Dodgers Top 30 Prospects: End-of-season update

Gavin Lux (Photo: Cody Bashore)

A reasonable amount of time has passed since Dustin ran through the mid-season update of the Top 30 Dodgers Prospects at the start of July. I’m not going to re-rank any of these guys, but rather just check in on how their 2019 seasons finished before Dustin goes in depth on them all again in the future.

——

Eligibility

I’ll use the same eligibility Dustin did, while also pointing out a handful of these guys won’t be eligible to return to the list next year. All players who have not reached 50 innings pitched, 130 at-bats in the Major Leagues and have less than 45 days of pre-Sept. 1 service time are eligible for this list.

——

1. 2B/SS Gavin Lux

Spending the month of September with the Dodgers, Lux’s immediate future likely depends on who the Dodgers do/don’t sign and how much playing time is available in the infield. After absolutely destroying pitchers in AAA (.392/.478/.719/1.197 in 232 PAs), Lux’s short stint with the Dodgers ended up with a .240/.305/.400/.705 line in just 82 PAs. He’s still eligible to be on here and surely will be at the top again.

2. RHP Dustin May

May’s two-month stint with the Dodgers included a scary moment in Arizona when a liner by Jake Lamb struck him in the head. Having been there in person, it was thankfully not as serious as it seemed immediately. The 22-year-old’s jump between three levels last year ended with 32 strikeouts and a 3.63 ERA in 34 2/3 innings for the Dodgers in the regular season. May also added another 3 1/3 innings in the NLDS, allowing three hits, a walk and one run.

3. C Will Smith

An incredible hot start to his career (an OPS above 1.000 in 129 PAs from May to August) was followed by a much tougher end of the year (.582 OPS in 67 PAs in September) and rough postseason (one hit and three walks in 16 PAs) for Smith. Not that those small samples matter much as Smith is now the Dodgers’ starting catcher.

4. RHP Josiah Gray

Gray reached Double-A Tulsa to end the 2019 season, barely a year removed from playing college baseball. The results were pretty impressive, with about a 25 K% and a 6.8 BB% percentage in 39 1/3 innings. In hindsight, he’s a pretty impressive piece from last December’s trade with the Reds.

5. C Keibert Ruiz

Ruiz broke a finger early on in August, about two weeks after he moved from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. In the 40 PAs he received before missing the rest of the year, the 21-year-old Ruiz slashed .316/.350/.474/.824. Naturally, those numbers are a bit inflated by the PCL’s environment, but it was still a nice bounceback after a rough second stint in AA.

6. SS/2B Jeter Downs

When Dustin checked on Downs back in July, he was at a .277/.357/.535/.892 with Rancho. The numbers weren’t a fluke, as the 21-year-old finished his run at High-A at .269/.354/.507/.862. A late move to Tulsa near the end of August allowed Downs to get a quick feel for Double-A, where he went .333/.429/.688/1.116 in 56 PAs, including five home runs.

7. RHP Tony Gonsolin

Gonsolin received a similar stint to May in the majors, pitching 40 innings with a 2.93 ERA and 37 strikeouts though it also came with a 4.90 xFIP. The 25-year-old’s BABIP of .208 (second on the Dodgers among actual pitchers) was much lower than he had seen at any level so far, and could see some regression going forward. However, his 8.5% HR/FB rate (third on the team) was mostly in line with his minor league numbers.

8. 3B Kody Hoese

Hoese moved from the Arizona League to the Midwest League where his numbers predictably took a hit. Compiling a .264/.330/.385/.715 line in 103 PAs, Hoese did keep his K% down at 13.6 in the quick look outside of complex ball after the Dodgers picked him in the 1st round of this past June’s draft.

9. 2B/SS Omar Estevez

Estevez slashed .291/.352/.431/.784 for AA Tulsa this season, getting 336 PAs at the level while also having a quick stint in the Arizona League. The Dodgers also sent the 21-year-old middle infielder to the Arizona Fall League where he finished at .247/.330/.273/.602 in 88 PAs. Estevez managed just two extra-base hits of his 19 during the stint with Glendale, but he was one of the youngest prospects the Dodgers sent to the league.

