Dodgers Prospect Watch: Keeping an Eye on Andre Jackson

One common conversation lately among fans of the Dodgers has revolved around which players in the minor leagues are closest to being ready for the majors. So far, we’ve been able to see a lot of this speculation tested out, as the Los Angeles roster has been changing almost weekly with new faces.

Surprisingly, all but two pitchers on the club’s 40-man roster have been recalled to the majors this year—righty pitchers Gerardo Carrillo and Andre Jackson.

Jackson, who turned 25 just last month, is interesting in the sense that he’s another converted position player, having excelled in the outfield at the University of Utah. He was a blue chipper in high school and was selected by the Rangers in the 32nd round of the 2014 MLB draft, but he ultimately opted for college. He dabbled as a reliver his sophomore year as a Ute, but he couldn’t find a way to trim his ERA below 6.00 in almost a dozen appearances.

As it turned out, Jackson underwent UCL surgery during his 2017 campaign at Utah, but the Dodgers still saw enough talent in the Arizona native to snag him in the 17th round of the draft that year, fully intending on developing him as a pitcher.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jackson eventually made his professional debut for Great Lakes in 2018, which at the time was the organization’s Low-A affiliate. 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 High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Jackson’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.

During 2021 Cactus League play, he made three appearances, all in relief.

Jackson owns a 12-8 record with a 3.32 ERA (80 ER/217.0 IP) and 261 strikeouts in 51 career minor league games, 49 of which were starts. So far this year for Double-A Tulsa, he has posted a 2-1 record with a 2.62 ERA, a .180 BAA, and an impressive 0.90 WHIP in eight games, seven which were starts. He has struck out 44 batters over 34-1/3 innings of work and has surrendered only nine walks, a problem he seems to be improving upon significantly. In 2018, he allowed 45 walks over an even 68 innings.

Jackson is currently ranked No. 28 on MLB Pipeline‘s Top 30 prospect list for the Dodgers.

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.”

Because of his late transition to pitching, Jackson’s secondary stuff is still raw. For this reason, some scouts feel that he may have a higher ceiling as a reliver, especially if the Dodgers decide to start his MLB clock sooner rather than later.

In his last start against Arkansas on June 15, Jackson threw 71 pitches over five full innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits and a walk. He struck out nine.

Can Steven Souza Jr. Stick with Dodgers Long Term?

Because of the overwhelming number of injuries, the Los Angeles Dodgers have sent a whopping 21 different position players to the plate this season to face opposing pitching. From prospects to journeymen to career minor leaguers, there has been no limit on who the club might select to fill a specific role.

Early in the year, we saw a handful of prospects used to provide depth in the forms of Keibert Ruiz, Edwin Rios, DJ Peters, Sheldon Neuse, and Luke Raley, although the latter four players have probably surpassed their prospect qualifications because of age. A new trend has seen the club purchase the contracts of a few veterans, including Andy Burns and Steven Souza Jr. on the field, in addition to Nate Jones and Mike Kickham, who were both used earlier this year in pitching roles.

In Friday night’s opener against the Diamondbacks, the righty hitting Souza ended up being one of the heroes of the game, as his solo shot in the eighth inning provided the team with a spark of offense that was previously nowhere in sight. The 32-year-old Souza also made an impressive catch in foul ground down the right field line in the seventh inning that might prove important when determining his future role with the team.

Souza has only played two games with the Dodgers so far, but he logged 22 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City earlier in the year, producing a .280/.444/.603 slash line alongside six homers, four doubles, and 16 RBI. More importantly, he saw time at all three outfield spots and even made two appearances at first base, which no doubt weighed heavily in his activation to the parent club.

Obviously, it’s impossible to accurately predict how much Souza will contribute to the Dodgers moving forward. Quite simply, there’s no way to tell if he can stay healthy after suffering an injury that tore apart his left knee back in 2019. He tried to stick with the Cubs last year, but the two sides parted ways after he slashed just .148/.258/.333 in 31 plate appearances. Souza spent 2021 spring training with the Astros, but he didn’t make the team after going just 2-for-21 with 13 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances.

Right now, Souza doesn’t have any team options, but it’s still hard to say if he’ll stick around if he produces at a decent level. Soon, the club will need to make room for the returns of Max Muncy, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger, so there will be players bumped around in the process.

When healthy, the Los Angeles primary outfield consists of Bellinger, Mookie Betts and AJ Pollock, with Chris Taylor, Matt Beaty, and Zach McKinstry providing another tier of depth. Both Taylor and McKinstry have seen significant time in the infield this season, but that might diminish with a healthy Seager and Muncy back in the lineup. Conceivably, if he does continue to productively contribute, the decision to retain Souza might come down to optioning either McKinstry or Beaty back to Triple-A, assuming that Burns might be the first victim of the roster crunch. Certainly, all that hypothetical thinking depends on the concept of the Dodgers staying healthy, which so far this season they haven’t been able to do.

