You might not know it by listening to talk radio or television discussions about the club, but it’s an awesome time to be a Dodgers fan right now. They continue to use their financial might to bring in a plethora of international and domestic amateur prospects, then proceed to pawn off their international bonus slots for even more prospects. While they’ve gotten a lot of criticism for letting Zack Greinke go and not dishing out any of the bigger contracts this offseason, the reinforcements they have available in their minor-league system are at least a part of the reason why. Not only do they boast one of the deepest major-league rosters, they have ready-made replacements within a couple levels of their parent club, particularly on the pitching side. On top of that, they keep making shrewd mid-level trades and taking some of my favorite upside talents in the amateur draft. At every turn, their process has been consistent and on point.
You could make a case that they’re light on impact offensive prospects outside of the guys who’ll be starting the year in Los Angeles and first baseman Cody Bellinger, but they have enough depth in the next tier down. Outfielders Johan Mieses, Jacob Scavuzzo and Alex Verdugo are close in the outfield, while Willie Calhoun and hopefully a return to form by Micah Johnson give them options in the infield should multiple position players falter this year. Julio Urias and Jose De Leon are two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, and could handle a promotion in the near future if pressed into duty.
Austin Barnes and Trayce Thompson are in the 50+ FV group here, despite how Barnes is only the club’s second or third option at catcher, and Thompson’s reputation in recent years as a questionable bat who might not make it in the big leagues. Thompson is quicker to explain: I really like the changes he made to his swing and approach. No one ever denied the tools and overall athletic ability, and barring a step back for some reason, he’s positioned to develop into a legitimate starting option in the outfield.
Barnes is much farther out there compared to perception, I’m well aware. He’s not a big power guy, and he doesn’t have big arm strength, both tools that historically are typical of catching prospects. His atypical profile is probably why he didn’t get more of an opportunity in the Marlins organization. Perhaps it’s telling, however, that one of the smartest front offices in baseball targeted him. As a professional, all he’s done is hit, flirt with an on-base percentage over .400, steal some bases and be one of the best pitch framers in the minor leagues — for years now. He makes enough contact and has a good swing, so there’s no reason I can find that he won’t continue to do it against big-league pitching. I don’t see any reason to discount his receiving behind the plate. Watch a Dodgers spring-training game and you’ll quickly notice what makes him so special back there.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I communicate scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels. If you prefer the traditional methodologies of other publications, I would suggest averaging the latter two grades together to get a semi-optimistic view of where a player projects.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list.
Video courtesy of MVPFLF
1. Corey Seager, 3B/SS
Current Level/Age: MLB/21.9, 6’4/215, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 18th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of North Carolina HS by LAD for $2.35 million bonus
Previous Rank: 2
Seager couldn’t have done any more than he did when the Dodgers called him up last season. Though obviously such numbers are unsustainable over a full year, his late-season run was one of the most exciting story lines of the summer. Seager combines an excellent line-drive swing with plus raw strength and a solid approach to be one of the game’s most dangerous hitters right out of the gate. He will tally a fair share of strikeouts, and his swing path can be a little too direct to contact to fully tap into his power, but both are very marginal weaknesses compared to the total offensive package.
His swing is an interesting balance of slight inefficiency and corresponding moves to offset any disadvantages he might have at the plate. It can be just a little steep down to the ball at times. Because of that, most of the balls he hits for power are contacted out in front of the plate where his barrel has more of an upward path. As a result, most of his homers are to straightaway right field.
This can be a problem for some hitters, as it shortens the window of space where they can drive the ball with authority, effectively cutting off deeper contact zones where the barrel is still working downward and forcing them to have to swing earlier, becoming more susceptible to offspeed pitches. It isn’t enough to hurt him appreciably, because he is excellent at sinking into his lower half while slower offerings come in, and he just unleashes his swing a bit later. He also has enough strength to miss the center of the baseball and still hit it into the gaps, and he isn’t done filling out yet.
