Rancho Cucumonga Potential Prospects

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.

 

RANCHO CUCUMONGA

 

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

 

Posted by Always Compete

This article has 44 Comments

  1. Thanks again AC. Kendall would be an awesome CF in LA. Lux could well be the plug that fills the second base hole. I was surprised to read that Lux has soft hands but is a little stiff. I was thinking a person with soft hands would also be loose and relaxed.

    1. I think it is that Gavin is a little too mechanical and not fluid enough to get in position to make accurate throws, but his hands are soft and reliable when he gets in position. He needs experience (practice and drills – practice and drills – practice and drills), and probably a good defensive 1B to help with his development and confidence.

  2. Great job AC. My pick to click is Dustin May and Player-of -the Year Rylan Bannon. He is No. 29 on MLB Pipeline and oddly enough behind Donovan Casey. I expect both to play with the Drillers at some point this year.

  3. AC, do you have reports on whether Toles has soft hands? Is he a player in the Bill Russell and Dave Lopes mosd that could be converted to second base?

    1. Bum

      I think it is easier to go from second to the outfield, then the other way, like with Mookie Betts, but he is such a great athlete he could probably pull that other off, too.

    2. I know bloggers have made that suggestion, but I have never heard anything about a potential try at 2B for Toles. I have never seen him play there so it is hard for me to conjecture about his hands as an infielder.

  4. Lux appears to have made the most strides. Our pitching appears mostly hype with may a possible survivor. If you have pitchers who haven’t played for 2 years why? No real stars in the group and their record supports that as they are not very good. I just don’t see much strength in this system with Great Lakes even worse. Thanks for the report. Maybe somebody will step up.

    1. The system does not have a lot of potential All Stars, but I believe you made the point that it is difficult to find a lot of potential AS when you are constantly drafting in the 20-30 range. The system will continue to produce good players. They may have to sign their stars via FA, sign significant international players, or trade depth for a potential star. The system does have enough good players to entice a team that needs to rebuild with numbers. That is why I thought that FAZ was potentially short-sighted when they did not present a better offer to Pittsburgh for Gerrit Cole. I say potentially short-sighted because we have no idea if FAZ did make an offer worthy of Cole, but they definitely could have prepared a better package than Houston did.
      .
      While Great Lakes has been fairly dismal this year, they do have four pitchers I would not give up on. Edwin Uceta (20 – from DR), Melvin Jimenez (18 – from DR), Jesus Vargas (19 – from Venezuela), and Leo Crawford (21 from Nicaragua). The first three are only in their 2nd full year in the US. Leo Crawford could develop into a nice pitcher. In his last 17.1 IP he has allowed 1 ER on 12 hits and 1 walk. He has 13 K’s in that time. For the season, in 20.1 IP he has a 1.33 ERA and .84 WHIP. He should get the opportunity to get reassigned to RC this year.
      .
      I am also not ready to give up on Wills Montgomery.
      .
      Offensively there are very few bright spots. Brayan Morales seems to be the most complete position player. He is 22, and I would like to see him get promoted to RC to be pushed. He is a speed burner CF with 25 SB to lead the Midwest League. Jeren Kendall is blocking him. While Starling Heredia has had a horrendous start, he is still 19. Also Romer Cuadrado (20 – from Venezuela) could develop into a good hitter. He needs instruction and experience, but has the requisite tools to develop. You cannot judge the development of raw talent of the international players playing at Rookie League or 1st full season A ball.
      .
      We should continue to hope and monitor players like Marcus Chiu (2B) who is starting to heat up. In his last 10 games he is hitting .314 to raise his average from .192 to .222. He has 3 HR’s and 5 RBI’s in that time. He may never fully blossom, but then he might.
      .
      I agree that time has probably run out on Mitchell Hansen, but there is enough raw talent at Great Lakes that a developmental organization like the Dodgers should be able to get a few gems out of that roster (albeit mostly pitching).

