While many fans of the Dodgers are immersed in what the big-league ballclub is up to these days, this weekly installment will focus on what the Blue Crew currently have cookin’ down in their minor-league system. From the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers all the way down to their Arizona League affiliate at the instructional level, this will be the first official installment of hopefully many more to come which will provide as much in-depth coverage as possible regarding the Dodgers’ more notable prospects as well as some not so easily well-known—at least not yet, anyway. So let’s get this properly started off, shall we?
OKLAHOMA CITY DODGERS (Pacific Coast League—AAA): It was a shame to see 26-year old OF Andrew Toles sent back down AGAIN for no other reason than to make sure recently acquired All-Star SS/3B Manny Machado was present on the big-league active roster, but that hasn’t stopped him from remaining sharp offensively in the meantime. Since returning to OKC, he’s gone 5-12 (.416 avg) and batting .333 overall with an excellent season .860 OPS. 22-year old top Dodger OF prospect Alex Verdugo also continues to remain a bonafide hit machine, already racking up 91 hits through 67 games for OKC and displaying a sizzling .412 avg in the month of July so far. Verdugo received a major league promotion before Monday’s opener in Philadelphia and played a role in the comeback win.
Other honorable mentions go to 24-year old corner infielder Edwin Rios (hitting a solid .295 with an .807 OPS this season, including a whopping .340 avg against lefties in 47 ABs so far), C/3B Kyle Farmer (currently hitting .328 this month and just a point under .300 overall, also one of the top two-out hitters on the team with a blistering .381 average and 1.005 OPS), and corner infielder/latest Dodger “reclamation project” Connor Joe who’s finally having the breakout year he’s been waiting for since being traded to the Dodgers from the Atlanta Braves last season.
All the 25-year old former 2014 1st round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates has done is put up an impressive .300/.405/.552 line while splitting time between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A OKC this season with career highs having been set already in HR (16), extra-base hits (40), and OPS (.957) through 84 total games. Not sure what the Dodgers are going to do with him long-term, but it’s quickly becoming apparent he won’t be long for the minors at the rate he’s currently producing.
TULSA DRILLERS (Texas League—AA): Biggest story so far this past week (if not this month) has been the offensive performance of OF “fringe” prospect Jacob Scavuzzo. Since being demoted from OKC back on June 6 after a brief yet unproductive stint there, the 24-year old native of Orange, CA has been swinging the lumber like a man possessed. So far, he has thoroughly slashed his way to a .342/.360/.739 line for the Drillers while already having posted a new career high in HR this season with 19 (17 of them with Tulsa) through 75 games between the two levels. Looks like he might soon get another crack at Triple-A soon enough if he keeps this up. Another prospect that’s been getting it done lately is 2016 seventh round pick and OF/1B Luke Raley. So far this month, he has come alive with the bat to the tune of .326/.400/.551 with 8 doubles, 4 HR, and 16 RBI and also set a new career best with 16 HR in 86 total games this season. His batting average overall is a respectable .278 with a very good .829 OPS, but against lefties he’s been an absolute terror hitting .345 with a commanding .959 OPS over 87 ABs.
Other honorable nods go to 23-year old C/3B Will Smith (having a career-year across the board with a .284/.371/.572 line as well as slamming 18 HR and driving in 51 RBI in ONLY 65 games so far), OF DJ Peters (having a bounce-back July with a .291/.370/.633 line after having a horrible May/June stretch, also pacing the Texas League with 20 HR as of Monday), 24-year old middle infielder Drew Jackson (quietly having a breakout season of his own this year, setting career highs in HR with 11 through 79 games and posting a decent .271/.369/.477 line overall), and 24-year old “under-the-radar” prospect Zach Reks who’s done nothing but hit at every level since entering pro-ball as a 2017 10th round pick out of Kentucky. The corner INF/OF is currently having a July to forget with a sub-par .217/.309/.367 line, but overall has been on the money with the bat hitting .316/.384/.460 in 63 games between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Tulsa this season. His numbers indicate he’ll most likely finish up the year at AAA OKC as he’s proven to be one of the more advanced hitters in the Dodger farm system thus far.
On the pitching front, the one arm that’s clearly stood out this past week has been that of recently promoted RHP Tony Gonsolin. The 24-year old former two-way player that was taken in the 9th round by the Dodgers in that super-deep 2016 MLB draft went 2-0 in both starts for Tulsa, going 12 innings allowing 13 hits yet only 4 earned runs and 1 walk while striking out 15 for good measure. With former Drillers Dennis Santana, Caleb Ferguson and Dean Kremer having moved on recently, that leaves Gonsolin as pretty much the de-facto “ace” of the staff for the time being. He certainly has the arm to back it up, that much is for sure.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA QUAKES (California League—High-A Advanced): Despite seeing many of their top prospects graduating to Tulsa of late (with several of them being included in that blockbuster Machado deal, such as 3B/2B Rylan Bannon and RHPs Zach Pop and Kremer), there are still some left on this club that project to be future impact players at the next level. By far, the one that continues to stand out is middle-infielder Gavin Lux, who was the Dodgers’ 2016 overall first-round pick. He’s currently in the midst of a legit breakout campaign, easily establishing career-bests right now in batting avg (.324), OPS (.922), HR (11), XBH (37), RBI (44), and total bases (171) in only 81 games this season. If he continues to iron out his throwing/fielding issues from both middle-infield spots as well as hit lefties more consistently (batting a paltry .208 so far), he could wind up becoming a Top 5 system prospect as soon as next year.
