Here we go with the next set of prospects. We’re getting to the guys who might actually have a decent chance of seeing the big leagues one day. There are international signings (low- and high-priced), over-slot draftees and a couple of later-round draftees in this group of 10.
Previous entries in the series:
Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). I am an amateur when it comes to evaluating players. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information to the masses. Notes and comments are based on personal observation, talking to sources, reading scouting reports and watching video. 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 Giancarlo Stanton‘s power), and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
40. CF Ariel Sandoval (6’2, 180 pounds, 20 years old)
The Dodgers signed Sandoval out of the Dominican Republic three years ago for $150,000. It seems that investment is on its way to paying off. He hit .325/.337/.520 in the AZL after having a rough go at it in 2014. He also showed some pop in 2015 that he hadn’t previously shown. The biggest red flag is the fact he drew just three walks (against 49 strikeouts) in 206 plate appearances.
Sandoval has shown an ability to put the barrel on the ball, but there’s still some swing-and-miss to his game. He generates line drives with his swing and projects to be that kind of hitter if he ever makes the majors. He has 5-tool ability, but power is the tool that is lacking behind the most. He has plenty of speed to be an above-average base runner, but that probably won’t translate to stolen bases. He split most of his time last season between center- and right field, and either seems like a probable home. If he can handle center, he obviously has more value as a prospect. If he has to move to right field, he’ll be able to handle it defensively and has the arm for the position. He’s going to go as far as his bat will carry. His profile reminds me of former Dodger prospect (and current Mariner player) Franklin Gutierrez. He could jump to Low-A Great Lakes, but a stop in the Pioneer League would do him some good.
2015 ranking: 45
2016 location: Rookie Ogden/Low-A Great Lakes
39. SS Ronny Brito (6’2, 170 pounds, 17 years old)
The Dodgers signed Brito on the first day of the 2015-16 international signing period for $2 million. The Dominican teenager has a glove-first profile, but there is some ability there with his swing. He wasn’t the most highly regarded prospect to sign this period, but he has a skill set that could help him get to — and stick in — the majors.
Former FanGraphs’ prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel said he has “Manny Ramirez-like swing mechanics,” which, wow. That isn’t to say he’s going to be Manny Ramirez at shortstop, but there is at least some potential there for him to be a contributor with the stick. He has a solid frame to add some good weight without sacrificing his athleticism and ability to stick at shortstop. If he does get too big, a move to third base could happen. He has the glove, arm and instincts to stay on the left side of the infield. Some have thrown a J.P. Crawford comp on him, which would be his absolute ceiling. If he does make it to the majors, it’ll be as a glove-first guy with a little ability to hit and run. Seeing as he has yet to debut, he’ll try his hand at the Dominican Summer League in 2016. If he handles it well, he could move quickly through the rookie leagues.
2015 ranking: NR
2016 location: DSL Dodgers
38. RHP Imani Abdullah (6’5, 205, 19 years old)
Abullah was an over-slot signing from the 2015 draft class at $647,500. He’s one of the three high school players the Dodgers went over slot to sign. With a projectable frame, it’s easy to see why they would do so. He only logged 13 innings in his debut in the Arizona Rookie League, but make no mistake: He’s a starting pitching prospect who could rise significantly with a couple of good seasons.
His fastball is fringy in terms of velocity right now (88-90 MPH), but he projects to add a few ticks as he fills out and matures. His velocity dips just a bit when he sinks it, which isn’t uncommon. Look at former Dodger prospect Zachary Bird. He was a high school draftee who threw 88-92 MPH with his fastball. Now, he’s consistently in the 92-94 range and has even touched triple digits with his heater. Abdullah could follow that trajectory. He follows up his fastball with a loopy curveball low-to-mid-70s that has a 12-6 shape to it. He also has a changeup in the 78-82 MPH range that is fringy at present. It could become a weapon (especially against lefties) once he develops it more.
