Down On The Farm: April – Seager, Urias, De Leon, Lee, Holmes, Drake, Barnes, Reed

The now monthly Down On The Farm feature will hopefully provide more details than the old format and will even serve as a venue to answer questions I’ve seen about prospects in mailbags and that are frequently asked on social media and what not. Also, they’ll probably be more timely after this one. Better late than never.

Oklahoma City Dodgers (AAA)

Hitters

Darnell Sweeney – 2B – 24 – 91 PA, .227/.352/.320/.672, 14 BB/22 K, 11 SB/2 CS

2015 is an important campaign for Sweeney to prove he’s more than a future utility infielder candidate. So far? The good is that his AA performance is generally carrying over after he was bumped up a level. The bad is that his AA performance is generally carrying over a level.

While I’m not concerned about the lack of pop so far, his swing is still lengthy from the left side, and there’s a lot of swing-and-miss for a guy who should be putting the ball in play a lot. Based on that, he’s still on pace to become more of a super utility guy (short/second/center) than somebody who can be a regular.

One area where he’s excelled is his stolen base efficiency, which does mark a major improvement, as one of his problems to date was poor jumps and reads off the pitcher.

Austin Barnes – C – 25 – 60 PA, .288/.383/.365/.749, 8 BB/11 K

Working full-time as a catcher now, he’s thrown out 40% of baserunners so far, which is somewhat surprising. What’s most impressive is that his receiving and hands are better than expected behind the plate, and he still blocks balls extremely well with his athleticism. Regardless, with a reduced importance on controlling the run game compared to receiving, he should be able to handle the position in the MLB even if long-term durability might be a concern.

If Yasmani Grandal continues to excel, and Barnes is too good to be just a backup, he may end up in a super utility role since he can also play the infield. Either way, his hit tool is legit and he has average power with good plate discipline, so he should be able to carve out a role somewhere.

I’m also not gonna say I’d prefer Barnes to A.J. Ellis on the Dodgers right now … but I’m getting closer.

Scott Schebler – OF – 24 – 72 PA, .227/.292/.485/.777, 5 HR, 6 BB/17 K

Schebler does have an extreme platoon split thus far, with a 260-point OPS gap between lefty and righty, but he hasn’t shown that he has a problem against lefties in his career. Regardless, the power is still there and profile remains the same as ever. The pop and hit tools are both legit, and he’s still … good enough in left.

A lot of people ask me about what happens with Schebler, and I have to think the Dodgers are hoping they can include him in a trade, likely as a secondary piece. I do sort of think he falls into the reserve outfielder at best category, but all it takes is one team to see him as a potential regular.

Pitchers

Zach Lee – SP – 23 – 1.80 ERA, 25 IP, 19, 5 R, 5 BB, 24 K

My lack of confidence last year in Lee had less to do with the statistics and more to do with the fact that his scouting reports matched the performance. When your velocity regresses to the high-80s at times, both your curve and change grade as average, and you look worse on the road than you do at home, it’s hard to use the thin air as an excuse for the regression.

Thankfully though, Lee appears to be working himself back into the rotation picture, sitting 90-92 mph now, with a slider and change that come in around 87, and a slow curve in the mid-70s. None of his pitches grade as plus, but with his repeatable mechanics and (hopefully) improved command, he should still be a #4/#5-starter type.

I think he should be behind Mike Bolsinger and Joe Wieland in the pecking order because he’s not that far removed from being terrible, but this is certainly a promising sign that he can still be a rotation factor.

Mike Bolsinger – SP – 27 – 0.64 ERA, 14 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 21 K

Bolsinger primarily relies on two pitches at a velocity that scares the hell out of me, but he somehow manages to get results. He leans heavily on a cutter that he throws 86-88 mph, and essentially his only other pitch is a curve from 77-80 mph. Still, he manages to be effective by keeping the walks manageable, missing an adequate amount of bats, and keeping the ball on the ground.

