Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Closer Look at Jonny DeLuca

Although the news is not official at the time of this writing, it appears that the Los Angeles Dodgers will promote outfield prospect Jonny DeLuca to the big-league club in place of Trayce Thompson, who apparently suffered an oblique strain when he attempted to check a swing in Saturday night’s middle game against the Yankees.

Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic was among the first to report the news hours after the Dodgers suffered the 6-3 defeat.

At the time of his promotion, the 24-year-old DeLuca is hitting an impressive .292/.378/.952 with 14 homers and 11 doubles after splitting his time with Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City this season.

DeLuca is an interesting choice for a number of characteristics, specifically because his game gained some significant promise when he changed from being a switch-hitter to exclusively hitting from the right side of the plate a few years back. The other intriguing thing is that the 6-foot-0, 200-pounder has blazing speed. His range in the outfield is superb, as is his speed on the base paths, having stole 58 out of 63 bags over his short minor league career.

Despite having an average arm, DeLuca can comfortably and reliably handle all three outfield spots. Between Tulsa and OKC this season, the Thousand Oaks native has played 10 games in left, 16 games in center and 22 games in right field.

The Dodgers originally selected DeLuca in the 25th round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of the University of Oregon. In high school, he was a standout long jumper and sprinter at Agoura High in Agoura Hills, California. He received numerous track scholarships and was drafted in the 39th round by the Twins in the 2017 MLB Draft, but he decided to play baseball with the Ducks.

The Dodgers added DeLuca to the 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the impending Rule 5 draft. MLB Pipeline currently ranks the youngster as the 20th best prospect in the system.

According to MLB Pipeline, DeLuca “has gotten considerably stronger since turning pro and developed solid raw power that he maximizes by looking to pull and lift pitches. His pop also plays to the opposite field and he’s able to drive the ball without sacrificing contact.”

Although Thompson is an above-average defender, the Dodgers aren’t losing much on offense. In 87 plate appearances, he was hitting just .155/.310/.366, going 11-for-71 with five extra-base hits, all of which were homers.

It will be interesting to see where and how much the Dodgers use DeLuca, considering Mookie Betts, James Outman, Jason Heyward, Chris Taylor and David Peralta are all in the regular outfield mix. So far this season, DeLuca has a .409 average against southpaws and a .250 average against righty pitching, so my guess is we might see him gain some significant plate time against left-handed pitchers.

Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Closer Look at Landon Knack

If you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, looking at the current starting pitching injuries and the depth chart throughout the organization is borderline scary. Headlining the injury list right now is a quintet of relatively big names in Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove, a group that could probably represent an entire rotation for a smaller market team.

So far this year, we’ve seen just about every starting arm on the organizational 40-man roster in the majors. Usually, the Dodgers have a handful of starters on the fringe, but that’s certainly not the case this year. Righty Andre Jackson is about the only halfway decent option available at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but he could be activated on any given day to add to his frequent flyer miles, primarily when considering how poorly Gavin Stone has performed.

The crazy thing is that the remaining big guns at OKC are a bunch of 30-something never-has-beens in Matt Andriese, Robbie Erlin and William Cuevas. Andriese and Erlin are tied for the team lead with 10 starts apiece, but both have pitched relatively poorly in the hitter-friendly confines of the Pacific Coast league, compiling 4.81 and 6.89 ERAs, respectively.

About the only thing close resembling a high-quality starter right now in the minors is 25-year-old righty Landon Knack, who has gotten off to one of his best minor league seasons since being drafted by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

Through his first nine starts of 2023 at Double-A Tulsa, Knack has posted a 1.32 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP with 45 punchouts over 41 innings of work. His last start came last Wednesday against Northwest Arkansas when he threw seven full innings of shutout ball, surrendering just four hits and no walks while striking out six batters.

The 6-foot-2 Knack’s season has been night and day compared to last year, when he compiled a 2-10 record with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.407 WHIP over 17 starts and 64-2/3 innings, all at Tulsa.

After being considered close to MLB ready after the draft, the Tennessee native spent a short time of the 2021 season at High-A Great Lakes before being promoted to Tulsa, a place where he has stagnated. His progress has been hampered by a few hamstring issues — much to the disappointment to the organization. However, his promising start to the 2023 campaign has given management, coaches and fans a glimmer of hope.

One of the things that sets Knack apart from other starting pitching prospects is his decent command. He has a four-pitch arsenal with a four-seam, a slider a change and a curve, although his slider is by far his best out pitch. His fastball typically sits in the 92-95 MPH range, but it topped as high as 98 MPH last season at Tulsa. His curve is still developing despite having one of the best spin rates in the system.

