Are The Kids Being Blocked?

AC provided an Always Complete list of the Top 30 Dodger rookies and it’s not hard to see why the Dodgers still have a Top 5 Farm System. The Dodgers have the most depth at catcher of any team in baseball and have a glut of outfielders to go with a plethora of live arms.  Middle infield is the only positions where they have a lack, but a trade of two from their excess could easily remedy that. The question is: Are all of these kids being blocked from getting to the major leagues? Plus, who can tell me who the three players are in today’s photo?

Andrew Friedman has made it a point to articulate that the Dodgers Top Prospects  need to progress through the system and that he doesn’t want to block them.  That’s a logical assumption. The Dodgers have had two straight Rookies of the Year in Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, and it’s possible that Alex Verdugo could be the third in a row, but now Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson have him blocked in Left Field.

Verdugo profiles as a right fielder, but he has great instincts and can play CF as well as LF, but he’s less than ideal in CF due to his average speed.  He’s best suited for RF because he has a cannon on his shoulder, but Yasiel Puig has him blocked there.  Alex Verdugo is a player who might win multiple batting titles.  He may have had some immaturity issues in the past, but that looks to be in the rear-view mirror.  He has shown that he comes to play.

Andrew Toles is showing what he has… and he has a lot. Personally, I think he can be a very good Center fielder, but he needs time to get acclimated.  He is a player who might hit .300 with 25 HR and 25 SB – he is a valuable talent.  I like Toles a lot, in fact, I see him as the Dodgers CF’er in 2019, if Chris Taylor goes to 2B after Logan Forsythe goes elsewhere, but this year, he may go to OKC with Alex Verdugo to just get a little better.

The big obstacle this year is that the Dodgers have Matt Kemp and he has such a tremendous upside (after he lost 40 pounds and a bad attitude) that the Dodgers HAVE to give him a shot.  He won’t steal 40 bases again, but he might jack 40 HR and hit .300.  He’s a rare talent and the Dodgers may have caught lightening in a bottle…. or not.  They have to give him a chance and there are over $20 million reasons why this has to happen.  I am not predicting that Matt Kemp will hit 40 HR… but he could (and he almost has).  I am not predicting that Matt Kemp will hit .300… but he could (and he has). I am not predicting that Matt Kemp will drive in 100 runs (but he has). I am also not predicting that Matt Kemp could not become a malcontent (because he has).

It’s risk verses reward.  When they traded for Kemp, if FAZ thought that Matt Kemp could be the starting left fielder in 2018 for the LA Dodgers, then they are freaking geniuses.  They are good, but not that good.  However, they may have lucked-out in this one. This could be a comeback and redemption story for the ages… that could lead them to the promised land.

So, Toles and Verdugo will have to wait their turn while Matt Kemp mans LF for a year.  After that, he gets traded to the AL to be  DH… or maybe, just maybe the DH comes to the NL next year.  The MLBPA would support that change 100%.

The Dodgers could make a trade.  Joc Pederson is obviously the odd-man-out.  Puig could be gone in 2019… OR NOT.  Forsythe will be gone.  Grandal will be gone. They could trade all four this season, but it would be risky.  You don’ t want to mess with a Championship Caliber team’s chemistry. The Dodgers have the prospects to trade for Chris Archer or they could sign Alex Cobb or Jake Arrieta, but is that smart?  If there are no trades, the lineup is pretty set this year, but next year? WOW! The options are endless.

Will the Dodgers be in on Bryce Harper?  They will kick the tires, but with all of the outfield depth they have, why?  I haven’t even mentioned Yusneil Diaz or Starling Heredia or DJ Peters or Jeren Kendall, nor have I mentioned Trayce Thompson whom half the teams in baseball would take as a 4th or 5th outfielder.

One of the catchers could move to 2B.  Ruiz is great behind the plate, but what about 2B?  Smith can already play 2B, so there are lots of options.  Manny Machado is more of a possibility, but again, why? If the Dodgers need a starter, they will likely deal from that stash at the trade deadline.  It is going to be interesting to watch this play out.

