In the penultimate post ranking the prospects, I bring you Top 20 prospects in the organization. All these names should be recognizable and, barring anything crazy, should see time in the majors at some point. This is where the Dodgers’ system depth is praised, as some of these guys have a chance to vault into the Top 10 with strong 2017 seasons.
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.
20. OF Ariel Sandoval (6’2, 180 pounds, 21 years old)
The Dodgers signed Sandoval out of the Dominican Republic in January 2013 for $150,000. He struggled in his first two seasons as a 17- and 18-year-old before breaking out a bit in 2015. He began the season with Great Lakes and showed off a lot of his potential. In the tough, pitcher-friendly league, Sandoval .244/.289/.449 with 11 home runs and 20 doubles. The first two numbers in the triple slash aren’t terribly impressive, but he showed really good power potential in that league. He was promoted to Rancho Cucamonga and actually struggled a bit: .229/.283/.346. On the whole, his walk rate was just 5 percent while his strikeout rate was 26.3 percent. But this ranking is more about the raw, athletic ability rather than the numbers.
Sandoval holds the bat high with a wide base pre-pitch. He wiggles the bat before cocking it back in his load. He employs a high leg kick to help him generate some power. He has quick hips and some plus-bat speed. Sometimes, his bat drags a bit when he isn’t synced up. He has tools at the plate scouts dream on, but he has yet to put it all together over the course of a season. He has a hyper-aggressive approach at the plate and probably won’t exhibit much patience. When he connects, he makes loud contact with at least average power potential.
While he’s athletic enough for center field, Sandoval played mostly right field in 2016 and has plenty of arm for the position. His value would be higher if he were able to hang in center, but he should be an above-average-to-plus defender in either corner with the arm to match. On the bases, he’s a decent baserunner with average speed. He won’t be a base-stealer, but he should excel at going first-to-third, second-to-home, etc. His first taste of the California League left a bit to be desired. With a couple players who joined him in the Rancho outfield last season (one at No. 16 here, one in the Top 10), he could remain back for some seasoning. He’ll see Tulsa at some point, though.
2016 rank: 40
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
19. OF D.J. Peters (6’6, 225 pounds, 21 years old)
It isn’t often a 4th-round pick from the previous year’s draft is ranked this highly, but Peters bucks expectations. Like Willie Calhoun the year before, Peters was a junior college draftee, and so far, his $247,500 signing bonus looks well worth it. He had a ridiculous .351/.437/.615 triple slash with 13 home runs and 24 doubles in 302 Pioneer League plate appearances. He also had an impressive 11.6 BB% and a not-terrible 21.8 K%. It was a loud debut for the hulking outfielder that couldn’t be ignored.
Peters has a straight up-and-down stance that slightly bends at the knees. He holds the bat at a slanted angle in the air at cheek-level and away from his head. It’s a pretty quiet setup. He has a little leg kick that steps more toward the second baseman than anything else. His base is about shoulder width apart and he displays good body control. He gets a little over-anxious at times and will chase pitches outside the zone, but he also has good plate discipline and pitch recognition. He has a slight hitch in his swing that he makes up for with above-average bat speed. He fires his hips open and brings the bat through the zone relatively level and make loud contact. Peters has impressive power to all fields.
One would think being 6’6 and 225 pounds that it’d limit his athleticism. In fact, he’s one of the better athletes in the system. He split time between center- and right field in his debut. While he should be able to handle center field in the minors, he’ll ultimately end up in a corner. He should be a plus-defender in a corner and his arm is good enough for right. Peters could be a first-division starter if he reaches his ceiling. At worst, he looks like the right side of a platoon, which is still a valuable player. He’ll go to Great Lakes where we’ll see how he handles the tough hitting environment.
2016 ranking: NR
2017 location: Low-A Great Lakes
18. RHP Imani Abdullah (6’4, 205 pounds, 20 years old)
A $647,500 signing bonus and a call from Magic Johnson got Abdullah, an 11th-rounder in the 2015 draft, to forego his commitment to San Diego State University. He only threw 13 innings in his first season (all for the Arizona Rookie League Dodgers), so it was a little surprising to see him make all his appearances in full-season ball with the Loons. He didn’t ever throw more than five innings or 80 pitches in a start (by design), but he still managed to post some impressive numbers: 3.61 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 20.1 K%, 4.1 BB% and an 11 percent swinging strike rate. He was bitten by the home run ball a bit: 10 home runs allowed in 72 innings, including two by Eloy Jimenez in Abdullah’s full-season debut. Still, as a 19-year-old (almost three years younger than league-average), he more than held his own.
