Our next installment of the top Dodgers prospects heading into 2018 includes a pair of 2017 draft picks ranked from 20-24.
24. Devin Smeltzer, LHSP
As a polished left hander with three pitches, Smeltzer wasted little time in 2017 getting promoted to High-A and largely held his own in the California League. Whether his fringy velocity can allow him to continue starting in pro ball will be challenged by the more advanced hitters in Double-A, but passing that test could put him in line for a future bottom-rotation role in the majors.
An aggressive strike thrower, Smeltzer attacks hitters from a low three-quarters slot that gives his fastball sink and his changeup excellent fade. His changeup might be his best present pitch, as he locates it well in the zone but can also manipulate the fade to serve as a chase pitch.
Smeltzer’s fastball was typically in the high 80s to low 90s as a collegian (the last known velocity I have on him), but he works to keep hitters off the pitch with sink and varied locations. He still gets sufficient run on his fastball when he pitches up the zone, but the pitch is less a swing and miss pitch and is used more to generate contact away from the barrel. Good hitters were able to square him up in the California League.
Smeltzer’s curveball showed promising depth and shape as a prep, but from video it looks like he saves the pitch for left handed hitters. Like his other pitches, he commands the pitch well, but the the break could use more sharpening and he primarily defers to his other two pitches and hasn’t needed the third pitch for A-ball hitters as much. This could change if more right handers in the upper minors lay off the changeup.
Smeltzer’s ceiling is relatively low given his velocity and overall quality of stuff, but his peripherals have been strong and he produced dominant strikeout numbers in junior college. Smeltzer could have a Tommy Milone-type big league career as a lefty swing man, but any gains in velocity could make him a rotation regular for a big league club.
Smeltzer’s 2017 preseason rank: 34
23. James Marinan, RHSP
Marinan entered the Dodgers’ organization as an overslot fourth-rounder in the 2017 draft, with Los Angeles surely excited by the potential in his size and arm strength. An oversized teenager at 6’5 and 220 lbs., Marinan has an already impressive build and the arm speed that teases plus velocity. A brief cameo in the Arizona Rookie League, where he walked as many as he struck out, showed still how much work needs to be done before we can see Marinan’s real big league potential.
Marinan has a big jump on his peers in his arm strength, where he can run his fastball into the mid 90s, but the life on the pitch is inconsistent. He gets solid sink on the pitch in the lower half, but too often sees the pitch run out of the zone up and to his arm side.
Marinan is also more advanced than other prep draftees in his feel for spin, with the chance for a plus future breaking ball. When right, Marinan can snap off a tough 11-5 breaking ball that is noticeable for its depth and later break.
The problem presently for Marinan is a release point that is all over the place. Marinan’s delivery is slightly efforted and he throws with plenty of arm speed, but getting that arm consistently in the same slot is a noticeable issue, which can cause the fastball to drift arm side affecting his presently poor command.
The slot/release point issues are all correctable at this point, and given his advanced size, could be attributed to Marinan’s athleticism still catching up to his body. He shows the potential for two plus pitches, and the Dodgers have the time to bring him along slowly, with a stay in extended spring likely in offering in early 2018.
Marinan’s 2017 preseason rank: n/a
22. Josh Sborz, RHSP/RP
2017 was a slight step back for Sborz as a prospect, as he saw his stuff and peripherals dip despite a solid repeat performance in Double-A Tulsa. A former college closer, Sborz might need a return to relief pitching to potentially unlock a formerly plus slider and better velocity, but his competitiveness and makeup may still see him fight for an opportunity in a big league rotation.
Despite a rough first half in the Texas League, Sborz turned his fortunes around in the second half to become one of the club’s more reliable arms. Will that competitiveness is an attractive quality, Sborz didn’t quite show the quality of stuff to warrant a future shot at a rotation role with a club as talented as Los Angeles. Sborz’s fastball hovered in the low 90s for most of the season and wasn’t overly distinctive in terms of life.
Sborz’s operates with two variations of breaking ball, with a tighter slider and a more overhead curve, with the curve looking like the best bet for future strikeout potential. He saw his strikeout percentage dip almost 7% in 2017, and despite a better second half showing, the rate didn’t get demonstrably better.
