Currently, AA is where most of the top prospects reside. Although still relatively young, some of the current roster will absolutely play at the ML level, but outside of Keibert Ruiz, none project to be perennial AS. There could be some AS performances from some of the higher rated players, but they all have questions that will need to be answered.
Keibert Ruiz – The second of two likely untouchables is catcher Keibert Ruiz. Ruiz is a 19 year old catcher from Valencia, Venezuela who has not seen a pitch he does not like. In 160 PA at AA he is slashing .282/.331/.430/.761 with all of 6 BB’s and 14 K’s. He has 6 HR’s and 17 RBI’s. He has tremendous bat to ball skills, and is proving it as a 19 year old in AA. He handles pitchers well and is considered a plus framer. He has good feet behind the plate, but has trouble with his footwork, transfer, and release on his throws. Going into the season he was at 22% CS rate. This year he is up to 28%. Hopefully he will continue to improve to match CS % with the last catcher to come out of Valencia, Venezuela, 5 time AS and GG Salvador Perez, who has a 54% CS % this year, and has multiple 40%+ seasons. Unlike the other Dodger catching prospects, Ruiz is a catcher only. He has never played a professional game in any other position. He is certainly a gifted enough athlete to play another position, but I do not see a switch in his future.
Will Smith – The former #1 supplemental draft pick out of the University of Louisville, is also a top catcher prospect. Smith, who turned 23 in March, is considered a plus defensive catcher with limited offensive potential. But with his defense and arm, Smith will play at the ML level. He will start if he can develop enough to be an adequate offensive catcher. While he can play 2B and 3B, he is probably limited to catching because of his hit limitations. Smith did hit well in a small sample size in the AFL, and his offensive numbers are at least comparable to Ruiz at .255/.333/.447/.780. Smith has 4 HR’s and 13 RBI’s. Smith went on to the DL on May 8.
Mitchell White – A former 2016 #2 draft pick out of Santa Clara University who is graded at 2 plus plus pitches (fastball and slider) and a plus curve. He is another in a long line of former TJ surgery patients who has had a problem of staying on the field. Mitchell had a broken toe last year keeping out for several weeks, and started out this year with an undisclosed injury.
“When former Dodgers vice president of baseball operations (now Braves GM) Alex Anthopoulos saw him in Spring Training one day last year, he remarked that White had the type of stuff that would fit a No. 1 overall pick. His fastball sat around 90 mph at the start of 2016 but now operates at 92-97 mph and plays up with natural sink and run. That’s not necessarily his best pitch because he also possesses a power slider with late bite that can reach 88 mph, and he also has the ability to morph it into an even harder and equally effective cutter.”
He is working on his 4th pitch, a change, which he hopes to develop to be at least average. He has a 61% K/ground out rate. He has the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher. He is not pitching well this year, and maybe it is still the undiagnosed injury.
Yusniel Diaz – One of the prized international players signed in 2015. After a productive 2016 at Rancho as a 19 year old, Diaz was assigned to Rancho again to start 2017. On August 1, Yusniel was promoted to AA Tulsa where he really started to excel. In 2017 at AA Diaz slashed .333/.390/.491/.881. Thus far in 2018, he has produced a near duplicate slash line of .300/.406/.478/.883 as he remains one of the youngest performers at AA. He continues to improve his BB/K ratio which is 1:1 thus far in 2018. Diaz is considered a plus hitter, defender, arm, and run, but does not project to generate much power. His ceiling is as an average/adequate defensive CF, but is better suited defensively as a RF with his plus arm. Unfortunately Diaz has the same problem that Verdugo has…insufficient power for a corner OF. Diaz is a right handed version of Alex Verdugo, just not quite at Alex’s level across the board, but good enough to become a regular ML OF, with some potential AS seasons.
DJ Peters – Peters is the wild card. I have seen and used comparisons to Jayson Werth, and they are not simply physical. After earning Player of the Year in the 2017 California League, DJ has gone to Tulsa and continued to hit with significant power. He is currently #2 (tied with teammate Luke Raley) in HR’s in the Texas League. However DJ continues to struggle with making consistent contact. While it is slightly improved from last year, he is still striking out at a 30%+ rate. His walk ratio is still just south of 11%. DJ’s statistics are remarkably similar to Cody Bellinger’s AA stats.
