Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Cody Bellinger, 1B-OF, Grade A-: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2013; hit .271/.365/.507 with 26 homers, 60 walks, 94 strikeouts in 410 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; 60-grade power from left side, along with a high walk rate; has occasional contact troubles and batting average may not hold up in the majors; however if he can hit .250 the OBP and power will carry him; excellent defensive first baseman and can also play corner outfield if needed without hurting you. ETA late 2017.
2) Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Grade B+/A-: Age 20, signed out of Cuba in 2015 for $16,000,000 plus another $16,000,000 as penalties; exceptional debut with 2.12 ERA, 81/21 K/BB in 59 innings between rookie ball and Low-A; just 40 hits; fastball 95-100 MPH and command was better than advertised; mixes in slider, curve, change-up; secondaries spotty at this point but fastball was enough to blow hitters away at low levels and he has a chance for four plus pitches at maturity; goal now is building up innings and refining the arsenal. He could move VERY quickly if that process goes well in ‘17. ETA late 2018.
3) Alex Verdugo, OF, Grade B+/B: Age 20, second round pick in 2014; hit .273/.336/.407 with 44 walks, 67 strikeouts with 13 homers in 477 at-bats; young for the level but performed well; pure hitting skills with an improving eye and some of the best bat speed in the minor leagues; excellent throwing arm, range will work in right field; needs a year of Triple-A and ultimate home run power projection remains uncertain. ETA 2018.
4) Andrew Toles, OF, Grade B: Age 24, third round pick in 2012 by the Rays; career seemed over due to personal issues but signed with Dodgers as free agent in late ’15 and exploded in ’16, hitting .331/.374/.511 in 323 at-bats at three levels then .314/.365/.505 with eight walks, 25 strikeouts in 105 at-bats in majors; line drive hitter with 70-grade speed and 50/55-grade power; can be aggressive at the plate and there’s some understandable hesitancy to fully buy in given unusual background; has sharp platoon splits and may ultimately be a platoon bat rather than a 600-at-bat regular, albeit an excellent platoon bat. ETA 2017.
5) Willie Calhoun, 2B, Grade B: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2015 from Yavapai Junior College; hit .254/.318/.469 with 27 homers, 45 walks, 65 strikeouts in 503 at-bats in Double-A; one of the most exciting hitters in the minors to watch in person due to outstanding bat speed and great feel for the barrel; makes hard contact on pitches other hitters can’t connect with or just hit weakly; 60-grade power despite 5-9, 180 build; main problem is glove; he has below-average range with mediocre reliability at second base; arm, range, and speed all problematic and he may not even fit in the outfield long-run; I’m very confident in the bat but at what position?. ETA 2018.
6) Yusniel Diaz, OF, Grade B: Age 20; Cuban defector signed in 2015 for $15,500,000 plus another $15,500,000 in penalties; hit .272/.333/.418 with 29 walks, 71 strikeouts, eight homers in 316 at-bats in High-A; performance merely OK but he was fighting injuries and was the youngest regular in the league; all physical tools at least solid but remains unclear exactly how they will manifest skill-wise; at times he looked outstanding in the Cal League but other times he looked lost; given age, normal adaption issues, plus shoulder problems, he deserves some slack; ETA 2019.
7) Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Grade B: Age 21; compensation round pick in 2016 out of Vanderbilt; posted 3.75 ERA in 12 innings between rookie ball and Low-A with 13/6 K/BB, kept on short leash due to spring workload; fastball 93-96 with reported peaks at 99; already has a plus change-up, slider can be erratic but also flashes plus; main issue is command, which was intermittent in college though stuff was good enough he succeeded anyway; some view him as future closer rather than starter due to high-stress delivery. ETA 2019.
8) Walker Buehler, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 22, first round pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt; had Tommy John surgery after signing, came back in ’16 and threw five shutout innings late in season in rookie ball and Low-A; threw 90-95 MPH fastball in college but after surgery he’s reportedly at 94-97 with peaks at 99; strong secondaries with cutter and curveball both plus, also showed solid change-up in college as well as command; main issue now is stamina/workload and how much of the new velocity he retains; grade cautious until we get those answers. ETA 2018.
9) Brock Stewart, RHP, Grade B-: Age 25; sixth round pick in 2014 from Illinois State University; posted 1.79 ERA with 129/19 K/BB in 121 innings at three levels, then 5.79 ERA with 25/12 K/BB in 28 MLB innings; fastball 91-95 with good location; mixes in plus change-up and an inconsistent slider; showed superb command in the minors in ’16, walk rate rose in majors but that’s natural and he’s shown past ability to make adjustments; number four starter type with a chance to be a three if slider improves. ETA 2017.
10) Keibert Ruiz, C, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Venezuela in 2014 for just $140,000; outstanding debut hitting .374/.412/.527 with 15 walks, 27 strikeouts in 222 at-bats between Arizona Rookie League and Pioneer League; threw out just 20% of runners and arm is just so-so but defense is otherwise extremely good, very reliable and mobile, strong leadership ability; switch-hitter with doubles power and good contact ability; watch this one closely. ETA 2020.