Sborz has shown better command and stuff in the past, so his chances as a starter shouldn’t be written off. He does face a fairly crowded group of arms in the upper minors and major leagues and might find a better path to Los Angeles returning to the bullpen. At his best, his stuff wasn’t quite late relief material, but his college and professional production and makeup could allow him to eventually carve out a vital bullpen role.
Sborz’s 2017 preseason rank: 13
21. Connor Wong, C
A deep system of catchers did not stop the Dodgers from selecting Wong early in the 2017 draft. A prolific and versatile offensive force for the Houston Cougars as a junior, Wong brought much of that performance with him to Class-A Great Lakes, which should put him in an advanced placement to the California League in 2018.
Wong’s body type and athleticism fits the current trend of Dodger backstops seen in Austin Barnes and 2016 first rounder Will Smith. Small in stature but not lacking in athleticism, Wong was a threat on the basepaths in college and his agility and acumen should allow him to succeed as both a receive and potentially an infielder at times in pro ball.
Wong has a simple set up at the plate, with low hands and a toe tap for timing. Some upper body rigidity and swing length could lead to swing and miss issues down the road, but Wong could make up for it with power. His bat speed is above average for a catcher and he swings with enough uppercut to profile as a future flyball hitter at the big league level.
As mentioned, the Dodgers are deep in catchers and don’t face an immediate need for Wong’s services at the big league level. He could show more versatility in 2018 with occasional starts at second, but should be the primary catcher for Rancho Cucamonga. His present in-game power could see him have a big offensive season in the hitter-friendly California League.
Wong’s 2017 preseason rank: n/a
20. Caleb Ferguson, LHSP
It’s been a fast rise for Ferguson from unheralded 38th round draft pick to the organization’s top left handed pitching prospect. Ferguson dazzled the California League in posting a 2.87 ERA over 122⅓ innings and striking out batters at almost a 27% clip. Ferguson should be a fixture in the Tulsa rotation in 2018, with the big league club potentially calling some time in 2019.
Ferguson has one of the system’s best curveballs, a real big bender that he can vary the speed and break on. He will throw it to both left handers and right handers, and profiles as his best future strikeout pitch. His command of the pitch is also a plus considering the amount of break the pitch has.
His big curveball helps keep hitters off a fairly straight fastball, albeit one that he knows how to elevate above the barrel. His velocity is sufficient for the pitch to get some swings and misses, and his command up and down the zone is solid. Ferguson’s change-up is an average third offering, but he has enough command of his two above average to plus offerings to survive with a smaller repertoire if need be.
Ferguson is a sturdily built 6’3, 215-lb. lefty, and lacks future physical projection you might expect in a 21-year-old. He has the body type that will require consistent monitoring on his conditioning, but he has proven quite durable over the last year. Ferguson has simple and repeatable mechanics, with a slightly longish arm action that doesn’t hamper his command.
Though Ferguson’s breaking ball would make him an excellent lefty reliever, he has the stamina and repertoire to break into the bigs as a starter, with a future ceiling as a middle rotation arm with strikeout potential. Like Beaty and Locastro, Ferguson has some sleeper prospect qualities, and he may be a little underrated on this list as is.
