The top Dodgers’ prospects 21 through 25 includes two newly minted 40-man roster additions and two players too green to foresee their eventual call-up.
25. Andrew Sopko, starting pitcher
Sopko makes one of the larger climbs on this list, going up from number 43 in 2016, but more relevant was Sopko’s advancement through three minor league levels this year. Sopko is one of the organization’s most polished arms, and though his upside might be lower than other names ranked around him, he’s fast approaching the major leagues as a back-end rotation type or swing bullpen arm.
Sopko’s stuff is not overwhelming, but his delivery gives him deception and allows his pitches to play above their grade. Sopko looks to have shortened up his arm action since college, coiling the ball behind his head and hiding the pitch from the batter. His fastball hovers around 90-92 mph but looks to have decent rise and he consistently beat hitters up in the zone despite fringe velocity.
Sopko backs his fastball with a pair of off-speed pitches, both carrying similar grades. His change-up is thrown from the same high arm slot of his fastball and does show more fade, giving him two distinct planes between the pitches. Sopko’s curveball has slurvy break and he will occasionally work around the pitch, but it has the upside to be an average offering.
Sopko’s peripherals dipped after a promotion to Double-A, where more polished hitters weren’t as likely to chase the breaking ball and could catch up to his stuff. That’s not a damning knock as much as it is an assessment of his development progress. For Sopko to take the next step, he will need to further sharpen his command and tighten the break on his curveball. He challenged hitters plenty in the outing I saw but his stuff gives him less margin for error.
The Dodgers are deep in arms reaching the doorstep of the major leagues, and Sopko’s stuff isn’t as loud as some of the others around him on the depth chart. As long as he stays deceptive and fills the strike zone, his stuff doesn’t have to be any better. With the Dodgers frequently employing multiple starting pitchers across fewer innings, Sopko fits the mold as a swing arm that can keep hitters off balance for five innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. I don’t necessarily see a 175 innings per season future with Los Angeles, but he’ll eventually have value on the margins of the roster.
24. Kyle Farmer, C/3B
Farmer finished 2016 in roughly the same position as he did 2015, however he’s already received a vote of confidence this off-season in being added to the 40-man roster. Farmer returned to Double-A for 2016 and battle injury to post slightly improved peripherals but more or less looks like the same moderately skilled offensive player. Though Farmer was ready for Triple-A, his path forward has been blocked by Austin Barnes and Tulsa was the best place for Farmer to receive consistent at-bats.
Farmer is a no-frills offensive performer that has a better-than-average hit tool for a catcher but offers little in the way of pop. Farmer has a gap-to-gap line drive approach with a short swing and an above average ability to recognize pitches. Solidly built, Farmer gives the impression he could hit worth more power, but he seldom looks to pull pitches and he could incorporate his lower half more in his swing.
As a catching convert, Farmer’s defensive tools have come along quite well. He has a decent arm and a quick release to control the running game, and is agile enough to be a capable backstop. His pitch framing is improving and his aptitude should only improve with more time spent behind the plate. Farmer also has additional utility as a third baseman. He has the footwork and arm you would expect from a former college shortstop, and can provide average defense from the hot corner.
Farmer should finally make the jump to Oklahoma City full time in 2017, and could spell Austin Barnes as a backup catcher should injury or ineffectiveness arise. Farmer has the hit tool to post .275/.320/.390 potential slash lines at the big league level, with enough defense to warrant a future as a backup catcher. The Dodgers are deep at the position and could dangle Farmer as a trade chip as well.
23. Chase De Jong, starting pitcher
One of the savviest trade maneuvers of the Andrew Friedman era has been the acquisition of talent for international bonus allotment that the Dodgers had already intended to exceed. De Jong arrived in 2015 with Tim Locastro from the Blue Jays in such a trade and ended 2016 as the Texas League pitcher of the year. His ceiling may not be as lofty as the award suggests, but De Jong is the current poster prospect of the front office’s ability to spin controllable assets out of their financial might and creativity.
