Now, we’re getting into the good stuff. I bring you this year’s Top 30, with 10 prospects who all have a legitimate chance of seeing MLB action at some point in their careers.
Like the last two years, I’ve included Future Value, designated “FV,” grades and risks for the Top 30 prospects. For example, if a guy gets a “50 low,” he has a really good chance 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 higher 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
This is to show what value a player might provide at the MLB level. They may not all make it, but these are all quality prospects.
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. 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.
30. 2B/3B Jose Miguel Fernandez (5’10, 185 pounds, 29 years old)
The Dodgers gave Fernandez $200,000 last month to sign as an international free agent. The Cuban, who hasn’t played professionally since 2014, hit .319/.403/.423 in eight seasons (2,580 plate appearances) in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s highest professional league. He also had a ridiculous 2.33 BB/K ratio in the league, but as you can see with his slugging percentage, the power wasn’t ever really present.
Ben Badler, who said he’d have ranked Fernandez at No. 10 in the Dodgers’ Top 10 at Baseball America, had this glowing report on him from April 2015.
“Fernandez rarely offers at a pitch outside the strike zone, taking a patient approach and laying off pitches on the corners. When Fernandez does swing, he has a short, flat lefty stroke with good bat control. He sets up with his hands low but he’s able to catch up to good inside fastballs and keep his hands back to adjust to breaking balls. He has good hand-eye coordination and plate coverage, hitting well against lefties and righties. There is some funkiness to Fernandez’s swing, as his back foot often slides out from under him, only re-gaining his balance with his back foot on the other side of home plate. Fernandez hits a lot of line drives but he’s also a pull-oriented hitter who rolls over a lot of ground balls to the right side. His power is below-average, with a chance for 8-12 home runs per year over a full big league season.”
And I chimed in with what I saw on video.
“Fernandez seems to have a more open stance than in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He doesn’t appear to use his lower-half much, hence the lack of power. Perhaps the added mass to his lower-half could help increase his pop a bit. But even with that, Fernandez’s swing still doesn’t look good. It has worked for him in the past, but it might need to be smoothed out in the majors.”
Fernandez’s plate discipline and strike zone judgment are excellent. He could also be accused of being too passive at times. Pitchers don’t fear the pop, so they’re more inclined to throw pitches around the strike zone against him because he, likely, won’t make them pay with a dinger. He’s a line-drive hitter who sprays balls all over the yard, but the power being 40-grade (at best) limits his offensive game.
Defensively, he isn’t known as a smooth defender, which also hurts his bottom line. He doesn’t have the range or speed to play shortstop, but he has worked a bit at third base and that can play in his favor. He’s a below-average runner who is a bit better underway, but he won’t steal many bases at any level of competition. If his hit tool and plate discipline play up and he can add a little pop, you might have a first-division second baseman. Likely, we’re looking at a utility infielder who has great bat control and the ability to hit a lot of singles, but he doesn’t have much else that stands out. Starting Fernandez at Double-A Tulsa seems like a good test for a guy who hasn’t played since 2014. There might even be a case for starting him at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, but he’s too good for the inexperienced pitchers of the California League. He should see Triple-A Oklahoma City at some point, with a very slim chance of making it all the way to Los Angeles in 2017.
2016 rank: NR
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
29. OF Mitch Hansen (6’4, 210 pounds, 21 years old)
Hansen was the Dodgers’ 2nd-round pick in the 2015 draft. They gave him almost $1 million to forego his commitment to Stanford University, saving him from the “Stanford Swing.” He struggled in his pro debut in the Arizona League before moving up to Ogden in 2016. He performed much better there: .311/.356/.491 with a 6.7 BB% and a 21.5 K% (down from 30.5 the year before). Despite that, he didn’t move up from last year’s ranking of 28.
The word “inconsistent” comes up a lot when describing Hansen. He’s toolsy and athletic, but those things don’t always transfer to game action. He’s projectable, but not as much as last season. He has gained 15 pounds since turning pro, furthering those Shawn Green physical comparisons. He has a wide base for his stance at more than shoulder-width apart. His hands settle at about shoulder-level with some wiggle pre-pitch. His elbow is pointed straight back toward the umpire. He has a quick load before striding toward the pitcher. Hansen will show a level swing with average bat speed, but sometimes he gets fooled and the mechanics break down. When he’s right, you can see the potential that made him a 2nd-rounder. All the ability is there, but putting it all together consistently will be Hansen’s biggest challenge. There are some who believe he won’t hit well enough at the higher levels to be much more than a fourth- or fifth outfielder.
