KATOH Projects: Los Angeles Dodgers Prospects by Chris Mitchell March 11, 2016 Previous editions: Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles (AL) / Miami / Minnesota / Milwaukee / New York (NL) Yesterday, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In this companion piece, I look at that same LA farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Dodgers have the third best farm system according to KATOH, trailing only the Brewers and Astros. They have the most projected pitching WAR and the most WAR coming from 3.5+ WAR players. There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped. Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors. 1. Corey Seager, SS (Profile) KATOH Projection: 12.3 WAR Dan’s Grade: 65 FV Seager showed what he’s capable of last September when he slashed .337/.425/.561 with the Dodgers. Prior to that, he hit a strong .278/.332/.451 in Triple-A. Seager’s 2015 numbers weren’t particularly gaudy, but he did manage to cut down on his strikeout rate, which was previously the one flaw in an otherwise promising stat line. Shortstops who hit that well at such a young age are few and far between. That’s why Seager has the chance to be a special player. Corey Seager’s Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR 1 Chipper Jones 14.9 33.3 2 Aramis Ramirez 14.4 17.1 3 D’Angelo Jimenez 11.5 7.4 4 Omar Infante 13.2 6.5 5 Jimmy Rollins 12.0 25.6 6 B.J. Upton 16.8 22.4 7 Derek Jeter 11.8 32.9 8 Dustin Pedroia 8.7 30.1 9 Jose Offerman 12.9 7.3 10 Andy Marte 9.3 0.3 2. Julio Urias, LHP (Profile) KATOH Projection: 12.0 WAR Dan’s Grade: 65 FV Urias pitched to an excellent 2.77 ERA and 2.59 FIP with a 28% strikeout rate in 13 Double-A starts last year. And although he got torched in two Triple-A appearances in September, KATOH is still very impressed by his overall body of work. Urias was similarly dominant in 2014 while pitching as at the High-A level, and in 2013 at Low-A. Most impressive of all, the majority of that work took place before Urias’ 19th birthday. Most pitchers his age are either fresh out of high school or freshmen in college. Urias’ combination of age and strikeout ability is exceedingly rare, which results in an excellent forecast. Generating statistical comps for Urias is rather difficult since very few players pitch in Double-A as 18-year-olds, let alone succeed there. Julio Urias’ Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR 1 Edwin Jackson 10.3 14.8 2 Bud Smith 9.2 1.3 3 Matt Riley 10.2 0.5 4 Odalis Perez 8.5 14.2 5 Bruce Chen 8.6 4.4 6 Phil Hughes 14.3 16.6 7 Jeff Suppan 9.5 13.3 8 Nick Neugebauer 9.1 0.0 9 Salomon Torres 7.5 0.9 10 Sterling Hitchcock 8.0 11.1 3. Alex Verdugo, OF (Profile) KATOH Projection: 8.1 WAR Dan’s Grade: 45 FV The Dodgers took Verdugo in the second round in 2014, and he closed out his draft year by hitting .337/.404/.485 in Rookie ball. He performed similarly impressively last year, when he hit .311/.343/.442 between two levels of A-Ball. He started off slow in the power department, but began making up for lost time with four homers in 23 games following a promotion to High-A. Verdugo is still a couple of years away from big-league action, but his performance in the low minors has been all sorts of encouraging. He makes lots of contact, hits for power, has shown glimpses of power and speed, and has consistently been very young for his level. All of these traits bode well for his long-term future. Alex Verdugo’s Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR 1 Josh Hamilton 9.8 7.8 2 Felix Pie 8.0 1.7 3 Ronnie Hall 