Finally, we have arrived at the Top 10. This is the strongest Top 10 in recent memory. It may be the best Dodger Top 10 ever in the history of prospect rankings. There are high risk/reward guys, high floor guys and some in the middle who could go either way (but they’re trending toward the 50+ FV way).
For the Top 30, I’ve included Overall Future Potential grades and risks. For example, if a guy gets a “50 low,” he’s basically a sure thing to be an average player at his position. If a guy gets a “55 high,” there’s a good chance he won’t reach that ceiling, but the potential is there. The grades are 20-80 (50 is average), and the risks are as follows:
- Low: Players who are older, have debuted, are relievers and/or have more attainable floors than ceilings
- Medium: Players who are a mix of young and old, usually have higher floors
- High: Players who are usually younger with potential, but also question marks
- Extreme: Players who are younger with star potential, but a ton of question marks
The aim is to offer a prediction of the player’s future worth in the majors. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus both do this.
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.
10. RHP Yadier Alvarez (6’3, 175 pounds, 20 years old)
Alvarez was a pop-up prospect, as he was generally unknown before a Hector Olivera showcase last year, and the Dodgers liked what they saw. They like Alvarez so much that they blew by their international bonus pool to snag Alvarez for a $16 million bonus — the highest given out for any amateur free agent in the 2015-16 international signing period. He didn’t make it to pro ball last year, but once his visa issues get resolved, he could move quickly.
He owns a legitimate mid-90s fastball that has touched as high as 98 MPH. He works more in the 93-95 range, which qualifies as one of the best fastballs in the Dodgers’ system (for a starter). He gets some movement on the pitch, giving it a little more depth that other fastballs. He backs up his fastball with a potentially plus-slider in the mid-80s. It features sharp break and projects to be a swing-and-miss pitch in the majors. The most impressive thing about these two pitches is that Alvarez already as advanced feel for the pitches — not many 19-year-olds can lay claim to that. That’s why scouts are excited about Alvarez’s future. He has a mid-80s changeup that’s a real work in progress. If he can get it to even be a fringe-average pitch, he should have no issues remaining in the starting rotation. But, command of his pitches will be the ultimate determiner of his future.
Despite being a relative unknown, Alvarez showed natural pitching ability and actions. His delivery needs a little cleaning up, but that will come with professional instruction. His arm is extremely quick and he’s able to generate plus-plus velocity despite an almost wiry frame. The only concern I see is that fact he whips his arm after his front leg strikes the ground. It looks less than fluid, but if it works for him (and he remains healthy), then it shouldn’t be too big a deal. He also has a chance to add some bulk to his frame, which could help him incorporate his lower-half a bit. He doesn’t need the extra velocity that might come with, but he could benefit from it by having a more fluid delivery. This could lead to better command, but that doesn’t project as more than average right now.
Alvarez has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter with true swing-and-miss stuff. The development of his changeup and command will determine how much of an impact he’ll have in the majors. If he doesn’t reach his ceiling, he could be anything from a No. 3 to No. 5 starter. If things go poorly, he could be a high-velocity (and probably highly volatile) reliever. He should see the states this season, but it depends on his visa issues. If that doesn’t get handled, he could spend the majority of his time in the Dominican Summer League. But he’s probably talented enough to go to Great Lakes right away.
2015 ranking: NR
2016 location: DSL Dodgers/Low-A Great Lakes
9. C/2B Austin Barnes (5’10, 185 pounds, 26 years old)
The oft-forgotten player in the Dee Gordon trade, Barnes could end up being one of the best — that’s saying something considering Enrique Hernandez and Chris Hatcher are quality MLB players. Barnes spent most of his time at Oklahoma City last season. He hit .315/.389/.479 with a 10.4 BB% and just a 10.7 K%. He also logged 20 games with the Dodgers.
He stands straight up and down in his stance and has closed it a bit since last season. He’s quiet until the pitcher starts his motion. He uses a big leg kick that can get him out of sync at times, but when the timing is there, he’s able to put a little charge into the ball. He had about league-average exit velocity in his limited time in the majors last season. His ability with the bat is high contact, but he also pairs that with some of the best plate discipline/strike zone judgment in the system (11.5 BB% in the minors). He doesn’t have a lot of raw power, but he could be an 8-10 home run guy at his peak with some doubles. Mostly, he’s going to be a guy who has good, competitive plate appearances and a consistent offensive profile.
