by Dustin Nosler by Dustin Nosler

2014 Top 50 Dodgers’ prospects: No. 21-30

Frias could be a late bloomer for the Dodgers, by Dustin Nosler

Carlos Frias could be a late bloomer for the Dodgers, by Dustin Nosler

This is the third part of a 5-part series detailing my Top 50 Dodgers’ prospects. These are scouting reports for Nos. 21-30.

Previous entries
Prospect landing page

No. 31-40
No. 41-50

Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). This is an amateur scouting report based on what I know about baseball and from following the sport all my life. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information to the masses. All ratings in the charts below are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is roughly average, 80 is elite and nearly unattainable (think an Aroldis Chapman fastball), and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.

21. Jesmuel Valentin, 2B/SS (5’9, 180, 20 years old)
Valentin, the son of former Dodger Jose Valentin, was the Dodgers’ supplemental first-round selection in 2012 (after Corey Seager). Praised for his glove, Valentin didn’t compare much to his father. Instead, he was more of an Ivan De Jesus clone, except he has the ability to play shortstop. However, he hasn’t played as much shortstop in his first two seasons because he’s been on the same team as Seager and the Dodgers might not view him as a long-term shortstop. Valentin’s soft hands make him a natural defender at either shortstop or second base. His instincts are good and his first-step is good enough for short. However, his arm is merely average for shortstop, which could be the main reason the Dodgers probably see him as a second baseman — that, and the second base depth in the system is significantly weaker than shortstop (even with Seager’s eventual move to third base).

ToolsNowFuture
Hitting4045
Power2535
Speed4550
Fielding5055
Arm5050

At the plate, Valentin’s best attribute is his plate discipline. He’s walked 84 times and struck out 86 times in his first 612 professional plate appearances. Unfortunately for Valentin, he hasn’t hit much. He’s a career .248 hitter with next to no pop. But Valentin isn’t going to make his money hitting home runs. The switch-hitter has decent bat speed, but he’ll likely never be much of a factor offensively. He has below-average base-stealing skills, but average speed when underway. He split time between Great Lakes (where he struggled) and Ogden (where he was better) in 2013. With Seager set to start in Rancho Cucamonga, the shortstop (or second base) job is all his at Midland. If he performs well enough, he could get a promotion to Rancho.

2013 ranking: 13
2014 location: Low-A Great Lakes
ETA: late-2017

ToolsNowFuture
Hitting4550
Power4560
Speed4045
Fielding4550
Arm5560

22. Joey Curletta, RF (6’4, 225, 20 years old)
Curletta debuted at Ogden in 2012 after being taken by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the draft. He struggled immensely in 25 games. He repeated the level (as a 19-year-old, that isn’t bad) and made a much better impression. He improved in every facet of his offensive game: His walk rate, power and strikeout percentage all went in a positive direction. Curletta is a big guy who gets above-average bat speed from his frame. He has some of the best power potential in the system. He also made strides with his plate discipline in 2013, which bodes well for him going forward. He doesn’t project to be a .300+ hitter at the Major League level, but he can hit enough to justify a spot on a roster — possibly as a second-division starter.

He struggled initially on defense in the outfield, but he also improved in that area this past season. He could be a future first baseman if he doesn’t keep his frame in check, but that would be a waste of his plus-arm. He has surprising quickness for a bigger prospect and is plenty capable of handling right field. At best, he’s a profile right fielder. He won’t offer much in terms of stolen bases, but he won’t be a total base-clogger, either. Curletta should get his first taste of full-season ball in the Midwest League. If anyone in the system not named Justin Chigbogu is going to have success with his power in the pitcher-friendly league, it’s Curletta.

2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Low-A Great Lakes
ETA: 2018

ToolsNowFuture
Hitting4045
Power5060
Speed3030
Fielding4045
Arm4545

23. Justin Chigbogu, 1B (6’1, 250, 19 years old)
Chigbogu looked like a potential overdraft in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, but he’s looking like a future contributor in the majors. The easy comparison is to Ryan Howard (and not because they’re both black). They’re both big, left-handed, power-hitting first baseman who strike out an awful lot. Chigbogu’s carrying tool is his power, which is among the best in the system. He’s adept at hitting balls over the fence the other way. When he’s going well, a lot of his hard-hit balls are to left-center field. But with the power comes a lot of swing-and-miss. Chigbogu struck out 90 times in 262 plate appearances between the Arizona League and Ogden. He’s not one to cut down his swing to go the other way when there are two strikes. He’s an all-out swinger who tries to hit homers.

