The Dodgers AA affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers in the Texas League, had a very successful season. They reached the Texas League Championship final game and lost a heartbreaker 1-0. Dennis Santana pitched an outstanding game in a pressure situation, and looks primed for 2018. There were some outstanding performances by individuals as well, and many look to be promoted to AAA for 2018 where they are one step away from the LAD dugout. Some could make it at some time next year, but most would be projected for 2019.
Below are the individual rankings for all players listed in the top ten of the various offensive and pitching categories. If there were none in the top ten, the player with the highest ranking is listed. Below the individual rankings are the team rankings.
|Individual League Top 10 or Highest Ranking – Offense|
|Jose Miguel Fernandez||16||#8|
|Jose Miguel Fernandez||64||#10|
|Minimum 378 PA.|
|Individual League Top 10 or Highest Ranking – Pitching|
(5 innings shy of qualifying for league honors.)
|Minimum 112 IP|
|Team Rankings – Offense|
|Team Rankings – Pitching|
Matt Beaty was indeed the most prolific offensive hitter in the Texas League and won Player of the Year Honors for his efforts. Scott Barlow was 5 innings shy of qualifying for league ERA honors, but he did nail down a post-season All Star berth.
Along the way, Walker Buehler stopped for a short visit and performed well enough to get a quick call to AAA. His stay was not nearly long enough to qualify for any league honors.
I have already discussed Tim Locastro with the OKC Dodgers, but his year started at Tulsa and he was at the top of the league leaders in a number of categories. Tim was acquired by Los Angeles along with pitcher Chase De Jong in exchange for three international slots in July of 2015. Perhaps a future MLB utility player or maybe even a 2B for an international slot…I think FAZ did okay with this trade.
The starting rotation at the end of the year is very much a quality rotation to be sure. Mitchell White, Scott Barlow, Dennis Santana, Josh Sborz, Yadier Alvarez, and Andrew Sopko. All 6 could become ML pitchers. Some starting, some relief. IMO the class of the group is Mitchell White. He combines his competitive nature with 3 plus pitches. I think he is on the fast track, and should start at AAA in 2018.
Josh Sborz and Andrew Sopko had yo-yo seasons in Tulsa. At times, both pitched very well, and at other times pitched very poorly. Both dropped out the Dodgers Top 30 prospect list, but I suspect that Josh could find his way back onto the list. He likes starting, but I still think his future is in the pen. Both Sborz and Sopko should start out at AAA and either pitch themselves into potential ML pitchers or drop back down to AA and out of prospect status.
Scott Barlow pitched at a higher level at AA than anyone. He is still 24 and sported a 2.10 ERA over 19 AA starts and 107.1 innings. He was 5 innings shy of being the Texas League ERA leader. He deserves and will get a chance to start at OKC in 2018.
Dennis Santana is relatively new to pitching and is quickly getting noticed. He was an All Star at Great Lakes last year, and was an All Star at Rancho this year. I see no reason for the trend to stop in 2018 where he should start at AA. He is still 21 and is rocketing up the prospect lists, and will undoubtedly land in many Top 10 lists. He has 2 plus pitches, and unless he finds a third, he should end up in the bullpen, most likely in high leverage late inning situations. But for now he will continue to be a starter.
Yadier Alvarez is the most enigmatic pitcher of the group and perhaps the pitcher with the highest ceiling, and lowest floor. He has a million dollar arm but lacks something else (head, heart, competitive streak, hunger to succeed???). He has three plus pitches (2 plus plus), and an average 4th pitch (his change). I really would like to speak with someone in the organization who can shed some light on his true potential and limitations. At 6’3″ and 175 lbs. he may lack the stamina to become a starter who can pitch deep into games, but his stuff can translate into a highly successful late inning high leverage reliever.
Corey Copping led a very good group of relievers at AA this year. He was a mid-season All Star and his 18 saves were good enough to be #2 in the Texas League. His K/9 decreased in 2017, while his BB/9 increased. But his BAA was sub .200. He is 23, and could end up back in AA, but if he has a good spring he could start out at AAA. Another AA reliever with potential is 22 year old Shea Spitzbarth. Spitzbarth made people sit up and notice last year at Great Lakes, and again this Spring with the ML team. He dominated at Rancho early in the year but was inconsistent at AA. Both Copping and Spitzbarth could start out at AA, but both should move up to AAA during the season if they do not start out there.
Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz should have a very good battle determining who will become the #1 catcher at AA. Smith unfortunately had his hand broke on a pitch on 7/14 and did not play again. Smith is the superior catcher, and Keibert shows more ability with the bat. Smith can play other positions but probably does not hit well enough to make the change, while Ruiz is really strictly a catcher.
SS Errol Robinson (22) played at three levels from Great Lakes to Rancho to finally land in Tulsa. The 2016 6th round draftee had a strong year at Tulsa with a .273/.357/.352/.709 batting line. He is solid defensively, and could stay at SS, but is getting experience at 2B, 3B, and CF. At 22, he probably will start again at Tulsa, but he could get a AAA promotion. He cracked the Top 30 mid season prospect list and should continue to move up.
SS Erick Mejia (22) was acquired from the Mariners for Joe Wieland. While he has not risen to Top 30 status, he nevertheless had a solid 2017 campaign. He hit .289/.357/.413/.770 at Tulsa. And yet another SS, Drew Jackson (24) was promoted to Tulsa late in the year. All three could start back at AA, but depending who is signed and/or retained from OKC, one or two could start the season at OKC. The Dodgers organization went from no clear middle infield prospect close to the ML level to having three have some success at AA. Regardless, the organization is not going to want to stall the development of another middle infielder, Omar Estevez.
Kye Garlick was hurt for much of the year, but still managed to to hit 17 HRs good for #6 in the league. I thought he played well enough in 2016 to get a chance to start at AAA. Hopefully next year, he gets that chance.
The most intriguing AA Of is Yusniel Diaz (20), who is a true CF. At AA, in 108 AB’s, he slashed .333/.390/.491/.881. Did a light officially go on, and can he continue to perform at a high level? I think he will start out at AA in 2018, but I also believe he will be pushed, as a CF is needed at the ML level.
2B Jose Miguel Fernandez had a very good year at Tulsa, but at 29, he is really not a prospect.
Matt Beaty (24) is a left handed hitting corner infielder. He was also a catcher at Belmont University. But he has always been a good hitter. He is also considered a competent defensive 3B. As Texas League Player of the Year, he does not have much to learn at AA, and should make the conversion to AAA in 2018, with a potential late season callup. He should be fun to watch next season.