2019 Dodgers Top 100 Prospects: Best Tools

Alex Verdugo. Photo by: Stacie Wheeler

This is the last feature of the Top 100 series (aside from the composite Top 10). This one features the best tools in the farm system, as determined by yours truly.

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Previous installments of “Best Tools”:

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To be eligible, the player must be prospect eligible for 2018 and have been in the system when the Top 100 series began (Jan. 21).

Best Hitter For Average

Gavin Lux (.324 AVG, .399 OBP, 50/60 Present/Future)
Keibert Ruiz (.268 AVG/.328 OBP, 50/65 Present/Future)
Miguel Vargas (.330 AVG, .404 OBP, 30/55 Present/Future)
Alex Verdugo (.329 AVG, .391 OBP, 60/65 Present/Future)

Ruiz took a bit of a step back last season, but his outlook is still solid. Vargas is a bit of an ambitious addition here from me. This comes down to Lux and Verdugo. They’re the two-best hitters on the farm, but Verdugo’s overall ability and bat control give him the edge over Lux.

Best Hitter: Verdugo

Best Hitter For Power

Niko Hulsizer (9 HR, .250 ISO, 40/55 Present/Future)
DJ Peters (29 HR, .237 ISO, 55/65 Present/Future)
Carlos Rincon (22 HR, .231 ISO, 45/60 Present/Future)
Edwin Rios (10 HR, .178 ISO, 55/60 Present/Future)
Cristian Santana (24 HR, .173 ISO, 45/55 Present/Future)
Cody Thomas (19 HR, .212 ISO, 45/55 Present/Future)

If you look at the (not a) scouting grades, the clear winner is Peters. And he is. But, there are a few guys to keep an eye on for future iterations of this exercise. Hulsizer has a chance to improve on his power grade, while Rincon is showing a bit of his power this season. Thomas also has some untapped raw power (and overall raw baseball skills). It’ll be interesting to see if any of them overtake Peters come next year. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it isn’t out of the question, either.

Best Hitter For Power: Peters

Best Strike Zone Discipline

Note: MLB average in 2018 on BB/K rate was 0.38.

Jacob Amaya (0.90 BB/K, .380 OBP)
Matt Beaty (0.71 BB/K, .378 OBP)
Gavin Lux (0.65 BB/K, .399 OBP)
Keibert Ruiz (0.79 BB/K, .328 OBP)
Miguel Vargas (0.64 BB/K, .404 OBP)
Alex Verdugo (0.72 BB/K, .391 OBP)

Amaya might one day claim this title, but as long as Verdugo is eligible, he gets the nod. Of course, Verdugo’s prospect eligibility is exhausted now, so someone else will be here next season. My darkhorse is Vargas, who has shown the ability to work the count and take a walk at a young age.

Best Strike Zone Discipline: Verdugo

Best Speed

Jeren Kendall (37 SB, 14 CS, 70/70 Present/Future)
Brayan Morales (46 SB, 15 CS, 70/70 Present/Future)

Sure, I could have thrown some other guys in for lip service, but this really comes down to two guys. From everything I’ve heard, Morales slightly edges out Kendall for this honor. Both are premium defenders in center field, and both are extremely fast.

Best Speed: Morales

Best Athlete

Donovan Casey
Jeter Downs
Jeren Kendall
Gavin Lux
Bryan Morales
James Outman
DJ Peters

This one has a clear winner for me, but it isn’t as hands-down as it has been in the past. Kendall is the best overall athlete in the system, but every one of these guys listed above are premium athletes, with Casey potentially being the next-best. Newcomer Downs could also push for this honor in the future.

Best Athlete: Kendall

Best SP Fastball

Yadier Alvarez
Tony Gonsolin
Dustin May
Dennis Santana
Zach Willeman
Mitchell White

This one is tough. Alvarez’s role is still undefined, but he has appeared in just one game this season, so he might ultimately be a reliever. For now, I have him as a starter. He has the best pure velocity of anyone, but he has no idea where the ball is going. Willeman might have the second-highest velo, but he’s largely untested. Santana and White have suffered from inconsistent velocity numbers at times (especially with White), so with May’s velocity bump last season, he edges out Gonsolin for this.

Best SP Fastball: May

Best RP Fastball

Melvin Jimenez
Marshall Kasowski
Josh Sborz
Jaime Schultz
Jordan Sheffield

Jimenez has a chance to be atop this list, as his fastball touched the mid-90s as a starter. He has since moved to the bullpen. Kasowski has a high-spin fastball that tops out at about 97 MPH. Sborz saw his velo spike with a full-time move to the bullpen, but he’s still not the best in that regard. Schultz’s velo in his brief MLB career has averaged 95 MPH. Sheffield, however, touched the high-90s as a starter. With a move to the bullpen, his velo is consistently in the mid-90s now. It’s between Kasowski and Sheffield, but I’ll opt for the one with the slightly better command/control and spin in Kasowski.

