Helium: SS Rayne Doncon & SS Alex Freeland among Dodger prospects on the rise


Year in and year out, the Dodgers have had among the lowest draft and international amateur free agent spending pools in baseball, and yet their farm ranks first at The Athletic, second at Baseball America, second at MLB Pipeline, and seventh at FanGraphs. With penalty-free mega bonuses off the table, the club flexes their financial might in the ways that are left to them — namely, their scouting and player development departments, who are in lockstep with each other and whose collective efficacy is put on display time and again when the annual popup guys have opposing fanbases complaining about things being rigged. It’s not rigged, but the cards are being counted.

At any rate, that brings us to the Helium Series; a #notascout challenge, in which I endeavor to identify relatively low ranked/unknown guys who will be on the rise in the coming season (my recap of last year’s efforts on this front can be found here).


To stick with the spirit of the exercise, and to head off any questions about them, guys like Dalton Rushing, Nick Nastrini, Emmet Sheehan, and Nick Frasso will not be included. All four of these guys in particular have a good shot of being consensus* Top 10 or 15 prospects in a loaded system, making them likely Top 10 prospects almost everywhere else, so the breakout has already occurred.

*Small caveat, see below.

All that is to say, challenge accepted, may I get one (1) right.


Rayne Doncon

Doncon is the aforementioned caveat — I hemmed and hawed a bit as to whether I should include the now 19-year-old prospect, since FanGraphs has him ranked 11th in the system as of this writing. But, averaging his rank with where Baseball America and MLB Pipeline have him puts him at a composite of 19th between the three, and The Athletic didn’t have him in their Top 20 article at all, not even garnering a mention among the “others of note” in the system. Ultimately, he isn’t getting industry-wide hype just yet, and I think the breakout is coming, so here we are. Let’s talk about why.

Doncon, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 176 pounds (but is certainly bigger), hails from what’s known as “The Cradle of Shortstops”, San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Although his hometown connotes the leather, it’s the lumber that has done the talking thus far. After scuffling a bit to start his age-18 season with the ACL Dodgers, the young shortstop absolutely caught fire in his last three-ish weeks at Camelback, slashing .350/.426/.733, and posting a wRC+ of 200. That torrid stretch prompted a promotion to Low A Rancho Cucamonga, and while his 93 wRC+ in all of 11 games outside of the complex league doesn’t seem so impressive on the surface, there’s a lot to like.

While with the Quakes, Doncon showed plus bat to ball, posting a swinging strike rate (SwStr%) of just 12.8%, and a strikeout rate of just 11.6%. For perspective, only there were only 31 prospects 18 or younger who logged 40+ PAs with a full season affiliate, and among that group, Doncon posted the third-best K%. He also posted an ISO of .225, which was the 4th-best mark in that group. The power is already real:

That’s a rope off the Cal League champions sign, approximately 30 feet above the field of play. Good grief.

Doncon’s bat plane is on the flatter side, so at the moment, without any changes, game-power will be more of the laser than the majestic variety, but with such incredible bat to ball there’s little impetus to change anything; let him marinate and some of the doubles will end up over the fence.

As for the setup and swing itself, it bears a strong resemblance to that of seven-time allstar, Alfonso Soriano:

When developing defenders, the Dodgers tend to operate like how they do when develop pitchers — let them start until they show they can’t. For now, Doncon will mostly stay at short; the actions, overall, are good, the footwork is there, and he has the arm for it. That said, his wheels are only average, so as he fills out, it’s entirely possible that he loses a step, and will have to change positions. And, indeed, the Dodgers have had Doncon spend roughly 40% of his time in the field at the keystone position, so if it happens, it should be a rather seamless transition. Just the same, with exceptional bat speed, plus bat to ball, and present pitch recognition, though the glove won’t hold him back, the bat will be the carrier here.

For 2023, Doncon should pick up where he left off, starting the season with Rancho Cucamonga, and with success, perhaps a second half stint at High-A Great Lakes will be in the offing.


Alex Freeland

Freeland, a switch-hitting shortstop who is listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, was drafted by the Dodgers this past July (that’s still weird to say) after just two years in college. He was draft-eligible after his sophomore season due to one of the quirks of the system — he was born on Aug. 24, 2001, which landed him just seven days ahead of the draft eligibility cutoff date of September 1st, which led to him being the 9th-youngest 2022 draftee out of an NCAA Division 1 program.

The former University of Central Florida Knight’s biggest calling cards are his plate discipline and bat to ball, as he drew walks 15.7% of the time in college, and he reduced his strikeout rate from 22.5% as a freshman to 17.8% in his follow-up campaign.

Although Freeland had just 36 PAs as a pro, there are some positives to be drawn:

  • He was 1.1 years younger than average for the Cal League
  • His SwStr% was just 11.1%
  • He saw 3.9 pitches per plate appearance
  • His ISO was .313 — power is present already, and he gets to it in games

The latter three marks compare favorably to those Rushing posted as he tore his way through the Cal League, as he came in at 10.3% SwStr, 3.9 P/PA, and .354 ISO. Considering Freeland is six months younger than his fellow draft classmate, they are about as noteworthy as things can be in such a limited audition.

Author’s note for emphasis: I am not saying the bat is equivalent to Rushing’s, only that there are similar positive traits displayed in the limited sample. Here’s a missile of a homer, enjoy.

As for what I observed from watching Freeland’s ABs; he was able to get to good velo while not being exposed by breaking balls, since he appeared to pick up spin early, though he was out in front of well-executed changeups a few times. He showed a quick bat from both sides, with pull-side power evident in both boxes, along with the capability of sitting back to shoot pitches the other way.

Defensively, there is some skepticism as to whether Freeland has the lateral quickness to stick at shortstop, though there is little doubt he will stay on the dirt in some capacity. Ever fans of versatility, the Dodgers mixed in a couple of starts at second base as well, and he even logged a single inning at third.

Looking ahead to 2023, if Freeland starts the season in Rancho, he shouldn’t be there for too long. The bat and approach are too advanced for the Cal League, though if he misses the typically frigid Spring in the Midwest League, as a kid who went to high school and college in the Sunshine State, he may not mind all that much.

As for rankings, no publication has Freeland in their top 30, and I’m the only bold (read: dumb) enough to hype up a recent 3rd round pick with just 36 pro PAs, but I liked what I saw, and I’m sticking with it.


That’s all for the first installment in this series. There will (probably) be two more posts in the coming weeks, with three or four more breakout picks for the 2023 season, we’ll see how things shake out.

Enjoy your Thursday, folks.

About Josh Thomas