Reviewing Class A players and projecting is very premature, but it does get done. That is why so many A level and even rookie level players are included on Top prospects lists, only to fall out later. The most difficult jump in professional baseball is from A Ball to AA. So there is a lot of guessing that goes on with these evaluations. Depending on the age, it is doubtful that players who do not perform well at A+ will probably not be projected to succeed at the ML level. For the Dodgers, 14 of the MLB Pipeline Top 30 play at A+ or below. Three have not yet played in 2018; Morgan Cooper (#20), James Marinan (#21), and Ronny Brito (#26). Cooper did not play last year, so he is listed as Inactive as he has never been assigned to an affiliate. I look forward to watching both this year, as they both project to be mid rotation SP.
This year the offense is far and away the better prospects than the pitching. The top pitching prospect is 20 year old 6’ 6” 180 lb RHSP, Dustin May. May has both looked good and not so good at RC, but he is working on adjustments made by Dodger development personnel. His scouting report:
May has taken well to a number of adjustments that the Dodgers have had him make. They had him shift from a four-seam fastball to a two-seamer, which sits at 89-92 mph and reaches 94 while generating a lot of groundouts with its run and sink. He threw both a curveball and a slider as a high school senior with little differentiation between the two breaking balls, so Los Angeles had him focus on a hard curve that also elicits grounders and should become a solid offering.
Though his changeup is in its early stages and is too firm at this point, May shows some aptitude for the pitch. For a pitcher who’s just growing into his tall frame and works with a stingy delivery, he throws a surprising amount of strikes. The Dodgers love his pitchability and competitiveness, and if he adds more velocity once he gets stronger, they could have a No. 3 starter on their hands.
I see May being pushed to AA next year, and from there, we should have a clear picture as to whether he is a legit mid rotation starter. IMO, May should not be included in any trade package for a rental. He has enough positive potential and pitchers like that are invaluable. Also IMO, May is a better prospect than Grant Holmes was. The remainder of the year will determine if I am blowing smoke or not.
Questionable but hopeful prospects in the top #30:
Jordan Sheffield (17) – 23 year old 5’ 10” 190 lb RHSP – Former supplemental 1st round from Vanderbilt. Sheffield has one plus plus pitch (fastball) and two plus pitches (slider and change). Jordan’s problem is his lack of control. A second negative is his size. It has been suggested that Sheffield’s best option is to relieve where he could really focus on the fastball and slider. Jordan has not had a strong game yet this year. Sheffield went on the DL on May each 98, but is relatively straight and hittable. He is working on changing to a 2 seamer so he could hopefully elicit more groundballs. Player Development has not given up on him starting, but it may be in Sheffield’s best interest to relieve.
Imani Abdullah (18) – 21 year old 6’ 4” 205 lb RHSP – Former 11th round HS draft selection given an above slot bonus. This is a strategy the Dodgers have been using. Draft a HS player in 11th round and give them savings from the top ten draft picks. The last three years it has been Abdullah, AJ Alexy, and Jacob Amaya. After 72.1 innings in 2016, Abdullah pitched a total of 12.1 innings in 2017, and a total of 8.0 so far in 2018. He is once again on the DL (since 05/03/18). The organization knew they were going to have to put in overtime to develop Abdullah, but as he fills out his frame and the development team can help him adjust, they are hopeful that he will project to a back end rotation pitcher. It is also just as likely that they will have Abdullah concentrate on two pitches and control and try him in the pen.
Time is running out – 23 year old 6’ 2” RHSP Andrew Sopko – Former 2015 7th round draft pick out of Gonzaga. Sopko looked like a rising prospect when in 2016 he was promoted to AA as a 21 year old. He did not pitch poorly at Tulsa in 2016, and he was again assigned to Tulsa for 2017. Both Sborz and Sopko pitched poorly in their respective 2nd go-rounds at AA. Sborz returned to AA but as a reliever and has already been promoted to AAA, while Sopko was assigned back to RC. He has pitched relatively well. In 66 IP, he has a 3.14 ERA and 1.19 WHIP (T5 in Cal League). He has 66 K and 14 BB. I hope he gets promoted back to AA this year.
22 year old 6’ 3” 180 lb Dean Kremer – Former 2016 14th round draft pick out of UNLV – I still consider Kremer somebody to continue to follow because in 50.1 IP he has a WHIP of 1.17 (4th in Cal League) and 74 K (1st in Cal League). Both Sopko and Kremer probably have a ceiling of middle relief, along with reliever turned starter Tony Gonsolin.
Offensively there have been some very good performances. Perhaps the most promising performance has been exhibited by 20 year old SS, Gavin Lux – Former 2016 1st round draft choice out of HS. Lux was hot and cold in his first full year at Great Lakes in 2017, and he started 2018 going 1-20. I do not believe anyone has been harder on Lux than I have, and I do not mind saying that it looks like I may have been wrong. I still like Bo Bichette, but Lux does not look to be a bust I thought he was headed for. Lux was considered a plus offensive player at his draft (one of top HS bats in all of draft), and he is proving that. Here are Lux’s 2018 numbers to date:
BA – .307 (#8)
OBP – .392 (#8)
SLG – .476 (#10)
OPS – .868 (#9)
Hits – 58 (Tie #6)
Runs – 34 (#6)
2B – 14 (T #6)
3B – 3 (T #9)
RBI – 28 (T #13)
SB – 7 (T #16)
BB – 26 (T #4)
Defensively he has soft hands, and while he has a strong arm his mechanics need to change for him to improve. He is considered perhaps too stiff to become a good ML SS, but he deserves the chance to continue his development at SS, but I think ultimately he will become a 2B.