By the way, it turns out Toles is limping.  Dodger Insider wrote this:

“I think for me, as a guy that’s gone through many surgeries, it’s more of the swelling, how the knee responds to a buildup in workload,” Toles said. “We’re going to keep running him out there, and then we start to get the back-to-backs and see how he responds.”

Toles said most of what he’s dealing with now is mental over physical. There’s some general soreness he said he’s fighting through — not from the knee injury he sustained, but mostly from not having played for nearly a year. He said that’s common for many of his teammates as they start to play again.

At times when he slows down, though, he said he stills feels himself leaning on his other leg too much. (i.e., that’s called “limping”)

“I’m working on it,” Toles said. “I can’t do that. Our training staff and all them, they just want me to trust it.”

It’s not a bad thing – just a hurdle to get over… but I know a limp when I see it1

Yesterdays Shining Stars

  • Andrew Toles showed he has some power.
  • Chris Taylor looked ready with the bat, but my own observation is that he a better CF’er than a SS or 2B man.
  • Yusniel Diaz gave us a glimpse of the future – he’s coming and fast!
  • Will Smith flashed his bat with two hits.
  • Wilmer Font continues to lock in his roster spot.
  • JT Chargois could be the 2018 Brandon Morrow – he has some filthy stuff.

Preseason Predictions

Everyone and his brother makes pre-season predictions. Let’s take a look at last years.  ESPN’s Power Rankings were as follows:

  1. Cubs
  2. Indians
  3. Red Sox
  4. Doxgers
  5. Astros
  6. Nats
  7. Giants
  8. Rangers
  9. Mets
  10. Blue Jays

How did that work out?

Lindy’s Sports Baseball picked the Giants to win the West and the Nats to win the NL and the Indians to win the AL.  Yeah Right!

Sports Illustrated picked the Dodgers over the Indians in the World Series. Nobody got it right.

So, the only prediction, I am going to make is that the Dodgers will win the World Series in 2018.  I have said that EVERY year since 1988, so I am due to finally be right.  Take it to the bank. Tommy is not Baseballs Last True Believer…

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don't do game recaps or such things -- lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don't think they are the "end-all-be-all.". This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We'd like to hear your voice.

This article has 34 Comments

  1. Are the kids being blocked? In a word…Yes. Alex Verdugo is definitely being blocked. He is good enough to start for most ML teams, but not the Dodgers. It’s not that the Dodgers have three sure fire HOF manning the OF, but they are quality ball players in their own right. I agree with Mark that Verdugo’s future is in RF, but right now that is where Puig is firmly entrenched. He could play LF, but Kemp is blocking him there. I am not a big fan of Matt Kemp, but if he can provide corner OF power then he has to get the chance to prove he can still hit. Maybe he is the difference maker this year. One of the knocks on Verdugo is that he does not have the power for a corner OF, but I was hoping that going into ST that Toles and Verdugo would get a legit chance to truly compete to be the LF and let the best man win. Kemp changes that dynamic.
    .
    I still see Toles as a LH Tommy Pham type player where he truly blossoms in his late 20’s. Last year at 29, Pham finally got his chance, and he took advantage. So much so that the Cards could move Grichuk and Piscotty and then go get a Marcell Ozuna and move Pham to CF. Toles will turn 26 in May, not old, but not young. He is blocked in LF by the same Kemp, but the intrigue of Kemp is still out there. Both Toles and Verdugo will probably go back to OKC and continue their development. The problem with moving Toles and Verdugo back to OKC is that others are then blocked moving up. Diaz would be starting at AAA for almost every other ML organization, but not the Dodgers. If Toles is in LF for OKC, where does Beaty play. Toles could be CF but so could Locastro, and both will be secondary thoughts to Verdugo. Where does that leave Henry Ramos, or Jacob Scavuzzo, or Kyle Garlick? Do they release Travis Taijeron? If that pushes players back to Tulsa, what happens with DJ Peters and Luke Raley? Then what about all of last year’s draft picks (Reks and Casey particularly) or Cuadrado. It is certainly time to move Mitch Hansen (boy did I miss on that one – and the Dodgers) or Johan Mieses, Arie Sandoval?
    .
    It isn’t that Kemp (and to some degree Joc), is blocking just Verdugo and Toles, but it has a trickle-down effect. At some point you have s^@# or get off the pot with the kids. There is just not enough ABs for some of these guys. Should the Dodgers have gone the Grichuk/Piscotty route with Joc? Joc was fresh off his WS moments and he is not projected to be anything other than a platoon player for LAD. With three years of control, his value this year is much better than it projects to be next year. Joc is a better player than many on Dodger blogs think, and many ML teams would like to have him. When you have talent in one area, you move some of it and try to rebuild where a team has some apparent deficiencies…like middle infielders?
    .
    Is Hyun-jin Ryu blocking Buehler/Stripling? Is Stewart blocking Mitch White/Dennis Santana by not going to the bullpen? Stripling is 28 and deserves to be the #5 in the rotation or moved. What good does he do going back to OKC as a starter. Depth? So would be Clay Buchholz and Trevor Cahill and John Lackey on one year deals, and maybe Stripling brings a good middle infielder prospect.
    .
    Keep all of the catchers. That will work itself out.

