2021 Dodgers Top 50 Prospects: 20-11

Zach McKinstry. Photo by: Stacie Wheeler

We’re into the Top 20 of this Top 50 prospect countdown. You’re going to see a lot of familiar names — including a lot from Spring Training 2021. You’re also going to see a few low-level, high-ceiling guys — including a couple who haven’t even played a professional game yet.

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Previous Entries

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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. 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 generally 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.

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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 (though, not this year), 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 2021 season age for the player (June 30 is the cutoff date).

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20. Gerardo Carrillo

DOB: 9/13/98Age: 22Height: 5’10Weight: 180Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: RHP

Acquired: International free agent (Mexico), July 2016, $75,000 signing bonus

2020 Rank: 24

Strengths: Plus-fastball, improving secondaries

Weaknesses: Small frame, questions about starting long-term

Key statistics: 5.44 ERA, 8.6 K-BB% (2019 A+)

Role: No. 4/5 SP, multi-inning RP

Summary: A sub-$100,000 July 2 signing, Carrillo looks like he could be a nice find for the Dodgers’ international scouting department. His career has been more stuff over results, and because of that, some are pretty high on this right-hander.

Carrillo has a high-90s fastball that has touched tripe digits on occasion. It features a lot of life and run, which can really bore in on right-handed hitters. It has a similar profile to Dustin May‘s sinker. His best offspeed pitch is a 79-81 MPH 12-6 curveball that performs well down in the strike zone. He also has an average mid-to-high-80s slider that has cutter-like tendencies. He also has a fringe-average changeup that could hold him back from being a full-time starter down the road. Some prefer the slider to the curveball, but the changeup is a ways off (and could ultimately be scrapped).

Despite being on the short and athletic side, Carrillo has trouble repeating his effortless delivery, if that makes any sense. That has led to some below-average command/control in his pro career so far. As you might expect with a fastball that moves as much as Carrillo’s does, he has a three-quarters arm slot.

Because of the command concerns and lack of size, it’s hard to truly project Carrillo as a full-time starter. There are exceptions to the rule (Pedro Martinez), but I’m not sure Carrillo is that guy. Still, his arm is live enough and his stuff is good enough that he could carve out a role as a back-end starter, multi-inning reliever or short/late-game reliever. He should begin the season with Double-A Tulsa.

ToolPresentFuture
Fastball4570
Curveball4055
Slider3550
Changeup2540
Command/Control3040
FV/Risk50Extreme

19. Sheldon Neuse

DOB: 12/10/94Age: 26Height: 6’0Weight: 232Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: IF

Acquired: Trade with Oakland February 2020; 2nd round, No. 58 overall of 2016 MLB Draft by Washington, University of Oklahoma, $900,000 signing bonus

2020 Rank: Not ranked

Strengths: Capable at all infield spots, good bat speed, power potential, strong arm

Weaknesses: Swing-and-miss concerns, lacks patience, not much of a runner

Key statistics: .250/.295/.304, 63 wRC+, 90.9 EV (2019 MLB)

Role: Super utility or starting 3B

Summary: A former 2nd-rounder of the Nationals in 2016, Neuse was acquired with Gus Varland in the deal that sent Adam Kolarek and Cody Thomas to Oakland in February. The Athletics felt comfortable enough to trade their Matt Chapman heir apparent, to the Dodgers’ benefit.

Neuse looks the part of a right-handed Max Muncy (sans the elite plate discipline). He’s stocky, yet athletic and can play multiple infield spots. His best tool on offense is his power. He has some untapped raw power thanks to above-average bat speed. When he makes contact, he hits the ball hard. The reason he doesn’t project better is because he has some significant swing-and-miss in his game. He ran a 25.6 K% in almost 1,800 minor-league plate appearances. That figures to be the thing that holds him back most. If he can be more patient while hitting for above-average or better power, the strikeout concerns could be minimized.