Defensively, Barnes is a borderline premiere defensive catcher. He is already good at framing and possesses an above-average throwing arm. He needs to work on his game calling and rapport with a pitching staff, but that will come in time. What is different about his defensive profile is that he’s able to play a little second- and third base. He’s athletic enough to handle either position, but profiles better at second base. It might be his best bet to get playing time with the Dodgers, as he won’t (rightly) supplant Yasmani Grandal or A.J. Ellis on the catching depth chart.
Barnes has the ceiling of a versatile, average major leaguer. If he remains at catcher and shows the same offensive ability he has shown throughout his minor-league career, that ceiling increases slightly. He’s a relatively safe bet to be a major league player — probably even a regular. He has an MLB skill set and has an outside chance of breaking camp with the Dodgers. If he doesn’t, he’ll go back to Oklahoma City and be among the first position player recalled if (when) the Dodgers need it. If Barnes were a couple years younger, he’d be much higher than No. 9.
2015 ranking: 14
2016 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
ETA: Debuted 2015
8. RHP Jharel Cotton (5’11, 195 pounds, 24 years old)
Cotton’s journey through the minors has been somewhat tumultuous, but he has done nothing but succeed despite some adversity. He began his 2015 season in extended spring training because of a fractured left wrist he suffered at the beginning of camp. Once he was fully healthy, he was on the fast track to Tulsa. He spent most of his season with the Drillers and posted a 2.30 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 28.6 K% and 8.5 BB%. Those are near-elite numbers for a starting pitcher prospect. Overall, he threw really good 95 2/3 innings across four minor-league levels. He was even on the shortlist to get a September call-up to pitch out of the bullpen. That opportunity never came, but it might very well come this season.
His fastball sits in the low-90s and has touched the mid-90s. It features some arm-side run because of a good delivery. Cotton is able to change speeds on the pitch and give it a different look to the hitter. If he ends up being a reliever, the fastball velocity could tick up a bit. His best off-speed pitch is a plus-changeup that has a ton of movement down-and-away to left-handed hitters. He’ll throw it against right-handers as well. It’s a pitch he’ll throw in any count and maintains his fastball arm speed when throwing it. Some have said there’s too much movement on it at times, but Cotton has done a good job of commanding the pitch in his career. His effectiveness against lefties and righties didn’t vary too much despite having a curveball that struggles to be consistently average. But the 11-5 curveball is his best breaker. It’s a mid-70s pitch that has a little depth to it. He does have a slider, but it’s fringy at best. It’s easily the pitch he’ll drop if he has to.
Cotton’s delivery is compact — not surprising considering his frame. It’s quick features some good deception. When he breaks the ball from his glove, he hides the ball down by his calf before delivering the pitch. He releases the pitch from a high three-quarters arm slot that is almost over-the-top. That’s how he gets good downward plane on his pitches despite his not being the prototypical starting pitcher height.
He’s probably as MLB-ready as any pitching prospect in the system. Cotton has a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter or late-inning reliever. With at least two solid-average-to-plus pitches, he could be successful in either role. Developing a consistent third pitch will determine whether he remains a starter. The Tom Gordon comp is obvious, and that could be the kind of pitcher he is moving forward. Because of the pitching depth and the need to refine a breaking pitch, Cotton will begin the season at Oklahoma City, where he figures to pitch in the starting rotation.
2015 ranking: 12
2016 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
7. CF Alex Verdugo (6’0, 200 pounds, 20 years old)
Continuing a tradition of taking players who other teams view at another position, the Dodgers popped Verdugo in the second round of the 2014 draft. Most teams liked him as a pitcher, but Verdugo wanted to hit, and the Dodgers were the team that would allow him to do so. At this point, it’s looking like the right call. He got off to a slow start with Great Lakes, slashing just .213/.254/.274 through the first two months of the season. From June 1 until his promotion to Rancho Cucamonga in mid-August, he hit .346/.370/.471 over the course of 61 games. He saw a power spike in the California League, which isn’t unexpected (.385/.406/.659). He established himself as one of the better bat-to-ball prospects in the system and could be in store for a big 2016 season. He was named the Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year.