He’s an average runner who won’t be much of a stolen base threat, but he’s much better underway. In the field, while some can dream on him playing center field, he’s better suited for a corner. His arm is good enough for right field, where he appears to be more comfortable. If he uses his athleticism and continues to mature as a hitter, he could be a first-division corner outfielder in the mold of a Green (with far less power) or a Paul O’Neill (the comp I threw on him last year). There’s a much greater chance he’s a second-division starter or the left-handed portion of a platoon. He’ll head to Great Lakes for his first big test as a pro. If he handles it well, he might establish himself in the top-half of the Top 30 come next year.
2016 ranking: 28
2017 location: Low-A Great Lakes
28. SS Ronny Brito (6’0, 165 pounds, 18 years old)
Brito was part of the Dodgers’ insane international spending spree in 2015-16. They gave the Dominican a $2 million signing bonus in July 2015. He made his professional debut as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League. His slash line wasn’t great — .228/.352/.345 — but he showed some of the on-base ability that should be a staple of his offensive game. He probably won’t carry a 14 percent walk rate going forward, but he does have a solid eye at the plate. His ability to switch-hit is a benefit, but he’s more advanced from the right side at present.
For a smaller guy, Brito has a “Big Man” stance. From the right side, it’s slightly open with his base about shoulder-width apart. He holds his hands at chest level and has a timing mechanism that has his left foot lifting slightly off the ground before he gets into hitting position. Then, Brito uses a big leg kick and gets the foot back down almost before moving any part of his upper body (save his hands, which rise to about shoulder level). His front hip stays closed and he brings the bat through the zone. He has a slight uppercut swing, which isn’t the norm for a right-handed hitter. Former FanGraphs prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel said Brito has Manny Ramirez-like hitting mechanics. One can also see some Hanley Ramirez mechanics in the swing. But don’t expect similar results to follow, as Brito doesn’t project to hit for much power, but he does have a little pop. His swing path will need to be tinkered with to make it more level and get him to be more fluid. There is potential for him to hit well enough (especially with his plate discipline/strike zone judgment) for him to profile as an everyday middle infielder. Brito will fill out a little bit, which could help him get to some of the untapped pop. If he doesn’t, he could be a player who shoots line drives all over the field.
On the defensive side, Brito profiles as a plus-defender thanks to natural actions and instincts. His arm is plenty strong for shortstop and his hands work well at the position. If he doesn’t hit enough to be a full-time starter, he might be able to make it to the majors with a below-average bat and a plus-glove. He has played a little second base so far, but his value is in being able to stick at shortstop. He should develop into an above-average runner who could steal double-digit bases in a season. The speed will play up on base and help his range in the infield. A trip to the AZL is in order for one of the youngest prospects in my Top 100. He’s a long way off, but he’s a prospect to track going forward.
2016 rank: 39
2017 location: AZL Dodgers
27. C Keibert Ruiz (6’0, 165 pounds, 18 years old)
Signed out of Venezuela for $140,000 in 2015, Ruiz has made a name for himself in his first two seasons as a pro. In his age-16 season in 2015, he hit .300/.340/.387 in the Dominican Summer League. He jumped to the AZL for eight games (.485/.513/.667) in 2016 before he ultimately ended up in Ogden as a 17-year-old. Overall in 2016, he hit .374/.412/.527 in 245 Rookie-league plate appearances. The switch-hitter has been better against right-handed pitching than lefties in his career, but he has shown (so far) he can hit from both sides of the plate.
From the left side, Ruiz has a crouched stance that is open with his hands held at ear-level but a little away from his body. He closes the stance with a big leg-kick. He drops his hands down to about chest level as he loads and steps toward the pitcher. He has a level swing path that produces a lot of line drives. The teenager doesn’t have much power at present and, honestly, doesn’t project to be much more than an 8-10 home run/season hitter at the big league level. He can punish mistake pitches, but he won’t be known for his power. He has at least average bat speed and could develop a touch more pop as he continues to physically mature, but his offensive profile is a bit reminiscent of Austin Barnes. While he doesn’t draw as many walks, he also doesn’t strike out as much because of his up-the-middle hitting philosophy.
Ruiz gets good marks for his work behind the plate. He works well with the pitching staff, and has good hands and instincts. His arm isn’t as strong as other catching prospects in the system, but he has good footwork and should be able to improve his pop times going forward. He’s a fringe-average runner, which isn’t bad for a catcher. He won’t steal many bases, but he also isn’t a base-clogger. It’s always tricky ranking low-level prospects who post good statlines too high (hello, Julian Leon), but Ruiz has the look of a second-division starter who has good bat control, a good eye at the plate and is solid defensively. He might, one day, be Yasmani Grandal or Barnes’ backup. Until then, he’ll go to Great Lakes to see if his bat is actually somewhat legitimate.
