Down on the Farm AA

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 4thpitch, 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 RHPYadier 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 OFLuke Raley– Former 2016 7thround 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 2ndin 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 1stbase and CF if needed.  Luke is another potential LHH version of SVS.


24 year old LHH OFZach Reks– Former 2017 10thround 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 RHRPSheaSpitzbarth– 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 LHSPDevinSmeltzer– Former 2016 5thround 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 oldErrolRobinson– Former 2016 6thround 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 oldDrewJackson– Acquired in the trade with Seattle for Chase De Jong.  Drew is a former 5thround 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/1BConnorJoe– Acquired from Braves for a $500K international bonus pool. Former supplemental 1stround 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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This article has 29 Comments

  1. I am following both Zach Reks, and Connor Joe this season. I really like Reks, I agree with you that Reks can be a very good situational hitter, something the Dodgers desperately need. Reks in 26 ( 10 at RC and 16 at Tulsa ) games so far this season is 5 for 12 against left-handers and 14 for 37 against right-handers. Let’s see how the remainder of the season goes for both players.

  2. I not so much love fast players as I don’t like slow players. Will Smith at catcher and Bellinger at first would give the Dodgers to fast players at positions that are more typically filled with slow players. So I root for Will Smith to find a bat.
    I prefer to trade Alvarez. He might excel in relief but he hasn’t benefited attitude wise from being a millionaire.
    White sounds awesome.
    Could Peters be more like Judge than Werth? In the small sample size where I have seen Peters on defense, he has looked graceful and seems to take direct routes. His arm does not seem accurate and his throws have a curve.

    1. I do not remember personally seeing anything positive or negative with respect to Peters’ arm. Nothing jumps out for me. His scouting report grades him at a 60 arm (Verdugo has 70 and Diaz and Raley have 55). He does not have an assist this year; however he did have 11 in 2017 at Rancho, and 9 in short season rookie league Ogden in 2016. Of the Top 10 OF prospects, 2 have 70 arms, and 2 others have 60. The other 6 range from 45-55.

        1. In the LA Times, they said that Muncy played second for the A’s 20 times in 2015, and 2016, and in AAA last year, as AC has already said.

          And they have been having him practicing to play second, before games.

          I don’t think we can carry Forsythe as an everyday player in this line up this year, with Corey out.

          And Forsythe has not been that same steady guy on defense, this year, and he cost us two runs on defense, last night.

          I don’t understand why they haven’t tried Muncy, at second.

          But maybe after last night, they will be more willing to try Muncy at second, now.

  3. anybody remember the jacksonville five? billingsley, broxton, martin, laroche, & joel guzman

    maybe the tulsa quintet is next . . . ruiz, smith, diaz, peters, & white (leave alvarez out)

        1. Yes, I think that is right about Loney. I used to root for Loney like I root for Pederson now. Both could have made watching them more fun; okay, a lot more fun.

  4. From the end of the previous post: Mark, Puig was placed on DL with hip pointer, bruised foot on April 29, 2018 and at the time was hitting .193 with no homers. He has done much better since returning. It wouldn’t hurt Bellinger or the Dodgers if Bellinger spent 10 days on the DL and work out in AZ. That is merely a thought and not a recommendation. How well Joc is doing has nothing to do with the quality of that thought. Take an Ambien. It’s all the rage, so to speak.

    1. Because Mark said Pederson in nothing more than a punch and Judy hitter now it should be pointed that with all of Joc’s flaws, and there are many, of his 30 hits, 9 are doubles, 3 three are triples, and 1 is a home run. He has 17 RBIs because he has a slash line of .345 .412 .483 .895 with RISP.
      You said Joc should be demoted if anybody because Cody at least gets RBIs and home runs. But he has been mostly a all-or-nothing hitter this year with a slash of .192 .290 .269 .560 with RISP.
      I want both players doing well and playing together for years. I am not attacking Bellinger to condone Pederson’s weaknesses. You are the one that was attacking Pederson to condone Bellinger’s struggles to start the year. I worry about both but still have confidence in both and admit have more confidence in Bellinger.

    2. Ambien worked for Roseanne very well, didn’t it.

      The beatings will continue until the morale improves!

  5. Mark,

    First off, I had previously mentioned the possibility of the Dodgers sending Cody down to OKC to straighten himself out. However, I was never adamant that that was something that they had to do, but it was something that they could consider if they felt that it might help. All the points you made about Bellinger in the previous thread are valid, and there is no doubt that Cody could eventually fight his way out of his slump while remaining in LA. However, I think there is a case to be made that a little time away from the spotlight might be useful. Certainly there have players in the past who became superstars, who had to take a detour back to the minors before coming back to stay.