Defensively, he plays a decent shortstop, where his superb arm can compensate for average footwork and just an alright first step. It’s widely accepted that he’s going to be a third baseman in the end, where his arm strength and soft glove should make him at least an average contributor. He may only have a 40 run tool by the time he fills out, but his instincts in the field and on the bases will counteract whatever he loses in raw running speed.
In all, Seager is already a plus big-league infielder, with the potential to be one of the top 5-10 position players in the league. Some growing pains are still to be expected as his scouting report makes its way around the pitchers’ guilds, but he has the ability to make adjustments quickly and will continue to rake as he settles in more. Similarly, he may be more of a 20-homer bat with a ton of doubles, but he has the tools and talent to hit 10 more a year if he chooses to make that adjustment.
Hit: 55/60/65 Power: 55/60/65 Run: 45/40/45 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 65/65/65
Urias has everything you could want in a pitching prospect. He has a repeatable delivery, three possible plus pitches and incredible success for a young pitcher facing advanced competition. His age and advanced ability give him the potential to be a number-one or -two starter, though he has some improvements to make before reaching that ceiling.
He throws his fastball mostly in the 91-94 range with plus-command potential to set up his arsenal. His best offspeed pitch is a future plus curveball with which he can change speeds, ramping it up to more of a slider at higher velocity. He also has an above-average changeup that could be plus with a more consistent arm speed.
Like any young pitcher, he has a few mechanical things to work out, notably getting too arm-heavy at times when he stiffens his landing leg early. It only happens when he overthrows his fastball and doesn’t finish the pitch, but otherwise he he has a clean, consistent delivery and smooth arm action.
He hasn’t tallied a full season of starts yet, but that’s been an intentional move by management rather than an inability to do so. Last year he did miss time for eye surgery that hasn’t affected pitching in any way, but he needs to build up innings this year. He does a good job burying his breaking ball for swinging strikes, but to reach his ceiling he needs to locate it in the zone while still maintaining its difficulty to square up. The only way he does that is facing better hitters that won’t chase as much, which is why he may be best served spending most of the 2016 season in Triple-A.
Fastball: 55/60/60+ Curveball: 55/60/65 Changeup: 50/55/60 Command: 55/60/65
Video courtesy of ieProSports
3. Jose De Leon, RHP
Current Level/Age: Double-A/23.6, 6’2/185, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 724th overall (24th round) in 2013 out of Southern U by LAD for $35,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 7
If Urias has the highest floor of the Dodgers’ pitching prospects, De Leon may have the highest ceiling. His raw stuff is better overall, and his command isn’t that far behind. And really, in my opinion, his lower command grades stem from being able to blow minor-league hitters away without needing to locate as much. He leaves more balls up in the zone at a higher level of effort, losing his balance going into his closed off stride. When he’s not trying to overthrow, he commands all of his pitches very well.
De Leon’s closed front side combines with a big acceleration late in his delivery to make the ball appear as if it comes out of nowhere. His fastball work mostly 92-94, touching 96, though his changeup projects to be his best pitch. It has the same crazy arm speed as his best fastballs, and the bottom just drops out. His slider is more of a hard slurve with two-plane break, but the conviction with which he throws it and the consistent arm speed and deception will make it play well as a strikeout pitch in the big leagues.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Slider: 50/55/60 Changeup: 55/60/65+ Command: 45/55/55+
Video courtesy of Major League Baseball
4. Austin Barnes, C
Current Level/Age: MLB/26.3, 5’10/185, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 283rd overall (9th round) in 2011 out of Arizona State by MIA for $95,000 bonus, traded to LAD in December 2014
Previous Rank: 8
Going by BP’s catching defense stats, Barnes was second only to fellow Dodger Yasmani Grandal in all of professional baseball last year with over 20 runs added via his receiving. Even if you cut that figure in half due to the relatively unstable nature of the minor-league data, you can still combine it with his average arm and end up with one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. Barnes also has the ability to play second and third base, though his value is much higher as a regular behind the plate.
At the plate, Barnes makes great contact, hits a ton of line drives and has a very good approach. His power has a cap on it not only because of raw strength, but also a flat swing plane. He is able to launch balls up in the zone, particularly to the pull side, but his ceiling is most likely fringe-average power. Breaking the stereotype for catchers, he’s actually a 45 runner with good instincts on the bases that could push him to average territory.
