Dodgers Prospect Notes: Pepiot & Syndergaard make rehab starts, Luis Rodriguez has great weekend, De Paula stays hot

Top Farm Batter

Luis Rodriguez came out of the All-Star break on fire, tallying 11 hits across three games, including two doubles. The former top signee out of Venezuela had a late start to 2023 and struggled until this weekend, when he boosted his average from .237 to .291.

Rodriguez has not quite lived up to his signing bonus of over $2.5 million so far, but he is only 20 years old and has time to turn it around. He manned left field for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga for the entirety of 2022 and posted a lackluster .713 OPS. Originally scouted as a potential five-tool player, Rodriguez will attempt to revive his bat and make it to High-A before the end of the year.

Top Farm Pitcher

Nick Frasso entered the All-Star break on a rough patch. He allowed 13 runs over 6 2/3 innings in a four-start stretch, but it appears the break helped him reset. Frasso returned to the mound on Saturday and was his dominant self once again.

He tore through Midland’s offense, allowing just one hit over 4 1/3 innings. Additionally, he struck out six with zero walks. This was the Frasso we’ve gotten used to over the last year, with overpowering stuff and an impressive ability to command it. Among minor leaguers with at least 45 innings, Frasso is one of only three pitchers with a strikeout rate of at least 32% and a walk rate under 7%.

Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers

Ryan Pepiot made his first appearance of the season at any level with a two-inning rehab start on Friday. He didn’t dominate, but he did okay for his first game on the mound since spring training. The right-hander struck out two and had a 31 CSW% while throwing 29 pitches.

Since he’s been out so long, Pepiot should have a pretty long ramp-up period before he’s ready to come back to the majors. It will take more than a couple starts for his workload to be fully built up. Once that is done, he can be expected to be inserted back into the major league rotation, where he will provide much needed support with the recent cascade of injuries.

Noah Syndergaard pitched the next day for Oklahoma City. It was his first game action since he started in Cincinnati on June 7. Syndergaard had a solid outing in Sacramento, only needing 52 pitches to throw five innings. He allowed two runs while striking out six, and only 11 of his pitches were balls.

It’s no secret that Syndergaard was immensely disappointing to start the year. Prior to his injury, his ERA was over 7.00, and every Syndergaard start day felt like an impending blowout. It seemed possible when he went on the IL that he had thrown his last pitch in Dodger blue. Having made a rehab start, it appears he will come back up, but he won’t be given as much leeway this time before his innings are given to pretty much anyone else.

Veteran reliever Ken Giles allowed a solo homer in his Oklahoma City debut. Giles pitched in five games for the Mariners last season and was signed to a minor league deal by Los Angeles back in June. Justin Bruihl picked up a win on Saturday and lowered his Triple-A ERA to 2.04.

Miguel Vargas played his first three games since being optioned and reached base in nine of his 15 trips to the plate. His best game was on Sunday, when he went 1-for-1 and drew four walks. Michael Busch hit his 12th homer of the year on Saturday, and Devin Mann had one of the more unique home run sequences you’ll ever see the next day. He hit a fly ball that was caught on the warning track, but as the River Cats’ center fielder hit the wall on the run, the ball popped out of his glove over the fence. Mann came back out from the dugout to round the bases.

Double-A Tulsa Drillers

Nick Nastrini struck out eight in an impressive start on Friday. Although he allowed three runs, they came across a season-high six full innings. Additionally, Nastrini walked none for the first time in over a month. Nastrini has solid overall numbers this season, but has seem some regression in important areas. His strikeout rate is down significantly from last year, and his average against has jumped from .180 to .217. Those are two of the areas that made Nastrini such an intriguing prospect last year, so he will look to get them back to normal over the final two months.

High-A Great Lakes Loons

Ronan Kopp has had a consistently good season, and he made a very solid start to start the second half for the Loons. He struck out five across three frames, allowing one run on a solo homer. It was a good bounce back from his previous outing, as last Sunday was the first time this season he allowed more than two runs in a start. Kopp has shown off his nasty stuff with a 34.3% strikeout rate, but he has struggled with walks, which is consistent with his profile. He hasn’t been stretched out much yet, with his season and career high in innings being four. Adding onto his pitch count might be the next step for Kopp to be promoted to Double-A.

Taylor Young led off and played shortstop the whole weekend for Great Lakes, and he had the biggest swing of the series in the bottom of the ninth on Friday. The Loons entered the frame trailing by two, and after a Chris Alleyne single tied the game, Young walked it off with a single of his own.

Young was the Dodgers’ eighth round selection in last year’s draft, and he has had a solid start to his pro career. He leads the organization this season in stolen bases by a wide margin with 31, and he has only been caught twice. Young has a good glove across second base, third base and shortstop, and could develop into a speedy bench option down the road.

Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Josue De Paula was on fire going into the break and he stayed hot over the weekend. In 16 plate appearances, De Paula batted .455 with two doubles, five walks and zero strikeouts. The outfielder was promoted to Single-A before his 18th birthday, and although it took him a few games to get going, he’s now showing why the Dodgers were aggressive with him. This month, De Paula has a 1.015 OPS and a 2.33 BB/K rate, looking much improved as he’s adjusted to full-season pitching.

Rookie Ball

Teenage fireballer Maximo Martinez pitched his best game of the season in Arizona on Friday. He allowed only two hits and struck out six over four shutout innings. He is coming off of an elbow injury last season that held him to only two starts before his season ended. His fastball rides into the upper nineties and he has solid secondary options, so Martinez is an arm to watch because of his solid probability to remain a starter through his minor league career.

About Bruce Kuntz

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I'm a Long Beach State journalism student and I've been writing about the Dodgers and their farm system since I was in high school.