Ferguson’s 2017 preseason rank: 25
2018 top Dodgers prospects list
|19||Kyle Farmer||C/3B||27.07||MLB||50||50||45||good feel for hit, offensive profile at C, utility||more productive bench bat then starter, age|
|20||Caleb Ferguson||LHSP||21.09||HiA||50||45||50||K production, 3 pitch mix, command, feel for spin||upside more mid rotation, maxed out frame|
|21||Connor Wong||C/2B||21.10||LoA||50||45||50||versatile talent, good athlete for a C, solid power prod||some swing and miss, build not projectable|
|22||Josh Sborz||RHSP/RP||24.03||AA||50||45||50||high floor, command of three pitches, competitive||stuff has backed up this season, likely reliever|
|23||James Marinan||RHSP||19.06||ROK||50||40||55||projectable frame, flashes + SNK, chance for +CH||slurvy BB, more middle than upper rotation upside|
|24||Devin Smeltzer||LHSP||22.08||HiA||50||45||50||high pitchability, 3 pitch mix, throws nothing straight||fringe avg velo, 4th or 5th starter ceiling|
|25||Matt Beaty||1B/LF||24.11||AA||50||45||50||excellent feel for hit, career production, game pop||limited ceiling, future defensive home|
|26||Andrew Sopko||RHSP||23.08||AA||50||50||45||3 pitch mix, pitchability, command, deceptive||velo can be fringy, bottom rotation upside|
|27||Ariel Sandoval||CF/RF||22.05||HiA||50||35||60||livey athlete, raw power, arm, 2nd half production||too raw at plate, noisey set-up, high swing and miss|
|28||Tim Locastro||SS/2B/CF||25.09||AAA||50||45||45||good bat to ball skills, high steal rate, versatile||fringe pop, stretched at SS and CF, upside|
|29||Jake Peter||2B/SS||24.11||AAA||50||45||45||fluid LH swing, arm strength, versatile||utility/bench upside, ? on overall pop|
|30||Yaisel Sierra||RHRP||27.01||AAA||50||40||50||good velo, SL will flash +, quick arm||command, incon. release, FB can be straight|
|31||Wilmer Font||RHSP/RP||27.10||MLB||50||40||50||excellent K production, rise on FB, + SL||age, previous command issues, upside|
|32||Ibandel Isabel||1B||22.09||HiA||50||30||60||++ raw power, physical build, strength||huge swing and miss, poor defender, raw|
|33||Mitchell Hansen||CF/RF||21.11||SS||45||40||55||chance for 5 tools, upside, projectable frame||struggling to break full season, swing and miss|
|34||Errol Robinson||SS||23.06||AA||45||45||50||smooth infield actions, throwing arm, solid athlete||better long speed than SB threat, off. ceiling|
|35||Johan Mieses||RF/CF||22.09||AA||45||40||55||impressive arm, defensive ceiling, raw power||serious swing and miss concerns|
|36||Omar Estevez||2B/SS||20.01||HiA||45||40||55||added defensive versatility, some feel for hit||production stagnated at Hi A, power potential|
|37||Donovan Casey||CF/RF||22.01||SS||45||45||50||twitchy athlete, production, solid bat to ball skills||ceiling more 4th OF than starter, power ceiling|
|38||Edward Paredes||LHRP||31.06||MLB||45||45||45||K production, tough on LHH, + SL||age, one pitch reliever, LOOGY upside|
|39||Rob Segedin||3B/LF||29.05||MLB||45||45||45||hit vs lefties, gets most of tools, avg pop||bench bat upside, limited defender, upside|
|40||Drew Jackson||SS/2B||24.09||AA||45||40||50||elite athlete, + to ++ speed and arm strength||offense improving but limited ceiling, utility upside|
|41||Wills Montgomerie||RHSP/RP||22.10||LoA||45||40||50||spin rate, durable build, flashes + velo and CV||uneven production, command wavers|
|42||Cody Thomas||RF||23.06||LoA||45||35||55||great build, good athlete, chance for above avg pop||still raw, swing and miss concerns|
|43||Jesen Therrien||RHRP||25.00||AAA||45||45||45||SL flashes +, good command and K production||TJ wipes out '18. middle relief/ROOGY upside|
|44||Carlos Rincon||RF||20.06||SS||45||35||55||big raw power, physical upside, bat speed||pretty raw offensively, serious swing and miss|
|45||Kyle Garlick||CF/RF/LF||26.02||AA||45||45||45||productive, feel for hitting, avg pop||4th outfielder profile, age, fringe speed|
|46||Luke Raley||LF/RF||23.06||HiA||45||40||50||muscular build, chance for above avg pop||just avg bat speed, possible swing and miss|
|47||Luis Paz||1B/C||21.09||SS||45||40||50||power production, bat speed, strong build||? on ultimate defensive home, avg athlete|
|48||Riley Ottesen||RHRP||23.05||LoA||45||40||50||good velo, will flash + SL, arm speed||poor college production, likely reliever only|