2016 rank: 71
2017 location: Low-A Great Lakes
26. 1B/3B Edwin Rios (6’3, 220 pounds, 23 years old)
Rios was the Dodgers’ 6th-round pick in the 2015 draft. He was one of the last Dodger draftees to sign and got a $225,000 bonus. He only played 22 games in his first season, but that number jumped to 108 in 2016. He had a strong slash line: .301/.341/.567 across three levels. He hit 27 home runs, 26 doubles and captured the Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year honor. With big power normally comes a high strikeout rate, and Rios’ 24.3 percent rate wasn’t great, but also not the end of the world. What’s more concerning is his low 5.3 percent walk rate and the fact he did most of his damage in the hitter-friendly California League (.367/.394/.712, 188 plate appearances). He handled left-handed pitching well (.819 OPS), but it’s also a small 1-year sample size.
His raw power is undeniable and among the best in the system. Rios has been able to transfer it to game action, but his plate discipline is lacking and he gets a little too pull-happy at times. Rios sets up with a wide base and a clearly open stance. He uses a toe-tap timing mechanism to bring his foot back toward the plate before striding toward the pitcher. His hands are up by his left ear and he has a slight bat wiggle before loading. His load is big, but not as big as his swing — as in, it’s long. Really long. There’s a natural uppercut to it, which also creates loft. With his pure strength, that bodes well for his power potential, but he may never be a complete hitter with a swing that long and without plus-bat speed. He’s aggressive at the plate, which leads to a lack of pure on-base ability. But when he connects, he generates hard-hit balls and they usually go really far when he hits them in the air.
While I listed him a 3B/1B on defense, he’s basically a first base-only profile. He’ll continue to play third base as long as he can and/or is blocked by other first basemen, but if he’s anything more than a second- or third option at third base in the majors, it’ll be shocking. He has plenty of arm for the position (or a corner outfield spot), but his footwork and natural actions are lacking. At first base, his arm strength would be virtually neutralized. He could be at least a fringy defender at first base. As a runner, he’s a true 25-runner. He lumbers around the diamond and speed will never be a part of his game. Make no mistake: He’s going to make his money with his bat and reminds me of a Pedro Alvarez-type of player. He should go back to Tulsa for a refresher because he had just 135 plate appearances there last season. As long as he isn’t exposed, he should see OKC at some point in 2017.
2016 rank: 62
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
25. RHP Yaisel Sierra (6’1, 170 pounds, 26 years old)
Sierra is the Dodgers’ $30 million man out of Cuba. They locked him up for six years and the early returns are — mixed. With that kind of money, one would expect Sierra to be a starter. He started 13 of 30 games in 2016, and the results weren’t great. As a starter, he got hit hard. He had a 7.05 ERA, .305 batting average against, 1.35 HR/9, 7.9 BB% and a 19.8 K% in 60 innings pitched. There were some encouraging numbers if you dig a little deeper. He had a 10 percent swinging strike rate and a 46 percent ground ball rate. Those aren’t great, but they at least provided some hope. Out of the bullpen, his numbers were much better: 3.45 ERA, .236 BAA, 0 HR allowed, 6.7 BB% and a 25.8 K%. He also had a 13 SwStr% and 55 GB%.
As a starting pitcher, Sierra didn’t quite have the velocity that was reported before he signed. He sat in the low-90s and got to 95 at times as a starter. When he moved to the bullpen, he was consistently at 94-96 MPH and touched 98 when I saw him in August. He has two versions of his fastball. The higher velocity is a straight 4-seamer, but he can also change the grip and take a couple MPH off to make it a 2-seamer. He gets boring arm-side run that produces grounders and swinging strikes. He doesn’t command it especially well, but there’s enough potential in it that it could become a plus-or-better pitch. Sierra also has a slider that has flashed above-average potential, but it’s more inconsistent than the command on his fastball. He doesn’t throw it for strikes, so hitters can sometimes lay off of it. As he progresses, he’ll need to learn on how steal strikes with it to keep them honest. His changeup is, well, not really a thing. He has one, kinda in the way Clayton Kershaw has one (but not as “good”). Unless he makes it even a fringe-average pitch, he’ll likely be a 2/2.5-pitch reliever, which might ultimately be best.
