|Original Published Date: December 27, 2019|
The Dodgers are always a fun system to write about. They have strength at the top and depth to complement. That said, players are starting to get blocked. While that’s a good problem to have, the Dodgers might need to trade some of their excesses to help in other areas of their Major League club. Most notably, their bullpen. Are they really going to keep Keibert Ruiz? What about Edwin Rios and DJ Peters? All of them have value, some more than others, and could land some help for their bullpen.
Leading the list is one of the best prospects in the game in Gavin Lux. He got a late-season taste of the big leagues and performed well. Their best pitching prospect Dustin May is one of my favorite arms in the Minor Leagues. He also got a taste of the big leagues and performed well. Both should see significant time in the Major Leagues along with Tony Gonsolin and perhaps Josiah Gray. Gray is an under-the-radar prospect who is a Top 100 prospect and higher than you might think.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Gavin Lux
- Biggest Mover: Josiah Gray
- Emerging Prospect: Diego Cartaya
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1. Gavin Lux (SS)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 Fantasy Player
- Tools Summary: He’s ready to contribute at the Major League level. There is speed, power and the ability to hit. Translation: All-Star upside.
The Dodgers have hoarded their elite prospects over the past few years and the plan has worked out. Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger both won the Rookie of the Year, Walker Buehler came in third in the voting in 2018 and before Alex Verdugo got hurt, he was on his way to hitting .300 with 20 home runs. All four are core players for the Dodgers with multiple All-star appearances in their future.
Next in line for the Dodgers is Gavin Lux. After slashing .313/.375/.521 in 64 games in Double-A, the team had seen enough and promoted him to the PCL where he put up even crazier offensive numbers including slugging .719. He finished the year in the Major Leagues and while he only hit .240, he clearly has cemented himself as an important component of the Dodgers engine going forward.
He can hit with plus power and is an above-average runner. A .280/.360/.460 slash line in the Major Leagues with 20 plus home runs and 10-15 plus stolen bases is not out of the question. Plus, there could be more in the tank for home runs. Playing time could be a little tricky with the infield already loaded and rumors of the Dodgers’ strong interest in Anthony Rendon. However, Lux will be in the mix and fantasy owners should be the benefactors.
2. Dustin May (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
- Tools Summary: Nasty stuff and size could give him an ace ceiling.
I aggressively ranked Dustin May #27 on our Top 100 list last year and took some criticism. Who was this guy? Sure, he has 80-grade hair, but a Top 30 prospect? Well, spin forward a year and the baseball world had a chance to see what I saw in the lower-minor leagues – this kid is really, really good and yes, he does, in fact, have 80-grade hair.
He pitched extremely well in Double and Triple-A, the Dodgers promoted him to the big league where he pitched to a 3.63 ERA striking out 32 and walking four while posting a 60% ground ball rate. While they split his time between the starting rotation and bullpen, he’s a starter and should see significant time in that role in 2020.
I have put his ceiling as a number two pitcher, but with his size, arsenal including a bat-breaking sinker, he has ace potential.
3. Josiah Gray (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP with some upside
- Tools Summary: Athletic with plus stuff and plus control.
Josiah Gray was drafted in the second round by the Reds and was dealt to the Dodgers in the Yasiel Puig trade prior to the 2019 season. He’s an athletic kid with a plus fastball and rapidly improving secondary pitches. After dominating through three levels in 2019, it looks like the Dodgers got a steal when they acquired Gray.
In fact, you can argue that Gray was the best pitcher in the minor leagues in 2019. Across Low, High, and Double-A, he pitched to a 2.28 ERA striking out over 10 per nine while walking just over two per nine. In a word, he was dominant. He pounded the strike zone while showing good fastball command.
Gray should be up in 2020 to help the Dodgers and should eventually help fill-out a rotation in a few years that will have Buehler, May, Gonsolin, and oh yeah, some guy named Clayton Kershaw.
4. Tony Gonsolin (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Plus fastball with two excellent secondary pitches. His control is average-at-best and that is holding him back from being a front of the rotation pitcher.
While it was well known that I went out a big limb with Dustin May, I went out on a bigger limb (or is it a smaller limb) with Tony Gonsolin. I was very much a believer in Gonsolin and added him to most of my Dynasty Leagues in 2018. In 2019, I was rewarded. In August, he was promoted to the Major Leagues where he won four games, posted a 2.93 ERA while striking out nearly a batter an inning.
While he doesn’t have the stuff of May or even Gray, it’s still very good. In his 40 innings in the Majors, his fastball averaged 93. 58 with his slider and split getting 20%+ Whiff rates on each pitch. Plus, his fastball spin rate ranked as one of the best in the Major Leagues. Translation: big swing and miss stuff with a lot of life on his fastball.
The negative with Gonsolin and why his ceiling is that of a number three is his control is not great. In Double-A, he walked 3.5 per nine, in Triple-A, 4.5 per nine and in the Major Leagues, 3.4 per nine.