Verdugo has a sweet left-handed swing that has gone through a couple transformations. He changed his swing a bit to begin the 2015 season by incorporating a leg kick. He wanted to add more power to his offensive profile, but it obviously wasn’t working for him. He ditched the leg kick and went back to the approach he had in his first professional season. Seeing as power is the last thing to develop, trying to force it doesn’t really help anyone. Verdugo’s timing was off and he wasn’t making hard contact. He stands generally straight up and down with a slight knee bend and open stance. He closes his front side as the pitcher turns on the rubber and does a toe-tap to keep his timing. His hands are at chest level and he doesn’t have a lot of unnecessary movement. He lets the ball travel through the strike zone and his bat barrel stays in there a long time. When he fires his hips open, the power potential is visible. But, he projects to be more of a high-contact hitter in the long run, spraying line drives all around the field. His power is to the pull side, but it’s more gap power at this rate. He has hit well against left-handers (.349) in his first two seasons, but not for power. Nine of his 58 hits against southpaws have gone for extra bases. He has good strike zone judgment, but that hasn’t yet translated to many walks.
Defensively, there are questions whether he’ll be able to stick in center field long term. While he has plenty of arm and agility for the position, his pure speed is what might keep him from remaining in center. If he moves to a corner, he could be a plus-defender. Right field would be ideal because of his strong and accurate arm. His power wouldn’t be prototypical for a right fielder, but the high contact and strike zone judgment will play.
David Hood of True Blue L.A. put a Nick Markakis comp on Verdugo. If it’s 2006-10 Markakis, that’s a really nice ceiling for Verdugo. Logan White said there was some Joc Pederson in Verdugo’s game when he was drafted. Either way, those are solid comps (minus Pederson’s power, of course). He got into 23 games with Quakes in 2015 after spending 101 games with the Loons. Seeing as he won’t turn 20 until the middle of May, a trip back to Rancho is in order. There’s no need to rush him up to Double-A. For comparison’s sake: He’s ahead of Pederson in terms of age/level when it comes to development. He’s an exciting prospect who could make a big jump with a strong 2016 season.
2015 ranking: 7
2016 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
6. RHP Grant Holmes (6’1, 215 pounds, 20 years old)
Holmes’ first taste of full-season ball was quite successful. The 2014 Dodgers’ 1st-round draft pick posted a 3.14 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 26.6 K% and 12.3 BB%. It’s looking like his sliding to No. 22 in that draft was an oversight by other teams and a steal for the Dodgers. The thing that stands out here, obviously, is the walks. But Holmes was able to miss plenty of bats and keep the ball in the yard (six home runs allowed in 103 1/3 innings). He was pretty consistent, as he gave up more than four runs just four times in 24 starts. He fell a couple spots from last season, but that’s more guys improving (Bellinger, De Leon). His ceiling is still really high.
His fastball is where it all begins. It’s a 92-95 MPH fastball that has touched the high-90s. If he can sustain the consistent fastball velocity, it could be a plus pitch bordering on plus-plus because of the movement he is able to get on the pitch. The heavy fastball will bore in on right-handers at times, but he doesn’t use it like a true sinker, as evidenced by his 43 percent ground ball rate. His command needs improving. His primary off-speed pitch is a true hammer curveball. It’s an 11-5 breaker that sits in the high-70s-to-low-80s. Low-level hitters have trouble making good contact on the pitch, and Holmes should be able to maintain his sharpness with the curveball going forward. He has a fringy slider that sits in the mid-to-high-80s. It doesn’t have a lot of depth or tilt and almost has cutter-like tendencies. The most surprising pitch might be his mid-80s changeup that features good fade and sink. It has flashed above-average and could be the pitch that separates him from being a No. 2/3 starter from a back-end starter or reliever.
Holmes’ delivery is compact and to the point. There isn’t a lot of funk or unnecessary moving parts. He has some arm whip to make up for a little arm drag. His arm speed is fantastic, helping him generate plus velocity despite a smaller frame. His front side opens up, leading to fringy command. He has the athleticism and clean delivery to be more consistent and repeatable, but he hasn’t yet gotten to that level. That isn’t terribly surprising for a kid entering his age-20 season.
