Dodgers Top Prospects by Position: 2017-18 Offseason Edition

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(Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

With all the recent rumblings about how active the Dodgers will be in this winter’s hot stove period, we thought it would be a great time to change direction and discuss a number of the more prominent stars in the Los Angeles farm system. Even if the big league club doesn’t make an overwhelming splash in terms of trades or free agent signings over the next few months, there’s always relief in knowing that the organization is among the best in baseball as far as talent on the farm goes, as there are always a handful of these youngsters ready to step in and contribute.

When we put together the top prospects list by position last November, we saw four of the 11 players listed make some type of contribution to the big league squad during the 2017 campaign. In 2015, six of the 11 players we named were called up to the bigs at some point of the season.

As far as our parameters go, we define a prospect as a player who is under the age of 25 years old and who hasn’t played more than a half of a season in the majors. The final determination was based on which prospects have the highest ceilings and which players were the most MLB-ready among each position’s groupings. This is by no means a list of the best prospects in the entire system, but rather a list of the players who are among the best at their respective positions.

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 – Keibert Ruiz
  • 1B – Matt Beaty
  • 2B – Tim Locastro
  • 3B – Edwin Rios
  • SS – Drew Jackson
  • OF – Alex Verdugo
  • OF – Yusniel Diaz
  • OF – DJ Peters
  • RHP – Walker Buehler
  • LHP – Caleb Ferguson
  • RP – Joe Broussard

Will Smith was a headliner on last year’s list at catcher, but it was hard to include him this year considering everything that 19-year-old phenom Keibert Ruiz accomplished. The switch-hitting Ruiz was signed out of Venezuela in 2014 and after a stellar 2016 campaign for rookie-level Ogden, combined to hit .325 with 56 runs, 22 doubles, two triples, eight home runs, and 50 RBI in 94 games for Low-A Great Lakes and Single-A Rancho this season.

In 194 career minor-league games, Ruiz has slashed .335 /.377/.469 with 11 homers, 52 doubles and 117 RBI. Offensive skills aside, he’s probably better known for his defense behind the dish, as he’s considered already to be an MLB-caliber receiver by most scouts within the organization. In late August, the Dodgers name Ruiz as the Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year.

Cody Bellinger, our choice at first base last year, went on to make his big league debut in 2017 and take the baseball world by storm. This year’s selection, corner infielder Matt Beaty, has the talent to follow a similar path. Just days after being named the Texas League Most Valuable Player, Beaty continued to rake in the accolades for by winning the Texas League batting title on the final day of the regular season. He became the first-ever Drillers‘ player to snag the honor, and is the first Tulsa player to win a batting title since Mike Easler did in for the Triple-A Oilers in the American Assocation in 1976. The left-handed hitting Beaty finished the year with a .326/.378/.505 slash line, along with 31 doubles, 15 long balls and 69 RBI over 438 AB.

Tim Locastro made his big league debut in his fifth professional season after splitting time with Oklahoma City and Tulsa this season. In 127 combined games with OKC and the Drillers this year, Locastro posted a .308/.383/.454 slash line with 31 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 40 RBI and 34 stolen bases. He split time between the infield and the outfield in 2017, playing in a combined 47 games in center field, 46 games at second base, 31 games at shortstop, nine games in left field and two games in right field. Locastro was acquired by Los Angeles on July 2, 2015 from the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 128 combined games between Tulsa and OKC in 2017, Edwin Rios slashed an impressive .309/.362/.533 with 24 long balls, 34 doubles and 91 RBI. At the time of his promotion to Triple-A, the 23-year-old left-handed hitting slugger was first in the Texas League in OPS, tied for second in long balls, third in batting average and second in RBI. He was appointed Texas League Player of the Week on April 30, and was named to the 2017 Texas League All-Star squad in June.

Now seeing most of his action at both corner infield spots, Rios was primarily a first baseman in college, spending three years at Florida International University, leading the Panthers to a Conference USA title during his third and 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 MLB draft that same year. Rios was also named the Dodgers’ minor league Player of the Year in 2016.

