Top 21 Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers by Eric Longenhagen November 9, 2016 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell Other Lists NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF) AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN) NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL) NL East (ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WAS) AL East (BAL, BOS, NYY, TB, TOR) Dodgers Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Yadier Alvarez 20 A RHP 2019 60 2 Cody Bellinger 21 AA 1B 2017 60 3 Alex Verdugo 20 AA CF 2017 55 4 Jose DeLeon 24 MLB RHP 2016 55 5 Walker Buehler 22 A RHP 2017 50 6 Willie Calhoun 22 AA 2B 2018 50 7 Brock Stewart 25 MLB RHP 2016 45 8 Andrew Toles 24 MLB CF 2016 45 9 Yusniel Diaz 20 A+ CF 2019 45 10 Jordan Sheffield 21 A RHP 2018 45 11 Austin Barnes 26 MLB UTIL 2017 45 12 Gavin Lux 18 R SS 2021 45 13 Keibert Ruiz 18 R C 2020 45 14 Will Smith 21 R C 2019 45 15 Mitch White 21 A+ RHP 2019 45 16 Starling Heredia 17 R OF 2021 40 17 Imani Abdullah 19 A RHP 2021 40 18 D.J. Peters 20 R OF 2020 40 19 Yaisel Sierra 25 AA RHP 2017 40 20 Omar Estevez 18 A 2B 2020 40 21 Dustin May 19 R RHP 2021 40 60 FV Prospects 1. Yadier Alvarez, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Cuba Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 60/70 50/60 40/50 40/60 40/55 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Recorded 34.6% strikeout and 6.9% walk rate at Low-A. Scouting Report The ease with which Yadier Alvarez delivers 100 mph fastballs is as unsettling as it is beautiful. Triple-digit fastballs are becoming more common but they usually involve significant visible effort. Alvarez throws 95-plus and looks like he’s settling down to take a nap. He’ll touch 101 and generally sits 96-99 and 94-97 later in starts. His fastball command is below average, as Alvarez has issues maintaining his delivery’s timing and struggles to get on top of his fastball consistently. But the grace in the delivery and Alvarez’s overall athleticism point toward significant development in this area and there are signs that it’s already begun to come. Alvarez cut his walk rate in half after moving from the Arizona League to the Midwest League while his strikeout rate held firm. Scouts who saw him late in the year complimented his ability to throw strikes, something he wasn’t doing consistently as late as June. Alvarez’s secondaries are also a work in progress but all enjoy substantial projection. His best is a slider in the 82-86 mph range, which should at least be plus at maturity and flashes above that right now. He was tinkering with a curveball during extended spring training that I thought had above-average potential, but it was raw and ran together with his slider quite a bit in my looks. Alvarez’s changeup is well below average but, again, this is exactly the kind of arm that merits changeup projection because of the athleticism, ease in the delivery, arm speed and… well, everything about it. It may come late, but there’s a plus potential changeup in there. There’s also blatantly obvious risk. Alvarez is young, raw and throws astoundingly hard which all present potential pitfalls. But this combination of body, delivery, arm strength and impact breaking ball is the stuff young aces are made of and the ceiling here is immense. I think this is one of the highest upside arms in the minor leagues. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.8 WAR 2. Cody Bellinger, 1B Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2013 from Hamilton HS (AZ) Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 213 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 60/70 40/60 45/40 60/70 60/60 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Cut strikeout rate from 27.6% in 2015 (High-A) to 20.2% (Double-A). Scouting Report Bellinger hit four homers in 2013 and 2014 combined before skipping Low-A in 2015 and heading straight to the Cal League, where he promptly broke out and hit 30 homers. That power comes from the monster hacks that Bellinger takes in all counts. He doesn’t protect or shorten up with two strikes and instead he’s constantly threatening low-flying aircraft with his incredible torque, hand speed and uppercut swing. This results in lots of airborne contact (majestic blasts as well as weak pop ups) and plenty of strikeouts, but there’s 25-plus-homer potential here already and the body still has some room to add mass. Bellinger has shown the ability to stay back on breaking balls, as well the ability to turn on plus velocity in on the hands and, while he does try to pull everything, he has solid plate coverage. The offensive bar at first base is high but Bellinger’s power and approach profile there, and he’s an excellent defensive first baseman, garnering several 70 grades from scouts. He’s also seen time in the outfield, including center, and there are scouts who think he could play all three outfield spots in a pinch — though the glove is so good at first base that nobody will actively endorse it. The thought of a bat like this playing center field, even if he’s a 40 there, is enticing, but Bellinger’s leatherwork at first is special and major-league clubs like sound defensive first basemen because they’re constantly handling the ball. I don’t see him moving to the outfield unless it’s necessary to get his bat in the lineup at the big-league level immediately. There’s some risk here because of the swing and miss, and I expect major-league pitchers will feed Bellinger a steady diet of offspeed pitches, especially back-foot sliders, once they see the swings he takes. But reports on his makeup are good and he’s already shown the ability to make adjustments in his young career, both encouraging signs for future meta-game interactions at the plate. I think there’s star-level potential here with a chance for 30-plus homers at maturity to go with sensational defense at first base and a side of defensive flexibility. I expect Bellinger to light the Pacific Coast League on fire in 2017 and push for a big-league job by mid-summer. