With the big league Dodgers currently battling to stay in the NL West divisional race, it’s time to take another quick look at what’s been happening on the farm.
OKLAHOMA CITY DODGERS (Pacific Coast League-AAA): Manager Bill Haselman‘s ballclub only played .500 ball last week, but continues to hold serve with a 1 1/2-game lead over their 2nd-place division rival with 15 games left to go on their regular season schedule. 22-year old OF and top Dodger prospect Alex Verdugo has cooled off a bit during that stretch, but is still sporting a very nice .335/.390/.481 slash line for the season. Same goes for 26-year-old OF/former Tampa Bay Rays 2012 3rd rounder Andrew Toles, who’s only been hitting .259/,306/.414 for the month of August, yet carries a more-than-solid .316/.352/.468 slash line for the year. On the flip side, 26-year-old utility player Tim Locastro has been pretty hot offensively, batting .357 with seven runs scored this month and hitting .312/.416/.454 overall.
On the pitching front, it was 27-year-old Dominican righty Daniel Corcino who performed the best this past week by going 1-0 with a miniscule 1.50 ERA, nine hits allowed, four walks, and eight strikeouts in two starts (including a seven-inning/two-hit scoreless effort back on Tuesday). The former 2008 international free agent signing of the Cincinnati Reds is quietly enjoying his best season with a 3-3 record, a decent 3.39 ERA, and a solid 1.21 WHIP in just over 90 IP for OKC. 26-year-old RHP Brock Stewart also continues to remain consistent of late with his most recent outing (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 96 pitches-64 strikes in Friday’s start), while 27-year-old converted 1B Stetson Allie (2-0, 1.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP in seven appearances since his promotion from AA Tulsa) and 27-year-old LHP Manny Banuelos (4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K in 3 appearances last week) keep giving the Dodger brass potential bullpen options to mull over as we’re inching ever nearer to roster expansion beginning next month. Speaking of which, 33-year old RHP Josh Fields finally made a rehab appearance for OKC just last Friday going one inning of scoreless relief. It probably won’t be much longer for him to get back with the parent club at this rate.
TULSA DRILLERS (Texas League-AA): The Drillers have also been playing .500 ball this past week and yet still remain a good 2-1/2 games ahead of their second-place division rival with 15 games left on their schedule. Top performer as far as position players go during that stretch has been 20-year old C/2nd-ranked system prospect Keibert Ruiz, who’s been on fire batting .388 with three home runs and seven RBI. He’s now batting a more respectable .260/.326/.401 for the season with 12 HR (already a new career high) and 38 RBI in 90 games. 20-year old middle infielder/6th-ranked system prospect Gavin Lux has cooled off some going .294 this past week, but is still posting a hefty .339/.414/.518 slash line in August.
Pitching has been the primary highlight of the Drillers; however. 24-year old staff ace/14th-ranked system prospect Tony Gonsolin finally went deep enough to qualify for his fifth win as a Driller (9th overall this season) in Sunday’s start. He threw five innings allowing only one hit, two walks, and struck out six. Gonsolin currently remains undefeated in seven starts (37 IP) since being promoted from High-A Rancho Cucamonga with a sparkling 2.19 ERA and 1.00 WHIP to boot. 23-year old RHP/7th-ranked system prospect Mitchell White continues to turn his fortunes around of late with his most recent outing (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 94 pitches-65 strikes in Saturday’s game), while recently promoted 23-year old reliever Andre Scrubb appears to have quickly adjusted to AA-ball (4.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K in his first two appearances for Tulsa). If he continues to make his way through the system at the current pace he’s on, no doubt in my mind he’ll crack the Top 30 Dodger prospect list very soon.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA QUAKES (California League-High A Advanced): The Quakes’ magical season rolls along as they went 4-2 last week and comfortably hold an eight-game lead over their closest division rival with 14 games left on their regular season schedule. Leading the charge on the offensive side has been none other than 21-year-old 3B Cristian Santana, who captured the Cal league Player of the Week honors last week. He batted a white-hot .428 with three HR and 11 RBI during that stretch, including a pair of four-hit performances in Tuesday and Thursday’s games. He also became the first minor-league player to crack the 100-RBI mark this season while also setting a new career high in HR with 23. 20-year old OF Carlos Rincon has tailed off some of late, but is still batting .328/.397/.844 with nine HR and 18 RBI since his “liberation” from Low-A Great Lakes late last month. Honorable mentions include 23-year-old OF Cody Thomas (.333 with a HR and five runs scored his last 6 games and batting .274/.340/.475 with 17 HR and 68 RBI overall this season) and 20-year old Cuban middle-infielder/30th-ranked system prospect Omar Estevez (.384 during the same stretch and batting .267/.323/.434 with 49 XBH and 69 RBI overall).
