We’re nearly at the finish line. We’ve reached the Top 20. There are some really quality prospects here — some young, some older, some a long way away, some who could debut this season. Let’s get to it.
I’ve included Future Value (FV) grades and risks for the Top 50 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. I tend to give higher future values because I take ceiling into account. 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.
Before we get to prospects 20-11, I have mistakenly omitted a prospect from previous rankings.
Leonel Valera, whom I ranked at No. 80 last year, definitely should have been in this Top 100 — in the Top 50, even. Here’s a brief write-up of him and some scouting grades.
|Height||Weight||Age||Best Tool||Acquired||Role||2019 Location||ETA|
|6’3||183||19||Defense||IFA: Venezuela, July ’15||Utility IF||Low-A Great Lakes||2023|
- Quick bat
- Good defender; could stick at shortstop
- Above-average speed
- Lacking power
- Plate discipline needs improvement
- Lacking experience at upper levels
Valera was a bargain signing out of Venezulea. The Dodgers got him for $50,000. Through his first two seasons, he has shown flashes of potential, but everything has come in rookie ball. He hit .293/.364/.367 and stole 13 bases (in 19 attempts) with the AZL Dodgers last season. He got a taste of Ogden, where he went 1-for-9 with six strikeouts. He played a majority of his time at shortstop.
The 19-year-old has a projectable frame, and thanks to a quick bat, he has a chance to have an average hit tool. He has a line drive approach and some gap pop. It remains to be seen if any of it translates to over-the-fence pop, but he could be a 10-15 home run guy at his best in the majors. His plate discipline will to improve as he progresses through the system. Either that or he’ll have to hit for consistent power.
On defense, Valera has a natural ability to handle shortstop. He has soft hands and a strong enough arm for the position long-term. As long as he doesn’t put on a ton of weight, he should be able to stick at shortstop. If he does, a slide over a third base could be in the cards, but his power potential wouldn’t profile great there. He’s also an above-average runner who can steal a few bases.
Valera could be a first-division guy at shortstop if his hit tool improves and his power develops. Those are big “ifs,” though. More likely, he’s a solid second-division regular or utility player with some pop. His defensive actions should allow him to have value, as well as his ability to run. A trip to Ogden could be next for him, with a promotion to Great Lakes not out of the question.
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. 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 and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
Other notes: “Role” is a realistic future role (slightly optimistic in some cases). Age is the 2019 season age for the player (June 30 is the cutoff date).
|80 – Elite|
|70-75 – Plus-plus|
|60-65 – Plus|
|55 – Above-average|
|50 – Average|
|45 – Fringe-average|
|40 – Below-average|
|30-35 – Poor|
|20-25 – Very Poor|
20. Miguel Vargas
|DOB: 11/17/99||Age: 19||Height: 6’3||Weight: 190||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: 3B/1B|
|Type of hitter: Untapped power, good opposite field approach, advanced for age|
Acquired: International free agent (Cuba), September 2017, $300,000 signing bonus
Physical description: Big bodied, broad shoulders, strong frame
Strengths: Feel for hitting, great hand-eye coordination, adept at going the other way, untapped power potential
Weaknesses: Present power lacking, not overly athletic, struggled outside rookie ball
Key statistics: .330/.404/.465 (AZL/Ogden/GL), 10.0 BB%, 15.7 K%, .135 ISO
Summary: Vargas was a known player coming out of Cuba, as he played in the Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional) at age 14. Sure, he had a .302 OPS, but the fact he was competing against players almost 13 years his senior said something about his ability. He made his professional debut in 2018 and opened some eyes. He tore through rookie ball and earned a late-season promotion to the Midwest League. His numbers, predictably, fell with the promotion, but despite hitting just .213 with Great Lakes, he still showed some ability.
His mature frame would lead you to believe he’s a massive power hitter, but the power has yet to develop. He hit just two home runs in his debut season. That’s because he has an opposite-field approach with his inside-out swing. He has trouble pulling the ball with authority, but with the Dodgers’ emphasis on pull-field power, expect that to change as he climbs the ladder. He excels at putting the bat on the ball, which is rare for big hitters his age. He showed the ability to take a walk and he doesn’t swing-and-miss a lot — something that should benefit him as he gets older.
