MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Los Angeles Dodgers

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers. 

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our 14th farm system overview will be of the Los Angeles Dodgers. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: RHP Dustin May

may
Photo Cred: Los Angeles Times

Age: 22

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 180 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Round- 2016

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 65 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 57.5

Overall Grade: 58.5

For a team to continue to have an elite farm system while constantly being a World Series contender, they need to find steals in the draft. That’s what the Dodgers have done on a consistent basis, and the best example is the 2016 MLB draft. We’ll get to who they selected in the first round, but in the third round, they may have gotten the steal of the entire draft- Dustin May. The 22-year-old has dominated at every level of professional ball since being drafted, and it’s easy to see why. His fastball can reach 98 MPH, he has an excellent vertical slider, and with both of those pitches, his spin rates are elite, per Fangraphs. Plus, his command is well above-average, as his 1.3 BB/9 in 34.2 MLB innings was incredible, and that number should stay in the twos moving forward. It came mostly out of the bullpen, but May’s 3.70 xFIP in that MLB action was impressive; ZiPS has him projected to post a 4.18 FIP and 2.0 WAR this season in 141.2 innings, which may be his floor. The Dodgers have such a stacked rotation, that May could be used as both a starter and reliever to monitor his workload, but nevertheless, in a year or two, he’ll be at the front of the Dodgers rotation along with Walker Buehler- May is a special talent.

#2: 2B/SS Gavin Lux

lux
Photo Cred: Bleacher Report

Age: 22

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 190 lbs

Drafted: 20th Overall- 2016

Hit: 60 Power: 57.5 Field: 52.5 Arm: 50 Speed: 57.5 

Overall Grade: 56.375

Drafted in the first round in that incredible 2016 draft, Gavin Lux was who the Orioles wanted in a Manny Machado trade in 2018, but the Dodgers chose to hold on to him and instead trade Yusniel Diaz. Well, that decision has worked out well for them, to say the least. Lux is a consensus top-five prospect among all media outlets, and although I’m slightly lower on him since I don’t love his upside, he’s still a magnificent player. He simply has torched minor-league pitching, and did so with excellent plate discipline, which figures to translate well to the MLB. His pure hitting ability and on-base skills are impressive, but it’s also his power that stands out, as he should be a 30-35 home run slugger from the left side- he’s a complete offensive player. Even defensively, I don’t think he’ll be a shortstop, but at second base, he has all the tools to be an above-average defender there. Lux isn’t a blue-chip in my eyes, as he doesn’t have any tool that rates above a 60-grade. Nevertheless, he should be a consistent All-Star, and as ZiPS illustrates that with a 2.8 WAR projection in his rookie season. I’ve never seen such an overwhelming favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and in a way, he could be the X-Factor of a Dodgers team that on paper is the obvious World Series favorite.

#3: RHP Brusdar Graterol

graterol
Photo Cred: Star Tribune

Age: 21

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 265 lbs

Signed: August 29, 2014

Fastball: 70 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 45 Command: 47.5

Overall Grade: 54.75

When the Dodgers first reportingly acquired Mookie Betts, it was supposed to be in a three-way trade with the Red Sox and Twins, in which Kenta Maeda would go to Minnesota, who would send Brusdar Graterol to Boston. However, the Red Sox were fazed by Graterol’s medicals, so instead, Los Angeles traded them infield prospect Jeter Downs and instead got Graterol. As with all Dodger moves, getting Graterol should pay-off in a huge way. If you haven’t seen Graterol pitch, I’d recommend looking him up on Youtube; his fastball reaches 100 MPH and simply has deadly movement, and he pairs it tremendously with a power slider and a decent curveball. Therefore, he should miss plenty of bats, and as evidenced by his time in the minors, also should induce a lot of ground balls- a great combination. Now, Graterol doesn’t have a great changeup, and his high-effort delivery is a concern (hence, the medicals), so he’s probably more of a 100 inning pitcher than a 200 inning pitcher. Yet, Maeda was only asked to pitched 130-140 innings during his time with the Dodgers, as he was used in the bullpen and rotation, so Graterol could essentially take up that place. In fact, they were in need of a dominant multi-inning reliever hybrid type, and it’s likely he can take on that role for them this season. So not only did the Dodgers acquire another high-ceiling pitcher, but they also added yet another piece to their 2020 team; you don’t dominate the National League by accident, after all.