Another prospect that’s currently on the verge of becoming noticed is corner infielder Jared Walker. Since being promoted from Low-A Great Lakes a month ago, the 22-year old 2014 5th round pick has steadily upped his offensive game posting a .286/.383/.614 line while cranking out 5 HR, 4 2B, 2 3B, and 16 RBI for the Quakes. He’s really settled into a groove this month, however, putting up a scorching-hot .400/.467/.875 line through 11 games so far. Honorable mention goes to 2017 3rd round pick Connor Wong, who did well recovering from a horrid May/June stretch to hit .302/.412/.488 in the month of July. Overall, he’s hitting .244 but showing some unexpected power with 13 HR in 76 games this season.
A few pitchers have caught my eye down there of late in starters Dustin May and Leo Crawford as well as relievers Marshall Kasowski and recently-promoted Andre Scrubb. 20-year-old 2016 3rd rounder May appears to be on the fast track to Tulsa as he’s currently 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in just under 84 innings pitched (15 starts) for Rancho while posting an impressive 14/84 BB/K ratio. 21-year old 2014 Nicaraguan free agent signing Crawford has definitely stepped it up after a rather mediocre stint for Low-A Great Lakes by going 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 29 IP (4 starts) while only allowing 6 BB and striking out 26. Kasowski, a 23-year old 2017 13th rounder, went 2-0 with a dominant 1.14 ERA and 44 strikeouts (11 walks) in just under 24 IP for Rancho before finally being promoted to Tulsa just recently. Scrubb did not have much to write home about during his repeat of Low-A Great Lakes earlier this season, but after being promoted to Rancho nearly a month ago the 2016 eighth rounder has been dialed in on the mound ever since. So far, he’s posted a stingy 0.57 ERA while allowing only a .075 avg against and striking out 18 in just under 16 IP.
GREAT LAKES LOONS (Midwest League—Low-A): This has been a season to forget for the Loons as an unfortunate string of inclement weather during much of the first half has pretty much wiped out their entire season, so much so that not even the recent influx of this year’s MLB draft signings by the Dodgers can curtail it. Hate to say that neither one of them has yet begun to separate himself from the pack as far as position players go, but there was a nice gleam of hope this past week in 19-year old RHP Gerardo Carrillo. In two starts since moving up from the AZL Dodgers this past week, the 2016 international free agent signing out of Guadalajara, Mexico has yet to give up a run in just over 10 IP while allowing only 3 walks and striking out 10 Overall, his WHIP (walks-hits-innings pitched) remains a super-miniscule 0.74 in just under 22 IP between the 2 levels (0.75 for Great Lakes, even more telling). Definitely someone to keep an eye on down there in the meantime with exceptional command like that.
OGDEN RAPTORS (Pioneer League—Rookie Level): If any of you on here still haven’t read Dennis Schlossman’s story on late-2017 international free agent signing Miguel Vargas, I STRONGLY advise you to do so whenever you have the chance. What that kid has done at this level so far has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. 18 years of age and already displaying the kind of elite-level hitting ability that a player several years older would still have trouble mastering at the higher levels, Vargas might soon force the Dodger brass to bump him up to Low-A ball at the rate he’s going just to keep him challenged as much as possible. When you come into rookie ball hitting .442 and posting an absolutely absurd 1.132 OPS through your first 23 games (split between Ogden and AZL Dodgers), SOMEBODY’S bound to take notice eventually. Gonna be fun tracking this young Cuban baseball prodigy if what he’s already done at this point is merely the beginning of something much greater from him moving forward.
Not to be left out are a pair of promising middle infield prospects in 19-year old 2017 11th rounder Jacob Amaya (hitting an impressive .357/.471/.510 with 20 BB over 19 K and 10 SB while being picked off only twice through 25 games) and 19-year old 2015 Dominican free gent signing Ronny Brito (showing surprising pop with 13 XBH-6 HR-in addition to posting a very good .326/.379/.589 line through 22 games for Ogden). There are also a couple of 2018 MLB draft signings that might be on the move fairly soon in 21-year old 13th round pick/1B out of USC Dillon Paulson (currently hitting .281/.402/.539 with 6 2B, 5 HR, 23 RBI, and a decent 20/22 BB/K rate in only 24 games) and physically well-put together 21-year old 29th rounder/OF from Central Michigan Daniel Robinson (.299/.394/.494 with 10 XBH, an excellent 15/10 BB/K rate, and 4 SB while only being caught once through 26 games). I get the feeling the next wave of future Dodger impact players is gonna come mainly from this particular group, but that’s just my honest opinion on it.
AZL DODGERS (Arizona League-Instructional Level): So far, the real news down here this past week has been the recent additions of 2018 MLB draft signings Michael Grove (2nd round), John Rooney (3rd round), and Meaux Landry (22nd round). RHP Grove has yet to make his official pro-ball debut down there, but LHP Rooney was sharp in his this past Saturday going 2 innings and allowing only 1 hit and no walks while striking out 4 for good measure. He also picked off two baserunners, demonstrating an ability to control the running game on the mound as well. 1B Landry has only gotten sporadic playing time since being assigned to the AZL squad last week, but did notch a double for his 1st career hit in pro-ball in his official debut.