2016 Dodgers Prospects: Midseason Top 30 update

It’s the All-Star break and there won’t be much Dodger news for the next few days (probably). So, I’ve decided to bring you a midseason prospect update.

This is my updated Top 30 prospects in the Dodgers’ system. It includes some recent draftees, as this year’s draft was pretty solid for them. But for the first time since 2012, Corey Seager will not be ranked because he has exhausted his prospect eligibility. He’s also a National League All-Star, which is rather amazing.

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.


Ross Stripling is 4 1/3 innings from cracking the 50-inning threshold. And by my count, he’s at exactly 45 days of service time, but I might be off by one there because my count is pretty worthless. So, I’m making an executive decision to deem Stripling no longer a prospect. If he were still eligible, he’d slot in around the 12-15 range.

Numbers in parenthesis are the player’s rank in my preseason Top 100.

1. Julio Urias, LHP (2, +1)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City

Current location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Urias got his first taste of the majors and was pretty impressive despite a high ERA. All his pitches showed promise, he had plus-velocity and there were flashes of what everyone has been saying about him since his 2013 debut in Great Lakes. He probably shouldn’t be back up this season, as he needs to focus on stretching himself out for next season.

2. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF (5, +3)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Double-A Tulsa
Bellinger missed the first month of the season with a hip injury after destroying the ball in spring training (.393/.541/.679). He even got off to a slow start in Tulsa, hitting .108/.250/.108 in his first 11 games. Since then, he’s hitting .293/.370/.518 en route to a .264/.350/.452 triple slash on the season. Most encouraging is that he maintained above-average power (.189 ISO) while also increasing his walk rate (9.6 to 11.2 percent) and decreasing his strikeout rate (27.6 to 23.1 percent) from the previous season. And he’s doing this as a 20-year-old in Double-A. Impressive.

3. Jose De Leon, RHP (3)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City

Current location: OKC
De Leon has been the victim of injury this season. He missed the first month of the season with an ankle injury. The plan was to start him at Camelback Ranch to limit his workload for 2016, but the ankle threw things off. He made his first start for Oklahoma City and struck out nine in five shutout innings. He then missed another month, this time with a sore shoulder. Yikes. He came back and has thrown 24 2/3 solid innings since (3.65 ERA, 34.3 K%, 9.8 BB%). The biggest concern I’ve heard is his velocity has been a bit diminished, but I’ll chalk that up to not having a consistent workload thus far. He’s still missing plenty of bats, which is encouraging.

4. Alex Verdugo, CF (7, +3)
Started: Double-A Tulsa

Current location: Tulsa
Not many teams wanted Verdugo as a hitter, but the Dodgers did, and it appears to be paying off. The 20-year-old is enjoying success with the Drillers by slashing .293/.353/.439 as the team’s primary center fielder. The left-handed swinger has increased his walk rate by 4 percent from the previous season. His strikeout rate has remained generally the same (and low) at 13.2 percent. He is also hitting for a bit more power (.146, up from .130 last year), which is really encouraging. He has some of the best bat-to-ball contact skills in the system.

5. Grant Holmes, RHP (6, +1)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
While the results aren’t going to mean much for Holmes, he has enjoyed success in the hitter-friendly California League (ERA, FIP, K%). His biggest bugaboo remains his command, but he is doing a better job this season of being more in control of his pitches. He’s still armed with a low-90s fastball that touches the mid-90s, a hammer curveball and a promising changeup. Holmes would be a Top 2-3 prospect in many other farm systems.

6. Yadier Alvarez, RHP (10, +4)
Started: AZL Dodgers

Current location: AZL Dodgers
He of the “dastardly” slider, Alvarez has been downright dominant in his professional debut. Yes, it’s against inferior competition, but the fastball and slider are legit. He needs to improve his changeup, as well as build stamina. That will happen in the next 2-3 seasons. The $16 million investment (really, $32 million) the Dodgers made in Alvarez is going well, thus far.

7. Frankie Montas, RHP (11, +4)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City

Current location: OKC (disabled list)
Montas might not have been eligible for this list if he had been healthy the entire season. But he still owns a high-90s fastball, a slider that touches 90-91 MPH and a frame that is conducive to starting. But he hasn’t been able to shake the rib injury that has caused him to miss most of the season — surgery in spring training and a fracture just last month. He showed a lot in his 16 innings in the minors this season (34.4 K%, 4.7 BB%).

