2017 Dodgers Prospects: Midseason Top 30 Update

(Via)

Every year during the All-Star break, I post my Midseason Top 30 Prospects list. It’s usually on the first day of the break, but some back-end work delayed this post until today.

Despite Cody Bellinger somewhat surprisingly graduating from the prospect ranks, the system is still in great shape, especially after a solid draft.

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Eligibility
All players who have not reached 50 innings pitched, 130 at-bats in the Major Leagues and have less than 45 days of pre-Sept. 1 service time are eligible for this list.

Exception
Grant Dayton is four outs from getting to 50 innings pitched, so I’ll keep him off this list. And I think I was a bit aggressive in ranking him No. 10 coming into the season. Live and learn, I suppose.

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Numbers in parenthesis was the player’s rank in my preseason Top 100.

Midseason Top 30

1. Walker Buehler, RHP (5, +4)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Double-A Tulsa
The reports from his brief number of outings last season have held up through his first 15 outings this season. He’s striking out more than a third of the hitters he has faced and is doing it with a near-elite fastball, a plus-plus breaking ball and a solid-average changeup. Buehler has separated himself as the prospect with the highest ceiling in the entire organization and should make his MLB debut at some point in 2018.

2. Yadier Alvarez, RHP (2)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
Despite some recent less-than-stellar reports, Alvarez’s ceiling is still incredibly high. He’s still raw, as we saw in the Futures Game, but his stuff is almost second to none in the org. He’s still missing a lot of bats, but his command/control needs work, as does his changeup. Still, I’m not giving up on him.

3. Alex Verdugo, OF (3)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Current location: Oklahoma City
Got off to a bit of a slow start, especially with his power, but has picked it up of late. He had a 20-game hitting streak and went to the Futures Game. He’s also walking more (10.3 BB%) than he’s striking out (9.4 K%) as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. He’s quite good.

4. Mitchell White, RHP (14, +10)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Camelback Ranch (rehab)
White has some of the best combination of stuff and pitchability in the system. He missed a few weeks with a broken toe, but when he has pitched (outside of Lancaster), he’s been great. Has a 2.75 FIP in the California League thanks to not allowing a home run in 38 2/3 innings. Also was part of a combined no-hitter (seven innings) on opening night.

5. Willie Calhoun, 2B/LF (6, +1)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Current location: Oklahoma City
Calhoun has done nothing but hit since the Dodgers drafted him, and his time with the OKC Dodgers is no exception. He’s not that far off from last year’s walk and strikeout rate, but he’s hitting for even more power (.274 ISO in 2017, .215 in 2016). There is no doubt he’s going to hit, but his defense is still a big question mark. He has logged 65 innings in left field.

6. Brock Stewart, RHP (4, -2)
Started: Disabled list
Current location: Los Angeles
Stewart began the season on the disabled list with shoulder soreness. He has just 17 2/3 innings this season — nine in the majors — and could be primed for a big second half out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He’s allowed one hit, issued one walk and struck out eight in his nine MLB innings this season. He’s also 13 innings away from graduating as a prospect.

7. Jeren Kendall, CF (NR)
Started: Camelback Ranch
Current location: Camelback Ranch
The Dodgers’ 1st-round pick in the most recent draft lands in the Top 10 in a pretty stacked system. That says more about Kendall’s potential and ability than it does about the system. He’s doing strength and conditioning at Camelback Ranch at present but should end the season with the Great Lakes Loons. Additionally, he could top this list as early as 2019 because his ceiling is that high.

8. Yusniel Diaz, OF (8, -1)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
It’s hard to remember Diaz is just 20 (21 in October), so his repeating the Cal League isn’t a big deal. And in his second go-around, he’s faring a little better, but his overall numbers are eerily similar to his numbers last season. A late-season promotion to Tulsa isn’t out of the question, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see him stay in Rancho the entire season.

9. Will Smith, C (13, +4)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Double-A Tulsa
Smith is having a solid season at the plate with the Quakes, but he’s doing well behind the plate, which isn’t unexpected. One thing that’s a little surprising is his high strikeout rate (23.3 K%), but he’s also walking (12.1 BB%) and hitting for power (.216 ISO). Double-A will be a big test for his bat, but his defense, game calling and framing are right on track.

10. Dennis Santana, RHP (33, +23)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
The biggest jump among the Top 30, Santana catapulted himself up my ranking because of consistent performance and improved stuff. He has a 3.49 FIP in the Cal League, but the more important number is his 6.7 walk percentage. He’s cut the rate almost in half from last season (in a pitcher-friendly league) and is missing just as many bats. While he’s not on Alvarez’s level as a prospect, he’s not as far behind as you might think.

11. Jordan Sheffield, RHP (8, -3)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
Sheffield has electric stuff, but the results haven’t been there in his first full professional season. He has an ugly 5.21 FIP in the Midwest League and isn’t recording strikeouts that his stuff should. His command has taken a step back and it’s looking more like the bullpen might be his ultimate future. I still believe in him as a starter, but not as much as four months ago.

