2018 Dodgers Prospects: Best Tools

Will Smith (Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

You’ve read the entire Top 100, right? Well, now here’s how the players stack up against one another as I go through and name the prospects with the best tools in the system.

To be eligible for this list, a player has to be prospect-eligible in 2018. He doesn’t necessarily have to be in the Top 100.

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Previous installments of “Best Tools”:

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To be eligible, the player must be prospect eligible for 2018.

Best Hitter For Average

This accounts for bat-to-ball ability, as well as the ability to work the count and walk.

Candidates

Matt Beaty (.326 AVG, .378 OBP, 45/50 Present/Future)
Yusniel Diaz (.292 AVG, .354 OBP, 45/60 Present/Future)
Keibert Ruiz (.316 AVG/.361 OBP, 50/60 Present/Future)
Alex Verdugo (.314 AVG/.389 OBP, 50/60 Present/Future)

Beaty is more of a mercy inclusion, as the other three players are easily the ones with the best hit tools in the system. Verdugo is probably the best bat-to-ball guy, Ruiz has the best eye and Diaz is a combination of both. In the end, though, I’ll go with the switch-hitting catcher with a great eye at the plate.

Best Hitter: Ruiz

Best Hitter For Power

Graduating Cody Bellinger left a big hole here.

Power Candidates

Ibandel Isabel (28 HR, .230 ISO, 70/70 Present/Future)
DJ Peters (27 HR, .238 ISO, 50/60 Present/Future)
Carlos Rincon (21 HR, .208 ISO, 50/65 Present/Future)
Edwin Rios (27 HR, .224 ISO, 50/60 Present/Future)
Cristian Santana (10 HR, .200 ISO, 40/55 Present/Future)

If you’re talking pure raw power, Isabel wins this hands down. But this takes into account the ability to get to the power in-game, and Isabel may never play above A-ball at this rate. Rincon showed impressive power potential in the Midwest League, but he still struggles with the hit tool. Santana is a big sleeper in this category, but he’s not quite ready for the big time. This comes down to Peters and Rios, both of whom showed off their power in spring training. Rios hit two balls over the batter’s eye, while Peters put on power shows in batting practice. I’m going with Rios, but if you ask me tomorrow, I might say Peters.

Best Hitter For Power: Rios

Best Strike Zone Discipline

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

Note: MLB average in 2017 on BB/K rate was 0.39.

Candidates

Matt Beaty (0.65 BB/K, .378 OBP)
Gavin Lux (0.64 BB/K, .331 OBP)
Keibert Ruiz (0.47 BB/K, .361 OBP)
Will Smith (0.51 BB/K, .351 OBP)
Breyvic Valera (1.12 BB/K, .368 OBP)
Alex Verdugo (1.04 BB/K, .389 OBP)

Beaty does a good job of controlling the strike zone and added a little pop to make pitchers respect him a bit more. Lux takes a lot of pitches — sometimes too many. Ruiz has a great feel for hitting and when pitchers start pitching around him, he’ll should be able use his plate discipline to make pitchers pay. Smith has added more pop and more whiffs to his offensive profile, but he still has a solid eye. Valera is the only real challenger to Verdugo, but no one is better than Verdugo in this category. He walked more than he struck out last season and his on-base percentage isn’t batting average-dependent. He should be able to get himself into good hitter’s counts at the next level.

Best Strike Zone Discipline: Verdugo

Best Speed

Go Speed Racer, go!

Candidates

Donovan Casey (6 SB, 2 CS, 60/60 Present/Future)
Jeren Kendall
(9 SB, 8 CS, 70/70 Present/Future)
Drew Jackson (21 SB, 8 CS, 65/65 Present/Future)
Saige Jenco (12 SB, 8 CS, 60/60 Present/Future)
Tim Locastro (34 SB, 7 CS, 60/60 Present/Future)
Breyvic Valera (11 SB, 11 CS, 60/60 Present/Future)

Casey is almost a premium athlete, but his speed is best utilized in the field. Jackson is one of the most athletic players in the system, as you’ll see below. Jenco isn’t a pure burner, but he can scoot. Locastro might be the best pure base-stealer in the organization. Valera has good speed that he has brought over from St. Louis. Kendall, however, is a premium athlete with legitimate double-plus speed that he uses on the field and base paths. It hasn’t translated to stolen bases yet, but he has plenty of speed.

