Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects for 2018
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.
This list was updated March 13, 2018
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) Walker Buehler, RHP, Grade A-: Age 23, first round pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt, recovered from Tommy John surgery without glitches posting 3.35 ERA with 125/31 K/BB in 89 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, had some command issues during major league trial (7.71, 12/8 K/BB in 9 innings) but I doubt that will be a long-term problem; has retained pre-injury plus curveball while boosting fastball velocity, up to 99-100 MPH; still need to see what happens when he gets past 100 innings but his stuff looks special and he knows how to use it; possible number two starter. ETA 2018.
2) Alex Verdugo, OF, Grade B+/B: Age 21, second round pick in 2014; hit .314/.389/.436 against older competition in Triple-A with 52 walks, 50 strikeouts in 433 at-bats; six homers, 27 doubles; hit .172/.240/.304 in 23 major league at-bats; strengths are obvious: feel for hitting, eye at the plate, laser throwing arm; main question continues to revolve around home run/power projection; certainly strong enough to hit more homers but people who understand hitting mechanics better than I do seem skeptical that he’ll ever show more than average pop; given his age I would not give up on the “will show more power” idea just yet; ETA 2018.
3) Keibert Ruiz, C, Grade B+/B: Age 19, signed out of Venezuela in 2014; impressive 2017 season hitting .316/.361/.452 with eight homers, 25 walks, 53 strikeout in 376 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; draws praise for glovework, reliable receiver with quick arm, threw out 27% but should do better with more experience; line drive hitter with better feel for the strike zone than low walk rate implies; more power should come in time. ETA 2020.
4) Mitchell White, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from Santa Clara; 2.93 ERA with 88/31 K/BB in 74 innings between rookie ball, High-A, and Double-A, just 45 hits allowed; fastball reports vary between 90 and 96, draws praise for cutter and curveball, tough customer when his command is on; mid-rotation potential depending on workload management. ETA 2019 (UPDATE: swapped spots with Yadier Alvarez to reflect placement on top 175 list; no change in grade for either)
5) Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, signed out of Cuba in 2015; posted 5.31 ERA with 61/25 K/BB in 59 innings in High-A, then 3.55 ERA with 36/25 K/BB in 33 innings in Double-A; I expected a huge breakout season but it didn’t happen due to mechanical inconsistency; still shows 93-97 MPH fastball, plus slider, solid change-up on the right day although the third pitch is erratic; fell into throwing rather than pitching too often in ’17; given age and quality of stuff he is still an impressive prospect; watch the K/BB ratio for signs of a breakthrough though it may not be reflected in other numbers immediately; ETA 2019.
6) Starling Heredia, OF, Grade B/B-: Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $2,600,000; hit combined .325/.397/.555 with seven homers, 10 steals, 24 walks, 69 strikeouts in 209 at-bats between rookie ball and Low-A, however the Low-A line by itself was just .212/.291/.323 in 99 at-bats with 38 strikeouts, that said he was very young for the Midwest League; some reports peg him as a prototype right fielder with good arm strength and substantial power, while others rate his arm as mediocre and a better fit for left; corner bat either way; has some contact issues but makes a good-faith effort to control the zone; raw defender but should improve with experience; high ceiling bat with breakout potential. ETA 2021.
7) Yusniel Diaz, OF, Grade B/B-: Age 21, signed out of Cuba in 2015, hit .278/.343/.414 in 331 at-bats in High-A then .333/.390/.491 in 108 at-bats in Double-A; line drive hitter with a fair batting eye that can improve further; lacks huge power at this point but there’s enough bat speed that I think you can project more pop; Texas League sources concerned that he may end up as a “tweener” if the power doesn’t come; needs improvement with fielding and baserunning skills which are raw; he had a pretty good year but there’s the potential for more. ETA 2019.