He’s deliberate with his wind-up, which is good and bad. Good because he won’t ever be accused of rushing his delivery, but bad because it could be hard to repeat the release point with such a methodical delivery. That will probably be refined as he makes his way through the minors. He needs to do a better job of incorporating his lower-half in his delivery, which is where the velo uptick could come from. He’ll probably head back to the AZL for 2016, with an outside chance of reaching Ogden at some point. But there’s no need to rush him through the minors. There is a difference between rushing a prospect and being aggressive with the assignments.
2015 ranking: NR
2016 location: AZL Dodgers/Rookie Ogden
37. OF Michael Medina (6’2, 190 pounds, 19 years old)
Medina was signed out of the Dominican shortly after the Dodgers signed Sandoval, but he got a larger bonus ($275,000). They’re likely to be linked throughout their minor-league careers because of this. They’re different players, as Medina profiles as a corner outfielder who can hit in the middle of the lineup (if he reaches his ceiling).
He has opened up his stance a bit from last year and incorporated a toe-tap timing mechanism. He’s able to generate plus-power potential with his strong, quick hands. He’s able to clear his hips very quickly and bring the bat through the hitting zone. The power Medina generates is so easy. His swing has some uppercut tendencies, and that helps him generate backspin. It also contributes to a high swing-and-miss rate. He has a career strikeout rate of 39.4 percent (556 plate appearances). No matter how much power one has, that won’t play — especially moving up the minor-league ladder. He doesn’t off-set it much with a high walk rate (5 percent in 2015). His strike-zone judgment and plate discipline need a lot of work. He doesn’t shorten up his swing at all, which isn’t uncommon in the low minors. But now Medina is ticketed for full-season ball, so he’ll need to make some adjustments if he’s to continue progressing through the system.
Defensively, he is a profile right fielder. He has plenty of arm for the position and has surprising speed for a guy his size. (He’s larger than his listed weight of 190 pounds). After what equates to a full season’s worth of plate appearances in rookie ball, Medina should see Low-A for the first time. Hitters — especially power hitters — have struggled in the past, and I won’t be surprised if he does in Midland. What he does to improve his overall offensive profile is what I’m going to watch most closely. He’ll never be known for a high contact rate, but the swings-and-misses have to be reduced drastically.
2015 ranking: 29
2016 location: Low-A Great Lakes
36. CF Devan Ahart (6’1, 175 pounds, 23 years old)
Ahart was the Dodgers’ 16th-round pick in 2014 and has been productive in his brief career, even if it has come in limited playing time. He has just 490 plate appearances in his first two seasons. Not bad, but not as many as you’d expect a hitter drafted out of college to have at this stage of his career.
At the plate, Ahart possesses one of the better strike-zone judgments in the system. He’s a contact-oriented hitter who has struck out 2.6 percent more than he has walked so far in his career. While he doesn’t hit for a lot of power, he has gap power that is conducive to doubles and, at times, triples. He has a little bit of a crouched stance and he’s able to let the ball travel deep into the strike zone before pulling the trigger. He sprays line drives all over the field and could be a 30-40-double guy at his peak. He won’t hit a ton of balls over the fence, but he’s far from just a singles hitter.
Defensively, he can handle center field, but his fringy arm could facility a move to left field. But if the glove is good enough, he could stick in center field for awhile. Since he didn’t played a ton last season, he could go back to Rancho Cucamonga for a refresher, but he’ll see Tulsa before midseason. It’ll be a nice test for the 23-year-old.
2015 ranking: 38
2016 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
35. OF Johan Mieses (6’2, 185 pounds, 20 years old)
Mieses was a relative unknown after signing with the Dodgers as a 17-year-old in 2013. He debuted in the DSL without much fanfare. His next season in the DSL put him on the map a bit, as he hit .299/.371/.505 in 230 plate appearances. Instead of continuing up the ladder as normal (AZL, Ogden, full-season), he was jumped straight to Low-A to begin the 2015 season. Some thought he wasn’t moved aggressively enough, so Gabe Kapler and Co., didn’t hesitate to give him a challenge. He split time between Great Lakes and Rancho Cucamonga, but he actually struggled a bit more in the Cal League than he did in the Midwest League.
