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Still deep with plenty of high-end talent.
The Dodgers boast the deepest and highest-quality collection of catchers of any system in the game. Keibert Ruiz heads the group as a premier prospect, Will Smith projects as a quality future everyday catcher, 2017 draftee Connor Wong is an intriguing athlete moving quickly and Kyle Farmer is a present major league-caliber backup. The Dodgers are strong on the other side of the battery as well with a deep group of righthanders stratified throughout the farm.
The middle infield is the system's one true weak spot. While that is not a problem at shortstop with Corey Seager there for the long-term, there aren’t many inspiring options to play second base. The Dodgers will likely have to make a position change with someone already on their big league roster or engineer a trade to find their long-term second baseman.
Notable Graduations: 1B Cody Bellinger (1) hit a National League rookie record 39 home runs to win Rookie of the Year. OF Andrew Toles (6) exhausted his prospect eligibility before going down with a torn ACL in May. C Austin Barnes (10) overtook Yasmani Grandal as the Dodgers starting catcher in the postseason.
Track Record: Buehler's rise to top prospect status in 2017 was meteoric in some ways, but really was just the latest chapter in a history of excellence. The Lexington, Ky., native was considered a top two-rounds talent out of high school but fell to the 14th round due to a strong Vanderbilt commitment. In college he started the College World Series championship game as a sophomore and led the Commodores to a national title, pitched for Team USA and was co-MVP of the Cape Cod League. He pitched through elbow soreness as a junior to wrap up a decorated career, and the Dodgers drafted him 24th overall in 2015. An MRI later revealed he needed Tommy John surgery, which he had shortly after being drafted, and he missed virtually all of 2016. Buehler looked like a different pitcher in his first full season back in 2017. He returned sitting 96-99 mph, after previously living 91-96, and rocketed from high Class A Rancho Cucamonga to the majors. Scouting Report: Buehler is thin-framed, but that doesn't affect his stuff or the ability to hold it. His newly-enhanced fastball sits 97-98 mph deep into outings, reaching 100 and rarely dipping below 95. It jumps on hitters quickly out of his loose, athletic, elastic delivery, and he pounds the strike zone. The one shortcoming of his fastball is it doesn't have a ton of life, making it easier for hitters to square up when he misses his spot, a problem that was exposed during his September callup in the Dodgers bullpen. Buehler's slider and curveball are both plus pitches he locates well. His slider is a wipeout offering at 91-93 mph with tight spin and late tilt, and his north-to-south power curveball is equally dangerous at 81-84 mph. Buehler is still working on his changeup, with only about one in five he throws flashing average. He shows average to above command and control on all of his offerings. To top it off, he has a fearless mentality, exceptional makeup and a solid understanding of how to set hitters up. The Future: Buehler's slight frame gives a few evaluators pause, but most see him as an elite pitching prospect with top-of-the-rotation potential. He has yet to pitch more then 95 innings in a season and will likely start 2018 back at Triple-A Oklahoma City in an effort to increase his durability. If he can do that, Buehler has a long future in rotation ahead of him.
Track Record: Most teams liked Verdugo as a pitcher coming out of high school in 2014, but the Dodgers went against the grain and drafted him as a hitter. It proved prescient. Verdugo's bat carried him all the way to Triple-A by age 21, when he earned a September callup in 2017. Scouting Report: Verdugo possesses a keen eye that led to more walks (52) than strikeouts (50) at Triple-A Oklahoma City, and he keeps it simple when he does get a pitch to hit. He has excellent rhythm and body control and a level, line-drive swing that allows him to drive the ball all over the field. He doesn't have much lift in his swing, but evaluators see enough strength and bat-to-ball skills to project about average power to go with a .290 or better average. Verdugo has average speed and it plays up in center field with good instincts and a quick first step. His best tool is his plus-plus, accurate arm. Verdugo's skills are undeniable, but criticisms of his effort level and maturity have plagued him since his amateur days and were again prevalent in 2017. The Future: Verdugo will have a chance to win a roster spot in 2018, but he will have to improve his focus and motor to reach his above-average potential.
