Every year, despite having minimal draft and international amateur free agency dollars to spend, there seems to be multiple prospect breakouts in the Dodgers minor league system. Identifying and developing talent is the name of the game, and as of April of 2020, the Dodgers employed 86 professional and amateur scouts, 4th-most in all of baseball at the time, per Baseball America. That emphasis has paid dividends, and it looks like it’ll continue to do so.
All that said, here are three prospects who have a good shot at breaking into the Dodgers’ top 10 list next season (and possibly leaping onto some league-wide top 100s), and they aren’t your typical 1st rounder or high-dollar international free agent, coming from places where scouting really pays the freight.
Gavin Stone, fresh off being named the Dodgers’ pitching prospect of the year, had an impressive debut campaign. Stone, who was a 5th round pick out of the University of Central Arkansas, compiled some impressive strikeout numbers in 2021. This was especially true after his promotion to A+ Great Lakes — 15.86 K/9 vs. 2.14 BB/9.
MLB Pipeline ranks Stone as the #28 prospect for the Dodgers, and they note that his fastball, which was 90-94 mph in college, now averages 94 and tops out at 98. They also put 50s on his curveball, changeup, and slider. Four big league average or better pitches definitely sounds like a starter’s profile.
Jose Ramos made an electric state-side debut, slashing .383/.456/.633 in 15 games with the ACL Dodgers, and .313/.377/.559 with Rancho Cucamonga. If he had enough ABs to qualify, his wRC+ of 138 would have been 3rd in the Low A West, and this is as a 20-year-old, a full year younger than average for the league.
Ramos was signed out of Panama in 2018 for just $30k, so rising this far this quickly is already a wild scouting and development success. Since signing, he has reportedly added 50 pounds to his frame, and he’s definitely grabbing attention.
In August, Baseball America noted that his max exit velo is already up to 109 mph. For context, via FanGraphs, this is tied for the highest max exit velo of any prospect they have listed in the organization … and tied with someone four years older. Additionally, MLB Pipeline has a 70 on his arm, and currently has him as the #16 overall prospect for the Dodgers. Ramos played right field exclusively with Rancho Cucamonga, and that’s likely to be his long-term landing spot.
In 2015, the Dodgers famously spent over $90 mil combined in signing bonuses and penalties on international prospects, and have little to show for it thus far. One of the byproducts of blowing out the international budget was the inability to sign an international prospect for more than $300k for the following two IFA classes. One of those relatively low-dollar prospects from the 2017-18 class, Jorbit Vivas, made a splash in 2021.
Vivas, ranked #19 over at MLB Pipeline, was signed out of Venezuela for the $300k maximum, and he showed a tremendous knack for barreling it up, posting the 4th-highest line drive % in the Low A West (25.2%) for Rancho Cucamonga. He kept this up after his promotion to Great Lakes, with the 13th highest line drive % in the High A Central (20.8%), despite being 2.4 years younger than average for the level. His wRC+ was also 3rd and 2nd for those levels, so he was definitely doing damage:
In addition to his propensity for line drives, Vivas is also showing plus bat to ball in general. He posted the lowest K% in both the Low A West (11.2%) and the High Central (12.7%), along with a solid composite walk rate (8.4%), and both of this areas are buoyed by his plus bat speed, giving him time to make quality swing decisions:
At a listed 5’10 and 171 lbs, Vivas doesn’t have a typical power-hitting profile, but a consistent ability to barrel like this can sometimes lead to an in-game power grade that exceeds his raw. In the field, Vivas split his time about evenly between 2B and 3B, but I think he’s more likely to stick at 2B in the future.