Now, the prospects are getting a little more recognizable. This list of 10 prospects has some low-level guys who could take off, some guys destined for Quad-A duty and some guys who have dropped from last season.
Previous entries in the series:
I have made a mistake.
@DustinNosler Dustin, love your prospect list and can't wait for the next one. Howevs, the Dodgers released M.J. Villegas during the season.
— (((David Meyerson))) (@DavidMeyerson) January 29, 2017
Officially, MJ Villegas was released on Oct. 10. I, obviously, wasn’t aware of it before ranking him at No. 56 in this year’s rankings. But instead of slotting the new addition in at No. 100 and moving everyone from 57-100 up a spot, I’m inserting him in at No. 56 because he was a bit of an oversight on my part. Here’s the write-up:
56. LHP Victor Gonzalez (6’0, 180 pounds, 21 years old)
A familiar name who has appeared as high as No. 19 in my rankings and No. 57 last year, Gonzalez has fallen in the ranking over the last couple years. He was signed out of Mexico in 2012 with other prospects, including catcher Julian Leon (No. 95) and right-handed pitcher Lenix Osuna. Gonzalez sits in the 89-92 MPH range from the left side with a changeup that has flashed plus, and he also has a fringy slider that isn’t terribly reliable at present. While he has primarily been a starter through his MiLB career, he might very well end up in the bullpen. His command took a step back in his second stint with Great Lakes, and he’ll need regain it if he’s going to make it through the California League.
Best tool: Changeup
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
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. For future entries in this series: 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.
50. RHP Isaac Anderson (6’2, 185 pounds, 23 years old)
Anderson was the Dodgers’ 40th-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Not often to 40th-rounders climb this high in the rankings, but Anderson has moved quickly since signing. He pitched at three separate levels of the minors in 2016, with the bulk of his work coming in the Midwest League and the Great Lakes Loons. In total, he logged 118 2/3 innings and struck out almost a batter per inning while walking just 25. Three of his five appearances with Tulsa were forgettable, but he did show some glimpses of being more than just the Dodgers’ Mr. Irrelevant from 2015.
With Zach Lee gone, he might the best “pitchability” guy in the system right now. Anderson doesn’t have overpowering stuff, as his fastball sits in the 88-91 MPH range and touches 94. It doesn’t feature a lot of movement, but he did log a 47 percent ground-ball rate. He backs up his fastball with a low-70s curveball that has a 12-6 shape to it. Since turning pro, he has added a low-80s slider that has more of a 10-4 break. He also has a changeup that sits in the high-70s-to-low-80s that is thrown sparingly and mostly against left-handed hitters.
Anderson’s delivery is clean, deliberate and is somewhat reminiscent of Chad Billingsley‘s. He hides the ball well enough and he delivers his pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot that is almost over the top. His front side will fly open at times, which causes some lapses in his fastball command. He also is a little inconsistent with his offspeed stuff. His upside is that of a low-end No. 4 starter, but he’s more likely a No. 5 or swingman if he ever makes it to the majors. Anderson should go back to Double-A Tulsa for most of the season, with the slight chance of making the 100-mile trek to Oklahoma City late in the season.
2016 ranking: 98
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa
49. RHP Logan Crouse (6’6, 225 pounds, 20 years old)
The Dodgers landed Crouse in the 30th-round of the 2015 draft. Since they couldn’t sign their supplemental first-round pick Kyle Funkhouser, they had enough money left over to give him a $500,000 bonus to keep him from attending Florida State University. He has just 54 1/3 innings in the pro ranks (all in the Arizona Rookie League), but he has shown some feel for command with a 6.4 percent walk rate and a solid 52 percent ground ball rate (in 2016).
He’s still raw with a lot of potential yet to be reached. Crouse has an average 88-92 MPH fastball that he locates well at times. Since turning pro, he has added a 2-seam fastball to his repertoire, giving him a different look on the heater. It also helps him get more grounders because of the natural run and sink that come with the pitch. His best pitch is a slider that has flashed above-average potential. It has an interesting shape, but he’s inconsistent with it at present. He also has a changeup that is a work in progress. Unless he develops it or adds another pitch, it may keep him from being a starting pitcher long-term.