      1. Totally agree that the dodgers are between a rock and a hard spot due to the drafting position. I just don’t think our farm should be ranked as high as it is. I don’t think we have much other than Verdugo to tempt anyone to trade with us. I don’t count Buehler who I can’t see us trading. Our pitching staff needs to get younger. It just seems pitchers durability isn’t what it used to be. We need urias to get healthy and produce. With Buehler, urias, and maybe Santana we could have a formidable top 3 for a few years but we need another young starter from somewhere. Wood, Maeda might hang on for a couple of years. I thought white might be the guy and he still could be if he gets healthy. I am just bracing for the turbulence ahead in this trip to Colorado. Who can survive with 80% of your rotation on the dL?

        1. Kay Bear Ruiz is wanted by every team that talks to the Dodgers. I believe he is a Future All-Star. Mitch White has filthy stuff as does Dennis Santana. Alvarez has the best arm of the bunch. Will one of then add another elite pitch like Stripling? Fangraphs has Will Smith in the Top 70 and Diaz and Peters have a lot of growth capability and May is another high ceiling guy. I guarantee our Farm system is at least TOP 10 – probably better!

          BA says this about RUIZ: Ruiz is a special switch-hitter with “a chance to be a star” in the words of one evaluator. He possesses superb timing, bat speed and ability to manipulate the barrel, and he began to learn to elevate for home runs toward the end of 2017. He makes solid contact from both sides but is much stronger lefthanded.

          1. Yeah you are right about teams would want Ruiz forgot about him. Smith no offense, Peters hope, Diaz overpriced, Alvarez apparently satisfied with the money. If Alvarez, white, Diaz,and peters suddenly turned the corner with Ruiz and Verdugo on their way we would have some valuable pieces but right now they are mostly ifs. I will respect your optimism and concede my pessimism while hoping you are right.

  5. AC

    Another thorough report about the farm, thanks for your hard work, although I know this is something you love to do, and that shows up with every report, you do!

  6. As a follow up, Lux reached base all four of his PA last night with 3 hits and a BB. He hit his 15th double and 5th HR. Lux went Rickey Henderson by hitting the first pitch in the 1st inning for a HR.
    .
    Rylan Bannon reached base 3 out of his 4 PA with a single and 2 walks.
    .
    In 48 games this year, Lux has failed to get on base in only 7 games, and one of those games was as a PH. In those 48 games, Lux has hit safely in 35 games. He is the primary leadoff hitter for the Quakes. I think both Lux and Bannon should be pushed to AA this year.

  7. Another interesting read at The Athletic about Stripling:
    `
    Ross Stripling has found an unusual path to success by deferring to the data
    `
    “I don’t care about average,” Stripling said. “I just want to know where he pulls the ball at 100 mph. I’m a believer in limiting slug, which is basically limiting exit velocity.”
    `
    This being 2018, Stripling is not unique in that regard. He knows other pitchers do the same, probably some in more advanced ways. He knows that hitters will catch up, perhaps whenever the long-discussed virtual-reality machines are able to simulate specific pitches and render a pitcher’s first time through the order more like his third.
    `
    There’s more obviously.
    `
    And elsewhere, Jayson Stark has this thought starter:
    `
    “The Dodgers,” says one rival exec, “are going to win that division by seven games.”

    1. Stripling is very smart to just try to limit a hitter’s exit velocity, instead of trying to strike every one out, especially when pitch counts, rule the day.

      It sounds like to me, that game yesterday should have been put under protest, because Grandal did ask the umpire if Franco touched the plate, and that umpire said yes, and we know that umpire should have not made a safe call, since Franco never touched the plate.

      I don’t know where the Dodger in the sky was, but if Orel and Joe, could see that Franco missed the plate, our eye the sky, should have caught that too.

      And Kershaw should have been told right away, so he wouldn’t make his next pitch.

  8. I guess the rotation is now Wood, Stripling, Buehler, Santana, Stewart. Hill, Kershaw, Maeda, Ryu, on DL.
    .
    The bullpen might best be fixed by adding Hill and Maeda. Ryu should return and send the least productive starter to the bullpen, or replace Wood if the team really wanted to strengthen the bullpen. Kershaw will probably return in time to keep Buehler’s innings below 180 including playoff innings. I think the Dodgers have sufficient pitching resources. Pitching could be improved yes but not mandatory.

