The Dodgers minor league system is filled with “depth” pieces. As therealten pointed out, perennially competing for the playoffs and a potential WS takes a toll on the Dodgers draft slot. The last time the Dodgers had a top ten draft slot, they did very well with a HS pitcher from University Park, Texas…Clayton Kershaw. In 2016, the Dodgers had the #20 selection and drafted HS SS, Gavin Lux. In 2013, the Dodgers got a #18 pick, and selected and signed RHP Chris Anderson for $2,019,900. Anderson was finally released by the Dodgers in 2017, signed a minor league contract with the Twins and was released by the Twins after 3 minor league games in 2017. He has not latched on to a team since. In 2012, the Dodgers had a top 20 pick and did well with Corey Seager.
Teams build with top draft picks, and fill with others, via lower round picks, trades, and international signees. It is hard to stay on top if the team cannot draft well. When you rarely get to pick in the top 10, the team’s chances of selecting a perennial AS are reduced. But where the Dodgers have selected, they have built a good not great minor league program for 2018. Some of their first round picks have been outstanding (Kershaw, Seager, Buehler, and to a degree Billingsley). But others have been a bust (Chris Anderson, Chris Reed, and Zach Lee). Sometimes you can flip a former top pick and get something in return. The Dodgers got CT3 for Lee, and Grant Dayton for Chris Reed. Sometimes they are just released…Chris Anderson.
In looking over the Dodgers minor league teams, there is not one sure fire future All Star. There is no Vlad, Jr., Ronald Acuna, Eloy Jimenez, Gleybar Torres, Juan Soto, or Alex Reyes in the organization. While the Dodgers boast 5 of the top 100 MLB prospects, only two are in the top 50 (Verdugo and Ruiz), while three are slated at #90 (White), #92 (Diaz), and #99 (Peters). Verdugo and Ruiz should become regular major league players but not without faults, and the next three have questions as to how good they will become. Verdugo is non power hitting corner OF, and for Ruiz it is very difficult to project catchers (think Boston’s Blake Swihart, Cardinals’ Carson Kelly, Orioles’ Chance Cisco, and Indians’ Francisco Mejia). White has not pitched well at all this year, Diaz continues to have problems staying on the field, and Peters has power to burn but is a strike out machine. I do not think it is a great sign on the last two drafts when neither #1 (Lux and Kendall) are not in the top 100.
What FAZ has done on the ML level, they have also done at the MiLB level. Good depth. They have multiple utility players who can play all over the field, catchers who can play the infield (Farmer, Smith and Wong), guys who can hit but may have a tough time finding a defensive position (Rios and Beaty). Because of the success of Kike’ and CT3, they turn SS into utility players (Locastro, Robinson, Jackson). They trade for utility players like Breyvic Valera or sign them to minor league deals (Donovan Solano). That is the FAZ way of playing safe.
AAA – FAZ likes their AAA affiliate to house players who can step onto the ML roster and compete. Most are not future stars, but they can compete if called upon.
Alex Verdugo – Playing a lot of CF, but really is not a CF. He has a tremendous arm and would fit in nicely in RF defensively, but does not have the power generally required for that role. Outstanding bat to ball skills with maturity concerns. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Verdugo will be a regular at the ML level. It is conceivable that it will not be with the Dodgers, as FAZ prefers power in the corners, but with his abilities to make consistent contact, the power may be overlooked. Verdugo is also a high ceiling player at a very low price. Many expect the Dodgers to be in on Bryce Harper (I am not in that camp), but they may be satisfied with Verdugo’s bat enough to give him that RF slot until DJ Peters makes it to the Show (or K’s out), and spend the dollars elsewhere.
Dennis Santana – Converted infielder who is pitching as if he is a mid-rotation starter. He has a plus plus fastball, with a plus slider. He is working on a change, but really is a two pitch pitcher. This generally relates to a good high leverage reliever, but Santana is working on that changeup for his 3rd pitch. Santana is a fierce competitor and I would not bet against him developing that change, but I think his best spot will be in high leverage relief to eventually become the closer. I was talking with a friend and the subject of the bridge to closer came up, and the last time we could remember as automatic was Guillermo Mota to Eric Gagne. Santana to Jansen could become that combination.
Caleb Ferguson – Anyone who has read anything that I have written over the last couple of years knows that my favorite minor leaguer has been Caleb Ferguson. There is something about a 38th round draft choice that dominates at the lower levels to gain attention, and then carrying it all the way to the ML. I started following and writing about Ferguson in 2016 when he was dominating at Ogden and was then promoted to Great Lakes where in 51.1 IP, he compiled 41 K’s against 3 walks. Last year at High A, he led the California League in ERA, 2nd in BAA, and 3rd in K’s all as a 20/21 year old. He was a California League All Star selection. His AA debut was not very good in 2018, but since that initial game he has been nothing but spectacular. His 2018 stats over two levels (AA & AAA) are 3-0, 44 IP, 13 BB and 50 K, 1.23 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP…and he is still 21. Caleb has a plus fastball and curve with an average change. His ceiling is as a #4 or #5 in the rotation. He could be the next Ross Stripling. He is a grinder, and if I were to project anyone to succeed (not star) at the next level it would be Caleb.
Still time for – Josh Sborz – Potential mid relief who could become occasional high leverage. Needs consistency to make the next jump. Can dominate at times and get hit hard on others. Has let too many inherited runners score at AAA to project to be a consistent high leverage reliever which is what Gasparino was hoping for. Sborz is 24 so he has time.
Someone who could surprise – Kyle Garlick. Kyle is 26 so he is not a prospect in the true sense. But he has continued to hit and hit for power ever team he has played for. In 2018 at AA and AAA, Kyle has hit .283/.325/.553/.878 with 11 HRs and 28 RBIs. I would compare him to SVS as a #4/#5 OF who can come off the bench to provide power. He has played some 1B, but I would like to see him play more to make him more versatile.
Big hit potential with limited defense – Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios. Both Beaty and Rios are left hand batters and right hard throw. Beaty who also caught in college is a tremendously versatile player who can play any corner position and be an emergency catcher. His obstacle is whether he can play any of the positions to become a regular. His hit skills certainly indicate he can play at the next level. He was the Texas League batting champ and player of the year in 2017. He had an injury to start the season, but he is now playing at OKC. He has great hand-eye coordination and very good bat to ball skills, with some (not projectable) power. While not a middle infielder, he could become the next Kike’ as utility corner position player. Matt is another bulldog type player who I would love to see in Dodger blue.
Edwin Rios – Another corner position hitter, limited defense. Not as projectable as a hitter as is Beaty, but still has enough hand-eye coordination and bat speed to be a good hitter but with more power than Matt. Edwin also started the year with an injury, and is also now playing at OKC. Rios can be an adequate 1B, but not GG caliber, and should hit well enough to stick with an AL team as a DH/1B. He has played some OF. Rios has the arm for RF, but not the range for LF or RF.
AAAA – Henry Ramos, Joe Broussard, Travis Taijeron, Jake Peter.
DL – Andrew Toles.
AA should be completed by tomorrow.