A deeper look at Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas and Trayce Thompson

Before the server decided to consume my post on the matter, I had written a little about the three prospects the Dodgers received from the White Sox in the 3-team deal with the Reds on Wednesday.

The return for Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas and Trayce Thompson pretty good, considering what they gave up. I’m probably the high guy on Scott Schebler and one of the low guys on Jose Peraza. I had them ranked at Nos. 10 and 11, respectively, before they were traded to the Reds. Brandon Dixon is fringy organizational depth whom I ranked at No. 59 in my preliminary Top 100 list for 2016.

I’m going to look at each of the three prospects a little more in-depth.

Micah Johnson

The second baseman put his name on the map with an 84-stolen base season in 2013 (his first full season in professional baseball). That is probably an anomaly because his next-highest total in stolen bases since that time is 31, which he did in 2015. Despite that, his speed is one of his best tools, despite suffering a problematic hamstring injury last season (that’s how you know he’s a true Dodger).

Johnson, 25 today, has good bat-to-ball skills and can take a walk, but he doesn’t have a ton of pop. He’s a lot like Peraza in that regard. The fact he bats left-handed allows him to utilize his speed better than Peraza could from the right side. I like his offensive profile more than Peraza’s. Johnson does draw criticism for his defense. His mechanics aren’t the smoothest and his hands won’t be mistaken for Dee Gordon or Ian Kinsler anytime soon. Because of his average-at-best defense at second, a move to center field could be in his future. This front office loves versatility, but for now, the Dodgers will probably keep him at second to see if he can work through his issues.

South Side Sox doesn’t think he’s all that much going forward:

“But that defense. It’s just horrifyingly bad. Hands is one of those things that is very difficult to ‘teach’ and that is Johnson’s main problem.”

and

“I find it difficult to see a major league player, let alone one who has the potential to be a legitimate starter. In addition to all his leg problems, he’s also had three surgeries on his arm. Doing what one normally does with a failed infielder – moving him to the outfield – is pretty speculative with him. Other than speed, he hasn’t really demonstrated any potential outfield acumen.”

Valid concerns and something to keep any eye on going forward. Johnson doesn’t really profile as a full-timer for me, but he could be a nice platoon option. He should be in the Top 20 of my Top 100 Dodger prospects list (due out in January).

Frankie Montas

This is the big piece the Dodgers acquired in the deal. Montas has a legitimate mid-to-high-90s fastball that has touched 100 MPH — as a starter. FanGraphs rated the pitch as a present 60, future 70. It all depends on him being able to command it. He backs up the potentially plus-plus fastball with a potentially plus-slider that sits in the mid-80s. He also has a below-average-to-fringy changeup that leads most to believe he’ll end up in the bullpen. Baseball America had a pretty positive report on Montas in October 2014.

The front office is saying Montas, 22, will be given every chance to stick in the rotation. This is the right play. If he figures out his command and a consistent third pitch, he could be a monster in the rotation. If not, he could be a monster out of the bullpen with a high-velocity fastball and wipeout slider.

One thing that stood out to me is the fact he allowed just three home runs in 112 innings in Double-A this season. For his minor-league career, he has given up just 19 in 382 2/3 innings. He has done so with a 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings rate, too.

There is a ton of potential in this kid’s arm. Conditioning is a concern for Montas, who has drawn body comparisons to Bartolo Colon. His listed weight of 185 pounds is not accurate.

Again, from South Side Sox:

“He’s probably a reliever long-term. One can still dream on his potential to start but a dream is probably all it is at this point. The mechanics are just too messy. That said, he definitely has a reasonable floor of a major league reliever (as always, assuming health, of course). A 100 MPH fastball with feel for a slider will do that. A reasonable ceiling is a good 9th inning man. Reality tends to end up in-between so you’re probably looking at a 7th/8th inning man and potentially a good one.”

Either way, it seems the Dodgers got a nice arm here. Because of his likely reliever profile, I can’t rank him in the Top 10. He’ll be in the 11-15 range when my Top 100 goes up in January — if he’s still with the team.

Trayce Thompson

Toolsy, athletic, raw — all those adjectives apply when talking about Thompson. He’s 6’3, 210 pounds, can run and play center field. It’s hard not to get excited with a profile like that. It’s Matt Kempish. But there’s a reason the 24-year-old was included in this deal.

He was pretty good in his MLB debut last season (.295/.363/.533), but that’s probably not the kind of player he’s going to be at the next level. Thompson has good bat speed and power potential, but he fails to make a lot of contact. He owns a .241/.319/.429 triple slash in seven minor-league seasons. His pitch recognition needs work if he’s ever to be anything more than a fourth outfielder/platoon player.

Lucky for him, the Dodgers could use a legitimate right-handed hitting center fielder to spell Joc Pederson on occasion. Thompson mashed lefties in the minors, so he’s a viable option to give Pederson a day off here and there (but Pederson should be playing against lefties most of the time).

Defensively, Thompson is a capable center fielder with a good arm. He can easily handle all three spots, but as long as Scott Van Slyke exists, Thompson probably won’t see a ton of time in the corners (this assumes everyone is healthy, which is a foolish assumption). He can also run, but don’t expect him to swipe 30 bases.

One last time from South Side Sox:

“The issue with the soon-to-be 25-year-old was always contact. And it seems like he made some real improvements in that regard. He’s a plus defender in the corners and probably at least average in center. He’s got speed and is a good baserunner. He’s got pop. At a minimum, you’re probably looking at a 4th outfielder. And his ceiling makes him the best candidate for the “crap, we shouldn’t have traded him” in a few years, as he might still (again?) have the potential to be a good starting outfielder.”

If he realizes his potential, Thompson has a chance to be the best player in the deal. That isn’t likely to happen, so he’s a nice complementary piece to the roster. He’ll probably land in the 15-20 range in my Top 100.

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One thing about all these guys are they have good off-the-field profiles and all have already debuted in the majors. They could all, conceivably, begin the season on the MLB roster, but I’d bet on at least two of them starting in Triple-A (Johnson and Montas). All should see time in the majors in 2016 with the Dodgers, as long as they aren’t traded sometime in the next couple months.

This was a net gain for the Dodgers. I’ll miss Schebler the most of the three, as I think he can be a legitimate platoon outfielder. He should benefit from playing in Cincinnati. Thompson has the most potential, Montas has the most upside, Johnson has the highest floor. Not a bad little haul for the Dodgers.

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 does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and 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 one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.