The Dodgers are perennial contenders at the Major League level and have received big contributions from homegrown players in recent years. Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, and Joc Pederson all came through the pipeline and went on to play prominent roles in the team’s success, and it looks like another wave of high-upside talent is on the horizon. (#1) Alex Verdugo leads a group of close-to-ready prospects that all project to be high-probability FV 50s or better, and there’s a nice mix of center-diamond hitters and pitching within the team’s top six. It’s a top-heavy list past that point, though Los Angeles has an intriguing contingent of low-minors players to follow over the next few years. Adding (#7) Jeter Downs in the recent trade that sent Yasiel Puig and others to Cincinnati gives the system a nice mid-level piece.
Los Angeles’ top-heavy system isn’t especially problematic seeing as they don’t have many holes to fill on the Major League roster and most of their best prospects are on the horizon. (#1) Alex Verdugo and (#6) Dennis Santana have already gotten a taste of the Major Leagues. (#2) Keibert Ruiz, (#3) Dustin May, (#4) Gavin Lux, and (#5) Will Smith could all debut in the next two years.
No other farm system boasts as many quality catching prospects as the Dodgers. They might be deep enough at the position to actually deal away from their surplus of young catchers to address other needs. (#2) Keibert Ruiz, (#5) Will Smith, and (#9) Connor Wong all place within the top 10 of this list, and Los Angeles signed the best 16-year-old catcher on the J2 market last year in Diego Cartaya (Pure Projection).
(#15) Gerardo Carrillo is the only low-level arm that currently places on the Dodgers’ top 15, but others are likely to finish in that tier as the system graduates its top prospects in 2019/2020. Recent draftees like Michael Grove (Pure Projection), Braydon Fisher (Pure Projection) and John Rooney (Pure Projection) have shown promising flashes, and that group is backed by impressive international arms like Robinson Ortiz (Pure Projection) and Guillermo Zuniga (Pure Projection). Acquiring Josiah Gray (Pure Projection) in a deal with Cincinnati this off-season only added another intriguing young pitching prospect to the lower rungs of the system.
–DEPTH PAST THE TOP
The Dodgers’ top five matches up with almost any system in baseball, but there’s a fairly steep drop-off (in terms of both ceiling and probability) past that point of the list. As mentioned above, there are some interesting prospects that will fill the void left by graduations of (#1) Alex Verdugo, (#2) Keibert Ruiz, (#3) Dustin May, (#4) Gavn Lux, and (#5) Will Smith, but no group of prospects currently in Los Angeles’ system is likely to wind up better than the handful already at the top of this list.
Only three lefties place on the Dodgers’ list, each of them still very low in the system. Robinson Ortiz (Pure Projection) and John Rooney (Pure Projection) both have ETAs later than 2020; Julian Smth (Pure Projection) hasn’t even thrown in an official game as a professional, only getting back on the mound this fall during Instructional League after missing 2016-2017 with injury.
TOP 15 PREF LIST
CREAM OF THE CROP
(#1) Alex Verdugo, OF
Ceiling: 55 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2018 Role Description: Above-Average Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 205 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 10m
Long seen as one of the top bats in the Dodgers’ system, Verdugo brings a polished hit/on-base skillset that projects to finish plus. He isn’t a burner, but his excellent routes and quick first step allow him to handle CF defensively. His power hasn’t fully shown up yet, but the raw is there to get to average home run outputs if Verdugo can put more balls in the air. We see a long-time big leaguer that’s likely to break camp with the Dodgers and play a major role for the team going forward.
(#2) Keibert Ruiz, C
One of the top catching prospects in baseball, Ruiz held his own in Double-A last year and only turned 20-years-old midway through the season. The switch-hitter shows advanced contact ability–certainly above-average for a catcher–and if he’s able to grow into more power, Ruiz’ offensive upside at a premium position could make him a star. He’s a sure bet to stick behind the plate, showing soft hands, framing acumen, and enough arm to keep base runners honest. The Dodgers are committed to his long-term development, so Ruiz might not crack the big leagues until 2020. Once there, he’ll have every chance to establish himself as the club’s catcher of the future.
(#3) Dustin May, RHP
May followed up his breakout 2017 campaign with a similarly strong 2018, pitching his way into the conversation for best arm in the system. There’s still room to add strength across a wiry 6-foot-6 frame, and his ability to limit walks with a high-velocity fastball is enthusing. May’s breaking ball flashes above-average potential and could give a second miss-bat pitch. He’s working on improving a changeup, the last large developmental point of focus before he’s ready for the big leagues. We’re bullish on May and see a potential mid-rotation starter that will keep moving up prospect lists in 2019.