The first response to this ranking would reasonably be, “If he’s so great, why is he just now on the cusp of the big leagues at 26 years old?” It’s a valid question, and his age does limit how much more projection is left in his skill set. I believe it’s partly because he was a late bloomer of sorts, but mostly that his abilities were not recognized well enough by the Marlins to move him along as fast as his talent and results dictated. He’s done nothing but produce for a few years now, and now he just needs a shot to prove he can do it against major-league pitching.
Hit: 55/60/65 Power: 40/45/45-50 Run: 45/45/50 Field: 60/60/65 Throw: 50/50/50
Maeda will succeed where most Japanese pitchers have not in the transition to American baseball by maintaining his low walk rate. His command is really impressive, and even when his stuff isn’t at its peak he can get guys out with superior location. He has good location of all four of his pitches, with his fastball and slider having the best command and highest impact. His success hinges on his fastball command, since he doesn’t have the pure arm strength to just pump into the zone.
His slider may be the only pitch that ends up grading out above-average, and it’s not even much about how sharp it is. He has an awesome ability to spot it low to his glove side consistently, getting under the barrels of both righties and lefties. His curve and changeup are less advanced stuff-wise, but his feel for when and how to throw them both are superb. His plus command is what gets him most of the way to his number-three-starter status, though his arsenal is sneaky effective even when he misses spots.
Fastball: 55/55/60 Curveball: 50/50/50+ Slider: 60/60/60 Changeup: 50/50/55 Command: 60/60/60
Video courtesy of Major League Baseball
6. Trayce Thompson, OF
Current Level/Age: MLB/25.0, 6’3/210, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 61st overall (2nd round) in 2009 out of California HS by CWS for $625,000 bonus, traded to LAD in December 2015
Previous Rank: 10 (CWS)
Last year was an offensive transformation for Thompson. While his pace in the majors is highly unsustainable, he was a different hitter from previous seasons in ways that bode well for his potential as a starting outfielder. He cut his strikeout rate dramatically, and swing changes he made over the last year or two were slight but really took effect in 2015. On defense, he fits well in center field, but he could play any outfield spot well with an average arm and above-average range and glove.
At the plate, prior to last season, Thompson rushed off his back side as he took his stride, and his hands pushed straight to the ball when his swing started. Normally I don’t buy into swing changes helping strikeout rates, but now that he’s more balanced and grounded with his back leg, he is able to sit on pitches longer. He doesn’t have to commit his swing as soon as his foot gets down to avoid losing his lower half completely, which appears to have helped keep him from chasing as well as limiting the whiffs with pitches on which he’s been fooled. As his path has started to get in the zone deeper, he’s on plane with a lot more pitches, leading to many more line drives and fly balls. As long his swing continues in 2016 where it left off, or even improves, Thompson has legitimate offensive potential with average or better hit and power tools.
Hit: 50/55/55+ Power: 50/50/55 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 55/55/55+ Throw: 50/50/50
Video courtesy of Future Sox
7. Frankie Montas, RHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/20.7, 6’2/185, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2009 out of Dominican Republic by BOS for $75,000 bonus, traded to CWS in July 2013, traded to LAD in December 2015
Previous Rank: 3 (CWS)
At a listed 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Montas apparently has the hollow bone structure of a bird, giving him the unique potential to evolve into a flying human. In actuality, he’s a big dude on the mound. He looks about as easy as anyone can look throwing 94-98, though he is either bullpen bound or needs more time getting his arsenal together. He has a tendency to sit a little too much on his back leg and leave pitches up in the zone, but overall he boasts an otherwise smooth, repeatable delivery with great arm action.
The concern with his immediate viability is the lack of movement and command on his fastball, which I think causes his easy rhythm to work against him facing hitters. His heater plays much more hittable than it should, though in a bullpen role, sustaining his higher velocity should mitigate that issue. His slider command was noticeably better in his big-league stint than on the fastball, and is already a plus pitch thrown in mid- to high-80s with slight but sharp two-plane break. His arsenal rounds out with an inconsistent changeup that occasionally shows average potential, but it most likely ends up with a below-average ceiling.