8. Austin Barnes, C (8)
Started: Los Angeles

Current location: Oklahoma City
Barnes is in such an odd position. He’s too good to be stuck in Triple-A, but he isn’t about to supplant Yasmani Grandal or A.J. Ellis on the roster. He can play second- and third base (as well as some outfield), but the Dodgers have a lot of those guys on the active roster already. But at least Barnes is hitting well at OKC for a second consecutive season (.286/.378/.415, 11.9 BB%, 15.1 K%, 15 SB). He might be a prime trade chip for the team.

9. Brock Stewart, RHP (61, +52)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
The biggest riser on this list of anyone ranked in the Top 100, Stewart has put himself on the map with a dominant run through High-A, Double-A and now Triple-A. He even made his MLB debut in June against the Brewers. Aside from one inning, he looked really good. He has a low-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup — both of which have flashed plus in the past. He has a 1.66 ERA and a 29.9 K% in 92 minor-league innings this season. He won’t be that kind of pitcher in the majors (obviously), but his ceiling is that of mid-rotation guy. Before the season, he looked like, at best, a swingman-type or middle reliever. Added velocity and improved off-speed stuff has made all the difference for Stewart.

10. Jharel Cotton, RHP (8, -2) 
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City

Current location: OKC
Cotton is having a solid season with OKC. He’s missing a lot of bats (29.5 K%), but the hitter-friendly confines of the PCL are wreaking havoc on his ERA (4.74) and FIP (4.34). He’s given up 12 home runs in 79 2/3 innings, which is the biggest reason for his struggles this season. But the talent is still there with a 4-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball, a plus-changeup that has flashed plus-plus, a curveball and cutter. His first taste of the majors might come out of the bullpen … or with another organization.

11. Jordan Sheffield, RHP (NR)
Started: Vanderbilt University

Current location: Rookie Ogden
Another year, another Vanderbilt pitcher draftee, but Sheffield already had his required Tommy John surgery. He isn’t dissimilar to Cotton in terms of stature, but his pure stuff is better. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he backs it up with a power breaking ball in the low-80s. He also has a changeup that needs improvement, but he definitely has an MLB arm. He’ll need to show his small frame can handle the rigors of a 160-plus inning workload in the majors. If he can’t be effective as a starter, his stuff plays up out of the bullpen.

12. Willie Calhoun, 2B (24, +12)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Tulsa
Folks in Tulsa have been treated to a fantastic laser show this season, as Calhoun leads the org in home runs at 17. The stocky second baseman has more than held his own in his first full pro season as a 21-year-old. It was an aggressive assignment, but he’s hitting for power (.222 ISO), walking a bit (8.3 BB%) and not striking out a lot (13.5 K%). Really not much more the Dodgers could have hoped for out of him so far this season.

13. Yusniel Diaz, OF (12, -1)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga 
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga (7-day DL)
Despite being hampered by a shoulder injury for a good portion of the season, he has still shown glimpses of why the Dodgers gave him a $15.5 million signing bonus out of Cuba. He hasn’t played since June 13, presumably because of that injury, but he still has plenty of upside. He isn’t a big-time power hitter. Instead, he projects to be a contact-oriented hitter with gap power who walks. He has shown a little of that this season. Staying healthy will important for him going forward.

14. Gavin Lux, SS (NR)
Started: Indian Trail Academy HS (Wisc.)

Current location: AZL Dodgers
The Dodgers’ 1st-round pick in the 2016 draft has already shown a keen eye at the plate in his pro debut in the Arizona Rookie League. He has a .424 on-base percentage in 13 games and has shown the ability to play a good shortstop. He was one of two true shortstop drafted in the first round this year (Delvin Perez being the other).

15. Chase De Jong, RHP (19, +4) 
Started: Double-A Tulsa

Current location: Tulsa
The addition of a cut fastball has improved De Jong’s overall stock as a prospect. He doesn’t have elite velocity or one pure swing-and-miss pitch, but he has lots of pitchability. De Jong is the ace of the Drillers’ staff. He’s out-pitching his FIP (3.83) by a lot, as he has a 2.69 ERA. That’s due in large part to the 12 home runs he has allowed in 90 1/3 innings. Everything else looks good. He has a 22.6 K%, a 7.1 BB% and a .190 opponents batting average. The addition of a cutter could help him be a more effective pitcher overall.

