2014 Midseason Los Angeles Dodgers’ Top 25 prospects

It’s the All-Star break, and while Yasiel Puig is participating in the Home Run Derby tonight, I know you really just want to read about Dodger prospects. So, here is my midseason Top 25 prospect update. Just a heads-up: the write-ups aren’t as in-depth as the ones I did in the preseason. I just try to point out what the players have done so far this season and what the next couple months holds for them.

Eligibility
All players who have not reached 50 innings pitched, 130 at-bats in the Major Leagues and have less than 45 days of pre-Sept. 1 service time are eligible for this list.

Numbers in parenthesis are the player’s rank in my preseason Top 50.

1. Corey Seager, SS (1)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Rancho Cucamonga Double-A Chattanooga, yay!
– Fresh off his performance in the Futures Game, Seager is heading to Chattanooga. But his first-half numbers in the California League were ridiculous: .352/.411/.633, 18 HR, 34 2B, 167 wRC+. He’s been half-way decent at shortstop, too, further prolonging his eventual move to third base. Seager has the highest ceiling of any position player prospect in the system.

2. Joc Pederson, CF (2)
Started: Triple-A Albuquerque

Current location: Albuquerque
– Despite a 13-day stint on the minor-league disabled list, Pederson still had a fantastic first half in the, admittedly, hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League — .324/.445/.572, 17 HR, 63 BB, 166 wRC+. But the center fielder is proving to the rest of baseball he’s a legitimate prospect. On almost any other team, Pederson would have already made his big league debut. He’s striking out a bit too much (28.5 percent), but he’s also seeing a ton of pitches. When he’s recalled, he’ll slot right into center field for the below-average Andre Ethier — salaries be damned.

3. Julio Urias, LHP (3)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
– The 17-year-old has the highest ceiling of any prospect in the system, but he’s also one of the most volatile. Despite that, he’s handled the California League with some ease, posting a 3.44 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 10.0 K/9 and a 0.5 HR/9. He got off track a bit early on, as the Dodgers had a lot of major leaguers rehabbing, forcing Urias to pitch out of the bullpen. But he is the real deal, and pitching with some adversity (the environment) is good for his development. He was pretty good when I saw him in May. He should remain in Rancho Cucamonga for the remainder of the season.

4. Grant Holmes, RHP (NR)
Started: Conway High School (S.C.)

Current location: AZL Dodgers
– The Dodgers’ first-round pick in June, Holmes has already impressed in his first six innings as a professional. Not only did he strike out Alex Jackson (No. 6 pick in the 2014 draft), he has struck out nine hitters those innings and allowed just one hit and one walk. Holmes could end up being the steal of the 2014 draft. There’s an outside chance he gets promoted to Ogden before season’s end, but there isn’t much reason to rush him, especially in his first season.

5. Zach Lee, RHP (4, -1)
Started: Triple-A Albuquerque

Current location: Albuquerque
– Lee isn’t as bad as his numbers make him out to be. He’s pitching in the PCL, a graveyard for pitchers. There are a couple of stats that aren’t so great: increased walk rate (2.2 to 3.4) and a decreased strikeout rate (8.3 to 6.2). But he’s also has a career-best 1.78 ground out-to-fly out rate, which could translate well at the next level. He could be in line for a September call-up, but he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster.

6. Alex Guerrero, 2B (5, -1)
Started: Triple-A Albuquerque

Current location: AZL Dodgers
– Guerrero was obliterating the PCL before Miguel Olivo bit his ear almost completely off. He finally got back on the field with the AZL Dodgers, but he shouldn’t be there for too long. Before the incident, he was hitting .376/.417/.735 with 10 home runs in 127 plate appearances. There are strides he needs to make defensively, but he’s looking like a viable utility option for the Dodgers, maybe as soon as next month. If not, it’ll be next season, especially with Dee Gordon taking a firm grip on the second base job.

7. Tom Windle, LHP (11, +4)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
– The 2013 second-round pick has been pretty impressive in his pro career, and he’s more than holding his own in the Cal League. He’s a little too hittable right now (9.4 H/9), but he’s showing more command with his pitches this year than last year (3.4 BB/9 in 2013, 2.4 in 2014). Windle’s solid fastball plays up from the let side, but his potentially plus-slider is his go-to pitch. I saw him in early May and was thoroughly impressed. He could be the first of the Quakes’ starters to get a promotion to Chattanooga.

8. Chris Reed, LHP (8)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga

Current location: Chattanooga
– In his third stint in the Southern League, it appears Reed has finally figured it out. Last season, he became more of a ground ball pitcher and sacrificed strikeouts. This year, he remembered how to strike hitters out, and he’s doing so at an 8.4 per nine-inning clip. He’ll never be a great command/control guy, but he’s posting the best walks per nine innings rate of his career (3.6). One thing working against the assured future reliever: he’s getting a little old (24) to maintain his somewhat lofty prospect status.