Defensively, Neuse is a surprisingly capable player up-the-middle. He’s not a plus-shortstop by any means, but he can play there in a pinch. He profiles best defensively at third base, where he’s able to show off his plus-arm. He has good instincts and reaction time at the hot corner. The fact he can play all four spots increases his utility to a team like the Dodgers.

He may not have the ceiling Muncy does, but Neuse — who debuted in 2019 with the A’s — has a big league future ahead of him. He could be a starting third baseman on a second-division team or be a 400+ plate appearance guy on a playoff team. He’ll probably begin the season in Triple-A with Oklahoma City, but he should see LA whenever the need for a right-handed-hitting infielder arises.

ToolPresentFuture
Hit4545
Power5055
Speed4540
Defense5050
Arm6060
FV/Risk45Low

18. Kendall Williams

DOB: 8/24/00Age: 20Height: 6’6Weight: 210Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: RHSP

Acquired: Trade with Toronto August 2020, 2nd round, No. 58 overall of 2019 MLB Draft by Toronto, IMG Academy, $1,547,500 signing bonus

2020 Rank: Not ranked

Strengths: Projectable frame, advanced feel for age

Weaknesses: No true out pitch, limited pro experience

Key statistics: 16 IP, 1.13 ERA, 19.0 K-BB% (2019 GCL)

Role: No. 3/4 starter

Summary: Williams was the big prize in the Ross Stripling trade in August (that also netted the Dodgers Ryan Noda). He was Toronto’s second-rounder in 2019 and has some significant upside. He may remind folks of Dustin May a bit, but his ceiling isn’t quite that high.

Williams uses a low-90s fastball that has touched 96 MPH. Reports are his velo was up a bit in the instructional league, so that’s something to monitor when the throws this season. If he can be more consistently in the mid-90s, that could help him more easily reach his ceiling. It also features some decent arm-side run. His curveball is a high-70s breaker that improved when he came over in the trade. He also has a slider that looks like a cutter at times and a fringy changeup that has shown signs of improving.

The hulking right-hander has a high leg kick as he delivers his pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot. That helps him get a little extra run on his offerings. He has decent athleticism and is able to repeat his delivery well thanks to good body control.

With only 16 innings of professional experience, Williams won’t be on the fast track to Los Angeles. Instead, he’ll likely open the season in Low-A Rancho Cucamonga with a chance to make it to Great Lakes by season’s end. He profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter.

ToolPresentFuture
Fastball3555
Curveball3055
Slider2550
Changeup2545
Command/Control3050
FV/Risk50High

17. Zach McKinstry

DOB: 4/29/95Age: 26Height: 6’0Weight: 180Bats: LeftThrows: RightPosition: UTIL

Acquired: Thirty-third round, No. 1,001 overall of 2016 MLB Draft, Central Michigan University, $100,000 signing bonus

2020 Rank: 28

Strengths: Improving power, Swiss Army knife on defense

Weaknesses: Older for prospect, generally untested against MLB-quality pitching

Key statistics: .300/.366/.516, 139 wRC+ (2019 AA/AAA)

Role: First-division utility player

Summary: Despite 1,000 players being chosen before him in the 2017 MLB Draft, McKinstry figures to have a substantial MLB career after making vast improvements in the minors.

McKinstry’s bat has improved since turning pro. Added muscle and a swing change has led to more and consistent hard contact. He’s also added some loft to his swing without sacrificing his good bat-to-ball skills. He tallied 19 home runs in 2019 — 12 of which came with Double-A Tulsa. He even has a homer in Spring Training. He has a compact left-handed swing that should fare well against MLB pitching. He also has solid plate discipline that can help offset any strikeout concerns (of which there aren’t many).

On defense, he can play almost anywhere. He was a shortstop in college, but his arm won’t allow him to play there full-time. However, he’s a plus-defender at second base and is getting better at every other position. He’s even logged some time in center field in hopes of being a true Enrique Hernandez replacement. He’s an average runner who probably won’t swipe a lot of bases (ala Hernandez).

