Recently I had the chance to interview ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law about his review of the 2019 Dodger minor league system. This will be the first of a two-part series with my interview with Law.
Law had recently finished his overall minor league prospect review and had placed the Dodger minor league system fifth overall.
“There’s no Seager, Bellinger, Buehler, right now,” Law said when I asked it the system was more high floor than high ceiling, “but I guess it depends a little bit on how we want to talk about ceiling, because I do still think there a lot of players in the system that could make some All-Star teams like Keibert Ruiz, I mean like Diego Cartaya, if you want to go deep, I know he hasn’t played yet so I’m cautious but he’s pretty dang interesting.”
“Dustin May, there’s some volatility there but there’s definitely All-Star kind of upside as well.” Law said that the Dodgers have boosted their system by adding some “floor.”
“I think they drafted for some floor, I think they traded for some floor, heck the two guys they just got from the Reds [Jeter Downs and Josiah Grey] are both intriguing prospects but with pretty high floors.”
“I’ll put it this way, I wouldn’t say they haven’t given up some ceiling to get that floor, I still think they are some ceiling left in the system.”
With that said, we then went on to talk about specific prospects which I will break down next.
Two high-risers, Gavin Lux and Dustin May
When asked if he sees Gavin Lux as a shortstop or second baseman, Law said “Shortstop, no doubt shortstop for me,’ Law said, “I know the Dodgers may move him around for other reasons, but to me he is absolutely a shortstop.”
“I thought he would be a shortstop in the draft, the question was would he get strong enough to make quality contact,” Law said, “last year he really did that.”
Law doesn’t want to under sell Lux’s power potential. “Projections like this are not that precise,” Law said, “and the Dodgers are as launch-angle conscious as any organization too, so if they think there is 18 homer power in there, they are going do what is required to help him get to it.
“He’s a good enough hitter and now strong enough that I feel like he will surprise people with home run totals in the majors,” Law said, “people may look at him and see a shortstop and say he’ll hit ten homers and then he’ll hit 17.”
Right-handed pitcher Dustin May was ranked 49th overall in Law’s Top 100 players. And while many may first notice his velocity or pitch mix, Law picked another attribute as the first thing he liked about May.
“I still think the most appealing thing of all is just the athleticism, he is ridiculously athletic, and it allows him to do more and to learn more, to make faster adjustments.”
“At the end of the year, maybe in instructs, he started throwing a cutter,” Law said, “most guys when they take on a new pitch take some time, they got develop some feel for it, they have to be able to locate it. What I kept hearing was he’s added a cutter and it’s already a weapon for him.”
“It is just a marker of future success for players when they can make an adjustment that quickly and make it work.”
A look at the new Dodger prospects, Jeter Downs and Josiah Grey
Infielder Jeter Downs, who yes, was named after Derek Jeter, was the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 draft by the Cincinnati Reds. Last year he played for Dayton in the Midwest League.
“High average, high contact, with a little pop, a second baseman in the long run,” Law said, “a good player, very likely to play in the big leagues, showed an advance feel for hitting.”
While Downs could become a multi-position utility player, Law said that he could be a regular and maybe a tick better than that because went out a hit fairly well in his first full season of pro ball.
Law did like what the Dodgers received in their trade with the Reds. “[Downs] was supposed to be in a Realmuto deal, a Corey Kluber deal, those would have made sense.”
Right-handed pitcher Josiah Grey was picked in the second round of the 2018 draft. Law said he’s an example of the kind of prospect you might not even had known six months before the draft.
“Gray has not pitched a ton in his life, I believe he was a converted position player,” Law said, “and so it really wasn’t until last spring that he kind of popped up. When you talk about pop up guys in the draft, for this year’s draft, there are guys I don’t even know their names today who are going to go in the top-50, 60 picks because that’s how the draft works.”
“Gray was one of those guys a year ago,” Law said, “I never heard of him at this point last year and he went in the second round. He pitched quite a bit over the summer [Appalachian League], which is atypical for college draft picks but I think it helped him and helped the Reds.”
“One, it just showed he was more advanced than people realized, they felt like his fastball played well,” Law said, “and teams got to scout him, pro scouts got to see him and it really boosted his trade value.”
Like Downs, Law said the feeling about Gray is that he pitches in the big leagues, we just don’t know if he is starter or reliever but again he has that high floor. “If he ends up in relief,” Law said, “everything is already there for him to be a reliever but the hope is that he ends up a starter.”
Can DJ Peters make the adjustments needed to get to majors
Outfielder DJ Peters hit 29 home runs at Tulsa in 2018. He also struck out 192 times in 491 at bats. The six-foot four inch right-handed hitter as now struck out 381 times in his last two seasons.
“What DJ Peters needs to do be a big-leaguer? Because I have real questions whether he can be any kind of big-leaguer at this point,” Law said, “because of the swing and miss, because of the swing, because of sheer size.” “He’s been comped physically to Jayson Werth [who is six feet, five inches tall] forever; he’s so tall that gives length to his swing.”
“There’s some players where you only have to reduce their swing and miss a little bit and then there is some where you need to reduce by 20 percent, 30 percent to make you a viable big-leaguer.”
Law said he doesn’t know what the Dodgers plans are for Peters but they know he strikes out too much. “What you do with that, do you want him swinging less, “Law said, “don’t you want him to shorten up, are you willing to sacrifice some of the power that makes him an interesting prospect, lot of questions, I don’t know for sure the answers for him, what he needs is going to be different than what a Connor Wong needs because if I remember correctly, he wasn’t even a big strikeout guy in college, but he started to hit for some power this year and with that came some hit and miss.
After I spoke with Law, Peters homered twice against the Los Angeles Angels last Sunday showing his tremendous power with a shot over the left field berm. Manager Dave Roberts later said that Peters was working on some things this spring.
#Dodgers Dave Roberts said power prospect DJ Peters has shortened his swing working with the hitting coaches. Gives him a better chance against velocity and pitches inside that he struggled with last season at Double-A— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) February 24, 2019
This ends part one, the concluding second part will talk about the two top catching prospects in the system and a couple of outfield prospects among others.