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.

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 Prospect Watch: Michael Busch Sizzling at Triple-A Oklahoma City

Although there have been quite a few players on the Dodgers who have had their share of ups and downs offensively so far during the young season, there’s one at the Triple-A level who’s been reaching base as much as ever.

Continue reading “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Michael Busch Sizzling at Triple-A Oklahoma City”

Double-A Tulsa’s Opening Day Roster Loaded with Top Prospects

The season opening roster for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers has been finalized. The list features several top prospects within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, including five players currently on the Dodgers 40-man major league roster.

Of the 28 players who have been assigned to Tulsa, 18 have previously played for the Drillers.

Continue reading “Double-A Tulsa’s Opening Day Roster Loaded with Top Prospects”

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 Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Michael Grove in 2023?

With righty Tony Gonsolin likely to begin the season on the injured list with a left ankle sprain, the Los Angeles Dodgers will need to dip into their plentiful stockpile of young starting pitchers to round out their Opening Day rotation.

At the moment, it looks like the team will award the final rotation spot to either Ryan Pepiot or Michael Grove, both of whom made their MLB debuts for the club last year.

Continue reading “Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Michael Grove in 2023?”

Dodgers Prospect Watch: Keeping an Eye on Andy Pages

Prior to Gavin Lux’s season-ending ACL injury last week, the outfield was one of the most talked about departments as far as big-league roster spots go for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, with Chris Taylor seemingly scheduled to see significantly more playing time in the infield, it could perhaps open the door for several dark horses to see action in the outfield at the beginning of the season.

Continue reading “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Keeping an Eye on Andy Pages”

Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Closer Look at Dalton Rushing

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.

Continue reading “Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Closer Look at Dalton Rushing”

Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for James Outman?

One of the biggest questions for the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into the 2023 season is the core structure of the outfield. Because we all know that front office boss Andrew Friedman and field skipper Dave Roberts prefer to have plenty of moving pieces, there could be more uncertainty heading into this season than usual as far as the regular playing time goes.

Continue reading “Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for James Outman?”