ON THE HORIZON
(#4) Gavin Lux, SS/2B
Strong and stocky, Lux is a solid all-round player with ability to stick in the middle of the diamond as an everyday player splitting time between 2B and SS. At the plate, his best attributes are a sound approach, showing feel for the zone and the ability to work a count. His swing timing is inconsistent which affects his ability to find barrels, but with average raw power he shows fence-clearing power to the pull side. While he won’t wow you defensively or at the plate, the well-rounded toolset projects well for an everyday regular who will bring plus speed from the lower half of the lineup.
(#5) Will Smith, C
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2020 Role Description: Everyday Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 192 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 0m
Smith is a glove-first backstop that could surface in Los Angeles sometime next season. He has above-average power but won’t hit for much average, so drawing walks will be key against big league pitching. Smith broke out as a prospect last year as his home run output took a step forward, and he’s now among the game’s better catching prospects as a potential plus defensive catcher with 14-18 HR potential. The Dodgers have an enviable surplus of prospects behind the plate, and they could trade from that depth this winter to address another need. Assuming he isn’t dealt before Spring Training, expect Smith to start 2019 in Triple-A.
(#6) Dennis Santana, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 160 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 11m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Report
Santana made his big league debut in 2018, although it was short lived. The righty went down with a rotator cuff strain in his throwing shoulder after just one appearance for the Dodgers. He will only be 23 next season and is expected to be healthy by Spring Training. Santana relies primarily on a fastball/slider mix, the heater sitting in the low-90s and the slider in the 83-to-86 mph range. His ceiling is a back-rotation starter, one who could be effective in a setup role if his performance or durability prompt a move to the ‘pen.
(#8) Mitchell White, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 207 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 3m
White has the durability and solid fastball/slider mix of a future rotation piece. The heater sits 91-to-94 mph and touches higher, showing heavy run and late sink. His slider could finish a 55-grade pitch, and he rounds out his arsenal with a future average curve and change. White profiles as a #4/#5 starter in a Tanner Roark mold, able to get contact outs and eat innings without ever posting gaudy strikeout numbers.
(#9) Connor Wong, C
Wong was an infielder in college, and as such, his glovework at catcher is behind the bat. He has above-average power potential and can drive the ball out of the park to both fields. Wong’s aggressive approach will need to be toned down to unlock his power in games against upper-level arms, as he currently swings at too many pitches outside the zone. The athleticism and barrel-feel are here to project improvements, giving Wong enough offensive upside to profile as an everyday catcher if his defense can improve. His receiving and framing are fringy at present, and he’s an inconsistent blocker who will need to keep developing behind the plate to reach his ceiling.
(#10) Edwin Rios, 3B/1B
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2019 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 220 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 11m
Rios is a physical corner presence with the big raw power potential to match. His swing-path is long despite good batspeed, overmatched up in the strike zone by premium velocity. His strikeout numbers spiked last year due to an exceptional lack of patience, but Rios makes hard contact within the zone and can drive the ball to all fields. He’ll likely always come with strikeouts, but the power could make him a low-end regular if he’s able to cut the whiffs down to the 25-percent range. Defensively, his lateral range isn’t great at the hot corner but he’s bailed out by a strong arm that allows him to play deep. Rios is more athletic than he looks, projecting to be a serviceable 3B defender that likely moves between infield corners.
(#11) Jordan Sheffield, RHP
Sheffield was the 36th overall pick in 2016 from Vanderbilt. He has had some bumps in the road working as a starter in pro ball but took to the ‘pen in Fall League, rejuvenating his prospect stock with a strong showing for Glendale. There’s less pressure on monitoring pitch counts and command in a relief role, and Sheffield’s fastball was scraping the high-90s in short-stints this fall. He throws his curve and changeup very hard, though both have sharp action and flash potential to play as swing-and-miss pitches. Sheffield could reach the big leagues as soon as next season if the Dodgers want to keep him in the ‘pen, where his ceiling is a high-leverage reliever who can pitch multiple innings. We’re high on Sheffield’s upside but feel strongly he’s a reliever long-term.