The Chad Billingsley/Matt Cain comps are easy and somewhat apt. That is his ceiling — a No. 2 starter with swing-and-miss stuff. He’ll need to show his frame can withstand the rigors of 150-200 innings, something that will come with physical maturity and as he climbs the minor-league ladder. He’ll go to Rancho and could be the team’s ace. He’ll need to find a more consistent release point that will hopefully lead to better command. Don’t be terribly concerned about some of the results in the California League. He’ll probably have a high ERA and give up some home runs, but it’s more about development than results at that level/age.
2015 ranking: 4
2016 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
5. 1B/CF Cody Bellinger (6’4, 210 pounds, 20 years old)
When the Dodgers drafted Cody Bellinger in the 4th round in 2013, he was the only prep player they chose in the first 12 rounds. He landed a $700,000 bonus to forego a verbal commitment to the University of Oregon. He hit just four home runs in his first 428 plate appearances (2013-14). He busted out in 2015 by hitting 30 home runs in 544 plate appearances with Rancho Cucamonga. He was skipped a level to play in the California League, and despite the hitter-friendly environment, there are signs the power emergence is real. He added a nearly 10 percent walk rate to go along with the power. He struck out a lot (almost 30 percent in his first 99 games), but from August through the rest of the season, he cut the strikeout rate down to 18.8 percent without sacrificing the power (16 extra base hits in 29 games). Oh, and he has one of the more interesting defensive profiles in the system as a first baseman-center fielder.
Bellinger once drew James Loney/Eric Hosmer comps, which wasn’t bad. But with his breakout 2015, propelled by some mechanical changes, changed the Loney comp to that of a guy like Adam LaRoche. He adjusted his swing and probably sold out a bit for power early in the season. That led to the high strikeout rate. A thing that stands out with his swing is his hands. They’re extremely quick and he loads them up as the pitcher is delivering the pitch. He likes to extend his arms, and he’s able to get the bat through the zone quickly because of his plus-bat speed. Bellinger also incorporates his bottom half much better than he has in years past. The leverage created after the adjustments have led to the increased power — that, and the addition of some weight to his projectable frame. Naturally, the left-handed hitter’s power comes to the pull side and center field. He has opposite field gap pop with the potential for some of those doubles to go over the fence. His swing path is pretty level, which is a little surprising for a left-handed power hitter.
Defensively, Bellinger is plus-plus defender at first base. His hands are soft, his actions are smooth and his instincts are second to none. His arm strength is the only thing that can be questioned, as it’s average. But he gets rid of the ball quickly, which helps. In center field, he was surprisingly competent — so much so that there’s a better chance than some might think he could at least contribute at the position in the majors. He played center field growing up, so the position isn’t completely foreign to him. He has good athleticism and speed for his size, so if he can’t handle center field, he’d probably be fine in a corner (left field, most likely). His likely destination is first base, but it’s good to have a little position versatility. He has some speed, but it’s better when he’s underway. He won’t be a big stolen base threat at the next level.
Bellinger added some good weight by changing his diet and training with a former NFL player. He’s now in the 210-pound range, which he can easily accommodate with his 6-foot-4 frame. His ceiling is an everyday first baseman with 20-25 home run power and some walks. He might not be high-contact hitter, but his power and plate discipline will make up for that. His floor is a backup first baseman/outfielder with some pop. The 20-year-old will go to Tulsa and face his biggest test to date. If he performs anywhere close to the level he did with Rancho, his prospect stock is going to shoot through the roof. I had a source who, early in the season, put him on par with Jose De Leon in terms of prospect status. That was before he took off. If Bellinger struggles, it isn’t the end of the world because he’s so young for the level of competition. He is the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez at first base.