On defense, Vargas plays a solid third base. He has a good glove and strong arm. The problem is he isn’t terribly agile and some balls above-average third basemen come up with get by Vargas. While that’s concerning and not a good indicator for his long-term future at the hot corner, he’ll stay there until he proves he can’t handle it. If he moves off third base, first base is his likely destination. A lot will depend on the bat. He’s not fleet of foot and will probably only get slower as he matures, but speed doesn’t figure to be a big part of his game anyway.
I’m high on this kid. The combination of feel for hitting combined with his untapped power potential (and the Dodgers’ player development staff to get to it) makes me think there’s a future All-Star here. At worst, eh could be a platoon corner infielder. With only 89 plate appearances in Low-A, a return to the Loons could be in Vargas’ future. He could earn a midseason promotion to Rancho Cucamonga, if he produces with Great Lakes.
2018 ranking: 51
2019 location: Low-A Great Lakes/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
19. Matt Beaty
|DOB: 4/28/93||Age: 26||Height: 6’0||Weight: 210||Bats: Left||Throws: Right||Position: 1B/3B|
|Type of hitter: Advanced, good plate discipline, ground ball swing|
How acquired: 12th round (No. 372 overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft, Belmont University, $100,000 signing bonus
Physical description: Stocky, maxed out, moderately athletic
Strengths: Line drive approach, good hand-eye coordination, doesn’t strike out, gap pop
Weaknesses: Lacking corner power profile, average at best defensively at either infield corner, no projection
Key statistics: .284/.378/.404 (OKC/AZL), 9.4 BB%, 13.3 K%, .120 ISO
Summary: Beaty has done nothing but hit since turning pro. His numbers were down slightly in 2018 than they were when he won the Texas League MVP in 2017, but that’s because he missed roughly two months after tearing the UCL in his thumb. This was after missing the first six weeks of the season after being held back in extended spring training.
When Beaty is going well, he uses his patient and advanced approach to spray line drives all over the field. He’s adept at going the other way with his quiet stance. He holds his hands low and has a quick load that allows him to generate decent bat speed. He has trouble elevating the ball, as evidence by his 45-plus percent ground ball rates throughout his minor-league career. At 26, there’s probably no fixing that. Still, Beaty carries a quality bat and it will determine his future.
Defensively, Beaty is probably more of a first baseman than anything. He was a catcher in college, but was immediately moved to the infield after being drafted. He has played a good amount of third base and could probably handle the position on a part-time basis in the majors. He has also dabbled at second base and in left field, but his future is at either infield corner. He’s a below-average runner, but he has good instincts on the base paths.
Beaty seems like a good bet to be a solid utility-type player if he’s able to handle more than just first- and third base. If not, he should hit enough to warrant at least a bench spot on an MLB roster. He was added to the 40-man roster over the winter, so he’ll make his MLB debut no later than September. Until then, he’ll anchor the Oklahoma City lineup.
2018 ranking: 25
2019 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
18. Connor Wong
|DOB: 5/19/96||Age: 23||Ht: 6’1||Wt: 181||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: C|
|Type of hitter: Sells out of power, loud contact, some swing-and-miss|
Acquired: 3rd round (No. 100 overall) of 2017 MLB Draft, University Houston, $550,000 signing bonus
Physical description: Sneaky strong, well-built, solid base
Strengths: At least average power, athletic, above-average runner, improving defensively, versatile
Weaknesses: Sacrificed contact for power, receiving and throwing need work
Key statistics: .269/.350/.480, 8.8 BB%, 32.0 K%, .211 ISO
Summary: Wong is another in a long line of solid Dodgers’ catching prospects. The 2017 3rd-rounder out of Houston got off to a blazing start last season. He launched eight home runs in his first 12 games with the Quakes, good for a 1.442 OPS. Of course, that wasn’t sustainable, but it did show that he has some impact potential in his bat. He still ended the season with an .831 OPS and was tied for third on the team with 19 home runs.
He has an athletic frame that allows him to generate good bat speed. He has changed his approach at the plate from how he was in college (more controlled, contact-oriented) to the pros. He has bought into the Dodgers’ hitting philosophy and added some loft to his swing path. The power is mostly to the pull side, but he did uncork a few opposite-field dingers in his first full season in pro ball. Wong sets up with a wide base and uses a toe-tap timing mechanism. His hands are quiet and quick. The swing path geared for loft is apparent. He has a good feel for the strike zone, even if he whiffed more than 30 percent of the time. That’ll have to change going forward. If he can do so without sacrificing much power, then he’ll have a definite big league future.
