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2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update

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The Dodgers’ organizational depth was the envy of every team entering this season. They have needed every bit of it.

The Dodgers’ vaunted rotation is down three starters after RHP Dustin May needed Tommy John surgery, LHP Clayton Kershaw went on the injured list with forearm inflammation and RHP Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave following allegations of sexual assault. SS Corey Seager has been on the injured list since mid May after he was hit by a pitch that broke his hand and OFs Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts have both spent time on the injured list and performed below their usual standards.

Despite it all, the Dodgers have remained among MLB’s best teams and had the best run differential in the majors at the all-star break. At the same time, they clearly need help as the trade deadline approaches.

The Dodgers still have one of baseball’s best and deepest farm systems and can execute almost any trade they wish. They are particularly deep in catchers, righthanded pitchers and athletic outfielders. With an impressive core of talent still on the major league roster, the Dodgers are one of the few teams who can afford to trade top prospects and not have it negatively affect their future outlook.

While president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his front office have shown a willingness to make trades at the deadline, they’ve rarely parted with top-tier prospects. Those decisions proved prescient in the past, but the Dodgers may be hard-pressed to acquire the pitching they need this year without giving up at least one of their premium prospects.

Further clarity on Kershaw’s health and Bauer’s investigation will let the Dodgers know exactly how much pitching they need. But in order to successfully defend their World Series title, they’re likely going to have to make additions.

Top 10 Prospects

1. Bobby Miller, RHP
Age: 22. Team: High-A Great Lakes.

Miller has overwhelmed hitters in his pro debut with a vicious arsenal that includes a 96-98 mph four-seam fastball, a 93-95 mph two-seamer with sink and tail, a swing-and-miss power slider he lands for strikes, a mid-80s changeup with fade and sink and a downer curveball in the upper 70s. He’s tied it all together with above-average control to earn projections as a potential front-of-the-rotation starter. Miller’s next step is to prove he can hold his stuff over longer outings. He has completed five innings only once this season because the Dodgers have been extremely cautious with pitcher workloads throughout the organization.

2. Diego Cartaya, C
Age: 19. Team: Low-A Rancho Cucamonga

Cartaya reworked his swing path in extended spring training and has been one of the Low-A West’s most impactful hitters since arriving at Rancho Cucamonga in late May. He has shown excellent pitch recognition and strike-zone discipline, a controlled swing that stays in the zone for a long time and plus power that plays from left-center to right-center. He plays a mature game on both sides of the ball and has shown all the ingredients to be a plus defender, although his receiving is better at the bottom of the zone than at the top of it. He has been on the temporary inactive list since July 17 due to a passport issue, but the Dodgers expect it to be resolved shortly.

3. Michael Busch, 2B
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Tulsa

Busch got off to a solid start at Double-A before getting hit by a pitch on the right hand on May 28. He sat out for just over a week and has hit just .226 since he’s returned. When right, Busch showed elite strike-zone discipline, the ability to turn around mid-90s velocity and plus power from left-center to right-center. He swung and missed more than expected, especially against breaking pitches, but the Dodgers believe it’s a fixable problem that was the result of his stride getting too long and his swing path getting too uphill. His defense remains fringy but playable at second base.

4. Ryan Pepiot, RHP
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Tulsa

Pepiot has dominated at Double-A with a 2.87 ERA through his first 15 appearances. His fastball is sitting 94-96 mph with tail and sink and his plus-plus changeup remains a devastating pitch with late action in the strike zone. He also improved the consistency of his slider to make it an above-average offering at 87-88 mph he can land for strikes or use to get chases. Pepiot’s biggest developmental focus remains harnessing his delivery. He is still prone to rushing through it or drifting out of it, resulting in bouts of below-average control.

5. Miguel Vargas, 3B
Age: 21. Team: Double-A Tulsa

Vargas has long had elite bat-to-ball skills and a natural ability to drive the ball the other way. He got stronger and began turning on pitches more this year, unleashing previously unseen pull-side power that surprised even Dodgers officials. He rose quickly from High-A Great Lakes to Double-A Tulsa and has gotten to his power against both good velocity and secondary stuff without sacrificing his ability to hit for average. Vargas has long been a fringy defender who lacks range at third base, but he’s gotten more consistent at making the routine plays to become a viable option.

6. Andy Pages, OF
Age: 20. Team: High-A Great Lakes

Pages is destroying fastballs but has struggled to recognize spin and been plagued by inconsistency in his first run through full-season ball. He shows flashes of the potential to be a power-hitting, everyday corner outfielder, but his breaking ball recognition and day-to-day focus and performance have a long way to go. Pages has slowed down as he’s filled out and is now a below-average runner underway. He is extremely inconsistent on the basepaths and has run into too many outs because of poor decision-making.

