Dodgers Prospect Notes: Trey Sweeney lays waste to ABQ, Ryan Ward and Josue De Paula slugging, Joendry Vargas hits first stateside homer, more

(Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

Top Farm Batter

Trey Sweeney had one of the best weeks any hitter could possibly have. Playing in the launch pad that is Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, Sweeney homered six times and drove in 14 across six games. He posted a .393/.433/1.143 slash line that won him Pacific Coast League Player of the Week.

Acquired from the Yankees over the offseason, Sweeney is in the midst of his first Triple-A season. The former first round pick has a 97 wRC+ overall as he has mixed a few hot stretches with equally cold ones. He has gotten on base at a .349 clip and has increased his power production from last year, but he has also seen a jump in his strikeout rate.

Sweeney has made all but three of his 53 starts at shortstop, with two coming at third base and one at DH. If he can find consistent success at the plate down the stretch, it is possible he could make his MLB debut late this season. He will have to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft and added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, so the Dodgers could decide to give him an early taste of the Majors.


Top Farm Pitcher

Landon Knack went into the same Albuquerque park that Sweeney lit on fire and put up a great start. He allowed only three hits across five shutout innings, tallying five strikeouts.

Knack has pitched well across both Triple-A and the Majors, with this latest start bringing his minor league ERA this season down to 3.25. The right-hander has done a nice job limiting traffic on the bases, posting a 1.03 WHIP across his seven Triple-A starts.

With Knack having posted a 2.61 ERA in his four MLB starts, it is likely he will get recalled again at some point when the big club needs a start covered. Until then, he is producing nice results in the hitter-friendly PCL, which is quite an accomplishment.


Triple-A Oklahoma City Baseball Club

Ryan Ward returned to Oklahoma City’s lineup off the injured list and wasted no time producing at the plate. The left-handed-hitting outfielder put up a 1.398 OPS, seven extra base hits and 10 RBI across six games. Ward has assumed a hyper-aggressive approach this year and it has worked well overall, although he has only walked at a 3.4% clip. Regardless, he has a 140 wRC+ and 15 homers in 33 games.

The Dodgers signed Chris Vallimont mid-week to fill a start in Triple-A and he did a great job. The 27-year-old veteran tossed six shutout innings while allowing only four hits. Vallimont, originally a fifth rounder to the Marlins back in 2018, owns a 4.93 career ERA across six minor league seasons.

James Outman had another great week at the plate. Now 12 games into his Triple-A stint, Outman owns an excellent 1.161 OPS and has been excellent in just about every way. Playing like this, he could force his way back onto the Major League roster in short order.


Double-A Tulsa Drillers

Alex Freeland has been one of the biggest breakout hitters in all of minor league baseball this season. He continues to rake as the summer months roll around, having posted a .308/.424/.577 slash line last week. Every facet of Freeland’s game has been excellent this year, whether it’s his 1.057 OPS, his 43-33 walk-to-strikeout ratio or his above-average defense at shortstop.

Freeland’s 194 wRC+ is the best among qualified hitters in the entire minor leagues. After he was a roughly average hitter in High-A last year, the former third round pick has turned a corner in 2024, quickly becoming one of the more valuable hitting prospects in the organization. When also considering that he is a legitimate shortstop defender as well as a quality base stealer, Freeland has a hugely intriguing profile.

Jared Karros made his best start since being promoted to Double-A, tying his season-high in strikeouts with eight and allowing only two hits across 5 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old right-hander has been fantastic as a whole this season, going 6-0 with a 2.76 ERA.

Sauryn Lao is up to 14 consecutive scoreless appearances out of Tulsa’s bullpen. In that span, he is posting a 34.8% strikeout rate, .177 average against and 1.06 WHIP. A former position player, Lao is only in his second season on the mound and is already showing a propensity to dominate. He is already Rule 5 eligible, so he has the kind of relief profile the Dodgers could fast track to the Majors if they think he is ready.


High-A Great Lakes Loons

Lucas Wepf is another reliever who has himself a dominant run of games. Since April 25, the 6-foot-5 Canadian has been incredible, posting a 1.13 ERA that only begins to show his success; he also has produced a 41.7% strikeout rate, 5.0% walk rate and .127 average against. The Dodgers have a very nice crop of relief-only prospects throughout the system right now, and Wepf is among the best.

Jerming Rosario made a very good start, allowing only two hits while throwing five shutout innings. The 22-year-old has a respectable 3.52 ERA this season and has refined his command well from previous seasons, which has helped him limit walks and miss barrels.


Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

In a normal week that didn’t include a historic outburst from Sweeney, Josue De Paula would have had a good chance to be the headliner of this article. Having just turned 19 in mid-May, De Paula slashed .409/.536/.682 across his last six games, adding his fifth home run of the season while also stealing four bases.

De Paula has hit all five of his homers across his last 17 games, posting a 1.134 OPS and even 1.00 K/BB ratio in that span. He started the year a bit cold but has looked like his top prospect self of late, along with displaying his most power ever as a professional.

Alex Makarewich made his Single-A debut as a starter for the Quakes. The 13th round pick from last year has great stuff that he displayed in bullpens over the offseason and he brings three years of college experience to the mound.


Rookie Ball

River Ryan was sent to the Arizona Complex League on a rehab assignment to make his first start of 2024. Ryan was shut down in spring training with shoulder fatigue, but he avoided any surgery and will be back in Triple-A sooner or than later if his rehab progresses well. In his start Monday, Ryan pitched two innings and struck out five.

Joendry Vargas has been great so far in his first stateside action, posting a 131 wRC+ through 12 games. He launched his first ACL home run Friday and has four extra base hits in his last three games. The top shortstop prospect is just 18 years old and could have a chance to reach Single-A sometime this summer.

Wyatt Crowell, a fourth round pick last year, made his professional debut after rehabbing back from Tommy John surgery. Technically on a rehab assignment from Single-A, Crowell has made two one-inning starts in Arizona and has yet to allow a hit or a walk while running a 42.9% strikeout rate. I ranked Crowell at No. 52 on my preseason top Dodgers prospects list.

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.