  9. AC, I was watching a spring training game on a back field in March and overheard a Brewers scout tell the Dodgers coaches the pitcher should be on the fast track to the majors. Is was Zach Pop. I approached the scout and asked him about Pop. He said Pop should be an MLB middle innings reliever by 2020. Just passing this along…

    1. It is kind of hard to project college relievers. But Gasparino and his staff saw something they really liked in Pop. They selected Pop after two other pitchers were selected as potential relievers (Riley Ottesen and Wills Montgomery). I remember researching Pop last year and he has all the makings of a future ML closer. He has a plus fastball that can reach near 100 mph, but sits at 95-96. His swing and miss pitch is a plus slider. He is working on his change and if he can successfully include that pitch in his repertoire, he will become very hard to hit. He is already at RC, and in 6 games he has 9.0 IP, and allowed 1 run on 4 hits and 1 walk. He has registered 9 K’s in those 9 IP and has one save in one save opportunity. In 4 out of his 6 games, Zach has pitched more than 1.0 inning, with 3 games pitching 2.0 innings.
      .
      If Zach can get that promotion to Tulsa this year and join his former Kentucky teammate (Zach Reks) at Tulsa, that would make two 2017 draftees getting elevated to AA. That would put Pop in position to make the LAD bullpen in 2020. The scout you ran into just might be correct in his assessment.

      1. I feel if we had allowed Sborz to only relieve after we drafted him, he’d be up with the big club by now

  10. Rumour Dodgers’ AAA reliever C.C Lee to exercise his escape clause and return to Taiwan to participate in the CPBL draft. Lee posted a 3.91 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 41 strikeouts over 25.1 innings this season in the Triple-A.

  11. DODGERS PLACE CLAYTON KERSHAW ON DL
    RECALL BROCK STEWART FROM TRIPLE-A OKC

    LOS ANGELES
    – The Los Angeles Dodgers today placed left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw on the 10-day disabled list with lower back strain and recalled right-handed pitcher Brock Stewart from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

    Kershaw, 30, who will be making his second stint on the disabled list this year, made the start in yesterday’s contest against the Phillies, allowing one run on four hits and striking out five in 5.0 innings as he was taken out of the game with lower back discomfort. The southpaw has made eight starts this season going 1-4 with a 2.76 ERA (15 ER/49.0 IP) and has held hitters to a .233 average, while striking out 53 against just 11 walks in 49.0 innings.

    Stewart, 26, who will make his fifth stint with the big league club this year, has appeared in five games (two starts) with the Dodgers this season, posting a 4.61 ERA (7 ER/13.2 IP) and has struck out 11 against six walks in 13.2 innings. The right-hander has made five starts with Oklahoma City this year, going 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA (5 ER/21.2 IP) and has struck out 22 batters against just eight walks, while limiting the opposition to a .208 average.

  12. Have the odds just increased that Kershaw will NOT opt-out?

    And if Kershaw does opt-out, what are are the chances that the Dodgers pursue him vigorously him this offseason?

    1. I think you can safely pencil Kershaw into the Dodgers rotation next year without giving him an extension.

    1. Yeah I was really excited that he might really surprise us and take control. Hitting the pitcher not a good sign. Maybe another example that we really have no one in our system we can go to. Can’t give up on him after one game and maybe he can right the ship in his second inning but disappointing so far.

  13. I’m actually impressed with his stuff. Suspect it’s a combination of nerves and Coors.

    Agree Mark that Cody would have made a difference in the first inning.

    1. Brooklyn

      I agree, remember Frias first start in Colorado?

      I actually think this was a pretty good first start, considering everything.

  14. Much better 2nd inning. And nice double . Good for the kid. Now hopefully is better relaxed.

    1. Considering he was not in the plans to start at the big league level this year he did fine considering it was Coors. You can see that his stuff will definitely play out of the pen right now. It will be interesting to see if he can have three pitches developed enough to start successfully enough in the bigs this year. Being a former SS he’s bound to get a few knocks at the plate.

  15. Garcia can be sooo good but he kind of reminds me of fields. You know if he is in there long enough somebody will homer.

  16. Forsythe should be fined $1,000.00 every time he lets a first pitch strike whiz by. I’ve learned to really dislike him. Trade him already.

  17. Verdugo in center and Bellinger back at first.
    I don’t see Kershaw opting out after the season and absolutely no reason the Dodgers give him an extension.

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