12. Gavin Lux, SS (9, -3)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
The Dodgers’ 1st-rounder last year, Lux debuted with the Loons in 2017 and has been … fine. His .304 OBP isn’t great, but he has an 11.9 BB% and 18.2 K%. He’s getting BABIP’d a little (.245), but the power isn’t there (and, honestly, probably won’t ever be). He has played second- and third base because of the infield logjam in Midland, but Lux’s future (and value) is at shortstop.

13. Trevor Oaks, RHP (15, +2)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Current location: Oklahoma City (DL)
Oaks is one of the guys the Dodgers might call on in the second half if they need a starter (or reliever) who isn’t no the 40-man roster. He’s improved from last season, as he has a 3.53 FIP in the Pacific Coast League. He’s getting fewer ground balls (50.8 GB%, down from 60), but he’s making up for it with more strikeouts (21.1 K%, up from 18.8). Also, he’s given up just five home runs in 84 innings in the PCL after giving up seven in 63 innings last season. He’s ditched the splitter he was toying with in the spring in favor of his changeup. He’s currently on the DL with an oblique injury.

14. Keibert Ruiz, C (27, +13)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Ruiz was a Midwest League All-Star and hit incredibly well — .317/.372/.423 — which got him promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. The amazing thing about him is he’ll turn 19 later this month. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power (probably never will), but he’s a high-contact hitter who’s athletic behind the plate — exactly the Dodgers’ type. He’s still a little raw behind the plate, but he’s improving.

15. Dustin May, RHP (21, +6)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
It’s easy to see why the Dodgers gave May a $1 million bonus as a 3rd-round pick in 2016. He was Midwest League All-Star and recently carried a perfect game into the sixth inning. Aside from his 3.35 FIP as a 19-year-old in his first full season, he’s walking just 5 percent of the hitters he has faced while striking out 23 percent. He’ll face a big test in the coming years, but the early returns on May are promising.

16. Edwin Rios, 1B/3B/OF (26, +10)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Rios struggled outside of the hitter-friendly Cal League last season, so I ranked a little lower than most other places, but he hit very well in the Texas League before getting promoted to the PCL. He hit 15 home runs in 332 plate appearances with the Drillers That led to a 141 wRC+ and some renewed confidence in his standing as a prospect. He’s still probably just a first baseman on defense, but he’s played third base and the corner outfield spots a bit this season.

17. Yaisel Sierra, RHP (25, +8)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Sierra moved to the bullpen late last season and has taken off. His stuff jumped after the move (mid-90s fastball, mid-80s slider) and showed he probably should have been a reliever the entire time. This season, he had a 2.07 FIP, 30.3 K% and 7.3 BB% with the Drillers. He was promoted to the PCL and is a darkhorse candidate to be in the Dodgers’ bullpen at some point this season.

18. DJ Peters, OF (19, +1)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
Peters was a Cal League All-Star, but his biggest claim to fame this season was hitting two home runs off Madison Bumgarner … in the same inning. He’s showing immense power in High-A, but he’s also striking out at an alarming 31.5 percent clip. He’s super athletic and has drawn comps to Jayson Werth, so if he gets there, that’d be incredible.

19. Brendon Davis, SS/3B (22, +3)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
Davis got an aggressive assignment to Great Lakes last season, so it’s not surprising to see him repeat the level as a 19-year-old. He has fared much better and was a Midwest League All-Star. His walk rate has almost doubled (6.7 to 11.9 percent) and he’s hitting for more power (.149 ISO). He’s still pretty thin, so there’s a lot of projection left in him. He has split time defensively — almost evenly — among second, third and shortstop. He’ll likely end up at the hot corner, but it’s nice to see him show off some versatility.

20. A.J. Alexy, RHP (36, +16)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
The Dodgers aren’t afraid to make a splash in the 11th-round of the draft, and that’s exactly when they popped him last year. The $600,000 bonus looks like a strong investment right now, as Alexy was a MWL All-Star and he’s more than holding his own as a 19-year-old in the league. He has a 3.24 FIP, and despite not having premium stuff (fastball sits in the 88-92 MPH range and touches 94), he has a 27.3 strikeout percentage. He has also allowed just one home run in 63 1/3 innings.

21. Imani Abdullah, RHP (18, -3)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
Abdullah was expected to begin the season with the Quakes — at least, I thought he would — but he stayed behind at Camelback Ranch to take part in a strength training program. He made his season debut with the Loons in June and has thrown just 8 2/3 innings. He should be in store for a big second half and could even find himself in Rancho Cucamonga at some point.

22. Starling Heredia, OF (24, +2)
Started: AZL Dodgers
Current location: Rookie Ogden
Heredia was destroying AZL pitching, so the Dodgers promoted him to Ogden, where he has proceeded to destroy Pioneer League pitching. The sample sizes are extremely small, but Heredia is showing some of the promise the Dodgers saw when they gave him $2.6 million as an international signing a couple years ago. His body type is Juan Uribe-esque, so he’ll need to watch his conditioning as he progresses through the ranks.