A 3-sport star in high school, Crouse is plenty athletic on the mound, and he uses that to his advantage. Due to his athleticism, some believe there’s some velocity left in his arm that he hasn’t yet gotten to. He has drawn physical comparisons to Roy Halladay, but that’s strictly a physical comp. His athleticism, youth, good mechanics and feel for three (or four, if you count the 2-seamer as another pitch) could help him take off this season. He might end up in the bullpen (where his fastball and slider could both take a small step forward) if the changeup doesn’t progress, but if he sticks in the rotation, he could be a No. 3/4 innings eater-type of starter.
2016 rank: 69
2017 location: Rookie Ogden
48. OF Carlos Rincon (6’3, 190 pounds, 19 years old)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $350,000 during the 2015-16 signing period, Rincon had quite the debut that saw him reach the Arizona Rookie League as an 18-year-old. He slashed .328/.383/.661 between the Dominican Summer League and AZL. A lot of that is the product of playing in complex ball, but there might be some ability in the teenager.
Rincon is a free-swinger, but he has big power potential because of pure strength. His bat speed is average at present. His setup is relatively quiet, as his stance is slightly open. He closes his front side and dips his hands down from his ear to his chest before bringing the bat forward. For a right-handed hitter with average bat speed and an uppercut swing, that might need to change if he’s to be successful at the advanced levels of the minors. He has a moderate leg kick and sometimes has trouble getting out on his front foot. But when he stays back and barrels a pitch, the ball goes a long way. His swing isn’t particularly fluid and could be cleaned up now that he’s stateside. His plate discipline and, more importantly, pitch recognition, needs a lot of refinement.
Defensively, he’s strictly a corner guy. He has enough arm for right field, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in left field. He won’t be known for his defense, but he won’t be a complete liability out there, either. He’s an average runner and might be able to swipe a base every once in awhile. He should find his way to Ogden. If he rakes there, a late-season promotion to Great Lakes wouldn’t be out of the question. It’s easy to look at the stat line and want to jump all over this guy, but he needs to show he can produce outside of hitter-friendly leagues before he has a chance to move up the rankings.
2016 rank: NR
2017 location: AZL Dodgers/Rookie Ogden
47. RHP Ralston Cash (6’3, 215 pounds, 25 years old)
Another year, another write-up of Mr. Cash, who the Dodgers popped in the second round of the 2010 draft. He’s also the cousin of former Dodger prospect Ethan Martin (who hasn’t panned out). Cash missed the entire 2011 season with a hip injury that pretty much derailed any chance of him making it as a starting pitcher, and he has been in the bullpen for the past five seasons. In 2016, he saw time at both Tulsa and Oklahoma City (almost a 2/1 split). Overall, he had a 2.87 ERA, a 29.3 percent strikeout rate and a allowed just two home runs in 69 innings pitched. His walk rate has been consistently in the 11.5 to 11.8 percent range in the last three seasons, and that is probably who he is at this stage of his career. He also established a new career-best 50 percent ground ball rate.
Cash’s best pitch is a his mid-90s fastball that lacks even average command. It isn’t a sinker, but he can cut it a bit. He pairs a high-70s curveball and low-80s slider with the fastball. The curve is the better of the two. It’s a 12-6 pitch that can get whiffs, but his command of the pitch isn’t good enough just yet. His slider is still around, but it hasn’t come close to replacing the curve, and it probably won’t. It’s a fringy pitch that he might have to ditch. Despite that, he still handled lefties and righties equally well in 2016.
