Top 20 Los Angeles Dodgers prospects for 2019
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.
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.
GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE AS THE WINTER PROGRESSES
1) Alex Verdugo, OF, Grade B+: Age 22, second round pick in 2014 from high school in Arizona, hit .329/.391/.472 with 10 homers, 34 walks, 47 strikeouts in 343 at-bats in Triple-A, then .260/.329/.377 in 77 at-bats in the majors; not much left to prove in the minors, pure hitter with steadily improving isolated power production but with a notably low strikeout rate, ready for a full trial if they have a spot for him; ETA 2019.
2) Gavin Lux, SS, Grade B+: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Wisconsin; excellent 2018 season with combined .324/.399/.514 mark between High-A and Double-A, 15 homers, 57 walks, 88 strikeouts in 463 at-bats; broad tools with athleticism and speed, increasing power, solid batting eye; has the tools for shortstop though still working out the kinks with throwing and many observers feel that he’ll fit better at second base long-term; bat should play anywhere; you can make a case to put him ahead of Verdugo. ETA 2020.
3) Keibert Ruiz, C, Grade B+: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela in 2014; hit .268/.328/.401 with 12 homers, 26 walks, 33 strikeouts in 377 at-bats in Double-A, very young for a full season in the Texas League; threw out 26% of runners and average arm strength limits against baserunners but other defensive attributes draw raves, particularly mobility and receiving; makes contact readily and power is increasing, many reasons for optimism here; ETA late 2019.
4) Dustin May, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, third round pick in 2016 from high school in Texas; posted 3.39 ERA in 133 innings between High-A and Double-A, 122/29 K/BB, 118 hits, 1.88 GO/AO, solid stats across the board, stuff reports are strong with fastball into mid-90s, improving cutter and curveball, needs more development with change-up but projects as a starter and in a good environment for a young pitcher; ETA late 2020.
5) Dennis Santana, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012 as an infielder; took well to pitching, 2.54 ERA in 49.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 65/16 K/BB, 36 hits; promoted to majors and made one relief appearance before going on disabled list in June with strained rotator cuff; returned to pitch one inning in California League playoffs in September; when healthy, shows fastball 93-98 MPH with high ground ball rate, plenty of strikeouts with hard slider; mixed opinion on if he starts or relieves in long run due to inconsistent change-up and durability concerns; ETA 2019 if health OK.
6) Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Grade B: Age 24, ninth round pick in 2016 out of St. Mary’s; two-way player in college has developed well as a pro pitcher, 2.60 ERA in 128 innings between High-A and Double-A, 155/42 K/BB, 104 hits; threw 89-90 when drafted, up to mid-90s now and can touch 99-100 in short stints though more commonly 94-95 as a starter; decent curve and slider, has developed a splitter for change-up counts, throws strikes, originally viewed as a reliever but held up well under starter’s workload this year; deserves more attention than he receives; I’m not sure other analysts like him this much but I’ll stick with this for now. ETA late 2019.
7) Will Smith, C-3B, Grade B-: Age 23, first round pick in 2016 from University of Louisville; hit .264/.358/.532 with 19 homers, 36 walks, 75 strikeouts in 265 at-bats in Double-A but just .138/.206/.318 in 87 at-bats in Triple-A, due to 37 strikeouts; unable to make sufficient contact in first look at Triple-A pitching, will try again in ’19; good athlete, has range and arm for third base but error-prone there, does a better job behind the plate, throwing out 36% with good receiving skills; power and defense are attractive if he can solve contact issue; ETA late 2019.
8) Mitchell White, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, second round pick in 2016 from Santa Clara, 4.53 ERA with 88/34 K/BB in 105 innings in Double-A, 114 hits; struggled early with velocity decline but pitched better as season progressed including 27/6 K/BB in last 29 innings; 90-94 early in the year but back into 95-97 range late; hard slider and curveball can be erratic but overpowering on the right day; mid-rotation projection; ETA late 2019.
9) Omar Estevez, INF, Grade B-: Age 20, signed out of Cuba in 2015; hit .278/.336/.456 with 43 doubles, 15 homers, 45 walks, 138 strikeouts in 515 at-bats in High-A; this includes .308/.374/.515 in the second half as he did a better job of controlling the strike zone and tapping his power as the season progressed; reliable defender though range and arm fit better at second base rather than shortstop; has been young for his levels; second half reports were quite good and may presage a true breakout in ’19; ETA late 2020.
10) Edwin Rios, 3B-1B, Grade B-: Age 24, sixth round pick in 2015 from Florida International University; limited to 88 games in Triple-A by injury but hit well, .304/.355/.482 with 10 homers, 23 walks, 110 strikeouts in 309 at-bats; very aggressive hitter but has held up at every level so far, .302/.351/.528 in minor league career; power is genuine, will have to see how OBP and average look against major league pitching; mediocre defender at first base but is even worse at third base and left field; not sure how he fits on roster but the bat can be potent; ETA 2019.
11) Miguel Vargas, 3B, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Cuba in 2017, hit .394/.447/.596 in 94 at-bats in Pioneer League, then .213/.307/.253 in 75 at-bats in Low-A; combined for 23 walks, 36 strikeouts in 200 at-bats; missed two seasons during defection process so he had some rust to work off; impressed PL observers with pure hitting skills and power potential; defense needs work but the bat is promising and has breakthrough potential; ETA 2022.
