Finally! We’ve reached the Top 30 in this ridiculous journey. There are 10 quality prospects here — some in the lower levels, some more advanced. Either way, they all have enough talent to make it to the majors someday.
Like the last three years, I’ve included Future Value (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 usually older, have debuted, are relievers and/or have higher floors than ceilings
- Medium: Players who are a mix of younger and older, 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. The higher the risk, the less likely a player will reach that ceiling.
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 I observe/obtain to the people. Notes and comments are based on personal observation, talking to sources, reading scouting reports and watching video. 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, and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
30. 2B/SS Omar Estevez (5’10, 193 pounds, 20 years old)
The Dodgers signed Estevez out of Cuba for $6 million as a 17-year-old in November 2015 as part of their nearly $100 million international spending spree. He was given an aggressive assignment in his debut season, spending all of 2016 with Great Lakes. He spent all of 2017 with Rancho Cucamonga, and somewhat surprisingly, he struggled. Estevez hit just .256/.309/.348 with just four home runs (after hitting nine in Midland). He did increase his walk rate slightly and decreased his strikeout rate slightly, so there’s some cause for optimism. But the results haven’t yet matched the scouting reports.
Estevez stands straight up in the box with a slightly open stance. His hands are set near his ear. He closes his stance with a big leg kick. He displays average bat speed. but he has a bit of an uppercut stroke that leads to popups. He also steps in the bucket a bit, taking away some of the pop in his bat. When he’s right, he peppers the gaps with line drives. He has issues with plate discipline and probably won’t walk much as a hitter. He should be able to produce solid contact numbers, but his bat isn’t as advanced as we were led to believe when he signed. Luckily, he has age on his side.
Defensively, Estevez was looked at as purely a second baseman, but the glove has taken a step forward since signing and he’s added shortstop to his defensive profile. In fact, of his 119 starts in 2017, 97 of them were at shortstop. He has good instincts at both middle infield positions, but his arm plays much better at second base. He has enough range to handle shortstop on a part-time basis, but he doesn’t profile as a full-time guy at the position. If he continues to work at it, he might be able to stick there, but without a stronger arm, he’s destined for second base. As a runner, he has fringe-average speed and won’t be much of a threat on the bases. He’s a little bulkier than his official playing weight would indicate.
At just 20 years old, repeating the California League wouldn’t be the worst thing for Estevez at this point. If he shows marked improvement, a midseason promotion to Double-A Tulsa wouldn’t be out of the question. His ceiling is a second-division second baseman. More likely, he’s a utility player with decent bat-to-ball skills.
2017 ranking: 11
2018 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
29. 2B/CF Tim Locastro (6’1, 200 pounds, 25 years old)
Locastro was originally a 13th-round draft pick in 2013 by Toronto out of Ithaca College. The Dodgers acquired him in 2015 from the Blue Jays (along with Chase De Jong) for international slot money. His bat took a step forward in 2017, as he hit .308/.383/.454 between Double- and Triple-A. He hit a career-high 10 home runs and a .146 ISO. He also stole 34 bases and was caught just seven times. His performance earned him a last-second call-up to Los Angeles. He was in the mix for a postseason roster spot as a “burner,” but the Dodgers ultimately decided against it.
At the plate, Locastro sets up with his legs about shoulder-width apart and with his batting gloveless hands at shoulder level. There’s very little bat wiggle pre-pitch. He has a quick toe-tap timing mechanism and a short stride toward the pitcher. His bat speed isn’t the fastest, but he still makes solid contact. He’ll spray the ball all around the field, but his power is to the pull side. With his speed, a line drive/ground ball approach might not be the worst, but he did embrace the fly ball revolution just a bit in 2017. While Locastro doesn’t walk much, he also doesn’t strikeout much. He should be a high-contact hitter at the plate. The quality of that contact will determine his future as a big leaguer.
As a defender, Locastro has played all over the diamond. He played mostly second base and center field in 2017, but he also logged 22 games at shortstop. Second base is his best position, as he looks most natural there. At shortstop, he has plenty of range and good enough hands, but his arm is lacking. In the outfield, his speed helps him have plus-range and his instincts are surprisingly good. Again, his arm will limit him to center- and left field, but being able to play four positions increases his utility immensely. As a runner, he might be one of the best in the system. While he probably won’t steal 30-plus bases in the majors, he has the speed to swipe 15-20 bases, depending on playing time. He’ll excel as a late-game pinch-runner and by taking the extra base.