10. 3B Miguel Vargas

Vargas spent 889 innings at third and just 64 at first in 2019 after 307/91 split in 2018, though 20 errors in 102 games is a bit rough. Now 20 years old as of a few weeks ago, Vargas did look pretty good in his 236 PAs with Rancho. Slashing .284/.353/.408/.761 in the California League, Vargas played at the level while well under the average age.

11. C Diego Cartaya

Moving to the Arizona League in June, the 18-year-old is rightfully so this high up on Dustin’s list. Slashing .296/.353/.437/.790 in 150 PAs, Cartaya’s first professional season consisted of just 49 games at the two Rookie league levels.

12. RHP Mitchell White

White’s first taste of AAA didn’t go too well, nor did his stint in the Arizona Fall League. A 6.50 ERA in 16 appearances (13 starts) and 63 2/3 innings at Oklahoma City included 13 home runs allowed and an 18.3 HR/FB%, well above any rate he had produced in his career. Pitching in six games for Glendale, White only saw 4 2/3 innings of work while allowing seven runs. However, his numbers at AA were much better in 2019 than 2018 as a 31.6 K% in Tulsa this year jumps out. The Dodgers added him to the 40-man roster ahead of this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

13. 2B/1B Michael Busch

The Dodgers’ other 1st-round selection from the 2019 draft, Busch did not see much time with Great Lakes due to an injury. Logging just 15 games between three different teams, including Glendale in the Arizona Fall League, the 22-year-old will be easier to get a read on in 2020. Busch played 52 innings at second base with the two rookie league teams, but spent four of his five games at first in Arizona.

14. OF Cody Thomas

Thomas slashed .236/.308/.443/.751 as a 24-year-old for Tulsa. He still carried a K% of 27.1, which was down from the 29.2% at both High-A in 2018 and at Low-A in 2017. Thomas also slightly raised his walk rate and did see a bit more time in center field for Tulsa than he did for Rancho in 2018.

15. RHP Michael Grove

Everything Dustin mentioned about Grove in July is still accurate, with the ERA falling to 6.10 and the FIP to 3.76. The K% stayed high at 31.6, with a 23.4 K-BB% in his 51 2/3 innings for Rancho (21 starts). This past year was also Grove’s first time pitching since 2017 for Grove, who’s 2018 collegiate season was wiped out by Tommy John surgery before the Dodgers grabbed him in the 2nd round of the draft anyway.

16. RHP Dennis Santana

Santana’s 2019 season didn’t get significantly better in the final few months of the season. His K% was down to 23.7, his lowest of any level in the minors since Rookie ball. Similarly the walk rate was up and his HR/FB% finished at 17.2 (16 in 93 1/3 innings). It was really just a rough year all around, but Santana is still just 23 years old.

17. OF DJ Peters

Peters’ line for Oklahoma City brought him back to the offensive numbers he had been producing in the past few years, slashing .260/.388/.490/.879 in 255 PAs. His ISO moved back to .231 from the .181 it was in AA this year and his HR/FB% finished at 21.5%, about where it was in 2018. Meanwhile, Peters’ K% stayed down at 29.4, his BB% rose up to 12.9% and his LD% hit 24.1% (effectively all career bests). He’s now on the 40-man roster, added ahead of this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

18. LF/1B/3B Matt Beaty

Beaty slashed .265/.317/.458/.775 in 268 PAs for the Dodgers. There’s not a ton to say on a guy everyone pretty much is aware of now. The Dodgers did well to move Beaty all around in the field, as they do with most of the players they use on their bench.

19. 3B/1B Edwin Rios

A player I’ve been a big fan of over the years, despite his ever rising K%, Rios quick stints with the Dodgers led to a ridiculous .277/.393/.617/1.010 line with a .409 BABIP. Down in AAA, Rios slashed .270/.340/.575/.915 with a .305 ISO and an insane 28.7 HR/FB%. Rios has hit at every level, but the 34.5% strikeout rate in AAA (and 37.5% in the majors) is well above the 21.2% it was in 2017 while still holding an .895 OPS in Double- and Triple-A.