Lefty all the way, he is a first baseman, meaning his bat is even more important for his future success. He’s not a Gold Glover at first by any means, but he’s good enough. He has below-average speed and won’t be much of a factor on the basepaths. Chigbogu could go back to Ogden, but I think an assignment to Great Lakes might be in order.

2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Low-A Great Lakes
ETA: 2018

ToolsNowFuture
Hitting4045
Power4045
Speed5555
Fielding5055
Arm5555

24. Noel Cuevas, CF/LF (6’2, 187, 22 years old)
Cuevas made strides in 2013 offensively, which must be taken with a grain of salt because he was in the hitter-friendly California League. But, he showed some of the ability the Dodgers thought they were getting when the drafted him in the 21st round of the 2010 draft. He signed on the last day, as the Dodgers kept him from going to college. Cuevas is a bit of a free-swinger, as he doesn’t walk a whole lot (6.9 percent in 2013), but he barrels up enough pitches to be successful. He was one of three Quakes to post 20-plus doubles, 10-plus triples and 10-plus homers. Some of those homers will turn to doubles and triples as he progresses. He possesses average bat speed from the right side and is not opposed to hitting the ball to right field. He has gap pop and won’t ever be a big power hitter. He uses his legs to put pressure on the defense, but he needs to hit the ball on the ground more often. His on-base percentage is tied to his batting average, which means he could struggle to get on base at the next level.

Defensively, Cuevas has the ability to play center field. I saw him make a number of nice plays this past season in center. His arm plays up a bit as a center fielder and he gets good reads off the bat. His range is plus and if he has to make the move to left field, he could be an exceptional defender out there. He has some of the best speed in the Dodgers’ system and could be a 20-25 stolen base threat in the majors. He should face a make-or-break season (for his prospect status) with Chattanooga.

2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Double-A Chattanooga
ETA: late-2015

ToolsNowFuture
Hitting4045
Power3545
Speed6060
Fielding4045
Arm4550

25. Darnell Sweeney, 2B/SS (6’1, 170, 23 years old)
Sweeney opened some eyes with his debut performance. He actually played better in the Midwest League than he did the Pioneer League as a college draftee, displaying some unexpected pop. However, he came back to earth a bit in 2013 in the California League. Sweeney did hit for the cycle in May, but he had just a pedestrian campaign. Offensively, Sweeney has a line-drive swing that’s conducive to extra-base hits at times. He was one of three Quakes to post 25-plus doubles, 10-plus triples and 10-plus home runs. However, his strikeout rate jumped by nearly 9 percent, while his walk rate dropped by 3.5 percent — not good trends. As a switch-hitter, Sweeney appears to be comfortable from both sides of the plate, but he displays more pop from the left side. I was underwhelmed after seeing him in person multiple times in 2013.

Defensively, Sweeney was an erratic shortstop. He made 34 errors at short and fared much better at second base. His arm was below-average at shortstop and had some loop to it. That led to a lot of his errors. At second base, those errors should be mitigated. He has plenty of range and athleticism for short, which should play up nicely at second base. He’ll need to work on making the turn on a double play as a second baseman. While Sweeney is fast, he isn’t a great base-stealer. He was successful on 71 percent of his attempts (and stole 48 bases), but that could be better with some work at reading pitchers and getting better jumps. He should be Chattanooga’s opening day second baseman, but I could see the Lookouts playing him at shortstop out of necessity.

2013 ranking: 17
2014 location: Double-A Chattanooga
ETA: 2016

ToolsNowFuture
Fastball5060
Curveball4550
Cmd/Ctrl3545
Delivery4550

26. Scott Griggs, RHP (6’4, 215, 23 years old)
Griggs was the Dodgers’ eighth-round selection in the 2012 draft, and he was picked soley as a reliever out of UCLA. Griggs possesses a nice 2-pitch mix out of the bullpen. His fastball is a 92-94 MPH offering that touches 95-96 MPH. He doesn’t get a lot of movement on it, but it can bore in on right-handed hitters. His plus-velocity makes up for the lack of movement. His curveball is an upper-70s pitch that offers slider-like break at times. He’s been known to slow down his arm on when he throws the curveball, so he’ll have to work on that as he progresses through the minors. His delivery is clean. He actually throws from the wind-up with no runners on base — something a lot of relievers don’t do. He gets good downward plane on his pitches by throwing from a true over-the-top arm slot. He has trouble repeating his delivery and arm slot, leading to a career 7.1 walks per nine innings rate. He couples that with a career 14.0 strikeouts per nine, so at least the walks seem worth it. Griggs could be a fast mover if he shows improved control and command. He should begin 2014 with Rancho Cucamonga.

