Continuing on with the Helium series after its debut a couple weeks ago, here’s another #notascout look at two prospects out of D1 schools who have had somewhat limited exposure thus far in differing ways. Both of these prospects could break into the Dodgers’ top 20, and potentially into the back end of the top 10 with a big 2022.
Kyle Hurt, like Gavin Stone, was also selected in the 5th round of the 2020 draft, with the Marlins taking him after his junior year at USC, 25 spots ahead of where Stone was eventually picked. Hurt came over in the Dylan Floro/Alex Vesia trade last February, making his acquisition interesting, since he was traded before throwing a pitch as a professional. Just speculation on my part, but it indicates that the Dodgers were rather high on him leading up to the draft, and with good reason:
Hurt, who had an abbreviated 2021 season, tossing just 21.0 innings between complex ball and Rancho Cucamonga, has also impressed during his stint in the Arizona Fall League:
98 mph, seam-shifted wake changeup, power curve, and a gyro-spin slider. Good grief.
As is the case with many prospects, the main question with Hurt is command. He walked 5.6 per 9 at USC, and in his brief time as a pro, that has improved only a little bit, dropping to 4.3/9. Hurt is emblematic of the Dodgers’ draft focus in 2021, targeting the guys with the filthiest stuff and trusting their developmental crew to sort out the rest. With stuff as loud as Hurt’s, he’s definitely one to watch for in 2022.
Yet another 2020 draftee, Carson Taylor looks poised for a jump as well. Taylor, MLB Pipeline’s #30 Dodger prospect, is a switch-hitting catcher out of Virginia Tech, and he had one of those very difficult seasons to accurately assess: a breakout in a shortened collegiate campaign. In just 74 PAs (giving him 237 total collegiate PAs) in 2020, he slashed a robust .431/.541/.690 for the Hokies, and he showed impressive plate discipline, walking 16.2% of the time, though he didn’t show big time pop yet (just 2 homers).
Flash forward to his pro debut with Great Lakes, the on-base skills kept up (13.2% walk rate), and he showed some gains in the power department, hitting 9 homers in 342 PAs.
Taylor was a bit similar to another Dodger prospect in one particular area: batted ball profile. Dustin favorite Miguel Vargas had doubts about him plastered all over the internet after he pulled the ball just 34.3% of the time, and hit flyballs 37.8% of the time in 2019. In 2021, those figures leapt to 43.1% and 46.7%, helping him tap into his power — he went from 7 homers in 2019 to 23 in 2021.
As for Taylor, he pulled the ball 38.0% of the time and hit flyballs 34.6% of the time, so his 55 raw power (via FanGraphs) hasn’t shown up to a tremendous degree in games just yet. He does show plus bat speed from both sides of the plate, and has already made a swing adjustment since joining the organization:
Defensively, Taylor has improved as a receiver, and while he possesses average arm strength for a catcher, accuracy hasn’t quite been there yet. Taylor may need more time than typical college catchers due to an abbreviated college career, followed by having no minor league season and then a shortened minor league season, but I still think there’s a better than even chance he sticks at catcher.
I’m bullish on the plate discipline, bat to ball, and the quick bat translating into above average in-game power at some point, with the caveat that this offensive aspect is usually the last thing to appear, and for catchers especially.