8) Jeren Kendall, OF, Grade B-/B: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from Vanderbilt, was a candidate for one/one before the college season began but an erratic spring dropped him to 23rd overall; impressive tools with 70-speed, 60-arm, 60-glove, at least 50 raw power, but serious concerns about contact and hitting approach, hit .221/.290/.400 with 13 walks, 42 strikeouts in 140 at-bats in Low-A; you can draw a scenario where he becomes an All-Star but there’s an equally valid one where he never hits enough to be more than a fifth outfielder; I suspect that the California League will mask his issues and we won’t get a true feel for how serious they are until he reaches Double-A. ETA 2020.
9) Dustin May, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 20, third round pick in 2016 from high school in Texas; posted 3.88 ERA in 123 innings in Midwest League with 113/26 K/BB, then posted 15/1 K/BB with one run allowed in 11 innings in Cal League; projectable 6-6 frame and already throws in low-90s, slider, curve and change all progressed, Midwest League sources like his feel for pitching; needs more progress with off-speed stuff and more velocity would be nice but I am optimistic; number three starter potential. ETA late 2020.
10) Dennis Santana, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; originally an infielder but has taken to pitching well; fastball up to 94-95, sometimes higher, with a plus slider; posted 3.57 ERA with 92/22 K/BB in 86 innings in High-A, 5.51 ERA with 37/23 K/BB in 33 innings in Double-A; advocates see a possible number two starter but this requires optimism with his shaky change-up and command projection, leading many to view him as a possible closer instead; higher physical ceiling than May but not as polished. ETA late 2019.
11) Will Smith, C, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from University of Louisville; hit .232/.355/.448 with 11 homers, 37 walks, 71 strikeouts in 250 at-bats in High-A; having a strong Arizona Fall League at .371/.452/.565 in 62 at-bats; excellent defender threw out 50% of runners with very low passed ball and error rates, which matches scouting reports of premium defensive ability and athleticism; controls strike zone reasonably, didn’t hit great in the Cal League but I think there’s enough in the bat to earn a regular job given his defense, strikes me as the type to have an offensive surge in his late 20s. ETA 2019.
12) Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, comp round pick in 2016 from Vanderbilt; not a great 2017 season with combined 4.70 ERA with 109/57 K/BB in 107 innings between Low-A and High-A; at his best, shows mid-90s fastball with plus slider and change-up but results didn’t match the stuff often enough in ’17 due to command/consistency problems; it is possible he may fit best in the bullpen down the line but for now he should remain a starter ETA 2020.
13) Trevor Oaks, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, seventh round pick in 2014 from California Baptist; 3.64 ERA in 84 innings in Triple-A with 72/18 K/BB, 87 hits, 1.53 GO/AO; good sinker up to 94 MPH, mixes in cutter, slider, change-up, usually throws strikes, possible number four starter but could be more dominant on a per-inning basis if used in bullpen. ETA 2018.
14) Omar Estevez, INF, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, Cuban signed as free agent in 2015 for $6,000,000 plus $6,000,000 in bonus penalties; hit .256/.309/.348 with 33 walks, 97 strikeout in 457 at-bats in High-A; not a great year statistically but he was young for the league and scouts well; advocates see above-average bat speed and a mechanically-sound swing that should produce batting average and fair power as he matures; not a terrible shortstop but tools fit better at second base, adding pressure to the bat; ETA 2021.
15) Gavin Lux, INF, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Wisconsin; hit .244/.331/.362 with seven homers, 56 walks, 88 strikeouts, 27 steals in 434 at-bats in Low-A; as with Estevez the tools are better than the numbers but he’s young; very good speed, will take a walk, more power should come in time, better chance to stick at shortstop than Estevez, possible breakthrough candidate in Cal League in ’19. ETA 2021.
16) Edwin Rios, 1B-3B, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, sixth round pick in 2015 from Florida International University; impressive campaign in high minors with combined .309/.362/.533 line between Double-A and Triple-A, 34 doubles, 24 homers, 35 walks, 111 strikeouts in 475 at-bats; he can be aggressive and there’s some swing/miss in the profile but power is legitimate and I’ve liked his bat since college; main question is defense, as he’s only adequate at first base, well below average at third, and doesn’t run well enough to be a really attractive outfielder; bat should be ready soon but I don’t know how he fits in LA. ETA late 2018.
