While the Los Angeles Dodgers have had one of the league’s best overall farm systems for decades, their stronghold on blue-chip pitchers and catchers has been among baseball’s elite. There always seems to be at least a handful of pitchers and several catchers ranked in MLB’s Top 100, and there isn’t anything right now that suggests the trend will stop anytime soon.
Catcher is often one of those spots that’s highly challenging to draft and develop, but the Dodgers have done amazing job over the last several seasons with players like Will Smith, Hunter Feduccia, Carson Taylor, departed names like Keibert Ruiz and Connor Wong, and most recently, Diego Cartaya, who sits atop the organization’s overall prospect list.
Despite all this talent, Los Angeles selected another blue-chip backstop in Dalton Rushing in the 2022 draft. Although he has some significant work to do on defense, the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder has already shown that he has the potential to be a juggernaut at the plate.
Louisville Catchers Galore
The irony with the 21-year-old lefty-hitting Rushing is that he attended the University of Louisville for three seasons before turning pro, the same school that produced Smith. Although Smith was about five years ahead of Rushing, they both had time to work together and chat during Rushing’s time as a Cardinal.
“Yeah, we’d spoken a few times before and I’d worked with him a little bit,” Rushing told Baseball America of his relationship with Smith. “Obviously, he knows everything. He’s one of the best catchers in baseball right now. Learning from a guy like him was something I really took pride in, and I was able to grow as a player going into my junior year.”
Last season, Rushing got his feet wet in the Arizona Rookie League for a few games, but he was quickly ushered to Low-A rancho Cucamonga, where he hit an insane .424/.539/.778 with 19 extra-base hits and an even more impressive 21 walks in just 128 plate appearances. At the end of the year, he was promoted to High-A Great Lakes just in time to join the team for the playoffs.
“We think he’s an extremely talented player,” said Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino upon drafting Rushing. “We love his strength; we love his athleticism. We thought he could hit with power and not chase outside the zone. We’re excited to get a left-hitting catcher with power.”
Looking Ahead to 2023
With Rushing’s perfect build for a backstop, the Dodgers remain committed to developing the Memphis native at catcher, although he spent some time as a first baseman at Louisville. While his arm strength and release are decent, he still needs to develop his ball handling skills, which he thinks will come by getting to know his fellow battery mates better.
“Creating bonds with my pitchers [is the key],” Rushing added in the Baseball America interview. “I’m not worried about my throwing. My biggest thing is I want to create a relationship with every single arm that’s coming out of the bullpen [and] every arm stepping on the bump to start the game. I think that’s what really sticks out as a catcher. That’s what separates good from the great — being able to work with every single guy and knowing how to talk to them.”
Although they’re both nearly the same age, Cartaya is currently light years ahead of Rushing on the MLB depth chart. While there’s a good chance Rushing starts his 2023 in High-A ball, there might be chance he earns his way to Double-A Tulsa by the end of the season, particularly if he shows more maturity on the defensive side of things.
14 thoughts on “Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Closer Look at Dalton Rushing”
I’m really anxious to see what Rushing can do for a full season. He’s got some extraordinary hitting tools.
When you were mentioning the catchers the Dodgers have been developing, you could have also included Keibert Ruiz, even though he’s not in the organization any longer. After all, he helped bring us Trea and Scherzer.
A couple of other very young catchers worth keeping an eye on are Yeiner Fernandez and Jesus Galiz.
For those of you who can’t wait for Spring Training, Dodger Fan Fest will be held at the stadium on February 4th. If you can’t make it but have access to the Dodger tv network, they always televise it.
On another topic, today marks Day 7 of League Minimum free agency. Still no Bauer takers. 🙂
I would think it would have happened by now if anyone was interested, but there’s still time before ST starts.
I’m guessing that if no MLB team will have him, there may be a lawsuit on the horizon.
I wonder if any team in Japan or Korea would be interested and, if so, if Bauer would go there?
Korea and Japan were my first thoughts when he cleared waivers. I’m not convinced he’d choose to play in those leagues, though.
He’s a very competitive guy. I don’t see how he doesn’t play somewhere, either in Asia or here in some sort of Indy league. That’s assuming anyone is willing to give him a contract.
I’m also not sure that this is a forever thing with MLB. I think there may be teams (definitely not the Dodgers) who would just like to wait for it to cool down over the next season or two and might then make him an offer.
Cartaya seems to be a catcher or DH and nothing else. Rushing might be able to play outfield along with first base. Smith was an infielder in college so could almost definitely move to second or third at some point.
Yeiner Fernandez, whom I mentioned earlier is already being given time at second base as well as catching.
As I mentioned a few months ago, I look forward to opening day 2025 when we start 9 catchers in the batting order. I would have never figured a catcher could play center field but Varsho has proven me wrong on that one, so anything is possible.
Wouldn’t mind having one of those in Dodger blue.
Craig Biggio came up as a C and played 3,493 innings as a C, 2203 in CF, 785 in LF and of course mainly as at 2B with 17,154 there.
I’m also looking forward to see how Rushing and Cartaya develop as they advance the minor league ladder. With Smith being such a clutch player it will be interesting to see how the position sorts out in the coming years.
If a player can make consistent contact they will find a position for him even if it’s DH! So far he can hit and has a great OBP.
Bauer is not eligible to pitch for the first 50 games of the season. Teams can wait and let things cool off until May. Could be a trade deadline pickup for a team with hopes of making the playoffs. If he isn’t signed by a team this year, I believe he will be signed by some team in 2024.
“Bauer is not eligible to pitch for the first 50 games of the season.”
My mistake. He is eligible to pitch but will not be paid for the first 50 games.