As the baseball season heads toward September, Baseball America’s national baseball writer Kyle Glaser took some time to answer questions I emailed him about Dodgers prospects and the minor leagues overall.
True Blue LA: What has been your impression of the level of play in the minor leagues this season and were there any distinct differences between higher and lower levels?
Kyle Glaser: I wrote an article about this for Baseball America earlier this month. The quality of play in the minor leagues has suffered tremendously and is down across the board. There was always a very, very large gap between the higher and lower levels, but it’s become even larger this year. The level of play at the lowest full-season levels, Low-A and High-A, has dropped significantly. The quality of play we’ve seen at High-A is what we used to see in Low-A, while what we’ve seen in Low-A is what we used to see in the short-season levels that MLB eliminated. It’s a full level lower than we’re used to at each of those levels. At the upper levels, Double-A and Triple-A, the quality of play has dropped but not quite as steeply.
TBLA: Bobby Miller is now the Dodgers No. 1 prospect with about 45 professional innings thrown this year. Where is he in terms of his development and do you think he can be a mid-rotation or higher prospect in 2023?
Glaser: Miller made great strides even in limited innings this year. He tightened up his slider and really focused on developing his changeup with a lot of success. There is no question in anyone’s mind that he can be a mid-rotation starter. The only question is if he’ll become a front-of-the-rotation starter. He’s at least a No. 3 with a very real chance to surpass that. That said, a huge part of being a front-of-the-rotation starter is being able to take the ball every five days and consistently pitch deep into games. The Dodgers were extremely cautious with pitcher workloads throughout the organization this year, and as such Miller completed five innings only once in 13 outings. Showing he can consistently hold his stuff and command through six or seven innings and deploy his weapons properly to get through the order a third time are going to be critical for him. Because of his limited workload this year, it’s hard to say he’ll be pitching in the middle of the Dodgers rotation by 2023. It’s probably going to be a little slower to where he focuses on building innings next year, maybe makes his major league debut but with an innings limit, and then the reigns start to come off in 2023 and he becomes a full-fledged rotation member with no restrictions in 2024. He could accelerate that path, but the lack of innings means it might take more time than expected for him to reach that mid-rotation or higher potential he has.
True Blue LA: Miguel Vargas and Andy Pages have had very good seasons, and Vargas just entered the top 100. What do they need to do improve their ranking, and what is their best defensive position projection in the majors?
Glaser: Vargas just needs to keep hitting like he has and he’ll keep climbing. The fact he’s proven he can drive the ball to his pull side and get to more power has really enhanced his outlook. Vargas makes the plays on balls hit right at him at third base, but his lack of range may push him to first base. If he can do some agility work and really bear down on his defense, he might have a chance to stay at third. If he doesn’t make any progress with his range, he probably ends up playing first base with an occasional appearance at third. Pages is going to end up in right field when all is said and done. He’s done a nice job cutting down his strikeouts and increasing his walks as the season has gone on, but he needs to sustain that over a longer period before we start talking about him as one of the 100 best future major leaguers in the minors, which is what the top 100 prospects are. It’s hard to be a Top 100 prospect as a fringe-average hitter. He projects as a solid everyday regular right now, but not the future All-Star that most top 100 prospects are.
True Blue LA: MLB and MLBPA agreed that minor leaguers would get full-season credit for 2020 and I think that was the best outcome for those players. However, are there players in the Dodger organization, particularly position players, where the Dodgers will have to make some tough decisions to put them on their 40-man roster in November?
Glaser: Jacob Amaya, Devin Mann and James Outman are the main three position players that would need to be protected, but honestly none of them are huge threats to get taken in the Rule 5 draft, and even if they are, the Dodgers can survive it. Amaya might be the one who needs be protected most because of his shortstop defense, but with how poorly he’s hit this year and his general lack of offensive upside, it’s not a situation where the Dodgers need to go out of their way to make sure they protect him. Leonel Valera, Eddys Leonard and Jorbit Vivas are Rule 5 eligible as well this winter, but teams don’t really take A-ball infielders in the Rule 5 draft (and if they do, they’re often returned). The Dodgers don’t really need to protect them, even as well as they’ve performed this year.
True Blue LA: The Dodgers appear to have done a good job in their international free agent signings in the past few years. Eddys Leonard, Jorbit Vivas and Carlos Duran have had strong seasons this year, do you see them progressing to Double-A in 2022?
Glaser: Leonard will definitely see Double-A in 2022. Vivas and Duran are still in Low-A and might need a full-season at High-A next year, but it wouldn’t be a shock if they make it up to Double-A at some point in 2022.
[Editor’s note: Vivas was promoted to High-A Great Lakes on Wednesday.]
True Blue LA: It appears that minor league seasons are going to extend into September again in 2022. If this is the new normal, how will that impact instructional time and the Arizona Fall League?
Glaser: No official decision has been made on the 2022 minor league schedule. At this point everything is just whispers and rumors. Until a decision is officially made and the schedule is formally announced, I think it’s best to hold off speculating on instructs and the AFL.
[Editor’s note: Minor league schedules have trickled out since. Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate Tulsa, for instance, has their 2022 schedule run through September 18.]