17) Matt Beaty, 1B-3B, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, 12th round pick in 2015 from Belmont; hit .326/.378/.505 with 15 homers, 35 walks, 54 strikeouts in 438 at-bats in Double-A; not as much power or offensive impact potential as Rios but has more defensive value, capable defender at first base and workable at third; as with Rios it is hard to know how he fits on the roster right now but should be ready for a trial soon. ETA late 2018.
18) DJ Peters, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2016 from Western Nevada Community College; hit .276/.372/.514 with 27 homers, 64 walks, 189 strikeouts in 504 at-bats in California League; 60-grade power at least, makes a good effort to work counts but very high strikeout rate is a caution flag, at least for his average/OBP at higher levels; defensive tools particularly his arm fit well in right field; ETA late 2019.
19) Drew Jackson, SS, Grade C+: Age 24, fifth round pick by the Seattle Mariners out of Stanford in 2015, traded to Dodgers in March 2017; hit .247/.358/.402 between High-A and Double-A, 46 walks, 99 strikeouts in 373 at-bats, 21 steals; strong infield tools with cannon arm, plus speed, above-average range; impressive fielder at second base but more erratic at shortstop and third base; will flash some power and draw some walks but hampered with contact problems at times; ETA 2019.
20) Caleb Ferguson, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, 38th round pick in 2014 from high school in Ohio, 2.87 ERA with 140/55 K/BB in 122 innings in High-A, 113 hits, very good numbers anywhere but especially so in Cal League; fastball can hit 94-95, shows a plus curve on the right day, change-up and command need more work; scouting reports aren’t as optimistic as the numbers but given age/performance and being a lefty, he should not be overlooked; I think he is qualifies as a sleeper. ETA 2019.
21) Romer Cuadrado, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Venezuela in 2014, hit .335/.413/.523 in 260 at-bats in Pioneer League, nine homers, 11 steals, 30 walks, 74 strikeouts; it is generally wise not to get overly excited about Pioneer League performance given the pro-hitting nature of the circuit but he controls the strike zone reasonably, has at least average tools and certainly did enough to get on the radar. ETA 2022.
OTHER GRADE C+: Imani Abdullah, RHP; Morgan Cooper, RHP; Melvin Jimenez, RHP; tim Locastro, INF; James Marinan, RHP; Erick Mejia, INF; Riley Otteson, RHP; Luke Raley, OF-1B; Errol Robinson, INF; Ramon Rodriguez, C; Cristian Santana, INF; Yaisel Sierra, RHP; Devin Smeltzer, LHP; Connor Wong, C
OTHERS OF NOTE: Shakir Albert, OF; Jacob Amaya, INF; Rylan Bannon, 3B; Adam Bray, RHP; Ronny Brito, SS; Donovan Casey, OF; Marcus Chiu, 2B; Corey Copping, RHP; Leo Crawford, LHP; Parker Curry, RHP; Kyle Farmer, C-INF; Wilmer Font, RHP; Mitchell Hansen, OF; Ibandel Isabel, 1B; Nolan Long, RHP; Chris Mathewson, RHP; Johan Mieses, OF; Wills Montgomerie, RHP; Brayan Morales, OF; Luis Paz, 1B; Zach Pop, RHP; Henry Ramos, OF; Zach Reks, OF; Carlos Rincon, OF; Josh Sborz, RHP; Jacob Scavuzzo, OF; Andrew Sopko, RHP; Jefrey Souffront, 3B; Shea Spitzbarth, RHP; Sven Schueller, RHP Alfredo Tavarez, RHP; Cody Thomas, OF; Jesus Vargas, RHP; Jared Walker, 1B
A deep system with considerable mid-range depth. I will be around in the comments to answer questions, elaborate on the other C+ guys, etc.