The 2017 Rancho Cucamonga Quakes had a record of 76-64, good for 2nd best overall record in the California League (High A). They made the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but fell to the Lancaster JetHawks in the first round. Multiple players have come through RC on their way to promotions, including Walker Buehler who went from RC to the ML roster. Others who have made it into AA include:
Will Smith (22 year old Catcher) .232/.355/.448/.803 at RC – promoted to AA and promptly broke his hand by a pitch in his first AA game. Smith should return to Tulsa in 2018. Dodger prospect #8. Smith will be one of the Dodgers invited to the Arizona Fall League.
Yusniel Diaz (20 year old CF) .278/.343/.414/.757 at RC – Increased his offensive production at AA. Diaz should return to Tulsa in 2018, but could be moved quickly if he gets off to a good start. He probably will not get a ML invite to Spring Training, but he should get some game action. He is a legit CF, and the front office is going to want to see what he can do. Dodger prospect #5. Diaz will be one of the Dodgers invited to the Arizona Fall League.
Errol Robinson (23 year old SS) – .286/.342/.514/.856 at RC – Robinson passed through 3 levels in 2017, ending at Tulsa. Robinson should return to Tulsa in 2018. Dodger prospect #29.
Drew Jackson (24 year old SS/2B) – .254/.367/.429/.796 at RC – Jackson is becoming another utility player, and should return to Tulsa in 2018 to continue the development. He is a legit base stealing threat that will get better with more experience. Dodgers prospect #18.
In addition, pitchers Mitchell White and Dennis Santana were also promoted to AA from RC. Santana, who may end up as a high leverage late inning reliever (perhaps closer), will continue to start for now and should return to Tulsa in 2018. Santana is Dodger prospect #12. Mitchell White is another mid to top rotation prospect who could (should?) start in OKC in 2018. White is currently the #7 Dodger prospect, and is a potential 2018 September callup, and a potential 2019 member of the rotation.
Perhaps the brightest position player to make his mark in RC is 19 year old catcher Keibert Ruiz. Ruiz, the Dodgers #6 prospect, started at Great Lakes and was promoted to RC. After the California League playoffs, Ruiz and DJ Peters were added to the Tulsa playoff roster. At RC, Ruiz batted .315/.344/.497/.840. He is on a fast track, but will still need to battle Will Smith for the regular catching job at Tulsa. I would expect Smith to also get some time at 3B, a position he knows well. Ruiz is strictly a catcher. He is an offensive threat, and is becoming very productive with his defensive and game calling skills. He still needs to work on his arm, but at 19 and still developing, he should continue to improve.
California League Player of the Year, 21 year old DJ Peters, had a fantastic first full professional season. He hit .276/.372/.514/.886 for the Quakes, with 27 HR’s and 82 RBI’s. He is considered a CF, but he probably projects more as a RF. He is currently the Dodgers #17 prospect, and should start 2018 at Tulsa. Peters will need to cut down on his K’s to move higher on the prospect list. He compiled 189 strikeouts in 586 PA. Peters is another Dodger invitee to the Arizona Fall League.
Luke Raley is one of those, “you just never know” type players. He is not exceptional in any one category, but he does well in all of them. With three teams in 2016 he had a slash line of .288/.355/.446/.801. In his full season at High A, the 23 year old produced a slash line of .295/.375/.473/.848. Luke is a LF, but does not seem to have the requisite power for that position. He had 14 HR’s in the hitter friendly Cal League. Not bad, but not what you are looking for in a corner OF. He is also left handed, so it would appear that he is blocked by a younger Alex Verdugo. He should also start the year at Tulsa and the OF could be a repeat of the 2017 starting OF at RC; Raley, Diaz, and Peters.
The Dodgers #13 prospect is 19 year old SS Omar Estevez. As a 19 year old he hit .256/.309/.348/.657 at RC. He projects more as an offensive 2B, and has been compared to Howie Kendrick. He is being pushed, and I would not be surprised to see him in Tulsa next year. Tulsa should have multiple middle infielders to begin the year, so he may start out at RC, similar to what happened to Yusniel Diaz for 2017.
One of the post season California League All Stars is 22 year old right hand hitting 1B Ibandel Isabel. Isabel, a native of Yaguate, D.R., is a prodigious power hitter (28 HR, 87 RBI), but also K’s way too much (172 in 492 PA). Fortunately for hitters like Isabel and Peters, OPS is a much more important number for the front office than is strikeouts. They will continue to be moved as long as they continue to hit with power.
One final post season California League All Star is one of my favorites, 21 year old LHSP Caleb Ferguson. He began to get noticed in 2016 when he had 63 strikeouts and only 5 walks. His command was not as great this year with 55 walks, but his 140 K’s were good enough for #3 in the Cal League. He was the league leader in ERA (2.87), and #5 in WHIP (1.37). Caleb is the 21st rated Dodger prospect, and is the top rated lefty in the organization. He has an excellent chance to stay in the organization, and progress to Dodger Stadium sometime in 2019 or 2020. He projects to be a back end of the rotation starter.
Two additional players that deserve to be recognized are 24 year old RHSP Adam Bray and 23 year old OF Zach Reks. Bray finished 3rd in the league ERA with a very good 3.79 ERA in the Cal League, and was #1 in WHIP with 1.15. He is not the strikeout pitcher that Ferguson is, but with only 26 walks in 129.2 innings he does seem to have good command and control. He will probably not be a star, but he could make the team in the future as a middle reliever. He is good enough to be considered by other teams so he has a good chance to make a major league roster. Zach Reks was a 10th round draft choice out of Kentucky this year. Nobody else in the 2017 draft made it to Rancho, and Zach played more at Rancho than his other two stops (Ogden and Great Lakes) combined. He hit a combined .317/.394/.371/.765 and batted .314/.369/.382/.752 for RC. He is another LF with very limited power.
Michael Boyle is a 23 year old left handed pitcher at RC in 2017. He appeared in 19 games, 7 as a starter. He pitched a total of 53 innings, and compiled a 5-6 records with a 4.75 ERA, 17 walks, 37 strikeouts, and a 1.38 WHIP. Boyle is one of four Dodger pitchers who was invited to the Arizona Fall League.
Organizationally, for the third time in five seasons, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes have been voted the California League’s Organization of the Year as voted upon by all eight California League teams. In addition, Monica Ortega, Vice President – Ticket Sales for the Quakes, has been named the winner of the California League Woman of Excellence Award and will be the league’s representative for the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year, presented at the Winter Meetings in December. Congratulations to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and to Monica Ortega.