Top 23 Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers by Eric Longenhagen May 9, 2018 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. All the numbered prospects here also appear on THE BOARD, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. Click here to visit THE BOARD. Top Prospects Series 2018 2017 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Dodgers Top Prospects Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV 1 Walker Buehler 23 MLB RHP 2018 55 2 Alex Verdugo 21 R RF 2018 50 3 Yadier Alvarez 22 AA RHP 2020 50 4 Will Smith 23 R C 2019 50 5 Keibert Ruiz 19 AA C 2020 50 6 D.J. Peters 22 AA RF 2020 45 7 Mitch White 23 AA RHP 2019 45 8 Dennis Santana 22 AA RHP 2018 45 9 Dustin May 20 A+ RHP 2020 45 10 Jordan Sheffield 22 A+ RHP 2019 45 11 Yusniel Diaz 21 AA RF 2020 45 12 Jeren Kendall 22 A+ CF 2021 45 13 Starling Heredia 19 A CF 2022 45 14 Edwin Rios 23 AAA 1B 2019 40 15 Cristian Santana 21 A 3B 2021 40 16 Matt Beaty 24 AA 3B 2019 40 17 Connor Wong 21 A+ C 2020 40 18 Gavin Lux 20 A+ SS 2021 40 19 Drew Jackson 24 AA SS 2019 40 20 Robinson Ortiz 18 R LHP 2023 40 21 Breyvic Valera 26 MLB SS 2018 40 22 Devin Smeltzer 22 AA LHP 2019 40 23 Ariel Hernandez 25 MLB RHP 2017 40 55 FV Prospects 1. 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 Slider Curveball Changeup Command 70/70 55/55 55/60 45/50 45/50 Buehler roared back from Tommy John in 2016 and sat 96-99 with a plus curveball and slider/cutter in his first outing back from surgery. That was harder than he ever threw at Vanderbilt. He threw only five affiliated innings, but the Dodgers immediately began internal conversations about how to get him to the big leagues in 2017. They did, and after a late-summer move to the bullpen, Buehler got a nine-inning September espresso. There are some who think Buehler’s ultimate role will be that of the prophesied, dominant multi-inning reliever because his command is fringey, he’s already had a surgery, and he’s an undersized guy with a longer arm action. His three-pitch mix (he barely uses a changeup) is unique for a starter but enough to justify continued development in a rotation, and the fallback option of elite multi-inning relief isn’t all that bad. 50 FV Prospects 2. Alex Verdugo, RF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Sahuaro HS (AZ) Age 21 Height 6’0 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/60 55/55 40/50 45/40 50/50 60/60 Verdugo was a legit top-three-rounds talent as both a hitter and pitcher coming out of high school in 2014, and some were surprised when the Dodgers took him in the second round and announced him as a hitter. He’s rewarded their faith, showing the expected plus bat. He hasn’t quite delivered on his game-power potential and has also lost a step, working now as a right fielder after serving as a serviceable center fielder as an amateur. There’s some maturity concerns that have dogged Verdugo for years, but he’s essentially big-league ready with a 60 bat and arm, along with the potential for a fun position-player-pitching option. 3. 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 40/45 40/50 30/45 Alvarez made little developmental progress in 2017 and remains wild and without a changeup, much to the chagrin of scouts (and Eric) enamored of his ability to generate effortless upper-90s velocity. What Alvarez possesses in grace and fluidity he lacks in touch and feel for pitch manipulation, and his release is inconsistent. His slider flashes plus but is left up in the zone too often. The industry has begun talking about Alvarez’s makeup after he looked out of shape early last spring. He was in Arizona already working on his changeup command in preparation for the season very early, but he’s not off to an auspicious start and is now on the shelf with a groin injury. He’s looking less likely to be a dominant front-end starter (or a starter at all), but his stuff is probably good enough to make some kind of eventual impact either as a really frustrating No. 4 starter or late-inning arm. 4. Will Smith, C Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Louisville Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 192 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/55 50/50 40/50 55/50 50/55 60/60 Smith was an athletic, multi-positional prospect at Louisville whose stock spiked close to draft time. He was considered a potential plus defensive catcher who might hit an empty .280. In the last year, Smith has altered his stride in a way that has increased his in-game power rather significantly. He has terrific natural bat control and finds a way to get the barrel to various parts of the hitting zone, and the change in offensive footwork didn’t alter his peripherals. He remains a strong defensive catching prospect who now has a chance to hit for average and power while also moonlighting at second and third base when needed. He’s an Austin Barnes sequel who’s perhaps two years from the majors. 