He has the look of a major-leaguer. He’s probably a bit bigger than his listed weight and is built to withstand the rigors of a full season in baseball. He doesn’t have any one tool that stands out, but he has a chance to be average in almost all areas across the board. He isn’t going to impress anyone with his strike-zone judgment or plate discipline, but he’s also far from a windmill at the dish (22.3 K%). Mieses has a swing that produces some hard-hit line drives and enough speed to hit plenty of doubles (and sometimes triples). He hasn’t shown a ton of home run power yet, but it’s always the last thing to develop. His stance is open and sometimes his swing has too much uppercut to it. Leveling it out could help him to hit the ball hard and not swing-and-miss as frequently as he does. He has at least average bat speed, which is good because he has a slight hitch in his swing. He also has a Yasiel Puig-esque knee twist instead of a traditional stepping motion. He’s generally quiet in his setup.
Mieses has the speed to be a double-digit stolen base player at the next level, but his stolen base numbers fell dramatically (and unsurprisingly) from the DSL to the Midwest League. He also uses that speed to be able to play a little center field. Ultimately, he’ll end up in right field, where his arm would be at least average for the position. When I saw him in person last summer, he was one of the only position players on Rancho’s roster who had the look of a future major-leaguer (Cody Bellinger being the other). He’s absolutely one of the most athletic players in the system, and his work ethic is unquestionable strong. He could find himself back in Rancho for a refresher, but he’ll definitely be in Tulsa at some point this season (soon rather than later).
2015 ranking: 56
2016 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
34. RHP Trevor Oaks (6’3, 220 pounds, 23 years old)
Oaks was a generally unheralded 7th-round draft pick in 2014, but he has opened up some eyes in the system in his first two seasons. He went straight to Ogden in 2014 and, predictably, struggled. It’s a hitter’s paradise, so pitchers often struggle. That didn’t deter the Dodgers, as they sent Oaks to Great Lakes where he established himself as the staff ace. He posted a 2.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and a 3.5 BB%. He threw 102 innings there before getting a late-season promotion to Rancho. He was quickly made aware of the Cal League’s hitting environment, as he gave up two home runs in 23 2/3 (he gave up three homers in Great Lakes).
Oaks probably has the best sinker in the system, as he got hitters to hit the ball on the ground about 62 percent of the time. It’s not a Derek Lowe or Brandon Webb sinker, but it’s plenty effective to get minor-leaguers to hit the top half of the ball. It’s an 88-90 MPH pitch, so he’ll need to have pinpoint command of it in the majors if MLB hitters are to be enticed to swing at it. He has three other pitches: A curveball, slider and changeup. None of them are particularly great, but the curveball has at least flashed average potential in the past. The slider and changeup need refinement to get a grade higher than fringy.
Where Oaks excels is with his command. He walked just 19 hitters in 125 2/3 innings last season. He definitely pitches to contact and does so with solid mechanics. He’s able to get some extension on his pitches that helps get some extra run on his sinker. He has a good frame to be a durable starting pitcher as he moves up the ladder. He’ll probably go back to Rancho (and could be the opening day starter), with a late-season promotion to Tulsa a real possibility.
2015 ranking: 97
2016 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
33. C Julian Leon (5’11, 200 pounds, 20 years old)
Leon came into the 2015 as a prospect with a ton of helium. A fantastic offensive showing in Ogden catapulted him up nearly everyone’s rankings. Instead of at least holding his own in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old, he had one of the most miserable seasons in the system. He hit just .201/.269/.298 in 339 plate appearances. His power all but disappeared (five home runs, 15 doubles), he didn’t walk (6.4 percent) and struck out a ton (31.5 percent). He was even sent back to extended spring training in May for about a month because of his struggles. Despite the massive struggles, there is still hope for the now-20-year-old.