Moreover, with only about six weeks left before the 2021 summer trade deadline, the Dodgers might have a plentiful stock of resources to use when making prospective player improvements to the active roster.

Even if Souza ends up getting bumped by the Dodgers to create roster space, he could find an opportunity elsewhere in the league, should he be able to avoid injury and stay on track with his production.

Although Souza has never been a player to hit for a high average, he has shown flashes of outstanding power at some points of his career. For the Rays in 2017, he slugged 30 long balls and 21 doubles for the Rays over 148 games.

Dodgers Visit League Worst Diamondbacks

After a six-game homestand, the Dodgers will begin a six-game road trip, all against against division opponents. First up will be the Arizona Diamondbacks, who the Dodgers previously swept last month. 

In a year in when the National League West Division has three of the best teams in the majors, the Diamondbacks surely don’t fall into that category. They currently have the worst record in the league at 20-50 and are riding a 14-game losing streak. Arizona currently has the worst record in history for an NL team throughout 70 games since the 1969 Expos.

They’ve also lost 23 road games in a row and are riding a stretch in which they are 6-37. For the NL West, it seems as if the Diamondbacks are the punching bag of the division.

The Dodgers come in with a record of 41-27 and are two and a half games back of the Giants for the division lead. Anything less than a sweep against Arizona for the Dodgers might be underachieving. Obviously, any team can beat another during the stretch of a long season, but the Diamondbacks right now are at quite a low. 

Starting on the mound this weekend for the Dodgers will be all right handers in Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler and Tony Gonsolin. Arizona will send left hander Caleb Smith to the mound against Bauer on Friday and righty Matt Peacock to the hill Saturday. No starter has been announced for Sunday. 

Slowly the Dodgers are trying to get healthy during a huge injury carousel. Shortstop Corey Seager, according to manager Dave Roberts, can possibly begin a rehab stint at some point next week. However, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy still remain on the injured list.

After this series, the Dodgers will visit the Padres before beginning another home stand to close out the month against the Cubs and the Giants. It is quite important that the Dodgers take care of business in Arizona as they will then face three consecutive opponents who are in the NL playoff mix, with two of those obviously being division foes. 

Beginning the series is Bauer. As previously stated, so far he’s 6-5 and has a 2.64 ERA. In his last start, he was roughed a bit against the Texas Rangers, gaving up nine hits and six runs, four of those earned. Bauer will look to bounce back against Arizona, the team that originally drafted him out of UCLA. 

Following Bauer will be Buehler, who’s been great this season posting a 6-0 record and a 2.38 ERA, while Gonsolin will close out the series. Gonsolin has a 3.38 ERA but has struggled with command since returning to the active roster. 

Friday also marks the seven-year anniversary of Clayton Kershaw’s no hitter against the Colorado Rockies, only possibly being  a Hanley Ramirez error away from a perfect game. Of course, we also all have to remember the great play by now Marlin Miguel Rojas and the scoop at first base by Adrian Gonzalez to secure the gem.
 
So Friday will see the team with the second-best record in the National League take on the team with the league’s worst record.

First pitch for Friday’s opener in Arizona is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. Pacific.

Dodgers Off Day News and Notes: Cleavinger, Santana, Ravelo, More

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After taking two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers are enjoying an off day before they head out on an NL West road trip to Arizona and San Diego.

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Has Jimmy Nelson Become a Viable, Late-Inning Relief Option for Dodgers?

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To say that Tuesday night’s 5-3 victory over the Phillies carried its own special level of intensity for the Dodgers would be an understatement.

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Dodger Stadium Reopens to Full Capacity, Thoughts on Albert Pujols Signing So Far

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On April 17, it was announced that the Los Angeles Dodgers had signed free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols. The signing came out of the blue for many when the future Hall of Famer had been released by the Angels after a lack of playing time.

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Dodgers and Spin Rate, Part Two: Things to Watch with Trevor Bauer

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Heading into Monday’s game, the Los Angeles Dodgers are only one game out of first place in the National League West behind the San Francisco Giants, and two games ahead of the San Diego Padres who are in third place.

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Dodgers Injury Notes: Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, More

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Right when things seem to be looking up for the Los Angeles Dodgers on the injury front, something else happens that pushes the team a few steps backwards.

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Keibert Ruiz Amid Hot Streak at Oklahoma City

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After a bit of a rocky start to his 2021 campaign, catcher Keibert Ruiz finds himself amid a torrid offensive streak for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.

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Dodgers Host Last Place Rangers

(Los Angeles Times photo)

The Los Angeles Dodgers are back home to face the Texas Rangers in their second straight series against a last-place team. The Dodgers swept the Pittsburgh Pirates, with a 6-3 win yesterday after the game was called in the eighth inning due to rain. The win marked the 13th straight win for the Dodgers against the Pirates.

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