MLB Pipeline currently ranks Knack as the 18th best prospect in the Dodgers’ organization, stating, “He still has one of the higher floors among Dodgers pitching prospects, but his ceiling of a mid-rotation starter is further away than it was a year ago.”

Baseball Prospectus profiles Knack as an “innings-eating, back-of-the-end rotation starter.”

To say at the beginning of the season that Knack had a legit shot to make his MLB debut in 2023 would have been borderline ludicrous. However, if he continues to throw at his current rate throughout the All-Star break and the Los Angeles starting rotation picture worsens as the season progresses, nothing would be surprising.

How Active Will Dodgers Be at 2023 MLB Trade Deadline?

At this point, it’s probably a given that the Los Angeles Dodgers will make at least a few moves at the 2023 MLB summer trade deadline. The big question, though, is whether the team will make a big splash having an immediate impact.

Several weeks ago, many fans felt that it could take a little time for the 2023 version of the Dodgers to develop. However, as the 50-game mark of the campaign approaches, it’s probably safe to say this is one of the most inconsistent teams we’ve seen in recent years. Although Los Angeles is barely holding on to first place in the NL West, it’s still hard to say how the rest of the field will shape up as the season progresses.

Continue reading “How Active Will Dodgers Be at 2023 MLB Trade Deadline?”

Ronan Kopp: Future Closer for Dodgers?

Relief pitching is a topic fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers take very seriously. We seemingly begin putting a hypothetical bullpen together from the days following the last contest of the World Series the whole way through the final Cactus League games of spring training. The days and weeks leading up to the trade deadline are especially exciting, as front-office boss Andrew Friedman and his crew have always been known to add an interesting piece or two for the stretch run of the season.

Continue reading “Ronan Kopp: Future Closer for Dodgers?”

Dodgers Active Roster: What Can Fans Expect from Jason Heyward in 2023?

If you would have told fans of the Dodgers at the conclusion of last year’s World Series that someone like Jason Heyward would be a key part of the 2023 Opening Day roster, they probably would not have believed you. After all, with a packed house like Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Trayce Thompson, Chris Taylor and an emerging James Outman, there wasn’t much room for additions.

Continue reading “Dodgers Active Roster: What Can Fans Expect from Jason Heyward in 2023?”

Dodgers Bullpen: More Thoughts on the 2023 Closer Role

For the first time in what could be decades, the Los Angeles Dodgers will apparently begin regular season play without a designated closer. Of course, this idea could change as the year progresses — or even by the end of Cactus League play. But, for now, all indications are the team will employ a closer-by-committee strategy that enables the coaching staff to utilize the bullpen more on specific matchups rather than a role-by-inning approach.

Continue reading “Dodgers Bullpen: More Thoughts on the 2023 Closer Role”

Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Ryan Pepiot?

One of the first evaluations almost every Dodgers fan makes heading into Cactus League play is the quality of the major league starting rotation. Los Angeles is almost always in the MLB Top 10 to start the year, but more times than not, the starting five has an entirely different look as the home stretch of the regular season approaches.

The 2023 campaign probably will be no different.

Continue reading “Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Ryan Pepiot?”

Dodgers Payroll: Early Thoughts on 2023 Luxury Tax

So far, everything seems to be smooth sailing for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the early days of 2023 spring training at Camelback Ranch. Although there was an initial scare resulting from the omission of Clayton Kershaw from the upcoming World Baseball Classic, the veteran lefty assures he’s in excellent health and that the exclusion is nothing more than complications regarding insurance.

Continue reading “Dodgers Payroll: Early Thoughts on 2023 Luxury Tax”

Dodgers Shake Up Outfield Mix by Adding David Peralta

In a bit of surprising news on Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly signed free-agent outfielder David Peralta to a one-year deal, putting a wrench in many of the team’s pre-season roster predictions across the baseball blogosphere.

Although the signing is a curious move, it’s not an impactful one, at least as far as money goes. While the team has yet to make the deal official at the time of this writing, reports suggest that Peralta’s contract will pay him a guaranteed $6.5 million with the possibility of reaching as high as $8 million with incentives.

Continue reading “Dodgers Shake Up Outfield Mix by Adding David Peralta”

Dodgers Roster: Building a Working Infield

Compared to previous years, the beginning of the upcoming 2023 campaign will be a lot different for the Los Angeles Dodgers because of the uncertainty of which players will see the most regular playing time. Last year, we saw players like Trea Turner and Justin Turner — who have both departed the organization — handle the everyday defensive duties at shortstop and third base, respectively.

Continue reading “Dodgers Roster: Building a Working Infield”