Behind the plate, Wong has made good strides since moving behind the plate in 2015. He’s agile and good at blocking pitches, but his receiving and throwing need some work. His arm is strong enough, but having everything in sync will just take repetition. And Wong isn’t limited to behind the plate. Some believe he could be a combination of Austin Barnes and Will Smith — able to handle second- and third base, as well as catching. As a runner, he’s at least above-average — and not just for a catcher. That bodes well for his future as a potential super utility infielder.
If the strikeouts come down and catching defense comes along, he could be a first-divison guy behind the plate. With a logjam of catching prospects ahead of Wong, his future with the Dodgers probably includes a lot of infield work. His bat profiles better as a full-time catcher, though. He’ll be tested at Double-A, a notorious proving ground for prospects.
2018 ranking: 18
2019 location: Double-A Tulsa
17. Yadier Alvarez
|DOB: 3/7/96||Age: 23||Ht: 6’3||Wt: 186||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: RHP|
|Type of pitcher: Power, premium stuff, lacking command/control, reliever risk|
Acquired: International free agent (Cuba), July 2015, $16 million signing bonus
Physical description: Lanky, lean, certain ease about him
Strengths: Double-plus fastball velocity, tight slider, effortless velo
Weaknesses: Command/control extremely lacking, changeup not developed, development stalled
Key statistics: 4.23 ERA, 25.2 K%, 17.9 BB%, 2 HR allowed in 55 1/3 innings (Tulsa/AZL)
Summary: When Alvarez signed out of Cuba in July 2015, big things were expected of him. He cost the Dodgers, essentially, $32 million ($16 million signing bonus + nearly dollar-for-dollar tax penalty) and so far, things haven’t exactly worked out. There have been some off-the-field concerns with Alvarez that are hindering his path forward. He has spent parts of the last two seasons in Double-A, but his development has stalled somewhat as the on- and off-the-field issues about him have contributed to his current state. A groin injury cost him about two months of last season, hence the low innings total. He still has premium stuff, but if he can control it, it really won’t matter.
Alvarez has some of the most effortless velocity you’ll see in a pitching prospect. He changes speeds and ranges anywhere from 91-98 MPH (works more in the mid-90s) and has touched 100 MPH on occasion in the past. He can sink and cut it, but there are times he has no idea where the pitch is going. He has two wipeout breaking balls — a mid-80s slider and a low-80s curveball. However, both have proven to be inconsistent at best as he has trouble commanding both offerings. His slider falls off the table with good tilt and depth and his curveball is a true 12-6 pitch with powerful downward action. When everything is in sync, though, you can see the potential. His mid-80s changeup has come a long way and would be a legitimate fourth pitch, but it also comes with command/control concerns.
He has an easy delivery that you’d think would lead to good control. But, he has a hard time repeating it every time. He has worked in Spring Training to try to clean up the mechanics, so we’ll see if the fruits of that labor show through. He has a high three-quarters arm slot that helps him get a little extra run on his non-breaking breaking pitches.
Alvarez has top-of-the-rotation stuff but Independent League command/control. Odds are, he isn’t ever going to put it all together. If not, he could be a late-inning, high-leverage reliever, but that would require even fringe-average command/control. His lively arm will keep him in organized ball for awhile, but he may never get close to his ceiling as either a starter or reliever. A third trip back to Tulsa wouldn’t be terribly surprising, but I suspect the Dodgers could keep him at extended spring training before sending him out to Oklahoma City. He was added to the 40-man roster over the winter, so the Dodgers still value his potential. He could see LA this summer, but that would take a massive leap with his command/control.
2018 ranking: 5
2019 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
16. Michael Grove
|DOB: 12/18/96||Age: 22||Ht: 6’3||Wt: 200||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: RHP|
|Type of pitcher: Power, whiff-inducing slider, prototypical size|
Acquired: 2nd round (No. 68 overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft, West Virginia University, $1,229,500 signing bonus
Physical description: Prototypical size for starter, athletic, broad shoulders
Strengths: Quick arm, legit 2-pitch combo, misses bats, good command/control
Weaknesses: Changeup is lacking, injury history, hasn’t pitched in a game in 23 months
Key statistics: 2.87 ERA, 11.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3 home runs allowed in 47 innings (2017, West Virginia University)
Summary: A surprise 2nd-rounder in 2018, Grove hasn’t pitched competitively since April 22, 2017, when he lasted just a one-third of an inning. He initially didn’t have ligament damage, but he did get a diagnosis of the dreaded strained forearm. About a month later, he had Tommy John surgery. In his final season at WVU, Grove was the Mountaineers ace. He had a sub-3 ERA, a sub-1 WHIP and missed plenty of bats. He signed for almost $1.23 million, partly because the Dodgers weren’t willing to meet 1st-rounder J.T. Ginn‘s asking price.
