At first I was surprised that Chase De Jong was traded, but the more I thought about the more sense it made. Evidently Seattle has been trying to get De Jong for several months. MLB has De Jong rated as the Dodgers #16 prospect and he was currently likely 12th or 13th on the Dodgers starting pitcher depth chart. With a low 90’s fastball with little movement, his arm does not profile as a bullpen type. I see him as a #5 starter. He’s a workhorse and a great guy, but it was a numbers game. Like Montas, Cotton and Holmes he was lower on the depth chart and the Dodgers dealt from their surplus.
The Dodgers traded:
Chase De Jong | Rank: 16 (Preseason: 20)Team: Los Angeles DodgersETA: 2018Position: RHPAge: 23DOB: 12/29/1993Bats: L Throws: RHeight: 6′ 4″Weight: 205 lb.Drafted: 2012, 2nd (81) – TOR
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45When the Dodgers made the decision to blow well past their international bonus allocation for the 2015-16 signing period, their four pool slots (used to determine their spending allowance) held little value to them. They traded all of them, sending three worth a total of $1,071,300 to the Blue Jays for De Jong and infielder Tim Locastro and the fourth to the Braves for right-hander Caleb Dirks and outfielder Jordan Paroubeck. A second-round pick in 2012, De Jong jumped to high Class A after the deal and helped Rancho Cucamonga win the California League title.
De Jong is more about polish than power, with his downer curveball qualifying as his lone above-average pitch. He gets good downhill plane on his 88-92 mph fastball, but the pitch lacks life and may not miss many bats at higher levels. His fringy changeup shows some fade and could improve if he used it more often.
De Jong has good feel for pitching and always has filled the strike zone. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher with a career 0.69 groundout/airout ratio, a cause for concern now that Dodger Stadium is playing as one of the best home run parks in the National League. There’s still room for some projection in his 6-foot-4 frame, but unless he adds some power to his pitches his ceiling will be limited to No. 4 starter.
The Dodgers received:
Aneurys Zabala | Rank: 22 (Preseason: 22)Team: AZL Mariners (ROK)ETA: 2020Position:: 20DOB: 12/21/1996Bats: RThrows: RHeight: 6′ 2″Weight: 175 lb.Signed: April 30, 2014 – SEAScouting grades: Fastball: 75 | Curveball: 55 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
Capable of hitting triple digits with his fastball, Zabala has arm strength that can’t be taught. The Dominican right-hander was the definition of a project during his two pro seasons but made progress in his second tour of the Rookie-level Arizona League, recording 10.8 strikeouts-per-nine with a .167 opponents average that ranked third in the circuit among relievers.
Zabala made strides with his heater last summer, sitting at 96-99 mph with an improved downhill plane helped him generate more than twice as many outs on the ground than in the air in the AZL. He complements his fastball with a hard, downer curveball that scouts view as an above-average pitch, and he showed the ability to miss bats with both offerings for the first time in 2016.
Though his stuff is electric, Zabala struggles to harness it within the strike zone, with well-below-average control that has resulted in 5.7 walks-per-nine in 102 1/3 career innings. The good news is that Zabala, who will be 20 for all of 2017, still has age on his side, and it gives him plenty of room improvement in the coming years.
Drew Jackson | Rank: 12 (Preseason: 12)Team: Modesto Nuts (A Adv)ETA: 2018Position: SSAge: 23DOB: 07/28/1993Bats: RThrows: RHeight: 6′ 2″Weight: 200 lb.Drafted: 2015, 5th (155) – SEAScouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 35 | Run: 65 | Arm: 70 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45The younger brother of former Cubs first-rounder Brett Jackson, Drew was known mostly for his defense and batted a combined .184 during his first two years at Stanford. He broke out offensively as a junior in 2015, and the Mariners signed him for $335,400 as their fifth-round pick that June. Jackson made an immediate impact in his pro debut, winning Northwest League MVP honors after pacing the circuit in average (.358), stolen bases (47), on-base percentage (.432) and runs scored (64), but was unable to build on that success at Class A Advanced Bakersfield in his first full season.
A shorter swing helped Jackson make consistent contact and hit for a high average in his pro debut, but he deviated from that contact-oriented approach last season, often selling out in an attempt to pull the ball and hit for more power. His strikeout rate spiked as a result, especially during the second half of the season, while a low on-base rate kept Jackson from truly utilizing his well-above-average speed on the basepaths as he had in the previous year.
Defensively, Jackson shouldn’t have trouble sticking at shortstop, where he profiles as an above-average defender with soft hands, good range and an absolute cannon for an arm that earns him a 70 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. Though he has much to prove at the plate, Jackson’s wheels and defense should make him a big league contributor in some capacity.
It’s really simple: Where was De Jong going to be used? Nowhere. So they traded a Top 20 prospect for 2 Top 20 prospects! What’s wrong with that? Jackson is a slick-fielding, extremely fast, rocket-armed shortstop who is a defensive wizard. Can he hit is the question? Scouts think he has a future, at least as a backup. I am sure he will play 2B, 3B and CF as well.
Zabala is twenty years-old and is as raw as they come, but he has something you can’t teach: A triple-digit fastball! He’s worth a risk. He’s at least 2 or 3 years away. Jackson could be ready next year. I think this trade makes perfect sense, even if neither player pans out. It’s a low risk, high reward move.
Here’s the final thing: If you can better your system and move a guy like De Jong, you do it. He would not get this opportunity in LA, but in Seattle, he could be a #5 starter before the year is over. An organization owes guys like Chase De Jong or Jharel Cotton a chance. I like that a lot.