For the second year in a row, shortstop Corey Seager is rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Dodgers system, in rankings announced on Monday morning.
Seager, who turns 22 in April, had a remarkable debut for the Dodgers in September, hitting .337/.425/.561 with four home runs, eight doubles and 14 walks in 27 games. But because he didn't amass 130 at-bats — Seager had 98 at-bats and 113 plate appearances in his first major league stint — Seager retains his rookie status heading into 2016, making him one of the favorites to win 2016 National League Rookie of the Year.
That also means Seager remains a prospect, and thus can still be ranked by Baseball America and others. Seager was the Dodgers' top prospect by BA in 2015 as well, and was No. 2 in 2014 behind Joc Pederson.
Seager leads a deep Dodgers' top 10 list, with several major-league-ready players primed to make an impact one way or another next year. Seager, Jose Peraza and Austin Barnes have all played in the majors already, while Julio Urias, Jose De Leon and Jharel Cotton all figure to be in the starting rotation for Triple-A Oklahoma City to open 2016.
Urias is ranked as the Dodgers' second-best prospect, after ranking third to start each of the past two seasons. Urias just turned 19 in August, and the left-hander dominated Double-A in 2015 to the tune of a 2.77 ERA in 13 starts, with 74 strikeouts against only 15 walks in 68⅓ innings.
Ben Badler called Seager and Urias "the best one-two prospect punch in baseball."
Peraza was acquired from the Braves on July 30, and hit a combined .293/.318/.376 in 118 games between Triple-A Gwinnett and Oklahoma City, with 33 steals in 40 attempts. Peraza, who mixed in time at shortstop and center field in addition to second base, went 4-for-22 (.182) with a triple, a double and two walks in seven games in his first major league stint. Peraza, like Seager, turns 22 in April.
De Leon, now 23, had a breakout season in 2015, putting up a 2.99 ERA in 23 starts between Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa, leading all Dodgers minor leaguers with 163 strikeouts and just 37 walks in 114⅓ innings.
The Dodgers drafted De Leon in the 24th round in 2013 out of Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge.
It is unknown exactly where these prospects will rank across all of baseball, but the Dodgers have four players who were ranked in the top 25 prospects by BA at midseason in 2015 — Seager (first), Urias (fourth), De Leon (20th) and Peraza (26th).
Bellinger made quite the leap in his age-19 season, hitting .264/.336/.538 for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga while leading all Dodgers minor leaguers in home runs (30), RBI (103) and runs scored (97). Bellinger walked 52 times and struck out 150 times in 2015, and also mixed in 21 starts in center field with his 87 starts at first base. He was the Dodgers' 22nd-ranked prospect by BA in 2015, ad is now fifth.
Grant Holmes, the Dodgers' first-round pick in 2014, put up a 3.14 ERA in 24 starts with Class-A Great Lakes in 2015 in his first full season as a professional, with 117 strikeouts and 54 walks in 103⅓ innings. He turns 20 in March.
Alex Verdugo, who turns 20 in May, was picked in the second round in 2014, and the outfielder hit .311/.340/.411 with 32 doubles and nine home runs in 121 games across both Class-A levels in 2015. Verdugo caught fire with Rancho Cucamonga, hitting 385/.406/.659 with 15 extra-base hits in 23 games and helped the Quakes win the California League championship by hitting .323/.400/.452 with seven RBI in eight postseason games.
Barnes had a fine first season with the Dodgers organization, hitting .315/.389/.479 with 17 doubles and nine home runs in 81 games in Triple-A, and hit .207/.361/.276 in his 37 plate appearances at the major league level.
Cotton overcame a broken left wrist in spring training to post a 2.59 ERA in 11 games for Double-A Tulsa, including eight starts, with 71 strikeouts and 21 walks in 62⅔ innings. He was added to the Dodgers' 40-man roster on Nov. 20, one of four Dodgers' top-10 prospects on the 40-man, along with Seager, Peraza and Barnes.
Yadier Alvarez is to date the Dodgers' largest prize during the current international signing period, signed to a $16 million bonus on July 2. The 6'2 Cuban right-hander, who turns 20 in March, has yet to make his professional debut. The Dodgers had him working out at their facility in the Dominican Republic after he signed.
"He has a prototypical body, with high-end velocity. We've seen him consistently 92-97 mph, occasionally touching 99-100," Dodgers senior VP of baseball operations Josh Byrnes said in July. "There is very little effort, a pretty good feel for secondary pitches, and he's a pretty good strike-thrower."
Alvarez is one of several high-ticket international free agents signed by the Dodgers this year, with bonuses of over $44 million to date, with a 100-percent tax on nearly all of it, plus a limitation during the next two signing periods (July 2, 2016 to June 15, 2018) of not signing anyone to a bonus over $300,000.
One of those signings was Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz, signed for a reported $15.5 million last week. That deal hasn't been officially announced by the team, but figures to be official once the annual Baseball America Prospect Handbook is published, so it will be interesting to see where Diaz and some of the other new prospects rank.
Badler will chat about the Dodgers' top 10 list at 11 a.m. PT.