Best RP Fastball: Kasowski

Best Curveball

Tony Gonsolin
Dustin May
Mitchell White

To no one’s surprise, these are three of the best pitching prospects in the system. All three have power curves. Gonsolin’s compliments his fastball/splitter combination, while May separated his from his slider to become his best swing-and-miss pitch. But I still believe in White and his stuff. His curveball is the best by just a smidge.

Best Curveball: White

Best Slider

Yadier Alvarez
Josiah Gray
Michael Grove
John Rooney
Dennis Santana
Mitchell White

Alvarez’s slider was once described as “dastardly,” but he hasn’t been able to put everything together yet. Gray’s slider is his best offspeed offering and should improve further in the Dodgers’ org. Grove might top this list one day, but we have to see his slider in action first. Rooney’s best pitch is also his slider, but it’s not the best in the system. This one comes down to Santana and White. White’s is more of a slider/cutter hybrid, while Santana’s is more of a true slider. He gets the nod.

Best Slider: Santana

Best Changeup

Parker Curry
Tony Gonsolin
Robinson Ortiz
Jordan Sheffield
Edwin Uceta

Only Gonsolin’s “changeup” is actually a splitter here. And it’s the best of the lot. Sheffield has a really good one he pairs with his plus-fastball. Curry’s can miss some bats, while Ortiz and Uceta could develop plus-changeups in the future.

Best Changeup: Gonsolin

Best Command/Control

Carlos Duran
Tony Gonsolin
Josiah Gray
Dustin May
Jesus Vargas

Duran is a bit young (17) to claim this title just yet. Gray displayed good command/control in his pro debut in the Reds’ org. Gonsolin’s command/control is improving. Vargas is showing the ability to also command his offerings. But May’s steady improvement has been the most encouraging and gives him a leg up here.

Best Command/Control: May

Best Defensive Catcher

Diego Cartaya
Keibert Ruiz
Will Smith
Connor Wong

Cartaya may eventually be the best, but he’s unproven. Ruiz has made great strides in his pro career. Wong has a strong arm and is still learning the nuances of the position. But if you combine everything — arm, framing, agility, working with the pitchers — Smith wins this one pretty easily.

Best Defensive Catcher: Smith

Best Defensive Infielder

Jacob Amaya
Omar Estevez
Albert Suarez
Errol Robinson
Cristian Santana

Amaya projects to be a plus-defender at either middle infield position. Estevez has improved defensively since turning pro. He’s even a viable shortstop option. Suarez is still young and may one day be the best of the bunch. Robinson should make the pros on the strength of his glove alone. Santana is easily the best defender at the hot corner the Dodgers have in the minors. But Amaya’s present and future earn him the nod here.

Best Defensive Infielder: Amaya

Best Infield Arm

Edwin Rios
Cristian Santana
Leonel Valera

Rios has a legitimate arm, but seeing as he profiles best at first base, it’ll be wasted there. Valeria has a strong arm for shortstop and could handle third base if he had to. But the strength of Santana’s defense is in his strong arm. He’s also accurate.

Best Infield Arm: Santana

Best Defensive Outfielder

Donovan Casey
Jeren Kendall
Brayan Morales
DJ Peters
Cody Thomas

A lot of the same names from the best athlete category, which isn’t surprising. All these guys can play center field, even if all of them don’t profile best there (Peters, Thomas). This comes down to Kendall vs. Morales, with Kendall getting the nod over Morales, a reverse of the “best speed” category.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Kendall

Best Outfield Arm

DJ Peters
Carlos Rincon
Alex Verdugo

Verdugo’s arm is double-plus, as many teams viewed him as a pitcher coming out of high school. Rincon has a strong arm that should fit in right field. Peters’ arm is on-par with Rincon’s, but Verdugo’s is the best of the trio.

Best Outfield Arm: Verdugo

Best 5-Tool Prospect

Jeter Downs
DJ Peters
Alex Verdugo

None of these guys are true 5-tool players. There may not be a guy like that in the farm system. But all three of these guys have at least four above-average tools. Downs’ lacking tool is probably his power. Peters’ is his hit tool and Verdugo’s might end up being his speed and not his power. That doesn’t mean he’ll be a 30-home run hitter, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he got to 20 a few times in his career. Combined with his other tools, Verdugo is the best 5-tool guy the Dodgers have on the farm.

Best 5-Tool Prospect: Verdugo

ToolsPlayer
Best Hitter For AverageAlex Verdugo
Best Power HitterDJ Peters
Best Strike Zone DisciplineAlex Verdugo
Fastest BaserunnerBrayan Morales
Best AthleteJeren Kendall
Best SP FastballDustin May
Best RP FastballMarshall Kasowski
Best CurveballMitchell White
Best SliderDennis Santana
Best ChangeupTony Gonsolin
Best Command/ControlDustin May
Best Defensive CatcherWill Smith
Best Defensive InfielderJacob Amaya
Best Infield ArmCristian Santana
Best Defensive OutfielderJeren Kendall
Best Outfield ArmAlex Verdugo
Best 5-Tool ProspectAlex 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 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.