Top 10 Prospects (2018): Los Angeles Dodgers: Are The “Top” Prospects (Buehler/Verdugo) Over-Hyped?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

No one is going to say that the Dodgers’ farm system lacks talent, but that doesn’t mean that the players generally viewed as the “studs” aren’t over-hyped.  There are questions hanging over each of them, which is represented in their grades, but they are joined with a lot of intriguing talent that could ultimately prove to be better prospects long-term.  Who are the team’s best?  Where do Buehler and Verdugo fit?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Walker Buehler – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B+

Buehler saw his stock rise significantly in 2017, pitching across three levels in the minor leagues before making eight appearances out of the LA bullpen.  In 88.2 IP in the minors he showed impressive skills across the board:

  • Strikeouts – 12.69 K/9 (12.6% SwStr%)
  • Control – 3.15 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 54.3%

It’s the skill set of a potential ace, so why does he come in as a “B+” as opposed to an “A” or “A-“?  For one is the slight question about his control, as it regressed upon reaching Triple-A (4.24 BB/9) and then in the Majors (7.71 BB/9).  We can give him a pass on that, due to the transition to working out of the bullpen, but there’s also a question as to his ability to work deep into games.  We won’t know with certainty until the Dodgers take off the handcuffs, but Buehler didn’t go longer than 5.1 innings in any start in ’17 and at 6’2” and 175 lbs. it’s fair to wonder how he’ll hold up.  It’s not a significant red flag, but it’s a question that needs to be answered.

 

2) Keibert Ruiz – Catcher
ETA – 2019
Grade – B+

Ruiz played most of the season as an 18-year old, splitting time between Single-A and High-A (411 PA), and in the process showed a highly impressive approach.  For a player his age an 8.9% SwStr% at any level shows an advanced approach.

While he only hit 8 HR, he added 23 doubles and 2 triples so there appears to be more power that he’ll be able to tap into as he matures and gains experience.  A switch hitter, he’s gotten comparison to Francisco Mejia this offseason (the consensus top catching prospect in the game).  That’s really all you should need to know.

 

3) Mitchell White – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2019
Grade – B+

It was only 73.2 innings of work, with 28.0 coming at Double-A, but it’s impossible to ignore the skills that he showed:

  • Strikeouts – 10.75 K/9 (16.2% SwStr%)
  • Control – 3.79 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 55.4%

Obviously the control isn’t going to blow you away, but he was working his way back from Tommy John surgery so we can give him a pass (though it’s something to watch).  Considering the SwStr% and groundball rate, even at that level success could be there but if he can improve he has the upside of a Top 10 pitching prospect.  Listed at 6’4” and 207 lbs. there’s no question where his future lies, and while the Dodgers could be cautious with him in ’18 don’t be surprised if he fully breaks out by year’s end.

 

4) Alex Verdugo – Outfielder
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B

No one is going to argue that Verdugo doesn’t bring an elite approach, with a 10.1% strikeout rate and 10.5% walk rate at Triple-A (courtesy of a 4.0% SwStr%).  That’s going to give him the upside of a strong average, but what else does he bring to the table?

There is the potential for him to tap into a little bit more power, and at 21-years old it’s fair to think it will happen.  However last season he managed 6 HR over 495 PA at Triple-A and failed to add a significant amount of extra base hits to supplement it (27 doubles, 4 triples).  He also doesn’t bring blazing speed, with 9 SB last season and never swiping more than 14 bases.  That’s not to say that he’s a bad player, just one that may have been over-hyped at times as he looks more like a .290ish/12/12 type player.  Maybe he proves us wrong and develops more power, but for now we haven’t seen enough signs of it.

 

5) Yadier Alvarez – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2019
Grade – B

There is a question as to whether Alvarez will fit best as a starter or reliever, especially after he struggled mightily with his control upon reaching Double-A (6.82 BB/9 over 33.0 IP).  It’s not like he was a tremendous control pitcher prior to the promotion (3.79 BB/9 over 59.1 IP), though.  The stuff is there (51.0% groundball rate, 11.0% SwStr%) to thrive, once he proves capable of consistently finding the strike zone.  If not it’s possible he transitions to the bullpen and develops into a late inning weapon, though the Dodgers should give him every opportunity to prove he can thrive as a starter.

 

The Rest:
6) Edwin Rios – First Baseman/Third Baseman (Grade – B)
7) Yusniel Diaz – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
8) Dustin May – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
9) Jeren Kendall – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
10) Starling Heredia – Outfielder (Grade – C+)

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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