The Dodgers have gotten contributions from rookies in every year of their going-on-seven-year NL West champion run. Some seasons have seen more top-heavy contributions in the form of Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu (2013), Joc Pederson (2015), Corey Seager (2016), Cody Bellinger (2017), or Walker Buehler (2018) — but this season’s contributions by the rookies has been different.
Led by Alex Verdugo, Dodger rookies have a collective 4.2 fWAR. Will Smith is already at 1.0 WAR, and he’s only played in 20 games. Now, I don’t think he’s a 9-win player (his current pace via WAR/600 PA), but he’s quite the improvement over Austin Barnes and Russell Martin. They’ve also gotten surprising contributions from the likes of Matt Beaty, and even Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May lately.
Here’s how Dodger rookies have contributed to the team since 2013.
|2014||-0.8||Baez, Frias, Rojas (0.1)|
|2013||8.4||Puig, Ryu (3.9)|
The 2016 team benefited from Seager’s MVP-caliber season, but it also got strong contributions from Kenta Maeda, Andrew Toles and Julio Urias. And that 2014 team, well … let’s just not talk about that.
But this crop of rookies doesn’t have the benefit of a consensus top prospect in baseball as Seager was back in 2016. It doesn’t have the ace-level prospect that Buehler was before his rookie season either. Even Bellinger had climbed his way into the global Top 10 prospects in baseball before the 2017 season. The 2019 group is led by a legitimate preseason Top 50 prospect in Verdugo, but no one else who has contributed could make that claim. Sure, some folks were high on May, but he landed just outside the Top 50. Smith didn’t make all the Top 100s and, despite being the highest-ranked prospect, Keibert Ruiz isn’t yet ready for prime time (and he’s out for the season after breaking a finger).
There probably won’t be a lot more coming from the minors this season. While it’d be nice to see Gavin Lux make a strong appearance, I question where he’s going to play and whose playing time he’s going to take (as it would mean he’d be starting for them in the postseason). Maybe instead he’ll lead the 2020 group of rookies who will, inevitably, give the Dodgers quality production. Along with Lux, there’s DJ Peters, Ruiz, Jordan Sheffield and Mitchell White who could be among key contributors next season — plus a prospect or two none of us are expecting to contribute.
This is the way Andrew Friedman and Co. envisioned things. The team is championship-caliber and has a Top 5 farm system that actually contributes to said team on the field. While I’ve been critical of some non-moves in the past (hi, Bryce Harper), whatever Friedman is doing is obviously working. Here’s hoping the pipeline continues to produce quality major leaguers who can be counted to contribute at any given moment.
It’s a good time to be a Dodger fan.