In this latest installment of our weekly Dodgers prospect watch feature, we decided to take a look at a handful of youngsters who were able to earn promotions across at least one level of the farm system this season. And, coincidentally enough, by some standards, all five are not terribly far away from making their respective big league debuts.
Corner infielder Edwin Rios has begun to set a new standard for offensive power in the upper levels of the Dodgers organization. Since his promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City in early July, the left-handed hitting native of Puerto Rico has slashed .290/.345/.560 with seven home runs, six doubles and 19 RBI over 30 games. Combining his numbers with his time at Double-A Tulsa, Rios is hitting .310/.355/.539 with 22 long balls, 27 doubles and 81 RBI.
Now seeing most of his action at first base again, the 23-year-old handled the lion’s share of third base duties at Tulsa, after primarily being a first baseman in college. He spent three years at Florida International University, leading the Panthers to a Conference USA title during his final season in 2015. During that campaign, he hit .314 while leading the team with 18 home runs and 69 RBI. He was later drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2015 MLB draft. Rios was named as a 2017 mid-season Texas League All-Star, and was selected as the Texas League Player of the Week on April 30.
If it seems like we’ve talked about infielder Tim Locastro quite a bit this season, we indeed have. Commonly known as one of the hardest workers on the field by his teammates, the 25-year-old is hitting an impressive .375/.446/.479 in 48 AB during his time in Triple-A, and has recently become a regular fixture atop OKC’s batting order. For the year, across two levels, he’s slashing .296/.376/.435 with 27 stolen bases, eight home runs, four triples and 26 doubles.
Chiefly a shortstop and second baseman, Locastro has also played all over the outfield this season, and, like Rios, was named as a 2017 mid-season Texas League All-Star after being chosen as an organizational All-Star last season. For those not familiar with Locastro, the Dodgers acquired the New York native along with pitching prospect Chase De Jong from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for three international slots in July of 2015.
Outfielder Henry Ramos has been settling nicely into the middle of the Oklahoma City lineup, having hit .375/.444/.625 and handling duties in all three outfield spots since his promotion. Over the course of the entire year, he’s batting .405/.460/.645 in 121 AB after missing a good portion of the season due to a severe groin injury he suffered in spring training.
The switch-hitting 25-year-old was signed by the Dodgers as a minor league free agent last November. Originally drafted by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, he had ties to current Dodgers vice president of international and amateur scouting David Finley, as Finley was in Boston’s scouting and player personnel departments at the time that Ramos was selected. At one point last year, he was ranked as high as No. 16 on the Red Sox Top 30 Prospects list, but ultimately fell out of high regards when his vital stats began fizzling by season’s end.
The No. 1 prospect in the Dodgers system, Walker Buehler, has now been moved to the OKC bullpen, as many expect the 23-year-old to be considered for a big league spot after the roster expands on Sept 1. He climbed across three levels of the farm this year, after being selected in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt, even though the Dodgers knew he was destined for Tommy John surgery not long after he signed with the club.
Opening the season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, the 22-year-old Kentucky native made five starts and threw 16-1/3 innings, posting a 1.10 ERA and a whopping 14.9 K/9. He was then quickly ushered to Tulsa where he went 2-2 in 11 starts over 49 innings, registering a 3.65 ERA with 64 strikeouts, and was named Texas League Pitcher of the Week for the final week of June after dealing 10-1/3 scoreless innings of shutout ball with 17 punch outs over two starts. At OKC, he has posted a 4.69 ERA over 15-1/3 innings of work. On Sunday evening against Round Rock, Buehler recorded his first career save, throwing two perfect innings while striking out five of the six batters he faced.
Outfielder Yusniel Diaz continues to impress after being signed by the Dodgers upon defecting from Cuba in April of 2015. He hit .272/.333/.418 with eight home runs in 82 games for Rancho in 2016. Since joining the Drillers squad on August 1, the right-handed hitting 20-year-old has slashed .364/.462/.465 over 33 AB.
Along with a very solid arm, he has the quickness and range to competently handle center field, but his pure athleticism gives him the capability of succeeding at any of the three three outfield spots.
Diaz is currently ranked as the Dodgers fifth-best prospect by MLB Pipeline.
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