Abdullah had a fastball that was more of an 88-90 MPH offering when he was drafted. As expected — especially with a projectable frame — his velocity has spiked a little. He’s now touching the low-90s on the regular and, at present, tops out at 94 MPH. It doesn’t have much movement, but he he has good feel for it and can locate it extremely well. He might be able to add more consistent velo because he’s projectable, but being able to sustain his velo later into outings will be key for him going forward. He has a mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup to go along with his fastball. His curveball has an inconsistent break — sometimes it’s 12-6, sometimes it’s 11-5 — and it isn’t refined right now, but he has the ability to put a lot of spin on it. It could be an above-average pitch at its best. His changeup shows flashes of being an above-average offering and plays well off his fastball. His stuff could play up because of his potential plus-command.
His delivery is deliberate. He begins with his feet close together on the first base side of the mound and his glove at stomach-level. When he starts his delivery, it almost looks like he’s moving in slow motion. It takes a little time for him to turn on the rubber and he kicks his leg high and brings it forward. He has good arm speed to minimize any arm drag. It’ll also help in giving his changeup some deception off his fastball (provided he throws it with the same arm speed every time). His release point is a little less over-the-top than it was last year. It’s in between over-the-top and high-three quarters. Abdullah doesn’t yet incorporate the lower-half of his body fully, but he has shown glimpses of putting it all together.
Abdullah has the upside of a mid-rotation starter. He won’t be a big strikeout pitcher, but he could be an innings-eater, especially once he physically matures. After faring well in the Midwest League, a trip to the California League is in order. With fly ball tendencies, expect him to give up a few homers, but his development and actually pitching is more important than how many dingers he allows.
2016 rank: 38
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
17. RHP Chase De Jong (6’4, 205 pounds, 23 years old)
A 2nd-rounder by the Blue Jays out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, the Dodgers acquired him in July 2015 (along with Tim Locastro) for international slot money. Since joining the Dodgers’ organization, De Jong has done nothing but perform. In 2016, he had a 2.82 ERA, 22.6 K%, 6.8 BB% and allowed just 6.9 hits per nine innings (.210 batting average against). He earned a late-season promotion to Triple-A that consisted of one 5-inning outing in which he struck out eight hitters.
De Jong isn’t overpowering by any means. He has a classic repertoire — fastball, curveball, slider, changeup — none of which grade out as better than average. His fastball is a pretty standard 88-90 MPH pitch that can get up to 91-92 on occasion. It doesn’t have a ton of movement, as evidenced by his 36 percent ground ball rate overall. His low-80s slider is his best offspeed pitch. Sometimes it has cutter tendencies, but it’s his best swing-and-miss offering with its 10-4 shape. His mid-70s curveball doesn’t have a great plane to be effective at the next level. He’ll be able to steal a strike every once in awhile with it, but it’s more of a pitch that will get minor-league hitters to chase rather than major leaguers. His changeup is similar in that regard, and both pitches are fringy, with his curveball just slightly better.
His delivery is clean, repeatable and helps to make up for his lack of pure stuff. He also hides the ball relatively well, helping his stuff play up slightly. He brings his arms behind his head before turning on the mound. He slows down in the middle slightly as he removes the ball from his glove. His arm lags behind a little bit as he delivers from an over-the-top arm slot. De Jong gets a little cross-body at time, but he’s still able to repeat his release point, and that gives him above-average command.
Unlike Abdullah, De Jong is a true pitchability guy. The difference is, his risk is lower and his floor is higher. He’s similar to former Dodger prospect Zach Lee in that regard. De Jong is a back-of-the-rotation starter or swingman/long relief at the MLB level. He was added to the 40-man roster, so there’s a decent chance he sees Los Angeles at some point. He’ll begin the season in Oklahoma City.