7. Andre Jackson, RHP
Age: 25. Team: Double-A Tulsa

Jackson got a late start to the year and is still building up his arm strength. His fastball has ranged from 89-94 mph compared to 93-98 mph in previous years, but his control has improved at the lower velocity. He has also begun showing a plus changeup that gets swings and misses in the strike zone and a short slider that gets chase swings. He is still learning the best usage patterns for his arsenal, but his general feel for pitching and sequencing have improved. The Dodgers expect his previous velocity to return once he gets fully built up.

8. Luis Rodriguez, OF
Age: 18. Team: Rookie-level Arizona Complex League

Rodriguez made swing adjustments to be more direct to the ball and has been one of the top offensive performers at the Dodgers’ complex since the second half of extended spring training. His bat speed remains impressive and now that he’s shortened his swing path, he’s getting to upper-90s velocity and turning it around for long home runs. Rodriguez has bounced between center and right field and shown flashes of being an average defender at both spots. The Dodgers plan to work on his speed and agility in the hope he can stay in center field.

9. Landon Knack, RHP
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Tulsa

NEW Knack missed the first month of the season with a hamstring strain but has dominated since arriving at Great Lakes in early June. He remains an elite strike-thrower and has maintained the velocity uptick he showed his senior year at East Tennessee State, sitting 93-96 mph with downhill plane on his fastball. His mid-80s slider and changeup have each flashed plus, and his 12-to-6 curveball is another potentially above-average pitch. Knack’s workload has been limited like most Dodgers pitchers, but his well-rounded arsenal, pinpoint control and aggressive mentality are earning him mid-rotation starter projections.

10. Wilman Diaz, SS
Age: 17. Team: DSL

Diaz was arguably the top prospect from Venezuela in the 2020-21 international signing class signed with the Dodgers for $2,697,500 when the signing period opened on Jan. 15. A long, lean athlete with good bat speed and plate discipline, Diaz has a chance to be a power-hitting shortstop but is many years and developmental steps from reaching that ceiling.

Prospects 11-30

11. Kody Hoese, 3B

12. Maddux Bruns, LHP

NEW Bruns flashed huge stuff from the left side in high school but rarely knew where it was going. The Dodgers decided to take a chance on his arm strength and drafted him 29th overall. Bruns pitches in the low 90s with his fastball and can reach 97-98 mph. His 12-to-6 curveball has tremendous depth, his low-80s slider has late bite and his low-80s changeup flashes plus. While Bruns’ stuff is loud, he often struggles to get the ball near the strike zone, let alone in it. The Dodgers will try to improve his control, but it won’t be a quick fix.

13. Leonel Valera, SS

NEW Valera got significantly stronger during the coronavirus shutdown and now shows plus raw power that plays to all fields, particularly right-center. He has the hands, bat speed and strength to be an impact hitter, but he’s prone to chasing pitches out of the zone and will need to improve his plate discipline. Valera remains an above-average to plus defender at shortstop with a plus arm even with the added bulk, and has the athleticism to play multiple positions.

14. Mitch White, RHP

15. Luke Raley, OF

16. Clayton Beeter, RHP

17. Carlos Duran, RHP

NEW Duran has emerged as the most promising pitcher on a prospect-laden Rancho Cucamonga staff. His fastball velocity has jumped to 96-97 mph with plus sink and run and his slider has been a devastating pitch against righthanded hitters. Duran struggles against lefties and has trouble maintaining his intensity, but his pure arm strength gives him a chance to be a hard-throwing middle reliever.

18. Edwin Uceta, RHP

19. Jacob Amaya, SS

20. Carson Taylor, C

NEW Taylor missed two weeks with a groin tweak but has impressed when healthy. He improved his receiving and pitch-framing and has capably handled a high-octane pitching staff at High-A Great Lakes. His blocking, throwing and game-calling remain works in progress but are moving in the right direction. The switch-hitter made some positive adjustments to his lefthanded swing and has been red-hot offensively after a slow start. He has more walks than strikeouts and is consistently conducting patient, high-quality at-bats.

21. Kendall Williams, RHP

22. Robinson Ortiz, LHP

23. Zach Reks, OF

24. Nick Robertson, RHP

NEW Robertson jumped to Double-A and has impressed as Tulsa’s closer. He floods the strike zone with mid-90s fastballs, has a slider that handles righties and a changeup that handles lefties. His stuff and aggressive mentality are befitting of a high-leverage reliever, and he’s not far off from his major league debut.

