If you’ve been following our string of stories over the past few weeks, you’ll know that we’ve been peeking at some of the best prospects on the Dodgers‘ farm in between the recent rumblings of trade rumors at the big league level.
Specifically, we noted the overwhelming amount of infield talent on the farm. Players like Jeter Downs, Kody Hoese and Michael Busch are already considered among the best at their respective positions across baseball.
What’s more, the number of rising catchers in the system seems to be growing with each passing year. Keibert Ruiz could be primed for his major league debut in 2020 with both Connor Wong and Diego Cartaya hot on his tail.
However, if there’s one void as far as minor league talent goes, it’s the outfield. I’m not saying there’s a complete lack of quality players, but it could be the one department that’s keeping the Dodgers from having perhaps the best farm in the game.
Indeed, there are plenty of capable players currently at the major league level. With everyone healthy, the club conceivably has a four-man rotation of Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo and A.J. Pollock, with super-utility men Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor ready to fill in when necessary, primarily against lefty pitching.
Certainly, those six players should be all the Dodgers need in the majors, but how does the organizational depth chart look after the above list?
The only true and proven MLB-ready player is the righty hitting Kyle Garlick. Now 28 years old, the former 28th round pick of the Dodgers in 2015 smacked 23 long balls for Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, eventually earning several recalls to the parent club where he slashed .250/.321/.521 over 53 PA.
After Garlick is another righty hitter, 24-year-old DJ Peters. The Glendora native joined the Dodgers’ 40-man roster last November after splitting the 2019 season with Double-A Tulsa and Oklahoma City. In 68 games for the Drillers, he hit .241 with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 42 RBI while batting .260 with 10 doubles, 12 homers and 39 RBI in 57 games for Oklahoma City. In his career on the Los Angeles farm, he has appeared in all three outfield spots, recording 25 games in left field, 94 games in right field and 311 in center field.
Garlick and Peters are the only two players on the 40-man who are presumed to begin their respective seasons at Oklahoma City, unless you include another super-utility guru, 24-year-old Zach McKinstry, who saw time at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and center field last year.
The next tier of players consists of Zach Reks, Cody Thomas, Starling Heredia and Jeren Kendall, with Kendall being the only member of the trio under 25. Reks, Thomas and Kendall have all earned NRI invites to the major league side of spring training.
Across two levels of the farm last season, Reks slashed .291/.385/.536 with 28 homers, 21 doubles and 93 RBI over 121 games. The 26-year-old lefty hitter earned Texas League Player of the Week honors in late April and was eventually honored as a milb.com organizational All-Star.
The 25-year-old, right-handed hitting Thomas has always had plenty of power, but he continues to struggle with his average. In 130 games last year with Tulsa, he hit just .236/.308/.443 in 130 games.
Similarly, Heredia hit .204/.314/.375 in 101 games at Rancho last year.
Although he could possess some of the best overall tools on the farm, Kendall seemingly fits into the same boat as Thomas in terms of average. Last year, the lefty hitter slashed just .219/.319/.469 over 96 games at High-A Rancho.
Rincon is another legitimate power threat from the right-hand side of the plate, but he slashed just .221/.306/.401 in 115 games between Rancho and Tulsa last season.
Casey could be among the most promising of the entire group. The Dodgers snagged the righty hitter in the 20th round of the 2017 draft out of Boston College. Last season, the 23-year-old native of New jersey slashed .260/.322/.479 with 23 homers and 22 stolen bases after contributing in all three outfield spots for both Rancho and Tulsa.
According to our friends at Prospects1500.com, “Rodriguez was signed by the Dodgers in the most recent 2019 international free agency class and was ranked as high as second in the class by some outlets behind the famed Jasson Dominguez. Rodriguez, a switch-hitting center fielder, is extremely toolsy and could turn into one of those 25/25 threats that owners love.”
Pages, who signed with the Dodgers for $300,000 in October of 2017, was one of the top hitters in his age group in Cuba at the time of his signing. As an 18 year old in the Pioneer League last year, the right-handed hitter slashed .298/.398/.651 with 19 homers, 22 doubles, 55 RBI and seven steals in just 63 games for Low-A Ogden.
While the Dodgers might be targeting more than one outfielder in the early rounds of the 2020 draft, there still might be one or two from the aforementioned crew who could emerge as a potential gem.