Dodgers Prospect Notes: Ryan Ward powers OKC explosion, Peter Heubeck impressive again, Thayron Liranzo homers, lower minor leaguers showing out, more

(Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

Top Farm Batter

Ryan Ward had an unconscious series in Albuquerque, hitting five home runs on his way to being named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week. His final slash line in six games was .474/.524./1.316.

In just 99 plate appearances this year, Ward has already homered 10 times. The 26-year-old outfielder homered 21 times in all of 2023, and that was across 615 PA. Safe to say he has improved so far in his second season at the Triple-A level.

Ward made it through the Rule 5 Draft over the offseason. In many other organizations, he could have gotten a chance at the Major League roster out of camp, but the Dodgers have too many outfielders for that to have been a possibility. His bat is MLB ready, so if a depth need arises for a left-handed hitting corner outfielder, Ward could be on Los Angeles’ radar.


Top Farm Pitcher

Peter Heubeck has appeared to take a big step forward in his development process this season. He tossed four shutout innings in his start last week, striking out eight to go with only one walk. Through four starts, Heubeck has a 2.51 ERA.

Drafted in the third round out of high school in 2021, Heubeck had rough results across his first two full seasons as a pro. He struggled with command and was highly susceptible to the home run ball. However, his pure stuff still showed through in his strikeout numbers, and that stuff is finally translating to good numbers a month into this season.


Triple-A Oklahoma City Baseball Club

The entire Oklahoma City offense had a crazy week in Albuquerque, which is one of the most hitter-friendly ballpark environments on the planet. Among those with big numbers in this series was Miguel Vargas (1.429 OPS), Andre Lipcius (4 HR) and Trey Sweeney (.480 AVG).

Sweeney, a 24-year-old shortstop acquired from the Yankees in the offseason, has gotten off to a good start in his first Triple-A campaign. He is batting .297 and has walked at a near 20% clip, which gives him a .433 OBP. Sweeney has a chance to debut at some point this season.


Double-A Tulsa Drillers

It was a bit surprising that Austin Gauthier was sent back to Double-A to start the year, although it was likely more about making sure he could get everyday at-bats than his performance. Either way, he has made the level look easy of late, batting .500 last week. His 164 wRC+ on the season is fourth best in the system.

After remaining in extended spring training for a brief time, Ronan Kopp made his Double-A debut last week. The 6-foot-7 left-hander made two short-stint relief appearances for Tulsa and did not allow an earned run. He transitioned to a relief role at the end of last season and held it into the Arizona Fall League, so it is possible the Dodgers plan to keep him there instead of building him back up as a starter.

Jack Dreyer is coming off a 2023 season in which he was one of the best relievers in the Dodgers system, and he has carried that success into 2024. Through his first seven Double-A games, the 25-year-old southpaw has not allowed a run while posting a fabulous 35.1 K-BB%. Dreyer is a relief-only prospect worth keeping an eye on.


High-A Great Lakes Loons

The Loons picked up their first six-game sweep in franchise history, taking all six games from Padres affiliate Fort Wayne.

Thayron Liranzo hit his first two High-A home runs. He has gotten off to a cold start overall, but patience is important with hitters early in the year while the weather is freezing in Michigan. Liranzo homered 24 times in Single-A last season and that power will continue to show itself throughout 2024.

Jared Karros continued his hot start to the season with another great start, striking out eight across five shutout innings and allowing only one hit. The 6-foot-7 right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 30.3 K-BB% through four starts. He continues to show great command along with stuff that plays up due to his size.

Jackson Ferris made his best start so far as a Dodgers prospect. Across five one-run innings, Ferris allowed one run on three hits and one walk while striking out five. His overall command struggles from his first year of pro ball with the Cubs have continued, but the 20-year-old left-hander has undeniably great stuff that plays great when he can locate it.


Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

To call Jake Gelof an RBI machine so far this season would be an understatement. The former Virginia third baseman added seven to his total last week, bringing it to 22 RBI through 19 games this season. Gelof ended last season on a tear and has a .981 OPS so far this year.

Jordan Thompson launched a grand slam on Sunday and has opened the season playing well. He began the year in High-A for seven games before being assigned to Rancho Cucamonga. Between the two leagues, the former LSU shortstop has a 149 wRC+.

Logan Wagner was promoted to Single-A for the first time in his career this week. A sixth round pick in 2022, Wagner has dealt with injuries that prevented him from reaching the level last year. Now 20, the infielder who signed for a well over-slot $600,000 when he was drafted has a chance to get his name back on the radar if he can stay healthy and produce.

Edgardo Henriquez overpowered Lake Elsinore hitters in his start Saturday, striking out all six batters that he retired. The flame-throwing right-hander has allowed only one hit through eight innings this season while striking out just shy of 50% of the batters he has faced. He is working back from elbow surgery that held him out for all of 2023, but it would not be surprising to see him get a bump to High-A soon.

After being drafted in the seventh round last year, Patrick Copen has quickly become one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the system. He appeared in the Spring Breakout game and has been a focal point of the Rancho Cucamonga pitching staff so far. He didn’t allow a hit while striking out seven in 4 1/3 shutout innings on Friday.

Of all the hot starts to the season, Gabe Emmett might be the one that has flown most under the radar. He struck out six in a four inning start Wednesday and has a 0.64 ERA through three appearances this season. This is Emmett’s third year in Single-A and he turns 24 in less than a month, so he could promoted soon as a result of his early success.

Josue De Paula sustained an injury while running the bases on Wednesday and missed the rest of the week. However, he was not placed on the injured list, and he should be expected back soon according to a report from Dodgers Nation.


Rookie Ball

Oswaldo Osorio homered in extended spring training. After starting the season on Rancho Cucamonga’s roster, Osorio was sent back to Arizona, presumably to get consistent reps. He should get back to Single-A relatively soon and will be an exciting bat to keep an eye on.

Outfielder Samuel Munoz and corner infielder Easton Shelton also remain in extended spring, and each of them homered last week. Munoz has been a notable IFA prospect for a few years now, but Shelton was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas last year. Shelton, 18, has some big power potential and will likely remain in Arizona for the Complex League.

Right-handed pitching prospects Accimias Morales and Samuel Sanchez each appeared on the mound this week. Morales was a top signee in the 2022 class but was injured last season, whereas Sanchez made himself known to scouts in the DSL last summer with big velocity numbers. Both of these prospects could both become valuable young arms moving forward.

Emil Morales, the Dodgers’ top signee in this year’s IFA class, is in the Dominican Republic preparing for his first season as a pro. He had a hitch in his hands during his load that has been seen as a potential hole in his swing, but it appears (at least to me) as though it has already been toned down a bit.

Where Joendry Vargas and Eduardo Quintero were the big breakout teenagers to come out of the DSL last year, Morales could be next in line. He will be exciting to follow this summer.

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.