Kyle Glaser has been writing about prospects in Baseball America since 2016. Prior to that he worked for two Inland Empire newspapers, the Victorville Daily Press and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, where he covered high school, college, minor and major league baseball.
Glaser has covered the Dodgers prospects for the last several seasons and he recently authored the Dodgers portion of the 2019 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. I had the chance to talk to Glaser.
This is the first of two parts. In part one, Glaser discusses Dodgers prospects Tony Gonsolin and Gavin Lux, the Dodgers farm system as a whole and an immediate change he believes will affect MLB for the better.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
What were your thoughts about Tony Gonsolin going into the 2018 season?
“You know it’s funny - I’m still kicking myself - I had Tony Gonsolin ranked in the 2018 handbook,” Glaser said. “I had gotten good reports, he was touching 99 mph out of the bullpen at Rancho Cucamonga. But the Dodgers player development staff at the time actually said, ‘We don’t really see him as one of our top 30 guys, there are probably some other guys to put in there,’ so I took him out to my everlasting regret because I had him.”
“I was surprised that he led the entire system in ERA,” Glaser said, “I thought he’d be good, but he even exceeded my expectations.”
“Knowing that you have that high-90s fastball and there’s a breaking ball in place, the fact that he went into the rotation, developed the split change and kind of became what he became,” Glaser said, “it wasn’t a shock to me to see him have some success. Again, the level of success was probably even more than I anticipated.”
“He’s another example of that 2016 draft that the Dodgers really nailed. Their ability to pick up some guys in that draft that have been able to use in trades or homegrown development - it has really helped keep their system a premium system even after graduating Seager, Bellinger, Buehler in consecutive years. Most teams would find themselves at the bottom of the rankings if they did that.”
Was getting stronger the key to Gavin Lux becoming a top Dodger prospect?
“I was talking to evaluators over the previous year and watching some video, I kind of had an idea in my head of what Gavin Lux would look like,” Glaser said. “And then I out and saw him, I was like whoa, this is way more physically impressive than I had expected, given how scouts had described him previously and watching some video from him from the Midwest League.”
“He was strong but it was a lithe strong. He had put on a lot strength while maintaining his speed and his athleticism,” Glaser said. “There’s real, real impact in his swing and the Dodgers had said repeatedly he did make a bit of a bat path adjustment but the overwhelming driver of his success was just that physical maturity. Some of it is nature taking its course, he was still was a teenager, only just now hit his 20s.”
“Some of it is the work he put in,” Glaser said. “I wrote about a little bit about that at midseason. He put in the work and you have to applaud him and the results on the field followed.”
Glaser said that Lux has had an issue with throwing accuracy in his game.
“He pops up out of his legs. When he throws wild, it is sailing over the first baseman’s head, just because it is the way he releases the baseball. That is why he is probably best-suited at a second base,” Glaser said. “He has the athleticism for shortstop. He has the hands for it, he has the pure arm strength for it, but there is a certain level of reliability you have to have and that’s where he’s fallen short. He was short there at the Midwest League, he was short at the Cal League last year just in terms of reliability.”
Even with the promotions, trades and attrition, how do the Dodgers still have a top minor league organization?
“There are still some top level prospects. You still have Keibert Ruiz, who is arguably the best catching prospect in baseball,” Glaser said. “Alex Verdugo has been a prospect for a while now, but he still hit really, really well in Triple-A last year and is seen as a future major leaguer.”
“They have traded a lot of guys to get veterans for their postseason runs and they also successfully graduate a lot of guys,” Glaser said. “They’ve done a really good job at backfilling. That 2016 draft, in particular, looks better and better each passing year. You have guys like Gavin Lux and Dustin May who took a big jump last year. You mix in some of their international successes too. It really is a very, very good system in that even when they graduate a bunch of those guys, they still have depth and now a lot that depth has become guys in and of themselves.”
“The Dodgers have done a really nice job of both identifying and then developing prospects, you see guys like Lux and May take the jumps they did,” Glaser said. “Even Caleb Ferguson, he took some really big jumps over the past two years. So that’s a big part of it, of how they continue to rank so strong, so highly despite graduations and trades.”
Will other major league baseball teams follow what the Toronto Blue Jays did with their announced pay increases to their minor league baseball players?
“People talk about the next competitive advantage. Well, the next competitive advantage that a team can find is not keeping their minor leaguer’s food and shelter insecure,” Glaser said. “You want to talk about having better hit rates on your prospects’ success rates in the major league, you want to talk about better performance.”
“I am just waiting for some team to say, ‘Hey, it’s really not that much for us to give these guys 40K and the returns we are going to get that in terms of performance and the number of them that can stay in our system can easily pay for itself.’ And I’m just waiting for some team to realize that.”
“I would think it would be a large market progressive team,” Glaser said. “The Dodgers being one of them - maybe the Red Sox, maybe the Cubs. A team that has the financial resources to do something like that and have shown some progressive thinking in the past.”
“So I think aside from the facts that (A) the moral aspect of it and (B) the fact that you are getting away paying wages that violate federal minimum wage laws, it is imperative the team actually realizes that they do this,” Glaser said. “ If they pay their minor league players and give them food and shelter, they’re going to see the results on and off the field.”