The last time he was on the mound, Grove did his work with a 91-94 MPH fastball that topped out at 96. He gets a little arm-side run that bores in on righties and away from lefties. He has an almost over-the-top arm slot and a repeatable delivery. There isn’t a ton of effort, which means he might be able to regain that above-average command/control he had pre-injury. While his fastball has a future plus-grade, his slider might actually be the better of the two offerings. It’s a hard, biting slider in the mid-80s that profiles as a true swing-and-miss pitch. His changeup is a work in progress, but right now, it’s not really close to passable. It’ll need to improve if he’s to remain in the rotation.
He pitched in the instructional league and his stuff hadn’t fully returned just yet. But, he’ll be ready for Opening Day. If his stuff comes back, he has No. 2/3-type stuff with the command/control to back it up. If it doesn’t come back and/or his changeup doesn’t develop, he could have a successful career was a late-inning reliever. He should begin with Great Lakes this season and getting to Rancho Cucamonga is expected, if he stays healthy.
2018 ranking: NR
2019 location: Low-A Great Lakes
15. Cody Thomas
|DOB: 10/8/94||Age: 23||Ht: 6’4||Wt: 210||Bats: Left||Throws: Right||Position: OF|
|Type of hitter: Power, raw, athletic, prone to swing-and-miss|
Acquired: 13th round (No. 401 overall) of 2016 MLB Draft, University of Oklahoma $300,000 signing bonus
Physical description: Ideal size for a quarterback (he was one), strong upper-half
Strengths: Premium athlete, plus-raw power, improving at the plate
Weaknesses: Lots of swing-and-miss, lacking experience
Key statistics: .285/.355/.497, 8.6 BB%, 29.2 K%, .212 ISO
Summary: Thomas must have impressed because the Dodgers drafted him and gave him an over-slot $300,000 bonus after just 144 plate appearances at the University of Oklahoma. He was, primarily, Baker Mayfield‘s backup in 2015 — his last year playing quarterback. In the last two seasons, Thomas has shown the potential that the Dodgers saw in him. He had his best season to date in 2018. Some might say it was because of the hitter-friendly California League. That may have had something to do with it, but he did hit better at home (.914 OPS) than he did on the road (.789 OPS). This is significant because Rancho’s home park has some of the most neutral park splits in the Cal League.
Thomas has an ideal outfielder’s frame. He has leveraged that into a powerful left-handed stroke at the plate. He has bought into the Dodgers’ elevation philosophy, and it has produced some impressive power numbers. He’s a strong hitter who’s able to generate above-average bat speed. He has power to all fields, with most of his home runs coming to the pull side.
Defensively, Thomas has plenty of speed and athleticism for right field. He has the arm to match. He has even dabbled in center field, but he’s set up to be in a corner at the next level. He has average speed that might dissipate later in his career, but he should be an asset with his legs for the foreseeable future.
Thomas isn’t the best prospect, but he’s one of my sleepers to really breakout this season. He could be a first-division regular. More likely, he’s a second-division guy or platoon option. He has handled lefties and righties equally well the last couple years, which bodes well for him. He’ll head to Tulsa where we’ll see if he’s the legitimate prospect I think that he is.
2018 ranking: 44
2019 location: Double-A Tulsa
14. Edwin Rios
|DOB: 4/21/94||Age: 25||Height: 6’3||Weight: 220||Bats: Left||Throws: Right||Position: 1B/3B/LF|
|Type of hitter: Power, feel for hit, not terribly patient|
Acquired: 6th round (No. 192 overall) of 2015 MLB Draft, Florida International University, $234,800 signing bonus
Physical description: Broad shoulders, good frame, strong all around
Strengths: Easy plus-power, loud contact, strong arm, playable against LHP
Weaknesses: Overly aggressive, walk and strikeout rates trending wrong direction, not much defensive value
Key statistics: .304/.355/.482, 6.7 BB%, 32.3 K%, .178 ISO
Summary: Rios was a slightly over-slot signee back in 2015, and has done nothing but hit since turning pro. His 2018 was hampered by a calf injury that kept him out until the end of May. This was after an impressive showing in Spring Training. Despite posting an .837 OPS, it never seemed like Rios got fully on track at OKC. He saw his walk, strikeout and power numbers go the wrong direction. A fully healthy season in 2019 could produce different (better) results.