16. Walker Buehler, RHP (13, -3)
Started: Camelback Ranch
Current location: Camelback
The 2015 1st-round pick has yet to throw a professional pitch since he had Tommy John surgery shortly after signing his contract. If he were healthy, he’d be much higher on this list. He has been doing some drills while at Camelback Ranch on his road to recovery. If he recovers his collegiate form after surgery, he still has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter.

17. Trevor Oaks, RHP (34, +17)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Similar to Stewart as being an unheralded mid-round draft pick, Oaks has done nothing but produce since turning pro. The 23-year-old thrives on having great command/control of his sinker that has ticked up in velocity since spring training. It’s now a 93 MPH offering that touches 96. He’s never going to be a guy who misses a ton of bats, but having control a power sinker like that (61 GB%) should help him have success in the majors.

18. Will Smith, C (NR)
Started: University of Louisville

Current location: Low-A Great Lakes
It’s hard not to see the Austin Barnes comparison when it comes to Smith. Both are high-contact, great plate discipline, minimal power, good field generals. Smith was a late-riser on draft day, as he wasn’t originally viewed as 1st-round selection. The Dodgers popped him and he has .356 on-base percentage in his first 13 games.

19. Josh Sborz, RHP (27, +8) 
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga

Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
Sborz still has a reliever profile in my eyes, but he has been awfully impressive as a starting pitcher with the Quakes. Armed with a low-90s fastball and a plus-slider, Sborz has been able to post a 24.1 K%, 6.9 BB%, a 2.64 ERA and a solid 3.68 FIP. He’ll need to show the same ability as a starter when he gets to Double-A (likely next season) if he wishes to remain a starting pitcher. If he has to eventually go back to the bullpen, he should be a setup-type of reliever.

20. Scott Barlow, RHP (25, +5)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Tulsa
It’s been a long journey for Barlow as a 2011 5th-round pick, but he’s finally showing the potential that should land him in the majors someday. His 4.22 ERA and 4.17 FIP aren’t exactly impressive, but he got roughed up in his last two starts (8 2/3 IP, 19 H, 14 R/ER). But he still has a 10 percent swinging strike rate and has cut his walk rate down by 2 percent. He has a low-90s fastball, a biting curveball, an average slider and a fringy changeup. While he has been a starter most of his career, a move to the bullpen might help his stuff tick up.

21. Andrew Toles, OF (NR)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Los Angeles

Toles was a Rays’ farm hand, as they selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft. He showcased his entire game in 2013 when he hit .326/.359/.466 with 35 doubles, 16 triples and 62 stolen bases. The next season didn’t go as well and he missed all of 2015 with anxiety issues. The Rays released him and the Dodgers snagged him over the winter. He did nothing but hit across three levels of the minors (.330/.375/.507) and earned a call-up to the Dodgers. He doubled on the first pitch he saw in the majors. He’s a legitimate center fielder with plus-plus speed, which helps his overall profile.

22. Johan Mieses, OF (35, +13)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
Mieses was a $40,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic and been up and down this season. He’s repeating High-A with Rancho, but he’s only 20 years old, so there isn’t much need to worry about that. He’s posting similar numbers to last season, but he has increased his walk rate by 2 percent and is hitting for a bit more power. While he’s probably a right fielder in the long run, he can play center field in a pinch.

23. Starling Heredia, OF (22, -1)
Started: DSL Dodgers 2

Current location: DSL Dodgers 2
A $2.6 million signing during the 2015-16 international period, Heredia has debuted in the Dominican Summer League and is hitting well — .296/.345/.444. There isn’t much to take away from the stat line because it’s still the lowest level of the minors, but it’s just nice to see Heredia getting his career underway. He has plus-raw power and projects to be an above-average hitter. He has played mostly left field in his debut, but he has a few appearances in center field as well. The 17-year-old is the youngest player in this prospect update.

24. Ariel Sandoval, OF (40, +16)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Sandoval, 20, was a $150,000 signing in 2012, and that investment finally looks like it might be paying off. He only walked three times in 2015 in the Arizona Rookie League, so improving his walk rate wasn’t going to be too difficult. It’s up to 5.2 percent now. His strikeout rate is up a little bit as well (25.5 percent), but the biggest reason he has jumped up is his power potential. He had a .206 ISO in Great Lakes. That is no small feat, despite it being Low-A. He had 34 extra base hits in 79 games with the Loons. A recent promotion to Rancho could see his numbers jump for the remainder of the season.