He’s a near lock to make the roster as a super utility player. If he’s good enough to be that for the Dodgers, he’s good enough to be that for any team. He could have a good, long career in that role. As long as he doesn’t struggle, he may never see Triple-A again.

ToolPresentFuture
Hit4550
Power4550
Speed5050
Defense5050
Arm5050
FV/Risk45Low

16. Landon Knack

DOB: 7/15/97Age: 23Height: 6’2Weight: 220Bats: LeftThrows: RightPosition: RHSP

Acquired: Second round, No. 60 overall of 2020 MLB Draft, East Tennessee State University, $715,000 signing bonus

2020 Rank: Not applicable

Strengths: Improved velocity, tighter breaking pitches

Weaknesses: Injury history, full-time starter?

Key statistics: N/A

Role: No. 3/4 starting pitcher or high-leverage RP

Summary: Despite being a fifth-year senior sign out of a small school, Knack certainly made an impression on the Dodgers with his 2020 campaign. He posted a 51:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio for ETSU Buccaneers thanks to a velocity bump, improved offspeed stuff and, most importantly, health.

Knack works with a 93-96 MPH fastball that has touched 98 in the past. It remains to be seen if he can sustain that type of velocity as a starter, but some reports had his fastball dipping slightly in longer outings (92-95, which still still pretty good). He pairs his potentially plus-fastball with a tight slider that has improved since his early college days. It’s his best secondary offering. With the fastball improvement has come a curveball that has benefited from increased velo. It’s a 12-6 downer that has flashed averaged. His changeup has also improved a bit, but it’s also inconsistent.

He has a deliberate but clean delivery as he delivers pitches from an almost over-the-top arm slot. That could lead to some potential issues with command/control, so that’s something to watch during this season. He is athletic enough to repeat it and has a solid enough frame that he can project as a starter, even if most think he’s destined for the bullpen. If he does end up in the bullpen, he could be a high-leverage guy with a nasty fastball/slider combination.

Knack is a candidate to move quickly despite being drafted less than a year ago. He was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training who could see Los Angeles as soon as 2022. If he performs well in the minors — and the need is there — that timeline could move up. He should begin the season in High-A with Great Lakes.

ToolPresentFuture
Fastball4560
Curveball3550
Slider4055
Changeup3545
Command/Control4050
FV/Risk55High

15. Jacob Amaya

DOB: 9/3/98Age: 21Height: 6’0Weight: 180Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: SS

Acquired: 11th round, No. 340 overall of 2017 MLB Draft, South Hills HS (Calif.), $247,500 signing bonus

2020 Rank: 15

Strengths: Advanced hand-eye coordination, great plate discipline, strong defender

Weaknesses: Lacks present power, trouble elevating, limited ceiling

Key statistics: .260/.369/.391, 14.5 BB%, 17.5 K%, .131 ISO (2019 A/A+)

Role: Second-division SS or utility infielder

Summary: Amaya was an over-slot signing from the Dodgers’ 2017 draft class, and he has made an impression on the organization. The internal reports are more favorable on him than most of the external ones.

He has good feel for hitting and making contact thanks to great hand-eye coordination and plate discipline. He has a line drive swing with minimal gap pop. The biggest concern with him going forward is going to be power. He’ll probably never be a 20 home run guy, but he’ll need to show he’s more than the -sub.400 slugger he has been in his minor-league career if he wants to reach his ceiling. But he’ll be a high-contact hitter who draws his fair share of walks and doesn’t strike out a lot.

There aren’t nearly as many concerns with Amaya’s defense. He profiles as a true shortstop thanks to good instincts, soft hands, a quick first step and an accurate throwing arm. He doesn’t have Rafael Furcal-esque arm strength, but it’s good enough to get the job done. If he has to move to second base, his defense would certainly play up. He’s not a burner on the bases, but he has good smarts on the paths.