Rios has a pretty and powerful left-handed swing. His open stance and naturally lofty swing generates a lot of fly balls. He has power to all fields, with most of his home runs coming to the right side of center field. But, eh does pepper the left-center field cap with doubles and has some of the most power in the system. He’s aggressive to the point where he isn’t going to walk. Before the 2018 season, he did a good job of keeping the strikeouts in check, but he produced a lot more whiffs last season. He’s a natural fly ball hitter, but he put the ball on the ground a bit too much last season.
Defensively, Rios has played first- and third base and even spent some time in left field last season. He doesn’t have the agility and quickness to handle third base on a regular basis at the majors, but he could play there in a pinch. His best position is first base, where his plus-arm is neutralized. If he plays the outfield, at least he’ll be able to show off his arm, but he won’t get to a ton of batted balls that normal left fielders would. On the bases, he’s a smart runner, but he lacks any kind of foot speed to be a factor.
Rios probably fits best as a second-division starter at first base or designated hitter. But the fact he has at least some defensive versatility — and the ability to hit mammoth home runs — means he could still be of use to the Dodgers. He was added to the 40-man roster over the winter and will probably seem some time in LA this season.
2018 ranking: 10
2019 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
13. DJ Peters
|DOB: 12/12/95||Age: 23||Ht: 6’6||Wt: 225||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: OF|
|Type of hitter: Extreme fly ball, massive power, lots of whiffs|
Acquired: 4th round (No. 131 overall) of 2016 MLB Draft, Western Nevada College, $442,400 signing bonus
Physical description: Large human being, surprisingly athletic, strong upper-half
Strengths: Incredible raw power, plus in-game power, athleticism, strong arm
Weaknesses: Hole in swing, alarming strikeout numbers, contact concerns
Key statistics: .236/.320/.473, 8.0 BB%, 34.4 K%, .237 ISO
Summary: Peters was one of the many recent junior college draftees by the Dodgers who have had interesting pro careers to date. He signed for almost $200,000 more than slot and has shown off his impressive power thus far. His 29 home runs led the Texas League … as did his 192 strikeouts. While he maintained his power from the Cal League to the Texas League, his walk rate decreased by almost 3 points and his strikeout rate increased by 2 points. That’s not a good trend going forward.
Peters has quick-twitch actions and strength that help him generate some of the best bat speed in the system. His swing was long during the season, leaving him susceptible to hard stuff on his hands. Dave Roberts said Peters worked over the winter and in camp to shorten up his swing, in hopes of minimizing that hole. If that’s true, then we should start to see the benefit of that in Triple-A this year. He has easy double-plus raw power to all fields, but he definitely focuses on pulling and elevating the ball. Peters does have a hard time squaring up spin, leading to some ugly strikeout numbers and less than ideal contact rates.
In the field, Peters has played a lot of center field. And while he’s plenty athletic for his size, he’s ticketed for a corner. His plus-arm makes him an ideal fit in right field. He should be an above-average defender in a corner with the ability to handle center field in a pinch. Despite being an above-average runner (at present), it doesn’t translate to stolen bases. He has solid instincts on the base paths, though.
Peters is one of the biggest “boom or bust” prospects in the system. If he cuts down on the strikeouts and makes more contact, he could be a first-division starter. If not, he should be — at worst — the right-handed half of a platoon. He should begin the season in the crowded OKC outfield, with an extreme outside chance of making it to LA this season.
2018 ranking: 12
2019 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
12. Diego Cartaya
|DOB: 9/7/01||Age: 17||Ht: 6’2||Wt: 205||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: C|
|Type of Hitter: Line drive, untapped power, mature approach|
Acquired: International free agent (Venezuela), July 2018, $2.5 million signing bonus
Physical description: Big for 17-year-old, broad shoulders, could add some bulk
Strengths: Mature beyond years, advanced behind the plate, strong throwing arm
Weaknesses: No pro experience, somewhat limited offensive upside
Key statistics: N/A
Summary: The Dodgers made Cartaya their biggest amateur international investment since their massive spending spree in 2015-16. He was the No. 1 prospect out of Venezuela and some considered him the top talent available during the 2018-19 signing period. He didn’t play in an organized league after signing, but he did show up in the instructional league and made a little noise after homering off of Tony Cingrani.