25. Brandon Lewis, 3B

NEW The enormously strong Lewis showed his plus-plus power in spurts at Low-A Rancho Cucamonga before receiving a promotion to High-A Great Lakes in late June. He has holes in his swing that need to be closed and he doesn’t move well enough to stay at third base long term, but he’s getting to his power enough to do damage.

26. Hyun-il Choi, RHP

NEW Choi has shown elite control and pitchability at Low-A Rancho Cucamonga and enough stuff to project as a future major leaguer. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 94 mph and his changeup has been a consistently average pitch. His slider is inconsistent, but at its best it’s another potentially average offering. Choi is still maturing and learning to hold his velocity, but he’s shown enough to be a potential swingman.

27. Eddys Leonard, SS

NEW Leonard emerged as one of the Dodgers’ better low-level prospects this year with a well-balanced offensive profile and the ability to play the middle infield. He has a chance to hit for average and power and remain in the middle of the diamond.

28. Ryan Ward, OF

NEW An eighth-round pick in 2019, Ward made swing changes to tap into more power this year and has shown the ability to drive the ball out to all fields at High-A Great Lakes. He has consistently made hard contact and played a serviceable corner outfield.

29. Jose Ramos, OF

NEW Ramos stood out quickly in extended spring training for his power and ability to crush a fastball. He still has trouble recognizing and adjusting to spin, but his power and solid athleticism bode well for his future.

30. Jorbit Vivas, 2B

NEW Vivas has an advanced feel to hit for his age and consistently produces at every level. He controls the strike zone and has the ability to manipulate the barrel to all parts of the zone and hit just about anything. He has a solid foundation for making contact and is beginning to grow into power.

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RISING

SS Eddys Leonard has hit for both power and average while leading Low-A Rancho Cucamonga in nearly every offensive category. His electric hands and balanced swing provide optimism that his offensive performance is sustainable and will give him enough thump to profile even with a likely move to second base.

OF Ryan Ward worked with hitting coordinator Chris Antariksa to get rid of the bat wrap in his swing during the coronavirus shutdown and has unfurled a shorter, more impactful lefthanded swing at High-A Great Lakes. He’s conducted high-quality at-bats, showed surprising power and consistently been one of the league’s best hitters, drawing comparisons to previous Dodgers’ late-round draft successes like Zach McKinstry and Zach Reks.

OF Jose Ramos hit close to 10 home runs in extended spring training and was hitting 400-plus foot blasts early in Rookie-level Arizona Complex League play before receiving a promotion to Low-A Rancho Cucamonga. He’s shown the ability to turn around any fastball, play an above-average center field and has a plus-plus cannon for an arm.

FALLING

3B Kody Hoese hit .178/.244/.220 at Double-A Tulsa before going on the injured list with an intercostal strain in mid June. He showed concerningly slow bat speed and struggled to make any kind of impactful contact against upper-level pitching. The Dodgers attribute his struggles to his injury and fixable mechanical flaws in his swing, but opposing scouts are more skeptical.

SS Jacob Amaya began chasing power and lost the elite strike-zone discipline that was his best offensive trait. He has hit around .200 for most of the season at Double-A Tulsa.

SS Alex De Jesus fell into bad swing habits during the offseason and has been overmatched in the Low-A West. His load, trigger and swing path all need to be reworked, and his overly aggressive approach and troubles recognizing spin are further concerns.

RHP Jimmy Lewis has seen his stuff and arm speed regress to the point evaluators no longer consider him a prospect. His fastball sits in the upper 80s, his once-signature curveball has disappeared and he labors through short outings due to a lack of strength.

GRADUATED

3B/1B Edwin Rios got into 25 games with the Dodgers before having season-ending surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder.

UTIL Zach McKinstry has been the Dodgers’ primary utilityman this season and has started at four different positions.

LHP Victor Gonzalez has carried on his success after winning the clinching Game 6 of the World Series last year. He had a 3.38 ERA in 38 appearances out of the bullpen.

HURTING

SS Leonel Valera was placed on the injured list as a precaution after he was hit in the head by a pitch and began exhibiting concussion symptoms. Early reports were encouraging and the Dodgers don’t expect him to miss a significant amount of time.

LHP Robinson Ortiz went on the injured list with forearm discomfort in late May and is rehabbing in Arizona. The Dodgers are taking his rehab slowly and don’t have a set timetable for his return.

OF Jake Vogel missed a month with an ankle injury but returned to Low-A Rancho Cucamonga at the end of June.

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