(Photo Credit: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)
While many fans of the Dodgers are feeling a touch of stress regarding several of management’s upcoming roster decisions during the winter months, a little bit of relief can be found in realizing the multitude of talent flourishing on almost every level of the farm, setting up a seemingly secure future for the entire organization in terms of player personnel.
The last time we put together a top prospects list by position was right around the beginning of 2016 spring training, and after all the dust settled on the regular season, we saw six of the 11 players listed make some type of contribution to the big league squad during the year.
To make things interesting this time around, because of the cloudy definition of a “true” MLB prospect, we decided to set our own parameters, limiting our latest choices to players who have no MLB experience whatsoever and are under the age of 25, ultimately facilitating the whole selection process. Our final determination was based on which prospects were the most MLB-ready among each position’s player groupings.
Up until recently, this list would have been difficult to arrange, as the Dodgers’ farm was extremely top-heavy with pitchers and outfielders. Today, as indicated by very favorable rankings in the top publications, the Dodgers not only have one of the best farm systems in baseball, but probably one of the most versatile as well.
These opinions are mostly subjective and original, and aren’t sanctioned or endorsed by any group or entity other than us here at this site. Without any further rambling, here is an overview of our top Dodgers prospects by position:
- C – Will Smith
- 1B – Cody Bellinger
- 2B – Willie Calhoun
- SS – Timmy Locastro
- 3B – Kyle Farmer
- OF – Alex Verdugo
- OF – Yusniel Diaz
- OF – Jacob Scavuzzo
- LHP – Michael Boyle
- RHP – Chase De Jong
- RP – Jacob Rhame
We chose Will Smith at catcher basically because the organization is a bit barren on prospects at third base, thus shifting Kyle Farmer to the hot corner. Smith was drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft, and after zipping through rookie ball at Ogden, played well enough at Low-A Great Lakes to earn a promotion to High-A Rancho towards the end of the season. Farmer played 16 games at third and 56 at catcher for Double-A Tulsa this year, hitting .256/.323/.395 over 297 plate appearances. His biggest game of the year came in April at San Antonio when he went 3-for-5 at the dish, racking up two home runs and four RBI. Smith and Farmer take the places of last year’s catcher and third baseman, Austin Barnes and Brendon Davis, respectively.
After missing a little over four weeks at the beginning of the season with a hip injury, Cody Bellinger proved to be a force in the Tulsa lineup, eventually earning a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City during the PCL playoffs. Showcasing both his stellar glove and his strong offensive presence, Bellinger is representing the Dodgers as a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. Bellinger is one of four returnees from last season’s list. TBPC put together a quick profile last December of how Bellinger eased his way through the low levels of the Dodgers’ farm over the past few seasons.
At the keystone, Willie Calhoun takes the place of last year’s choice, Micah Johnson. Calhoun was also a late addition to OKC’s PCL playoff roster and additionally joins Bellinger as a member of the Desert Dogs. He was selected in the fourth round by the Dodgers in the 2015 MLB Draft out of Yavapai Community College. Calhoun, 21, was named Texas League Player of the Week for the final week of May, and started at second base for the Northern Division in the Texas League All-Star Game. He also represented the Dodgers in the Futures Game at the All-Star gala in San Diego last July.
Timmy Locastro hit .285/.341/.389 in 131 games over two levels of the farm this season. Always known for his grit and perseverance on all parts of the diamond, Locastro made the national news when he hit for the cycle against Lancaster last May. TBPC did a short piece on the 24-year-old New York native last summer which includes a nifty video featuring some very fine glove work.
Jacob Scavuzzo is commonly considered to be one of the best pure athletes in the entire Dodgers’ organization. Scavuzzo impressively starred in four sports during his time at Villa Park High, as his athletic skills and talents eventually merited him the Orange County Male Athlete of the Year award in 2012. At one point, he was considered a blue chip wide receiver on the gridiron, having logged sub-4.4 times in the 40-yard dash on multiple occasions. On top of all his success in numerous sports, though, Jacob told us he knew he was meant to be a baseball player, and it came as no surprise when he was chosen by the Dodgers in the 21st round of the 2012 MLB Draft right out of high school. Scavuzzo took a few moments from his hectic schedule in September to sit down with us and discuss a few highlights from his young career on the farm.
Yusniel Diaz and Alex Verdugo both return from last year’s list. Diaz was signed by the Dodgers after he defected from Cuba in April of 2015. He hit .272/.333/.418 over 82 games for High-A Rancho in 2016. Diaz has the quickness to primarily handle center field, but his pure athleticism gives him the capability of succeeding at all three outfield spots. Verdugo joined Bellinger and Calhoun as an addition to OKC’s playoff roster as well as earning a roster spot for the Desert Dogs in the AFL.
After discovering that the Dodgers did not have one single left-handed starting pitcher on the season-ending rosters of both OKC and Tulsa, the nod for the southpaw starter on our list goes to Michael Boyle. The 22-year-old Richmond native was chosen by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2015 draft, and was promoted to Rancho after compiling eight wins and a 2.81 ERA in 99 innings for Low-A Great Lakes.
As far as the right-handed starting spot is concerned, we chose Chase De Jong in a very close call with Trevor Oaks. De Jong gets the nod due to the fact that he’ll be added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in the coming weeks because of Rule 5 consequences, and may have a faster track to the bigs. He was crowned 2016 Texas League Pitcher of the Year and tallied a 14-5 record for Tulsa this season, posting a 2.86 ERA and a 1.024 WHIP with 125 strikeouts in 141-2/3 innings of work before being promoted to OKC’s starting rotation in the playoffs. Chase sat down with TBPC for a very detailed player interview last May.
Like De Jong, Jacob Rhame is expected to be added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster over the coming weeks to escape becoming eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Rhame put together a 3.29 ERA and an impressive 10.0 K/9 over 63 innings of work as OKC’s primary closer in 2016. TBPC did a concise profile on Rhame last February.
For anyone interested in checking out some of the top talent in fall ball, Bellinger, Calhoun and Verdugo will be representing the Dodgers in the Fall Stars Game on Saturday, November 5. First pitch is slated for 5:00 p.m. Pacific time and will be televised on the MLB Network.