Here is the second part of my interview with Baseball America writer Kyle Glaser. In the first part, Glaser talked about prospects Tony Gonsolin and Gavin Lux, the Dodgers farm system and how teams raising the pay to their minor leaguers would make for even better development of their skills.
In the second part, Glaser discussed pitching prospects Dennis Santana, Mitch White and Yadier Alvarez, what he hopes to see from infielder Jeter Downs and how Jeren Kendall has to hit better to become a major league outfielder.
Two years ago, Yadier Alvarez, Mitch White, Walker Buehler and Dennis Santana were all in the Rancho Cucamonga rotation, what are Glaser’s thoughts on the progress of Alvarez, White and Santana?
In the 2019 Dodgers Top 30 prospects, Glaser ranked Dennis Santana seventh and Mitch White ninth. He had them both ranked as starting pitchers. Yadier Alvarez was ranked 14th as a right-handed reliever.
Going into the 2017 season, Alvarez was ranked second, Buehler was 11th, White was 19th and Santana was not ranked.
“You know, it’s funny going into that season, everyone was all about Yadier Alvarez and he was considered the guy,” Glaser said,” when I went out there and did some reporting and talked to coaches and managers around the league, every single one of them said, you know, Dennis Santana’s the guy, he’a better than Alvarez.”
“So I go, ‘okay,’ so I am curious to see this for myself and then I did see this for myself.”
“Dennis Santana has a fastball with movement,” Glaser said, “and no, his command’s not great, he throws it for strikes.” “He has a slider, you know, that is definitely an out pitch against right-handed batters and he knows how to keep it over the plate to make it competitive pitch.”
“It was clear even then that was those were two things Yadier Alvarez didn’t have, as much as his fastball had velocity, there is close to zero command of it,” Glaser said, “and his slider as much as there is some break to it, it is a non-competitive pitch at least two out of every five because you can see it out of his hand and it wasn’t going to be anywhere near the strike zone.”
“It’s interesting to me that right away, even in A-Ball, people said Santana’s the better of the two of these guys and we’ve seen that.”
“Santana’s a big leaguer, obviously health knocked him out last year before he could make his first start, he made his first appearance, supposed to make his first start but it knocked him out”
“The changeup has continued to develop,” Glaser said, “depending on how much more it continues to develop, maybe it’s a number four starter. Even if it’s not, that’s a power arm reliever with a upper 90s fastball and a power slider that can get same-sided hitters out.”
Mitchell White pitched a career high 105⅓ innings in 2018 but he also missed the first month of the season while staying in extended spring training. The 2016 draft pick has pitched just over 200 innings in his career.
“Mitchell White, people have always liked him but again, health,” Glaser said, “and it’s tough to ever be fully convicted on a guy, there’s always something that is keeping him off the mound for a month or six weeks every season.”
“When he’s right, he has a chance to be the best of them but it’s just been tough for him to quote-unquote be right because he’s rarely ever healthy enough to be right for long stretches of time.”
“Alvarez threw hard, he was the least effective actual pitcher of the three and that wasn’t that hard to see,” Glaser said, “maybe Yadier Alvarez if he figures out some fastball command and then the slider takes a step forward, and then the last year in Double-A, they moved him to stretch full-time and it got a lot better. So maybe he can build off of that.”
“Dennis Santana has a chance to be an effective starter in the major leagues, Mitchell White, if he’s healthy, has a chance to be an effective starter in the major leagues,” Glaser said, “Yadier Alvarez is a reliever and while relievers are valuable, he’s really not a closer because he doesn’t throw enough competitive pitches and he also doesn’t have the competitive makeup.” “You are kind of looking at a sixth or seventh inning guy who throws hard and might have some control issues. Again, it is better to have that arm and try and work with it then lack any power arms in your system but again it goes Santana, White, Alvarez in the rankings for a reason.”
The Dodgers enhanced their depth with the addition of Jeter Downs
Jeter Downs was assigned to Rancho Cucamonga where he will begin his first season as a Dodger prospect playing for the Quakes. Downs was the Cincinnati Reds first round pick in 2017 and played in Class-A Midwest League in 2018.
“Yeah I mean you are talking about a really impressive athlete, you have seen the speed in terms of stolen bases,” Glaser said,” and even though he might not be shortstop long term, he already didn’t play shortstop primarily last year, he can play second, he can play third and again he didn’t tear the Midwest League up offensively, you saw some ability to control the strike zone.”
“Anytime you mix some athleticism with at least on paper and early scouting reports indicate baseball smarts to go on top of that, controlling the strike zone, knowing when to run, he has a chance to be pretty good.”
“Now, he’s still young, he’s still a teenager, and the jump from Low-A to High-A is big one, so we’ll see,” Glaser said, “I think it is important to remember he’s a very talented young man, even in terms of coming out of the draft and where he would ranked in the Red’s system, a very good player never seen as superstar franchise type but you see some ingredients you can dream on, he’s still young.”
“The Dodgers have certainly taken some young guys and had them make big jumps before especially that age 19 into 20 and 20 to 21 seasons. I’ll be curious to see what’s he able to do in Rancho this year but there is no doubt he’s ready for the level and I think at the very least you will see some athleticism and some baseball smarts and an effective player. And then again whatever developments he can make offensively under the Dodger’s watch, you know there’s a chance to be more.”
In order to succeed as a major league player, Jeren Kendall has to improve his hitting
Glaser wrote back in January in Baseball America that “the average major league reserve or platoon outfielder hit .283/.357/.439 in his minor league career.”
Jeren Kendall, the Dodgers first round pick in 2017, has hit .224/.301/.377 in 608 at-bats with 207 strikeouts and 65 walks. I asked Glaser about his article and Jeren Kendall.
“It is something that is pretty well established, I mean even the guys in the big leagues you think of as all-glove, no-hit backups,” Glaser said, “they all hit in the minors, you don’t get to the majors hitting .220 against A-ballers, you just don’t, no matter what your defense is, so it is a big year.”
Glaser said that there is still hope with Jeren Kendall because you can look back to the summer of 2016 when he played on Team USA at Dodger Stadium and he showed what kind of baseball player he could be.
“He was the best player on the field, he was hitting for power,” Glaser said, “he was showing the ability to make contact, play the small game, play the big game. do it all.”
“And even at Vanderbilt, when the strikeouts that junior season started to become concerning,” Glaser said, “I could still see a competitive stance and solid quality contacts even though the strikeouts were a little more often than you like.”
“What he shown last year with the Dodgers it was just, I wrote this in the Handbook and it was true, it was a non-competitive inanimate stance,” Glaser said, “he was behind everything.”
“He just needs to kind of find what it was that made him successful in years past, it’s in there but if he goes through another season like he did last year and the trend has been it gotten a little worst every year,” Glaser said, “in 2016 hey this guy could be a top ten pick, and then in 2017, okay we can’t take him in top ten but we’ll still take him in the first round and now 2018, it’s like man this guy might not get out of Double-A.”
“The trend needs to be reversed and I think that in that sense, this is a big year for Jeren Kendall to show he can hit and he can get back to the competitive at-bats he had shown in 2016 and prior.”