also alluded to learning and brandishing a sinker in an April interview. It's unknown (to the public) how much he uses it and to what effect, but it could be a stealthy add to his arsenal. Any hard arm-side action should prove to be a nice counter to his favored slidepiece, and generating ground balls and weaker contact will be a focal point as he advances to unfriendly pitching surroundings.

On the Cusp: C/2B/3B Austin Barnes, 2B Willie Calhoun

Top 20 contenders: RHP Josh Sborz, RHP Trevor Oaks

Closing Thoughts

Under Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers have used every avenue to acquire talent and form the current farm system into one of the best in the game.

With the exception of a slight bump for Grant Holmes, not much appears changed at the top since John's offseason top 20.

This top 5 list is just personal preference, and I could indeed feel differently in two weeks or two months from now.

What I really wanted to explore here was the fresh information that comes with (most) players facing new challenges at new levels, and whether they're learning any tricks to better adjust.

Verdugo has added power and patience, Montas is being tried as a starter, and Holmes is apparently dabbling with two-seamers.

As ever, the Dodgers are well-stocked down on the farm. But this system could look a lot different come the end of the season due to graduations, breakouts, and - gasp - deadline deals. Of course the team has uncommon depth in the minors to deal from, and they'll undoubtedly look to go that route and keep their premium prospects in place.