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Dodgers 2017 Arizona Fall League preview

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AFL schedule starts Tuesday, Oct. 10

D.J. Peters
D.J. Peters was named the 2017 California League MVP after his season with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Photo credit: Steve Saenz | Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

The 2017 Dodgers contingent at the Arizona Fall League will once again be led by strong offensive performers, especially in the outfield. The pitching participants might be light on prospect sheen, but a few could project to be solid bullpen pieces down the road.

The headliner of this year’s crop is outfielder D.J. Peters, who slugged 27 home runs in the California League this season. The hulking slugger doesn’t quite have the star power of previous top prospects Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, but Peters’ right-handed power is a welcome commodity and could slide into the middle of the Dodgers lineup in the near future.

Peters’ game frequently draws comparisons to another long-haired outfielder in Jayson Werth and the profile appears apt for the most part. Like Werth, Peters is a better athlete than you would expect given his size, and should be able to handle center field in spurts early in his career. Peters has a strong arm and decent speed under way, and he should be able to fill any outfield position.

Peters’ calling card is his raw power, with strength to hit the ball out from the right center gap to the left field line. His swing can get long but his bat speed is above average. Peters has a disciplined approach, but like most tall hitters, he suffers from a larger strike zone and will likely carry higher strikeout rates through his career. Peters made a cameo in the Double-A playoffs, and a good fall appearance could put him on the fast track in 2018.

Yusniel Diaz saw his prospect status improve after a jump to Double-A Tulsa. Despite markedly similar numbers in 2017 in the California League as he posted the previous season, Diaz required little adjustment to the superior pitching of the Texas League.

Playing primarily right field in Tulsa, Diaz’s range likely fits best in a corner. He’s more a fluid athlete than he is a quick twitch burner, and his body control makes the game look fairly easy. He has an above average arm and could handle right field at the big league level.

Diaz’s bat may not quite carry a corner outfield spot, but he has solid bat to ball skills. Diaz has a smooth right-handed swing and an all field approach that takes precedence over power. He showed a touch more power with Tulsa, but home runs will not be a significant part of his game without more physical strength or bat speed. Diaz finished strong in Double-A, but will likely repeat in 2018.

Nobody had a stronger Double-A season for the Dodgers than Matt Beaty. Though he hasn’t made waves in prospect circles to date, Beaty has had a knack for hitting since signing pro and he started to add power in 2017. Beaty’s hit tool is easily above average if not plus, and he has some of the better barrel control in the system. He takes the ball to all fields despite heavily shifted defenses, though his power is primarily pull.

Beaty handle first base duties at Tulsa for the most part, but is listed as an outfielder in the Arizona Fall League. His best path to a big league career would be as a four corners bench player, and has excellent tools for pinch hitting. Beaty shares a lot of similarities to Rob Segedin as a prospect, and the two could be teammates in Oklahoma City next year.

Will Smith broke his hand in July.
Photo credit: Tomo San | LA Dodgers

Catcher Will Smith will be looking to make up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League. Smith broke his hand right after being promoted to Tulsa in mid-July and rust could be expected upon returning to the field. Smith is a disciplined hitter that showed better-than-expected pop in the California League. He has an excellent defensive reputation and should be one of the better athletes on his Glendale team.

The pitcher heading to Glendale with perhaps the best pro prospects might be Shea Spitzbarth. The 6’1 right-hander has enough arm strength to run his fastball into the mid 90s, and he backs it with a solid downer breaking ball. He’s undersized but attacks hitters from a high slot, and was a valuable member to Tulsa’s middle relief in their playoff run.

Andrew Sopko’s stuff looked to have taken a step back in 2017, with his fringe fastball hovering in the high 80s more frequently in his starts. Sopko relies on deception and pitch location up in the zone, but his command just wasn’t as strong this year. When right, he flashes back end rotation potential.

Michael Boyle served as Rancho Cucamonga’s swing man, but the left-hander’s best chance at a big league role might be as a lefty specialist. He flashed an above-average curveball in college and might find more success fine tuning his approach against same siders.

Isaac Anderson is a sinker/slider pitcher that has struggled to replicate his early career success at the higher levels, and works best when he’s trying to keep the ball on the ground.