Dodgers Prospect Notes: More OKC in-person looks, deadline moves, pitching promotions, Busch on fire

Landon Knack (By: Bruce Kuntz)

Top Farm Batter

Michael Busch has been at the forefront of a surging Oklahoma City offense. Continually, Busch is proving why he has no real reason to remain in Triple-A, and putting more pressure on the Dodgers to find a spot for him in the majors. The 25-year-old infielder homered last night for the 12th time in his last 26 games.

Only one thing stands in Busch’s way to Los Angeles: a spot in the lineup. Especially following the recent trades the Dodgers have made, their lineup does not have everyday at-bats to fill right now. With J.D. Martinez seemingly avoiding the Injured List, he will remain in the D.H. spot once he is ready to go. Mookie Betts has been mostly in the infield against right handers, often taking up Busch’s natural home of second base. Max Muncy isn’t going anywhere at third. Busch is just blocked for now, with an injury possibly being required to spur his next call-up.

Top Farm Pitcher

River Ryan had one of his most impressive outings of the season on Saturday. Going four innings, Ryan struck out six while allowing just two hits. Further, Ryan generated 15 whiffs, which broke a four-start streak in which his total whiffs landed in the single digits.

Ryan’s ERA was lowered to 2.96 following the fantastic start. His 2.17 K/BB ratio has left room for improvement, but Ryan has effectively limited hits against him throughout the season. Still in just his second year as a full-time pitcher, Ryan is younger in development time than his nearly 25-year-old age. Outings like his performance on Saturday are encouraging signs of progress for the right-hander.

Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers

Oklahoma City played in some of the wildest slugfests I’ve ever seen over the weekend. They won 14-12 over Reno on Friday night and managed to outdo that result with a 16-15 extra-innings win on Sunday. Busch, Miguel Vargas, Ryan Ward and David Dahl were standouts in the explosive Dodger lineup.

The craziest moment of Sunday’s victory? Yonny Hernández collecting his first career save after Oklahoma City was out of pitching in the 11th. It was the first time Hernández has ever graced a professional mound, and he flashed a repertoire ranging from 78 to 45 miles per hour on his way to securing the Dodgers win.

Gavin Stone showed progress again in his start on Saturday. He allowed just two hits in four innings, rolling through the second and the third with a total streak of eight consecutive outs. Stone’s cutter seems to be working effectively, and he has essentially ditched his slower slider in favor of it. His fastball has continued to show improved velocity as well, topping out above 97 miles per hour in the outing.

Landon Knack pitched decent on Sunday, striking out five while only allowing one unearned run before the bullpen took over. The 26-year-old is now six starts into his Triple-A career and has posted a solid 3.46 ERA. Knack is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason, so the Dodgers may squeeze him onto the 40-man roster at some point for a spot start before the playoffs.

Ryan Pepiot made his fourth rehab start on Tuesday, tossing four good innings in which he allowed just one run. That run came on a solo homer, and Pepiot only gave up two other hits while striking out four. His pitch count has been extended to 70 and his rehab assignment expired on Wednesday, but the Dodgers optioned Pepiot following his activation from the injured list.

One of the best pitchers in the minor leagues so far this year, Kyle Hurt was finally rewarded with a Triple-A promotion. He’ll be joining Oklahoma City with the hope that his high-whiff ability will help him continue succeeding even in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Hurt’s strikeout and swinging strike rates have been at the top of leaderboards all season, and he is now a step away from the majors.

Double-A Tulsa Drillers

The Drillers lost a trio of good talent from their roster during the final days of the trade season. Successful pitchers Nick Nastrini and Jordan Leasure each went to the White Sox on Friday, and everyday shortstop Eddys Leonard was traded to Detroit just before the deadline. Tulsa will be a noticeably different team without the presence of those three players.

Speculation struck when Jose Ramos was removed midway through Tulsa’s game on Sunday. It turns out that his early departure was injury related, as he had fouled a ball on his foot earlier in the game. Ramos has been back in Tulsa’s lineup the last two days, going 2-for-4 with a double last night.

Diego Cartaya is in the midst of a tough cold streak, tallying just two multi-hit games over the last month. However, he did blast his 13th homer of the season on Saturday, hopefully showing some signs to turn it around. Cartaya has had a tough year adjusting to Double-A but is still extremely talented and it is worth banking on him to figure it out.

Kendall Williams, who was originally acquired from Toronto for Ross Stripling, has received his first Double-A call up after a torrid stretch of starts with Great Lakes. Over his last five starts, Williams has a 1.90 ERA and has forced a miniscule .155 opponent average. Still just 22, the former second round pick is looking to re-establish himself as a top prospect this season.

High-A Great Lakes Loons

Justin Wrobleski made what might be his best start of the season on Saturday. Across four shutout innings, Wrobleski struck out seven while allowing just one hit. Since the start of May, Wrobleski has dominated the Midwest League to the tune of a 2.18 ERA. With four solid pitches in his arsenal, it is easy to see why Wrobleski is rising quickly in his first full season as a pro.

Shortstop Alex Freeland has had a good stretch of games for the Loons, totaling four extra-base hits over the last five contests. Freeland is up to seven homers on the season. Taylor Young has had a good stretch of games as well, homering twice and extending his on-base streak to 24 games. Young has an .850 OPS over that stretch to go along with his organization-leading 37 stolen bases.

Dalton Rushing returned to Great Lakes’ lineup following a first-inning injury last Thursday. He cooled off a bit in July, slashing just .179/.387/.268. Rushing will look to get back on track now that he’s healthy and back on the field for the Loons.

Although the transaction hasn’t been officially listed yet, Josh pointed out that Peter Heubeck was listed as the Loons’ starter for Saturday. The game now shows with their starter as TBD, either because the decision was changed or because he isn’t officially on the roster yet. With 34 Single-A games now under his belt, it makes sense to get the 21-year-old a taste of High-A before the season ends.

Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Thayron Liranzo had a big game on Friday, driving in three with a double and his 16th homer of the season. He remains comfortably in second place in the California League home run race. The switch-hitting catcher, who just turned 20 in July, has put up an impressive .912 OPS in his first Single-A season.

Wilman Diaz has continued to look solid, slashing .313/.358/.500 through his first 13 games with the Quakes. He had cooled off heavily in the ACL before he received the relatively surprising call-up, but Diaz has taken advantage of the opportunity so far. With tools that could allow him to stick at shortstop and good speed, Diaz beginning to hit some more could return him to top prospect lists.

One of the more intriguing reliever prospects in the system, Aldrin Batista is getting called up to Single-A, per Josh. Batista turned 20 in May and has a superb 33.1% strikeout rate in the ACL this season.

Rookie Ball

Top draft picks Kendall George and Jake Gelof have each gotten off to hot starts in rookie ball. George has already drawn four walks in just nine plate appearances, tallying a double and two walks while batting leadoff on Monday. Through four games, Gelof already has three extra-base hits and four RBI, including his first professional home run.

Oswaldo Osorio has also had a great string of games in the ACL. The infielder is slashing .364/.417/.818 with two doubles and a homer over his last three contests. Even while being nearly two years younger than the average age in the ACL, Osorio has posted an .863 OPS at the level this year while playing most of his innings in the middle infield.

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.