|49||Rylan Bannon||3B||21.11||SS||45||45||45||college/pro production, good feel for hit, game pop||skills over tools, ceiling, possible utility upside|
|50||Leo Crawford||LHSP||21.01||LoA||45||40||50||solid production, command of 3 pitch mix||fringe velo, not as projectable, likely back end|
|51||Zach Reks||LF/RF||24.05||HiA||45||45||45||feel for hit, on base skills, productive||- power, age, 4th OF profile|
|52||Romer Cuadrado||LF/RF||20.08||SS||45||35||55||excellent frame, chance for + raw power||development lagging behind age, swing and miss|
|53||Ryan Moseley||RHRP||23.06||LoA||45||40||50||chance for ++ snk, big groundball potential||struggles with command, results don't match stuff|
|54||Jared Walker||3B/RF||22.02||LoA||45||40||50||+ size/athleticism combo, chance for hit/power, + arm||raw, buggy whip swing, error prone in IF|
|55||Zach Pop||RHRP||21.06||NA||45||40||50||good life/velo combo on FB, solid build, poss. CH||mid relief profile, SL loses shape in low slot|
|56||Corey Copping||RHRP||24.03||AA||45||45||45||good SL, bulldog mentality, decent production||FB velo avg to fringe, middle relief ceiling|
|57||Shea Spitzbarth||RHRP||23.06||AA||45||45||45||agressive mound demeanor, arm strength, CV||middle relief upside, maxed out frame, size|
|58||Layne Somsen||RHRP||28.10||AA||45||45||45||tough overhead BB, production, athletic||limited mid relief ceiling, age, avg FB velo|
|59||Tony Gonsolin||RHRP||23.11||HiA||45||40||50||arm speed, flashes + SL, solid K production||lithe build, not quite late relief upside|
|60||Alfredo Tavarez||RHSP/RP||20.04||LoA||45||35||50||king sized frame, arm strength, K production||still raw mechanically, repeating arm slot, command|
|61||Aneurys Zabala||RHRP||21.03||LoA||45||40||50||will flash ++ arm strength, some feel for spin||relief profile, command, limited physical upside|
|62||Michael Boyle||LHSP||23.11||HiA||45||40||45||pitch movement, pitchability, 3 pitches||no plus pitch, fringy velo, #5 starter/swingman|
|63||Jefrey Souffront||2B/3B||20.11||ROK||45||35||50||some feel for hit, quick bat, mature plate approach||distance from the majors, build not projectable|
|64||Jacob Amaya||SS/2B||19.02||ROK||45||35||50||chance to stick at SS, good athlete, some feel for hit||distance from majors, offensive ceiling|
|65||Ronny Brito||SS||19.00||SS||45||35||50||infield actions, long athlete, chance to hit||? on overall offensive potential, far from majors|
|66||Logan Crouse||RHRP||21.04||LoA||45||35||50||size, projectability, athleticism in delivery, arm action||Fringy present velo, lots of projection left|
|67||Chris Mathewson||RHSP/RP||21.10||HiA||45||40||45||SNK/SL mix, solid production, command||back of rotation, middle relief upside, fringe velo|
|68||Adam Bray||RHSP||24.11||HiA||45||40||45||durability, feel for spin, good command||fringe starter upside, upside, avg K potential|
|69||Brian Moran||LHRP||29.06||AA||40||40||45||funk in delivery, tough in LHH, K potential||limited ceiling, fringe velo, age|
|70||Nolan Long||RHRP||24.02||HiA||40||40||45||long frame, athletic for size, FB flashes +||long levers to control, command, likely reliever|
|71||Mike Ahmed||1B/3B||26.02||AA||40||40||45||productive in '16, swing plane, avg pop||bat speed, age, limited upside|
|72||Nathan Witt||RHRP||21.11||ROK||40||35||50||good build, projectable, arm strength||project arm, distance from majors, relief upside|
|73||Travis Taijeron||LF/RF||29.02||AAA||40||40||45||good career power production, physical build||age, defensive upside, swing and miss concern|
|74||Jacob Scavuzzo||LF||24.02||AAA||40||40||45||solid tool profile, still a chance for upside||game going backward, struggling hit tool|
|75||Max Gamboa||RHRP||22.04||ROK||40||35||50||excellent arm strength, + to ++ velo, good frame||production does not match stuff, incon. SL|
|76||Dean Kremer||RHRP||22.03||HiA||40||40||45||decent athleticism and frame, K production, sink on FB||was hit hard in HiA. Homer prone, no + pitch|
|77||Moises Perez||2B||20.08||LoA||40||40||45||loose athlete, some feel for hit||offensive ceiling, lower on defensive spectrum|
|78||Isaac Anderson||RHSP/RP||24.07||HiA||40||40||45||versatile arm, some SNK on FB, avg SL||no plus or above avg tool, low ceiling, taxi arm|