9. Chris Anderson, RHP (7, -2)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
– Anderson’s first full season hasn’t gone exactly as planned. The arm talent and velocity are there — I saw it in person in April — but he needs to work on a lot of things before he can even come close to his No. 2 stater ceiling. His command is poor, evidenced by his 4.8 BB/9. His mechanics need cleaning up, and the coaching staff has been working on it with him in recent weeks. He has some of the most potential of any pitcher in the system, but he needs to stop walking so many hitters.

10. Jose Dominguez, RHP (12, +2)
Started: Los Angeles

Current location: Triple-A Albuquerque
– Dominguez and his tripe-digit heat should be in the Dodgers’ bullpen right now, but it’s in Triple-A, where he’s enjoying some success. He’s always going to be a bit wild (4.8 BB/9 this year, 4.3 for his career), but he’s also going to strike hitters out. He has a nice 3-pitch mix, so he doesn’t always have to rely on his straight fastball. He could be the boost the Dodgers’ bullpen needs in the second half, ala Chris Withrow last year.

11. Darnell Sweeney, 2B (25, +14)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga

Current location: Chattanooga
– I was hot, then cold, and now hot(ish) again on Sweeney. He’s made some real strides with his game in Chattanooga, and some of that has to do with him moving to second base. Sure, he’s played some shortstop this year (and looked terrible doing so), but those days are over. He’s added a new wrinkle to his game, as he’s playing some center field. But the bat is legit. He’s nearly a 3/4/5 guy (.309/.404/.496) with the Lookouts, thanks to his increased walk rate (13.2 percent) and reduced strikeout rate (19.8 percent). If he isn’t part of a trade this summer, he could be a viable bench guy in late-2015.

12. Alex Verdugo, OF (NR)
Started: Sahuaro High School (Ariz.)

Current location: AZL Dodgers
– When the Dodgers drafted Verdugo, I thought it’d be as a pitcher. But Logan White surprised everyone by announcing him as an outfielder. So far, it looks like the correct decision. Verdugo is off to a great start in the Arizona Rookie League. He’s played almost exclusively center field and has hit in the 1-2-3 spots most of the time. What has been most impressive so far is his plate discipline and strike zone judgment. He’s walked nine times in 70 plate appearances, and he’s struck out just twice. I know it’s rookie ball, but coming from an 18-year-old who was drafted about six weeks ago, it’s even more impressive. Maybe that Joc Pederson comparison White made wasn’t as crazy as we thought.

13. Scott Schebler, LF/RF (13)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga

Current location: Chattanooga
– The Southern League was supposed to be a big test for Schebler. After a slow start, he’s found his groove. He’s for about the same amount of power (.279 ISO) in the neutral Southern League as he was in the hitter-friendly Cal League, while walking at virtually the same rate (6.5 percent). He’s also reduced his strikeout rate by 5 percent. He’s playing the wrong position if he wants to break into the majors with the Dodgers, but he could be a somewhat valuable trade chip later this month.

14. Victor Arano, RHP (33, +19)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes

– Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus opened some eyes when he ranked Arano the system’s 10th-best prospect, and so far, Arano is making Parks look pretty good. The player development department is limiting Arano’s workload in his second professional season, but his peripherals are much better than his AZL performance last year. He’s striking out 9.1 hitters per nine and walking just 1.8 hitters per nine. The only thing that doesn’t look good is the eight home runs he’s allowed in 65 innings. He jumped up my rankings and could be a fast-mover come next year.

15. Yimi Garcia, RHP (16, +1)
Started: Triple-A Albuquerque

Current location: Albuquerque
– Garcia has always been a personal favorite of mine, and he’s having a really good season in the PCL. He has an 11.0 K/9 and solid 2.9 BB/9. One thing to keep an eye on is his home run rate. Heading into 2013, he had allowed just five in 189 1/3 innings. Since that time, he has allowed 14 in 101 1/3 innings (five in 41 IP this year). He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but his high-spin fastball and slider are a good combination. He’s on the 40-man roster and it’s conceivable he’ll be in the majors sometime before season’s end.

16. Ross Stripling, RHP (6, -10)
Started: Minor League Disabled list

Current location: DL
– Everything was setting up well for Stripling. He had a really strong 2013 campaign, was a Top 10 prospect in the system by most prospectors, was invited to big league camp and could have realistically made his MLB debut by now. But he tore his UCL in spring training and underwent Tommy John surgery, which cost him his age-24 season. It remains to be seen how he bounces back from it, but if he’s anything close to the pitcher he was before, a mid-rotation ceiling still isn’t out of the question. If not, he’s probably a middle reliever at the next level.

17. Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS (NR)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Los Angeles (DL)
– Arruebarrena signed with the Dodgers in February out of Cuba for $25 million. For that kind of money, folks were expecting another Guerrero. He isn’t that, but he is the best fielding shortstop the Dodgers have and the best since Cesar Izturis. His bat is a huge question mark, and small sample sizes in Chattanooga, Albuquerque and LA don’t really tell us much. With Hanley Ramirez a free agent after the season, there’s a scenario in which Arruebarrena is the team’s starting shortstop next year. For that to really happen, he’ll have to learn to hit.