6.8 0.0 4 Duane Singleton 6.7 0.0 5 Rondell White 7.9 19.8 6 Magglio Ordonez 4.8 17.5 7 Melvin Nieves 8.9 0.2 8 Willie Canate 6.4 0.1 9 Jermaine Dye 6.2 11.2 10 Austin Kearns 6.4 15.9 4. Austin Barnes, C (Profile) KATOH Projection: 5.3 WAR Dan’s Grade: 60 FV As Carson Cistulli pointed out in his FanGraphs+ profile, “Attempting to identify a weakness in Barnes’ game is like attempting to find a weakness in a player who doesn’t possess any weaknesses.” He makes tons of contact, hits for decent power, draws walks, runs well and plays catcher. After crushing High-A and Double-A pitching in 2014, Barnes carried that success over to the Triple-A level last year by hitting .315/.389/.479. Given how successful he’s been in the high minors, it’s easy to envision Barnes succeeding in the show. As a 26-year-old catcher who was excellent in Triple-A, Barnes is an extremely unusual case, and none of the comps listed below were all that similar to him. Austin Barnes’ Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Proj.WAR Actual WAR 1 Trey Lunsford 0.7 0.0 2 Toby Hall 5.1 3.8 3 Jeff Clement 7.2 0.0 4 Shawn Riggans 0.9 0.0 5 Darrin Fletcher 6.3 4.9 6 Edwards Guzman 1.5 0.0 7 Jason Jaramillo 0.8 0.2 8 Tim Spehr 1.4 1.0 9 Rob Johnson 1.3 0.0 10 John Ramos 1.8 0.0 5. Micah Johnson, 2B (Profile) KATOH Projection: 4.8 WAR Dan’s Grade: 40 FV Johnson hit an exciting .315/.375/.466 with 28 steals in 351 Triple-A appearances last year. He’s got excellent speed, plays second base and has shown glimpses of promise with the bat. On the downside, his contact ability is a bit of a concern, as he struck out 18% of the time in Triple-A and 26% of the time in his big-league cameo. There’s a lot to like about Johnson, but he’s pretty unrefined for a prospect who’s already 25. 6. Zach Lee, RHP (Profile) KATOH Projection: 4.1 WAR Dan’s Grade: 40+ FV After an atrocious 2014 season at Triple-A, Lee repeated the level last year and redeemed himself. He slashed nearly two full runs off of his FIP and nearly three full runs off of his ERA. Lee’s stuff isn’t what it once was, and his strikeout numbers have been underwhelming. But in spite of all that, he was quite good as a 23-year-old in Triple-A last year. KATOH’s kind of buying it. Zach Lee’s Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR 1 Shane Reynolds 3.6 13.3 2 Chris Holt 3.5 8.1 3 Joel Adamson 3.1 0.3 4 LaTroy Hawkins 5.3 4.1 5 Trey Hodges 2.6 0.0 6 Scott Baker 3.0 12.6 7 Matt Wise 2.6 0.9 8 C.J. Nitkowski 4.2 1.7 9 Kirk Rueter 2.0 6.2 10 Mike Wood 2.5 0.0 7. Jose De Leon, RHP (Profile) KATOH Projection: 3.8 WAR Dan’s Grade: 60 FV De Leon misses a lot of bats. He struck out a laughable 35% of hitters last year, which was more than any starter with at least 100 innings pitched. De Leon turns 24 this summer, so he’s a tad old for a guy who hasn’t pitched above Double-A. Though, his performance has been about as good as it gets. Jose De Leon’s Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR 1 Seung Song 3.6 0.0 2 Brett Tomko 2.2 7.0 3 Mike Drumright 3.2 0.0 4 Cliff Lee 2.4 8.0 5 Marc Kroon 2.1 0.0 6 Thomas Diamond 1.4 0.0 7 Wascar Serrano 2.8 0.2 8 Steve Karsay 5.8 5.3 9 Jordan Zimmermann 3.2 17.6 10 Justin Miller 1.4 0.2 8. Cody Bellinger, 1B (Profile) KATOH Projection: 3.2 WAR Dan’s Grade: 50 FV On the surface, it looks like Bellinger had an excellent year in 2015. Although he was just 19, he broke camp with High-A and wound up clubbing .264/.336/.538 with a whopping 30 homers and a sneaky 10 steals. That all sounds great, but he did so in a hitter-friendly league. Furthermore, his 28% strikeout rate signifies some holes in his approach, which puts his future in question. 