2017 Dodgers Prospects: Best Tools

Alex Verdugo. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Here is probably the last scheduled installment (for now) of my 2017 prospect series. We conclude with the best tools in the system.

Previous installments of “Best Tools”:

To be eligible, the player must be prospect-eligible for 2017. This includes Andrew Toles, who I didn’t have in my Top 100 because there was confusion about his service time. He appears multiple times here.

Best Hitter for Average

This is not only the best bat-to-ball hitter, but it also factors in on-base and ability to take a walk.

Candidates

Willie Calhoun (.254 AVG/.318 OBP)
Yusniel Diaz (.267 AVG/.326 OBP)
Omar Estevez (.255 AVG/.298 OBP)
Keibert Ruiz (.374 AVG/.412 OBP)
Andrew Toles (.331 AVG/.374 OBP)
Alex Verdugo (.311 AVG/.340 OBP)

Calhoun’s numbers don’t look overly impressive, but he has some of the best contact ability in the system. Diaz projects to be a good contact hitter, but it hasn’t all come together just yet. Estevez might ultimately be the best bat-to-ball guy in the system. Ruiz is a sleeper for this title. But this really comes down to Toles and Verdugo. While Toles showed well in his short MLB debut, Verdugo’s ability to make consistent contact and limit strikeouts gives him the edge.

Best Hitter: Verdugo

Best Hitter for Power

Dingers! Dongers! Ding Dongers! This factors in-game and raw power.

Candidates

Cody Bellinger (26 HR/.236 ISO)
Willie Calhoun
(27 HR/.215 ISO)
Ibandel Isabel (12 HR/.262 ISO)
Johan Mieses (28 HR/.263 ISO)
DJ Peters (13 HR/.264 ISO)
Carlos Rincon (13 HR/.333 ISO)
Edwin Rios (27 HR/.266 ISO)

Calhoun, despite being 4 1/2 feet tall, has immense power. He didn’t get the moniker “Laser Show” for nothing. Isabel has a ton of raw power (perhaps the most in the system), but it hasn’t fully translated to game action just yet. Mieses led the org in homers last season. Peters burst onto the scene after being a 4th-round draft pick, but he did his damage in Ogden. Rincon has already shown his power this season and is a sleeper to top this list at some point. But this comes down to two powerful lefties in Bellinger and Rios. While Rios has some of the best raw power in the system, he did a lot of his damage last season outside of Double-A. Bellinger lit up the Texas League and even popped three home runs in six Pacific Coast League games.

Best Hitter for Power: Bellinger

Best Strike Zone Discipline

This isn’t just about walks but the ability to recognize pitches and work counts.

Candidates

Mike Ahmed (55/110 BB/K, .376 OBP)
Matt Beaty
 (40/74 BB/K, .352 OBP)
Willie Calhoun (45/65 BB/K, .318 OBP)
Saige Jenco (29/41 BB/K, .395 OBP)
Will Smith (29/50 BB/K, .355 OBP)
Brandon Trinkwon (46/58 BB/K, .326 OBP)
Alex Verdugo (44/67 BB/K, .336 OBP)

Ahmed has a bit too much swing-and-miss, but he can walk. Beaty is a more polished hitter without a ton of upside. Calhoun is here because he limits his strikeouts. Jenco had a solid debut and can work the count. Smith’s advanced discipline and pitch recognition make him one of the best here. Trinkwon fell back a bit overall in 2016, but still showed good ability to work the count. Verdugo might control the zone better than any other prospect in the org. Smith’s advanced approach just edges Verdugo’s zone control.

Best Strike Zone Discipline: Smith

Best Speed

Pretty self-explainatory.

Candidates

Drew Jackson (16 SB/8 CS)
Saige Jenco
 (22 SB/1 CS)
Erick Mejia (24 SB/15 CS)
Daniel Padilla (21 SB/8 CS)
Andrew Toles (24 SB/12 CS)

Jenco has sneaky good speed, as does Mejia. Both are better underway rather than being pure base stealers. Padilla is athletic, raw and fast. Toles has almost double-plus speed but hasn’t figured out how to use it on the base paths. Newcomer Jackson (who would have ranked in the mid-teens in my Top 100) has legitimate 70-grade speed that, like many others, hasn’t translated to stolen bases.