2016 rank: 19
2017 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
16. OF Johan Mieses (6’2, 185 pounds, 21 years old)
A nice find out of the Dominican by the international scouting staff, Mieses signed for $40,000. He was stuck in the Dominican Summer League for his first two pro seasons, and he proved he was too good for that level of competition. He went all the way to Great Lakes in 2015 and actually played more with Rancho. In 2016, he spent the entire campaign with the Quakes. He hit .247/.314/.510 with 28 home runs (led Dodger minor-leaguers) and 31 doubles. He went on a tear in July and August, slashing .281/.344/.607 with 16 home runs in 220 plate appearances.
Mieses isn’t that different than Sandoval in terms of approach and physical projection. He sets up with a slightly open stance and his hands up near his ear. There’s a lot of bat waggle before the pitcher goes into his delivery. He has a toe-tap for timing but not much of a leg kick. He has strong hands and forearms, which is where he generates most of his bat speed and power. He isn’t always balanced when he swings and he’s easily fooled by offspeed stuff. But, when he connects, the ball goes a long way. His bat speed is among the best in the system, but his lack of body control leads to some wild swings at times. His plate discipline is almost non-existent, and his approach is definitely hyper-aggressive (see ball, swing at ball, sometimes hit ball). But he’s oozing with potential because of his raw, athletic ability and strength.
Defensively, he has one of the best throwing arms in the system. It’s plus, even for right field. He has played all three outfield spots and could probably handle center field in a pinch, but a corner is more likely for him. He’s fast, but not stolen base-fast. He’s better running once he’s underway. He could be a second-division starter or a fourth outfielder-type. A lot will depend if he tones down his approach a bit without sacrificing his power — both of which seem unlikely. After 728 plate appearances in Rancho, he’ll move to Tulsa and probably be the starter in right field.
2016 rank: 35
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa
15. RHP Trevor Oaks (6’3, 220 pounds, 24 years old)
Oaks was a 7th-round pick in the 2014 draft and signed for $5,000 less than slot ($161,600). A Tommy John recipient in high school, the Dodgers got him out of Cal Baptist. He took the Brock Stewart path through the minors, pitching at three separate levels (but didn’t make it to the majors). Oaks pitched to a 2.74 ERA in 151 innings. He also had a 60 percent ground ball rate, a 17.9 K%, 3.5 BB% and a 10 percent swinging strike rate.
In 2015, Oaks’ sinker was solid, as it sat in the 88-90 MPH range. After an offseason of training, he made some minor mechanical tweaks and found some velocity. Now, his sinker sits in the 90-93 MPH range and even gets to 94 rarely. It’s a harder sinker than it used to be and he’s able to still get plenty of grounders. It features heavy arm-side run that bores in on righties and runs away on lefties. He also gets a few more swinging strikes with it thanks to the increased velo. He also has a curveball, slider, changeup and he just added a splitter to his arsenal. The splitter is the most intriguing, as he added it in hopes of missing more bats. It remains to be seen how it plays against Triple-A hitters. His curveball is his best secondary pitch. It’s an 11-5 offering that has flashed average potential. His slider is a fringe-average pitch and his changeup is probably first on the chopping block if he needs to ditch one of his pitches.
Oaks stands with his feet close together and his body point slightly toward the right-handed batter’s box. His delivery is pretty standard with a quick turn and high leg kick. His front leg is stiff as he swings it forward before driving off the rubber and delivering from a three-quarters arm slot. He’s able to repeat his simple delivery, which helps him command/control his pitches among the best in the Dodgers’ system. Not often do you see a sinkerballer able to command a pitch with so much movement so well.
He’s not yet on the 40-man roster, but if 2017 is anything like 2016 for the Dodgers’ rotation, Oaks’ MLB debut won’t have to wait another season. He could be a back-of-the-rotation starter with an outside chance of being a mid-rotation guy. If his splitter comes along, he might be able to get there. If not, he could carve out a niche as a power ground ball reliever or even a multiple-inning reliever. He’ll go back to Oklahoma City with a chance of seeing the active roster this season.
2016 rank: 34
2017 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
14. RHP Mitchell White (6’4, 207 pounds, 22 years old)
A somewhat surprising 2nd-rounder in 2016 out of Santa Clara University, White signed for almost a million bucks and made quite the impression on the organization. He only threw 22 innings (across three levels), but he gave up just seven hits, one run (unearned), walked six and struck out 30 hitters.