Locastro should spend most of his time with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2018. Should the MLB club need a utility player, he could be the first guy to get a the call. But he still has some thing to work on in Triple-A. He has the ceiling of a super utility player who can run and makes a lot of contact. He’s a quality player to have in an organization.
2017 rank: 86
2018 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
ETA: Debuted 2017
28. RHP Josh Sborz (6’3, 218 pounds, 24 years old)
The Dodgers nabbed Sborz in the Competitive Balance Round B of the 2015 draft out of the University of Virginia. They gave him a a $722,500 signing bonus after he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2015 College World Series. His first two seasons in the organization were really good. The Dodgers split his time between the rotation and bullpen, which produced good results. In 2017, all 24 of his appearances were starts, but he logged about eight fewer innings than the previous year due to a couple stints on the 7-day disabled list. Still, he posted a 3.86 ERA, but his 4.36 FIP wasn’t great. The same could be said for his poor 5 percent K-BB% (17.6 percent in 2016).
Sborz has a low-90s fastball that has touched the mid-90s in the past. He can sink and cut it a bit, but it’s an average offering on the whole. His best pitch is a low-80s slider that generates a decent amount of swinging strikes. It features 10-4 break and good depth. He also has a fringy curveball and changeup. If he wishes to remain a starter, one of those pitches is going to have to take a step forward. His stuff plays up better out of the bullpen, mostly because he doesn’t have a reliable third pitch. He saw his strikeout rate dip and his walk rate spike, which doesn’t bode well for the future of his third- and fourth pitches.
He has an unconventional delivery. It looks like he’s beginning out of the stretch, but it’s a modified wind-up. He steps backward toward first base with his front leg before bringing it back through and lifting his leg. He’s all elbows and kneecaps as his front foot lands. His arm drags behind a bit, but he has good arm speed to make up for it. Still, he can get out of sync, leading to fringy command. He delivers his pitches from an over-the-top arm slot and gets good downward plane on his pitches.
Sborz spent all 2017 with Double-A. He could go back there for a refresher, but he should be in OKC for most of the season. If he figures out a third pitch and finds his missing whiffs, he could be a viable rotation option. What’s more likely to happen is he ends up in the bullpen as a multi-inning reliever or fungible middle reliever.
2017 rank: 12
2018 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
27. SS Drew Jackson (6’2, 200 pounds, 24 years old)
Jackson was originally drafted by the Mariners in the 5th round in 2015 out of Stanford. He was acquired with Aneurys Zabala for De Jong last March. He spent most of 2016 with the now defunct Bakersfield Blaze and spent two-thirds of his time in 2017 back in the Cal League. He earned a late-season promotion to Tulsa and hit a combined .247/.358/.402 in 438 plate appearances. He hit nine home runs and, despite an increase in his walk rate, he also saw an increase in his strikeout rate. He swiped 21 bases and was caught eight times.
He looks the part the plate, but the results haven’t been there. He sets up with a wide base, bent knees and his hands held up near his ear. He has a toe-tap for timing and his load is a bit more pronounced than it should be for a hitter of his profile. He drops his hands and brings them back a bit before beginning his swing. He does a good job keeping his front side closed in an attempt to stay on pitches. His swing is long and relatively flat. Jackson saw his fly ball rate increase in his first season with the Dodgers’ organization, and that isn’t an accident. He has pop, but it’s mostly to the pull side. He has a good eye and can handle velocity, but there’s still something missing. Perhaps he’s still trying to work all the “Stanford Swing” out of his system. There’s a lot to like about his potential offensively, but he’s already 24, so that potential will have to be realized sooner rather than later for him to remain a viable prospect.
Where Jackson thrives right now is defensively. He’s an above-average defender at shortstop with plus-range, instincts and a double-plus throwing arm. He’s a natural around the bag and makes quick turns on double plays. He profiles well enough at second base and even dabbled at third base a bit. Some wonder if he could end up as a super utility player, not dissimilar to Enrique Hernandez. To do that, he’d have to add outfield defense to his profile. Even if he doesn’t, he should be valuable enough defensively in the infield warrant a trip to the majors. Jackson is also a borderline plus-plus runner with the ability to steal bases. However, he hasn’t been nearly the threat on the bases in the upper levels as he was in rookie ball (47-for-51 in stolen bases).