Best Speed: Kendall

Best Athlete

Candidates

Donovan Casey
Drew Jackson
Saige Jenco
Jeren Kendall
Gavin Lux
Bryan Morales
DJ Peters
Breyvic Valera

A lot of similar names as the speed category, but this one is more about raw speed. It’s about the entire package. Casey is close, but he’s not quite there. Jenco, Kendall and Lux are all smaller, quick, athletic players, but their ceilings are a bit limited. Morales is a legitimate center field prospect, but he doesn’t possess the best athleticism. It’s interesting to see a 6’6, 225-pound guy on this list, but Peters is definitely a premium athlete. Valera is almost as athletic as they come, but no one tops Jackson’s pure, raw athleticism. It may never translate to the game, but it’s never a bad thing to bet on elite athletes.

Best Athlete: Jackson

Best SP Fastball

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

Candidates (Sitting Velo; Top Velo)

Yadier Alvarez (92-97 MPH; 101 MPH)
Walker Buehler (94-98 MPH; 100 MPH)
Melvin Jimenez (93-96 MPH; 98 MPH)
Dennis Santana (93-95 MPH; 98 MPH)
Jordan Sheffield (93-96 MPH; 98 MPH)
Mitchell White (93-96 MPH; 97 MPH)

If you’re going on pure velocity, Alvarez is unmatched among starting pitchers. But, command/control matter. Jimenez has a really good heater, but he’s not a physical pitcher, so he might be maxed out now. Santana’s sinker is nasty, but it isn’t the best fastball in the system. Sheffield has a chance to challenge for this title, but his command/control is still rough. White’s fastball might be the most consistent of the lot, but it’s max velo isn’t the best. It’s hard to argue with Buehler here, as he routinely sits in the mid-to-high-90s and touched 100 MPH in his MLB debut.

Best SP Fastball: Buehler

Best RP Fastball

Candidates (Sitting Velo; Top Velo)

Dylan Baker (93-95 MPH, 99 MPH)
JT Chargois (93-96 MPH, 98 MPH)
Tony Gonsolin* (93-96 MPH, 99 MPH)
Zach Pop (94-96 MPH, 98 MPH)
Yaisel Sierra (94-96 MPH, 98 MPH)
Aneurys Zabala (94-97 MPH, 100 MPH)

Chargois was more of a 96-97 guy with the Twins, but he’s been more of a 93-94 MPH guy with the Dodgers. Gonsolin was pushing 100 MPH by the end of last season, but he’s being tried as a starting pitcher (at least to begin the 2018 season). Sierra has some movement on his fastball that gives it a little extra edge. Pop throws quite hard, but it comes up just short. This comes down to Baker and Zabala. Baker’s more consistently in the mid-90s, while Zabala lights up the radar guy, routinely touching triple digits. Baker has more command/control, while Zabala has more pure velo. Zabala wins out, just barely.

Best RP Fastball: Zabala

Best Curveball

Uncle Charlie. The Deuce. No. 2. Public Enemy No. 1.

Candidates

Walker Buehler (81-84 MPH, 11-5 Break)
Morgan Cooper (76-79 MPH, 12-6 Break)
Caleb Ferguson (75-78 MPH, 12-6 Break)
Melvin Jimenez (79-82 MPH, 12-6 Break)
Mitchell White (77-81 MPH, 12-6 Break)

Cooper’s curve could be reminiscent of Ross Stripling‘s, but he has yet to throw a professional pitch. Ferguson is the best left-handed pitching prospect in the org, and just happens to have one of the better curves. Jimenez’s curve is promising, but he’s still so young. White has an absolute hammer, but it falls just short of Buehler’s sledgehammer curve. It has the potential to be plus-plus.

Best Curveball: Buehler

Best Slider

Four starters and a reliever.

Candidates

Yadier Alvarez (84-86 MPH, 11-5 Break)
Dustin May (81-84 MPH, 11-5 Break)
Dennis Santana (82-85 MPH, 10-4 Break)
Yaisel Sierra (83-86 MPH, 11-5 Break)
Mitchell White (85-90 MPH, 10-4/9-3 Break)

When Alvarez’s slider is on, it’s filthy. Problem is, he’s inconsistent with it, but it has the most potential of any of these guys. Santana’s slider improved throughout the year and may top this list next year. Sierra’s slider is nasty out of the bullpen, but its upside is limited because, well, he’s a reliever. White’s slider is a hybrid slider/cutter that’s definitely a swing-and-miss offering, but it isn’t your traditional slider. May’s slider is the best of the bunch, and could get even better as he matures as a pitcher.