Bellinger – .263/.359/.484/.843
Peters – .263/.359/.479/.838
DJ has a plus arm, and while he can play CF, like Verdugo and Diaz, he is better suited for RF. I can see DJ replacing Kemp in LF in 2020. It is plausible (but not likely), that the 2020 OF could be Peters, Verdugo, Diaz. They are all capable of playing well at the highest level.
The biggest wild card on the Tulsa roster, if not in the entire Dodgers organization, is RHP Yadier Alvarez. Like Diaz, Alvarez was signed in that huge 2015 International signing spree. Once considered the top Dodger prospect, Alvarez remains in the top 7 because of his outstanding arm. He still has a 70 fastball and 60 slider, but he has not developed an adequate third pitch. He continues to lack control. He also has problems staying on the field. He was placed temporarily inactive on multiple occasions last year and once this year. He is currently on the DL, after pitching a total of 15.1 IP thus far this year. Two traits that cannot be measured are desire and heart. To maximize Alvarez’s potential, it may be best to transfer him to the bullpen, work on his control and leave him using the fastball and slider. If he can master his control with those two pitches, he can be an exceptional high leverage reliever. Or maybe his best value can come in the form of a trade package. He has a very high ceiling and a very low floor.
Dark horses but worth rooting for:
23 year old LHH OF Luke Raley – Former 2016 7th round draft choice, Division II Lake Erie College. Luke does not have any single outstanding skill, and while he is projected to have below average power, he does have 10 and tied for 2nd in the Texas League (with DJ Peters). He is slashing .283/.353/.528/.881, which is not dissimilar to his 2017 metrics at Rancho. Luke also has an issue making consistent contact with a 27% K rate. Luke can be an adequate corner OF with a good arm, and can play some 1st base and CF if needed. Luke is another potential LHH version of SVS.
24 year old LHH OF Zach Reks – Former 2017 10th round draft choice out of Kentucky. Zach is the first 2017 draft pick to make it to AA. I had a write up on Zach a couple of weeks back, and my summation was that Zach has outstanding bat to ball skills, and is a true grinder. His ceiling seems to be that of a situational hitter and reserve OF. But he is not one that I would bet against making it to the Show.
23 year old RHRP Shea Spitzbarth – Former non-drafted free agent signee. Shea first gained attention during 2017 Spring Training as he pitched very well in relief in multiple ST games. Spitzbarth shows signs that he can dominate, and then he turns around and gets hit hard in another game. This is the same type of dialogue that was said about Grant Dayton. Shea can be a decent middle relief, but needs to be consistent. Right now he appears to be a future OKC to LA AAAA reliever.
22 year old LHSP Devin Smeltzer – Former 2016 5th round choice out of San Jacinto JC – Devin is a cancer survivor so baseball is a luxury and I would never rule out Devin making it all the way. Devin does not have any outstanding pitch and is going to need to rely on pinpoint control/command to succeed. He has not pitched well in 2018, but I like his makeup and at 22 in AA he still has time.
The race to replace Kike’ – One of FAZ’s trade mark trends is to find infielders who can play multiple positions to become a key utility player. Tulsa has three such players:
23 year old Errol Robinson – Former 2016 6th round draft choice out of Ole Miss. Errol is a natural SS and has the skill to play there full time. However, while his defense is plus, his offensive skills need to improve for him to become a regular. His hit skill is average and while he has a 30 grade for power, he has 4 HR’s in the Texas League. Errol is playing more at 2B to show more diversity. I think his role will be that of a utility player along the lines of a non-power hitting Kike’.
24 year old Drew Jackson – Acquired in the trade with Seattle for Chase De Jong. Drew is a former 5th round draft choice out of Stanford (Seattle). Drew’s significant plus skill is his speed. He has limited offensive skills but is having a very good year at AA; .280/.365/.514/.879. This is the best professional season thus far for Drew. Jackson is a true leadoff hitter who can play 2B, SS, and all three OF positions. He has 5 HR’s for Tulsa, so he can be a potential double digit HR.
25 year old 3B/1B Connor Joe – Acquired from Braves for a $500K international bonus pool. Former supplemental 1st round pick out of University of San Diego (Pirates). DC had a very nice write up on Connor on May 22. Connor is having a very good AA season and is batting .325/.462/.611/1.073 with 8 HR’s. Connor is probably not a potential replacement for JT or Cody, but he does have more potential than Rob Segedin as a corner infield/outfield option.
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