Eddys Leonard continued to progress along his prospect path with a solid year in High-A Great Lakes, while also serving as a fascinating case study for Dodgers roster management.
After ending 2021 with 41 games at High-A, Leonard spent all season with Great Lakes in 2022, producing at an above-average rate (a 119 wRC+) while just 21, a year younger than the Midwest League average.
The overall season represented a downgrade from 2021, when Leonard had a 145 wRC+ at both Low-A Rancho Cucamonga and High-A Great Lakes. His batting average dropped by 33 points, and his isolated power dropped by 71 points (from .242 to .171). But there was still improvement within the season for Leonard, who got better as the season went on, lowering his strikeout rate while hitting for more power.
After moving around on defense quite a bit in 2021, Leonard primarily played shortstop in 2022, with 104 of his 123 starts in the field coming at the position. He also started eight games at second base, seven games at third base, and four times in center field. The versatility fits in with the Dodgers organizational ethos.
“We hold the ability to play multiple positions,” Great Lakes manager Austin Chubb said earlier this year. “That’s the typical Dodger-type player.”
Baseball America at midseason rated Leonard as the ninth-best prospect in the Dodgers system.
Leonard was joined by fellow 21-year-old Jorbit Vivas on Great Lakes, but what stood out is that the pair was added to the 40-man roster last November. The Dodgers used two roster spots on essentially development roles, as neither one had any chance of playing in the majors in 2022.
They were added to prevent losing them in the Rule 5 Draft, with the team unwilling to accept the risk of some tanking team using a major league roster spot on a 21-year-old A-ball player for a year.
When I asked Keith Law of The Athletic about the aggressive promotions of Leonard and Vivas in March, he said both players would have been selected in the Rule 5 Draft: “Maybe they wouldn’t stick all year, but it wouldn’t have been worth the risk to the Dodgers, and by protecting them they also allowed themselves more time to potentially trade those players rather than losing them for nothing in the Rule 5.”
That the 2021 Rule 5 Draft never happened was not something the Dodgers or anyone knew at the time, but it was a casualty of the lockout.
It’s hard to argue with the strategy, considering the Dodgers won 111 games with effectively a 38-man roster at their disposal. And now they still have Leonard and Vivas, who will be among the youngest players on Double-A Tulsa next year, one step closer to the majors.
Stats: .264/.438/.436, 119 wRC+, 15 HR, 32 doubles
Salary: likely $57,200, the minor league minimum for first-timers on the 40-man roster
Game of the year
Leonard homered twice on May 15 on the road against Lake County, a Guardians affiliate, two of his three-run scoring hits in the Loons’ 10-9 win. He hit a solo home run in the first inning, added a three-run shot in the third, then hit an RBI single in the fourth.
Leonard hasn’t yet played in the majors, and has two option years remaining.