Perhaps the second most eye opening season has been from 22 year old 3B Rylan Bannon – Former 2017 8th round draft choice out of Xavier. He hit well at Ogden (Rookie League) last year, but has really seemed to establish himself at RC this year. Here are Bannon’s 2018 numbers to date:
BA – .294 (#12)
OBP – .382 (#10)
SLG – .572 (#5)
OPS – .955 (#5)
Hits – 55 (T #11)
Runs – 32 (#7)
HR – 12 (#3)
RBI – 35 (T #3)
BB – 27 (T #1)
Like Lux, Bannon has potential holes in his 3B defense. He has also been utilized at 2B, and that could be a potential position switch. Bannon is not on the current Top 30, but I think he makes the mid-season list. He has really opened eyes and has moved Cristian Santana to 1B more regularly. I am hopeful that Bannon might get that promotion to Tulsa to see what he can do. It is time to push both Bannon and Lux.
Former Top 30 prospect and former 2015 International signee from Matanzas, Cuba is Omar Estevez. Estevez is repeating his 2nd year at RC, but at 20 years old he is much too young to give up on, and I cannot understand why the organization picked up so many utility players when Estevez could be that person. Estevez is a natural SS, but is playing mostly 2B and backing up Lux at SS when he has a day off. His ceiling is probably that of a middle infield utility player, but again at 20 maybe he can still improve to become a regular, but at 2B not SS. Estevez is amongst the Cal League leaders in doubles (15 – T #3), and RBI’s (30 – T #10). I think Estevez finishes the year at RC, but should get a promotion to AA as a 21 year old in 2019.
Another top catching prospect (#14), is 22 year old Connor Wong – Former 2017 3rd round draft choice pout of University of Houston. Wong has been favorable compared to Austin Barnes. As Mark has suggested, Wong could be considered to make a transition to 2B to take advantage of his potential bat. He was a former starting SS at Houston as a Freshman before going behind the plate. Another factor in his possible transition to 2B is he is 6’ 1” 180 lbs, and there is concern that he can become an everyday catcher. Offensively, Wong has been at the top of the Cal League leaderboard in a number of areas.
SLG – .543 (#7)
OPS – .880 (#8)
HR – 11 (T #4)
Since he has only been catching for two years, he still needs more work behind the plate working with pitchers, and improving his receiving and throws. He has a CS rate of 26% this year, so it is not like he is starting at zero. It is projected that Wong’s floor is as a quality utility player who should be able to play all over the field (including catcher), and hit with power. It may take a little longer for him to fully develop, he is someone to watch grow and improve.
The greatest enigma in the entire organization not named Yadier Alvarez could be 22 year old CF Jeren Kendall – Former 2017 1st round draft pick out of Vanderbilt. Kendall is a natural CF who can flat out fly. He has tremendous range and takes good routes to make him even more gifted in CF. He has a plus arm, but not a cannon. Nothing close to Verdugo. If Kendall can learn how to better recognize pitches and make consistent contact, he could be an All Star CF, and become the best Dodger CF since Willie Davis. If not, he could become a Cameron Maybin. He is a prodigious base stealer. He is tied for 3rd in the Cal League with 20. What gives many hope is that while he continues to strike out too much, he is tied for 4th in the Cal League in walks with 26. I think he will continue to get pushed up the organization, and should be at Tulsa next year.
Cristian Santana – 21 year old 1B/3B international signee out of San Cristobal, DR. Santana burst on the scene last year at Great Lakes slashing .322/.339/.460/.799. I started to follow Cristian while he was in the DSL, but I started to write about him last year at Ogden and then GL. He has tremendous bat speed, but as we can tell by his near identical BA/OBP at GL, there is not a pitch that he will not swing at. He also has a tendency to overswing. He is one of those international players that needs time and experience to better recognize pitches and recognize his strengths. He can more than adequately defend at 3B, but has been playing more 1B allowing Rylan Bannon to play more at 3B. Cristian’s bat will be his ticket, and he shows that his bat is live and he should continue to grow. I think Cristian is another who will be pushed next year. I will continue to follow him as he progresses.
Relievers who should continue to get some attention:
Zach Pop – 21 year old RHRP – Former 2017 7th round draft pick from Kentucky
Logan Salow – 21 year old RHRP – Acquired from Oakland for Wilmer Font – Former 2017 6th round draft pick also from Kentucky.
Darkhorse – 24 year old RHRP Michael Boyle – Former 2015 13th round draft pick from Radford
Still time to impress, but more likely organizational depth:
Donovan Casey -22 year old LF – Former 2017 20th round draft pick from Boston College
Cody Thomas – 23 year old RF – Former 2016 13th round draft pick from Oklahoma
Saige Jenco – 23 year old RF/CF – Former 2016 14th round draft pick Virginia Tech