His frame is good enough to be a durable relief pitcher. He’s able to generate plus-velocity with a decent delivery. His command issues lie in the inability to repeat his delivery and release point. He’ll rush his delivery at times, causing his front shoulder to fly open and for him to lose control of his offerings. He does a good job of keeping the ball in the yard and limiting contact. Because of that, he could find himself in a late-inning relief role. Instead, he’s more likely a sixth- or seventh-inning guy at the next level. He’ll spend most of the season with Oklahoma City with a non-zero chance of making his MLB debut at some point this season.
2016 rank: 31
2017 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
46. 3B/SS Oneil Cruz (6’1, 150 pounds, 18 years old)
Signed for $950,000 on the first day of the 2015-16 international signing period out of the Dominican, Cruz made a good first impression in his age-17 season in the DSL. He slashed .294/.367/.444 in 210 plate appearances. He didn’t hit a home run, but he swiped 11 bases and walked 10.5 percent of the time (neither of which may not ultimately translate as he progresses). A lot of kids have hit well in the DSL only to fall apart later in their minor-league careers, but the Dodgers have almost a million bucks (two, if you count the penalty) in him, so they see something in the youngster.
The left-handed swinger doesn’t have blazing bat speed as of yet, but he has a decent enough swing at a young age that you can see him getting better as he matures. He has a wide stance that he closes with a big leg kick. He wiggles the bat a little as he loads and has a level swing path as it comes through the hitting zone, but it gets a little long and he doesn’t (yet) have the strength to make up for it. He doesn’t incorporate his lower-half much, which might help explain the lack of power potential. He doesn’t clear his hips that well yet. If he begins to use the lower-half and open up his hips, there could be average power in there. Of course, that’s assuming he adds some bulk to his slight frame. The safe bet is him becoming a line drive hitter with gap power.
On defense, Cruz has the look of a shortstop with fluid motion and footwork. But if he adds weight, he might have to slide over to third base because his range would be compromised. He has an average arm that should be fine at either shortstop or third base. He has natural instincts that should play up at the hot corner. If he can, somehow, stick at shortstop, his value could skyrocket, provided he hits. He’s also an average runner who could swipe a handful of bases. He might begin the season back in the DSL, but he should see Arizona before season’s end. There’s no reason to rush him through the lower levels.
2016 rank: 52
2017 location: DSL Dodgers/AZL Dodgers
45. OF Jordan Paroubeck (6’2, 190 pounds, 22 years old)
A Padres 2nd-rounder in 2013, the Dodgers acquired Paroubeck for international slot money in July of 2015. He began 2016 with Great Lakes and, as the Midwest League often does, it exposed hitters who had success at the lower levels. He hit just .200/.262/.317 in 65 plate appearances before he was sent back to extended spring training. He joined Ogden in June and didn’t do much better: .231/.308/.413 in 117 plate appearances. For a guy ranked in the Top 25 last year, his disappointing 2016 season dropped him down the list.
A switch-hitter, Paroubeck has fared better from the right side in his pro career. He didn’t really change his swing mechanics from ’15 to ’16, but the lowest level of full-season ball still ate him up. From the left side, he has a shoulder-width stance with a little bat wiggle and bent knees. He has a small leg kick and average bat speed. The swing path is has a little uppercut to it, as it does with a lot of left-handed hitters. From the right side, things are about the same, but he does have a little more pop from this side of the plate. Paroubeck isn’t a big-time power hitter, but he could be a 12-15 home run guy in the majors with a healthy amount of doubles. He also could be a prototypical No. 2 hitter, but after a poor season, his MLB prospects are in doubt.
Paroubeck profiles as a corner outfielder defensively. His arm is fringy in right field, so left field is probably where he ultimately ends up. He has average speed that helps him track down fly balls better than a more burly left fielder. His ceiling is a second-division starter if he can improve as he moves up the ladder, but that looks less likely now than a year ago. Instead, he might be more of a fourth- or fifth outfielder with solid left field defense. A trip to Rancho Cucamonga could be in order, but don’t be fooled by the numbers if he suddenly “remembers” how to hit again. He could also go back to Great Lakes for an early season refresher.
