3 Dodgers Prospects Who Could Emerge as Big Leaguers in 2021

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(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Each year, there are at least one or two young prospects who emerge from the fringes of the minor leagues to make their respective big-league debuts for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 2020, we finally saw the electrifying debut of one of the team’s perennial top prospects, catcher Keibert Ruiz. Also, pitcher Mitch White emerged into the majors after five full years in the system. And let’s not forget lefty reliever Victor Gonzalez and utilityman Zach McKinstry, two youngsters who many fans were surprised to see arrive in the bigs.

Indeed, there are many uncertainties heading into the 2021 season, primarily because of the lingering effects of the pandemic. We have already been told that the Single-A and Double-A minor league seasons will be starting late, but fans are keeping their collective fingers crossed that there are no roadblocks at the major league level, specifically in the form of a condensed spring training or a shortened regular season.

Nevertheless, we are bound to see a few MLB debuts from some of the best prospects on the Los Angeles farm, whether it results from an injury to an existing player or perhaps because the team simply needs an infusion of youth and energy.

Listed below are my three choices for prospects that are likely to get the call in 2021. For the sake of this discussion, these players have never appeared at the MLB level previously and will be true rookies at the time of their debuts.

Josiah Gray

Although he didn’t quite make it to the majors in 2020, 23-year-old righty Josiah Gray was one of those players who was included in the 60-man player pool, allowing him to train throughout the season with the best players and coaches in the organization. Prior to the stoppage of spring training due to the initial coronavirus outbreak, the Brooklyn native made three Cactus League appearances, two of which were starts, tallying a total of five full innings of work.

In 26 games in 2019 between Low-A Great Lakes, High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa, Gray finished with a combined 11-2 record, a 0.99 WHIP and a 2.28 ERA with 147 strikeouts against just 31 walks.

Gray started his 2019 campaign in the Midwest League, posting a 1.93 ERA in five starts before being promoted to Rancho. In 12 Cal League starts, he went a perfect 7-0 with a 2.14 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP and a .209 opponents’ batting average, throwing many of his innings in the hitter-friendly confines of LoanMart Field. After earning a promotion to Tulsa on July 17, Gray pitched to a 2.75 ERA across nine games for the Drillers.

Gray was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Cincinnati Reds out of Le Moyne College in New York. He was acquired along with infielder Jeter Downs in a trade from the Reds on December 21, 2018, that saw Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer shipped to Cincinnati.

Gray is currently ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Dodgers’ system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Michael Busch

Some folks might be surprised to see 23-year-old middle infielder Michael Busch on this list, but he is unquestionably the prospect whose value rose the most during the offseason.

Also included in the 60-man player pool last year, Busch arrived at the alternate training site on July 11 as the 58th player added to the club’s pool. However, it didn’t take him long to impress the scouts who were on hand evaluating the younger prospects.

According to Kyle Glaser at Baseball America, Busch was one of the Top 6 players across the MLB “who got the loudest and most consistent raves” in camp last year.

Last January, Jim Callis of MLB.com put together a series of rankings highlighting the game’s best prospects by position. Busch appeared on the list as the sixth-best second base prospect in all of baseball.

It wasn’t that long ago when Busch was selected by the Dodgers as the 31st overall pick in the 2019 draft out of the University of North Carolina.

Billy Gasparino, the Dodgers’ director of player development, called Busch an “elite left-handed hitter,” comparing him to current Los Angeles slugger Max Muncy.

Said Gasparino not long after Busch’s selection, “Michael is a guy who we thought was one of the better bats in the Cape Cod League, both in terms of performance and swing, as well as overall defensive versatility. He’s been a staple in the UNC program. They rave about his makeup and his character, and we’re excited to add him to our organization. We’re going to challenge Michael and start at second base.”

With all the uncertainty surrounding second base heading into the 2021 season, a few unexpected circumstances could easily see Busch make his MLB debut at some point during the year.

Busch is currently ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the system.

DJ Peters

Probably the biggest surprise on this list is 25-year-old outfielder DJ Peters.