12) Edwin Uceta, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2016; posted 3.25 ERA with 103/27 K/BB in 100 innings in Low-A, then 6.97 ERA with 28/12 K/BB in 21 innings in High-A; Midwest League sources liked his lively 90-95 MPH fastball and saw him flash plus curveball and change-up; can be inconsistent but made big progress improving after posting 6.59 ERA in rookie ball in 2017; ETA 2022.
ANALYST NOTE: Spot 13 to 20 could be ordered in many ways with good logic so don’t take exact placement overly seriously at this point.
13) DJ Peters, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2016 from Western Nevada; hit .236/.320/.473 with 29 homers, 45 walks, 192 strikeouts in 491 at-bats in Double-A; huge power in 6-6, 225 frame from right side but with extremely high strikeout rate, he can work a count effectively on the right day but contact is an obvious concern and prevents a higher grade pending Triple-A exposure, good tools for right field with strong arm; ETA 2020.
14) Drew Jackson, INF, Grade C+: Age 25, fifth round pick in 2015 by Seattle Mariners out of Stanford, traded to Dodgers in 2017; hit .251/.356/.447 with 15 homers, 22 steals, 45 walks, 93 strikeouts in 342 at-bats in Double-A; broad skills with speed, power, and OBP contributions but has been old for his levels; strong arm, versatile with the glove, a fair shortstop and solid at second, third, and even the outfield; could be useful super-utility type; ETA late 2019.
15) Ronny Brito, SS, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $2,000,000; hit .295/.359/.496 with 11 homers, 23 walks, 78 strikeouts in 234 at-bats between Dominican Summer League and Pioneer League; aggressive hitter with power upside, plenty of bat speed but approach rather raw; range and arm work well at shortstop and errors should decline with experience; ETA 2022.
16) Jacob Amaya, SS, Grade C+: Age 20, 11th round pick from high school in California in 2017, though he had the talent to go eight rounds higher; hit .346/.465/.535 in 127 at-bats in Pioneer League, then .265/.390/.306 in 98 at-bats in Low-A; needs more strength but controls strike zone well and makes contact; also stole 14 bases; far more reliable than most shortstops his age and should stick at the position; ETA 2022.
17) Connor Wong, C, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick in 2017 from University of Houston; hit .269/.350/.480 with 19 homers, 38 walks, 138 strikeouts in 383 at-bats in High-A; has tools to catch but needs more reps, threw out 27% of runners, error and passed ball rates were rather high; was originally a shortstop in college so he gets some slack for the defensive rawness; solid power potential but will have to watch contact; ETA 2021.
18) Gerardo Carrillo, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, signed out of Mexico in 2016, posted 1.50 ERA in 60 innings between rookie ball and Low-A, 50/17 K/BB, 41 hits; Midwest League observers liked moving 93-95 MPH fastball combined with plus change-up, workable curve, strong command and mound presence; likes to work the edges; small at 6-0, 160, need to see how workload is managed but off to a good start and has breakthrough potential; ETA 2021.
19) Braydon Fisher, RHP, Grade C+: Age 18, fourth round pick in 2018 from high school in Texas; posted 2.05 ERA in 22 innings in rookie ball, 19/9 K/BB; very projectable with 6-4, 180 pound frame, low-90s at present but velocity should increase in time; slider has plus potential, needs to improve change-up but that’s true for most pitchers his age; another possible breakthrough arm though perhaps more for 2020 than 2019; ETA 2022.
20) Diego Cartaya, C, Grade C+: Age 17, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 for $2,500,000; hasn’t played yet, draws positive reviews for both glovework and bat, need to see how it all plays but scouts like his upside and he was one of the most intriguing players available on the international market this year with balanced offensive and defensive potential; ETA ???
OTHER GRADE C+: Yadier Alvarez, RHP; Jeremy Arocho, 2B; Matt Beaty, 1B-3B; Kenneth Betancourt, 2B; Jose Chacin, RHP; Leo Crawford, LHP; Michael Grove, RHP; Starling Heredia, OF; Ben Holmes, LHP; Connor Joe, 1B-3B; Marshall Kasowski, RHP; Jeren Kendall, OF; Nolan Long, RHP; Jose Martinez, RHP; Robinson Ortiz, LHP; Carlos Rincon, OF; Errol Robinson, INF; John Rooney, LHP; Cristian Santana, INF; Jordan Sheffield, RHP; Andrew Sopko, RHP; Cody Thomas, OF; Leonel Valera, SS; Jared Walker, 1B; Bryan Warzek, LHP
OTHERS: Romer Cuadrado, OF; Parker Curry, RHP; Alex De Jesus, 3B; Kyle Farmer, C; Rocky Gale, C; Luke Heyer, 3B; Melvin Jimenez, RHP; Sauryn Lao, OF; Tim Locastro, OF; Devin Mann, 2B; Josh McLain, OF; James Outman, OF; Dillon Paulson, 1B; Jake Peter, INF-OF; Daniel Robinson, OF; Jerming Rosario, RHP; Josh Sborz, RHP; Jacob Scavuzzo, OF (free agent); Elio Serrano, RHP; Shea Spitzbarth, RHP; Albert Suarez, SS
The Dodgers have a very large number of Grade C+ prospects and many of them have a good case for spots 13-20. I wrote up a mixture of close-to-majors and upside guys but can comment on any of the other C+ guys in the comments section if you like.
My guess is that the placements of Gonsolin and Estevez will be the most controversial. As always, we’ll review things next summer and see how it all panned out.
Kris Dunn and I should have a podcast on this list next week and you can send your questions to email@example.com, or you can ask in the comments section here.