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Eddys Leonard’s bat and versatility landed him on the Dodgers 40-man roster

Leonard hit .297/.390/.539 while playing four positions in 2021

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Eddys Leonard, seen here hitting for High-A Great Lakes in 2021, hit .297/.390/.539 with 55 extra-base hits across two Class-A levels in 2021 and was added to the Dodgers 40-man roster in November.
Eddys Leonard, seen here hitting for High-A Great Lakes in 2021, hit .297/.390/.539 with 55 extra-base hits across two Class-A levels in 2021 and was added to the Dodgers 40-man roster in November.
Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Loons

Minor league camp is underway at spring training, but one of the most notable Dodgers prospects isn’t there. Eddys Leonard was one of five players added to the 40-man roster in November, and as a union member he’s locked out of all major league facilities along with over 1,200 others.

Leonard emerged during a breakout 2021 season, his first full year above rookie ball. He hit .297/.390/.539 in 107 games between both Class-A levels, all while playing four different positions.

“Skillset-wise, he played some center field for us in Great Lakes. We moved him around, he’s super versatile. He played every day, played second, short, and third,” High-A Great Lakes manager Austin Chubb said in a phone interview. “We hold the ability to play multiple positions — that’s the typical Dodger-type player.”

The Dodgers signed Leonard out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for $200,000 in July 2017, four months shy of his 17th birthday. He played outfield as an amateur before signing, but the Dodgers moved him to shortstop, where he made three quarters of his starts in 2018-19.

Last year between Low-A Rancho Cucamonga and High-A Great Lakes, Leonard split time almost evenly in the infield — 35 starts at shortstop, 25 starts at second base, and 23 starts at third. After getting promoted to the Loons in August, Leonard also mixed in 11 starts in center field.

“It was more exploring a kind of hierarchy of needs for him and wanting to get shortstop reps early, feeling like that was the most important thing,” Dodgers director of player development Will Rhymes said in a phone interview. “Then when he got to Great Lakes, we were trying to balance playing time between [Leonel] Valera, Leonard, and [Jorbit] Vivas. With Leonard’s versatility it became a good time to explore [playing some outfield]. He’s quite comfortable, and I wouldn’t be surprised he ends up being really good out there.”

Eddys Leonard 2021 splits

Level PA 2B HR BB rate K rate BA/OBP/SLG wRC+
Level PA 2B HR BB rate K rate BA/OBP/SLG wRC+
Low-A Rancho Cucamonga 308 19 14 11.0% 24.0% .295/.399/.544 145
High-A Great Lakes 184 10 8 9.2% 22.8% .299/.375/.530 145
Source: FanGraphs

Wherever on the field Leonard plays, it’s his bat that made the biggest impression in 2021. Perhaps most importantly, Leonard kept up his hitting after climbing one rung on the minor league ladder. After a 145 wRC+ in Low-A, he had a 145 wRC+ in High-A too despite being over two years younger than the league’s average age.

The bat stood out enough for Keith Law at The Athletic to rank Leonard as the No. 98 prospect in MLB entering 2022, one of six Dodgers listed in Law’s top 100 prospects.

“Leonard has a fantastic swing, hammering fastballs even up in the zone and producing hard line-drive contact, enough to rank him in the top 25 of all minor-leaguers in extra-base hits with 29 doubles and 22 homers last year in just 107 games,” Law wrote.

In a statistical analysis, Leonard was ranked the No. 48 prospect in MLB by Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections at FanGraphs.

“Eddys Leonard doesn’t seem to generate much buzz, but all he did in 2021 was hit,” Szymborski wrote, “and as long as he can theoretically play somewhere, you can’t completely dismiss him as a prospect.”

Leonard just turned 21 in November, and played 41 games in High-A. Infielder Jorbit Vivas, his teammate who turns 21 next Wednesday, only played 23 games in High-A. Both were added to the 40-man roster in November, which protected them from being eligible in the Rule 5 Draft.

Dodgers prospect Eddys Leonard played mostly shortstop, but also saw time at second base, third base, and center field in 2022, his first year on the 40-man roster.
Dodgers prospect Eddys Leonard played shortstop, second base, third base, and center field in 2021.
Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Loons

I viewed those promotions as aggressive at the time, considering they now take up precious 40-man roster spots, after a season in which we saw the Dodgers churn through a team-record 61 players. I thought that even if one or both were selected in the Rule 5 Draft, the odds of Leonard and/or Vivas staying on an active roster all season was low. But I wanted to get different perspectives.

“I think both of the guys you named would have been lost to the Rule 5 Draft for sure,” Law said via email, on Leonard and Vivas. “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.”

The ability to trade either one is something I didn’t previously consider. It’s how things went down last season for pitcher Gerardo Carrillo, who was added to the 40-man roster in November 2020, then traded to the Nationals in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal in July. Carrillo did not pitch above Double-A last year.

In the first seven years of the front office under Andrew Friedman as president of baseball operations, the Dodgers added 19 players to the 40-man roster on or near the November 20 deadline. Six were traded within the next year, and another (Edwin Uceta) was claimed off waivers.

Rhymes offered another explanation for this November’s promotions of Leonard, and Vivas.

“Just the talent they have, and to force our hand to protect them,” Rhymes said. “I think it was a really exciting thing, because it’s something we haven’t done a ton of the past few years.”

Dodgers November 40-man additions

Year Pos Player Age Previous high level Reached MLB that year? Notes
Year Pos Player Age Previous high level Reached MLB that year? Notes
2016 RHP Jharel Cotton 24 Triple-A Yes traded in August to OAK
2016 RHP Ross Stripling 26 Double-A Yes
2017 RHP Chase De Jong 23 Triple-A Yes traded in March to SEA
2017 RHP Jacob Rhame 24 Triple-A Yes traded in August to NYM
2017 C/IF Kyle Farmer 26 Double-A Yes
2018 RHP Dennis Santana 22 Double-A Yes
2018 RHP Trevor Oaks 25 Triple-A Yes traded in January to KC
2019 C Keibert Ruiz 20 Double-A No reached MLB in 2020
2019 RHP Yadier Alvarez 23 Double-A No
2019 3B/1B Edwin Ríos 25 Triple-A Yes
2019 RHP Josh Sborz 25 Triple-A Yes
2019 1B/OF Matt Beaty 26 Triple-A Yes
2020 OF DJ Peters 24 Triple-A No reached MLB in 2021
2020 RHP Mitchell White 25 Triple-A Yes
2020 IF/OF Zach McKinstry 26 Triple-A Yes
2021 RHP Gerardo Carrillo 22 High-A No traded in July to WAS
2021 RHP Edwin Uceta 23 Double-A Yes claimed off waivers in Oct. by ARI
2021 RHP Andre Jackson 25 High-A Yes alternate site in 2020
2021 OF Zach Reks 27 Triple-A Yes traded next November to TEX
Click on each year for more details Age is during first year on 40-man roster

The only Dodgers prospect during this time younger than Leonard or Vivas when added to the 40-man roster in November was catcher Keibert Ruiz, who was a consensus top-40 prospect heading into 2019, having just turned 20.

Whether he plays in the majors in 2022 remains to be seen, but Leonard did make two top-100 lists, and along with Vivas opened eyes with stellar seasons in 2021.

Both played under Chubb at three minor league levels, beginning in the Dominican Summer League in 2018.

“Seeing two position players come from Campo Las Palmas and get protected, that’s a big deal for the staff down there and everyone who’s worked so hard in the Dominican,” Chubb said. “That’s a really big deal.”