Feature Photo: Mauricio Dubon, SS, Red Sox
This week, we’ve got new spotlights on Cody Bellinger (Dodgers), Mauricio Dubon (Red Sox), and Tyler Marlette (Mariners) this week, as well as seven new reports from Dave DeFreitas, including Jacob Nottingham (Brewers), Josh Taylor (LHRP, Diamondbacks), and Ryan McMahon (Rockies), all of which are posted to our Report Library. Alec Dopp has also added 10 more AFL prospect videos into our Prospect Video Library.
2080 Prospect Spotlights – Arizona Fall League
In Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers have one of the younger, more impressive power prospects in the game. Bellinger is a tremendous athlete with a wirey frame who is a lot stronger than you think when you first lay eyes on him. While he really works uphill and is mostly a pull hitter at the moment, he has above-average bat speed and gets great barrel exit, which works to generate carry on his line drives and fly balls. He has been a fly ball, pull hitter to an extreme the past couple seasons (0.50 GB/FB ratio in 2016 with the vast majority of contact being the right side of the field), and that is cause for at least some concern as he’s face more consistent command at the higher levels. But Bellinger is still young for the level, and he’ll play 2017 at 21 years old, starting at either Double-A or Triple-A. While he does have some swing and miss, I attribute a lot of that to his approach and trying to hook everything looking for bigger home run numbers.
That said, I see more than enough athleticism in his actions to believe that he will make the adjustments as he advances and learn the use more of the field so that he doesn’t get pummeled by shifts. The ball jumps off of his bat, and he has very real power to center field and going the other way. He has tremendous hand/eye coordination and advanced feel for the barrel. In addition, he improved his strikeout rate from 27.6% in 2015 to 20.2% in 465 Double-A PAs, and his ISO (.221 at Double-A and .245 through 57 AFL PA’s) suggests that he does damage when he puts the ball in play. Also, his walk rates have improved each of the last three seasons at 4.8%, 9.6% and 12.7% (in Double-A) respectively. I don’t see him hitting .300 at the big league level, although somewhere in the .260’s with 20 homers and 25+ doubles is not a stretch.
Defensively, things are not quite as clear. He moves very well, but seems out of place at fist base. He has the tools to be a solid-average defender there, maybe a tick better, but his hands can get stiff on balls in the dirt and I don’t see the lateral quickness that the better defensive first baseman have (like Anthony Rizzo (Cubs), Freddie Freeman (Braves), and Mark Teixeira (Yankees)). I see his range playing better at a corner-outfield spot, where his average arm and fringe-average run will be more productive. Defensive utility is a highly valued asset nowadays, so I expect the Dodgers to continue to use him at both spots. So should Bellinger get off to a good start in 2017, I don’t expect the Dodgers to wait too long to try and fit him into their lineup. Check out my full report here. – Dave DeFreitas
Marlette has been an under-the-radar prospect to this point, but his profile is growing thanks to a solid combination of defense and power that has been visible during his AFL stint. And his up-tick in performance comes at an opportune time: the Mariners have to decide whether or not the 23-year-old, six-year minor leaguer should be added to their 40-man roster, or be exposed to this winter’s Rule 5 draft.
Marlette has been splitting time between High A Bakersfield and Double-A Jackson over the past three seasons, and his bat has been steadily improving in that time. This year, he slashed .273/.335/.472 at High A with 14 home runs and 22 XBH before being bumped to Jackson, where he slashed .300/.333/.400 over 50 ABs. He’s maintained those numbers in the fall league, settling in to a .270/.317/.486 slash line in his 37 ABs in the desert after getting off to a hot start early.
Marlette’s at the plate to do damage with his bat (just 33 BB in 412 PAs), and though he’ll strike out his fair share (23% K-rate) and has a tendency to expand the zone, he makes enough hard contact to build an attractive profile at a premium position. He showed off above-average raw power in my BP looks, and while his game power looks to be more pull-oriented, he will also show some pop to the right-center field gap.
His swing has some moving parts to it, starting with his hands up high and with some wrap in the bat, and then dropping the hands down with a pronounced hand hitch and waggle in his load. He has some hip travel as he gets the barrel through the zone with a compact, level stroke. Despite all the movement he showed the ability to turn on velocity and shows that he’s got the hand-eye coordination and above-average bat speed to make the busy mechanics work.
Marlette has been spending some time at first base as well as catching for the Javelinas, and he looks comfortable at first, but with fringy range. That said, he has soft hands and can make the routine plays. But the most value to the M’s remains behind the dish, where his above-average arm strength makes his below-average receiving skills survivable —especially if he hits. By trading for Carlos Ruiz on November 7, the club is acknowledging that Marlette is not their catcher of the future at this point, and he’d be a stretch to see major league time in 2017 because of his limited upper minors experience. But he’s still just 23 years old, and seen just 65 games worth of time at the Double-A level. If his bat continues to produce, he could still get to a Role 40 floor and crack the 25-man roster in 2018. – Mark Shreve
While not the biggest name that the Red Sox have down on the farm, Dubon has the tools to become a very nice player on both sides of the ball for them in the not-too-distant future. A wirey, athletic middle infielder, he has some quick-twitch actions and a potential above-average hit tool. He is slightly on the older side for his level, but he shows feel for the strike zone with good bat control. He does not project to be a big home run guy, but he is strong through the forearms and wrists and has some present gap power with room to fill out and add more strength. He is also a double-plus runner who pressures the defense, looks to take that extra base and has some instincts to steal bases.
Defensively, the athleticism that he has does not show through at shortstop, as he tends to bend at the waist and his poor footwork leads to throwing issues. He has an above-average arm, but his lack of a solid rhythm and the footwork issues lead to below-average accuracy throwing across the diamond. While he may be slightly better at another infield spot, I see his tools playing best in center field where his long strides and double-plus run will translate to plus range. I still have him behind Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada as far as prospects in the Red Sox system go, but Dubon is poised to pick up where he left off in Double-A in 2016 and could possibly make a push to crack the big league roster by late next summer. – Dave DeFreitas