5. Kiebert Ruiz (C)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Potential plus hit tool with power. Will it be in Los Angeles?
With the impressive breakout of Will Smith in 2019, the once top-ranked catcher in the Dodgers organization, Kiebert Ruiz has been forgotten a little bit. In a couple of Dynasty Leagues, I worked some trades that included Ruiz as the “third” guy, not quite a throw-in, but pretty close to it.
It’s clear that the Dodgers need to figure out what to do with Ruiz as he might actually be redundant at this point. Smith is the better defender and the offensive improvement he accomplished is really impressive. That doesn’t mean that Ruiz isn’t a quality prospect. He is and around the industry, he’s still regarded as such. But don’t be surprised if he’s moved sometime in 2020.
Ruiz had a solid campaign across Double and Triple-A. He didn’t show much power but he walked more than he struck out and only struck out 8% of the time. It’s clearly an advanced approach and there is power still in the bat. Remember, that he’s just 21 and on the doorstep on the Major Leagues. For me, he still has the ceiling of a Top 10 fantasy catcher.
6. Diego Cartaya (C)
- Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Potential plus hit tool with power.
During my Dynasty League rookie drafts last season, while everyone was taking Marcos Luciano in the first round, I decided to draft Diego Cartaya several rounds later. BTW, I drafted Luciano in one draft and I’m very happy. But, I’m equally pleased with the value that I got with Cartaya and further pleased that I’m being rewarded with a strong 2019 season.
He started the year in the DSL, but his bat was too advanced, so the Dodgers brought him over to the states so he could play in the AZL. After a week or two of adjustment, he started stinging the ball and posted a .296/.353/.437 slash line in 36 games. Not bad for a 17-year-old.
Cartaya brings a lot of offensive and defensive skills to the table. His swing is short to the ball which should generate a lot of natural power. He has an understanding of the strike zone and with his short swing, he should be able to hit while keeping his swing-and-miss under control. Defensively, he projects to be a least an average, if not an above-average receiver, including a cannon for an arm.
While a lot of Dynasty League owners will not hold a 17-year-old catcher for the four to five years it will take before he sees the Major Leagues, I dance to a different tune. I think Cartaya has a chance to be an outstanding player and given how hard it is to find catchers with fantasy Top 10 positional upside, I’m willing to be patient.
7. Kody Hoese (3B)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Can hit with power. The knock against him is he was drafted as a 22-year-old. If he moves quickly, that will be quickly forgotten.
Kody Hoese was one of the best hitters in college in 2019. He hit 23 home runs with a .391 average and a .486 OBP in his junior year at Tulane. He hit the ground running in professional ball splitting his time between Rookie and Low-A ball. He hit .299 with a .483 SLG and five home runs. At pick 25, it seems like a steal for the Dodgers. It very well might be, but the knock against Hoese is that he turned 22 last July. That makes him younger than Gavin Lux and Dustin May and in the Top 10 of the Dodgers, Tony Gonsolin is the only player older.
While he might be an older player, he could easily start the year in High-A and finish in Double-A with a chance to see the Major Leagues in 2021. The swing looks solid for hitting for both average and power and there is enough bat speed to suggest there is 20 plus home run potential.
8. Jeter Downs (IF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS/2B/3B
- Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed skillset who should be able to hit.
There’s a reason the Dodgers went to two consecutive World Series and still have one of the best minor league systems in the game. One: they refuse to trade players who they view as stars. And, two: they have outstanding evaluators that eat up teams at the draft table and in trades. Look no further than the trade of Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood this off-season. Puig and Wood had one year remaining and the Dodgers got Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs in return. Both are young and both are really good.
Downs very much liked the California League. In 107 games he hit 19 home runs with 23 stolen bases hitting .269 with a robust .354 OBP. In August, the Dodgers had seen enough and promoted the 20-year-old to Double-A where he posted a 1.117 OPS with five home runs and a stolen base over 12 games.
While I don’t see a superstar in the Bellinger-Lux mold, I do see a full-time regular who could be a very good fantasy player. He’s going to hit as the swing works and he controls the strike zone very well. He has enough bat speed to project 15 to 20 future home run power to go along with similar speed. Conservatively, I see a 15-15 player, but would not rule out some years where he pushes 20-20.
9. Miguel Vargas (3B)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Plus hit-tool and while we haven’t seen much power, there is plenty of bat speed.
The Dodgers signed Miguel Vargas out of Cuba in 2017 and he’s done nothing but hit since starting his professional career. In 176 games (highest level is High-A), he’s hit .312 with a .385 OBP while striking out 15% of the time and walking 10% of the time. Not bad for a kid who played the entire 2019 season as a 19-year-old.
What Vargas has not shown much of yet is power. There is plenty of bat speed, and he’s 6-foot-3, but the swing plane is very flat. As he matures, the Dodgers will likely work with him to add loft to his swing, so I think eventually he’ll hit for at least average power. He did steal 13 bases last year, but I don’t see stolen bases as a key part of his profile. In the end, I see a Top 15 third baseman capable of a .280+ batting average, a .360 OBP with 15 to 20 home runs and a handful of stolen bases. I do believe there will be more power in the bat as he matures.