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 10.2 WAR 55 FV Prospects 3. Alex Verdugo, CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Sahuaro HS (AZ) Age 21 Height 6’0 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/60 50/60 40/50 50/40 40/50 60/60 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Was 3.7 years younger than average Texas League player, hit .273/.336/.407 there. Scouting Report A two-way prospect in high school, many teams preferred Verdugo on the mound, where he was a short but athletic 88-92 with good breaking-ball feel. The Dodgers preferred the bat and drafted him as a center fielder, which looks to have been the correct decision. Verdugo began 2016 with Double-A Tulsa before he had even turned 20. He has plus-plus bat speed and can move the barrel around the hitting zone, leading to hard, all-fields contact. He has a tendency to overswing and he tracks inconsistently, but he has the physical tools to be a plus-plus hitter. Because of Verdugo’s willingness and ability to hit balls in all parts of the strike zone, he doesn’t generate consistent steep-angle contact and instead hits a lot of ground balls and line drives. He projects to hit for average game power as far as home runs are concerned but could slug above that with all the gap-to-gap doubles he’ll hit, especially if he retains his currently respectable speed. Whether or not Verdugo can do that is up for debate. He’s filled out quite a bit already and what was once a slight body that looked out of place in an outfield corner is now thick and sturdy but rather boxy and projectionless. He can’t play center field and fits best in right field, as the arm is plus. Reports on the makeup are mixed. The industry believes in Verdugo’s bat and his performance supports that. There’s an outside shot he could debut next year if Los Angeles can clear away the logjam of talent they have at the corners but Bellinger may be first in line for at-bats. I think he’ll produce lots of hard contact and become an above-average player at maturity. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 8.6 WAR 4. Jose DeLeon, RHP Video Drafted: 24th Round, 2013 from Southern Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 55/55 50/50 55/60 50/60 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Posted 0.94 WHIP in hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Scouting Report Undrafted out of Puerto Rico as a high schooler, DeLeon matriculated to Southern and began missing bats immediately. He led the SWAC in strikeouts as a sophomore, but his body, delivery and stuff backed up as a junior. He signed for just $35,000 as a 24th rounder and had a promising, if rocky, pro debut in 2013. The next year, things clicked: DeLeon improved his conditioning and strike-throwing and began to experience rousing success. He’s advanced through two minor-league levels in each of the last three years, culminating in a three-start run at Triple-A this year, during which DeLeon struck out 33 hitters in 21 innings and didn’t walk a single batter. He made his big-league debut after that stretch. DeLeon has mid-rotation starter’s stuff. The fastball sits 90-93 and will touch 95 with life. DeLeon’s drop-and-drive delivery sucks plane out of the fastball, and he’s fly-ball prone when he’s working up in the zone. He has above-average fastball command that projects to plus and mitigates concerns about the fastball’s context-free effectiveness. His best secondary pitch is a changeup that too projects to plus if it isn’t already there. His low-80s slider is an average offering and only consistently effective when he’s locating it just off the plate to his glove side. DeLeon didn’t do this in his brief major-league stint, but it was a significant aspect of his success at Triple-A and I expect to see improved slider location in 2017. I think DeLeon will be a solid No. 3 or 4 starter. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 10.1 WAR 50 FV Prospects 5. Walker Buehler, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Vanderbilt Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command 60/60 55/60 40/50 50/60 40/50 Relevant/Interesting Metrics None, he’s thrown five pro innings since returning from Tommy John. Scouting Report Buehler is already a very different pitcher than he was in college. He was mostly 91-94 at Vanderbilt, touching higher than that at times while struggling with command. In fact, scouts thought Buehler went backwards as a junior, which is why the once-potential top-10 pick fell to 24th overall in the 2015 draft. Buehler had Tommy John later that summer. He debuted in the AZL just over a year later and was pumping 95-97 mph gas. By instructional League he had touched 99. I suppose one could argue that the inconsistent stuff we saw from Buehler as a junior at Vandy was partially due to him pitching through the elbow damage that would later require surgery and that the 95-plus mph fastball that scouts saw in pro ball is actually who he is going forward. I’m inclined to believe the abbreviated outings helped inflate the velocity a bit and that we won’t see quite that much heat from Buehler once he’s stretched out and enduring a starter’s workload next year. Even if the fastball backs up a bit, it will still be plus, and the rest of the repertoire is equally as dynamic. Buehler throws a cutter/slider in the 91-93 range that also projects to plus, as well as a plus curveball in the upper 70s that has bite, depth and tremendous bat-missing potential. I haven’t seen Buehler throw a changeup