23. Ronny Brito, SS (28, +5)
Started: AZL Dodgers
Current location: AZL Dodgers
Brito was signed at the same time as Heredia ($2 million) and is stateside after a year in the Dominican Summer League. Of his 13 hits so far, seven of them have gone for extra bases. He has the physical tools to be a shortstop and the potential to be a solid offensive producer at the position. He’s still a bit raw at 18, but there’s a lot of potential in Brito.

24. Jose Miguel Fernandez, 2B (30, +6)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Tulsa
The Dodgers gave Fernandez $200,000 late in the offseason as an international signee, and he has done nothing but hit since turning pro. He had a cup of coffee with OKC, but he’s done most of his damage with Tulsa. He’s hitting .303/.360/.482. As a 29-year-old against much younger competition, it’s not surprising to see him do well. He’ll really need to hit like crazy to be in the Dodgers’ future plans, but he has been as advertised.

25. Scott Barlow, RHP (34, +9)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Barlow has always been one of my personal favorites, but he’s also suffering from prospect fatigue. The 2011 6th-rounder has been somewhat resurgent this season, posting a 2.02 ERA, 3.15 FIP and a 19.7 K-BB% with Tulsa. He has since been promoted to OKC and only has 16 1/3 innings of work there, but he’s striking out more than a batter per inning. His future is likely in the bullpen where his stuff might play up a bit.

26. Drew Jackson, SS (NR)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
Acquired in March for Chase De Jong, Jackson fit the profile of the type of player the Dodgers like to acquire from the Mariners (athletic middle infielder who is versatile — Erick Mejia, Chris Taylor). He got off to a bit of a slow start, but the 23-year-old is a plus-plus runner and plus-defender with some pop (.148 ISO) and the ability to draw a walk (12.7 BB%). He’s a premium athlete, and it’s usually a good thing to bet on athleticism.

27. Omar Estevez, 2B/SS (11, -16)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
After finishing the 2016 season strong with Great Lakes, Estevez looked like he might be on the verge of a breakout season. But, he’s struggled a lot with Rancho — .234/.287/.324. The good thing is that Estevez is just 19, so struggling against advanced competition isn’t totally discouraging. He’s also playing more shortstop than second base, but his ultimate home will be the latter.

28. James Marinan, RHP (NR)
Started: Camelback Ranch
Current location: Camelback Ranch
It’s not often a 4th-round pick will make it onto a midseason prospect list of any kind, but the Dodgers got an absolute steal in Marinan. He signed for 2nd-round money and has a low-90s fastball that touches the mid-90s and a potentially plus-breaking ball. He has a long way to go in his development (obviously), but he could be a good one. He’ll begin in the AZL once he’s done training at Camelback Ranch.

29. Kyle Farmer, C/3B (32, +3)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Farmer is having his best season to date. After hitting well in the Texas League, he was promoted to the PCL and continued to hit, which isn’t exactly a surprise. In Tulsa, he was a 147 wRC+ guy with a .129 ISO an 11.3 BB% and 9.3 K%. With OKC, he has been a 120 wRC+ guy with a .196 ISO, a 5.2 BB% and a 16.3 K%. A tale of two different hitters. Almost a tale of two different fielders, too, as he’s about 2:1 in terms of catching and playing third base. His bat fits a lot better behind the plate than it does at the hot corner. He’ll turn 27 next month, which is partly why he’s not ranked as highly as you might expect.

30. Wilmer Font, RHP (NR)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Current location: Oklahoma City
Speaking of 27-year-olds, Font burst onto the scene this season with OKC. He had a 15-strikeout game in May and has three additional double-digit strikeout games for the Dodgers. He throws in the mid-90s and tops out in the high-90s, which definitely intrigues the Dodger brass. He could get a promotion to LA sometime this summer as a bullpen piece. He was a minor-league signing in the offseason, and it isn’t the first time the Dodgers have done well with MiLB signings.

The Next 5 in alphabetical order (preseason ranking): LHP Caleb Ferguson (41), RHP Melvin Jimenez (71), RHP Josh Sborz (12), RHP Shea Spitzbarth (NR), C Connor Wong (NR)

Here are some guys ranked in the back-half of the Top 100 who would be Top 50 prospects in the system if the season ended today, aside from the “Next 5” listed above (preseason ranking):

Here are guys ranked in the Top 100 who are no longer in the system:

Dropped out of Top 30: Sborz (12), Johan Mieses (16), Ariel Sandoval (20), Jacob Rhame (23) Mitchell Hansen (29)

Moved into Top 30: Kendall (NR to 7), Alexy (36 to 20), Jackson (NR to 25), Barlow (34 to 25), Marinan (NR to 28), Farmer (32 to 29), Font (NR to 30)

Graduated: Bellinger (1), Dayton (10)

Biggest riser: Font (+ a lot)

Biggest faller: Mieses (- a lot)

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 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 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.