    1. stripling is what he is. a swingman, mop-up, 6th starter type. nobody’s blocking him. nor is there a logjam in the rotation. maeda won’t even be there by the postseason. if buehler or stewart looks like a starter, the job is theirs. lots of injury risks in the starting five. there are plenty of starts up for grabs. i still think we sign another starter. the kemp trade cleared out some depth in the rotation.

  2. Good article Mark. I love ST to watch the kids. Some are going to make a case for themselves. They may have to go down because they have options. Toles and Verdugo are not going away. Joc did hit the ball hard and where it was pitched. Grandal looks lost at the plate. Three strikeouts yesterday. If he keeps striking out, he will not have much value.

  3. Here is my preference for the 2019 team:
    C Smith
    1B Bellinger
    2B Taylor
    3B Turner
    SS Seager
    LF Toles
    CF Pederson
    RF Verdugo
    .
    That lineup could happen sooner.
    .
    I think Diaz could be the player that could be the longer term LFer if Toles knee won’t let him stay on the field and the same with Kendal in CF if he hits better than Joc.
    .
    The rotation will be Kershaw White Wood Stewart Stripling Archer with Maeda moving to the bullpen and Hill traded.

    1. I think Verdugo would play CF better than Joc and I am not sold on him there. Ideally, Toles or Taylor should be in CF due to their speed. Everyone assumes that Taylor should play 2B, but he has played 3 times as many games in the outfield as he has at 2B. His fielding % at 2B is .941 and at SS it is .959. People are always ragging on Kike that he not a SS or 2B but his fielding % at SS is .963 and at 2B it is .992.

      I like Chris Taylor in CF – He doesn’t have a lot of experience there, but he will get better every day. Toles can play there too, but an outfield of Toles, Taylor and Puig or Verdugo would be very good. Diaz is going to amaze some of you and then there is Peters. He has 40 HR potential. I see some outfielders and catchers being traded in the future… or sooner.

      1. Your logic about speed in CF would seem to carry over to shortstop and second base but it doesn’t. Seager is not the prototypical speedy shortstop and neither is Forsythe at second. Positioning, good routes, and good jumps are more important than speed. If a car starts at 8:00 AM and drives in a straight line an average of 60 mph and another car starts at 8:10 and drives an average of 70 mph in a wavy line, which is earliest to a point 10 miles away?
        .
        That was my preferred lineup. I guess I could adjust it based on my analysis of each players strengths but until a player has reached age 27 and has at least 2 years of MLB experience, its a guess anyway .
        .
        I also prefer to have a young team that will play together for 5 years or a team composed of players that have played together for 5 years. My 2019 lineup accomplishes that with the exception of Turner who might be replaced in a few years by Ruiz.
        .
        If Kemp gives Toles more time to heal than I like him on the team but due to his short timer status, I would just as soon move on and go with Toles.
        .
        If I can get good defense up the middle plus 25 home runs each out of SS, 2B, and CF, I am a happy camper.