Montas’ ceiling is still pretty high despite some concerns over his current skills. The bullpen has been whispered as his future home for a while now, and a full-time move there will put him in the discussion for closer as soon as he’s comfortable in the role. His slider alone ensures he will be able to get big-league hitters out.
Fastball: 50/55/65 Slider: 60/65/70 Changeup: 35/40/45 Command: 40/45/45
Video courtesy of ieProSports
8. Cody Bellinger, 1B
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.7, 6’4/180, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 124th overall (4th round) in 2013 out of Arizona HS by LAD for $700,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 20
Me buying into Bellinger’s power potential here is not about believing his inflated numbers in the California League are indicative of improvement. Rather, I believe his physical maturation will augment his fly-ball swing to great effect. He will have the ability to go to all fields with power as he adds some muscle, particularly to his lower half that can get a little swimmy, if not unstable. The strikeouts are the biggest red flag at present, especially since he wasn’t really selling out for power in 2015. He has an excellent swing, but his issues making contact need to stabilize, if not improve, to reach his potential.
On defense, he is a great athlete at first base with a plus arm. Bellinger could be one of the rare cold-corner guys who is an average defender value-wise, even with the positional adjustment thrown in. He can really pick it. He’s currently an above-average runner on the bases, though it’s safer to count on him being average or a bit below once he’s done filling out.
Hit: 40/45/55 Power: 50/60/65 Run: 55/50/50 Field: 45/45-50/50 Throw: 60/55/60
Video courtesy of Jared Massey
9. Grant Holmes, RHP
Current Level/Age: Single-A/20.0, 6’1/215, L/R
Acquired: Drafted 22nd overall (1st round) in 2014 out of South Carolina HS by LAD for $2.5 million bonus
Previous Rank: 4
Holmes is a thick-bodied guy with a stiff core, which could end up being either a strength or a weakness for him. If he fills out more and loses mobility, he will have to rely on his arm more and risk overuse. Or, it could give him an edge in the durability department, with big muscles exactly where you want all the big muscles to be in a pitcher trying to throw over
20,000 2,000* pitches in a season. He has great arm action, and just needs to make sure he keeps his body in the right shape to continue supporting it.
Both his fastball and curveball project to be excellent major-league pitches. His changeup has potential with great arm speed and sizable sink, but inconsistent feel and location puts it clearly behind his other two. He is around the zone enough that his command has upside, and he has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. Conservatively, he probably settles in as a solid number-four starter or excellent shutdown reliever, particularly if his command development stagnates.
*I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for that meddling DavidYoungTBLA
Fastball: 50/60/65 Curveball: 50/55/60 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/50
Mieses has a cannon for an arm with a quick release, along with the speed to handle center field right now. He likely moves to right in future, but there’s no rush yet. At the plate, there is plus power potential with a good fly-ball swing path. An immature approach and a one-piece swing temper my expectations for his ability to hit for average, but he’s young enough and talented enough to see him getting to a 45 hit tool comfortably.
Hit: 35/45/50 Power: 45/55/60 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 65/65/70
11. Omar Estevez, 2B, VIDEO, NA
The signings of Yusniel Diaz and Estevez were both announced in November, and though Diaz ended up with a larger bonus, Estevez may be the one that has more impact at the plate. He has one of the most athletic, easiest swings in the system, though of course he hasn’t yet faced pro competition. Despite that, you just don’t find guys who have hitting ability like his at such a young age. His defense is thought to be below-average at second, where his poor range is supplemented by great hands and game awareness. Estevez is one of the lower-level prospects I’ll be watching most intently this year.
Hit: 35/55/60 Power: 30/45/50 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 45/45/50 Throw: 45/45/45
12. Yaisel Sierra, RHP, VIDEO, NA
I saw Sierra at the Perfect Game showcase tournament in Jupiter this fall, where he sat 93-96 with his fastball and 85-88 with his hard, downward-breaking slider. He showed more effort in his arm than in videos I have seen of previous outings, but he had a clean delivery overall. Most of the extra effort seemed to come from a slower rhythm that threw his timing off, so I don’t see it as a long-term concern as he gets his reps in this spring.
