You may want to plan on a second poop if you’re going to read this entire post. Let that be my warning to you, before we begin my latest adventure in verbose prospecting. Today we tackle arguably the best system, certainly one of the deepest systems, in all of baseball. For today we discuss the Top Los Angeles Dodgers Prospects!!! You may say to yourself, “Hey self”, (then punch yourself in the face for saying self) where have I recently seen…or HEARD (big clue) someone talk about the Top Los Angeles Dodgers Prospects before? Hmmmm, maybe on the Razzball Prospect Podcast last week. You would in fact be correct, we even had a guest no-show us with a mysterious aliment. Last time I trust Michael Lohan. Either way, we talked about it once, and I’ll write about it now. The Dodgers have become a player development machine. They draft well (Kershaw, Pederson, Seager), they win the international market (Urias, Puig, Maeda), and most of all they develop players. They spend the most of any team on scouting and it shows. In the last few years they’ve nailed picks all over the draft, including picks in the 20+ rounds with players like Jose De Leon, and Jharel Cotton. This is a well oiled and functioning farm system, with players of interest and excitement across every level for dynasty owners. Sometimes when I’m writing these I know I’m highlighting several future fantasy relevant. This is one of those times. It’s the Top Doyers prospects.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
The son of former Yankees utility man, no not Luis Sojo, as awesome as that might be, but Clay Bellinger! Lower case yea. Bellinger is an athletic first baseman, who can play anywhere in the OF. He’s making a name for himself as a power threat, having slugged 30 homers in 2015 at hi-A Rancho Cucamonga. Which he followed up in 2016 with 23 homers with AA Tulsa, and 3 jacks in 3 games with AAA OKC, following a late season callup. My PIC (Prospector in Crime) Halp loves to knock his exaggerated uppercut swing, but hey, it’s working. I also made sure to go off the hyperbole deep end, comparing it to that of all-time great Ken Griffey Jr. I’m simply saying the swing path is similar, not the stance, load, or trigger, which are all different. Excellent defensively, could be among the best defensive first baseman immediately, but will probably break in as an outfielder before spelling A-Gon. High walk rates at all levels, walked 12.7% in AA in 2016 and 16.5% at HI-A in 2015. He has some swing and miss to his game, but it’s never out of control, with K rates around 20%. I’d give him the comp of Wil Myers with better power and less speed.
Willie Calhoun, 2B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
One of the Prospect Podcasts favorite prospects in the minors. We discussed him on the Dodgers pod over the weekend, and he’s popped up a few times in the past as well. What’s not to love? Amirite? Calhoun has shown power, excellent plate approach, and great understanding of the strike zone throughout his professional career. He’s gone from 4th round pick with no defensive position, to top 25 fantasy prospect with no defensive position, in a matter of a year plus. That should speak volumes about his ability to hit a baseball. Then again one would think hitting 31 homers in 63 JUCO games would, but who knows. His ISO’s in the minors have been in the 200’s with his K% around 10-12%, that’s a truly unusual skillset, so why isn’t he a bigger prospect? Easy, he doesn’t look like a ballplayer. Willie C is pretty much the anti-Gabe Kapler, he’s 5 foot nuthin, thick in the middle, and isn’t athletic. So he’s not making it with the body shaming contingent. Then again I was raised on shake what your Momma gave ya. So you know it don’t bother Ralphie. Lots of questions where he fits defensively, which is why he’s a much better fantasy prospect than real life.
Jose de Leon, RHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
Late round finds have been a calling card of the Dodgers over the last decade, and no one pick may come to signify this more than De Leon. A 24th round pick out of Southern in 2013, De Leon has worked hard to transform his body and arsenal. To the point that he’s arguably the Dodgers best prospect, and one of the top 5 right-handed pitching prospects in the minors. His low to mid 90’s fastball generates swings and misses in bunches, having led the minors in K/9 in 2015 with a 12.8 K/9. After overcoming an early season injury, De Leon dominated the hitting friendly PCL to the tune of a 2.61 ERA, .94 WHIP, .194 BAA, and 111 strikeouts to 20 walks in 86.1 innings. Outside his plus fastball his arsenal is comprised of a plus change, and an average low 80’s slider that’s most effective off the plate, and to his glove-side. Doesn’t look like there’s a place in the rotation for him at the present, barring a trade, but should work his way into the preferred five come mid-July. The hope is he’s up earlier, but that’s tough to conclude.