    If anything, I’d like to see Cody cut down a bit on his swing, and concentrate on hitting more balls to center and left center. In the long run I think Cody will be fine, but I don’t think it would hurt if he could use some of his time concentrating on the basics w/o the pressure of producing in a pennant race. There is no one on the Dodgers or in their minor league system who can right now replace a fully productive Cody Bellinger. But unless he comes out of it soon, Cody Bellinger himself is not that fully productive hitter either.

    It’s a long season, and even without Bellinger, I don’t see anyone in the division running away from the Dodgers. Consequently, I’m less worried about the near term, and more concerned about how the Dodgers will finish down the stretch. Because as you well know, it’s how the Dodgers are playing at the end (with a hopefully very productive Cody Bellinger) that will determine whether or not this is a championship year.

    Finally, I guess the Dodgers brass knows best, but I would like to see Alex Verdugo in the Dodgers lineup everyday. I’m not so worried about his lack of HR power, which like you, I think will eventually come. The kid has great bat to ball skills, and HRs notwithstanding, I can see him driving the ball down the lines and into the gaps for plenty of extra base hits.

  6. RC, everytime I see Drew Jackson’s name I am reminded that when he was acquired by the Dodgers, I read that he had an absolute cannon for an arm. Given that his offense is questionable, has there been any talk of converting him to pitching?

    1. He does have a tremendous arm, and I do remember speculation that he could try and use that arm to become a pitcher if so desired. Although, I have never read or heard anyone with any authority even hint at it. I have never really believed that it was a consideration for Drew because he always believed his offense would come around; and two, he went to Stanford. Many of the players from Stanford had other options rather than stay in the minors for 9+ years for a chance. I would be very surprised if he could not latch onto a team as a SS/utility player, that he would not move on. Just sheer speculation on my part from my run-ins with Stanford players. He turns 25 in June. Time is running out on a conversion.

  7. I understand where Mark was coming from, because Cody has only had, one bad month.

    Although I don’t think Joc is killing this team, but Cody is not the only one on this team, that has not hit well in May, and that includes, Joc.

    And Bum those numbers you compared against both Joc and Cody, are deceiving.

    Because Joc has only hit 182 in May, when runners are in scoring position.

    And Cody has only hit 087 in May, when runners are in scoring position, but he has had eight more at bats, against lefties, then Joc has.

    And if I added those extra eight at bats to Joc’s numbers, he would be hitting lower then Cody in May, when runners are in scoring position.

    Cody and Joc, both hit well in April, but Cody also had a lot more at bats in April, then Joc did, too.

    The point is, after what Cody did all season long, last year, they are going to give Cody more then a month, to try to get himself, right.

    And the other point is, that Cody is not the only one on this team, that has struggled in May, but he is going to get more time then most, because of the numbers he put up, last year.

    1. MJ, where did you find stats for RISP by month? Your stats don’t pass the smell test. Joc would have had a slash line something like .800 1.000 1.000 2.000 in April if his slash line was as low as you say it was in May to get the ytd slash line that he has with RISP.

  8. Well here comes the kid Santana. Let’s give em a go.
    I’MO Cody will adjust. I’ve always said pitchers got alot of friends with laptops. The ‘BOOK’ is out and Cody has to figure it out.

  9. It appers that they will use Santana in relief in the beginning.

    I have heard Mark Prior has been dispatched to work with Ariel Hernandez in Tulsa. I can’t confirm it!

    Now, Hernandez has filthy stuff… like a RH Koufax.


    – The Los Angeles Dodgers today placed infielder Chase Utley on the 10-day disabled list with a left thumb sprain and recalled ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

    Utley, 39, who will make his first stint on the disabled list since 2015, has batted .216 with 12 runs, seven doubles, one triple, one home run and 14 RBI in 45 games with Los Angeles this season. The veteran infielder has been clutch off the bench for the Dodgers this year, going 7-for-17 (.412) with two runs, one double, one triple and five RBI in 18 appearances as a pinch-hitter. His seven pinch-hits currently ranks third in the Majors, while his batting average ranks seventh.

    Venditte, 32, returns to the big league club for his third stint with the big league club after allowing two runs in 2.2 innings of relief and striking out two without issuing a walk in three appearances with the Dodgers this season. The switch-handed pitcher has gone 2-0 with one save and has posted a 1.25 ERA (3 ER/21.2 IP) in 19 games with Triple-A OKC this year, while striking out 24 batters against six walks and limiting hitters to a .139 average.

  11. Matt Kemp is hitting .349/.379/.560 and is tied with Max Muncy with 7 home runs, is a statement I totally expected to say

  12. This from Gurnick in the article on Utley’s sprained left thumb.

    “Pitching prospect Dennis Santana was recalled to replace Maeda and will likely make his MLB debut and start on Sunday in Colorado.”

    So maybe he won’t get his first work out of the pen. Colorado is a tough place to have to make a first start. But then again, Santana has been playing in the Coast League. So he probably has some familiarity with the hitter friendly atmosphere.

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