in any of my looks at him in pro ball, but he threw one at Vanderbilt and he has the arm speed to develop a good change in time. He doesn’t neccesarily need one, though. If his command of the cutter and curveball become good enough at peak, he’ll be able to deal with left-handed hitters without heavy use of the changeup. If the stuff scouts saw late last season holds firm into 2017, then there’s a chance Buehler could rocket through the minor leagues and pitch in the majors next year. Some scouts are concerned about how Buehler’s body, which is a bit undersized, will hold up to a professional workload, especially given the effort in the delivery and the injury track record. His upside is significant, one of a potential No. 2 or 3 starter if everything comes together, but there’s also a chance the command and durability dictate a high-leverage relief role instead. 6. Willie Calhoun, 2B Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2015 from Yavapai JC (AZ) Age 22 Height 5’9 Weight 177 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/55 60/60 40/50 30/30 40/45 45/45 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Recorded 27 homers and only 11.6% strikeout rate at Double-A Tulsa in 2016. Scouting Report Calhoun transferred from Arizona to Yavapai as sophomore, where he posted preposterous numbers. In 63 games, he hit 31 home runs, drew 38 walks and struck out just 13 times. Those numbers were undoubtedly aided by Prescott’s elevation, their home park’s size and the fact that Yavapai played their home games at a local high-school field when it rained. Despite questions about the validity of the on-paper production, Calhoun could clearly hit, exhibiting advanced bat control, timing and plus bat speed. Amateur scouts had difficulty deciphering where Calhoun would ultimately fit on the defensive spectrum and an answer to that question still eludes pro evaluators. The Dodgers are hoping he can pass at second base but scouts outside the org aren’t optimistic. The lateral range and quickness fall quite short of the norm there. The arm is light for third base and Calhoun, who is already a 30 runner, arguably already lacks the foot speed to play an average outfield corner and is only going to get bigger than his current 5-foot-6, 200-plus-pound frame. Regardless of whether or not Calhoun has a defensive home, he’s almost certainly going to hit. His fantastic season at Double-A Tulsa this year came in just his first full pro season after seeing JUCO pitching for most of last year. He has plus raw power and had one of the better batting-practice performances at the Futures Game in July. Scouts think Calhoun may have swing-and-miss issues in the big leagues, but these concerns are more a product of questions about Calhoun’s approach than issues with his bat-to-ball skills. He’s aggressive and will swing ill-advisedly at balls he can’t reasonably punish, but he grinds out at-bats and spoils good pitches until he gets one he can do something with. Also, his strikeout rates aren’t that high. I think he’s an above-average hitter at maturity and, while the approach is certainly a mild concern, the hit/power combination will probably be good enough to profile even if it’s just as a DH. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 5.8 WAR 45 FV Prospects 7. Brock Stewart, RHP Drafted: 6th Round, 2014 from Illinios St Age 25 Height 6’3 Weight 210 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 55/60 50/50 55/60 50/60 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Excluding first two disastrous starts, produced sub-2 ERA during big-league cup of coffee. Scouting Report Stewart’s fastball is usually 92-95 with sink and run. He runs it off the hips of left-handed hitters and back onto the inside corner for unhittable called strikes. He has promising east/west command of the fastball that elicits future plus grades from evaluators. Stewart will drop his arm slot at times and create more horizontal movement on the fastball this way, but the pitch loses plane and becomes easier to elevate; some feel this is why he had trouble with the long ball in the majors this year. When he’s on top of the pitch, it has natural sink and plane. Stewart’s best secondary pitch is his changeup, which he throws both to left and right handed hitters. Stewart sells it beautifully, with arm speed that mimics his fastball, and the pitch flashes great arm-side dive. It projects as plus. His slider acts more like a cutter in the 85-87 mph range, working in underneath the hands of left-handed pitchers effectively but often lacking the length to miss bats away from righties. He could have reverse splits for the duration of his career. Stewart projects as a solid No. 4 or 5 starter and could comfortably be a major-league average No. 4 if he finds a more consistent way to deal with right-handed hitters. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.9 WAR 8. Andrew Toles, CF Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2012 from Chipola JC (FL) Age 25 Height 5’10 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 50/50 30/40 70/70 50/55 70/70 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Slashed .208/.260/.292 vs. lefties in 2016, but.351/.394/.553 vs. righties. Hit .213 in September. Scouting Report Small-market clubs are more apt to jump at the chance of acquiring toolsy players where the smoke of potentially questionable off-field issues is visible, because (a) those organizations typically have fewer opportunities to acquire premium talent than clubs with deep pockets and also (b) small markets generally endure less media scrutiny. Such has been the case with the Tampa Bay Rays, who drafted Toles in the third round of the 2012 draft after he had been dismissed from the University of Tennessee baseball team following his freshman