Yadier Alvarez, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: A/Rk
The top international player from the 2015 July 2nd class. The Dodgers blew past their budget in order to sign Alvarez, Yusniel Diaz, and others. His plus plus fastball sits mid-90’s and when he reaches back it can touch 100. Early returns shows a wipeout slider, and some deception on the change delivery. However control is the question MLB clubs had when he signed. While it has not been sterling, it’s shown to be a non-issue in his limited North American innings. With the ace label thrown around regularly with Alvarez, he’s easily the Dodgers highest upside prospect since those couple of guys named Urias and Seager. Yeah, the Dodgers kind of draft, and sign well.
Alex Verdugo, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
Contact first guy with a great lefthanded swing who’s been young at every level. His bat speed and control are excellent, leading to lots of hard contact to all-fields. Many scouts project mid-teen power due to his penchant for line-drives, and hard hit groundballs. His swing is very level, limiting his power ultimately, though his bat is strong enough that his power projection could change with a few tweaks. As things currently stand with Verdugo’s swing and approach a ceiling of Dustin Pedroia type offense is likely.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Edwin Rios, 1B/3B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA/A+/A
Might be the breakout player of this year, after slashing .301/.341/.567 across three levels of the minors eventually reaching AA Tulsa. The 2015 6th rounder out of Florida International makes lots of loud contact with his quick bat, and lefthanded uppercut swing. At 6’3 220 lbs plays first and third, neither of them very well. Though Rios has a gun for an arm, I doubt it’s enough to keep him at the hot corner. His most productive stop was Rancho Cucamonga, and the worry is that much of his eye-poping statlines there were Cal League inflated. It should be noted he continued to hit for power in AA, and his line drive rate was a sexy 28.57% across all levels. He’s also not limited to pullside power with 11 of his 27 homers going to center or opposite field. Do I think Rios is the second coming of Paul Goldschmidt? Hell no, but he can be a Miguel Sano donkey type, but with lower walk rates than Sano.
Jordan Sheffield, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A/Rk
The ace of Vanderbilt’s 2016 staff, and brother of Yankees top prospect Justus Sheffield, (and fake nephew of Gary Sheffield (I see you Halp)) was the Dodgers supplemental round pick at 36th overall. Beyond his NCAA pedigree, there’s enough real and fake bloodlines here to write a compelling lede. Thanks Sheffield’s! Jordan is a small righty at 6’0 185 lbs. Which means everyone but me will warn you of bullpen and injury risk. I will instead focus on his dope-azz arsenal, because I love his potential to develop three plus pitches. Sheffield’s fastball is consistently graded 70 by scouts, and sits mid 90’s ramping up to 98 when needed. A hard ¾ breaking ball that’s a slider more than curve is graded a 55 by scouts, as is his Mike Mussina style circle change. I know I said I wouldn’t talk about injury risk but it should be noted he had TJ following his senior year of high school, and his delivery leads to injury and command issues.
Andrew Toles, OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA/A+
Am I the only one that thinks Toles resembles Freeway Rick Ross? Nah? Okay, any way, you know Toles, or you should he was in the majors for a minute. He just slipped under his limits. He was once a top prospect in the Rays system but was away from the game for a year due to some personal stuff. That wasn’t the first personal issue to impede his development, as he was once kicked off his college team at Tennessee. At 24, Toles is still young, and if he can build on an encouraging 2016, we could be looking at a legit contact and speed player with better than advertised pop.
Brock Stewart, RHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA/A+
Back in late June, only hours before his MLB debut I penned this glowing post on Stewart. Not much has changed regarding my love for the converted 3rd baseman. It’s important to note Stewart’s pitchability and development since being drafted, because he quite honestly hasn’t been a pitcher that long. His fastball is graded above average, with sink and run, sitting 92-95. He throws his change to both righties and lefties, which also grades as above average, while his slider is average, and more of a weapon against lefties. All in all the making of a good back end starter. He’s exactly the kind of player I would trade for if I was AJ Preller, Mike Hazen, Michael Hill, or a host of other GMs. Stewart is a legit MLB starter and surplus to the Dodgers. Should get moved IMO.