  4. enjoyable piece. thanks for the read. i think the talk of toles to cf and taylor to 2b in 2019 is a strong possibility, as is a free agent signing of dozier.

    our infield looks to be good for a long time. i don’t consider machado a realistic target though he’d be huge here. nor do i care to give harper the a-rod treatment.

    ideally, we extend kershaw, develop a young impact starter or two (a must or else we need to trade for a young cost-controlled starter), and ride the wave of talent to the promised land.

    i’m over last year. the future is now. “there is no later. this is later.” –cormac mccarthy

  5. I may be in the minority but when I look at our starting pitchers, I kinda wince. I’m good with Kershaw and Wood, iffy with Hill, and not that impressed with any of the others (Maeda, Ryu, Stripling, Stewart, et al). Looking forward to Buehler and Urias later this year but, for now, color me skeptical.

    1. Our pitching could be fine – a lot depends upon health. If Hill doesn’t have blisters, if Ryu is healthy, if Urias comes back and Wood stays status quo, the Dodgers need nothing… Stripling is a solid spot starter. If things don’t pan out, then they make a move. I have no pre-conceived ideas at this time.

    2. I’m not as worried as I was a few weeks ago. I think they will find enough pieces to make things work. Or at least that’s my hope as we venture onward this Spring.

  6. I don’t know how good Verdugo is, or where he stacks up against the group he’s competing against, but he’s qiuck, strong and not old. He looks like he needs a place to grow if you ask me.

  7. “who is blocked?” is an interesting question.

    off the top of my head, here are the players in our system who can make a legitimate case for being blocked:

    1. toles–he should have a clear path for the LF job but sheer numbers and post-injury concerns might block his path. still think joc has inside track on roster spot, if not outright starter.

    2. verdguo–has essenmtially no chance for roster spot due to numbers

    3. trayce–performance is a larger hindrance than competition but kemp trade seals his fate

    4. yimi/liberatore/paredes/et al.–no room at the inn but rotation of bullpen throughout the year will provide plenty of opportunities

    5. drew Jackson/locastroi/farmer/peter/muncy–same as above. they will play eventually

  8. From a total business perspective, we have a TON of valuable assets. I love it. It means our smart folks can package up a few of our valuable assets and send them somewhere for an ELITE asset.

    We may have to overpay a bit for someone like Chris Archer, but in all reality, our overpay won’t hurt us as much as it would another squad, due to our young MLB team, and our farm depth. This is perfect.

  9. Interesting piece Mark and response by AC. I agree that Joc seems to be the odd man out, but they didn’t move him because when the Kemp deal was made the Dodgers had no intention of having Kemp on the roster. They’re either curious to see what the slim done Kemp can provide or they’re making one last ditch effort to trade him by showcasing him during spring training. I like the idea of Toles in CF and Taylor at 2B next season. Hell, I like the idea of Taylor at 2B t his season if it helps the club.
    `
    I disagree that Thompson would be the 4th or 5th outfielder on most teams. He was as bad as anyone in baseball last year. Yes, he had a serious injury, but he’s got a lot to prove. He’s more of an athlete than a baseball player to me. He gets bad reads on fly balls and the ball he dropped the other day isn’t the first time we’ve seen that. It would be nice if he found what was working for him offensively before his injury.
    `
    Chris Taylor would play SS, 2B, or CF at a level defensively if he’s allowed to stick with one. I was impressed with him last year at ST when he played SS. He’s getting work at SS now because of Seager’s elbow.
    `
    Some of these guys like Beatty, Garlick, Scavuzzo aren’t really prospects for the Dodgers at least and if moving them helps develop the other kids it should be done. I like Stripling and I rooted for him to get the 5th spot a couple of years ago, but if he’s not happy in the pen and as a spot starter they should move him.
    ~
    Alex Colome seems like a guy the Dodgers should be targeting in a trade. What good is Colome to a team selling off their assets? He makes $6 million this year and it will only be going up. Let’s not forget the Bryce Harper is as young if not younger than Joc and Toles. If the can sign a generational type player then use the organizational depth to improve other areas. I’m not willing to pay him $40 million a year, nor do I think he’s going to get it.

