Lately, there has been a ton of chatter about how the rigors of a regular 160-game season might affect many clubs across the majors, particularly those without much quality depth. Already, the Dodgers appear to be taking these challenges in stride, as made evident by their slate of more than a half-dozen proven starting pitchers, in addition to multiple layers of pro experience at almost every other spot on the field.
Each year, there seems to be at least one or two prospects who emerge from the farm to cement themselves on the big-league roster. In 2021, we could see several pitchers called up, especially during late summer when some of the veteran arms will be getting their final resting periods.
I thought it would be a good idea to look at which pitching prospects might have chances of making their respective MLB debuts this year. Obviously, prospects like Mitch White, Victor Gonzalez, and Alex Vesia are eliminated from the list because of their appearances last season. Accordingly, lefty reliever Garrett Cleavinger does not apply due to both his age and major league service time.
While the Los Angeles system is certainly loaded with a huge amount of top-heavy pitching talent, most of the blue-chippers are either on the lower or middle levels of the farm. However, there still are a select few that might have a chance in 2021.
Ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, 23-year-old righty Josiah Gray is the obvious choice for this discussion. Although he didn’t quite make it to the majors in 2020, 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.
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 MLB 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.
According to MLB Pipeline, “Gray generates a lot of swings and misses with his 92-97 mph fastball, which seems to explode at the plate with riding and rising action. He has the makings of a second plus pitch in a sharp low-80s slider, and he also has added a curveball to give hitters a softer look.”
At this point, it’s tough to say if Gerardo Carrillo will ultimately emerge as a starter or reliever, but there’s no denying that the 22-year-old righty’s stuff is electric.
In 2019, the Guadalajara native made 23 appearances at High-A Rancho after logging an impressive 1.50 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP across two levels in 2018. Carrillo is a sinkerballer by trade, and his heater has been clocked in triple digits as recently as the 2019 season.
According to MLB Pipeline, “While Carrillo’s fastball sits at 93-97 mph and hits 100, its movement is just as impressive as its velocity, showing heavy sink at times and remarkable arm-side run at others. He sometimes can command his upper-70s curveball better than his heater, and scouts are split as to whether his mid-80s slider is superior to his curve.”
Some might see it as too far of a leap for Carrillo to hit the bigs in 2021, but his success in the 2019 Arizona Fall League against much more mature opposition could suggest otherwise. Moreover, Carrillo’s inclusion in last year’s 60-man player pool might reflect how much the team values him. He was added to the club’s 40-man roster last November to protect him from Rule 5 selection.
In July of 2016, Carrillo signed for a $75,000 bonus as a 17-year-old international free agent.
He’s currently ranked as the 17th-best prospect in the system.
Like Carrillo, 24-year-old right hander Andre Jackson finished his fourth professional year in the Dodgers’ organization at the team’s alternate training site. Also like Carrillo, Jackson was originally named as part of the organization’s 40-man roster last November.
Jackson owns a 10-7 record with a 3.45 ERA (70 ER/182.2 IP) and 217 strikeouts in 43 career minor league games, 42 of which were starts. In 2019, he went 7-2 with a 3.06 ERA (39 ER/114.2 IP) and a 1.28 WHIP in 25 starts between Great Lakes and Rancho Cucamonga.
The Arizona native was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2017 MLB draft out of the University of Utah, where he was also a star outfielder.
According to MLB Pipeline, “Jackson is extremely athletic and possesses a quick arm that delivers 92-96 mph fastballs that reach 98 and feature late finish. His 78-82 mph curveball shows some signs of effectiveness and he’s also working on a mid-80s slider/cutter.”
Jackson is currently ranked No. 28 on MLB Pipeline‘s Top 30 prospect list for the Dodgers.