LOD’s 2019 Offseason Top Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers Top Prospects
Here at Legends on Deck our passion is prospects and the offseason presents an outstanding opportunity for us to showcase some of baseball’s top up and comers. Throughout the offseason, we will be bringing you the top ten prospects from all 30 organizations. We will start with the Arizona Diamondbacks and work our way alphabetically all the way through the Washington Nationals. This series is the opinion of Jake Berry, Senior Editor at Legends on Deck and does not reflect any official MLB rankings.
#10 – OF Jeren Kendall
2019 Opening Day Age: 23 ETA: 2021 Top Future Tool: Run
2018 Stats (High-A): .215/.300/.356, 12 HR, 37 SB, 32 K%, 10.5 BB%
Kendall kicks off a rather shallow system here and while there were a handful of guys I was kicking around to highlight at number ten, he had the most established carrying tool out of that group, speed. The Vanderbilt product has shown there is some pop in the left handed swing and when he can get on base he is dangerous. But the getting on base part has been the problem so far. A standout college career at the SEC powerhouse landed Kendall as a 2017 first round pick and now the Dodgers hope he can work out the swing and miss issues and become an offensive threat.
#9 – OF DJ Peters
2019 Opening Day Age: 23 ETA: 2020 Top Future Tool: Power
2018 Stats (Double-A): .236/.320/.473, 29 HR, 34.3 K%, 8.1 BB%
If you’re building your ideal right fielder, Peters is a good start. At 6’6 225 with a power bat and rocket arm, he is exactly what you look for in a middle of the lineup player and a corner outfielder. Factor in he moves better than your average 6’6 guy and you’ve got a pretty darn good ball player. Notice I said when building your perfect right fielder he is a good START. Like Kendall, if anything is going to keep him from reaching everyday major league player status, it is going to be the lack of hit tool. Peters posts some of the highest strikeout numbers in minor league baseball and that likely won’t change. Don’t give up on him though, if you like homers and walks this is your guy, especially if you can live with the strikeouts.
#8 – RHP Dennis Santana
2019 Opening Day Age: 22 ETA: 2019 Top Future Pitch: FB
2018 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 49.2 IP, 2.54 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 65 SO, 16 BB
I’m not married to the idea that Santana will be a starter at the major league level and I think with his repertoire he would be better served in a late inning role. It’s not so much due to the cross body delivery that you see people talking about, it’s more because of the command issues and the challenges I see him having against lefties. The high 90’s fastball is heavy with some sink and it is complimented well by a high spin slider. His two top pitches would play up even more in a late inning role and he won’t have to rely as much on the developing changeup either.
#7 – C/3B Will Smith
2019 Opening Day Age: 24 ETA: 2019 Top Future Tool: Arm
2018 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): .233/.322/.455, 20 HR, 5 SB, 27.7 K%, 10.6 BB%
Smith has a rather narrow stance at the plate and keeps his hands in tight and while there isn’t a big leg kick, he has a quick load that turns into exceptional bat speed. The swing doesn’t produce a ton of pop at the moment, although he did belt 20 homers last year, but it does leave some projectability to dream on. He did walk at a pretty decent clip in 2018 and while he isn’t going to steal 20 bags a season, you can’t sleep on the 2016 first round pick on the bases. Smith’s real promise comes from his plus defensive work behind the plate, his versatility to play in the infield, and the plus arm strength.
#6 – SS Jeter Downs
2019 Opening Day Age: 20 ETA: 2021 Top Future Tool: Hit
2018 Stats (Single-A): .257/.351/.402, 13 HR, 37 SB, 19.7 K%, 9.9 BB%
Downs, part of the trade with the Reds that sent Yasiel Puig and three other Dodgers to Cincinnati, is what you would call and all-around player, but not necessarily a five tool guy. He can do it all on the diamond and in most cases his tools are above average, I just know when I use the “five tool player” tag people think I’m crowning the next Mike Trout. Anyway… Downs is really good at a lot of things on a baseball diamond. The bat to ball skills and plate approach are solid, his athleticism shines both on the bases and in the field, and he can make the throw from up the middle of the infield.