If he can limit the homers, he has a chance to be closer to fringe-average than replacement level, which does represent a somewhat ideal depth option. Bolsinger will probably be put to the test sooner than later with the state of the Dodgers rotation.

Josh Ravin – RP – 27 – 1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 14 K

Ravin will hit triple-digits on the radar gun, and his strikeout rate reflects that. As long as he can keep the ball in the strike zone he has a chance to be effective, and him being stuck in AAA is a good example of the depth of the bullpen this year.

Personally, I’d still like to see that he can command the ball at least a couple more months before buying into any hype that he’s been remade, but there’s a lot of potential here if he’s adjusted enough to even keep the ball in the zone (See: Baez, Pedro).

Tulsa Drillers (AA)

Hitters

Corey Seager – SS – 21 – 86 PA, .375, .407, .675, 1.082, 5 HR, 5 BB/11 K

The line Seager posted above got him promoted to AAA at the end of the month, and the Dodgers rotating him between shortstop and third fueled speculation that he was due to get called up sooner than later. It’s understandable, especially given that he’s a better prospect than Joc Pederson and Pederson is setting the world on fire right now, but the team has time to let Seager prove himself against AAA pitching, as well and make some of the adjustments/mistakes there that he would be making in the MLB.

In any case, the tools are unquestioned and the performance continues at every level, so there’s nothing to be concerned about except the usual transition period to the majors and whether he can make the requisite adjustments. And to answer questions, I think the Dodgers consider making a move in July if he’s still hitting and Rollins is still struggling.

Pitchers

Julio Urias – SP – 18 – 2.18 ERA, 20.2 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 26 K

An 18-year-old is not just pitching in AA, he’s dominating hitters in AA. Why? Because his array of stuff and command is MLB-quality right now, which is the only reason I understand why some might want Urias to get a call this year. However, I’m glad the Dodgers appear to be resisting that temptation right now, because while he could probably hold his own, he does at times lack the consistency and fine command to beat MLB hitters in the way that fans likely want.

The reason he could probably survive is his raw stuff. His fastball sits from 91-94 mph, touching 97, and he can manipulate the movement in whichever way necessary. Both the slider and change are plus offerings, with the slider currently ahead due to consistency of the break. With fine tuning of command, he’ll likely fit comfortably in a #2 role, but the innings-eating middle-of-the-rotation guy the Dodgers need right now is not likely to be him.

Chris Anderson – SP – 22 – 3.00 ERA, 24.0 IP, 15 H, 8 R, 8 BB, 22 K

Anderson is the pitcher that the Dodgers need a boost from to create further prospect depth in the pitching ranks, and after just surviving the Cal League, he’s acquitted himself well so far against advanced bats.

The stuff certainly isn’t the question with Anderson, as he can sit 92-94 mph with a swing-and-miss slider and a workable changeup that shows flashes of being a plus offering. The actual problem is his control, specifically the control of his fastball, and since a lot of what he does works off that pitch, he struggles when he can’t command it. That continuing issue is why a bullpen move down the road pops up in discussions about him, not his lack of a third pitch.

Chris Reed – RP – 25 – 0.77 ERA, 11.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R (1 ER), 5 BB, 13 K

I’ve long called for Reed to be moved to relief, and the Dodgers finally made that move with time running out on his prospect future at 25. So far, so good with the experiment, as he breezed past AA batters and earned a promotion to AAA, putting him on a fast track to the majors should anything go wrong. The only downside for him is that now the Dodgers have three quality lefties to turn to in the pen and are less likely to need his immediate services.

Reed fared well in the pen because he has two quality pitches in a heavy 92-93 mph fastball and a low-80s slider with a lot of bite. If necessary, he could even work in the change to righties, though the pitch would need improving. Reed struggled as a starter due to command issues with his fastball, but some of that issue might be able to be mitigated by his new role. Also, his repeatablility with his cross-fire mechanics should be less of an issue in a max-effort situation than it was trying to get that consistency over 5-7 innings.