year and then suspended by Chipola Junior College as a sophomore. Despite on-field success with Tampa, he was released for non-baseball reasons prior to the 2015 season and was totally out of baseball last year. He signed with Los Angeles and coasted from High-A to the majors in just 82 games in 2016 before playing well for the Dodgers down the stretch. Toles has average raw power that plays down in games because his approach is contact-oriented, but he can hit the ball hard in the air the opposite way. He keeps things simple at the plate and gets the barrel to the ball both up in the zone and also down and away. But Toles has issues getting to balls down and in, and pitchers began working him there toward the end of the season. Perhaps not coincidentally, his numbers tapered off. He also has had severe issues hitting left-handed pitching, and the bat might only play as the larger half (yes, larger half) of a platoon. Toles has a plus-plus arm and is a 70 runner, so he could conceivably play all three outfield positions well. His routes were circuitous at times last year, but he was out of baseball for an entire year and that might merit more liberal projection on the glove than most 24-year-olds receive. I think the issues against lefties limit Toles’ ceiling and there’s also evidence that opposing pitchers started to solve him late in the year. He falls just shy of being an average regular for me. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 5.0 WAR 9. Yusniel Diaz, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Cuba Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 50/50 30/40 55/50 45/50 50/55 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Slashed .272/.333/.418 at High-A. Scouting Report Diaz tore up Cuba’s Series Nacional as an 18-year-old and many expected an aggressive assignment for him in 2016 after the Dodgers signed him for $15.5 million (pre-tax) during the 2015 July 2 period. He had a good spring in Arizona and was indeed sent straight, at age 19, to High-A, where he was the Cal League’s youngest regular not named Luis Urias. He hit .308/.356/.596 there in April but had a DL stint for shoulder tightness late in the month. He hit .248 between that injury and a second trip to the DL, this one a month long, between June and July. He hit .295/.340/.466 after fully recovering. Diaz’s tools were apparent when he was healthy. He has strong, explosive wrists that generate average raw power during BP. His in-game approach to hitting prioritizes opposite-field contact but he will turn on balls and pull them out to left field. There’s some dissent among scouts about how projectable Diaz’s body is. Some think he’s going to fill out and hit for average game power at peak; others think the cement on the frame is dry and that he’ll always be more of a gap-to-gap hitter unless he alters his approach. Though not a true burner, Diaz could be average in center field with continued reps, as his long strides cover sufficient ground. He has an average arm. Even without a clear future plus tool, Diaz’s well-rounded profile and chance for viability at a premium position make him a potential above-average regular if the tools all actualize, but he’s a ways off. He’ll likely begin 2017 repeating High-A. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.7 WAR 10. Jordan Sheffield, RHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Vanderbilt Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 60/70 50/55 55/60 30/45 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Recorded 113 strikeouts and 40 walks in 101.2 IP at Vanderbilt in 2016. Scouting Report Sheffield needed Tommy John as a high-school senior in 2013 and then didn’t pitch again until 2015 at Vanderbilt. He’ll flash plus across the board stuff, including a mid-90s fastball that has been up to 99 in pro ball, a mid-80s changeup that features hilarious arm-side movement and a vertically oriented slider in the low 80s. Sheffield’s delivery involves a lot of effort and his release is extremely inconsistent, leading to 30 present command. The control issues, coupled with Sheffield’s injury history and (to a lesser degree) his size, have lead many scouts on both the pro and amateur side to project him as a potentially dominant reliever. I agree, primarily because of the strike-throwing issues, but think Sheffield could be dominant in that role. His fastball ticked up a bit in pro ball and was consistently 95-plus in his shorter outings, and all three pitches show bat-missing promise. Sheffield is just 21 and the Dodgers will probably give him every opportunity to start until Sheffield proves he isn’t efficient enough to continue doing it. Additionally, the extra reps he’ll get from starting will accelerate pitch development. My fastball grades here are based on the assumption that Sheffield will begin 2017 in a minor-league rotation (60) and maybe start for a few years but ultimately end up in the bullpen (70). 11. Austin Barnes, UTIL Drafted: 9th Round, 2011 from Arizona St. Age 27 Height 5’9 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 40/40 40/40 45/45 45/50 50/50 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Recorded nearly even walk and strikeout rates (11% and 13%, respectively) at Triple-A in 2016. Scouting Report Scouts think Barnes has the tools to remain behind the plate full time (his receiving is especially good) but nobody is sure how the body, which is slightly built, will hold up under a 120-plus-game workload back there. The Dodgers value his versatility, though, and he spent time at five different positions in 2016. He’s capable of playing second, third and the outfield corners, but the bat would be a little short of profiling at all of those positions. Barnes can get a little long to the ball and is beaten by big velocity. He also has fringey raw power. But as a multi-positional threat who provides competent at-bats and adds some value on the bases, he could be quite valuable. Players like this provide managers with positional flexibility. With the Carlos Ruiz trade clearing the way, it looks like there’s suddenly an opportunity for Barnes to get some playing time with Los Angeles next year. I like him as a valuable and highly entertaining gadget player who gets on base, hits a bunch of doubles and steals a handful of bases. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.9 WAR 12. Gavin Lux, SS Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Indian Trail Academy (WI) Age 19 Height 6’2 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 30/40 20/30 55/55 40/55 50/55 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Posted 11.4% walk rate in Rookie-level Arizona League. Scouting Report Lux was one of several high profile Arizona State commits who won’t end up making it to campus, as the Wisconsin prep shortstop’s glove buoyed his stock into the first round. Lux was one of the few amateurs available in the 2016 draft who projected to play shortstop at the next level. He has sound fundamental actions for his age and geographical background, above-average range, admirable but unspectacular body control, and his arm could be plus when he reaches physical maturity. His defensive footwork, especially on balls in on the grass, is especially advanced. He projects as an above-average defensive shortstop at peak. He’s slightly built, has very little raw power and, while they loved his glove and makeup, some amateur scouts were concerned Lux wouldn’t hit enough to crack an everyday lineup as a big leaguer. But Lux began hitting more consistently later in the spring of his senior year and quelled those concerns. He has fringe-average bat speed and a ground-ball bat path, but the wrists are loose and strong and the hand-eye coordination is good. I think Lux will have an average hit tool at peak and produce 30 game power. Pitchers at upper levels will probably challenge him with impunity because of the lack of power, and that may limit Lux’s ability to get on base. He projects as an eight-hole hitter with a good glove at a premium position. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.2 WAR 13. Keibert Ruiz, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela Age 18 Height 6’0 Weight 165 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/55 40/45 20/30 40/30 50/60 45/50 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Slashed .354/.393/.503 at Rookie-level Ogden. Scouting Report Ruiz looks like he might be a bargain after signing for $140,000 last year, laying waste to the Pioneer League as a teenager. Incidentally, it’s Ruiz’s defense by which scouts are most impressed. He’s a very mature receiver and one source to whom I spoke thought he could catch big leaguers right now. The arm is just average but the overall defensive profile is very promising. Offensively, Ruiz has some pull power — and he can golf out balls down and in when he really clears his hips and hacks — but his approach to hitting and swing path are often more contact-oriented. His hands are loose and his extension through contact is good, so there’s a chance for some game power if the body is willing to provide it, but scouts are split as to whether or not it will. The Pioneer League is hitter-friendly but what Ruiz did at that level is impressive, especially when you consider that he left behind the security blanket of the complex in Glendale as a teenager. He could be much higher on this list next year if he starts to show more raw power. He profiles as an average regular for me right now, but I think there’s a chance for more than that. I’ll also acknowledge that the bust rate for teenage catchers is really high and there’s extreme risk and a wide array of possible outcomes here. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.7 WAR 14. Will Smith, C Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Louisville Age 21 Height 6’0 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 40/40 30/30 50/50 45/55 60/60 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Slashed .382/.480/.567 as junior at Louisville. Scouting Report In a strangely terrific year for college catching, Smith stood out as the group’s most athletic prospect, lighting up stopwatches with both his legs and arm. Smith has posted plus run times to first base and plus pop times on throws down to second, though the latter is more a product of the quickness of his exchange than pure arm strength. He’s an excellent receiver and and ball-blocker and a potential plus defender overall. Despite the impressive offensive season Smith had at Louisville, Smith’s bat is rather light. He has quick wrists and a simple, compact swing, but the swing lacks any modicum of loft, the barrel isn’t in the hitting zone very long, and Smith tracks the baseball inconsistently. Some scouts think a lack of offensive production will relegate Smith to backup duty, but the average big-league catcher hit .242/.310/.391 in 2016 and I think Smith can get there. Concerns about his frame’s ability to hold up under a full season’s worth of abuse behind the plate are also prevalent. I think he and Austin Barnes could make for a very entertaining and productive duo in the next few years despite their limitations. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.5 WAR 15. Mitch White, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Santa Clara Age 22 Height 6’4 Weight 207 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command 50/50 50/50 40/45 55/60 45/55 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Recorded 118 strikeouts in 92 innings at Santa Clara in 2016. Scouting Report White popped up late as a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore because he missed a year recovering from Tommy John and then spent his first year at Santa Clara pitching out of the bullpen. His fastball/cutter combination is a rare one among amateurs, but it’s a potent 1-2 punch when White is commanding them, as he did in pro ball. His fastball sits 91-93 and touches 94. The 86-88 mph cutter projects to plus and has such length to it that I thought it was a hard slider when I first saw White pitch. He complements the two fastballs with an average 12-6 curveball in the 73-76 mph range that makes up with solid depth what it lacks in bite. White’s changeup is behind. Not only did he rarely need it in college because of the depth and quality of the rest of his repertoire, but also, due to the injury and his year in the bullpen, the pitch hasn’t seen many reps. I suppose you could argue that means the changeup has quite a bit of projection since White hasn’t really tried to develop one until now, but he has the weapons to deal with left-handed hitters already if he can command them, and White can be a solid-average big-league starter without ever developing one. 40 FV Prospects 16. Starling Heredia, OF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 55/60 30/55 50/40 40/50 60/60 Relevant/Interesting Metrics None. Has only played in Dominican Summer League. Scouting Report The big-bodied Heredia shocked scouts during extended spring training when he and his 210-plus-pound frame posted several plus run times to first base. While some of those were aided by the natural jailbreak in the finish of Heredia’s swing, it’s still impressive to see a 17-year-old this size move with that kind of pace. Scouts body comp Heredia to Juan Uribe and it’s extremely likely that he does slow down a bit as his body “matures,” but he could retain enough speed to play above-average defense in a corner-outfield spot anyway and his arm is plus. Offensively, Heredia has plus raw power projection; when he does make contact, it’s exceptionally loud. While there’s clearly enough power to play every day in a corner-outfield spot, there are concerns about Heredia’s ability to hit. There’s nothing mechanically repugnant about the swing; Heredia’s breaking-ball recognition is just really bad. He’s often way out on his front foot against them and either swinging and missing or making poor contact. The tools that merited the $2.6 million bonus the Dodgers gave Heredia in 2015 are all still in there and he remains a high-upside prospect. He spent 2016 in the DSL. 17. Imani Abdullah, RHP Video Drafted: 11th Round, 2015 from Madison HS (CA) Age 20 Height 6’4 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 50/60 40/50 40/55 45/55 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Posted just 4% walk rate in Midwest League. Scouting Report A high-school golfer, Abdullah has only been pitching for three years and already has tremendous strike-throwing ability. He’s grown three inches since being drafted, and what was an 88-91 mph fastball in the AZL last year is now touching 93-94 with inconsistent but promising life and plane. His curveball is currently below average but there’s feel for spin there, and I’m fine with projecting heavily on it because Abdullah’s arm is so unseasoned and athletic. The changeup will likely be his best secondary offering at peak, but he’ll need to do a better job of maintaining his fastball’s arm speed in the future, and some scouts aren’t in love with his arm speed in general right now. It’s hard to see a plus pitch here, other than maybe the fastball, but the delivery, body, athleticism and strike-throwing ability are all indicative of an efficient inning-eating back-end starter. Considering how new Abdullah is to pitching, there’s a chance for more than that. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.0 WAR 18. D.J. Peters, OF Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Western Nevada Age 21 Height 6’5 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/60 30/55 60/50 40/45 60/60 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Produced .263 isolated-power figure at Ogden in 302 plate appearances. Scouting Report Peters impressed after signing both with his raw power and his speed, the latter of which looks worthy of center field despite Peters’ considerable size. He loads his hands high and it can take a while for his barrel to get on plane with the baseball, an issue that’s exacerbated by Peters’ long levers, but he has plus raw power and makes hard contact even if some of his batted balls are merely pounded into the ground. Some scouts thought he played beneath his tools, especially on the bases and defensively, and thought he lacked feel for the game. I’m intrigued by Peters and think the Dodgers got a steal in the fourth round based purely on tools. Power/speed combinations like this are much more expensive on the open market than a fourth-round pick’s signing bonus. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR 19. Yaisel Sierra, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Cuba Age 26 Height 6’1 Weight 168 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command 60/60 50/55 40/45 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Posted 32.8% strikeout rate in 10 Double-A games. Scouting Report The Dodgers will probably run Sierra out as a starter again next year. This is understandable, considering how loose and athletic Sierra is, but he’s now 25 and has 40 control at best. His fastball (which was 90-94 at times this year but touches as high as 97 and comes out of arm action that’s improved since he left Cuba) will flash hellacious arm-side movement, but Sierra doesn’t reliably throw it for strikes. His slider flashes plus but Sierra has a difficult time throwing it for strikes, as well, and shows noticeable arm deceleration when he does. He’s a two-pitch reliever for me and probably doesn’t have the command to be trusted in high-leverage situations, but that fastball will miss bats in the big leagues. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR 20. Omar Estevez, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Cuba Age 19 Height 5’10 Weight 168 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/55 40/45 30/40 45/40 40/50 45/40 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Recorded 101 RC+ at age 18 in full-season ball. Scouting Report Estevez was part of the Dodgers international shopping spree in 2015. They gave him a $6 million bonus largely because he had such an advanced bat (he was playing in Cuba’s Serie Nacional at age 16) and challenged him with an aggressive, full-season assignment in 2016. The results were mixed. At times, Estevez had issues with breaking-ball recognition, and reports on the bat speed and strength in the wrists were inconsistent. But he’s able to time fastballs very well. His bat control, compact swing and weight transfer enable him to get the most of out a short, stocky frame. Estevez doesn’t have the range for short or the arm for third and his body isn’t especially projectable. He fits at second base, where he should be average with reps. The power is fringey and if the power spike we saw across the majors at second base this season holds water, Estevez will need his hit tool to reach its ceiling to have a hit/power combo worthy of starting at second base. He profiles as a low-end regular there. KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.0 WAR 21. Dustin May, RHP Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Northwest HS TX) Age 19 Height 6’6 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 50/60 50/55 40/45 40/55 Relevant/Interesting Metrics Walked just four in 30 Arizona League innings after signing. Scouting Report A gangly 6-foot-6 with long, curly red hair and precocious fastball command, May was nicknamed “Ginger Phil Bickford” by one onlooker this summer (okay, it was me). May loads his arm early and has a pretty safe, easy delivery that he maintains quite well for a giant teenager. His fastball sits 90-93 with some horizontal movement that’s created by his low-three-quarters arm slot. His slider shape varies and can get slurvy at times, but the pitch does flash above average in the 78-82 mph range and should mature there. The low slot allows left-handed hitters to pick up the ball early out of May’s hand, and his changeup isn’t good enough to offset that right now. I’m not sure, given the delivery and arm action, that there’s much changeup projection here and May might need to find another path to dealing with lefties as he develops. He’s a long-term project but there’s interesting raw material here. If May can make good on some of that physical projection and add a few tick to his fastball, then he could at least be an impact reliever. Noteworthy Mahalanobis Comps for 40+ FV Prospects Rk Name Most Noteworthy Comp 1 Yadier Alvarez Jeremy Hellickson 2 Cody Bellinger Paul Konerko 3 Alex Verdugo Andrew McCutchen 4 Jose DeLeon Rich Harden 6 Willie Calhoun Matt Stairs 7 Brock Stewart Scott Baker 8 Andrew Toles Marlon Byrd 9 Yusniel Diaz Gregor Blanco 11 Austin Barnes Ed Sprague 12 Gavin Lux Alex Gonzalez (Sea Bass) 13 Keibert Ruiz Craig Wilson 14 Will Smith Miguel Montero 17 Imani Abdullah Matt Harrison 18 D.J. Peters Jonny Gomes 19 Yaisel Sierra Brian Keyser 20 Omar Estevez Reid Brignac ***** Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)Dennis Santana, RHP, 1.7 KATOH+ WAR – A converted shortstop, Santana throws a future plus-plus sinker and has a potential plus slider. The command is well below average but Santana is a solid athlete and his walk rate dropped this year. He’s a potential late-inning arm. Oneil Cruz, SS (video), – A tall, lanky, projectable 18-year-old with shortstop actions and solid hitting traits. Hit well in the DSL. Needs to get stronger and is as raw as they come from a physical perspective but there’s a lot of upside in Cruz. Brendon Davis, 3B, 1.7 KATOH+ – Davis has always had smooth, if not explosive, defensive actions and a very projectable frame, and he’s already moved over to third base, where he could be an above-average defender. He has some bat control despite the effort in his swing and how much he hits is going to depend on how strong he becomes as he fills out. Ronny Brito, SS (video) – Brito struggled to make consistent contact all summer and into instructional league until the last day, when he tripled and homered the opposite way. He has loud tools, the arm and actions for shortstop, bat speed and power to all fields. His timing at the plate has been poor and he gets very little from his lower half. At his current age, scouts are still primarily looking at tools and Brito has them. He’s a boom-or-bust average potential regular. Josh Sborz, RHP (video), 1.5 KATOH+ – Sborz was ridden hard at Virginia and the track record for arms coming from UVA has not been favorable in recent years. He has a plus fastball and slider, a deceptive delivery and average command. It’s a rock-solid middle-reliever profile. The Dodgers seem likely to run him out as a starter next season. Cristian Santana, 3B – Santana has the most entertaining set-up I’ve ever seen: he kicks his front leg out in front of his body and points the tip of the bat toward the first-base dugout. I imagine he won’t be doing that for long, so treasure it while you can. Aside from that quirk and the fact that Santana takes hyper-aggressive hacks that cause him to swing and miss a ton, I really like him. I like the body, the athleticism, the bat speed, current raw power, raw power projection, his plus arm and his natural defensive footwork over at third base. I just can’t see