5. Keibert Ruiz, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela Age 18 Height 6’0 Weight 200 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/55 50/55 30/45 40/30 45/55 50/50 The game appears to move slow and comfortably for Ruiz, whose actions behind the plate and in the batter’s box often look casual. He scores well on several teams’ minor-league framing metrics, which is becoming the most important aspect of catcher evaluation for a growing number of teams. He’s also poised to do a bunch of damage at the plate, as Ruiz’s left-handed swing has natural lift. Ruiz also has elite hand-eye coordination, so he hits everything. He’ll have to refine his approach and attack pitches he can drive instead of every pitch he can hit, but he’ll have a dynamic offensive profile if he can do that. The only other concerns here are the attrition rate of teenage catching prospects generally and Ruiz’s lack of athleticism specifically. The latter might mean more for his projected longevity, however, than it does his upside, which is sizable. 45 FV Prospects 6. D.J. Peters, RF Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Western Nevada Age 21 Height 6’6 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 65/70 40/60 55/50 45/50 60/60 Peters is likely to have career-long issues with strikeouts because of lever length and because he has somewhat limited bat control. That said, he also has superlative power and an athletic, well-timed swing that has enabled him to fully utilize it, which he’s likely to continue doing. Peters runs well right now and has a chance to play center field for a while, but he also has Adam Dunn’s frame, so he’ll likely move to a corner eventually. 7. 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 60/60 60/60 40/45 55/60 45/55 White has had injury issues and velocity fluctuations dating back to college. He wasn’t heavily scouted at Santa Clara because of an injury and a redshirt freshman season in the bullpen. I saw him sit 88-92 last fall and then 92-96, while touching 98, this spring. His secondary stuff is great but there’s no offspeed pitch. It’s possible to deal with opposite-handed hitters without a changeup or split as long as one has good breaking ball command. White’s isn’t crisp yet, though, in part because he hasn’t pitched all that much. If that comes and White stays healthy (he just left extended spring training ahead of publication), he’s a potential No. 3 or 4 starter. 8. Dennis Santana, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 55/60 55/60 50/55 40/50 Santana has a low-ish arm slot but does everything necessary to succeed as a starter. His changeup is good enough to mitigate the early look left-handed hitters get at his fastball (which has nasty tail), and the command of his entire arsenal has drastically improved in the last year. He projects as a No. 4 starter but is trending up. 9. 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 Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 55/60 40/50 45/60 May’s gangly frame; flaming red, Sideshow Bob look; and Bronson Arroyo leg kick are the entertaining package containing nasty stuff and advanced fastball command. That pitch sits 90-95, touches 97, sinks, plays up due to good extension, and goes where May wants it to. May’s velocity, command, and breaking ball should combine to result in a big leaguer on their own. As for the changeup, it hasn’t missed bats, and May has tinkered with his grip of it several times. It was a little better late in the year, but if you buy that arm actions influence changeup development and effectiveness, then note that May has an arm action similar to Madison Bumgarner, who never quite developed one and is effective anyway. May has mid-rotation upside. 10. Jordan Sheffield, RHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Vanderbilt Age 22 Height 5’10 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 50/50 55/60 45/50 35/40 Sheffield continues to start at High-A, but his below-average control will likely relegate him to the bullpen at some point. He has a good four-pitch mix headlined by the curveball and a fastball in the 93-96 range that touches 98. It makes sense to continue his development as a starter as long as he continues to be durable enough to handle the workload, both because it gives Sheffield a better chance to develop his control and also because it prepares him for a heavier relief workload once he moves. He could be a dominant late- or multi-inning bullpen arm, especially if his fastball ticks up in three- to six-out bursts. 