Jackson should see significant time with Tulsa this season. A late-season call-up to Triple-A Oklahoma City isn’t out of the question but not a foregone conclusion. If he excels at either of these next two levels of the minors, that could go a long way to increasing his prospect status. He could make it as a super utility infielder with premium athleticism. If he figures out the hitting part, he could be an every day shortstop, but there’s a long road for him to travel until he gets there.
2017 rank: NR
2018 location: Double-A Tulsa
26. 2B/OF Jake Peter (6’1, 185 pounds, 25 years old)
A 7th-round pick by the White Sox in 2014 out of Creighton University, Peter was acquired by the Dodgers in January along with Scott Alexander for Luis Avilan, Erick Mejia and Trevor Oaks. Between Double- and Triple-A, Peter hit .279/.344/.417 with a career-best 13 home runs. He saw a significant power spike when he was promoted to Triple-A, as his ISO went from .091 in Birmingham to .213 in Charlotte. Naturally, the Dodgers would be interested in a player who’s not just a multi-position guy, but also hits the ball hard consistently.
Peter is a compact left-handed hitter who added a leg kick in 2017 that helped him get to some untapped power. He sets up slightly crouched with his hands at chest-level. He doesn’t move them much as the pitch is coming until his recoil. He loads and brings his bat through the strike zone with average bat speed. It’s a pretty level swing path, but he did add a little loft to his swing last season. His power used to be all to the pull side, but his spray chart shows he started hitting with power all over the field. It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue to progress as a hitter. If he does, his prospect status could rise significantly.
Defensively, Peter is versatile. His best position is second base, but he has experience at second- and third base, shortstop and both corner outfield spots. He’s athletic enough for all the spots, but he’s lacks quickness and footwork on the field at present. Further instruction could improve that. His arm has flashed plus, but he’s also dealt with elbow soreness in the past that limits his overall arm strength. He’s an average runner who won’t steal many bases, but he’s aggressive on the base paths.
Peter should begin 2017 with Oklahoma City. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before the next Rule 5 Draft, so don’t be surprised if he’s in the mix for a September call-up. His ceiling is as an offensive-minded super utility player.
2017 rank: NR
2018 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
25. 1B/3B Matt Beaty (6’0, 210 pounds, 25 years old)
The Dodgers popped Beaty in the 12th round of the 2015 draft out of Belmont University, noted baseball powerhouse, for $60,000. He has hit since turning pro, but his first two stops were in Ogden and Great Lakes in 2015 and Rancho Cucamonga in 2016. He was older than the competition at both levels and could have been aided by the hitter-friendly confines of the California League. In the neutral Texas League, all he did was hit .326/.378/.505 with 15 home runs, 31 doubles and claim the league MVP award. Most impressive, he struck out in just 11.2 percent of his plate appearances. He also hit the ball in the air at a career-best rate in 2017.
Beaty has a bit of an old school batting stance. He sets up straight up and down with his hands held below the letters and away from his body. He has a quick step and doesn’t stride too much as the pitch is delivered. He does a good job of keeping his bat barrel in the strike zone for a long time, leading to high contact rate. He has a bit of a natural uppercut, as most left-handed hitters do, but he also has a good path to the ball and generates solid contact. He doesn’t have elite bat speed, but it’s good enough to be more than serviceable. After a minor adjustment in the second half, he hit for more power without sacrificing his overall profile. He did struggled against lefties in 2017 after handling them well in his first two seasons.
A catcher in college, Beaty has played in the corner spots in his pro career. He has almost an even split (innings-wise) between first- and third base. He has only dabbled a bit in the outfield, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him add left field to his defensive profile. He’s not great at any one position, but he fits best at first base, followed by third base. Having versatility is something the Dodgers value highly. He won’t be much of a threat on the base paths.
A trip to Oklahoma City is in the cards for Beaty. He should get a good look at the Pacific Coast League. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5, but that isn’t a lock. If he does well enough, he could earn a spot on that roster. He has starter upside if he continues to hit and show increased power. More likely he’s a solid reserve, 4-corner guy with high contact skills and a little pop.