#5 – RHP Tony Gonsolin
2019 Opening Day Age: 24 ETA: 2019 Top Future Pitch: SP
2018 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 128 IP, 2.60 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 155 SO, 42 BB
I’m really not sure why Gonsolin doesn’t get more love around the industry. The 24 year old righty has the foundation that you want to see out of a prospect with a deep repertoire and good control. Sure, there is still some fine-tuning to be done, but the positives I have seen far outweigh the negatives. I like the extension he gets, even at just 6’2, as he brings the ball way back below his back knee and whips it over the top. The fastball sits in the mid 90’s and my favorite secondary pitch of his is a splitter that will be filthy as he harnesses the command. Two solid breaking pitches round out the repertoire.
#4 – RHP Dustin May
2019 Opening Day Age: 21 ETA: 2020 Top Future Pitch: FB
2018 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 132.2 IP, 3.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 122 SO, 29 BB
This top four was tough for me. I think you could make the case that two through four could be interchangeable. May has the great downhill plane from the 6’6 frame a mid 90’s fastball that plays up due to the movement and sink. Ultimately it will be his best pitch and it is made even better by the fact that hitters have to watch for a curveball that falls off the table. Already a high spin rate guy, May will only get better as the 21 year old continues to grow into the frame.
#3 – C Keibert Ruiz
2019 Opening Day Age: 20 ETA: 2020 Top Future Tool: Hit
2018 Stats (Double-A): .268/.328/.401, 12 HR, 8 K%, 6.3 BB%
Ruiz put up some attention-grabbing numbers in Double-A during the 2018 campaign, but when you consider the fact that the Venezuela native was nearly five years younger than the competition, it becomes even more noteworthy. A solid defender behind the plate thanks in part to good footwork and pop times, Ruiz’s skills at the dish are almost as good as behind it. The switch hitter won’t necessarily be a power threat at the games highest level, although he could run into 15 homers on average or so, but he will bring a solid contact approach and great plate discipline to the back of the lineup.
#2 – OF Alex Verdugo
2019 Opening Day Age: 22 ETA: 2019 Top Future Tool: Hit
2018 Stats (Triple-A): .329/.391/.472, 10 HR, 8 SB, 12.4 K%, 9 BB%
2018 Stats (MLB): .260/.329/.377, 1 HR, 16.3 K%, 9.3 BB%
The only reason I don’t have Verdugo at the top of this list is the lack of future power. With that being said, the hit tool may be the best in the system and he has all of the potential in the world to hit above .300 year in and year out at the major league level. The stance and load are unique, but it clearly works for him as he makes consistent contact, even though a lot of that contact is on the ground. A great plate approach and solid tools across the board give the left handed swinger a high floor. I haven’t even mentioned the cannon of a left arm he has.
#1 – SS Gavin Lux
2019 Opening Day Age: 21 ETA: 2020 Top Future Tool: Hit
2018 Stats (High-A/Double-A): .324/.399/.514, 15 HR, 13 SB, 16.8 K%, 10.9 BB%
It was a breakout year for Lux as he continues to improve his game on the farm. Before we dive into the mechanics and the statistics, it is important to note that one thing Lux has shown over his brief minor league career is the ability to adjust and have his development translate into on field results. Now, the former 20th overall pick has a wide stance in the left hand batters box before loading with a big leg kick. The first thing you notice is the patience at the plate, the second thing is the explosive, lofty swing when he gets a pitch he likes. The 21 year old walks at a nice rate and has good speed to contribute to an offensive skill set that ranks him with some of the top shortstops in the minors. Corey Seager may be blocking Lux at short for the time being, but he might prove to be the long term solution at second base.
Featured Image: Dustin May (Courtesy of Mathew Carper/Legends On Deck)