20. 2B/3B Devin Mann

Mann didn’t quite make it to Tulsa in 2019, but he slashed .278/.358/.496/.854 for High-A Rancho with a .218 ISO. Entering his age 23 season, Mann should be taking a step forward in 2020. He too struggled a bit in his short time with Glendale in the Arizona Fall League, slashing .191/.339/.340/.679, but it came in a sample of just 59 PAs.

21. SS/2B Jacob Amaya

Spending nearly all of 2019 in the Midwest League, Amaya’s .775 OPS ranked 8th. That number was built on the 21-year-old’s walk rate of 15.7%, with the slash line (.262/.381/.394) still lacking . much power. With just 35 extra-base hits in 470 PAs in Low-A and another six in 89 High-A PAs, Amaya’s proven ability to get on base is helping keeping him viable.

22. RHP Edwin Uceta

The 21-year-old fared pretty well in his first look at Double-A, finishing with a 3.21 ERA and a 3.78 FIP in 73 innings and 16 appearances. The strikeout rate dipped with after jumping a level, down to 24.8% from the 30% it had been in Rancho, but Uceta was still young for the level.

23. RHP Jordan Sheffield

A Dodgers’ 1st round pick in 2016, Sheffield was left unprotected by the Dodgers ahead of this year’s Rule 5 Draft. However, he was not selected and is still in the system. Sheffield has yet to pitch above Double-A at 24 years old and holding an 18.7% walk rate, I can’t say I am too surprised he was left available, though that doesn’t make it any less disappointing for a former high pick.

24. 3B Cristian Santana

Santana just spent some time in the Dominican Winter League, with pretty rough results albeit in a very small sample size. Slashing .301/.320/.436/.756 as a 22-year-old for Tulsa, Santana continued to get some work at first base in addition to third. Santana still needs to hit to get on base, with his walk rate down to 2.4% this season. Unfortunately, the power was only about average this year with a .135 ISO.

25. SS/3B Alex De Jesus

Playing his first professional season, De Jesus hit well in the Dominican Summer League before struggling a bit in Arizona. But he still doesn’t turn 18 until March, so there’s still good reason to be intrigued by him going forward.

26. LHP John Rooney

Rooney’s control, with a 6.8% walk rate in 50 innings for Rancho, and ability to keep the ball in the park (9.6 HR/FB%), were pretty good even if his ERA (3.06) was well ahead of his FIP (4.24) during his 50 innings for Rancho.

27. RHP Josh Sborz

Pitching in seven games for the Dodgers last season, Sborz didn’t do anything to diminish the thought that he has a future in the bullpen. Striking out 31.3% of batters in Oklahoma City, with a 24.9% K-BB%, Sborz 4.68 ERA in 50 innings looks like a fluke compared to a 2.44 FIP and 3.79 xFIP. He’s been hit with a rough BABIP during his two seasons in OKC, with a .406 in 2019 and a .388 in 2018, both well above any other location he’s pitched in his career.

28. RHP Marshall Kasowski

Kasowski earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League after turning in a solid 2019 out of the bullpen for Tulsa. Finishing the year with a 2.45 ERA and a 2.50 FIP, Kasowski struck out 37.1% of batters in Double-A. The 24-year-old never moved to OKC in 2019, with just 29 1/3 innings pitched (it sounds like he missed some time this year), but his nine innings for Glendale during September/October ended with 13 strikeouts and 10 walks.

29. C/2B/3B Connor Wong

Wong did move up to Tulsa a few weeks after Dustin’s last update and the power showed. Finishing at .349/.393/.604/.997 in 163 PAs, Wong BABIP was at .467, his ISO at .255 and his HR/FB% at 29.0%. However, the strikeout rate did stay up at 30.7%. While at Tulsa, Wong played 73 1/3 innings at third and just 31 at second, so it looks like the Dodgers were trying to expand his defensive options a bit.

30. RHP Andre Jackson

Jackson closed out his first season at High-A with a 31.0% strikeout rate and a 12.9% walk rate. It came with a 3.66 ERA in 66 1/3 innings. The K-BB% topped both stints with Low-A in 2018 and 2019 and came in a bigger sample than Jackson has had at any level so far in his career.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore
Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree. He currently works for the local newspaper, as well as writes for the university’s athletics department.