2017 rank: NR
2018 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
24. SS Ronny Brito (5’11, 178 pounds, 19 years old)
Brito signed for $2 million out of the Dominican in July 2015 as part of the Dodgers’ spending splurge. He made it out of complex ball in 2017 and played just 16 games with Ogden (after 12 with the AZL Dodgers). He suffered a broken leg on a dirty slide by an opposing player on Aug. 9. Overall, he had a .238/.268/.393 triple slash with three home runs. Not impressive numbers on the surface, but when you factor in he was 18 years old, there was reason for optimism. The scouting reports painted a better picture than his numbers do.
Brito’s bat isn’t nearly as advanced as his glove, but he has shown some glimpses of promise at the plate. The right-handed hitter has an open stance and a big leg kick that helps him generate good bat speed and maybe a little more power potential than you might think from a guy his size. His swing has a bit of an uppercut, but it works for him. He looks the part of a hitter, but the results haven’t been there yet. But scouts like the overall profile. If Brito can get more consistent in his swing and rediscover the patience he exhibited early on, there could be a solid offensive shortstop there. He’s not going to hit 25 home runs a season, but he should be more than just a glove-first guy.
Speaking of his defense, that’s where Brito thrives. He has smooth, natural actions at both shortstop and second base. He has soft hands and great instincts and a plus-arm at shortstop. His footwork is great and his range is plenty for both middle infield spots. If he can stick at shortstop — and there’s no reason to think he can’t — he could end up being a very valuable player. He also has a little run in him that could result in double-digit stolen base numbers.
At just 19, he could go back to Ogden to begin the season (after staying around in extended spring training). The Dodgers have been aggressive with some of their international signings in the past, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Brito get sent to Great Lakes to begin the season. If he hits enough, he could be an everyday shortstop in the majors. But he has a long way to go to reach that ceiling. If he doesn’t, he could be a glove-first utility player.
2017 rank: 28
2018 location: Rookie Ogden/Low-A Great Lakes
23. RHP Melvin Jimenez (5’10, 187 pounds, 18 years old)
The Dodgers signed Jimenez out of the Dominican Republic in December 2015. He made his pro debut a year later in the Dominican Summer League (at age 16) and made it stateside last season. After flat-out dominating the AZL, he skipped Ogden and went straight to Great Lakes. There, he more than held his own in 28 innings. Overall, Jimenez had a 2.31 ERA with a 35.0 K%, 10.4 BB% and just a .499 OPS against. What made it all the more impressive is that he did this as a 17-year-old against players — on average — 5 years older than him.
He has a starter’s arsenal in a reliever’s frame. Jimenez’s best pitch is a 93-95 MPH fastball that has routinely touched 97 MPH. It explodes out of his hand and gets on the hitter quickly. There’s very little run to it, but it will tail away from lefties when he gets on top of the seams. He backs it up with a low-80s curveball that flashed plus at times in 2017. It’s a true swing-and-miss offering with 12-6 shape and hard, biting action. He also has some makings of a slider that needs a lot more refinement. He has experimented with a changeup, but that pitch is lacking any kind of consistency at this point. The potential is there for two plus- (or better) pitches and possibly an average third pitch in his slider. If he can figure at least one of them out, he might be able to hang in a starting role for awhile.
Jimenez operates out of the stretch and on the first base side of the pitching rubber. He comes set at chest level and and has a quick delivery to the plate. He breaks his hands, drops them and brings everything toward the plate. It’s so quick that there’s some built-in deception in his delivery. He has a very quick arm that generates his plus-velocity. He lands falling off to the first base side at times, which also leads to his front shoulder flying open a bit. That leads to some command/control issues that’ll he’ll have to iron out going forward.
The elephant in the room: His frame. Jimenez is a sub-6-foot right-hander who throws incredibly hard. That screams “relief” profile. He might ultimately end up there, but it’d be a shame for the Dodgers to shift him to the bullpen before he shows he can’t cut it in a rotation. He might never be a 200-inning guy at his peak, but those are becoming rarer and rarer these days.
A trip back to Great Lakes is probably in the cards for Jimenez. He could see the California League in the summer should he perform well with the Loons. This isn’t a Julio Urias situation, but Jimenez is doing some things teenagers don’t normally do in professional baseball. If he grows anymore or shows he has enough durability and a legitimate third pitch, he has No. 2/3 upside. His likely future is as a flame-throwing, bat-missing, late-inning reliever.
