So far this winter, most of our prospect talk has surrounded pitching and catching, which always seems to make up the higher rankings of the Dodgers’ farm. However, with Corey Seager now out of the shortstop picture, some of the emphasis could switch to the middle infield spots, if things ever get rolling again roster-wise.
One prospect who previously grabbed a lot of attention but faded a bit recently is 24-year-old lefty-hitting Michael Busch. After a slow start to his 2020 campaign, the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder rebounded to slash .267/.386/.484 with 27 doubles, 20 long balls and 67 RBI at Double-A Tulsa last year, which is notoriously known as one of the friendliest pitcher’s parks in the Midwest League.
As a matter of fact, Busch found his season average as low as .217 in the beginning of July before he finally started putting things together. In September, he hit a whopping .413/.491/.739 to finish out a solid season while holding down the team’s No. 3 prospect ranking, according to most of the major outlets.
One of the biggest differences last year might have been the time he spent at first base, a spot he hadn’t seen action at since his college days at the University of North Carolina. When the smoke settled on the 2021 season, Busch, the 31st overall pick of the 2019 MLB draft, appeared in eight games as DH, 11 games at first base, and 88 games at the keystone, the spot that many pundits thought he had a chance to excel.
Nevertheless, for Busch to make an impact in the majors, he’ll probably need to leapfrog some talent and improve in a few areas, especially in terms of his batting splits. Career-wise against lefties, he’s hitting just .198/.355/.354 against southpaws while batting .288/.396/.524 against right-handers.
On defense, Busch has shown vast improvement, specifically at second base, which is still a relatively new spot for him. Last year, he committed just seven errors in 312 total chances playing second. Busch had an average arm when he was drafted, but scouts feel he has made significant strides with his strength and release over the past two years.
As far as the MLB infield depth chart goes, the big topic of conversation is what might happen at second base. Every year there always seems to be chatter about Chris Taylor seeing regular time at the keystone, but skipper Dave Roberts sees more value in CT as an everyday utility guy. We’ve seen some sparks of offensive talent from Gavin Lux, but he always seems to regress one step backwards after making some significant progress.
The Dodgers added 23-year-old middle infielder Jacob Amaya to the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, giving him perhaps an edge over Busch as far as MLB arrival time goes. However, the righty-hitting Amaya has yet to see time above the Double-A level.
Then, there’s always the chance Los Angeles surprises everyone and signs somebody like Freddie Freeman. A move like that could push Max Muncy over to second base, making it difficult for guys like Lux and Zach McKinstry, both lefty hitters, to see significant playing time.
Busch is listed on the Tulsa roster right now, but my guess is that he’ll see most of his action at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2022, where the hitter-friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League could inflate his offensive numbers. If he finds a way to improve against lefty pitching, there might be a chance he has a cup of coffee in the majors at some point of the year.