As far as the pitching goes, 21-year old Nicaraguan southpaw and current “staff ace” Leo Crawford keeps rolling right along with yet another quality start (6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 84 pitches-57 strikes in Saturday’s game). As of today, he’s still undefeated at 6-0 with an outstanding 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in just over 56 IP (nine starts) since being promoted from Low-A Great Lakes early last month. There was another rehab outing from 22-year-old Mexican LHP Julio Urias that wasn’t anything to write home about (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K in Wednesday’s game), but 23-year-old RHP/26th-ranked system prospect Jordan Sheffield‘s return from his AZL rehab stint turned out to be a rather successful one in terms of his new role as reliever (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K in his last two appearances). Here’s hoping his recent transition from rotation to bullpen works out for the best. Honorable mention to 23-year-old LHP/former Oakland A’s 2017 6th-rounder Logan Salow for his overall performance during that same period (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K in two appearances, currently 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA and a very good 9/46 BB/K ratio in 29 games for the Quakes so far).
GREAT LAKES LOONS (Midwest League-Low A): As hot as High-A Rancho has been in the second half this season, I would have to argue that manager John Shoemaker’s gritty Loons ballclub might actually be the hottest of the Dodger minor-league affiliates as of today. Last week they continued to scratch and claw their way back into the playoff picture going 5-2 during that stretch and 13-5 in the month of August. Top performers this past week offensively have been 22-year-old middle-infielder Deacon Liput (.423 with five runs scored, batting .319/.366/.555 for the season) and 21-year-old OF/2018 9th round pick Josh McClain (.450 with three runs scored and batting .311/.344/.401 overall for the Loons). Recently promoted Raptors Jacob Amaya (.283 with an excellent .449 OBP for Great Lakes so far) and Miguel Vargas (.273/.340/.341 through his first 13 games for the Loons) continue to hold their own as well for a pair of under-20 talents in a very “pitcher-friendly” league.
As usual, the pitching is what continues to drive the Loons. 19-year-old developing staff ace Gerardo Carrillo once again led the pack with his lone start last week (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K, 83 pitches-47 strikes in Friday’s game) and is now 1-1 with a sparkling 1.70 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in seven starts for Great Lakes (37 IP). Recently promoted 22-year-old Dominican RHP/2016 international free agent signing Joel Inoa also made his mark in two starts during that same span, going 1-0 with a solid 3.00 ERA and 4/7 BB/K ratio in 12 IP. Other notables include 21-year-old RHP Stephen Kolek (2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K in his two appearances last week; currently 1-0 with a microscopic 0.81 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in just over 22 IP for the Loons) and 21-year-old left reliever Bryan Warzek (3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K in Thursday’s outing; 1-1 with a 2.87 ERA and an eye-popping 2/29 BB/K ratio in just under 16 IP overall for Great Lakes). I wouldn’t mind seeing both Kolek and Warzek seeing some time up at High-A Rancho before season’s end with numbers like those, to be honest.
OGDEN RAPTORS (Pioneer League-Rookie Level): The Raptors have begun to cool off quite a bit since the recent promotions of several of their key players, going 12-10 so far in the second half (two games behind the Colorado Rockies’ Grand Junction affiliate) yet have already clinched a playoff spot due to their franchise record-setting 26-win first half. The most consistent offensive performers during this past week have been 19-year-old 2B Jeremy Arocho (.318 with four runs scored and batting .329/.407/.405 for the season) and 21-year-old OF Daniel Robinson (.421 with four RBI and batting .337/.424/.503 overall for the Raptors). 19-year old infielder Ronny Brito (.305/.356/.517 with nine HR and 46 RBI in 41 games for Ogden), 21-year-old 1B Dillon Paulson (.278/.383/.528 with eight HR and 44 RBI through 45 games), and 21-year-old OF Niko Hulsizer (.294/.438/.548 with 7 HR, 25 RBI, and 10 SB in 37 games) have tailed off this month compared to how exceptionally hot with the bats all three were during the month of July. Still, their overall numbers bear mentioning.
AZL DODGERS (Arizona League-Instructional Level): Very little to report down here aside from a couple rehab outings from Fields (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K in Tuesday’s game before being bumped up to AAA OKC) and 19-year old Dominican OF/25th-ranked system prospect Starling Heredia (.278/.381/.444 in his last five games) who completely flamed out this year in the Midwest League with a dismal .182/.245/.325 slash line in 53 games for Low-A Great Lakes. Fingers crossed he’ll be able to adjust the next time around as he is still very young for that particular level.