Track Record: The Dodgers signed Ruiz for $140,000 out of Venezuela when he turned 16, intrigued by his advanced defensive skills. They got an even better deal than they thought. Ruiz's offense has blossomed since signing. He hit .316 with an .813 OPS across both class A levels in 2017 and finished the year on Double-A Tulsa's postseason roster. Scouting Report: Ruiz is a special switch-hitter with "a chance to be a star" in the words of one evaluator. He possesses superb timing, bat speed and ability to manipulate the barrel, and he began to learn to elevate for home runs toward the end of 2017. He makes solid contact from both sides but is much stronger lefthanded. Behind the plate, Ruiz has good timing blocking balls and handles both good velocity and breaking stuff, but he loses focus at times and lets pitches get away from him. He has average arm strength but an uncoordinated exchange and inconsistent footwork cause him below-average pop times on throws down to second base. The Future: Ruiz will head to Double-A Tulsa as a 19-year-old in 2018. He has to shore up his throwing and become a more consistent receiver, and if he does, he has a chance to be an extraordinarily valuable switch-hitting, middle-of-the-order catcher.
Track Record: White had Tommy John surgery in high school and took time to round into form in college. That finally happened his redshirt sophomore year, when his velocity spiked in Santa Clara's rotation and he flew up draft boards into the second round, where the Dodgers took him 65th overall. White's rapid ascent has extended to pro ball, where he overcame a broken toe that cost him six weeks to reach Double-A Tulsa in 2017. Scouting Report: No pitcher in the organization is harder to square up than White. His fastball sits 94-97 mph at its best, and that premium velocity is enhanced with late run and sink. His heater plays up even more with how he mixes it with his plus slider. He manipulates the break and depth of the pitch and uses it to steal a strike before coming back with a nasty fastball that moves in the opposite direction. When he wants to go north-south he'll unleash an above-average curveball. His changeup is developing. White is a good athlete with a fluid delivery, but he loses his release point and direction in spurts, leading to bouts of wildness. The Future: White has all the components to be a No. 2 or 3-caliber starter. Improved control and health will be his biggest goals in 2018.
Track Record: Alvarez had a big arm as a teenager in Cuba but failed to make the country's 18U national team because he was so wild. He popped up in the Dominican Republic throwing even harder, and the Dodgers signed him for an industry-stunning $16 million. After showing promise in his 2016 U.S. debut, his longstanding control problems resurfaced in 2017. Scouting Report: Alvarez is built like a scout's dream with a six-pack core, long limbs and comically easy velocity. He sits 95-99 mph as a starter with shockingly little effort, and his 86-88 mph slider shows plus movement and depth. The problem is both his fastball and slider play down to due to poor control and command. Lots of contact is made on Alvarez's fastball despite its velocity because he can't spot it, and he rarely lands his slider in the zone. He also lacks a third pitch with zero feel for an 87-90 mph changeup. The result was a 5.31 ERA at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga and 6.8 walks per nine innings at Double-A Tulsa. The Future: Alvarez draws frequent comparisons with Neftali Feliz as someone too limited to be a starter but electric enough to possibly be a first-division closer.
Track Record: Unlike fellow countryman and 2015 signing classmate Yadier Alvarez, Diaz experienced great success in Cuba's junior leagues and major league before leaving the island. The Dodgers signed Diaz for $15.5 million after the 2015 season and moved him aggressively, starting him at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga immediately and pushing him to Double-A Tulsa at age 21 in 2017. Scouting Report: Diaz is an alluring package of strength, tools and athleticism, and he began to translate his raw gifts into consistent skills in 2017. After toning down his pre-pitch movement and adjusting his hand position early in the year, Diaz's bat was much more explosive and on time through the zone, showing above-average to plus contact ability and big exit velocities. He tends to drive the ball on a line rather than in the air, limiting his power production. Diaz expands the zone at times but is improving. He is an average runner but above-average underway. He is capable of playing center field but his range and instincts are more suited to right, where his plus arm plays.
