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2018 top Dodgers prospects: No. 20-24

Caleb Ferguson posted a 2.87 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and was named to the Cal League All-Star Game and was a postseason All-Star.
Photo credit: Tomo San | LA Dodgers

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.

Josh Sborz
Josh Sborz had a 3.86 ERA in 24 starts for Double-A Tulsa in 2017.
Photo credit: Rich Crimi / Tulsa Drillers

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.

Connor Wong hit .278/.336/.495 in 27 games with Class-A Great Lakes after getting drafted in the third round in 2017
Photo courtesy Great Lakes Loons

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