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Dodgers prospect depth, Baseball America top 30, and beyond

Los Angeles Dodgers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of various prospect rankings, but what’s important isn’t necessarily the number next to each name, but rather how many of those players you can develop.

The Dodgers have produced young talent in volume of late, perhaps best illustrated by the this year’s top 30 team prospects at Baseball America. The top 30 for each team — something available in the physical BA top prospects book annually — were unveiled online on Tuesday, which gives us a look at those outside the top 10.

Among the Baseball America Dodgers top 30 prospects entering 2022 is left-hander Justin Bruihl, ranked 22nd, who made his major league debut last season and even pitched in the playoffs. The group outside the top 10 also includes four of the five players added to the 40-man roster in November (No. 14 Jacob Amaya, No. 15 James Outman, No. 23 Jorbit Vivas, and No. 24 Michael Grove). The fifth, versatile infielder/outfielder Eddys Leonard, was ranked eighth on the team by BA.

A look at last year’s top 30 Dodgers list is instructive. The 11-30 players included eight who played in the majors in 2021 — Zach McKinstry, DJ Peters, Victor Gonzalez, Mitch White, Dennis Santana, Edwin Uceta, Sheldon Neuse, and Luke Raley. Another, Gerardo Carrillo at No. 30, was one of four prospects sent to the Nationals in the Max Scherzer / Trea Turner trade.

Back to this year’s top 30 list, BA has right-hander Hyun-il Choi at No. 30. He was named the Dodgers minor league pitcher of the year in 2021 by throwing strikes, with 106 strikeouts against only 18 walks to go with his 3.55 ERA across both Class-A levels. At 26th is first baseman Justin Yurchak, who hit .365/.443/.485 between High-A Great Lakes and Double-A Tulsa and has been mentioned as a possible Rule 5 Draft pick should that ever happen this year.

A sense of the Dodgers’ depth extends beyond the top 30. In an accompanying article, the Baseball America staff identified a sleeper prospect for each MLB team. The Dodgers’ pick was Emmet Sheehan, a right-hander drafted out of Boston College last season in the sixth round.

Just after the draft, Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein at FanGraphs wrote, “While many teams focused, and at times overly so, on strike-throwers during Monday’s flurry of picks, the Dodgers often did the opposite, as any of Maddux Bruns (first round), Nick Nastrini (fourth), Emmet Sheehan (sixth), or Ben Harris (eighth) could end up looking like steals if the Dodgers’ system can get more strikes out of their already plus stuff.”

Bruns (No. 11) and Nastrini (No. 16) were both ranked in Baseball America’s top 30. Sheehan, per the sleepers article, is ranked 37th on the Dodgers by BA, showing their depth.

Last year in his professional debut, Sheehan impressed in his 15⅔ innings spread over seven games between the Arizona complex league and both Class-A levels. He posted a 5.17 ERA but also struck out an eye-popping 34 of 68 batters faced, to go with eight walks.

“The sixth-round pick out of Boston College stood out in his pro debut with his low-slot, running 95-99 mph fastball that generated elite swing-and-miss rates,” said BA on Tuesday.

Keith Law at The Athletic in February ranked Sheehan as the No. 16 prospect in the Dodgers system, part of a team group that Law rated as the top farm system in baseball based on volume.

A number of Dodgers prospects will play in the majors, if not in 2022 then soon after. Another group will be traded away, another way to impact the organization. But it’s the high quantity of potentially productive players that makes it the most impressive.