Leon is able to generate power with a big leg kick and strong hands that get the bat through the strike-zone quickly. There are a lot of timing mechanisms in his stance and swing, and that might be the cause of some of his problems. In Ogden the year before, his stance was more straight-on and just the slightest bit open. In Great Lakes, it was more closed and the leg kick became more pronounced than it was the year before. He still has the strength to be a bat-first catcher, but he’ll need to get back to swinging the way he did in 2014 and perhaps ditch the bigger leg kick. Leon also became pull-happy in 2015 after distributing the ball more to right- and center field in 2014. His bat speed isn’t the best, so everything else has to be in sync for him to be successful at the plate. He isn’t much in the way of a base runner, which one could say about many catchers.
Behind the plate, Leon possesses a strong arm, but the rest of his defense is a work in progress. His release is slow and his instincts are still unrefined. He might have to move to first base at some point, but the Dodgers will give him every opportunity to remain behind the plate to increase his overall value. He probably needs to go back to Midland for a couple months and see if he can get the hang of the Midwest League. A midseason promotion to the Cal League could be in order if he performs well enough in Low-A.
2015 ranking: 11
2016 location: Low-A Great Lakes/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
32. 2B Omar Estevez (5’11, 185 pounds, 18 years old)
Estevez was a $6 million signing out of Cuba during the 2015-16 international signing period. He played one season in Cuba’s Serie Nacional. As a 16-year-old, he hit .213/.264/.313 — not unexpected, really. The Dodgers are banking on Estevez growing into his body and being a bat-first second baseman. While he hasn’t shown it on the field (hasn’t had the chance, really), the Dodgers like his raw ability.
At the plate, he has a level swing from the right side that has a chance to produce line drives. There is some raw power in his swing as well. That will likely be the last thing to develop. The easy comp is Howie Kendrick if all goes as planned. But he is just 18 years old, so a lot can happen in the next handful of years. He’s not a base-clogger, but he won’t wow a lot of scouts with his home-to-first speed, either. Estevez is basically a second base-only guy on defense. He isn’t quick enough to play shortstop and doesn’t have the arm to play third base. Left field and first base are also options, but the Dodgers gave this kid $6 million dollars knowing his defensive limitations, so I’m sure they’re OK with his future outlook. Estevez should begin his pro career in the DSL before getting to the AZL next year.
2015 ranking: NR
2016 location: DSL Dodgers
31. RHP Ralston Cash (6’3, 215 pounds, 24 years old)
Seems like I’ve been writing about Cash for quite some time. He was the Dodgers’ 2010 2nd-round pick, is the cousin of former Dodger prospect Ethan Martin and has missed an entire season already in his career (2011, because of his hip). His numbers weren’t as good in 2015 as they were the previous season, but he was still able to put up a 3.41 ERA, 24.2 K% and a 6.8 hits per nine innings rate. His command/control needs some work, as he had an 11.7 percent walk rate last season.
Cash works with a mid-90s fastball that he isn’t always able to throw where he wants. The velocity is plus, but the command is not. He sinks it a bit, but he still produced just a 40 percent ground ball rate. He goes to the pitch when he gets in trouble and sometimes hitters get a few too many looks at it. His best offspeed pitch is an inconsistent and sharp 12-6 curveball. It has swing-and-miss potential, but it isn’t quite where it needs to be yet. He also added a fringy slider last year that I would expect him to ditch if he continues to have trouble commanding his other two pitches.
He tends to overthrow his pitches at times, which makes it hard to have a consistent release point. He has a good build for any pitcher, and a frame that should hold up out of the bullpen. He could be a late-inning reliever if he figures out his command/control. If not, (and he makes it to the bigs), he could a decent middle reliever. A trip to Oklahoma City is next up for the 24-year-old.
2015 ranking: 30
2016 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Next up: Prospects 30-21