Shortstop was one of the more difficult positions for which to choose the top prospect, but we eventually decided on the 24-year-old, right-handed hitting Drew Jackson. Across two levels of the farm last season, Jackson slashed .247/.358/.402 with nine home runs, five triples, 21 doubles, 44 RBI and 21 stolen bases. The Berkeley native was named by Baseball America as a Low-A All-Star in 2015, along with being named Northwest League Player of the Year and selected by the league as mid- and post-season All-Star, after leading the league with a .358 batting average, a .352 on-base percentage, 64 runs and 47 stolen bases in 59 games. Jackson was originally drafted by the Mariners in the fifth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Stanford University, and was acquired by the Dodgers in March of 2017 via trade.

It’s probably safe to say that all three of our outfield selections are virtually interchangeable as far as positions go. 21-year-old Alex Verdugo made his big league debut for the Dodgers in 2017 after hitting .314 with six homers, four triples, 27 doubles and 62 RBI in 117 games at OKC. The Tucson native posted a .389 on-base percentage this season and was named a Pacific Coast League Midseason All-Star and participated in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. In 421 career minor league games over four seasons, Verdugo has a .305 average and an on-base percentage of .362. He has been a postseason All-Star for three consecutive seasons prior to 2017, and was a mid-season All-Star both this year and last year. Verdugo was originally selected by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2014 Draft.

Yusniel Diaz reappears after making our list last year, and is currently ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Dodgers’ system by MLB Pipeline, and was originally signed by Los Angeles as a 19-year-old free agent out of Cuba late in 2015. In 2017, he hit .292/.354/..433 with 11 long balls and 52 RBI in 114 combined games for Rancho and Tulsa. He has the quickness to primarily handle center field, but his pure athleticism gives him the capability of succeeding at all three outfield spots. Both his arm strength and his speed on the basepaths grade way above average.

Before a late-season promotion to Tulsa, DJ Peters hit .276/.372/.514 with 27 home runs, 29 doubles and 82 RBI in 132 games at Rancho. In his first full season as a professional, he was named the 2017 Cal League Player of the Year. Incredibly, the 21-year-old was named Cal League Player of the Week three times this season, in addition to being honored as a mid-season All-Star. Yet with all those accolades under his belt, perhaps his finest moment of the year was taking San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner deep two times in the same inning when the lefty was rehabbing in San Jose. Peters was selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Western Nevada College.

Walker Buehler made his first career major league appearance in his second professional season after being selected in the first round of the 2015 Draft out of Vanderbilt University. Buehler, who is rated by MLB.com as the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect and is currently rated by Baseball America as the 17th best overall prospect in baseball, went 3-3 with a 3.35 ERA over 88-2/3 innings and collected one save in a combined 28 games with Rancho, Tulsa and Oklahoma City this season. He also held hitters to a combined .208 average, while striking out 125 batters against just 31 walks.

Named the 2017 Dodgers Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Buehler started his campaign dominating the California League, posting a 1.10 ERA over five starts before his promotion to Tulsa on May 10. He then made 11 starts for the Drillers, going 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and a .225 opponent’s batting average over an even 49 innings. He was named Texas League Pitcher of the Week in late June.

Considering the scarcity of left-handed starting pitchers in the organization, it wasn’t difficult to name 21-year-old Caleb Ferguson as tops in the system. For the Quakes this year in the hitter-friendly confines of the Cal League, he posted a 9-4 record with a 2.87 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 122-1/3 innings of work over 24 starts. Ferguson, a 38th-round selection of the 2014 Draft, put together a solid season in 2016 as he recorded a 2.68 ERA across 10 starts with the Loons. On August 1 against Modesto, the southpaw set a career high with 11 strikeouts just five days after he fanned 10 against Inland Empire. In the following game on August 6 against Lancaster, he came back with another strong six innings and struck out 10.