11) Gavin Lux, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Wisconsin, hit .296/.375/.399 with 28 walks, 51 strikeouts in 223 at-bats in rookie ball; lacks power but shows some feel for hitting, could hit for average with doubles pop down the line but don’t expect many homers and OBP unclear right now; impressive glove with range, hands, and arm strength all projecting well at shortstop; I have no objective evidence yet but hitting may turn out better than expected. ETA 2020.
12) Austin Barnes, C-INF, Grade B-: Age 27; older prospect but has a consistent track record of success; hit .295/.380/.443 in Triple-A with 18 steals. 43 walks, 53 strikeouts in 336 at-bats; hit .156/.270/.188 in 32 MLB at-bats; good plate discipline with gap power; very effective baserunner despite average speed; solid defender who is also competent at second base and third base; versatility and solid hitting ability give him value even if upside projection is limited by age. ETA 2017.
13) Chase De Jong, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, acquired from Blue Jays for international bonus money; posted 15-5 record, 2.82 ERA in 26 starts between Double-A and Triple-A with 133/40 K/BB and 112 hits in 147 innings; well-built at 6-4, 205; many scouts are skeptical because fastball tops out at 92, along with curve and change that draw average grades; what he does offer is excellent command and two years of statistical success; back-end starter projection due to command. ETA 2018.
14) Josh Sborz, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, compensation pick in 2015 from University of Virginia; posted 2.81 ERA in 125 innings between High-A and Double-A, 125/36 K/BB, 99 hits; fastball up to 93-95, mixes in hard slider and tough for hitters to pick up due to delivery; change-up is below average and many see him as a reliever as a result; has better pure stuff than De Jong but not as refined. ETA 2018.
15) Mitchell White, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from Santa Clara; posted 0.00 ETA in 22 innings between rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A, with 30/6 K/BB and a mere seven hits allowed; mixes low-90s fastball with plus cutter and solid-average curveball; throws strikes; could use a better straight change-up but maybe he can use the curve in off-speed situations; has Tommy John on resume but with that past him he could end up being quite durable; possible mid-rotation starter if all goes well. ETA 2019.
16) Imani Abdullah, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, 11th round pick in 2015; posted 3.61 ERA with 59/12 K/BB in 72 innings in Low-A; 6-4, 205 pounds and still has projection; fastball 91-94 now with more possible; both curveball and change-up need more consistency but he already throws strikes and has mound presence; long way off but number three starter upside; ETA 2020.
17) Mitchell Hansen, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, second round pick in 2015 from high school in Texas; hit .311/.356/.491 with 11 homers, 11 steals, 22 walks, 70 strikeouts in 293 at-bats in Pioneer League; left-handed hitter with power potential and above-average speed, only weak tool is below-average arm; made huge strides with swing mechanics after struggling in rookie ball in ’15; concerns about patience/approach still exist but could develop into multi-category offensive threat. ETA 2020.
18) D.J. Peters, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2016 from Western Nevada Community College; hit .351/.437/.615 with 24 doubles, 13 homers, 35 walks, 66 strikeouts in 262 at-bats in rookie ball; plus power, plus running speed, plus throwing arm, classic right field profile; will have to watch contact at higher levels but upside is intriguing. ETA late 2019.
19) Edwin Rios, 1B-3B, Grade C+: Age 22, sixth round pick from Florida International University; hit .301/.341/.567 with 27 homers, 24 walks, 110 strikeouts in 418 at-bats between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A; brute force hitter; 60 grade power from left side; showed patient approach in college but has been very aggressive in pro ball; so far that hasn’t hurt him but MLB pitchers may find the holes if he doesn’t adjust; strong throwing arm but poor mobility at third base limits his defense and he is best-suited for first base; many scouts don’t like him and I have contact concerns but there’s undeniable thunder in the bat. ETA 2018.
20) Grant Dayton, LHP, Grade C+: Older prospect at age 29, drafted by Marlins from Auburn in 11th round in 2010, acquired by Dodgers in 2015 for Chris Reed in 2015, posted 2.42 ERA in 52 innings with 91/11 K/BB in Double-A, Triple-A, then 2.05 ERA in 26 innings for Dodgers; special case due to age, click here for full report ETA 2017.
OTHER GRADE C+: Omar Estevez, INF; Starling Heredia, OF; Ibandel Isabel, 1B; Dustin May, RHP; Brandon Montgomery, 2B; Trevor Oaks, RHP; Jacob Rhame, RHP; Dennis Santana, RHP; Will Smith, C; Andrew Sopko, RHP
GRADE C: A.J. Alexy, RHP; Adam Bray, RHP; Ronny Brito, INF; Leo Crawford, LHP;
Brendon Davis, INF; Kyle Farmer, C-3B; Caleb Ferguson, LHP: Victor Gonzalez, LHP; Micah Johnson, INF-OF; Tim Locastro, INF; Erick Mejia, INF; Johan Mieses, OF; Carlos Rincon, OF Cristian Santana, 3B; Jacob Scavuzzo, OF; Yaisel Sierra, RHP; Cody Thomas, OF
I’m working on a separate article about Grant Dayton given his unusual profile. I’ll be around to answer general Dodgers questions in the comments section.
As usual, the C+ guys could slot a dozen different ways so please don’t nitpick exact rankings once you get past spot 16.