Best Slider: May

Best Changeup

The most underrated pitch in baseball.

Candidates

Imani Abdullah (81-83 MPH)
Leonardo Crawford
(80-82 MPH)
Jordan Sheffield (85-88 MPH)
Devin Smeltzer (79-82 MPH)

I just saw Abdullah in person, and the changeup wasn’t very impressive. Crawford has a decent changeup from the left side, but it isn’t the best. This comes down to Sheffield and Smeltzer. Both changeups have the potential to be plus-pitches, and they’ll likely both come out of the bullpen. I’ll go with Sheffield’s because it has more velocity and more whiff potential.

Best Changeup: Sheffield

Best Command/Control

All guys without premium stuff — not surprising.

Candidates

Wilmer Font (6.3 BB%)
Dustin May
(4.9 BB%)
Jesus Vargas (3.8 BB%)

Font showed really good control as a starter in the Pacific Coast League. It hasn’t yet translated to the majors. Vargas is a sleeper in this system and could maintain a low walk rate as he progresses. But this goes to May for doing it against competition older than him and in a full-season league.

Best Command/Control: May

Best Defensive Catcher

Who’s the next Yasmani Grandal?

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

Almost all shortstops.

Candidates

Rylan Bannon
Ronny Brito
Gavin Lux
Drew Jackson

Errol Robinson

Bannon can really pick it at third base, and he’s trying to add second base to his repertoire. Brito could be the heir apparent at shortstop — at least defensively — to Corey Seager. We’ll see. Lux is a solid defender at both shortstop and second base. Jackson has an incredible arm and can play all over. But Robinson is the best combination of pure defender and thrower, and he’s more likely than any shortstop prospect in the system to stick at the position.

Best Defensive Infielder: Robinson

Best Infield Arm

Pedro Baez once was clocked at 94 MPH on a throw from third-to-first base.

Candidates

Ronny Brito
Drew Jackson

Edwin Rios

Brito has a strong arm, but it isn’t the strongest. Rios’ arm is plus, but it’s wasted at first base. Jackson has a legitimate double-plus arm that should help him stick at shortstop.

Best Infield Arm: Jackson

Best Defensive Outfielder

The options here were, surprisingly, lacking.

Candidates

Donovan Casey
Jeren Kendall
DJ Peters

Casey is still a bit raw, but he’s athletic and competent enough to, maybe, one day earn this title. Peters has fared well in center field so far, but he’s probably ticketed for right field. Kendall is a premium defender in center field, which gives him the edge.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Kendall

Best Outfield Arm

Who has the best outfield hose?

DJ Peters
Alex Verdugo

While there are some decent outfield throwers in the system, like last year, this is a 2-man race. Peters is a profile right fielder, while Verdugo was viewed as a pitcher by some coming out of high school. Both have strong arms, but Verdugo’s is not only a bit stronger, it’s also more accurate.

Best Outfield Arm: Verdugo

Best 5-Tool Prospect

Well, maybe not all five tools.

Candidates

Yusniel Diaz
Jeren Kendall
DJ Peters
Alex Verdugo

All four of these guys have a flaw when it comes to the five tools. Diaz and Verdugo lack pure power, but are capable everywhere else. Kendall and Peters have questionable hit tools, but check all the other boxes. In this case, I’m going to take a chance on the big man.

Best 5-Tool Prospect: Peters

Tools Player
Best Hitter For Average Keibert Ruiz
Best Power Hitter Edwin Rios
Best Strike Zone Discipline Alex Verdugo
Fastest Baserunner Jeren Kendall
Best Athlete Drew Jackson
Best SP Fastball Walker Buehler
Best RP Fastball Aneurys Zabala
Best Curveball Walker Buehler
Best Slider Dustin May
Best Changeup Jordan Sheffield
Best Command/Control Dustin May
Best Defensive Catcher Will Smith
Best Defensive Infielder Errol Robinson
Best Infield Arm Drew Jackson
Best Defensive Outfielder Jeren Kendall
Best Outfield Arm Alex Verdugo
Best 5-Tool Prospect DJ Peters

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.