(#12) Yadier Alvarez, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2020 Role Description: High-Leverage Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 175 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 0m
2018 was a lost year for Alvarez, whose prospect stock has taken a hit due to continued control problems. The Dodgers added him to their 40-Man Roster after the season to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5, and given his raw stuff, the power-armed righty might have heard his named called in the Major League Phase. Alvarez’ fastball touches the high-90s and is backed up by a breaking ball that shows swing-and-miss flashes. He’s looking more and more like a ‘pen-only arm, and even in that role, Alvarez will need to prove he’s capable of throwing more strikes in 2019.
(#13) Tony Gonsolin, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 10m
Gonsolin was a two-way player in college at St. Mary’s (CA). He was the Dodgers’ ninth-rounder in 2016 and has made great strides on the mound since focusing full-time on pitching. Gonsolin posted excellent numbers across 26 starts split between two levels, reaching Double-A by year’s end. His fastball works into the mid-90s and is backed up by a hard splitter and developing slider/curveball combo. Gonsolin has risen through the system fairly quietly, but his jump in stuff and recent performance are making him hard to ignore. The ceiling is a multi-inning reliever or swingman option with some breakout potential beyond that.
(#14) DJ Peters, OF
Peters’ size, power potential, and athleticism make him a prospect, though questions about his long-term defensive profile and ability to hit for average stand in the way of him fitting an everyday profile. The 22-year-old spent last season at Double-A, surpassing 25 longballs and a .230+ ISO for the second straight year. He also hit in the low-.200s for most of the season while striking out in more than 30-percent of his plate appearances, struggling badly against same-side pitching. Athletic for his height, Peters played in CF last year but fits better defensively on a corner in the big leagues. He profiles as a slugging platoon bat with some defensive versatility, bringing big power that’s accompanied by strikeouts and low on-base percentages.
Josh Sborz, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2019 Role Description: Setup Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 225 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 3m
Sborz responded well to a move to the ‘pen, showing improved control and nearly doubling his strikeout rate in 2018. Many expected him to ultimately wind up in relief, and that looks to be where Sborz fits best long-term. He’s a setup man in the best case scenario and a higher-floor middle reliever if not. Sborz was added to the Dodgers’ 40-Man Roster this November and could surface in Los Angeles at some point next season.
Jared Walker, 1B/3B
It has been a slow climb for Walker, the Dodgers fifth-rounder out of a Georgia high school in 2014. He spent parts of three seasons in Rookie ball and is going on 23-years-old without having reached Double-A. Walker finally started translating his above-average raw power into home run production last season, slashing a combined .255/.365/.545 with 25 dingers across two levels. He has split time between both infield corners as a pro, though 1B is the long-term defensive home. The lefty-swinger struggles mightily against same-side pitching, though his power and patience give upside as a platoon bat who brings power against righties.
Nolan Long, RHP
Long stands a massive 6-foot-10 and is nearly big league ready after heading to Fall League for some last-minute polishing. His four-seam works in the 93-to-96 mph range, paired with a low-90s cutter for a second look. His 75-to-78 mph curveball flashes sharp bite, though a lack of overall control and breaking ball consistency likely will prevent him from fitting as more than a middle reliever. He was a starter through the early parts of his professional career, so it’s realistic to imagine Long as a potential multi-inning ‘pen piece.
Cody Thomas, OF
Thomas’ physicality and raw tools fit a big league corner outfield profile, though he’ll have to prove his unorthodox swing mechanics will play above A-Ball. He’s coming off a big season in the Cal League (.285/.355/.497), and despite cracking 15+ home runs each of the last three seasons, a (nearly) 30-percent strikeout rate hints at holes in his offensive game. He projects as a bench outfielder who can move between corner spots and provide some pop in a flash.
(#7) Jeter Downs, SS
Downs was one of two prospects the Dodgers received in an off-season mega-deal with the Reds. He’s a capable defender at either middle infield spot with intriguing offensive upside for a center-diamond player. There’s some chance he’s a 2B long-term, though the bat could still be enough to make Downs a regular in that scenario. He’s a welcome boost to a system that lacked depth outside the top five players on this list.