Beginning his 2017 campaign at Double-A Tulsa, Joe Broussard made four appearances, throwing 5-1/3 frames of absolutely perfect baseball before an early-season promotion to OKC. Making a combined 48 appearances across both levels, he posted a 3,27 ERA with an impressive 73 strikeouts in 63-1/3 innings of work. Broussard attended college at LSU, and was instrumental as the team’s captain in 2014, leading the school to its 11th SEC Championship. In the process, he appeared in 32 games as the Tigers’ closer, registering a 3-2 record and a 1.05 ERA in 34-1/3 innings with 17 walks and 37 strikeouts.

Broussard was selected by the Dodgers in the 15th round of the 2014 draft, and his bread and butter is a heater which normally sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but features a ton of nasty movement. Coupled with his very deceptive, over-the-top delivery, he sometimes appears borderline untouchable when his mechanics are all in tune.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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8 thoughts on “Dodgers Top Prospects by Position: 2017-18 Offseason Edition

  1. If we don’t even talk about anyone you haven’t included in this list of 11 players, this is very encouraging. Imagine having a catcher with a line of .335 /.377/.469 who is better known for his defense. And he’s only 19. Wow! I hope Barnes continues to get some playing time at second base, because he may ultimately become our permanent guy there once Ruiz is ready. Seems like Rios and Beatty might be a bit of duplication and with JT and Bellinger already in their positions I could see at least one of them going in a trade this winter. This coming season will be an important one for Diaz. I think it will tell us if he’ll just be an OK prospect or something special. I hope Broussard gets a ST invite this year so we can see how he performs against mlb hitters. We could use another good right hander in the bullpen for 2018.

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    1. I think the problem with Rios is his defense—the same theories apply with those of Calhoun. I don’t know much about his offensive tendencies, but so far he’s been able to show that he can produce at every level. Not sure if Broussard gets an invite or not, but if this list indicates one larger theme, it shows that the farm is a bit weak with lefty starters and relief pitchers in general. Right-handed starters all over the place, though.

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      1. I wonder if “bullpenning” will change the way relievers are looked at in the future. It seems as though, with the exception of closers, they were looked at as more or less of a commodity. A lot of GM’s seemed to think they were basically interchangeable. Lose one, pick up another one. Relief pitching is becoming more and more important, strategy-wise, and I think that will change the way the entire non-closer category is looked at and developed. It will also change the earnings for the category with relievers getting paid more than they used to. It’s a good time to be Brandon Morrow.

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  2. Could use more starting pitching depth. The Dodgers haven’t had that superlative home grown ace since Kershaw. Hopefully either Buehler or Urias will fill the bill. Just in case, however, we need to stock up on potential young aces. Maybe Grandal can bring something like that in a trade.

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    1. Yep—I agree with what you say. Logic says they should try as hard as they can to move Grandal. There are some starting arms in this second tier, though, who may be turning some heads in the very near future. I think guys like Jordan Sheffield, Mitchell White, Dennis Santana, Trevor Oaks and Yadier Alvarez have the potential to be some really big difference makers.

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  3. What do you think Grandal could realistically bring in a trade? I agree they should move him now, but have no idea what to expect in return.

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    1. Sometimes it can be a very crazy game. It pretty much depends on which clubs are in need, although decent catchers seem to always be in high demand. You would think other clubs would be low-balling, especially knowing that Grandal will walk at the end of the season, and assuming the Dodgers will be eager to pull the trigger. My gut says if Los Angeles wants a decent return, they may need to package up one of the surplus outfielders and a fringe starting pitcher. Otherwise, the Dodgers may land a mid-level prospect or two who we never even heard of.

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      1. Pretty much what I was thinking, but as I’ve said before, if they’ve actually decided that Barnes is their #1 I’m guessing that Grandal will not take it well, especially since it would be happening in a walk year and would likely affect his next contract. Therefore, getting rid of him would be addition by subtraction. Let it be known that he’s very available, take the best offer and move on. Better for everyone.

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