2016 rank: 23
2017 location: Low-A Great Lakes/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
44. OF Kyle Garlick (6’1, 210 pounds, 25 years old)
As a 28th-rounder in 2015, not much was expected out of Garlick. But, all he has done is hit since being signed for a thousand bucks (seriously). Between Rancho and Tulsa, he slashed .293/.348/.508 with 19 home runs and 42 doubles. That did come with a 26.2 percent strikeout rate and just a 6.2 percent walk rate, so he’s pretty aggressive at the plate. As an older prospect, the numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt, but the right-handed batter has almost a .900 OPS in his first two minor-league seasons.
Garlick sets up with a closed stance, with is front hip pointed toward the right side of second base. He has a quiet setup and a wide stance. He had a high leg kick in his first season, but it wasn’t nearly as high in his second. It helps him generate average power. His hips fire open and he has surprisingly good bat speed. And his power isn’t all to the pull side, which benefits him. He elevates the ball well and makes really solid contact consistently.
With the glove, Garlick has played both corner outfield spots, splitting his time almost evenly between left- and right field. He’s not super athletic, but he can handle either spot well and has enough arm to play right field in a pinch. He profiles better in left field because of his lack of pure arm strength. He’s a fringe-average runner who isn’t going to get any faster.
Garlick could carve out a niche as a fourth outfielder who hits lefties well, but that’s about his ceiling. His plate discipline will hold him back from being an every day player. With already 319 plate appearances in Double-A, he doesn’t have much reason to go back. And if he does, it’d be more of a numbers game than anything else. If he gets the bump to Triple-A, he could be OKC’s opening day left fielder.
2016 rank: 96
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
43. RHP Oscar Arzaga (6’4, 200 pounds, 18 years old)
An unheralded signing, Arzaga was, technically, an international signing despite attending East Lake High School in Chula Vista, Calif. He signed on Feb. 4 (bonus amount unknown), and no one really talked about it (we did, though). He pitched 36 innings in the AZL and fared decently for a 17-year-old. He had a 4.00 ERA (4.35 FIP), 16.1 K% and a .204 batting average against. He also didn’t give up a home run in those innings and had a 63 percent ground ball rate. On the down side, he had almost a 10 percent walk rate and didn’t have that separation you’d like to see with his strikeouts and walks.
A big kid, Arzaga has a really good pitcher’s frame and some projectabiity. His fastball is currently in the 88-92 MPH range and has touched 95. He can cut it, but the fact he can sink it is really encouraging. It has been described as a “heavy” fastball. His low-80s slider is average with a chance to be better as he develops. It has an 11-5 break that is sometimes inconsistent. His third pitch is a changeup that needs a lot of work. He doesn’t throw it much at all and when he does, he doesn’t command it all that great. If he wants to remain a starter, he’ll need to develop it or come up with a different third pitch.
He has a stride that goes toward right-handed hitters. It helps him hide the ball well. Without plus-plus stuff across the board, deception could help him on the mound (sound familiar, Jose De Leon?). He gets a little cross-bodied with his delivery, but he is in good position when his front foot hits the ground. He delivers his pitches from a three-quarters arm slot that helps him get good run on his heavy fastball. The delivery works and the added deception should help.
Arzaga has one of the highest ceilings of anyone in his batch of rankings. He could end up being a workhorse No. 2/3 starter, a mid-rotation guy or a fringy No. 4/5 guy. He could also end up in the bullpen — or out of baseball all together. But with his ability and stuff, he could be a guy who moves up the rankings this time next year and is more of a household name in 2-3 years time. The Dodgers could get aggressive and send him to Ogden, but a return to the AZL before that wouldn’t be at all surprising.
2016 rank: NR
2017 location: AZL Dodgers/Rookie Ogden
42. RHP Andrew Sopko (6’2, 205 pounds, 22 years old)
A 7th-round pick out of the baseball powerhouse known as Gonzaga, Sopko has been the pitching version of Kyle Garlick, but a few years younger. He pitched at three levels last season (mostly with Rancho) and had a solid 3.53 ERA, 23.3 K%, 6.2 BB% and gave up just nine home runs in 135 innings of work.
