Dodgers Prospect Notes: Heubeck lives up to billing, Busch walk-off, Heaney strong in rehab, Pepiot solid in relief, dingers, hunting changes, more

June 8th, 2022 Scoreboard


Another day, another no-hit outing for a Dodger starting pitcher prospect. This time it was 2021 3rd round pick Peter Heubeck, who tossed 3.0 innings, walking one, and striking out five for Rancho Cucamonga.

At draft time, Heubeck was very slender, at a listed 6’3, 170 lbs, and his delivery was a bit inconsistent, though the fastball was still 90-94 mph, so the arm talent was pretty apparent even though he was such a big time projection pick. Now, it’s reportedly up to 96, along with a 12-6 low 80s hammer curve, a slider that has come a long way in a short time, and a changeup that shows decent flashes.

Apologies from yours truly, I mistook Stockton (who doesn’t stream) for their neighbor Modesto (who does), so video of Heubeck is still yet to come. The next opportunity is June 21-26, at Lake Elsinore, who absolutely, 100%, streams their games.


Michael Busch walked it off for Oklahoma City on Wednesday, putting the finishing touches on a wild late-game comeback:

It has been a bit of a struggle for Busch at the Triple A level, as he is having to do double duty at the plate — having to adjust to the next tier up in difficulty and having to learn the quirks of the automated balls and strikes system. The whiffs are up a little bit, as his swinging strike rate has risen from 12.3% with Tulsa to 15.9% with Oklahoma City, so the increased strikeout rate (26.3% to 34.1%) definitely isn’t just due to the robots.

For what it’s worth, and this may sound a bit odd, but I like seeing a good hitter struggle at a new minor league stop. When the degree of difficulty ramps up, the hitter is going to have to adjust, which is the name of the game at the big league level. The league is constantly adjusting, trying to kick you out of the club, so the ability to circle the wagons, figure out the puzzle, and get back to mashing, it’s of paramount importance to a big leaguer’s career, if there’s going to be any sort of longevity to it.

For what it’s worth, I think Busch cracks the code.

Sometimes, I speak in metaphor, it’s my love language.


June 9th, 2022 Scoreboard


Help is on the horizon, Dodger fans. Andrew Heaney got a little more stretched out in his second rehab outing for Oklahoma City:

Heaney tossed 39 pitches in his last rehab outing, so on the surface, 62 is a huge step up, though we can’t tell how many he threw in the bullpen to round out his last day of work.

What was notable from this outing was Heaney’s fastball usage. For the season, Heaney threw his fastball and slider just about equally, both just a bit over 48% of the time. In this outing, Heaney was clearly working on his fastball command, as he threw it 68% of the time. A lot of his heaters were the flat plane, elevated fastballs that the Dodgers love, and as you can see above, all five of his Ks were came on heaters of that particular variety.


In what is perhaps a preview of coming attractions, Ryan Pepiot came on in relief of Heaney, and did so mid-inning, carrying Oklahoma City the rest of the way:

With the fastball command being an issue at times, it’s possible that Heaney’s rehab outing doubled as an opportunity for Pepiot to test the waters as a bulk inning guy, entering after an opener.

While he is working on his fastball command along with the slider, the possibility of him settling into an outing against the latter half of a lineup, seeing the top of the order just once, and targeting 4 innings if all goes well is an intriguing one. Letting him lean on his 80 changeup a bit more against the best hitters in the lineup, who would likely see him just one time, just might be the ticket in the interim to get effective length out of his appearances while folks are rehabbing and things are in flux.


Time for some dingers!

First up, Miguel Vargas:

Pulling his hands in and turning this around is a bit more impressive when: a) the location is taken into account:

And b) the velo is considered — that was a fastball at 97.6 mph.

That’s not a pitch that typically gets parked in a bullpen beyond the deepest part of the ballpark.

Touching on what was mentioned earlier, about wanting to see a guy struggle a bit at a new level, that’s exactly what happened with Vargas. In his first 19 games with Oklahoma City, he slashed .233/.341/.384. Haters rejoiced, albeit briefly. Since then, he has slashed .322/.412/.552. Haters in shambles. This is what it looks like when a guy is beating the level.


Here’s the daily Diego Cartaya highlight, as he keeps delivering:

Let me be the first to say that I don’t begrudge a minor league play-by-play announcer having some homer tendencies. They’re as much describing the action as they are hyping the club for the local audience — they help put butts in seats.

That said, both just prior to, and while this homer was being hit, a funny thing happened. Dayton’s play by play announcer was lamenting that Cartaya was ranked higher than one of the Dayton players, by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. He had to pause mid-sentence to call the homer, and he didn’t revisit the thought. The timing was just incredible.

For what it’s worth, the prospect for the opposing side is incredibly exciting, deserving of the hype, and the kind of guy a minor league broadcast should be leading with at every turn — switch hitting shortstop Elly De La Cruz. If you’re at all interested in prospects, the Dodger affiliates are matched up against clubs with truly excellent prospects, all the time.