11. Yusniel Diaz, RF 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 35/50 50/50 35/45 50/50 50/55 55/55 The barrel-chested Diaz has stiffened up a bit as he’s filled out, but he still has a well-rounded collection of tools that should enable him to be an average regular in a corner. The bat control has suffered from Diaz’s stiffness, but the quality of the contact he makes is strong and he’s good at picking pitches to attack. He ditched his leg kick at some point during 2017 and it’s improved his timing. He began the year in extended spring training and has had several DL stints in two full pro seasons but is otherwise a low-variance prospect who’s fairly close to the majors and having success at Double-A. 12. Jeren Kendall, CF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Vanderbilt Age 21 Height 6’0 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/55 30/50 70/70 50/60 50/50 On paper, Kendall’s tool grades look a lot like George Springer’s did at UConn, and Springer had similar strikeout issues in college. It was assumed that he’d need a swing change as a pro, and so far the Dodgers have lowered where he starts his hands to create a better bat path. His lower half is still a bit stiff, and a lot of the Dodgers young hitters hit with a flexed front leg (Seager, Peters, Pederson, Bellinger), which might be something taught — to the athletes capable of doing it, at least — throughout the org. Kendall has star-level tools but needs more maintenance than most college prospects. 13. Starling Heredia, CF Video 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 20/45 60/60 30/55 60/60 40/55 50/50 Heredia is built like a mauling fullback and yet is somehow a plus runner. It’s unclear how his speed will hold up as he ages: in light of his size, it already makes him an athletic outlier. Heredia’s swing-and-miss issues stem from a mediocre bat control and some imbalance at the plate. If they’re remedied, he could be a force in the middle of a big-league batting order. If not, and he ends up in a corner (where he already sees most of his time), it’s going to be tough for him to profile. He’s a high-variance teenage outfield prospect. 40 FV Prospects 14. Edwin Rios, 1B Drafted: 6th Round, 2015 from Florida International Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 220 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 70/70 40/55 20/20 35/40 60/60 First-base prospects with approaches as impatient as Rios’s often have a tough time profiling. Jose Abreu has made it work, but most other big-league first basement with walk rates similar to Rios max out in the 1.5 WAR area, and Rios’s statistical performance is colored by his age. So there are some red flags here, but there’s also a rare combination of bat control and raw power that could lead to some huge seasons when everything is clicking for Rios. He hasn’t broken camp yet due to an oblique injury. 15. Cristian Santana, 3B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic Age 28 Height 6’0 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/60 20/50 40/40 45/50 60/60 The Dodgers have successfully toned down what was once a max-effort, full-body swing, enabling Santana to make more contact last year. In many ways, Santana is like Rios (too aggressive, big power, the bat control to make it work even though he swing indiscriminately), except he has a better chance of staying at third. 16. Matt Beaty, 3B Drafted: 12th Round, 2015 from Belmont Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 210 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 55/55 45/50 40/40 40/45 50/50 Beaty was Texas League MVP last year and does have enough offensive ability to crack a big-league roster as some kind of corner bench bat. Both he and Edwin Rios are a little old, not especially good at third base, and currently shelved due to injury. Rios has considerably more power, so it might be tough for Beaty to grab hold of a big-league role in this org. He, too, has an oblique issue that has slowed the start of his season. 