Johan Mieses, OF | Age: 21 | ETA:2018 | 2016 Level: A+
Powerful infielder that hit 28 homers, and slugged .510 in the Cal League in 2016. Will need to improve his plate discipline in order for his skills to translate at the next level. Still very raw, but 28 homers is 28 homers, even in the Cal League. Donkey in the making, but a far less sexy one than Rios.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Walker Buehler, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A/Rk
Another former Vanderbilt ace, Buehler was ranked as the top college pitcher and Commodore entering the 2015 draft season (ahead of eventual #1 Dansby Swanson). He then missed a few early starts with elbow soreness, pitched poorly upon his return, and dropped to the Dodgers at 24, before needing elbow surgery. I like calling Tommy John elbow surgery, but don’t do it to his face. So there’s not much pro-ball scouting to draw from here, outside 5 innings upon his return late last season. But the reports that are out there are pretttty, pretttttty, pretty good; like he’s gone from throwing low to mid-90’s in college to throwing 95-97, and touching Brooklyn nine-nine coming off of TJ. Now take that with a grain of salt, as the truncated innings could have certainly aided in the increased velocity. So, while it’s a good sign, I wouldn’t take it as a be all end all signal of a strong return. That said, I’m willing to chalk up his ineffective junior year to an obvious elbow injury he pitched through. I mean, Tommy John hello!!! Hi, this is Tommy….click…. So where am I going with all this? Well Buehler has excuses for the poor performance and before his junior year he had 1.1 buzz for a reason. That reason, his bevy of plus pitches. His arsenal features a plus fastball, plus cutter/slider, and plus curve with nasty bite. He’s thrown a changeup in the past, and has the right arm speed to throw a good one in the future. All this to say, that if Buehler can return to form he’s yet another Dodgers arm with ace upside.
Yusniel Diaz, OF | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+/Rk
Was going to win rookie of the year in Cuba before defecting to the US in April, where he signed with the Dodgers in July for $15.5 Million (before tax). Good choice…. Initially billed as a speed/contact player with plus defense, and projectable power; Diaz so far has been all that and then some. His quick righthanded swing, and remarkable hand eye coordination has scouts drooling over his future offensive potential. Add in the plus speed, and mid teen power ceiling, and you got fantasy prospect dorks like myself pitching tents in our waterbeds.
Starling Heredia, OF | Age: 18 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: DSL
Another member of the highly regarded 2015 international class for the Dodgers. Heredia is about as raw as they come at 18, but the power and overall skillset is exciting. If the Dodgers are able to polish the overall package, (seesh, that reads poorly) or Heredia himself can develop some plate discipline, then we could be talking about a middle of the order thumper. Problem is he’s 5 years away from the majors, maybe more, and he’s raw like ODB in the Brooklyn Zoo. Seriously his breaking ball recognition is said to be on par with Stevie Wonder’s. Factor those in, and the range of outcomes is heterogeneous. He’s an excellent throw in piece when looking to even the scales in a dynasty trade.
D.J. Peters, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: Rk
Taken in the fourth round out of the now defunct Western Nevada Community College baseball team. Please listen to Peters make contact, it’s beautiful. At 6’6 225 lbs, he’s a athletic specimen in an outfield full of them in Ogden with Mitch Hansen, and Cody Thomas. Peters slashed .351/.437/.615 thats a .263 ISO. Then again he’s a 21 year old college player in rookie ball. Many of the scouting reports describe him as raw, and there’s some worry about his ability to barrel balls consistantly. I’ll leave those worries for another day and dream on the power/speed combo.
Others: Mitch Hansen, Gavin Lux, Cody Thomas, Leonadro Crawford, Omar Estevez, Imani Abdullah, Brendon Davis, Ronny Britto, Keibert Ruiz
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