25. Imani Abdullah, RHP (38, +13)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
The 2015 11th-round pick got a $647,500 signing bonus and has been rather impressive so far. His last outing wasn’t good for the 19-year-old (3 1/3 IP, 10 H, 6 R), which has inflated some of his numbers. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff at the moment, but he’s projectable. His fastball is currently an 89-91 MPH offering that the Dodgers are hoping ticks up as he progresses through the minors. His curveball is a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch. He’ll need to develop a third pitch as he faces advanced competition. The best thing Abdullah has done this season is that he has only walked three hitters in 40 innings of work. Showing that kind of command/control at such a young age is encouraging.

26. Mitch Hansen, OF (28, +2)
Started: Rookie Ogden
Current location: Ogden
Hansen was the Dodgers’ 2nd-rounder in 2015 and had a somewhat disappointing debut with the AZL Dodgers (.201/.281/.282). In his first 19 games with Ogden, he’s slashing .346/.391/.500 with three home runs. He’s already 20 as a second-year player, so the Dodgers are expecting him to hit well and advance more quickly than your typical high school draftee.

27. Jacob Rhame, RHP (26, -1)
Started: Triple-A Oklahoma City
Current location: OKC
Rhame has been pretty much the same guy every season since being drafted in the sixth round in 2013. He doesn’t out-pitch his FIP by much and is a consistent high-20 strikeout percentage guy. Rhame doesn’t have elite command/control, but his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider/cutter gets plenty of swings and misses.

28. Brendon Davis, SS/3B (30, +2)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
Sending an 18-year-old to the hitters’ hell that is the Midwest League is a tough assignment. Davis hasn’t fared too well on the whole (.233/.289/.338, 88 wRC+), but considering he’s so young and still developing physically, it’s not a bad performance. He has also fared a bit better at shortstop early in his career, but he might eventually have to move off the position. He’s a high risk, high reward prospect.

29. Kyle Farmer, C/3B (29)
Started: Double-A Tulsa
Current location: Tulsa
Farmer is a high-contact player, evidenced by his solid batting average (.296) and low strikeout percentage (11.6 percent). With that comes a lack of power, which has been Farmer’s biggest criticism as a hitter. The 25-year-old is repeating Double-A after playing 76 games with the Drillers last season. His .169 ISO would be the second-best mark of his career, but that won’t translate at the next level. The converted college shortstop has taken really well to catching, and the Dodgers are even giving him some time at third base for the second consecutive season. He hasn’t played since May 29.

30. Omar Estevez, 2B/SS (32, +2)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
A hot streak heading up to the MLB All-Star break has the 18-year-old’s slash line at .223/.265/.350. Much like Davis, the line isn’t great, but considering Estevez is so young and tasting professional ball for the first time, things could be going worse. One surprise is how much shortstop he has played after being thought of as a second base-only prospect. He has 31 games at shortstop and 34 at second base. The front office is keen on versatility, so Estevez’s ability to play multiple positions could benefit him going forward.

The next five (alphabetical order): Angel German (44), Micah Johnson (15), Edwin Rios (62), Jacob Scavuzzo (21), Mitchell White (NR)

Here are some guys ranked in the back-half of the Top 100 who would be Top 50 prospects in the system if the season ended today, aside from the “next five” listed above (preseason ranking):

Here are guys ranked in the Top 100 who are no longer in the system:

Dropped out of Top 30: Yaisel Sierra (14), Micah Johnson (15), Chris Anderson (20), Jordan Paroubeck (23)
Moved into Top 30: Stewart (61 to 9), Sheffield (NR to 11), Lux (NR to 14), Oaks (34 to 17), Smith (NR to 18), Toles (NR to 21), Mieses (35 to 22), Sandoval (40 to 24), Abdullah (38 to 25)
Graduated: Corey Seager (1), Kenta Maeda (4), Trayce Thompson (16), Ross Stripling (18)
Traded (Top 30): Zach Lee (17)
Biggest riser: Toles (+ a lot) and Stewart (+52)
Biggest faller: Anderson (- a ton)

About Dustin Nosler

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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.