(#15) Gerardo Carrillo, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 154 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 6m
The Dodgers were confident enough in Carrillo’s present stuff and polish to push him to Class A as an 18-year-old. As one of the youngest rotation regulars in the Midwest League during the second half of 2018, Carrillo limited opposing hitters to a .200 average-against while pitching to a sparkling 1.65 ERA in nine starts. Though he’s undersized, Carrillo’s four-seam touches 96 mph with a sinker and cutter that give him multiple fastball variants to choose from. His repeats a clean delivery well, pitching with advanced command to both sides of the plate. The primary off-speed is a mid-80s changeup that could finish above-average, already displaying quality sell and late dive right now. Carrillo has feel to add and subtract from his curveball, ranging from 74-to-81 mph with varying shape and sharpness. There’s reason to be skeptical of his slight frame in a starting role, but we’re high enough on the pitchability to project a back-rotation ceiling.
Diego Cartaya, C
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2024 Role Description: Everyday Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 200 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: DNP Age (as of April 1, 2019): 17y, 6m
Cartaya was among the top J2 prospects in this year’s international class, signing with the Dodgers for a hefty $2.5 million amateur bonus. Though he’s clearly farther away than either Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith, Cartaya adds another high-upside backstop to the Dodgers’ already-enviable crop of catching prospects. He’s physical for a teenager, standing 6-foot-2 and a sturdy 200 pounds. Cartaya has the defensive tools to remain at the position, paired with advanced pitch recognition and contact skill that allow projection to his offensive game. He’s years away from ready—and catchers generally take even longer to develop—but comes with the upside of a quality regular at catcher with plus offensive outputs for the position.
Jeren Kendall, OF
A plus athlete, Kendall’s struggles to make contact are cause for concern. His swing is long and uphill, and pitchers are able to exploit him with both good velocity and spin out of the zone. There is strength to impact the baseball when he makes contact, but he will have to make significant swing adjustments for his hit tool be enough to fit a regular’s profile in the big leagues. Kendall is an excellent athlete that makes an impact defensively in CF, a carry tool that will give him some value even off the bench. We’re projecting a toolsy fourth outfielder until he shows more with the bat.
Robinson Ortiz, LHP
Ortiz’ feel to pitch is mature beyond his years. There’s less physical projection than some other teenage arms, though his fastball already works in the 90-to-94 mph range. Both his changeup and curveball grade as future solid-average pitches, and Ortiz can keep all three around the zone from a relatively clean delivery. He’s part of an intriguing contingent of Dodgers pitching prospects set to make their full-season debuts in 2019.
Guillermo Zuniga, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 195 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 5m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight
Zuniga was one of the Braves prospects declared a free agent after numerous international violations were discovered in 2017. He signed with the Dodgers after that, spending all of last season at the complex in Extended Spring, AZL, and Instructional League as a 19-year-old. His fastball touches 96 mph at best, sitting comfortably in the 91-to-94 range—though Zuniga worked 88-to-91 mph during instructs, likely a byproduct of natural fatigue. Both his mid-80s slider and firm split-like change flash above-average potential, though the slider is inconsistent and he doesn’t use the splitter much. Zuniga will make his full-season debut in 2019 as a 20-year-old.
John Rooney, LHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 235 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 2m
Rooney was the Dodgers’ third-rounder in last year’s draft from Hofstra. His primary weapons are a low-90s fastball and average slider, each playing up from the natural angle his 6-foot-5 frame provides. He’s comfortable with a low-80s changeup that shows turnover action, and developing that pitch gives the foundation for a full starter’s arsenal. The Dodgers have had success bringing out more velocity in pitchers with Rooney’s build. For now, we see the ceiling as a low-end #5 type or swingman option with some chance to be more than that if he can tease out more velocity.
Michael Grove, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 200 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: DNP Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 3m
Grove was looking like a first-rounder as an underclassman at West Virginia, regularly working his fastball into the mid-90s with a hard-biting breaker. He went down with Tommy John surgery at the end of his sophomore year, shelving him for summer ball and all of last spring leading up to the 2018 Draft. The Dodgers stayed on him and signed the righty to an over-slot bonus in the second round, though he didn’t pitch in an official game all summer. Grove’s stuff is impactful enough to stay on the prospect radar even as he’s easing back into game action in 2019.
Braydon Fisher, RHP
Fisher was Los Angeles’ fourth-rounder last year from the prep ranks, carrying a rail-thin 6-foot-4 and 180-pound frame that’s a bit slimmer than his listed weight. Fisher’s youth and lack of current strength prompted the Dodgers to keep a tight leash on the righty, never going more than two innings at a time during his pro debut in the AZL. He can land three pitches for strikes, starting with an 89-to-93 mph fastball that shows consistent running action. His mid-80s change is especially advanced, baffling complex-level batters with its fastball sell and quality fade action. Fisher’s 82-to-85 mph slider shows average potential as well.