Cartaya draws praise for his maturity both at- and behind the plate. He has a quick right-handed swing that produces line drives right now. He has a similar approach currently to that of Miguel Vargas — he focuses on the right-center field gap. He hasn’t yet learned how to pull the ball with authority, but that should come with professional instruction. But the fact he’s adept at going the other way bodes well for his future at the plate. He has a quiet stance, load and a minimal leg kick. He’ll let the ball travel deep into the strike zone before barreling it up. He projects to be an above-average hitter and has a chance for average power — which would be a boon as a catcher.
Cartaya earns as much praise for his defense as his offense. Despite being a big kid already, he’s still plenty agile behind the plate. He looks like a natural and is already advanced when it comes to receiving and framing. He’s also good at blocking pitches and has the strongest arm of any catcher in the organization. He’s only going to get better as a pro.
It’s hard to rank a 17-year-old who has never played in pro ball this high. The truth is, I wanted to rank him even higher, but needed to show some restraint. He has all the makings of a perennial All-Star as a catcher. He isn’t going to hit like Mike Piazza and probably won’t defend as well as Ivan Rodriguez, but he could be a combination of the two — a guy who hits around .300 with 15-20 home runs and is among the best catchers in the game. Of course, we need to remember he’s still a teenager and there’s a chance he busts. But all the pieces are there for him to be one of the best. He’ll probably spend all of 2019 in complex ball (Dominican Summer League/Arizona Rookie League), but the Dodgers have been aggressive with their catching prospects in the past (hello, Keibert Ruiz), so it isn’t out of the question that Cartaya could reach Ogden before season’s end. He’s a special prospect and Dodger fans should be excited about him.
2018 ranking: NR
2019 location: DSL/AZL Dodgers
11. Josiah Gray
|DOB: 12/21/97||Age: 21||Ht: 6’1||Wt: 190||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: RHP|
|Type of pitcher: Fly ball, works up in zone, good strikeout potential|
Acquired: Trade with Reds December 2018; 2nd round competitive balance (No. 72 overall) of 2018 MLB Draft, Le Moyne College, $772,500 signing bonus
Physical description: Filled out, athletic frame, strong lower half
Strengths: Lively fastball, gets whiffs up in zone, premium athleticism from a pitcher
Weaknesses: A little effort to the delivery, lacking present changeup, slider needs work, might be a reliever
Key statistics: 2.58 ERA, 28.5 K%, 8.2 BB%, 1 HR allowed in 52 1/3 innings
Summary: The Reds drafted Gray in the most recent MLB Draft and, after logging 92 innings with Le Moyne College, he threw another 52 with the Greenville Reds of the Appalachian League. That’s quite a workload for a 20-year-old, but it might help him in the long run. Over those 52 innings, Gray carved up hitters roughly his same age. More impressive is the fact he allowed just one home run in that time.
Gray operates with a low-90s fastball that has reached as high as 97 MPH with some sinking action. But he also gets swing-throughs up in the strike zone, which is a staple of Dodger pitching these days. His athleticism and arm strength help him generate easy velocity. The fastball clocked a little better in the pros than it did in the college, but it remains to be seen if that’s sustainable. He backs it up with a mid-80s slider that has flashed above-average, but is lacking consistently at present. It has good tilt, but he has trouble commanding it deeper into outings. His third pitch is a sparingly used changeup that needs work if he’s to remain in the starting rotation. But in limited action, it flashed at least average potential.
The Dodgers were drawn to Gray’s quick arm and athleticism when they acquired him over the winter. He has a quick delivery that he can repeat, but the cross-body action gives it a little more effort than you’d think from a pitcher as athletic as Gray is. His pitches come out of a high three-quarters arm slot and he does a good job of hiding the ball until its release.
Of note: Gray didn’t convert to the mound full-time until he went to the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2017, meaning there isn’t a ton of mileage on his arm. What’s even more interesting/intriguing is despite that fact, he still logged 144 innings in 2018. The Dodgers have been good about limiting innings with their young players, but Gray has already shown the ability to handle a big workload, despite not having ideal size.
Gray has a chance to be a mid-rotation starting pitcher if the changeup develops. That’ll be the reason he does or doesn’t make it in that role. He’s durable enough and athletic enough to sustain the role. If he has to move to the bullpen, he could be a hard-throwing, high-leverage reliever. Either way, he has a premium arm. He could start in Great Lakes, but I’d like to see the Dodgers challenge him with an assignment to the Quakes in the California League.
2018 ranking: NR
2019 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Next Up: Prospect No. 10