De Jong came into the system with a reputation for spinning a deep curveball, but it was the broad repertoire of pitches that most caught my attention. De Jong’s fastball has not developed velocity-wise as teams might have expected from the tall, lean and projectable high school draftee, but he spots the ball well around the zone and can beat hitters up in the zone with decent rise. De Jong now throws an upper eighties cutter that complements the straight fastball with tight break and movement glove side.
De Jong’s curveball is still a solid pitch, but his arm slot was less overhead than I expected and showed more 11-5 break than past video. It still can be a strikeout pitch with further refinement. De Jong’s straight change lags behind his other pitches but gives him four offerings to show hitters.
De Jong’s long levers are mostly held in check in his delivery, and he manages to hide the ball well in his hip turn. Though he has a slight headwhack, it does not hamper his command and he’s one of the more efficient strike throwers in the system. He’s started filling out his 6’4 frame, but with little velocity increase from his high school years, his physical upside might show more in stamina.
De Jong’s upside is similar to Sopko’s with perhaps a few more tools to get hitters out at the next level. He’s already surpassed the Double-A test and has been added to the forty man roster this off-season. The pitching ranks at the upper levels of the system has become crowded, and De Jong could represent solid trade value for the Dodgers should a need arise.
22. Dustin May, starting pitcher
The highest upside of this grouping likely rests with May, who was acquired in the third round of the 2016 draft. The tall, gangly Texan was thought to be more raw than he showed in his first taste of pro ball, and could make his full-season debut in 2017 after the weather heats up in the Midwest League.
Dustin May’s spin rate on his breaking ball was one of the highest recorded at the prep World Wood Bat Assoc. World Championship last fall, and the tantalizing potential of his breaking ball is likely what allured the Dodgers. May’s slider has the potential to be a plus to plus plus future pitch, though presently he tends to lose the release point on the pitch and give it a slurvy appearance.
May’s fastball has reached the mid nineties as a prepster, and his 6’6 frame, long limbs, and arm speed suggest he has more velocity coming as he matures. His fastball currently shows solid sink and overpowered hitters in the Arizona Rookie League.
Though May’s peripherals suggest a more polished pitcher, it remains to be seen if he was simply superior to his peers in his debut, and that he had little trouble getting hitters to chase his lively stuff. His ceiling grade might eventually look modest, but May’s only thrown 27 professional innings, and has work to do in finding his low ¾ slot more consistently while filling out his lean frame.
As I mentioned, May could see time in the Midwest League a month or two after the league starts to avoid the colder months and limit his innings. May has the potential to rank much higher on this list a year from now, and should his peripherals hold in full season ball, his ceiling could rank with the best in the system.
21. Brendon Davis, SS/3B
Davis falls two spots from last year’s list, though that is largely attributed to a few names jumping him than a lowering of his grade. Davis came into the system a lithe 6’4 infielder in need of physical development and years away from the major leagues and the story on his prospect status largely remains the same a year later.
Despite looked overmatched for much of his first full pro season, striking out in 27% of his plate appearances, but should still develop a solid hit tool. He has good bat speed for his size and leverage in his frame. Davis has better barrel control than his numbers suggest, and he cut his strikeout percentage to 19% after July first this year.
Davis has little game power now, and his raw power future rests largely in the leverage he gets from his long frame. A common theme in Davis’ detractions is his build, as skinny almost doesn’t do it justice. His frame is narrow, so he’s not likely to carry as much weight as a typical 6’4 player, but should be able to add another twenty to twenty-five pounds to his listed 165 pounds.
As an infielder, Davis has soft hands and smooth infield actions that belie his long frame. He has plenty of arm for the left side of the infield, and will likely continue to man both short and third. Should he fill out as expected, Davis will likely slide to third base long term. He’s a solid overall athlete, but speed will never be a focal point of his game.
Despite a modest showing in the Midwest League, Davis made slight improvements in the second half and was a solid performer in the playoffs. He could still see a promotion to High-A for 2017, but has time on his side for a repeat of Low-A if necessary. He’s not as much raw tools-wise as he is physically, so his numbers could take a big step forward with more strength. His ceiling remains high, but the so does the gap between the future and the present.