9. Julian Leon, C (Profile) KATOH Projection: 2.5 WAR Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV Leon was absolutely terrible in 2015. He hit .201/.269/.298 in his first taste of full-season ball, largely due to a crippling 32% strikeout rate. Those are terrible numbers, even for a catcher. On the bright side, Leon raked in Rookie ball in 2014 to the tune of .322/.420/.565 with a more manageable 20% strikeout rate. Which one is the real Leon? Likely somewhere in between, which makes for a promising catcher. 10. Grant Holmes RHP (Profile) KATOH Projection: 2.4 WAR Dan’s Grade: 50 FV Although he was just 18, the Dodgers challenged Holmes by sending him to Low-A last year. Despite the aggressive assignment, Holmes put up a 3.48 FIP and struck out an impressive 27% of batters faced. He’s still a few years from the show, and his 12% walk rate is cause for concern, but he looks very promising overall. 11. Frankie Montas, RHP (Profile) KATOH Projection: 2.2 WAR Dan’s Grade: 55 FV As many young flamethrowers do, Montas struggled with command in the low minors, which lead to some unsightly walk rates. He took a couple of big steps forward the last couple of years, though, making him an excellent prospect. He spent last season — his age-22 season — at the Double-A level, where he pitched extremely well (2.97 ERA, 3.04 FIP) with a 23% strikeout rate. Montas’ command could still use some work, but his combination of stuff and performance makes him one of baseball’s more exciting pitching prospects. ***** 1-2 WAR Prospects Rank Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV 12 Jharel Cotton RHP 1.7 45 13 Jacob Rhame RHP 1.4 35+ 14 Johan Mieses OF 1.3 45+ 15 Willie Calhoun 2B 1.1 45 16 Trayce Thompson OF 1.0 60 17 Caleb Dirks RHP 1.0 35+ Trayce Thompson is the one name that jumps out among this group of uninteresting names. Dan graded slapped a 55/60/65 on Thompson, but KATOH is a lot more bearish on the toolsy outfielder. Thompson posted encouraging power and speed numbers in the minors, but struggled to get on base due to chronically high strikeout numbers. After routinely whiffing more than 25% of the time in the low minors, he cut his strikeout rate to a respectable 19% last year. However, his 5% walk rate suggested his offensive approach was still a work in progress. Even with the improved strikeout rate, Thompson hit an unremarkable .260/.304/.441 as a 24-year-old in Triple-A last year. However, KATOH doesn’t account for Thompson’s .295/.363/.533 showing in 135 big-league plate appearances last September. Trayce Thompson’s Mahalanobis Comps Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR 1 Dave Kelton 0.4 0.0 2 Mark Smith 0.5 2.2 3 Matt Mieske 0.7 1.5 4 John Mayberry 0.6 2.9 5 Derrick Gibson 0.6 0.0 6 Steve Pegues 0.3 0.4 7 Seth Smith 1.4 7.7 8 Ben Francisco 1.2 3.3 9 Brian Buchanan 0.5 1.9 10 Emil Brown 0.8 1.2 ***** Remaining 45 or Higher Players Remaining 45 FV Prospects Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV Jacob Scavuzzo OF 0.8 45 Chase Dejong RHP 0.8 45 Ross Stripling RHP 0.3 45 Jacob Scavuzzo had a nice year in A-ball last year, but has some issues making contact and was atrociously bad in 2014. Chase Dejong missed a lot of bats in A-ball, but KATOH doesn’t like the home-run totals: 27 in 233 innings over the past two seasons. KATOH hates Ross Stripling because he’s a 26-year-old who was just alright in Double-A last year. Though, KATOH doesn’t know he was easing back into action after Tommy John Surgery.