Sierra ditched the windup late in the season and is now pitching exclusively from the stretch. Even if he gets another chance to start, he’ll likely throw from the stretch. He sets up on the first base side of the rubber with his hands at belt-level. His delivery starts quickly and he brings his leg up to his belt. He also has a little turn of the hips before he uncoils and delivers the pitch. He swings his leg forward and uses his arm speed to generate the plus-velocity and make up for any arm drag. He drives off his back foot and the ball zips out of his hand. He delivers his pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot that also helps him get movement on his 2-seamer. The arm slot is inconsistent, but his delivery on the whole should be repeatable. He runs into issues when he rushes things and his front shoulder flies open.
With just 14 2/3 innings at Tulsa, he could go back there to begin the season (especially if the Dodgers try him in the rotation again). He’ll get to OKC at some point, and it’ll likely as a reliever because that’s where his future lies. He could be a late-inning power reliever, but a lot of that will depend on his command/control. If he can miss enough bats and know where his pitches are going, there’s closer potential in him. While his move to the ‘pen produced encouraging results, it’s a bit early to go all-in on him. But he looks a lot better now than he did in July. I don’t think he sees LA this season, but stranger things have happened.
2016 rank: 14
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
24. OF Starling Heredia (6’2, 200 pounds, 18 years old)
Signed on the same day as Yadier Alvarez and Brito in July 2015, Heredia got a $2.6 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic. He had his first taste of pro ball in 2016, playing for both DSL Dodgers teams. He compiled a .258/.338/.408 triple slash with a .150 ISO, 10 stolen bases, an 8.9 BB% and an 18.9 K%. Not bad for his first 269 plate appearances. It is the lowest level of pro ball, but Heredia was still a little more than a year younger than the rest of the league.
Heredia has offensive tools and potential scouts drool over. Despite being just 18, he’s already physically mature and could be plenty successful at the MLB level with his current frame. He also has the ability to add some weight going forward, which could help him tap into his borderline plus-raw power from the right side. That’s his best offensive feature, and it should translate to game action as he goes forward. There are questions whether he’s going to have enough bat-to-ball skills and/or on-base ability to be more than a one-trick pony at the plate. His base is shoulder-width apart and he holds his hands at shoulder-level and a little away from his body. The bat almost rests on his shoulder before he raises it up slightly. He has an big leg-kick and an even stride toward the mound. Sometimes, he is more extreme with both, which won’t play as he progresses through the minors. Overall, it’s a timing mechanism that will need to be spot-on every time for him to be successful. Expect it to be toned down a bit, especially after he makes it stateside. He has a big load and sometimes incorporates a toe-tap. Heredia has a long swing, but it does come with above-average bat speed thanks to pure strength. But the inconsistency and lack of body control at times is troubling. That should be cleaned up in the next couple seasons.
On defense, he’s a profile right fielder. He has good of range for either corner spot and he has plus-arm strength — plenty for right field. He’s similar to Yasiel Puig in that regard (and both have similar body types, at least for now), but Heredia’s arm isn’t as strong. He has speed right now, but there is concern that if he adds more weight, he’ll lose some of that. That would keep him from ever roaming center field on a consistent level even in the high minors, let alone the majors. But he does have average speed right now and if he can maintain it as he matures, then it could be more of an impact tool in the years ahead. He should begin the 2017 in extended Spring Training before the AZL starts. There’s no need to rush him, and a full season in front of many Dodger coaches in Arizona could be best for his development.
2016 rank: 22
2017 location: AZL Dodgers
23. RHP Jacob Rhame (6’1, 215 pounds, 24 years old)
The Dodgers popped Rhame in the 6th round of the 2013 draft out of Grayson County College in Texas and gave him an above-slot $300,000 bonus. He has been strictly a reliever since turning pro, and the results have been solid. In 2016, he had a 3.29 ERA, 3.87 FIP, a .231 BAA, a 10.6 BB% and a 26.5 K%. Despite it being his fourth pro season, some of those numbers backed up a bit from previous seasons. But, he also had a 12 percent swinging strike rate, which will play out of the bullpen.
Rhame is armed with one of the better pure fastballs in the system. It sits in the mid-90s and routinely touches the high-90s. It doesn’t have much action on it and allows a lot of fly balls on it. His best offpseed pitch is a slider. Unfortunately, it’s fringe-average at best right now. There have been glimpses of it being an average pitch, but those are few and far between. When he snaps it off right, it has a tight break He also has toyed with a changeup and splitter, but neither of them will be reliable before his slider at the MLB level. Basically, he’s Pedro Baez without any looks at a viable offspeed pitch. Being a shorter pitcher, he doesn’t get much plane on his pitches. He’s also physically maxed out, so what you see is what you get.