Josiah Gray, RHP
Gray was one of the prospects Los Angeles received in the blockbuster trade that sent Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, and Kyle Farmer to the Reds in December of 2018. He was mostly a shortstop at DII Le Moyne (NY) before moving to the mound on the Cape prior to his junior season. Gray’s fastball touches 96 mph and could reach higher if he moves to the ‘pen. The primary off-speed is a low-80s slider that projects as at least an average pitch, though a crude changeup currently stands in the way of him pitching with a deep enough arsenal to fit a true starter’s profile. There’s a bit more projection with Gray than other pitching prospects his age given the lack of experience on the mound.
Leonel Valera, SS/INF
Valera has grown larger than his 6-foot-1 and 165-pound listing, now both taller and more physical than that. He made his stateside debut last year in the AZL, finishing the summer with the Dodgers’ Pioneer League club. Valera has well-rounded tools, starting with a short swing that projects to develop power as he keeps filing out. He’s currently a shortstop with sound fundamentals and ability to make the routine play, though there’s a chance he will outgrow the position. Despite a direct bat-path, there’s a surprising amount of swing-and-miss: Valera whiffs through hittable fastballs over the plate and struck out in over 25-percent of his AZL at-bats in 2018. The ingredients for a low-end regular are here, though Valera could wind up a tweener that fits into a utility role if he can’t stick at SS long-term.
Cristian Santana, 3B/1B
Santana has plus raw power, showing the strength and carry to park balls to straightaway center field. His approach is too aggressive and lacks much feel for the zone, often swinging himself out of counts. Santana’s strong, lengthy cut produces power as well as low averages and plenty of whiffs. Defensively, his profile is aided by profiling at 3B despite a thicker-than-average frame for the position. He could be a platoon or bench option on a corner, but there’s real risk that Santana doesn’t hit enough to carve out that role.
Carlos Rincon, OF
Rincon has the hit/power combination and defensive ability to carve out a big league role. He shows flashes of shortening up and focusing on contact, though often gets caught selling out to tap into 55-grade raw power. Defensively, Rincon splits time between the outfield corners but could wind up a LF/1B type as the frame matures. His ceiling is a platoon semi-regular or bench bat, though there’s extreme risk as a R/R corner player that needs to mash his way into value.
Edwin Uceta, RHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: High ETA: 2021 Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 155 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 2m
The slight righty has a quality three-pitch mix that’s headlined by his fastball/changeup combo. Uceta’s heater works in the 93-to-95 mph range with lively hop up in the zone. His lack of angle and present command means the fastball gets hit hard when it catches too much plate. His changeup gets good separation from quality arm-speed and sell, a potential above-average pitch at maturity. Uceta’s breaking ball has developed into a playable pitch, though it doesn’t project to truly miss bats. We see his slight frame necessitating a move to the ‘pen at some point, where Uceta’s three-pitch mix will allow him to face both lefties and righties in a middle relief role.
Starling Heredia, OF
Heredia will need to make more contact in order to turn his tools into production. His above-average raw power doesn’t fully translate to game action due to a hyper-aggressive approach that’s often overmatched against spin. He’s a better athlete than a thick frame looks, though a below-average arm limits him to LF. Heredia could move higher up this list if the hit tool improves, but there’s also lots of risk given the pressure on the bat and limited defensive profile.
Gregorio Sequera, RHP
Sequera will only be 21 next season, but after spending parts of the last three years in Rookie ball, he’ll need to start turning a corner to remain on the prospect radar. His fastball touches 97 mph and sits in the mid-90s, backed up by a sharp high-70s curveball and promising changeup at 86-to-88 mph with late dive. He’s a longshot prospect with the ingredients of a Major League ‘pen arm if he can put anything together.
Julian Smith, LHP
Smith was the Dodgers’ 15th rounder last year after missing 2016 and 2017 with Tommy John surgery as an amateur. He didn’t play in an official game after signing, making Instructional League his first live action as a professional. Smith is a premium athlete with projection oozing from his frame and easy mechanical operation. The fastball works between 92-to-95 mph, and his high-70s curve flashes sharp downer action at best. Smith’s changeup and command both need refinement. He’s an interesting longshot prospect that likely winds up in the ‘pen.