Sierra’s fastball played well even when he didn’t command it, showing at least plus potential. His slider didn’t look as sharp, but it too has plus or better potential. Both grades are especially safe if he stays in the bullpen this year, which has been recently reported as the plan. Even before Sierra came stateside he had some issues with free passes, so it’s likely to remain part of his game in 2016, but I like his chances of ironing things out well enough to be a solid pen option for manager Dave Roberts.
On a side note, Sierra also showed a changeup in his warmups in Jupiter that didn’t have much projection. It’s doubtful he will move away from his fastball/slider combo anyway, but it may have implications for subsequent seasons if they want to move him to the rotation.
Fastball: 60/60/65 Slider: 55/60/65 Command: 40/45/50
13. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, VIDEO, NA
Alvarez has a wide range of possibilities in his future, and we will get a better idea where he is at once he’s had a year to work with Dodgers’ player-development staff and is facing minor-league hitters. His fastball ran into the mid- to upper-90s when he was signed for $16 million last year, with flashes of a strong slider and decent changeup. His slider looks slurvy and his change lacks feel at present, and like any young pitcher he’s relatively raw across the board with his command. He has a very young body but remains a good looking athlete, so the potential is clearly there to improve as he matures physically. In fairness though, he could be a bust, a number-two or -three starter, or anything in between. I’m taking the middle ground, projecting him as a back-end starter or seventh-inning-type reliever.
Fastball: 55/60/70 Slider: 45/50/60 Changeup: 35/40/50 Command: 35/40/50
14. Walker Buehler, RHP, VIDEO, NA
Buehler had Tommy John surgery in August, likely leaving him out for most or all of 2016. His delivery is very reliant on his upper body to generate force, disconnecting from the ground early and spinning around on his landing leg. He has a big spine tilt to get his arm to release. Despite some suboptimal mechanics in certain areas, his arm action is clean, and hopefully added strength during surgery rehab provides more support for it going forward. He never had a problem repeating his delivery, but all those moving parts caused a few too many balls to be left up in the zone. I still am comfortable projecting him for average command ceiling. He is slight of build, but looks capable of adding muscle, especially to his upper body. His stuff is a solid starter’s starter kit: plus fastball, above-average curve and average changeup potential.
Fastball: 55/60/60+ Curveball: 50/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 45/50/50
Verdugo has great all-around skills. he may be able to stick in center field but his best fit will be in right. He has proven himself to be an excellent contact hitter, though it may be difficult to tap into his above-average raw power due to a tendency to drift off his legs. He gets too much of a downward plane to his swing when he gets out on his front foot. Above-average to plus base-running potential rounds out his diverse tool shed.
Hit: 40/50/55+ Power: 30/35/40 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 60/60/60
16. Yusniel Diaz, OF, VIDEO, NA
Diaz is another recent addition to the system, putting up great numbers in Cuban Serie Nacional as a rookie before defecting. At the plate, he has quick hands and a great bat path. His swing shows better in batting practice as a gap power stroke, while he is more low line drive/ground ball-oriented in his game swings. I would put a max grade of 40 on his power now, but he may grow into some more with projectable bat speed.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 30/35/40 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 55/55/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Sborz is a reliever with three viable pitches, drafted 74th overall after serving as the closer for Virginia’s championship team last year. He throws strikes and has a deceptive delivery with fast moving parts and a high overhand slot. His command is below-average, but his stuff should allow him to work in the zone against most hitters. He finished his draft year in 2015 with solid numbers, and he should move fast as long as his offspeed and command can improve slightly.
Fastball: 55/60/60+ Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 40/45/45
Scavuzzo had a big developmental year in 2015, showing better plate discipline and the ability to tap consistently into his power. Pitchers can still get him to come off his legs with decent breaking stuff down, preventing him from getting to his power. But he has also done a better job with those pitches than in the past, while still maintaining the ability to crush mistakes over the middle of the plate.
