On Sunday, one of our dedicated readers, the venerable Jeff D., brought up utility infielder Donovan Solano and the fact that he was having an exceptional year at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 30-year-old Solano is slashing an insane .376/.421/.517 through 54 games this year and would probably have garnered a bit of big league consideration if he was in an organization other than the Dodgers. Solano’s success reminded me of a handful of other players, most specifically several on the Los Angeles 40-man roster, who would likely already be in the majors if they were in a different system.
Alex Verdugo is ranked as the best prospect in the Dodgers’ organization and has already proven that he’s able to contribute at the big league level—with his speed, with his glove, with his arm and with his bat. Amazingly, the 22-year-old Tucson native probably has better tools than most of the outfielders on the big league club right now, yet he still remains harbored at OKC. In 277 minor league AB this season, he’s hitting an impressive .339/.389/.487 and was a mid-season PCL All-Star for a seond consecutive year. Verdugo has already completed several major league stints this season and could be recalled again as soon as Tuesday should outfielder Yasiel Puig need to be sent to the DL due to recurring oblique complications.
Speaking of skills, outfielder Andrew Toles ranks very close to the aforementioned Verdugo in terms of his all-around tools. The 26-year-old, left-handed hitting Georgia native had a brief stay in the bigs this year in July, but was optioned back to OKC when the Dodgers needed to make room for the newly acquired Manny Machado. Tolesy went 6-for-23 with a pair of doubles in his time with the team, but perhaps more importantly, he proved his ability to handle all three outfield spots at the major league level. He missed time at OKC earlier in the year because of hamstring issues; however, his numbers are still impressive—through 188 AB, he’s slashing .330/.364/.473.
Kyle Farmer has also seen a bit of big league action for the Dodgers this year, as he has also proven his versatility on the diamond, despite many believing he still hasn’t earned management’s full trust behind the dish defensively. For Oklahoma City this season, the 27-year-old has seen almost as much time at third base as catcher, hitting a productive .293/.328/.471 with six home runs and 20 doubles. With current backstop Yasmani Grandal conceivably testing the free agent market this winter, many pundits wonder if 2019 will finally be the year that Farmer becomes a mainstay on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster.
Many folks remember Brock Stewart for his frequent flyer miles between OKC and Los Angeles earlier in 2018, in addition to several of his nightmarish big league outings. He was asked to start, relieve, and play long man, often inside very few days of rest. But what those folks don’t realize is that once he was left alone at Oklahoma City and permitted to start exclusively, he began to settle down tremendously. As it stands now, he has a 2.64 ERA in 13 starts for OKC, which isn’t bad at all considering the hitter-friendly climate of the Pacific Coast League. Over his last three starts, he has surrendered just two earned runs while striking out 16 opposing batters.
Tim Locastro impressed management last year to the point that he was one of the final few cuts for the NLDS roster, mainly because of his uncanny ability to reach base, coupled with his skills while on the basepaths. The 26-year-old, right-handed hitting Locastro has a very dependable glove at both middle infield spots, and he has proven that he’s capable at handling both center and left field. Like Verdugo, he was also a 2018 PCL Mid-Season All-Star, and is hitting .291 through 58 games for OKC this year with an extremely impressive .389 OBP.
Of course, similar to Solano, there are a slew of other players like Manny Banuelos, Brian Schlitter, Henry Ramos, Edwin Rios and Matt Beaty who are deserving of major league consideration, but ultimately, it will be the guys already on the 40-man—Verdugo, Toles, Farmer, Stewart and Locastro—who garner the promotions when rosters expand at the beginning of September.