10. Michael Busch (2B)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 1B
- Tools Summary: Excellent approach at the plate with the ability to get on base. Good power. His defensive position is an open issue.
While he only played in 10 games in his professional debut, Michael Busch picked up where he left off in being an on-base machine in college. In his sophomore and junior year combined, he posted a .450 OBP with 26 home runs in 121 games. While he didn’t leave the yard in his 10 game debut, there is plenty of loft and bat speed.
The Dodgers drafted Busch in the supplemental first round (Pick #31) and given his advanced approach and feel to hit, he should move through the system quickly. He mostly played first and leftfield in college, but the Dodgers started him at second base in his debut. I’m not sure that will stick as given his fielding limitations, left or first is his likely landing spot. However, teams are reluctant to move young players to either of those positions as they can become the “last stand” defensively for many players.
Busch will fly under-the-radar in most Dynasty League rookie drafts but should be considered in the third or fourth round.
11. Mitch White (RHP)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP but likely a bullpen arm
- Tools Summary: Premium arsenal who can throw strikes, but injuries, particularly with his back has slowed his development.
I’ve long been a fan of Mitch White, but injuries have slowed his progression and he’s gone from a potential number two starter to something less and perhaps, even a reliever.
He has a quality arsenal with a fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH and three above-average secondary pitches that he is able to throw for strikes. His career strikeout rate is 9.5 per nine while his walk rate is 3.2 per nine. But, he’ll be 25 at the end of December and time is starting to tick.
I still believe he can be an effective Major League pitcher and it’s why he’s made our list. But I will acknowledge that the Dodgers may move him to the bullpen to get him to the Major Leagues to extract some value.
12. Andy Pages (OF)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Plus bat speed and raw power that showed up in the Pioneer League as he hit 19 home runs in 63 games.
Andy Pages isn’t your typical Cuban name, but the outfielder had a breakout season in the Pioneer League, slashing .298/.398/.651 and hitting 19 home runs. He also added seven stolen bases. The Dodgers elected to keep him Odgen all year long, partially because he was only 18-years-old, but he also struck out 28% of the time.
Pages has plus bat speed with his raw power starting to show up in games. The swing gets long and strikeouts could be part of the equation. He does show a good eye at the plate.
We are not suggesting that Pages be added to your Dynasty Team immediately, but instead, he’s an intriguing player to track as he moves through the system. He should start 2020 in Low-A and will be a young 19-year-old.
13. Jeren Kendall (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Speed and power but a 36% striking is holding him back.
Drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Dodgers had Jaren Kendall repeat High-A this season and the results were strikingly similar. There are double-plus speed, solid power and he is getting his walks. However, a 32% strikeout rate in 2018 followed by a 36% strikeout rate in 2019 will just not work.
The Dodgers have been working with his swing as it gets long and has too many holes. I’ve heard they are happy with what he is doing, but the results are not backing it up. Things will just get tougher as he moves into Double-A next season (I’m assuming that’s where he will go). However, if it’s another 30% strikeout rate, he might not move any further, particularly with the Dodgers.
I do hold out hope that the Dodgers know how to develop players and therefore, I have not given up the dream of a potential 20-20 performer on my fantasy team. But, we need to see some positive results on the swing changes that have been made.
14. Edwin Rios (1B)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Extra bat
- Tools Summary: Long-time prospect finally gets a shot in the Major Leagues and played well. Big power but it comes with big strikeouts.
Edwin Rios is probably an extra bat in the Major Leagues, but he hit 35 home runs between Triple-A and Los Angeles in 2019 and that was indeed impressive. Sure, many hitters across Triple-A hit 25+ home runs this year, but Rios has shown solid power throughout his minor league progression. He’ll work a walk but his 30%+ strikeout rate will obvious limit his upside unless he posts a .409 BABIP as he did in 28 games in the Majors.
Rios will be 26 next season and I don’t see him sticking with the Dodgers. But, I think he can play and might just find a role as a full-time regular for a second division team. If that happens, he could pop 25 plus home runs and with some luck, might post a respectable average and OBP. It’s not likely, but it’s entirely possible.
15. Hyun-Il Choi (RHP)
- Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2023+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
- Tools Summary: Throws strikes with average stuff.
With the success that the Dodgers had in acquiring Hyun-Jin Ryu in 2013, they went back to the Korean pitching well and signed Hyn-iL Choi in 2018. While Ryu was a proven pitcher in the KBO, Choi is a young 19-year-old that is trying to establish himself.
He pitched well in 14 games in the AZL pitching to a 2.63 ERA, striking out nearly 10 per nine while limiting his walks to 1.5 per nine. He doesn’t have premium stuff with his fastball sitting in the Low-90’s, but instead, his secondary pitches are getting plenty of Whiffs and he throws strikes. When you do that in the lower-minor leagues, you can have success.