Bonus: Ralston Cash‘s Facial Hair

RalstonCash

Amazing.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A+)

Hitters

Yadir Drake – OF – 25 – .357/.451/.514/.966, 11 BB/ 8 K (A/A+/AA)

Mike touched on him a bit earlier, but I have to mention him as well because he’s been fascinating so far. He started in A-ball at 25 as a new signing, and a month later he’s now at AA after also powering past high-A. The scary thing is that he’s managed to hit even better at every stop he’s made.

I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the guy in terms of scouting reports, but he’s walked more than he’s struck out, has little problem making hard contact, and is showing a bunch of pop as well. It’s an intriguing profile thus far, and while this could be because I had no expectations of him to begin with, with each passing game it seems more and more likely the Dodgers may have found SOMETHING here, though I’m not sure what it is yet.

The best take on him to date may actually be from himself:

“I’m aggressive,” Drake said. “I’m aggressive hitting. I’m aggressive running. I’m aggressive on defense. I can hit homeruns and steal bases, but I’ll probably steal more bases than hit homeruns.”

He can also pitch. He filled in when needed in Mexico and says his fastball can hit 97 mph.

“But my best pitch is the splitter,” Drake said. “I play the outfield here. If they need me to pitch, I can.

“I can do anything they ask me to do.”

Can also throw a football over them there mountains.

Cody Bellinger – 1B – 19 – 88 PA, .260/.341/.429/.769, 10 BB/26 K, 2 HR

Bellinger continues to be an interesting case at first base, as he possesses plus athleticism and plus defense, but he has a thin frame that he has to put in work to build up because the bat has no room for error at first.

The hit tool plays better than .260 and 26 strikeouts, so the bit of a power surge thus far is promising, as is the the plate discipline. Because the bat and body still rely heavily on projection, he’s still a long way from being considered a potential future regular at the position, but if anybody in the Dodgers system is gonna do it, I would bet on him.

Kyle Farmer – C – 24- .375/.413/.607/1.020, 2 BB/9 K, 4 SB/0 CS

Farmer absolutely needed this start to stay in the MLB picture, as being in A-ball at 24 isn’t a great sign. However, he got out to a fast start and was promoted to AA, which should really be an indication of whether he can be a future role player or not. That may not be the sexiest upside, but for a team that has lacked anything resembling catching depth for while until this year, that would be a nice luxury to have.

Pitchers

Jose De Leon – SP – 22 – 2.50 ERA, 18 IP, 15 H, 7 R (5 ER), 5 BB, 26 K

Any concerns about De Leon being a product of performance hype that was driven by age can be put to bed. The Dodgers (rightfully) pushed him to high-A because they believed in his stuff, and so far, so good.

The stuff was already legit last year, so it’s no surprise that he still has swing-and-miss stuff now. Everything De Leon does works off his plus 92-94 mph fastball that touches 97, but he gets strikeouts with his two-plane slider. The changeup will be key to whether he can succeed against advanced bats and remain a rotation arm, but quite frankly I don’t expect him to get much of a test until he gets promoted, even in the notoriously difficult Cal League. In De Leon’s case, I think he deserves to be pushed up a level sooner than later, because I’m not convinced there’s anything gained by leaving him in A-ball.

Also, I’ve read concerns about his body, but unless for whatever reason he decides to stop doing the work that brought him this success and helium to begin with, I don’t see it being an issue until much later in his career.

Scott Barlow – SP – 22 – 2.18 ERA, 20.2 IP, 14 H, 9 R (5 ER), 8 BB, 18 K

I’ve been tracking Barlow for a while even though he fell off a lot of radars after his Tommy John, but it does appear that his stuff is finally back, even if the lost development time has hindered him. He’s now able to sit 91-93 mph again with his fastball, and his slider is back to flashing plus around 80 mph. Those are his two primary pitches, but he’s also back to throwing a curve and a change to provide diversity in his offerings.