Of all the players in this set of rankings, Amaya probably has the lowest ceiling, but he might also have the highest floor. If he isn’t a starting shortstop somewhere, he’s a starter at second base or a utility infielder, perhaps for a first-division team. That will depend on his bat. He should get his first taste of Double-A this season, but maybe after a refresher in High-A.

ToolPresentFuture
Hit4055
Power2540
Speed5045
Defense5060
Arm5050
FV/Risk50Medium

14. Alex De Jesus

DOB: 3/22/02Age: 19Height: 6’2Weight: 185Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: SS/3B

Acquired: International free agent (Dominican Republic), July 2018, $500,000 signing bonus

2020 Rank: 23

Strengths: Plus-bat speed, big power potential

Weaknesses: Limited pro experience, too aggressive at times

Key statistics: .281/.340/.392 (DSL/AZL 2019)

Role: Everyday left side infielder

Summary: De Jesus’ signing was a bit overshadowed by a guy who ranks in the Top 5, but he is looking like he might be a big-time get for the Dodgers’ international scouting department.

De Jesus, despite being a teenager, has shown flashes of being a full-blow MLB hitter. He possesses borderline-elite bat speed that produces a lot of loud contact. The power isn’t present, but it’s seen in his swing and allows for a plus-power projection. He is rather aggressive at the plate, so he’s going to have to mature in that regard if he’s to reach his ceiling. With a swing as good as his and the Dodgers’ developmental system, that seems like a good bet.

Signed as a third baseman, the Dodgers tried De Jesus at shortstop because he physically matured a bit and they thought he could handle it. He’s been OK there, but his future probably lies at third base. He has plenty of arm for either position, but his lack of lateral range and quickness would play much better at the hot corner than shortstop. Still, the Dodgers will probably keep him at shortstop until he proves he can’t handle it. He’s an average-to-below-average runner.

With a year lost due to the pandemic, De Jesus would probably be heading to High-A. Instead, he’ll either get time in the Arizona Rookie League before a trip to Rancho Cucamonga. He’s one of the riskier prospects in this set of rankings, but he also has one of the highest ceilings. If everything clicks, he could be a first-division starter at third base.

ToolPresentFuture
Hit3055
Power3060
Speed4545
Defense3550
Arm5060
FV/Risk55Extreme

13. Wilman Diaz

DOB: 11/15/03Age: 17Height: 6’2Weight: 182Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: SS

Acquired: International free agent (Venezuela), January 2021, $2,697,500 signing bonus

2020 Rank: Not applicable

Strengths: Light tower power, better than expected defender, strong arm

Weaknesses: Lacks contact, lots of swing-and-miss, probably not a center fielder

Key statistics: N/A

Role: First-division starting shortstop

Summary: Diaz was the best infielder available, according to some, in the 2021 international signing class, and the Dodgers nabbed him for almost $2.7 million.

The teenager has an advanced approach that leads some to believe he’ll be a plus-hitter with at least average power. With the way the Dodgers tend to improve the power profile of their hitting prospects, average might be on the low side. He has a compact swing that produces above-average bat speed that could lead to some loud contact and power. It’s tough to project a 17-year-old international signee this far out, but all the tools are there.

Diaz is a strong bet to stick at shortstop even as he matures physically. He has premium athleticism, a strong arm and good instincts at short. He’s comfortable going either direction and it’s easy to see him as a 10-year starter at the position — at least, as easy as it is for a child. He’s also a plus-runner who could be a threat on the bases if stolen bases are a thing when he debuts.

A lot of folks are bullish on Diaz, and for good reason. He could be a Role 6 shortstop, which is a tick under what Corey Seager projected as coming up through the minors. He’ll probably begin the season in the Dominican Summer League (after training at the Dodgers’ complex there) and there’s a non-zero chance he makes it to the AZL before season’s end.