2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
ETA: late-2015

ToolsNowFuture
Fastball4555
Slider4045
Changeup4545
Cmd/Ctrl4550
Delivery4550

27. Jharel Cotton, RHP (5’11, 195, 22 years old)
Cotton was my sleeper pick for 2013, and he performed decently. He began with Great Lakes and got a surprise promotion to Chattanooga. However, he was only there for 10 innings, and it didn’t go well (8.10 ERA). Cotton was a 20th-round selection in 2012 and has the repertoire of a starting pitcher, even if his ultimate future lies in the bullpen. He has a low-90s fastball that has some arm-side run to it. It could tick up a bit out of the bullpen. His slider is a low-80s pitch that flashes solid-average potential at times. His best off-speed pitch is his low-80s changeup, which flashes plus-potential at times, but is inconsistent. Cotton could be a solid late-inning reliever with an extreme outside shot of being a back-end starter. He should probably return to Rancho Cucamonga and could be in its rotation if guys like Chris Anderson and Tom Windle move quickly.

2013 ranking: 43
2014 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
ETA: 2016

ToolsNowFuture
Fastball4555
Slider4550
Changeup3545
Cmd/Ctrl4550
Delivery5050

28. Carlos Frias, RHP (6’4, 194, 24 years old)
Frias could be a classic “late bloomer,” as he posted some impressive numbers at all three levels at which he appeared. He began the season with Great Lakes and was one of the Loons’ best pitchers in his time there. He was promoted to Rancho Cucamonga, where I witnessed what was the best start of his professional career (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 11 K). He had all his pitches working that night. He has a surprisingly effective low-90s fastball that has a little movement to it. His slider is his primary out pitch, as it’s a low-80s pitch with tight break when he gets on top of it. He also mixes in a changeup that’s fringy. He’ll need to improve it to be effective against lefties. Frias’ delivery is repeatable, like many Dodger pitching prospects. His control and command need some work, but he could be a guy to keep an eye on for the upcoming season. He probably isn’t the 9.4 strikeouts per nine guy he was at Rancho, but he has the ability to miss bats when everything is working. He should get a shot in the Chattanooga rotation, especially if guys like Zach Lee and Chris Reed are promoted.

2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Double-A Chattanooga
ETA: late-2015

ToolsNowFuture
Hitting3050
Power2545
Speed4045
Fielding3550
Arm4050

29. Lucas Tirado, SS (6’2, 175, 17 years old)
Tirado was the Dodgers’ most expensive international signing in 2013, as he got a $1 million deal. The Dominican Republic native is a shortstop who might have to move off the position, but it’s far to early to tell. The left-handed hitter generates decent bat speed (from the videos I’ve seen) that could help him be a line-drive hitter. Defensively, he lacks plus-quickness to handle shortstop long-term, but he has plenty of time to work on that. His bat plays in the middle infield, so even if he has to move to second base, it won’t be a terrible thing. Tirado didn’t play after signing in early July, so a trip to the Dominican Summer League could be in order. I’d like to see him stateside, but that might be a bit aggressive for the teenager.

2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Dominican Summer League/Arizona League
ETA: 2019

ToolsNowFuture
Hitting2545
Power4055
Speed4045
Fielding4045
Arm4045

30. Michael Medina, LF/RF (6’2, 210, 17 years old)
Medina signed with the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic almost a year ago to the day (Jan. 25) for $275,000. Medina showed off his massive power potential in his debut season, hitting 10 home runs for the Dominican Summer League Dodgers. But that came with a price: a 43.1 (!) percent strikeout rate. There’s no denying his power, but he’ll need to make a lot more contact as he progresses through the minors. He generates plus-bat speed that could improve as he matures as a hitter. He has shown a willingness to go the opposite way, so there’s a chance he can reduce that strikeout rate significantly on his way up the minor-league ladder. He’s strictly a corner outfielder. As of now, his arm profiles better in left field, but he has the bat to play right field (and the defensive chops). He has enough range for the corner outfield, but he probably won’t be a threat on the basepaths. After hitting less than .200 and striking out almost half the time, a return to the DSL might be for the best. He could earn a promotion the Arizona League, but the Dodgers don’t tend to move guys from the DSL to the states midseason, so if he begins in the DSL, he might be there the entire (short) season.

2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Dominican Summer League/Arizona League
ETA: 2019


About

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called “Dugout Blues.” He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.