The important thing with Barlow will be to continue to make up for lost time by working with his command and repeatability. If he proves he can handle the Cal League at 22, he’ll be right back on track. That said, the most likely destination is the bullpen, where his stuff should play up a tick, but there’s a chance he could be a back-end rotation arm if the curve and change come along.

Zach Bird – SP – 20 – 5.06 ERA, 16 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 12 BB, 17 K

No, Bird’s performance to date in his career hasn’t impressed, but remember he’s in the same league as De Leon and Barlow and he’s two years younger. Point being, the reason he’s been continually promoted is because his stuff is still highly impressive.

Bird’s raw stuff was better at the end of last year than it ever was before, and he now sits 92-94 mph and has touched 98 with his fastball. His frame is ideal for a pitcher, and he has plus athleticism, which should allow him to develop increasingly cleaner arm actions and make adjustments. The other pitches is where things get iffy, as he has a slider that flashes above average, but that’s about it for now. The curve is a get-me-over pitch and the change is not used like he has any confidence in it.

In any case, the hope is there because of the velocity, but he just needs to continue to show improvement this year. Hypoethtically, he could develop into a rotation arm as he has the body to do so, but certainly not with his current secondary pitches.

A.J. Vanegas – RP – 22 – 2.38 ERA, 11.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 9 K

Vanegas dominated in Rookie-ball in his professional debut out of college, but did show issues with command. Still, he was vaulted into the Cal League because his stuff warrants it. He sits 92-95 mph and can touch 97, and he also has a slider and cutter that are both quality offerings but need further consistency.

If he can stay healthy long enough to fine-tune his command and find the strike zone with more consistency, he could be fast-tracked through the minors.

Great Lakes Loons (A)

Hitters

Alex Verdugo – OF – 18 – 74 PA, .243/.284/.300/.584, 4 BB/13 K

Verdugo has gotten off to a poor start in his first track at full-season ball at 18, but I expect him to be able to adjust and handle it eventually. In a tough league for hitters at his age, he doesn’t have to set the world on fire to prove himself, he simply needs to hold his own and make the necessary adjustments to continue his progress forward.

Verdugo’s smooth swing mechanics and good pitch recognition make him more ready for this test than most 18-year-olds, and it wouldn’t be a surprise for me if he eventually closed out the year strong. The necessary adjustments to more quality pitching will take work, however, and hopefully the reasons he fell in the draft (character concerns) prove to have been incorrect if he continues to scuffle a bit.

Julian Leon – C – 19 – .237/.274/.271/.545, 2 BB/17 K

Leon is yet another hitter that’s being reminded that he’s not in Ogden anymore. There will always be some swing-and-miss, but he should make enough contact for his raw power to play a bit, and his approach at the plate is usually sound.

In addition to adjusting to full-season ball at the plate, he’ll also have to continue to progress and work at his receiving behind the plate, so Leon is another case of progress in all aspects being more important than expecting him to set the world on fire right now.

Pitchers

Grant Holmes – SP – 19 – 6.32 ERA, 15.2 IP, 20 H, 13 R (11 ER), 10 BB, 22 K

You can probably tell from the line what’s been going on here, as Holmes’ stuff continues to be quality but he’s been scuffling a bit with his control. Still, while at least the walks needs to come under control, the hits aren’t as worrying because he’s been suffering from some unfortunate luck.

It will be impossible for Holmes to avoid the Chad Billingsley comps, with a fastball that sits 92-95 mph and a plus slider as his primary weapons. For a work in progress, the change is not as bad as you would expect, and there’s potential with the pitch if Holmes keeps after it.

His build causes many to think back-end reliever when they see him, but I’ve yet to see anything in his development that puts me off thinking of him as a future rotation arm, as he has three pitches with MLB potential and speculation that his frame will struggle to hold up seem awfully premature.

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama
"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times