Top 10 Prospects (2019): Los Angeles Dodgers: A New Wave Of Potential Stars Emerge

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by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Dodgers have long been viewed as one of the better minor league systems, and they always seem to have another star coming through the pipeline. While the system may not be quite as impressive as it once was, there’s still plenty of talent emerging (especially a sleeper that isn’t drawing much attention). Who are the next group of Dodger prospects to target? Let’s take a look:

1) Dustin May – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2020

When you look at an 8.28 K/9 over 132.2 IP, split between High-A (98.1 IP) and Double-A (34.1 IP), you may ignore May as a potentially elite pitching prospect.  However just looking at the secondary numbers should get you excited:

  • Walk Rate – 1.97
  • Groundball Rate – 54.9%

Now consider that his 11.3% SwStr% indicates significantly more strikeout potential and that he didn’t turn 21 until September and it’s easy to see the true upside.  Listed at 6’6” there’s little question that he can hold up to a full workload, and the fact that he already has strong control just adds to the profile.  He could conceivably arrive as soon as 2019 and become a rotation fixture in 2020.  Don’t make the mistake of overlooking him, as the value should grow quickly.

2) Keibert Ruiz – Catcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2020

Ruiz opened the year at Double-A as a 19-year old (he turned 20 in July), hitting .268 with 12 HR over 377 AB.  That’s an impressive line, especially given his age and the rigors of catching, and his 6.8% SwStr% and 8.0% strikeout rate look that much better given that context.  The switch hitter did struggle a bit against southpaws (.234/.304/.333), and if you are going to point towards that as a reason for concern you are simply splitting hairs.

Ruiz has the potential to emerge as one of the better hitting catchers in baseball and should see time at Triple-A this season.  In other words the future is coming quickly at the position for Los Angeles.

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3) Gavin Lux – Shortstop
Grade – B+
ETA – 2020

Lux played at High-A (358 AB) and Double-A (105 AB), hitting .324 with 15 HR and 13 SB.  Having added 27 doubles and 8 triples he appears to have some power potential, and while you may want to credit his success to playing in the California League things continued upon his promotion:

  • High-A – .520 SLG
  • Double-A – .495 SLG

He’s not a burner, but he should be able to continue to chip in 10+ SB.  When you couple that with his ability to handle the bat, with a 10.9% walk rate and impressive 7.8% SwStr% considering his age (he played the season at 20-years old), and it’s easy to get excited.  Maybe he’s forced to move off shortstop, but regardless he could easily develop into a .290/20/10 player.  Those numbers would play anywhere on the diamond.

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

Verdugo is generally hailed as the Dodgers’ top prospect, and while he clearly can handle the bat you have to wonder if he’s ever going to develop enough power to make a true impact.  In 343 AB at Triple-A last year he managed just 10 HR (to go along with 19 doubles), and playing in the Pacific Coast League it’s hard to get excited about the upside potential.  It’s also not like the left-handed hitter has ever shown significant potential before, with 6 HR over 433 PA at Triple-A in ’17 (he added 27 doubles and 4 triples).  Throw in groundball rates of 47.0% and 51.9% at the level over the past two seasons and it’s fair to have concerns.

Now throw in not much speed (he has 17 SB combined at Triple-A) and exactly what does he bring to the table?  It’s possible that he learns to hit for more power, as he clearly can handle the bat (6.5% SwStr%), but he also isn’t likely to maintain a .359 BABIP.  This is a case where he could prove to be a better player in real life and for his team then what the stats display.

5) Dennis Santana – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived

Santana’s season was cut short due to shoulder inflammation, but as long as he’s healthy he showed off just how much upside he has.  While it was a small sample size (49.2 IP between Double and Triple-A) he flashed all of the skills we look for from a pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 11.78 K/9 (15.8% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.90 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 51.3%

It’s hard not to get excited about that type of arsenal, and if it weren’t for the injury you could argue that he deserves to be a B+ type prospect.  Of course there are questions about his delivery (though it didn’t impact his control in ’18), with thoughts that his future may lie in the bullpen.  For now the Dodgers should continue to give him an opportunity as a starter and if he continues throwing strikes the upside is obvious.

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The Rest:

6) Tony Gonsolin – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
A former reliever, Gonsolin appears to be taking to the move to the rotation with a 10.90 K/9 and 2.95 BB/9 between High-A and Double-A.  He clearly has swing and miss stuff, with a 15.4% SwStr%, though we’d like to see him generating a few more groundballs (36.7%).  That could lead to some home run problems, though if opposing hitters can’t make contact how much of a concern is that going to be?  He’s not a name that gets much recognition, but he’s clearly gaining steam and is going to be garnering more and more attention.

7) Mitchell White – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
After opening the year on the DL White got off to a slow start, but he finished strong with 31 K vs.  6 BB over his final six starts at Double-A.  Let’s not forget that a healthy White showed more strikeouts (10.75 K/9) and groundballs (55.4%) over 73.2 IP in ’17 and he was looking like that type of pitcher again (1.59 GO/AO in August).  Obviously there’s some risk, but if he’s healthy he should return to being considered a solid pitching prospect in 2019.

8) Will Smith – Third Baseman/Catcher (Grade – B)
There’s no questioning the power, with 20 HR over 352 AB, though a 27.7% strikeout rate courtesy of an 11.4% SwStr% brings obvious concerns.  That was split between Double and Triple-A, and he also showed an ability to draw walks (10.6%) which does help to temper the negative outlook a little bit.  If he can cut down on the strikeouts and prove capable of hitting for even a decent average, the upside is there if he sticks behind the plate.

9) Jeter Downs – Shortstop (Grade – B-)
Downs was acquired from Cincinnati as part of the trade sending Alex Wood and Yaisel Puig out of Los Angeles.  He played the bulk of the season at 19-years old at Single-A, so there’s no question that there’s room to improve upon his 11.6% SwStr% (leading to a 19.7% strikeout rate).  As long as that number doesn’t rise too much, there’s obvious upside in his power (13 HR) and there’s some speed (37 SB in 47 attempts, though he’s not considered a true burner).  It’s easy to get excited, but the strikeout rate and potential to be more of a 15/15 type player does show a little bit of risk.

10) Edwin Rios – First Baseman/Third Baseman (Grade – B-)
Rios is a prospect that often doesn’t get much attention, but he just keeps showing that he can hit.  In 309 AB at Triple-A he hit .304 with 10 HR last season, and with 25 doubles it’s clear that with a little development the power could come quickly.  There was a bit too much swing and miss, with a 16.8% SwStr%, a severe regression from his 13.0% mark in ’17.  Obviously if he can’t keep the strikeouts in check his appeal is going to diminish quickly (especially if the power doesn’t come).  There’s enough upside to have him on radars, but adjustments are needed.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 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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