Continuing along the same lines of our recent prospect posts, we thought it would be fun to put together another subjective-type of story during a time when the news surrounding the Dodgers is very quiet.
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 weighing power, the ability to hit for average, and being the most MLB-ready 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 post 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. Furthermore, when seeking out that one hitter who can frequently go deep, own the gaps, 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:
No. 4—Keibert Ruiz Keibert Ruiz, who turned just 20 years of age last July, was signed out of Venezuela in 2014, even though it feels he’s been around forever. 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 in 2017.
For Double-A Tulsa in the pitcher-friendly Texas League last season, he was named an All-Star, slashing .268/.328/.401 with 12 long balls, the first time in his career he registered double-digit home runs. In 302 career minor-league games, the switch-hitting catcher has slashed .309 /.357/.441 with 23 homers, 67 doubles and 165 RBI. Having been recently named to the club’s 40-man roster, he’ll be on the big league side of spring camp again this year after garnering an NRI in 2018.
No. 3—Matt Beaty Just days after being named the Texas League’s Most Valuable Player in 2017, 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 was the first Tulsa player to win a batting title since Mike Easler did in for the Triple-A Oilers in 1976.
The left-handed hitting Beaty finished the 2017 season with a very impressive .326/.378/.505 slash line, along with 31 doubles, 15 long balls and 69 RBI over 438 AB. Riddled by injuries last year, the 24-year-old Beaty fought back to appear in 34 games, hitting .284/.378/.404. Like Ruiz, Beaty is a new member of the 40-man roster and will be participating in his second big league camp in the spring.
No. 2—Alex Verdugo Of the entire quartet, outfielder Alex Verdugo is by far the most major league ready and the most well-rounded player. He’s ranked as the organization’s top prospect by many of the major outlets and is coming off a year that saw him tally 86 PA in the majors, slashing .260/.329/.377 in the process.
For Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, the 22-year-old Tuscon native hit .329/.391/.472 with 10 long balls and 19 doubles in just 91 games, earning him All-Star status in the PCL for the second consecutive season. A lefty hitter who can handle all three outfield spots, some feel that he’ll play a critical role in a very crowded big league Dodgers outfield in 2019.
No. 1—Edwin Rios Another left-handed hitting 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 2017, 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. Like Beaty, Rios was hampered by an injury early in 2018, but still managed to hit .304/.355/.482 with 10 HR in just 88 games.
Seeing most of his action at third base again, the 24-year-old even played a little left field last year 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. Along with the aforementioned trio, Rios is on the 40-man and will also be reporting to the big league side of camp for spring training.