2015 ranking: 16
2016 location: Double-A Tulsa
4. RHP Kenta Maeda (6’0, 170 pounds, 28 years old)
Much was made about Maeda’s contract. It was definitely not what most were expecting — 8 years, $24 million. That’s it on the surface, but there are numerous bonuses (up to $8.15 million per season) that make his deal worth a maximum of $90.2 million. This is because there was some concern about his elbow. It’s a low-risk deal for the Dodgers, and as long as Maeda is healthy, he should be able to reach most of those bonuses/incentives. He posted a 2.39 ERA in 1,509 2/3 innings in Nippon Professional Baseball and showed great command with a 5.3 percent walk rate. He also missed a decent number of bats (20.4 K%), and that number could improve as he moves from a more contact-oriented league to a league that isn’t afraid to swing-and-miss.
Maeda uses a fastball that projects to be average — in the 88-92 MPH range. He has touched 94 MPH in the past, but don’t expect that in the majors. He’s able to get considerable run on the pitch and commands it very well. It’s far from overpowering, but if he can locate the pitch at that velocity, he’s going to be just fine. He has some deception that makes the fastball appear quicker than it actually is. His best off-speed pitch is his low-80s slider. It has some depth to it and he can vary the break on it (10-4/11-5). Sometimes, he can even make it look like a cutter. He’ll throw it against lefties and righties. He has the utmost confidence in the pitch. Maeda also has a curveball, but it’s inconsistent. The break on it varies, and not because he wants to do it. He might be able to steal a strike once or twice a game with it, but don’t expect much from it unless he becomes more consistent with it. The pitch that could ultimately benefit him long-term is a improving changeup. It features solid fade to left-handed hitters and he throws it with the same arm speed as his fastball.
Like most Japanese pitchers, he has a deliberate and complex delivery. While the easy (lazy) comp is Hiroki Kuroda, his delivery actually resembles more Yu Darvish than anyone. He isn’t that kind of pitcher, obviously. He begins with his feet about shoulder width apart. He steps off with his left foot and brings his arms up and touches the back of his neck before making the turn on the rubber. He has a high leg kick and a kicking motion when he brings the leg forward. He delivers the pitch from a high three-quarters arm slot. While the delivery isn’t straightforward, it’s relatively clean.
There are some who wonder how Maeda will hold up throwing every fifth day instead of once per week (in a game, at least). He might need periodic breaks throughout the season so his arm can adjust to throwing in the majors. But he’s a strike-thrower who should be, at worst, a No. 5 starter in the majors. Odds are with his plus-command and above-average stuff that he could be a No. 4, with a No. 3 starter being his ceiling. He will open the season as the Dodgers’ No. 3 starter to open the season.
2015 ranking: NR
2016 location: Los Angeles
3. RHP Jose De Leon (6’2, 185 pounds, 23 years old)
It isn’t often a 24th-round draft pick has this kind of ascendance up the minor-league ladder, but De Leon has done just that. He went from unheralded draft pick to Top 30 prospect in baseball (by most accounts). Since his first professional season (6.96 ERA), he has done nothing but dominate in the minors. In 2015, he began with Rancho Cucamonga and struck out almost 40 percent of the hitters he faced. Despite a 7-day disabled list trip for a strained groin, he was shuttled out to Tulsa. While he got hit around a little bit (and was particularly bitten by the home run ball), he still struck out 33.1 percent of the hitters he faced. His walk rate increased a bit when jumping to Double-A, but it was still less than 10 percent.
De Leon works with an above-average fastball that has flashed plus in the past. He sits in the 90-94 MPH range with it and tops out at 96. He can locate the pitch well, which helps it play up a bit. He can sink the pitch a bit, too. He has a slider that looks, at times, that it could be an above-average pitch, but he isn’t consistent enough with it at this point. It’s a 10-4/11-5 slider in the low-80s. It has some tilt and depth to it, but he leaves it up in the strike zone at times. If he can lock that down as a consistent “55” third pitch, that could be the difference between No. 2 and No. 3 starter. But De Leon’s changeup is where he’s going to make his money. It’s his best pitch. He throws it in the low-80s with great tumbling action down in the strike zone. He gets a lot of swing-throughs on it. It’s the equalizer pitch against left-handers, but he will also throw it against right-handers. It looks just like his fastball coming out of the hand, but it just falls off the table. It’s a plus-pitch, and that grade might be a bit conservative.