17. Connor Wong, C Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Houston Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 181 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 50/50 30/50 55/55 40/50 50/50 Wong was on our list of 40s and 45s who we thought had a chance to really pop and turn into 50 or better FV prospects by season’s end. The Dodgers have targeted several contact-oriented, athletic, multi-positional prospects who can also catch in recent drafts and coaxed more pop from each of their swings. As they did with Will Smith, the Dodgers have folded more activity into Wong’s lower half during his swing, and he’s currently torching the Cal League, though some of that is probably due to, you know, the Cal League. He’s tracking as we hoped and has a shot to be an everyday player. 18. Gavin Lux, SS Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Indian Trail Academy HS (WI) Age 19 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 40/45 20/40 60/60 40/50 55/55 Another (more subtle) swing-changer, Lux’s offensive game was grounded in his selectivity and solid-average bat control. Now, his back elbow isn’t jutting out toward the sky and is more level when he loads his hands, creating a bit more lift out in front. It might allow him to hit for more power if he times it well, which would make scouts more confident in his ability to play every day since he does just about everything else fairly well. 19. Drew Jackson, SS Drafted: 5th Round, 2015 from Stanford Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 50/50 30/40 60/60 45/50 70/70 Yup, another swing change. Jackson’s college swing, like pretty much every other Stanford hitter’s swing, was devoid of pop. He’s tapping into more of it now and does enough to stay at short, but his below-average bat control might limit his offensive output and overall role. He’s closer to the big leagues than Lux (by one level) but is four years older and has less a chance to play every day at peak. 20. Robinson Ortiz, LHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic Age 17 Height 6’0 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 45/50 45/55 40/55 40/55 What I’ve seen from Robinson is 90-94 with movement, a late-biting curveball, and better changeup feel and command than the typical teenager. He’s sturdily built (body comps to Justus Sheffield) and strong, but not physically projectable, so perhaps there won’t be more velocity as Ortiz matures. He’d probably go somewhere in the first comp rounds were he draft eligible. He projects pretty conservatively as a No. 4 starter. 21. Breyvic Valera, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2009 from Venezuela Age 25 Height 5’11 Weight 160 Bat/Throw B/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 55/55 40/40 30/30 40/40 50/50 50/50 Valera was traded to Los Angeles for Johan Mieses after Logan Forsythe got hurt. He was redundant in St. Louis, perhaps the best of a group of fringe defensive shortstops with good bat-to-ball skills. Valera might now be thrust into the spotlight because of Corey Seager’s injury. If so, expect him to make lots of contact and play a fundamentally sound, if unspectacular, shortstop. 22. Devin Smeltzer, LHP Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from San Jacinto JC (TX) Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 45/45 45/50 55/60 55/60 45/50 As long as Smeltzer’s fastball is playable (we think the deception created by his delivery will allow it to be), he’s going to be an effective, kitchen-sink reliever. His arsenal is deep and he fills up the zone. He’s currently in the Double-A rotation. 23. Ariel Hernandez, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2008 from Dominican Republic Age 25 Height 6’4 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 70/70 65/70 45/55 30/35 The Reds designated Hernandez for assignment in April and then traded him to Los Angeles. He wields elite raw stuff but has no idea where it’s going, and his low arm slot undercuts his effectiveness against left-handed hitters. He sits 96-99 with the fastball and hurls in a power, mid-80s curveball with a spin rate up near 3000 rpm. Intersections of such velocity and spin are almost unheard of, and Hernandez made several big-league hitters look foolish with his breaking ball in limited major-league innings. It’s a plus-plus offering, as is his heater. Hernandez’s command, however, is what kept him in A-ball until he was 25. Despite his stuff’s quality, Hernandez has little margin for error against left-handed hitters, who see the ball well out of his hand. Lefties posted a .404 OBP against him in 2017. Barring a sudden dramatic improvement in Hernandez’s ability to locate, he’ll likely be relegated to low-leverage innings. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Up-the-Middle Talents Leonel Valera, SS Jacob Amaya, SS Omar Estevez, 2B Ronny Brito, 2B Errol Robinson, SS Marcus Chiu, SS Most of these guys have big bat speed and a shot to stay at their listed position but also struggle with swing and miss. Valera has the most projectable frame of the group. Estevez and Robinson have better contact skills than the others, but Estevez hasn’t performed yet and Robinson has so little power that his ceiling is that of a utility guy. He reached Double-A in his first full season. Guys Who Might Start Caleb Ferguson, LHP James Marinan, RHP Morgan Cooper, RHP Imani Abdullah, RHP Guillermo Zuniga, RHP It’s tough to pick the ball up out of Ferguson’s hand and it enables his mix (50 fastball, 55 curve, 45 change) to play up. Marinan is 19, 6-foot-5, and touches 96. His curveball is average. Cooper has dealt with injuries dating back to high school and hasn’t pitched yet this spring due to shoulder tendinitis. When healthy, he sits 91-94 with a curve, cutter, and changeup (his best pitch). Abdullah was up to 96 last year and had a 55 slider, but his stuff is way down this spring. Zuniga was one of the Braves’ July 2 penalty departures. He’ll show you 90-93 with a plus change and average curveball. Fliers with Big Pop Cody Thomas, OF Carlos Rincon, OF Luke Raley, OF Kyle Garlick, OF Donovan Casey, OF Romer Cuadrado, OF Jacob Scavuzzo, OF Thomas was a two-sport athlete in college and has premium physical tools. It’s going to take time for him to develop, and he’s already 23. Rincon has big time natural lift in his swing and plus raw power projection, but he’s not selective nor does he have bat control. Raley and Garlick could play reserve roles soon. Casey played two ways at Boston College and has interesting physical ability that needs to be refined. Scavuzzo is back in Double-A for a third straight year due to strikeout issues caused by lack of plate discipline and lever length. Relief Prospects Melvin Jimenez, RHP Aneurys Zabala, RHP Stetson Allie, RHP Shea Spitzbarth, RHP Josh Sborz, RHP Yaisel Sierra, RHP Tony Gonsolin, RHP Andrew Istler, RHP Edwin Uceta, RHP Riley Ottesen, RHP Andre Jackson, RHP Conor Costello, RHP Jimenez is still just 19 and pitched well in full-season ball last year. He’s a max-effort, short righty (hence the relief-only projection) who touches 99 and gets plus swing-and-miss on an average slider. Zabala was acquired from Seattle as a throw-in in the Chase De Jong deal. His stuff was been way up and down over the last two years, but he was up to 100 in 2017 and flashes a 6 curveball. Sierra has been similar enigmatic, at times 94-97 with a 60 slider and, at others, totally ineffective. Allie will touch 99 but has the same issues with strike-throwing that forced him off the mound after two years with Pittsburgh. Costello played two ways in college but has developed solid changeup and breaking-ball feel as a pro. Spitzbarth, Sborz, Istler, and Gonsolin all have deeper repertoires than typical relievers but would otherwise be a little short on stuff. Otteson will touch 97 and has a 50 slider. Jackson had TJ in the fall of 2016 and didn’t pitch last year, but he was throwing hard as an underclassman at Utah so he’s worth following. Cistulli’s Guy Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.Tim Locastro, UT One of the top-five finishers on last year’s final and arbitrarily calculated Fringe Five Scoreboard, Locastro attended a college (Ithaca) known more for its idyllic setting than baseball program. Selected by Toronto in the 13th round of the 2013 draft and traded to Los Angeles in July of 2015, Locastro has recorded promising indicators for almost the entirety of his professional career, complementing above-average contact rates with positive defensive value. In defiance of his pedigree, Locastro has continued recording strong numbers through Triple-A. He was recently recalled to the majors, where he’s made three starts in center field. System Overview The system remains strong and has quality up top despite annual graduations of stars and Alvarez’s inability to develop. The Dodgers’ amateur department has scooped up more players of interest than most teams in the middle rounds of the draft. The player-development staff, meanwhile, has likely been responsible for an increase in velocity among pitchers. The commonalities among the swings of Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, and Corey Seager suggest player dev is somewhat responsible for their success, as well. It’s a very well-funded operation that looks poised to sustain success for a while, even as the pitching at the big-league level grows flimsy and old.