White has a low-90s fastball that touches 94 MPH. It features some movement and is a bit heavy. If he can maintain that kind of velocity as a starter, it’ll be an above-average (or better) pitch. He also has a couple secondaries that are encouraging. His curveball has flashed above-average potential. It features 12-6 break and sits in the high-70s. His cutter is what has a lot of folks excited. It’s a high-80s pitch that features nasty movement in on lefties and away from righties. He’s going to break a lot of bats with the pitch, when he isn’t missing them with it. All three pitches could be weapons for him going forward.
He stands on the extreme first base side of the rubber to help him get better movement on his fastball. He holds his hands at chest level before beginning his delivery. He’s quick to turn on the rubber and bring his leg up. He gets the front foot down and his arm is in good position. He drives off the rubber and gets good plane on his pitches. The delivery isn’t high-effort, but it isn’t effortless, either. It’s repeatable and should bode well for his command. It remains to be seen if he can keep it up with a starter’s workload, but the early returns are promising.
White has middle-of-the-rotation upside, perhaps even a No. 2 starter if absolutely everything goes his way. His floor appears to be that of a hard-throwing reliever with at least one plus secondary pitch. He should go back to Rancho for some extended work as a starting pitcher. The Dodgers might limit his innings a bit because he did have Tommy John surgery in college and there’s no need to rush him. But if they wanted to fast track him, they could do so as a reliever. They shouldn’t need to, but if they did, he could debut sometime next season. If he develops as a starter, I’d add at least a year to that timeline. He should see some time in Tulsa as well this season.
2016 rank: NR
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
13. C Will Smith (6’0, 192 pounds, 22 years old)
Smith was the Dodgers’ supplemental 1st-round pick in the 2016 draft. He was selected with the pick the Dodgers received as compensation for Zack Greinke signing with the Diamondbacks. He signed for $1.775 million and went straight to Ogden … for all of seven games. He quickly moved to Great Lakes for 97 plate appearances before going to Rancho to close out the season with 115 plate appearances. Across all three levels, he hit .246/.355/.329 with an 11.8 percent walk rate and a 20.4 percent strikeout rate.
If I wrote exactly what I wrote for Austin Barnes, I wouldn’t be that far off for what kind of palyer Smith is. While he doesn’t have a lot of power — nor does he project to hit for much — Smith can still be a solid offensive contributor at the plate. He begins with a wide base and his weight on his front leg. He has a quick leg kick and not a lot of extra movement. He has a small load and big stride toward the pitcher. He’s able to generate decent bat speed despite not being the most talented hitter. But his swing is compact and geared toward spraying line drives all over the field. Where he excels is with his eye. He has really good plate discipline. He’ll get fooled and chase pitches at time, but he definitely has above-average on-base ability.
Behind the plate Smith profiles as a plus-defender. He’s already a solid framer and projects to get better. He works well with a pitching staff, is a strong receiver and blocks balls in the dirt quite well. He’s one of the most athletic catchers not just in the system, but in all of the minors. He has a solid-average arm that plays up because of quick pop times. As a runner, he’s at least average — and not just for a catcher. That athleticism makes some wonder if Smith should move to second base, but he’s so adept at catching that he’d be taking a step back defensively. He could dabble there a la Barnes, but he’s going to make his money at the next level with his work behind the plate.
Smith will be — at worst — a strong backup catcher in the majors. To be an average catcher, one doesn’t have to hit like Mike Piazza. With his defensive prowess, a starting gig isn’t unrealistic. He should go back to Rancho to start the season. He’ll have a chance to work with some of the better pitching prospects in the system, so getting him (and them) that experience could be invaluable. He should get to Tulsa at some point this season. With Yasmani Grandal and Barnes ahead of him on the depth chart, there’s no need to rush Smith. He could debut in the majors as early as 2018, but 2019 is more realistic.
2016 rank: NR
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
12. RHP Josh Sborz (6’3, 225 pounds, 23 years old)
Sborz was selected in the compensatory third round (Competitive Balance Round B) of the 2015 draft. The Dodgers got the pick (and Ryan Webb) from the Orioles for Ben Rowen and Chris O’Brien. The Dodgers gave Sborz a $722,500 bonus to sign out of the University of Virginia in the year he won the Most Outstanding Player in the College World Series. Seen as a reliever by most when he was popped, he has started almost half of his games as a pro thus far. In 2016, he pitched at Rancho and Tulsa and posted a 2.81 ERA, .214 BAA, 24.7 K%, 7.1 BB%, 43 GB% and a 12 percent whiff rate. He was actually better as a starter, but all his relief appearances came against advanced competition in Double-A.