  10. The Dodgers are facing the kid from Boise. He was a Borah High product. I’m sure y’all remember Mr. Fife.

    1. part of a long line of fringy 5th starter hopeful-types like ely, monasterious, the one knuckleballer, and now stripling

  11. Observation: Peters has quite the fade on his throws. I worry about his accuracy.
    .
    I want Archer’s personality on the Dodgers as much or more than I want his arm.
    .
    I think I will do my chain saw thing for awhile now.

  12. It seems to me that Utley is blocking a younger player. Not someone to play 2nd, but by taking a roster position that another player would fill. He should have a place as a coach, or in the organization somewhere, so that a young gun could get a shot at the big league club.

    1. A young player needs to play everyday so a bench role doesn’t fit a younger player. A player like Sedgeden would be a better hitter than Utley but would not add as much clubhouse presence. Utley might not stay on the team for the entire season if he is an automatic out though.

    2. good point

      and nice work below, Bum, on remembering segedin

      he’s the guy I always leave out

  13. You never know if a prospect is for real until he has played in the Bigs for a while. I am reminded of Garrison Keillor, whose fictional Lake Wobegon was described as follows: “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” When all of the children are above average then there is simply a misunderstanding of what average is.

    I can’t count the number of prospects who were “can’t miss” – but somehow, they did. Even top prospects often don’t pan out, or are only good for a few weeks. Remember the career of Joe Charboneau. After winning Rookie of the Year in 1980, he flamed out. He has the record for fewest MLB games played by a ROY winner (201).

    All fans think that their prospects are better than those of other teams. Weird.

    Alex Verdugo? Will he be better than Joc? Puig? (Everyone seems to think that he is the CF or RF of the future. Based on his minor league performance it is hard to see how he will be better than Puig. He has a different skill set than Joc, but from what I have read he isn’t a CF.)

    Buehler? I’d like to think he’ll be great but I saw a straight fastball (with high heat) but not much else when he came up last year.

    I do wonder about Kemp. He will take a valuable and scare roster spot with very little flexibility and will take opportunities from the likes of Toles and Joc. If he hits like the old Matt Kemp then he will add significant value but if not?

    I guess this is why they play the games.

  14. This is why I still think Kemp’s a goner. Even is he does twice as well as he did in his last good year (2014), he’ll contribute 2 WAR.
    `
    That’s not much, and he won’t do it.

    1. Of course, the stats you are relying on weighed 40 pounds more and had a fatalistic attitude.

    2. Bluto

      You do realize Kemp was just coming back from an injury plagued couple of years, in 2014.

      It wasn’t until the second half of 2014, that Kemp really began to feel somewhat healthy again.

      And in the second half of that year, Kemp was one of the top offensive performers, in the National League.

      I believe only Buster Posey had a better half then Kemp had that year.

      If Kemp plays adequate defense in left, he will have plenty of value.

      And if he can hit like he can, he will make everyone in the line up better, and he is very capable of protecting Cody in the line up.

      And that is something we needed badly last year.

  15. Watch for Moran in the pen. Too much energy to get Pederson to be decent. Was a natural. No more. Time to move on from him. Send him to one of the Florida teams for whatever they can get. He might be ok down there. We can get him back after they teach him how to hit.

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