Dodgers Prospect Notes: Austin Gauthier hot after promotion, Jared Karros scoreless week, Maddux Bruns & Patrick Copen find success

(Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

Top Farm Batter

Following his promotion to Triple-A, Austin Gauthier hasn’t skipped a beat. In his first six games at the level, he slashed .391/.481/.652, scoring five runs and tallying four extra-base-hits, including his first home run with Oklahoma City.

The 25-year-old utilityman, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021 after playing four years at Hofstra University, has gotten better at every level that he has reached as a pro. He made his first big leap in 2023 when he began to hit for more power, and that power has continued to show since. He walks a ton without striking out at a high rate, and he has the 21st best BB/K ratio in the minors this year at 1.24.

Gauthier had a 159 wRC+ in Double-A to start the year before forcing his way to Triple-A. In his first week with OKC, he got starts at third base, second base and right field, showing off his ability to play all over the diamond. He is playing so well that a Major League debut later this season is certainly within the realm of possibility, and he could contribute well in a utility role.


Top Farm Pitcher

Jared Karros started two games this past week and did not allow a single run between the two. In nine innings, Karros allowed only three total hits while striking out nine to continue his red-hot start to the season.

Karros has a 1.74 ERA so far in 2024, which ranks fourth best in the minor leagues among pitchers with at least seven starts. He has shown his excellent command to walk just 5.5% of batters he’s faced as well as keep his pitches on the corners to avoid barrels. His .174 AVG against is best in the organization by a wide margin.

The 6-foot-7 hurler could be in line for a promotion in short order. Karros is clearly ready for Double-A, and he is quickly moving up the ranks of Dodgers pitching prospects.


Triple-A Oklahoma City Baseball Club

Miguel Vargas has raked in Triple-A this year, truly looking like a Major League hitter who is stuck in the minors. He has a 1.017 OPS and has walked more than he’s struck out. The Dodgers have had him playing left field exclusively as he attempts to adjust to an outfield role, and it seems likely he’ll be back in Los Angeles at some point down the stretch.

Ben Casparius made his Triple-A debut by tossing five shutout innings. This being his first time in Triple-A, it was also the first time to examine his spin rate metrics with Statcast, and Casparius’ stuff was supremely impressive. He has a 2.70 ERA and 33.6 K% in total this year, and his stuff is so good that he could end up finding a spot in the Dodgers bullpen later this season.

A true “org guy,” Drew Avans has quietly had a nice start to his fourth Triple-A season. The speedy outfielder is slashing .324/.408/.480 and has already stolen 11 bases. Avans turns 28 in June but has been in the Dodgers organization since he was taken in the 33rd round of the 2018 draft, and it would be cool to see him and his long journey reach the Majors.


Double-A Tulsa Drillers

Hyun-il Choi returned to Double-A after a brief Triple-A promotion that was made for him to fill much-needed innings in OKC, and he looked good in his first start back with Tulsa. He allowed two earned runs and struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings. Although his overall results have not been good, Choi has an impressive 25.0 K-BB% in his three Double-A starts.

Former infielder Sauryn Lao has been electric out of the bullpen for Tulsa so far this season. Through 11 games, he has picked up a couple of saves to go with a 2.45 ERA, 28.3% strikeout rate and 6.7% walk rate. Lao, 24, climbed all the way from Single-A to Double-A last year, and he has proven himself as one of the most intriguing relief prospects in the system.


High-A Great Lakes Loons

Chris Newell had a torrid week at the plate, homering three times with a 1.194 OPS. He has been the ultimate three true outcomes hitter this year, posting a 120 wRC+ and nine home runs despite a .200 batting average and 32.6% strikeout rate. The 23-year-old outfielder holds big power potential in a sweet left-handed swing, and if his hit tool can keep up, he could be a valuable player in a few years.

Maddux Bruns had a late start to the year, but his stuff has looked as good as ever through his first three starts. He tossed four scoreless frames with six strikeouts last week and boasts a 37.8% strikeout rate through his 8 2/3 innings this season. His 16.2% walk rate is still an issue, but he has missed barrels to the tune of a .167 AVG against, which has allowed him to have success despite the free passes.


Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Patrick Copen had his best outing of the season last week, allowing only two hits and striking out six in five shutout innings. Copen, a 7th round pick last season, has quickly risen up the ranks of pitching prospects in the system. His even 30.0% strikeout rate this season shows why his future is intriguing.

Another big-stuff right-hander in Rancho this time in the form of a reliever, Christian Ruebeck looked great as he picked up his first win of the season. He struck out five of the six batters he faced in his firs scoreless appearance in nearly a month. Walks have been a big problem for the 23-year-old, with his impressive 12.54 K/9 clip being matched by an ugly 12.54 BB/9.

Teenage outfielder Samuel Munoz picked up his first home run 10 games into his first Single-A stint. Munoz has a lot of talent in his left-handed bat that profiles as hit-above-power. He has a .291 batting average across his three professional seasons.


Rookie Ball

Joendry Vargas made his stateside debut in the Arizona Complex League. Should the talented shortstop continue his success from the Dominican Summer League last year where he posted a 149 wRC+, he could have a shot to reach Single-A before his 19th birthday. Vargas is already ranked as a top 100 prospect in baseball by Fangraphs.

Side note: The pitcher in that clip is Justin Chambers, the 2023 Brewers draft pick who was acquired over the offseason for southpaw reliever Bryan Hudson. Chambers was/is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery that he had last spring, so it is good to see him on a mound and pitching live at-bats.

Mairoshendrick Martinus hit his first home run of the ACL season. Martinus had a big 2022 in the DSL but struggled in Arizona last year. He has big raw power potential but needs his hit tool to keep up in order for it to translate into games.

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.