Best Speed: Jackson

Best Athlete

Some solid candidates, but no Trayce Thompsons this season.

Candidates

Cody Bellinger
Drew Jackson
Gavin Lux
Daniel Padilla
DJ Peters

Andrew Toles
Alex Verdugo

Bellinger is one of the most athletic first basemen in the game, evidenced by the fact he can probably play a fringe-average-to-average center field at the big league level. Lux isn’t the most athletic shortstop, but he’s not a statue, either. Padilla is a guy not a lot know about, but it’s fun to dream on the athleticism. Peters is the biggest guy on this list (6’6, 225 pounds) who is incredibly athletic. Toles and Verdugo can both play center field, with Toles being the more athletic of the two. But Jackson’s pure athleticism wins out. He has the ability to play all three up-the-middle positions and should be a super utility guy in the majors.

Best Athlete: Jackson

Best Fastball

Forget about the curveball. Give ’em the heater, Ricky.” – Lou Brown

Candidates (sitting velo; top velo)

Yadier Alvarez (92-97 MPH; 101 MPH)
Francis Cespedes (93-95 MPH; 98 MPH)
Walker Buehler (94-96 MPH; 99 MPH)
Jordan Sheffield (93-96 MPH; 98 MPH)
Mitchell White (93-96 MPH; 97 MPH)
Aneurys Zabala (94-97 MPH; 100 MPH)

Cespedes has a ton of arm talent and velo from the left side, but he has a hard time controlling/commanding it. Buehler recently touched 99 MPH in a minor-league game. Sheffield, despite his size, can run it up there in the mid-90s. White might have the best chance of sustaining this velocity. Zabala (who would have been in the 31-40 range in my Top 100) can hit triple digits out of the bullpen. But Alvarez’s ability to produce velocity so effortlessly and the fact he topped 100 MPH last year gives him the edge.

Best Fastball: Alvarez

Best Curveball

No lefties, no Clayton Kershaw, but still some good candidates.

Candidates

Yadier Alvarez (76-80 MPH, 11-5 break)
Walker Buehler
(77-79 MPH, 11-5 break)
Jordan Sheffield (77-80, 11-5 break)
Mitchell White (77-81 MPH, 12-6 break)

Buehler’s curve is strong and the most slider-like of the three. Sheffield’s curve is developing but still behind the other two. White’s curveball is a true swing-and-miss pitch and should serve him well going forward.

Best Curveball: White

Best Slider

One starter and three relievers.

Candidates

Yadier Alvarez (84-86 MPH, 11-5 break)
Grant Dayton (81-84 MPH; 2-8 break)
Josh Sborz (82-85 MPH, 11-5 break)
Yaisel Sierra (83-86 MPH, 11-5 break)

Dayton’s best offspeed pitch is his slider that induces some swinging strikes. Sborz’s best non-fastball is his low-80s slider that should get some whiffs. Sierra’s slider has a chance to be the best in the system, but he needs to improve the command on it. Alvarez has a wipeout slider to go along with his near-elite fastball and strong curveball.

Best Slider: Alvarez

Best Changeup

Love the changeup and would like to see more same-handed changeup usage.

Candidates

Leonardo Crawford (80-82 MPH)
Brock Stewart
 (79-82 MPH)
Jordan Sheffield (80-83 MPH)

Crawford’s changeup helps keep hitters off his average fastball and slurvy breaking pitch. Stewart’s changeup has already performed at the MLB level, but its ceiling is a bit limited. Sheffield’s changeup is his bread and butter and should end up being devastating against lefties.

Best Changeup: Sheffield

Best Sinker

A pitch that seems to be making a comeback in the system.

Candidates

Caleb Ferguson (90-93 MPH, 1.64 GO/AO)
Dennis Santana (91-94 MPH, 1.51 GO/AO)
Trevor Oaks (90-93 MPH, 2.44 GO/AO)

Ferguson’s sinker gets good run away from righties, but he leaves it up in the zone too much. Santana’s sinker has good potential but is still a little rough around the edges. Oaks’ sinker is what’s going to get him to the majors — and keep him there.