When he gets into trouble, he doesn’t give his body time to gear up during the swing. If he tries to go out and get pitches, he’s limited to topspin line drives over the third baseman’s head, and little room for error. I’m counting on him building on last year’s approach, though upper-minors pitching will be a good test for his discipline. I’ll wait to see where he’s at this year, but he could end up being one of the better hitters in the system if he stays on the same path.
Hit: 40/50+/55 Power: 45/50+/55 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 45/45/45 Throw: 45/45/45
Calhoun’s great bat speed helped him show off his raw power in the hitter-happy California League. With surprising strength for his size and a choppy, down-and-across swing, he probably graduates with average potential power, perhaps a bit more. It won’t be in the form of a ton of homers, and is more the product of his exceptional quickness than efficiency putting the ball in the air. His skill set is dependent on continuing to make a lot of contact, and let his fast bat do the work keeping his average up. He has shown a good eye so far in pro ball as well.
Defensively, second base is a decent fit, though his footwork and reads need improvement. He has decent hands and a quick release for his below-average arm strength. He may fit better in outfield, where the arm plays down but glove in total may go up a tick. There’s 45 raw speed in his legs, but the running game hasn’t been much of a focus for him.
*In the video linked above, you can also see three defensive plays Calhoun makes in the same game.
Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 45/50/50+ Run: 40/40/45 Field: 40/40/45 Throw: 45/45/50
Abdullah still has the projectable build, present command and easy arm action that you wish every pitching prospect had. His velocity was up and down the whole last year, though I believe a lot of it has to do with his lack of lower-half strength. He has a difficult time really using his landing leg to propel the rest of his motion toward the plate. It doesn’t appear to be a long-term issue, but a shaky base would definitely help explain why he was anywhere from 83 to 94 over the last 18 months. Otherwise, I really dig his delivery and chances to be a mid-rotation starter, with his easy motion and present 45 command being signs of good things to come.
Fastball: 50/55+/60 Curveball: 40/45/50+ Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 45/50/55
Stripling returned from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and essentially picked up right where he left off before the injury. With three average-or-better pitches and average command, he has the stuff to be a fourth or fifth starter. The only reason to move him out of that role is to protect his arm, since his deceptive high overhand release isn’t very well supported by the rest of his body. There’s no reason to jump the gun on a move unless his arm or performance dictates it, but I think long-term he ends up in the bullpen or as a swingman. He will have some flexibility, as his high release helps mitigate his platoon splits, so he won’t have to be hidden against lefties.
Fastball: 50/55/55 Slider: 50/50/55 Curveball: 45/50/50 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 45/50/50+
Cotton throws his fastball 92-94 mph with nice arm-side run, touching as high as 96. His changeup flashes plus with heavy split-type action, but he occasionally babies it with his delivery and arm speed, feeling his way through the release. A curveball rounds out his arsenal in the high-70s, with below-average upside.
When I saw him in the Arizona Fall League, he showed 40 command, but his full body of work has proven him to grade a little better than that. He has a very arm-heavy delivery, stiff-arming his release from high three-quarters slot. I wonder about his long-term shoulder health because of it. The strikeouts are there, and he does stay in the zone more often than not. However, the lack of true command and the need for more reliable secondary offerings leaves him looking like a medium-upside reliever or back-end starter.
Fastball: 50/55/55+ Curveball: 40/40-45/45 Changeup: 50/55/55 Command: 45/50/50
DeJong is much more control and polish than stuff and command right now. His curveball has the potential to be a plus offering, likely settling in a hair short. He has a straight fastball and a developing changeup, neither of which move much. His best chance of staying in the rotation when he gets to the big leagues is continuing to pound the zone regularly and tighten his command.
Despite his solid numbers as a starter and a possible outpitch curve, I don’t think he’s going to make the turn from strike-thrower to really locating the ball, and his stuff isn’t good enough overall to make up the difference. He also has some effort to his delivery, mostly due to not using his lower half effectively. He’s consistently not getting much drive or rotation out of his hips and legs, so his upper body takes over and has to go through many late adjustments to get him on the right track and with enough force to throw hard. It makes the chances of his command getting appreciably better much lower in my opinion.