2017 rank: 71
2018 location: Low-A Great Lakes
22. RHP Morgan Cooper (6’5, 207 pounds, 23 years old)
Cooper was the Dodgers’ 2nd-round pick out of the University of Texas in 2017 and signed for a below-slot $867,500. He didn’t play for an affiliate because he threw 89 innings at Texas. At UT, he struck out 110 hitters in those 89 innings and posted a 2.32 ERA. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and was actually drafted by the Nationals in the 34th round in 2016. He was present for the instructional league following the season, so he’s definitely on track to make his pro debut in 2018.
The big right-hander has a legitimate 4-pitch mix. His fastball operates in the 92-94 MPH range and has touched 96. He pitches all over the strike zone with it and is effective up in the zone. He gets on top of it and generates swinging strikes and can get ground balls with the pitch. His best pitch is a plus-curveball in the high-70s. He has two variations: A traditional 12-6 shape that’s a little slower and a a sharp, late-breaker that misses bats when he snaps it off well. Cooper also has a low-80s changeup that features good fade away from left-handed hitters. He also has a cutter-slider combination that he’s working to make a viable pitch.
Cooper has the prototypical starting pitcher frame. From his days at Texas, He stands on the first base side of the rubber with his feet pointed toward the on-deck circle of the third base dugout. He comes set at the belt and starts his wind-up. He turns on the rubber with a high leg kick. His hands raise up and then come back down in sync with his leg coming down to finish the delivery. He gets his foot down with his arm in good throwing position. He doesn’t bend his back a lot, but that helps him maintain a true over-the-top release point that helps him get nice downward action on his pitches. He keeps his front shoulder closed off and should have at least average command/control.
Already 24, Cooper should skip rookie ball all together and get an assignment to full-season ball. He should handle the Midwest League well enough to get a promotion to the Cal League. He’ll likely be on an innings restriction, but Cooper has mid-level No. 3 starter upside. If he has to move to the bullpen, he has a couple offerings that could play up, but the Dodgers view him as a starter at this point.
2017 rank: NR
2018 location: Low-A Great Lakes/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
21. RHP Yaisel Sierra (6’1, 170 pounds, 27 years old)
Sierra was given a 6-year, $30 million deal out of Cuba in February 2016. He was outrighted off the 40-man roster in his first season with the organization after struggling in the minors as a starter. He has since moved to the bullpen and seems to have found a home. In 71 innings between Double- and Triple-A, Sierra posted a 3.04 ERA, 27.1 K%, 10.0 BB% and a .653 OPS against. He missed bats and got ground balls at a solid 57 percent rate (63 percent in Triple-A).
After sitting in the low-90s as a starter, Sierra saw his velocity jump to the mid-90s out of the bullpen and get as high as 98 MPH. He has a 4- and 2-seamer. The 4-seamer is the harder of the two and the one he uses up in the strike zone. The 2-seamer is the one he uses to get ground balls. While he doesn’t have pinpoint command of either of them, he has enough to make it a strong offering. His best offspeed pitch is a low-to-mid-80s slider that flashes plus but is more consistently above-average. It features good tilt, but it lacks depth sometimes. He also has a changeup (much in the way that Clayton Kershaw has a changeup). He’ll probably ditch it before too long as he doesn’t have much in the way of a platoon split.
Sierra pitches out of an abbreviated wind-up with no runners on base. He comes set at belt-level and on the first base side of the rubber. He has a quick delivery and a high leg kick after turning on the rubber. His back leg collapses and he drives off the mound toward the plate. His quick arm negates and arm drag (of which there isn’t much) and he delivers pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot. That helps him get some arm-side run on his 2-seam fastball.
With a $5 million average annual value on his contract, it’s unlikely that Sierra will begin the 2018 with the MLB team. But if he pitches well enough in Triple-A, he might force the issue. Otherwise, expect him to remain with OKC for the majority of a season. He has late-inning reliever upside, but he also has shown an ability to throw multiple innings out of the bullpen. Either way, he has plenty of arm talent and just enough command/control to make it in the majors.
2017 rank: 25
2018 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
Next Up: Prospects 20-11