He’s armed with a low-90s fastball that he can move a bit. It plays up in relief, but he has plenty of velo for the rotation. His money pitch is a low-to-mid-80s slider. He gets good depth and tilt on it, allowing it to be a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch. He also has a curveball and changeup that are fringe-average right now. If he’s able to develop one of them a bit further, he could be a lock for the rotation. If he can’t, it might ultimately land him in the bullpen. But make no mistake: his first two pitches are legit offerings.
Sborz has a little deception in his delivery that helps his pitches play up a little. He works from a modified wind-up/stretch as a starter. He stands on the first base side of the rubber with his toes pointed at the third base-side on-deck circle. He drops his hands from chest-level as he begins his delivery. He steps back with his left foot and his right foot actually comes off the rubber just before bringing his left foot back toward third base. His leg kick his high and he drops and drives off his back leg. His front foot lands pointing directly at the catcher. He doesn’t bend his back much as he delivers his pitches, which puts a bit of stress on his arm. He could do well to incorporate his lower-half a little more, but he’s basically the pitcher he’s going to be at this point. He delivers his pitches from a high-three-quarters arm slot.
As a rotation guy, Sborz could be a No. 3 starter if everything goes the right way. Realistically, he’s a back-of-the-rotation guy. If he pitches out of the bullpen, he could be a late-inning reliever if his fastball velo ticks up a bit. The slider plays out of the bullpen and he wouldn’t need the curve or changeup if he’s a reliever. He could also be a multiple-inning reliever, if need be. He logged just 16 2/3 innings in Tulsa, so a return there wouldn’t be at all surprising. He should get to Oklahoma City at some point and has an outside chance of making it to LA. If he doesn’t this year, he definitely will next year.
2016 rank: 27
2017 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
11. 2B/SS Omar Estevez (5’10, 168 pounds, 19 years old)
Estevez was part of the Dodgers’ international spending spree of 2015-16. They landed the middle infielder with a $6 million bonus. He didn’t play at all last season, so it was a surprise to see him thrust into full-season ball in his first go as a pro. In Great Lakes, he hit a solid .255/.298/.389 with nine home runs, 32 doubles and a .134 ISO. Those numbers may look pedestrian on the surface, but when you factor in he did that as an 18-year-old in an extreme pitchers’ league, it looks a bit better. Through June, it looked like he might get a demotion, as he was hitting .206/.242/.310. But, a hot July kept him in Midland and he hit .308/.358/.473 the rest of the way. It isn’t surprising to see that once the weather warmed up, so did the native Cuban.
He sets up with a straight up-and-down stance with his front leg open and his knees bent just a little bit. There’s some pre-pitch bat waggle before the pitch is delivered. He has a small step toward the pitcher as he begins his swing. Sometimes it’ll be a modified toe-tap. He has average bat speed and the swing path is generally level with a slight bit of an upper cut. He has an advanced feel for the strike zone and for hitting in general. Estevez could use work on his pitch recognition, as he’ll get fooled at times on offspeed pitches in the dirt. But, the bat is his money maker.
Surprisingly, Estevez dabbled a bit at shortstop in his debut. He appeared in 46 games at shortstop and was decent. Things aren’t going to get any easier for him there, which is why he profiles better at second base. He doesn’t have the arm for third base, either. At second base, Estevez has good instincts and footwork. He’ll just need more reps to become at least an average defender at the position. On the bases, he’s an average runner who could swipe a handful of bags per season, but he won’t be confused for Dee Gordon out there.
Estevez could be a double-digit home run hitter at his peak, but he should be a good contact-oriented hitter who plays a strong second base. His ceiling is basically a version of Howie Kendrick — a second baseman with good contact skills, a little pop and not a lot of on-base ability. He should go to Rancho for the entire season. Even though he’s advanced with the bat, there’s no need to rush him.
2016 rank: 32
2017 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Next up: The Top 10