#4: RHP Josiah Gray

Josiah gra
Photo Cred: Dodger Blue

 

Age: 22

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 190 lbs

Drafted: CBB (72nd Overall)- CIN 2018

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 52.5 

Overall Grade: 54.5

Speaking of pitchers acquired in recent trades, the Dodgers, in need of dumping salary, shipped Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp’s large contract to the Reds, in exchange for Homer Bailey (released), Jeter Downs, and Josiah Gray. Downs, as mentioned, was used to get Graterol in the Betts trade, and now, Gray is a top-100 prospect. It was surprising to see the Reds part with the 22-year-old, especially after he started out strong in his first action in the minors. However, even then, he wasn’t a super highly regarded prospect, but now? That’s no longer the case. With elite strikeout and walk rates, Gray blew away opposing hitters in the minors. To post those type of numbers, he relies on a fastball that misses a lot of bats and a power slider, while his curveball and changeup should at least be average. Simply put, he has no clear weakness, as his command gives him an extremely high floor. Since May, Lux, and Graterol will all graduate from this farm system, Gray will soon be their top prospect, and I could see him rising through the system quickly before settling as a high-end #3 starter. In other words, the Dodgers will continue to have the best pitching staff in baseball, which they rightfully deserve given all the brilliant moves they’ve made.

#5: C Keibert Ruiz

keibertruiz
Photo Cred: Prospects1500

Age: 21

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 200 lbs

Signed: July 20, 2014

Hit: 57.5 Power: 47.5 Field: 57.5 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 35

Overall Grade: 53.55

Will Smith has solidified himself as the Dodgers’ franchise catcher, but should something go dramatically wrong, they have another young catcher trending through the pipeline. Keibert Ruiz has never dominated in the minor leagues, and is a very unique prospect, but he’s still one of the top catching prospects in the league. He doesn’t walk much, but he also never strikes out and should post adequate on-base percentages, though is funky swing remains an issue. However, since his power will be average at best, his offensive upside isn’t great- he’s essentially relying on his pure contact skills. Luckily for Ruiz, he’s a plus defender in terms of his framing, athleticism, and arm strength, so even if he’s just an average hitter, which is unlikely, he’ll be a starting-caliber catcher. Therefore, although Ruiz hasn’t taken off like many expected him to, he’s still an excellent catching prospect who is near MLB-ready, and though he wasn’t included in the Betts trade, it’s not inconceivable he’s some other team’s starting catcher next season.

#6: RHP Tony Gonsloin

gonsolin
Photo Cred: Dodger Blue

Age: 25

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 205 lbs

Drafted: 9th Round- 2016

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 65 Command: 47.5

Grade: 53.5

Did you think that May and Lux was “all” the Dodgers got in that incredible 2016 draft haul? Well, you’d be mistaken; somehow, they were able to snag Tony Gonsolin in the 9th round. The 25-year-old didn’t actually become a starting pitcher until 2018, but since then, his stock has soared, even after a mediocre 2019 campaign between Triple-A and the MLB. When looking at Gonsolin’s pitching arsenal, he’s displayed a good feel for a breaking ball, and also throws his fastball in the high 90s. Yet, it’s his splitter that is his true out pitch, as it’s fade is tremendous, and sparks trouble for hitters on both sides of the ball. Now, his command isn’t consistent, and he’s already 25-years-old, but Gonsolin fits the mold as a typical Dodgers starter/reliever hybrid, which is the role he’ll likely have this season. With his strikeout ability, if he can just get his walk rate in the 3.00s, which I believe he can, he’ll be very successful in that role. He’s another player that you look at and wonder: “How did the Dodgers manage to hold onto this prospect too?”

#7: 3B Alex De Jesus

alexdejesus
Photo Cred: Dodgers Digest

Age: 17

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 170 lbs

Signed: July 2nd, 2018

Hit: 50 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 60 Speed: 60

Overall Grade: 53

For the most part, outside of May being ranked ahead of Lux, my ranking has been pretty consistent with media outlets. However, at the moment, I believe that the most underrated prospect in their farm system is infielder Alex De Jesus, who could soar up prospect rankings in short time. The 17-year-old doesn’t have one weakness, and even better, has some clear strengths. One of it is his above-average power, which should only translate better as he matures into his frame, and even if said maturity means he has to move off of shortstop, he has the arm strength to play third base. It’s not uncommon for a 17-year-old to not be ranked high enough on prospect ranking lists, but De Jesus wasn’t even the headliner of the Dodgers’ 2018 international signing class, and at some point, he deserves more recognition. Hopefully, he’ll get more with a strong showing in Rookie Ball this upcoming season.