He has good mechanics and is able to get some deception out his delivery. That helps his pitches play up slightly. It’s a simple delivery that should be easily repeatable, but he has a hard time repeating, leading to some command/control concerns. He has a high three-quarters release point. He should still be a solid middle reliever at the next level, but he won’t be a big difference maker unless he improves his secondary offerings. He was added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft and should see time int he majors this season. Until then, he’ll close out games for OKC.
2016 rank: 26
2017 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
22. SS/3B Brendon Davis (6’4, 165 pounds, 19 years old)
The Dodgers went over-slot to keep Davis from honoring his CSU Fullerton commitment. They have him almost $1 million ($600,000-plus over-slot) as a 5th-rounder in 2015 to turn pro out of high school. In somewhat of a surprising decision, the Dodgers sent him to Great Lakes for the entire season. His numbers weren’t overly impressive (.241/.295/.334), but considering he was 3 1/2 years younger than league-average, his performance was admirable. Of note, he got two plate appearances in the Cactus League last year and doubled in both of them.
Davis stands bent at the knees with his hands at shoulder-level and away from his body. He has a leg kick and turns his hips in a bit as the pitch is almost on its way. He gets his front foot down and brings his quick hands through the hitting zone. His bat speed is above-average and he’s able to cover a lot of the strike zone with his swing. His pitch recognition needs work, but that should come with more experience. He’s wafer thin right now, so it’s easy to see him adding some good weight. If he does, the bat could end up being a carrying tool for him. He makes loud contact, and he isn’t yet physically mature. The projection left in his body/bat is perhaps the most of any non-pitcher in the system.
Despite starting more than 80 percent of his games at shortstop last season, he might not have the defensive chops to stick at the position. He has soft hands and some natural ability, but he’s projected to add weight and that might limit his range enough to have him move off the position. The same things were said about Corey Seager, yet here we are (and no, I’m not saying Davis is the next Seager). He has an above-average arm that could be plus. It’d play at either shortstop or third base. If he has to move to the hot corner, he should be able to handle it and the range/agility questions would be minimized. There’s also a chance he could move to the outfield, but if it isn’t center field, he’d really have to hit to be in a corner. His legs are extremely long and he’s a much better runner underway, but he won’t be much of a stolen base threat.
Davis could end up being a first-division left-side infielder if he reaches his ceiling. If not, he should be a solid MLB contributor — be it as a second-division starter or as a utility player. He should go to Rancho for his first taste of the Cal League. Be wary if he breaks out offensively, but he also has some of the rawest tools in the system.
2016 rank: 30
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
21. RHP Dustin May (6’6, 180 pounds, 19 years old)
May was the Dodgers’ 3rd-round selection it the 2016 draft out of Northwest High School in Texas. They gave him a million bucks to forego his commitment to Texas A&M. He pitched 30 1/3 innings in his debut and fared quite well: 3.86 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 0 HR allowed, a 3.0 BB% and 25.2 K%. That’s really good for an 18-year-old making his pro debut. Oh, and he already has a cool nickname: Red Viper. If you see a photo of him, you’ll know.
May has a 90-93 MPH fastball that should tick up as he progresses and matures physically. He gets a little movement on it, but it has all the makings of an above-average or even plus pitch. He has a high-70s-to-low-80s slider that has flashed above-average potential. It has a 11-5/10-4 shape to it that is hard for right-handers to pick up. It has slurvy tendencies that will need to be refined as he moves through the system. His third pitch is a below-average changeup — something not uncommon for high school draftees. His plus-command helps all his pitches play up, as he can locate them where he wants (at least, for now). Before getting too excited, keep in mind most of the hitters he faced aren’t anywhere near advanced, so he’ll have to work to keep them off his pitches.
His delivery is reminiscent of former Dodger (and many other teams) Jeff Weaver. At least, that’s what I see. His low-three-quarters arm slot helps him get some run on his fastball and some good spin on his slider. He has a little cross-body/sling action in his mechanics, but he is able to control his pitches quite well. The delivery works for him and he’s able to repeat it very well. May has a standard leg kick and good arm speed on his offerings. If he learns to incorporate his lower-half just a little, his velocity could take a jump forward. He already has the spin the Dodgers’ brass looks for in pitchers and prospects.
May could be ticketed for Ogden this season. The Dodgers have been known to be a little aggressive, so there’s an outside chance he could see Great Lakes before season’s end. If he can tap into the immense physical projection he possesses, you could see a mid-rotation starter with a couple quality swing-and-miss pitches.
2016 rank: NR
2017 location: Rookie Ogden
Next up: Prospects 20-11