this guy hitting at all unless there are serious changes made to his approach. Micah Johnson, 2B (video), 1.8 KATOH+ – Johnson turns 26 in December and still doesn’t have the power to play at any defensive position he’s capable of competently manning regular basis. The Dodgers had him working at various positions in Triple-A this year, but he can’t play shortstop so it’s not an obvious utility profile. He can absolutely fly and hits right-handed pitching a little bit, so if he can develop enough feel for center field to be passable there then he could essentially be a fourth outfielder who can also play second base. Trevor Oaks, RHP, 3.5 KATOH+ – A sinker/changeup righty with above-average command and inning-eating body. Profiles as an up-and-down arm. Chase De Jong, RHP (video), 2.0 KATOH+ – Features an average fastball and slider combination, below-average change and curveball, and middle-relief profile. DeJong was acquired in a deal with Toronto for international bonus slots. Mitch Hansen, OF (video), 0.2 KATOH+ – Hansen flashes all five tools and could be an average regular, but he’s been extremely inconsistent in pro ball, at times looking like he’s figured things out and others looking entirely lost. Except for the bat his tools are all solid average or better across the board, but they play down in games and not everyone thinks Hansen is going to hit. He still has significant upside and he took strides in 2016. Cody Thomas, OF, 0.3 KATOH+ – Thomas played football at Oklahoma but began to focus on baseball in January of 2016 after failing to secure the starting gig as a redshirt junior. He has a plus arm, good range in the outfield and potential 60 raw power. He started to put things together late in the year and might bust out next year. Oscar Arzaga, RHP – A big Mexican righty with feel for locating an average slider and an 89-92 mph fastball with plane that has touched 95. Edwin Rios, 1B, 5.7 KATOH+ – Rios has big raw power but he only profiles at first base and doesn’t have the bat to ball to play there everyday. Could just be a Quad-A guy. Erick Mejia, SS, 0.7 KATOH+ – Mejia is a capable defensive shortstop but the bat is light. Mejia knows it and has begun to develop a slash-and-run style of hitting. Acquired from Seattle for Joe Wieland. Johan Mieses, OF – Features 70 raw power and speed but very little feel for contact. The approach doesn’t yield the kind of game power he shows in BP. Potential fourth outfielder. Jake Rhame, RHP, 1.4 KATOH+ – Throws in the upper 90s but has no secondary pitch with which to miss bats in the big leagues right now. Could be a relief piece if he finds one. Jake Scavuzzo, OF (video), 0.5 KATOH+ – Essentially the same report as Rios except exchange “first base” for “outfield corner.” Scavuzzo had a down year after I found his power intriguing in the 2015 Fall League. A.J. Alexy, RHP – Throws 88-92 with a curveball that flashes above average. Change is a 40 right now. Prep arm from northeast, has pitch projection. Carlos Rincon, OF (video) – Aggressive uppercut swinger with more strength than he has bat speed, Rincon hit well in the AZL but does not walk and is a corner defender. Ariel Sandoval, OF, 0.8 KATOH+ – Aggressive uppercut swinger with more bat speed than strength, Sandoval hit well in the AZL and hit for power in the Midwest League but he doesn’t walk and this is a corner defender. Romer Cuadrado, 1B (video) – Plus raw power and the ability to hit the ball out the other way. No physical projection and possible first-base-only defensive profile. Devin Smeltzer, LHP (video) – Funky upper-80s fastball with feel for locating plus slider. LOOGY type. Angel German, RHP (video) – Physical beast who touched 100 in AZL last year, but his stuff and results took a big step back in 2016. Francis Cespedes, LHP (video) – Extremely loose lefty who touches 100 and sits 95-plus with a 70 changeup, 20 control and questions about his age. Brandon Montgomery, UTIL (video), 1.5 KATOH+ – Speedy baseball rat with solid contact skills and ability to play multiple positions. Cistulli’s Guy Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.Tim Locastro, SS/2B, 2.2 KATOH+ Locastro was selected in the 13th round of the 2013 draft out of Ithaca College, a school whose most notable sporting alumnus (per Wikipedia) is Patrick Horan, a defensive end who participated on the New York Giants practice squad between 2009 and -11. Which is to say, not the archetype of a baseball factory. Despite nearly an entire lack of pedigree and also an absence of notable tools, Locastro has recorded promising indicators as a professional, first in the Toronto system and then (following a trade) with the Dodgers. In 2016, while playing second base and shortstop almost exclusively, recorded just an 11.2% strikeout rate in nearly 600 plate appearances between High- and Double-A — all as a level-appropriate 23-year-old. There’s little power, but Locastro has also stolen at least 24 bases (with decent rates) at every full-season stop in his professional career. All together, he profiles as one of baseball’s most compelling fringe prospects. ***** System Overview The Dodgers have done an excellent job of scouting in Mexico, where they found not only Julio Urias and the aforementioned Arzaga but also raw-power lottery ticket Erick Meza (2.5 KATOH+) and pitchability righty Victor Gonzalez (0.7 KATOH+). They’ve also had two straight good drafts. The 2015 draft looked like a potential disaster when the club couldn’t sign Kyle Funkhouser and Buheler needed Tommy John, but Buehler, Calhoun and Abudllah all came from that draft as did Davis, Rios and advanced righty Andrew Sopko (2.3 KATOH+) who some scouts like as an up-and-down arm. Los Angeles’ system has an eclectic mix both of nearly ripe talent and upside and is uniquely stacked at catcher.