18. Jesmuel Valentin, 2B (21, +3)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes

Current location: Great Lakes
– Valentin would have a lot more value if he were still a shortstop, but he still holds some value as a second baseman. He’s still only 20 and is posting a solid .351 on-base percentage in Great Lakes and playing good defense. He won’t hit for much power, but he’s still a solid prospect with his current profile. He should take off in Rancho next year before the real test in Chattanooga in 2016.

19. Jonathan Martinez, RHP (35, +16)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes

Current location: Great Lakes
– Martinez had a rough 2013 season split between Ogden and Great Lakes. This season, he’s basically the Loons’ ace and has posted a couple of really stellar performances, including a 6-inning, 2-hit, 11-strikeout game to start his 2014 season. He has great command, as he has a career-best 1.4 BB/9 and has increased his strikeout rate from 5.7 per nine last year in Midland to 7.7 this year. He could get a call to Rancho if someone there is promoted. If not, he’ll be there next year.

20. Julian Leon, C (NR)
Started: Pioneer League Ogden

Current location: Ogden
– A catching prospect?! A real-life catching prospect?! I never thought I’d see one of those in the Dodgers’ system again, but Leon is just that. The 18-year-old is a middle-of-the-order guy for the Raptors and is performing reasonable well defensively. Parks of BP said he’s a “very legit prospect.” That’s all I need to get excited for his short-season performance. Yes, he’s only in rookie ball, but he’s playing well as an 18-year-old. That counts for something. Leon could be the heir apparent to A.J. Ellis.

21. Cody Bellinger, 1B (17, -4)
Started: Pioneer League Ogden
Current location: Ogden
– Bellinger fell only because he suffered a separated shoulder in his second game of the season. He has since returned and will form a nice 3-4/4-3 combination with Leon. His defense is already MLB-ready, but his bat has a long way to go. The real test for him begins next season in Great Lakes, but Bellinger is one of my favorite prospects in the system. Keep an eye on him going forward.

22. Joey Curletta, RF (22)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
– Curletta was a Midwest League All-Star, and got off to a fast start this season. He’s since cooled, but the bat-to-ball ability is there. What isn’t there for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder is the power. He has just three home runs on the season and a .086 ISO. I can’t explain it. The MWL is a pitcher-friendly league, but a guy with as much power potential as Curletta should have more home runs (or even doubles) as of now. He’s just 20, so hopefully the power will come.

23. Scott Barlow, RHP (32, +9)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes

Current location: Great Lakes
– Barlow had Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2012 season. The 2011 sixth-rounder finally appears to be all the way back from it, as he’s having the best season of his career. He’s giving up too many hits (9.8 H/9), but he’s keeping the ball in the yard (two home runs in 62 1/3 IP) and he’s striking hitters out (8.8 K/9). Barlow could be a guy who moves up the prospect lists quickly if he finishes 2014 strong, as he appears poised to do.

24. Carlos Frias, RHP (28, +4)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga

Current location: Triple-A Albuquerque
– Frias’ path has been long and windy, but he’s one step from the majors, and he looks like he might be a a contributor in some regard at the next level. I saw him last year with Rancho in his best start, and he bested that 2013 start this year on June 16 (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 K). Don’t let the high ERA and H/9 fool you, there’s some talent in his right arm. He has shown good control, an ability to keep the ball in the park and some swing-and-miss. He might not be a starter long-term, but relievers are somewhat valuable, too.

25. Lindsey Caughel, RHP (38, +13)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
– It’s hard for late draftees to get any recognition, but Caughel is doing that as a 23rd-round pick. He isn’t going to blow hitters away with velocity (although, recent reports have him in the 89-92 MPH range, which is great), but he’ll throw the ball exactly where he wants and make the hitter hit his pitch. Caughel is in his second stint with the Quakes, and is about due for a promotion. In 181 2/3 innings, he has a 1.5 BB/9. And despite not having plus-velocity or stuff, he has an 8.5 K/9. I see him as another Stephen Fife.

The next five (alphabetical order): RHP Victor Araujo (NR), RHP Jose De Leon (NR), LHP Victor Gonzalez (19), RHP Greg Harris (NR), OF Jacob Scavuzzo (14)

Dropped out of Top 25: Onelki Garcia (9), Matt Magill (10), Scavuzzo (14), Alex Santana (15), Zachary Bird (20), Noel Cuevas (24)
Moved into Top 25: Holmes (NR to 4), Verdugo (NR to 12), Arano (33 to 13), Arruebarrena (NR to 17), Martinez (35 to 19), Leon (NR to 20), Barlow (32 to 23), Frias (28 to 24), Caughel (38 to 25)
Graduated: None
Traded: Duke von Schamann (18)
Biggest riser: Arano (+19)
Biggest faller: Magill (-30)

=====

The 2014 draft class wasn’t particularly strong, but there are a few non-Holmes and Verdugo guys who could sneak in to the Top 50 (75? 100?) next year. That remains to be seen. But there are some guys who have made strides, some who have fallen a bit and some who have face-planted.

Aside from Pederson, who is a lock to be promoted or traded, everyone here should be prospect-eligible next year.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

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 is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. 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.