Best Sinker: Oaks

Best Command/Control

All guys without premium stuff — not surprising.

Candidates

Isaac Anderson (5.0 BB%)
Caleb Ferguson
(1.9 BB%)
Trevor Oaks (3.5 BB%)
Andrew Sopko (6.2 BB%)
Brock Stewart (4.1 BB%)

Anderson is a pitchability guy who lives on the corners. Ferguson’s command, on paper, looks better than it is (and it’s still pretty good). Oaks commands his sinker as well as any pitcher commands any pitch in the system. Sopko is like Anderson, but has a little more “stuff” than Ike. Stewart showed amazing command/control of three pitches last season, so he gets the nod.

Best Command/Control: Stewart

Best Defensive Catcher

Who’s the next Russell Martin?

Candidates

Kyle Farmer
Keibert Ruiz
Will Smith

Farmer’s transition to catcher has gone relatively well, but he’s been playing a lot more third base of late. Ruiz, for being 18, is pretty advanced and athletic behind the plate. Smith is athletic, advanced at handling pitching staffs and is a good framer. He’s the best here.

Best Defensive Catcher: Smith

Best Defensive Infielder

All shortstops … except for one.

Candidates

Erisbel Arruebarrena
Cody Bellinger
Ronny Brito
Gavin Lux
Errol Robinson

Arruebarrena should get this honor, but who knows what his baseball future even holds. He’s mentioned for no other reason than he’s still, technically, in the system. Brito could be a plus-defender at shortstop, and that could play up if he has to move to second base. Lux projects to be a plus-defender at shortstop, while Robinson (2016 6th-rounder) could also be a strong shortstop. But Bellinger’s 70-grade defense at first base wins out here.

Best Defensive Infielder: Bellinger

Best Infield Arm

Who has the best infield hose?

Candidates

Erisbel Arruebarrena
Ronny Brito
Moises Perez
Edwin Rios

EA is good at throwing the ball hard and accurately, but he isn’t good at actually, you know, staying on the field. Brito’s arm is sneaky strong and could get better as he matures. Perez has a solid arm that probably plays better at second base. But despite being a big and generally unathletic guy, Rios’ arm strength is second to none in the system.

Best Infield Arm: Rios

Best Defensive Outfielder

The options here were, surprisingly, lacking.

Candidates

Yusniel Diaz
Johan Mieses
Ariel Sandoval
Alex Verdugo

Diaz could play center field, but I still think left field is more likely for him. Mieses and Sandoval can play all three spots, with each fitting better in a corner than the other. Verdugo is probably average in center field who could be plus to plus-plus in right field.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Verdugo

Best Outfield Arm

Who has the best outfield hose?

Candidates

Johan Mieses
DJ Peters
Andrew Toles

Alex Verdugo

Mieses’ arm is plenty strong for right field. Peters’ arm projects to be above-average in center field. Toles showed off his arm last season in the majors, but Verdugo’s arm is tops here. He was looked at by most as a pitcher before the Dodgers drafted him as an outfielder.

Best Outfield Arm: Verdugo

Best 5-Tool Prospect

No Joc Pederson or Yasiel Puig‘s here.

Candidates

Johan Mieses
Alex Verdugo

The shortest competition, with Mieses having the edge on power over Verdugo. But his inability to make consistent contact, coupled with his poor approach make it likely that he never hits for a high enough average to claim this. Verdugo might not ever hit 20 home runs in a Major League season, but he’ll do everything else well enough.

Best 5-Tool Prospect: Verdugo

Tools Player
Best Hitter for Average Alex Verdugo
Best Power Hitter Cody Bellinger
Best Strike Zone Discipline Will Smith
Fastest Baserunner Drew Jackson
Best Athlete Drew Jackson
Best Fastball Yadier Alvarez
Best Curveball Mitchell White
Best Slider Yadier Alvarez
Best Changeup Jordan Sheffield
Best Sinker Trevor Oaks
Best Command/Control Brock Stewart
Best Defensive Catcher Will Smith
Best Defensive Infielder Cody Bellinger
Best Infield Arm Edwin Rios
Best Defensive Outfielder Alex Verdugo
Best Outfield Arm Alex Verdugo
Best 5-Tool Prospect Alex Verdugo

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.