There is still something to be said for throwing strikes and showing the ability to get swings and misses, so DeJong still has a future as a solid bullpen guy or fifth starter, possibly a number four if everything breaks right.
Fastball: 45/50/50 Curveball: 50/55/60 Changeup: 45/45+/50 Command: 45/50/50
Lee may still have a future as a starter, but the deterioration of his stuff has left him looking at a fifth starter or long-relief role, mostly on account of his ability to throw strikes. He commands all four of his pitches decently well, but nothing has any bite to it. His slider could be an above-average offering if he can spot it, but his curveball is inconsistent and his changeup will be hit hard because of the difference in arm speed from his fastball.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Slider: 50/50/55 Curveball: 45/45/45 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 45/45/50
I like Hansen’s potential more than this ranking would indicate, but he’s raw enough that I have no idea if he will tap into it. Both his hit and power grades could end up above the ones listed, with his smooth, athletic swing on the left side showing flashes of consistent lift. He’s limited currently by being too steep to contact and over-manipulating the barrel rather than just trusting his swing to drive the ball. He’s an exciting player development project, with a higher ceiling than most young hitters if he makes the right adjustments.
Hit: 25/45/50 Power: 20/40/50 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/55/55+ Throw: 45/45/50
Johnson showed some power last year in Triple-A, but he still doesn’t look like he’ll hit for much at the big-league level. He looked overmatched facing major-league pitching, and was forced to take defensive swings, hitting a ton of ground balls as a result. He has around average contact ability. If his minor-league swing comes back, he projects to have an average hit tool. He has struggled a bit bit defensively as well, but he has the athletic ability to be a decent defender. His best fit remains at second base with a below-average arm and footwork, though his speed makes up for some of his mistakes. At worst he may end up a decent utility player, though he still has starter upside.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 30/35/40 Run: 65/65/70 Field: 45/45/45 Throw: 45/45/50
Davis has some nice potential at the plate, though he really needs to add strength before we can know what he is. He has good qualities to his swing, but it often has an artificial, mechanical look to it. He looks like he could eventually create some lift and hit for power, but he also enters the zone very steep, his path looking like a “V.” He doesn’t have the lateral agility to play short, but he has good hands and a strong arm, so the Dodgers are keeping him there for the time being. Below-average strength rounds out his kit.
Hit: 25/45/50 Power: 25/40/45+ Run: 45/45/45 Field: 45/50/50+ Throw: 55/55/55
Paroubeck has some quick-twitch movements and the potential to hit for power as an athletic outfielder, but approach issues and a lack of true lift on the ball keep him from taking the next step yet. There’s plenty of potential here, but he needs work to start showing signs of it in games.
Hit: 30/40/50 Power: 35/45/50 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 50/50/50
29. Starling Heredia, OF, VIDEO, NA
Heredia was signed for $2.5 million out of the Dominican Republic. He has strong physical tools, though he already has a very mature build for a young player. He can look stiff and slow to adjust at the plate, though it’s unknown yet if it’s something that will get better as his body control improves with age, or get worse as he puts on more weight into his 20s. Early impressions have his power ahead of his hit tool, with an average glove and at least above-average future speed.
Hit: 20/40/45 Power: 25/45/50 Run: 60/55/60 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 50/50/50
Anderson has a lot of qualities you want in a starting pitcher, but he comes up a little short with his command and arsenal. His fastball and slider should play close to plus and at least average, respectively, but he doesn’t have great feel for his changeup. He also has struggled with his fastball command. Reportedly, he has a few extra ticks he can add to his 93-95 heater in shorter stints, which could give him a better path to big-league success.
Nothing is guaranteed, especially with his propensity to short-arm the ball when he gets into trouble, but I think he can be a reliever in the big leagues. I wouldn’t mind seeing him as a starter again this year, with an eye toward shifting him to the bullpen if his command issues and reduced strikeout rates persist.