Often criticized for his high number of strikeouts, there are plenty of other aspects of his game that could lead to his potential MLB debut. The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder is probably best known for his power, but he has deceptive speed and athleticism for his size. Defensively, he can handle all three outfield spots, and his arm strength is one of his best assets.

If he proves he can make consistent contact during 2021 Cactus League play, it’s likely he will be given at least a few chances to prove his value at the big-league level, especially when considering the departures of outfielder Joc Pederson and super-utilityman Enrique Hernandez.

Not long after being selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Western Nevada College, the righty-hitting Peters was quickly ushered to the short-season Pioneer League, where he posted an impressive slash line of .351/.437/.615 with 24 doubles and 13 home runs over 302 plate appearances for the Ogden Raptors. Coincidentally, Peters finished sixth in the league’s individual batting standings, ending his season just a few ticks behind the aforementioned Ruiz, who posted a .354 average and finished fourth in his own quest for a batting title.

Peters has racked up almost every possible offensive award in the minors. He was named Player of the Week six times across three levels, he garnered about a dozen All-Star nods, and he was even named the Cal League Player of the Year in 2017, when he slashed .276/.372/.514 with a whopping 27 homers, 29 doubles and 82 RBI for Rancho. In 2018, he led Tulsa with 29 bombs in 132 games.

Splitting the 2019 season with Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City, Peters appeared in 68 games for the Drillers, hitting .241 with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 42 RBI, while batting .260 with 10 doubles, 12 homers and 39 RBI in 57 games for OKC.

Like Gray and Busch, Peters was included in the team’s 60-man player pool last season. He’s the only player on this list who is part of the club’s current 40-man roster.

Peters is currently ranked as the organization’s 11th-best prospect.

31 thoughts on “3 Dodgers Prospects Who Could Emerge as Big Leaguers in 2021

  1. It will be interesting to see which of these prospects contributes to the 2021 Dodger season.

    In the meanwhile the Nats have just signed Brad Hand to a 1 year, 10.5 million dollar contract. Hard to believe he couldn’t do better than that.

      1. Rosenthal and Colome are still out there and of course there is always a trade (of half our prospects) for Hader, but AF is smart and the chance to bring back Hatcher may be just too much to pass up.

      2. Last I heard he was a pitching coach for one of the Dodger Dominican teams but that was a couple of years ago.

  2. Peters is the only right-handed-hitting outfield for the 2021 season after Taylor. I expect if he has good spring training he could be up in 2021.

      1. How in the world did I forget Pollock. I am looking forward to seeing Peters again during spring, and Gray also.

    1. You could have said the same thing about Victor Gonzalez last year at this time and he really wound up contributing in critical situations. I agree, you shouldn’t count on Gray and White but it doesn’t mean that you can’t try them in those kind of spots. They might just surprise us like Vgon did last year.

    1. How do you maximize his trade value? Trade “as is” or bring him up and give him a chance to show he is a big leaguer not just a prospect?

      1. can not bring up unless someone gets hurt. His value is as top minor league prospect. If we bring him up and he doesn’t perform, like last year, decreases his value. His value is trade bait when a pitcher goes down…and someone will. We can put together a nice package cause our minors are loaded

  3. Except for Kershaw, Price, and Turner when he re-signs the Dodgers are one of the youngest teams in the league. McKinstry will replace Kike but he is left-handed. IF Turner is re-signed the Dodgers have lost one right-handed bat in Hernandez. The Dodgers have Betts, Pollock, Taylor, & Smith that are right-handed hitters, and Turner when re-signed.
    If the Dodgers decide to replace Pederson with Peters they add a right-handed power bat. The Dodgers have some interesting prospects in Mann added to the 60 man roster last year plays 2nd or 3rd base and is right-handed and guys that could be rushed up like Hoese, Amaya, or Vargas. Interestingly if you look at Rios’s splits last year and in 2019 he has, with small sample size, better averages against left-handed pitching. Busch wowed everyone in AZ with his bat and Gray will definitely see action in 2021 along with White.

  4. It would be AWESOME if any of these three emerge in 2021. I am especially excited about Busch, but if Peters can just cut down on those strikeouts, look out league.