ToolPresentFuture
Hit2060
Power2050
Speed6060
Defense3055
Arm3055
FV/Risk55Extreme

12. Luis Rodriguez

DOB: 9/16/02Age: 18Height: 6’2Weight: 175Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: CF/RF

Acquired: International free agent (Venezuela), January 2021, $2,667,500 signing bonus

2020 Rank: 14

Strengths: 5-tool player, strong arm

Weaknesses: No pro experience, lost 2020 year

Key statistics: Not applicable

Role: First-division CF/RF

Summary: Rodriguez was the Dodgers’ big international signee in 2019 out of — you guessed it — Venezuela. They paid him like a top-tier prospect, but he has yet to play in a professional game.

He has good bat speed that should allow him to hit for average and power. He has shown a mature approach at the training facility, but that’s different than doing it in-game. He has all the makings of a strong offensive player with the ability to hit for power, but he hasn’t yet gotten an opportunity to do it in a game setting.

On defense, Rodriguez has a decent chance to stick in center field. He’s not the pure center field defender like a Jake Vogel, but he can be good enough out there. If he has to move to a corner, he could be a profile right fielder thanks to a plus-arm. He’s also an average runner and is a bit better underway, which helps his range in the outfield.

It’s hard to truly project Rodriguez since he has yet to play a professional game, but the Dodgers didn’t throw that much money at him thinking he wouldn’t end up being a good prospect. He’ll finally get on the field — most likely in the DSL before a midseason jump to the AZL.

ToolPresentFuture
Hit3050
Power3055
Speed5550
Defense4050
Arm5060
FV/Risk55Extreme

11. Andre Jackson

DOB: 5/1/96Age: 25Height: 6’3Weight: 210Bats: RightThrows: RightPosition: RHSP

Acquired: 12th round, No. 370 overall of 2017 MLB Draft, University of Utah, $247,500 signing bonus

2020 Rank: 19

Strengths: Athletic, improving velo, plus-changeup

Weaknesses: Command/control concerning, injury history

Key statistics: 3.06 ERA, 29.2 K% (2019 A/AA)

Role: No. 3/4 SP or multi-inning RP

Summary: When the Dodgers popped Jackson out of Utah, they knew he had potential and gave him an over-slot deal. Like many a draftee, Jackson had Tommy John surgery after that and made it back to have a solid 2018 season. His 2019 campaign was his breakout one and the one that improved his prospect status.

Jackson works with a 92-96 MPH fastball that he can run up to 98 MPH at times. It has some natural cutting action on it, giving hitters a different look than just the traditional 4-seamer. He has a solid 78-82 MPH curveball that still needs some refinement, but could be a good eye-level-changing pitch for him. He also messes with a hard slider/cutter hybrid that could be more of a surprise pitch against opposing hitters. His best pitch is a filthy low-80s changeup that features a lot of fade. He’s not afraid to throw it against either handed hitter. He has used it in Spring Training, and it has opened some eyes.

Command/control is where Jackson struggles a bit. In ’19, he ran a nearly 12 BB%. He’s one of the best athletes in the system — not just for a pitcher — so there’s some hope that he can be more consistent with his delivery going forward. He has an almost over-the-top arm slot that helps him get downward plane on his pitches, but it could also contribute to some of the command issues.

If Jackson can figure out his control, he has a chance to be a legitimate mid-rotation starter. Without a ton of mileage on his (surgically repaired) arm, he could be a bit of a late-bloomer and maintain a high level deeper in to his 30s than other pitchers. If he has to move to the bullpen, he could be a multi-inning guy. He’s on the 40-man roster, so he could see LA this season. For now, he’ll begin the season with Triple-A OKC.

ToolPresentFuture
Fastball5060
Curveball4050
Slider3045
Changeup5060
Command/Control4045
FV/Risk55High

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Next Up: Prospect No. 10

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. 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.