The strength of the Los Angeles farm system has almost always been pitching, but today we decided to look at the four best minor league bats in the organization. And to establish some sort of basis for criteria, we figured that blending the abilities to hit for both power and average would be as good a start as any.
By no means do I consider myself any type of prospect guru, as it’s virtually impossible for me to travel around the country and see many of the farmhands compete up close and personal. About as far as I’ll go is putting together a top prospects by position list just about every year. I am, however, familiar enough with the affiliates to fashion a rough list of a handful of the best bats in the system.
Keeping in mind that most of these players competed at different levels over the past few seasons, the ground is a bit uneven in terms of making direct comparisons. And when seeking out that one hitter who can frequently go deep, own the gaps and the alleys, as well as handle the bat well enough to shoot a grounder through the infield holes, the choices are extremely slim. Nevertheless, here’s my best shot at a Top 4, along with a several honorable mentions and a few up-and-coming superstars.
No. 4—Keibert Ruiz Keibert Ruiz, who turned just 19 years of age last July, was signed out of Venezuela in 2014, and after a stellar 2016 campaign for rookie-level Ogden, combined to hit .329 with 56 runs, 22 doubles, two triples, eight home runs, and 49 RBI in 92 games for High-A Great Lakes and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last season.
Ruiz began 2017 by slashing .317/372/.423 in 63 games for the Loons and was promoted to the Quakes on July 9. With Rancho, Ruiz hit .315 with six homers, seven doubles, 27 RBI and 24 runs scored in 38 games. In 192 career minor-league games, the switch-hitting catcher has slashed .330 /.372/.461 with 11 homers, 53 doubles and 118 RBI. Even more impressive is the fact that’s he’s considered major league ready in terms of defense and mechanics behind the dish. Ruiz earned an NRI for big league spring training, and was named the organization’s 2017 Minor League Player of the Year. He’s set to begin the season at Double-A Tulsa, and should continue to climb the organizational ladder very quickly.
No. 3—DJ Peters 22-year-old DJ Peters hit .276/.372/.514 for the Quakes last year, along with tallying 91 runs scored, 29 doubles, 27 long balls and 82 RBI in 470 AB. Incredibly, he was named Cal League Player of the Week three times in 2017, 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.
Not long after being selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Western Nevada College, the right-handed hitting Peters is quickly climbing to the top of the Dodgers prospect rankings. The 6’6″ Peters is probably best known for his power, but his patience and discipline at the plate is continuing to develop, as was made evident with his 35 walks in 66 games in 2016 and his 63 walks last season. Home runs aside, scouts within the organization are very pleased by his ability to barrel-up the ball and his capability to drive it to all fields. Peters was named the 2017 Cal League player of the year, and has also earned an invite to 2018 big league spring training.
No. 2—Matt Beaty Just days after being named the Texas League’s Most Valuable Player last year, corner infielder Matt Beaty went one step higher when he won the league’s batting title. 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 1976. In a three-man race that came down to the final day of the season, Beaty passed center fielder B.J. Boyd of Midland and ultimately finished percentage points ahead of Arkansas outfielder Ian Miller.
The left-handed hitting 24-year-old finished the year with a very impressive .326/.378/.505 slash line, along with 31 doubles, 15 long balls and 69 RBI over 438 AB. He’ll also be joining the crew as an NRI on the big league side of camp.
No. 1—Edwin Rios Another corner infielder, Edwin Rios has begun to set a new standard for offensive power in the upper levels of the Dodgers organization. After his promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City in July of last year, the left-handed hitting native of Puerto Rico slashed .296/.368/.533 with nine home runs, 13 doubles and 29 RBI over just 51 games. Combining last season’s numbers with his time at Tulsa, Rios is hit .309/.362/.533 with 24 long balls, 34 doubles and 91 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. He will also be reporting to the big league side of camp for spring training.
Honorable Mentions—Perhaps the most notable absence on the list is that of Alex Verdugo, who may have ranked very highly if it wasn’t for his lack of home run power. Outfielder Henry Ramos also has the potential to be among the best hitters in the organization, but needs to re-emerge after suffering a severe groin injury which limited his time on the field last year. Others deserving of being mentioned are Luke Raley, Kyle Garlick, Max Muncy, Will Smith and Ibandel Isabel.