After better conditioning and changing position on the pitching rubber, De Leon took off. His delivery is clean and all of his pitches play up because of some really goo deception. That isn’t to say his pure stuff isn’t good, but it gets an extra boost because of the deception he possesses. Opposing hitters don’t see the ball until just before it’s released, as he hides it well with a whipping action in his wrist before release. The release point is high three-quarters. He drives off his back leg to help generate velocity. There isn’t a lot of room left for projection, despite his seemingly smallish frame. But De Leon lost some weight after his first season and is a much better pitcher at his current weight. He might not be a 220-plus inning workhorse, but he could be similar to Zack Greinke in terms of work load.
De Leon gets rave reviews for his polish, maturity and work ethic on- and off-the-mound. He has pitchability and the stuff to match. His ceiling is that of a No. 2 starter, with a floor of a back-of-the rotation guy. If the slider doesn’t fully develop or it falls back, he could end up being a late-inning reliever and likely closer (though, I don’t expect that to happen). Despite Brett Anderson‘s injury, De Leon needs some more seasoning before hitting the show. He’ll begin the season with Oklahoma City. If he is lights out, he might force the Dodgers’ hand at a promotion.
2015 ranking: 6
2016 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
2. LHP Julio Urias (6’2, 205 pounds, 19 years old)
You know the story by now: Former scouting director Logan White, on a trip to Mexico to scout Yasiel Puig in 2013, was notified by scout Mike Brito of a young left-hander who was worth looking at. Shortly after, the Dodgers signed Urias to a $1 million bonus (along with three other prospects). Almost three years later, Urias is the undisputed top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball and the best pitching prospect, according to some outlets. He has done almost nothing but dominate the minors. He pitched to a 3.81 ERA, 26.7 K% and 6.7 BB% overall. He spent the vast majority of his time at Tulsa, where he had a 2.77 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 27.6 K%, 5.6 BB%. In the middle of his season, he elected to have surgery to correct a droopy eyelid. He had a tumor removed from behind the same eye when he was a child, so this was purely cosmetic. That threw off his rhythm. I wrote about it in July. I absolutely believe it stunted his development and kept him from getting to 100 innings. Instead, he threw 80 1/3 innings overall and, despite being in full-season ball since 2012, still isn’t ready to step into a major league rotation. Not a crime by any means, but he should be a bit further along in his development. He got a late-season taste of Triple-A, and faced adversity for the first time in his pro career — 18.69 ERA, 5.45 FIP, 16.7 K%, 20 BB%. It was just 4 1/3 innings, so there’s no reason to worry. The handling of his development had been pretty good until 2015. But he’s still one of the game’s top prospects and should see the majors in 2016.
Urias has the stuff to be a near-elite starting pitcher. His fastball ranges from 91-95 MPH and has touched 96-97 in the past. He gets arm-side run on it and can locate it on either side of the plate to either handed hitter. His command is touchy at times, but he has shown the ability to do what he wants with the pitch. Urias has three above-average-to-plus-plus off-speed pitches. His curveball is a 2-8 sharp breaker in the mid-to-high-70s. It has flashed plus-potential and is good against either kind of hitter. He also has a slider that kind of runs into his curveball at times. It’s slurvy and despite being unrefined, still flashes solid-average potential. His changeup might be the best of the lot. It’s a low-80s offering that falls off the table and neutralizes right-handers. He’ll throw it in any count and can put it where he wants.
He has a fluid delivery that is repeatable and leads to his flashing plus-command. When he gets out of rhythm, that’s when the command/control drifts. He delivers pitches from a three-quarters arm slot and is able to stay on top of his pitches consistently. He’s athletic and has put on some weight since he signed. What might be the best thing working in Urias’ favor is his poise, mound presence and maturity — all things that cannot be taught. He has supreme confidence in his pitches and ability and is not easily intimidated. He’s going into his age-19 season. It’s tough for 10-year veterans to show what Urias has shown on the mound in that regard. That will make everything play up and give him an elite ceiling. The biggest thing working against him is his lack of innings. He has 222 1/3 innings in his three seasons. While it’d be ideal for him to slide into the 2017 rotation, that just isn’t terribly realistic. The Dodgers could bring him along in the bullpen in the majors as a long/swingman to help stretch him out. He should log somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 innings this season — most of those (hopefully) coming in Triple-A.