He has a classic 4-pitch mix: fastball, curveball, slider, changeup. He has a 4- and 2-seam fastball, the former being the better of the two. It’s a low-90s pitch that has topped out at 95 MPH. His 2-seamer more of a high-80s pitch that is fringy at best. His curveball is of the 12-6 variety and sits in the mid-70s. It’s more of a pitch that induces contact more than swinging strikes. His low-80s slider is the better of the two breakers at getting whiffs. It’s inconsistent, but when he snaps it off well, it has some good bite to it. His changeup is fringy at best, but even that’s a bit generous. He has good command of his top three pitches, which helps them play up a bit.
On the hill, Sopko has clean mechanics that should give him a better chance of sticking in the rotation. He has a solid frame, but it isn’t one that lends to much more projection; what you see is what you get. He has a delivery and release point similar to that of Isaac Anderson. It’s clean without any funk and he delivers his pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot that is borderline over-the-top.
If everything clicks, he could be a decent back-end starter with decent swing-and-miss stuff. If he can perform at Tulsa the way he did at Rancho, he could jump up the rankings next year. But, he did have a rough time in his 31 Double-A innings last season. He’ll go back there to begin the ’16 season with a late-season promotion to Triple-A likely.
2016 rank: 72
2017 location: Double-Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
41. LHP Caleb Ferguson (6’3, 215 pounds, 20 years old)
The Dodgers popped Ferguson in the 38th round of the 2014 draft. As a prep player and being selected that low, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he had gone to college, especially since he had Tommy John surgery during his senior season. But, the Dodgers got him out of his University of West Virginia commitment with a signing bonus not more than $100,000. His first pro action came in the Arizona Rookie League in 2015, when he posted an 8.59 ERA and walked 21 hitters (against 16 strikeouts) in 14 2/3 innings. For a kid who hadn’t thrown a pitch since May of the previous year, this outcome was somewhat expected. But he rebounded in 2016 to put his name on the prospect map. He pitched at three levels — AZL, Rookie Ogden and Great Lakes — and had a combined 2.31 ERA, a 24.2 strikeout percentage and just a 1.9 walk percentage (five walks in 260 batters faced). He displayed impeccable command and a ground ball rate of 59 percent that is awfully encouraging. But prospectors need to pump the brakes a bit, seeing as he worked just 66 1/3 innings in his first full season following TJ surgery.
Ferguson has a sinking fastball that sits in the 89-92 MPH range and touches 93. He gets a lot of run to the arm side and it generates a lot of ground balls. He loses velocity as the game progresses, though, which isn’t uncommon for a guy who doesn’t have anything close to a heavy workload in pro ball just yet. His best offspeed pitch is a high-70s curveball with a one-plane 1-7 break that he’s still trying to feel out. He also has a changeup that he uses infrequently, but it flashses average potential.
His delivery leaves a little to be desired. It’s an non-athletic delivery and he doesn’t incorporate his bottom-half (and it is substantial) in it, putting some stress on his back and arm. He’s upright when he delivers his pitches from a true three-quarters arm slot, which helps him get some run on his fastball/sinker. While he’s listed at 215 pounds, he’s probably a little heavier than that, which means conditioning could be an issue if he’s to remain a starter and go deeper into games. It’s hard to totally judge because this was his first extended look as a professional. Still, don’t expect him to add much (if any) velocity going forward.
If he can improve his conditioning and changeup, you can squint and see a No. 3 starter who won’t miss bats at a high rate but will get a lot of ground ball outs. At worst, he has the arm talent to be a solid middle reliever. A return trip to Great Lakes to begin the season wouldn’t be totally surprising, but he should see the hitter-friendly California League by midseason at the latest. His sinking fastball should play well there.
2016 rank: NR
2017 location: Low-A Great Lakes/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Next up: Prospects 40-31