#8: 2B/1B Michael Busch

busch
Photo Cred: Bleacher Report

Age: 22

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 207 lbs

Drafted: 31st Overall- 2019

Hit: 55 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 45 Speed: 47.5

Overall Grade: 52.625

Something the Dodgers do really well is acquiring and developing players that fit their mold, which they’ve displayed on the pitching side with May, Graterol, and Gonsloin. However, that also applies on the position player side; they value versatility, and Max Muncy’s ability to play second base and first base has been a big boon for them. So, what did they do in the 2019 MLB draft? They selected a player with the exact same skillset as Muncy. Coming out of the University of North Carolina, Michael Busch was one of the most polished hitters in this past year’s draft class. His approach is tremendous, as he draws a lot of walks, and complements it with pure hitting ability. Additionally, he could even have 60-grade power in the future, so he doesn’t have any offensive weakness- he’ll be a star at the plate. Heck, even if Busch isn’t a great athlete, he’s shown the capability to play a decent first base, and as Muncy showed, the transition to second base usually isn’t a difficult one. He’d be the top prospect in many systems, but for the Dodgers? He barely cracks the top ten, but nevertheless, he figures to be one of the main steals of the 2019 MLB draft. And to think, he wasn’t even drafted with their original first-round pick- president of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman continues to play his cards perfectly in the draft.

#9: C Diego Cartaya

cartaya
Photo Cred: Dodger Insider

Age: 18

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 199 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2018

Hit: 52.5 Power: 47.5 Field: 55 Arm: 60 Speed: 37.5

Overall Grade: 52.55

Not only do the Dodgers draft tremendously, but they also are one of the most active players in the international free-agent market. DeJesus may be my personal favorite prospect in the 2018 class, but not far behind is catcher Diego Cartaya, whom MLB Pipeline ranked as the top international prospect that year. It’s rare for a catcher who is just 18-years-old to be so advanced defensively, but he’s already an excellent framer, and pairs that receiving ability with a cannon for an arm. Meanwhile, his offense figures to develop nicely, as he employs a smooth, line-drive swing, with a sound approach and the potential to grow into more power over time. It’s impossible not to love Cartaya’s makeup, as he has everyday catcher written all over him- he’s a rare high-floor international prospect. It’s amazing to think he ranks as the Dodgers’ third-best young catcher at the moment, especially when more than half the league would kill to have a young catcher with anywhere near the level of Cartaya’s talent.

#10: 3B Kody Hoese

Hoese
Photo Cred: Dodgers Nation

Age: 22

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 200 lbs

Drafted: 25th Overall- 2019

Hit: 52.5 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 42.5

Overall Grade: 52.425

The Dodgers were expected to take a shot on one of the top high-school prospects in the 2019 draft, as they had a very high bonus pool with two first-round picks. Yet, as smart teams do, they let the draft play out, and opted to take the best player available. With the 25th overall pick, they believed it was Tulane’s Kody Hoese, who was someone I really liked in a hitter-heavy draft class. His swing is very balanced and smooth, and with a great approach and plenty of power, he figures to be a consistent offensive producer at the next level. Sure, he’ll never be a highlight-reel defender at third base, but he’ll get the job done, and when you combine that with his offense, he’ll be a stable 3-4 WAR third baseman in the MLB. In fact, he has a very similar profile to Justin Turner, who is in the last year of his contract with the team; Hoese could take over as the team’s starting third baseman by next season, and definitely will be ready by 2022. It just proves how deep the Dodgers farm system is that he barely cracks their top ten.

Best of the Rest

  • Jeren Kendall hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing, but he’s a potential gold glove defender in center field with solid walk rates and power, though striking out less will be the key for him.
  • DJ Peters also has strikeout issues, but he’s got a cannon for an arm, and profiles as a capable outfield defender, while he draws a lot of walks and has plenty of raw power.
  • Dennis Santana has been plagued by inconsistent fastball liveliness and command, but he fits the mold as a starter/reliever hybrid for the Dodgers.
  • Andy Pages was nearly traded to the Angels along with Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling, but the trade fell through, and his advanced approach and power give him a high ceiling- the Dodgers may have caught a major break by not trading him.
  • Luis Rodriguez was the top Venezuelan prospect in the 2019 international signing class, and although he has limited upside, should be a solid hitter with a very clean swing.
  • Jacob Amaya is a strong hitter with plus defense at shortstop, but he simply hits for zero power whatsoever, which limits his ceiling.
  • Omar Estevez is a decent hitter, but considering his defense at second base and athleticism are below average, that’s not enough for me to project him as anything more than a passable bench player.

Farm System Overview

Simply put, the Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches with their farm system, and it starts at the top with May and Lux. Both of them will compete with one another for the Rookie of the Year this season, along with Graterol, but don’t ignore the depth of this farm system; the prospects ranked #4-#10 would be the top prospect for several farm systems. Andrew Friedman has done a magnificent job finding steals in the draft, on the international market, and even through trades, and because of that, the Dodgers appear positioned to run the National League for years to come. Regardless of if they win the World Series this season, with so much young talent in the farm system AND in the majors, it’s impossible to see their window closing anytime soon.

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