Jorbit Vivas hit another one of his patented line drive, laser homeruns:

All four of Vivas’ homers have come in the past 30 days, during which he’s slashing .337/.415/.529, with nearly twice as many walks (12) as strikeouts (7). The kid just rakes.


Great Lakes had a pair of intriguing relief appearances.

First up, Cole Percival:

Percival the starting pitcher typically sits 92-94 t95, with the rare, angry 96. Like, reach back for it. Percival the reliever hucked four or five 97s in a row, dipped to 96, then went back up to 97. With a pair of solid secondaries (the first strikeout notwithstanding), at a lanky 6’5 with good extension, that’s a 97 that plays up. As a single inning relief pitcher, the Dodgers might have something here.


The other relief outing that was a bit eye-catching was that of Jeff Belge:

Belge is a guy who has intrigued me for a while now — though he projects as a single inning relief pitcher as well, his stuff just seems to work when he’s filling up the zone. And he has a beard. And he wears goggles.

Really though, it looks like he can backspin a fastball at 92-94 that has good jump to it, and he tunnels his big breaking slider off of it pretty well. The Dodgers don’t take any draft picks off, and you can see the bones of a potential big league contributor in this 18th rounder.


It has been mentioned here in the Prospect Notes that 2020 3rd round pick Jake Vogel has seen a modest improvement in his bat to ball this season. This comes up because he had another decent game, going 2/6 for Rancho out of the #2 spot in the lineup, striking out once. It’s not the typical sort of eye-opening line you see in a score, but it opened my eyes, in another way.

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, what follows is one of the ways I try to find indicators to look for changes, be they mechanical or otherwise, that aren’t immediately apparent to me, especially when a guy plays for the Quakes, whom I see all too infrequently. None of this is rocket science, it’s just what goes through my simple head.

First of all, I look at last night’s box score, and it slaps me in the face when, once again, I don’t see things that I’ve become accustomed to seeing. Vogel struck out 29.8% of the time in 2021 with the Quakes, and posted an OPS of .661. It was a struggle. April of 2022 brought more of the same — a strikeout rate of 30.3%, with an OPS of just .549. In May, the strikeout rate dropped to 22.2%. When you start seeing a lot more 0s and 1s in the K column when you’re used to seeing too many 2s and 3s, that pops. It just stands out. All of a sudden, things are getting into the acceptable territory with contact, though he slashed just .220/.354/.342 for the month. Despite better contact, the results weren’t particularly inspiring just yet, but that’s ok! The idea is to improve bat to ball, figure out what you can drive, then hunt for those pitches.

Flash forward to the last couple of weeks, and things have coalesced a bit. The contact has improved even more, as he posted a strikeout rate over that timeframe of just 13.5%, with a slash line of .304/.385/.457. That’s good! Nearly inspiring, even!

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything substantive. What it does mean is I’ll pay close attention when I see Vogel next, because if there’s a mechanical change, well, that’s easy to find and document. If it’s a swing decision improvement, that’s more difficult, and one series against one club might not be proof of anything. It’s helpful to see a guy lay off sliders away. It’s not particularly helpful if the scouting report on the pitcher is, lay off everything until he falls behind, then sit dead red. So, I’ll watch, and if I learn something, great! If not, I have to keep watching. And, I will keep watching, as often as I can.

Please pardon the diatribe, but that’s what’s going on with my hamster wheel upstairs when I say things like, there’s another thing to watch for this season.


Lastly, an international man of mystery has shown up in the ACL Dodgers box score: David Tiburcio.

Tiburcio tossed 3.0 scoreless innings yesterday, allowing just one single, and striking out five for the ACL Dodgers. A very effective stateside debut for the 20 year old from … New York, New York, who signed as an international amateur free agent? Emphasis on stateside, because it’s rare for a US citizen to make their pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, which is exactly what Tiburcio did, logging 29.2 innings for the DSL Dodgers Shoemaker in 2021.

As for Tiburcio’s background, wherever you look, he is listed as being born in the Big Apple, but that’s mostly it. A basic search resulted in finding him being marketed back in 2018 for the 2019 IFA class out of a Dominican Republic baseball academy…

…as a third baseman.

Tiburcio did not sign as a third baseman, and he didn’t sign as part of the July 2, 2019 IFA class. There was no July 2 class for 2020 — due to COVID-19, that signing date was moved to January 15th, 2021. As Tiburcio was already eligible to sign, he was under no such compunction to wait until Jan ’21, and neither were the Dodgers, who signed him in September of 2020, as a pitcher, because of course.

So, Tiburcio was born in New York, ended up in the Dominican Republic, got into a baseball academy as a third baseman, and was signed as a pitcher over a year after he was first eligible to put ink to paper.

I have no idea what he can do on the mound. I hope he advances far enough for us to find out, because it feels like there’s a fantastic, Wild West story here, that might only come to light if he can establish himself as a pitching prospect. I root for all of these kids, but I’ve got some sight-unseen, high hopes for this one, especially.


Happy Friday, folks.

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