Urias’ ceiling is of a No. 2 starter in the mold of a Johan Santana. He needs to build stamina and endurance for him to hit that ceiling. His floor is a back-of-the-rotation guy who might give you decent 150 innings. He’ll head to Oklahoma City to start the 2016 season. He could get a late-season assignment to Los Angeles in hopes he can handle the spotlight and make a David Price-like impact in the postseason. If not, he’ll at least get some valuable MLB time before getting ready for the 2017 season.
2015 ranking: 2
2016 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
1. SS Corey Seager (6’4, 215 pounds, 22 years old)
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. The Dodgers had the 18th pick and the chances weren’t great they would land a future No. 1 overall prospect, yet that’s exactly what happened. The Dodgers popped Seager in the first round of the 2012 draft and he has done nothing to make them wish they had chosen Michael Wacha instead. Seager owns a career .307/.368/.523 triple slash, and there’s every chance he’s that good in the majors — maybe even better. He lit up Tulsa to begin 2015 and got a quick promotion to Oklahoma City. He hit just .278/.332/.451 as a 21-year-old in the Pacific Coast League and earned himself a September call-up to Los Angeles. And oh man, what a debut. In 27 games, he hit .337/.425/.561 with 13 extra base hits in 113 plate appearances. He started four of the five games in the National League Division Series and is well on his way to big things in the majors.
Seager has a fantastic approach at the plate. He rarely looks overpowered and often times hits his pitch. His swing from the left side is level, he’s rarely off-balance and he possesses plus-bat speed. He has a toe-tap for timing and is quiet as the pitch is on its way. He has some natural loft to his swing, but he’s far from a true home run hitter. He has 20-25 home run ability, but he’s going to hit a lot of doubles in the majors. He should be good for 40 doubles a season. While his walk rate fluctuated in the minors, he has good plate discipline and strike zone judgment to be a 10-percent walk/20-percent strikeout guy. He’s adept at hitting the ball all over the field, including some home runs. The best offensive comp I’ve heard on him is John Olerud. It makes too much sense, really. Others have dropped Cal Ripken (for obvious reasons), Matt Carpenter and Chase Headley. Some have even said there’s some Derek Jeter in his overall game. If Seager is close to any of those guys, he’s going to be a perennial All-Star — especially if he sticks at shortstop.
Speaking of, Seager is showing more and more every season that he might stay at shortstop longer than some initially thought. He probably won’t be a 15-year shortstop, but he might get most of his cost-controlled years at shortstop before moving to third base. He has great instincts and arm for the position. His hands are soft, but he boots some easy plays at times. Where he’s hurt most is with his range. It’s below-average, which is why his positioning and instincts are of the utmost importance when it comes to Seager’s defense. If/when he has to slide over to third base, he should be near the top of the defensive leaderboards, as he has all the natural actions of a third baseman.
Seager is the best position player prospect the Dodgers have developed since Matt Kemp, and he could end up being more valuable than him. Before Kemp, it’d either be Adrian Beltre or Paul Konerko (even though he was unceremoniously traded). He’s about as sure a bet in the minors as there is right now. He has the ceiling of a 10-12-year MLB veteran who should be among the league’s best players. Depending how a manager fills out the lineup card, Seager should hit anywhere from the No. 2 to the No. 5 spot in a lineup and be a staple and team leader. He isn’t a “rah-rah” leader, but if he performs, he’ll have command presence in the clubhouse when the current stable of veterans move on. He should be an All-Star at both shortstop and third base. He’s the Dodgers’ starting shortstop for the short-term future.
2015 ranking: 1
2016 location: Los Angeles
ETA: Debuted 2015
After 26,931 words, that’s it for the rankings. There are supplemental articles still to come. The state of this farm system really couldn’t be better. Even when the Dodgers lose Seager to graduation and possible one or two other guys, they’ll still have a Top 3-5 farm system in baseball because of the incredible job the new ownership has done to replenish and put the organization in a position to be successful for many years to come through the international market and the draft. This is a great time to be a fan of the Dodgers and their farm system.
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