Track Record: Kendall grew up in Wisconsin playing hockey and baseball and was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school. He instead went to Vanderbilt where he started as a freshman on the 2015 national runner-up and blossomed into a top draft prospect. Kendall had top-10 helium entering his junior year, but a 25 percent strikeout rate dropped him to the Dodgers at 23rd overall, and he signed for an above-slot $2,897,500. Scouting Report: Kendall is capable of a highlight-reel play at any moment. He'll run down balls to the deepest parts of center field with his plus-plus speed, make leaping catches at the wall, throw out a runner on a line to or swipe a crucial bag. He shows a plus arm and is becoming a more efficient basestealer. The question is how much he'll hit. Opponents exploited the holes in his swing throughout college and at low Class A Great Lakes, deflating his average and nullifying his plus raw power. The Dodgers reworked his setup and swing in instructional league to incorporate a more pronounced leg kick and believe he can be an average hitter in time. The Future: Kendall has all the tools to be an everyday player but has to prove he can hit. He'll try to do that at the Class A levels in 2018.
Track Record: Peters grew up in Glendora, Calif., 30 miles east of Dodger Stadium, and joined his hometown team when the Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round out of Western Nevada JC in 2016. He signed for $247,500 and went on an immediate tear, winning MVP of the high Class A California League in 2017 after finishing third in home runs (27), second in walks (64) and first in slugging (.514)--but he also ranked second in strikeouts (189). Scouting Report: Peters is a tantalizing mix of size, power and athleticism. He is a muscular 6-foot-6 and a tick above-average runner capable of playing center field. He carries his explosiveness into the batter's box. Peters' strength and long levers create tremendous impact, and he crushes anything left out over the plate with present plus power to all fields. He identifies pitches well and rarely chases, but he swings and misses through above-average velocity on the inner half at an alarming rate. Peters projects as a right fielder, where his plus arm fits. The Future: Peters' ability to reach his middle-of-the-order upside depends on whether he closes the holes in his swing. He will try with Double-A Tulsa in 2018.
Track Record: Smith caught scouts' attention as the catcher on Louisville teams loaded with pitching prospects, and the Dodgers drafted him 32nd overall in 2016 and signed him for $1,772,500. The best defensive catcher in the high Class A California League in 2017, he earned a bump to Double-A Tulsa, where a hit by pitch broke a bone in his right hand and ended his season. Scouting Report: Smith was a high school shortstop who converted to catcher in college. He is an above-average runner with quick footwork and excellent flexibility and reflexes. He is an above-average receiver with soft hands that allows him to handle 100 mph arms, and he consistently posts pop times of sub-1.95 seconds on throws to second base because of a lightning-quick transfer. He further draws high praise for his leadership behind the plate. Offensively Smith has excellent strike-zone discipline and showed sneaky power after making swing changes at the Dodgers request, but his contact rate dropped as a result. He faces questions about his hitting ability but answered them somewhat by batting .371 in the Arizona Fall League. The Future: The quality of Smith's defense can get him to the majors as a backup. Improved contact skills will make him an everyday option.
Track Record: The Dodgers signed Santana for $170,000 as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but they moved him to the mound after he hit .198 in the Dominican Summer League. Santana took time learning how to pitch but blossomed the last two seasons, earning all-star honors in both the Midwest and California leagues and reaching Double-A Tulsa by age 21. Scouting Report: Santana found his niche as a sinkerballer and has developed the pitch into a borderline plus-plus offering. He sits 94-95 mph and reaches 97 as a starter, frequently busting his catcher's thumbs with his life on the pitch. His late life often fools minor league umpires, too. Santana is still learning to harness the movement on his fastball, leading to an elevated walk rate. His slider is above-average but wasn't effective against lefthanders, so the improvement of his changeup in 2017 was critical. By the end of the year it was flashing average with increased consistency. The Future: Santana has the loose arm and athleticism of a starter, but his three-quarters arm slot and cross-body delivery more resemble a reliever. His improved changeup gives him a better chance to start.
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