Fastball: 55/55+/60 Slider: 45/50/50 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 40/45/45
Curletta has tons of raw power with an all-or-nothing swing that limits its utility to his pull side, which couples with his contact to likely prevent him from being an average regular. His strikeout rate spiked as he has started to face more advanced secondary offerings, a trend that will likely continue as he traverses Double-A and Triple-A. He has the arm for right field, but may still be a more typical left fielder with his below-average range.
Hit: 35/40/40+ Power: 45/50/55 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 45/45/50 Throw: 60/60/60
Farmer continues to show he can be an average backstop defensively, and he’s serviceable enough at the plate to serve as a backup in the big leagues. He has below-average plate discipline and shows a willingness to chase against better pitching. He has a compact, low line-drive swing that should continue to produce decent doubles totals, but his lower half isn’t athletic enough to give him much more power. He can still play an acceptable third base as well, giving him an even stronger case for a future bench role.
Hit: 40/40/45 Power: 40/40/40+ Run: 40/40/40 Field: 45/50/50+ Throw: 55/55/55
Not unlike a running of the Kentucky Derby during which — horribly — 18 of the participating animals die just as soon as the starting gates have opened, the distinction of Cistulli’s Guy in the Dodgers system amounts to a two-horse race.
On the one hand, there’s Tim Locastro; on the other, Brandon Trinkwon. In a number of ways, they’re near replicas of each other. Both have recorded better-than-average strikeout rates as professionals. Both have recorded the majority of their minor-league defensive starts at either second base or shortstop. Both are on roughly the same path through the system. (Trinkwon, who’s slightly older, reached Double-A last year, while Locastro ended the season in the High-A California League.)
The reason for Locastro’s selection here is due less to an obviously superior profile — again, he and Trinkwon appear to be equally likely to succeed — and more to his curious pedigree. Regard: while Trinkwon attended UC-Santa Barbara, Locastro is a product of Ithaca College. And while the former school belongs to the very competitive Big West Conference, the latter is more notable for belonging to leafy and picturesque upstate New York. Indeed, Ithaca has produced basically only one real ballplayer ever — namely Earl Williams, who produced recorded 11 wins in the 1970s.
Locastro also really does appear to possess excellent footspeed, having stolen 41 bases on 57 attempts in 2015. An example of that footspeed is available for the reader’s consideration here, in this exactly 15-second video of Locastro recording the second in-the-park home run of his season:
Lower level hitters: C Julian Leon’s (VIDEO) full-season debut exposed some issues with contact and overall athleticism, but he’s still a catcher with a nice swing and the potential to be an average defender. OF Michael Medina (VIDEO) has a nice power stroke and a strong arm, but he’s otherwise very young in terms of baseball skills.
Upper level pitchers: RHP Jacob Rhame is a hard-throwing reliever whose fastball has racked up strikeouts, but he needs one of his slider or splitter to develop into more than below-average offerings to find a role in the majors. RHP Ralston Cash (VIDEO) has strikeout potential in the bullpen, but needs to prove he can make command gains to get advanced hitters out regularly. RHP Scott Barlow (VIDEO) put together a solid season as part of his lengthy comeback from Tommy John surgery, but continued risk of elbow issues from his high-stress arm action numb the potential for his above-average slider getting him to the big leagues. RHP Caleb Dirks (VIDEO) only gave up one homer and three earned runs over 40 innings out of the bullpen, though he still has work to do on his command. RHP A.J. Vanegas (VIDEO) is hopefully another future bullpen piece with a good arm and solid curveball. His first two seasons have been productive, though he needs to limit the free passes.
Lower level pitchers: RHP Andrew Sopko (VIDEO) should breeze through the lower minors with his solid control and average command, but his slider needs sharpening and his below-average changeup doesn’t give him enough stuff to guarantee success against advanced hitters. This could be the year we see RHP MJ Villegas make the transition to full-season ball. He showed some projection and good results with the Dodgers’ Rookie affiliates the last two years. LHP Victor Gonzalez is mostly the same guy as Kiley detailed last offseason, though now he’s had 57 innings for their Single-A team to build on. He’s a pitchability lefty with good control. RHP Kam Uter (VIDEO) has a long way to go with his command, but easy arms like his are hard to come by.