    I think Dodgers are done signing relievers, we have lots of options already. My hope for the rest of the offseason, resign Turner and sign Bauer to a 4-5 yr contract at the “right price”. His signing probably moves 2 of these three to the bullpen, May, Urias or Gonsolin.

    1. I’ve been wrong before, but I’d be willing to bet you that if Bauer signs a 4-5 year contract it will not be with us. If he comes here it would be for one, max 2 years.

      If I’m wrong about this you can join the long line of people who have reminded me of my bad predictions through the years.

      1. Admittedly, A long shot, but it’s my hope.

        Andy Dufresne: “Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”.

      2. Why would the Dodgers sign Bauer when they have a full roster of pitchers with lots of top prospects coming up? Shouldn’t they spend money in areas of need like 3rd base and or a right-handed bat? A starting rotation of Kershaw, Price, Buehler, Urias, and May is as good as any. I really like Urias now that he has recovered from the injuries and straightened out his mechanics. Urias has the competitiveness and composure of a champion. Go to YouTube and watch May. He has as much potential as any pitcher in the league and is very young! The Dodgers also have Gonsolin with White and Gray to name just a couple of outstanding prospects competing to get a shot. Go to Dodgers2080.com and read up on some of the prospects coming up fast. Guys like Uceta, Carrillo, Pepiot, Jackson, etc in pitching and Amaya, Mann, Vargas, Peters, and others. Dodgers should be very competitive for the next decade as long as they do not sign some bad free-agent deals.

      3. The MLB “Ace” is the most important piece when pursuing a Championship. Therefore, I believe whenever there is a possibility of acquiring an Ace it’s got to be looked into and if it’s the “right price” do it.

        Yes, Dodger starters look good on paper, but don’t forget the age old adage in baseball, “you can never have too much pitching”. Additionally, Kershaw will be 33 this year, has had back problems and this is his last year under contract. Price will be 36 this year and hasn’t pitched in a MLB game in over a year. I agree the Dodger future looks good with Buehler, Urias, May and prospects, but based on my first paragraph, I’d love to add Bauer, at the “right price”.

        What’s the right price? First, length of contract, 4-5 yrs for a 30 yr old pitcher is ideal, you’re only paying for what should be prime years, I don’t like paying for a pitcher’s late 30s years. Next the “right price” on a 4-5 yr Bauer contract, to me, is $20-25M/yr. This is a Zach Wheeler type contract, for a guy who has his blemishes, but just won a Cy Young, probably won’t happen but it’s my hope.

  5. Jeff, it’s funny you’ve been saying or the past few weeks that you can’t believe the league passed on Hand for 10 mil when he went on waivers. Now the Nats sign him for 10.5 mil. Hilarious, they out smarted themselves by half a mil.😀

    My hats off to you o wise one.

    1. I can’t believe he didn’t get a better contract than the one he just signed.
      This morning I heard that a team (I think it was the Jays) offered him 2/17 but he wanted to take a one year deal in the hopes that he’d have another good year and the market would be better in the (hopefully) post-pandemic 2022.

      And good for you, my friend, recognizing my genius when you see it. 🙂

      1. Might not be too smart on Hands part as I believe there will be a strike in 2022.

  6. Friedman is exuding patience. He may bring back Turner but only for two years because he’s holding out for the Gold Prize who plays in Colorado. He may have to hold out until the trade deadline but that’s not very smart on the part of the Rockies. Once we acquire Arrenado Turner essentially becomes a utility man

  7. Tread lightly on Trevor Bauer. Everyone is judging him on 73 innings a small sample. 60 games! He put up a great ERA in the short if not bizzare 2020 in quiet stadiums. Prior to that he routinely had ERAs above 4.00. That would put him on the bottom of our rotation. He’s a strikeout pitcher with a cannon but he’s proven to be a loose cannon. And bad teammate I’ll pass

  8. If you give Jack Bauer 30-35M How much is Buehler going to demand very soon. And we’re going to have to pay Kershaw a lot again so he can solve world hunger

    As for third base we can survive until the trade deadline with Rios\Taylor. I even like the idea of Smith over there while getting Kiebert some action

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