Dodgers' Leonel Valera Begins To Realize Power-Speed Potential
High-A Great Lakes doesn't offer the most favorable hitting environment, but still the Loons hit a league-leading 187 home runs in 120 games with six players hitting at least a dozen.
Venezuelan shortstop Leonel Valera was one of those six, hitting 16 homers in 95 games after hitting a total of just seven in his first four professional seasons.
"He's a (player development) favorite because he's about as tooled-up as they come," Dodgers farm director Will Rhymes said of Valera during the season. "Incredibly gifted, kind of an A-Rod type body. Speed-power combo.
"I've been a big fan of his for awhile. His upside is massive and he's starting to put it together."
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Valera turned 22 during the season. He shared a lineup with some of the Dodgers' top hitting prospects, including Andy Pages and Miguel Vargas, before he moved to Double-A.
"I think being there with Andy Pages and Vargie early in the year was really positive (for Valera)," Rhymes said. "Having that group together there, there was a lot of really good hitting conversations. Really advanced approaches. Vargas and the three of them really fed off each other.
"It's an incredibly tough hitting environment, and even this year with the delayed start, the first couple series were really cold. Really the whole team got off to a tough start. All the numbers they put up, which are impressive, are with the first two or three series being pretty poor."
Valera's offense actually tapered off as the weather warmed up. He hit just three home runs after July, while hitting .162, to drag his season line down to .224/.305/.436 and inflating his strikeout total for the year to 148.
But the power-speed potential—which included 16 stolen bases—that led the Dodgers to sign a 16-year-old Valera is starting to show on the field.
"It's interesting to think where he would go in the draft if he were coming out now," Rhymes said. "The performance is kind of starting to line up with the potential."
— Top pitching prospect Ryan Pepiot has switched representation to the Boras Corp., the agency announced. The 24-year-old is on track to make his MLB debut in 2022, with the Dodgers' rotation depth depleted by free agency and the on-going investigation into sexual assault allegations against Trevor Bauer. Pepiot recorded a 4.62 ERA over 101.1 innings combined between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
— The Dodgers selected three players in the minor-league Rule 5 draft, including two with MLB experience. The trio selected were righthanders Carson Fulmer and Jon Duplantier and catcher Kekai Rios. Fulmer was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 draft but has a 6.41 ERA over 74 MLB games with four different teams. Duplantier was a third-round pick of the D-backs in 2016 and made 19 MLB appearances with them. Rios, 24, has played just six games above the Class-A level.