The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the National League West the past three seasons, although their postseason track record has been a disappointment. Still, building a winning team at the big-league level without depleting the farm system has been a priority for the new ownership group and front office, and their ability to do so is perhaps the most underrated benefit of their seemingly endless budget.
Dodgers brass has made many of their top prospects virtually untouchable, and it leaves them with a very strong crop of prospects coming through the minors. The system is so deep that several quality prospects didn’t make my top 20 list here. This list is a mix of raw, untested players with massive tools, along with some players with lower ceilings but higher floors. Some of the players on this list will be regulars in Los Angeles in 2016, while others are still three or more years away.
This list is based on three things: 1) my own in-person evaluations, where applicable; 2) video evaluations; and 3) scouting reports from various reputable sources.
Of course, questions and debate are always welcome in the comments.
20) Johan Mieses – OF
Date of Birth: July 13, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’2″/185 lbs.
Acquired: International Free Agency in 2013
Mieses spent his first two professional seasons in the Dominican Summer League (Rookie ball), and the plan was for him to open up 2015 in extended spring training for a couple months before making his U.S. debut. Instead, Mieses was impressive enough in the spring that he opened the season with the Low-A Great Lakes Loons. He played well enough in the Midwest League to earn a promotion to the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, where he held his own with a .737 OPS despite being 3.5 years younger than average for the league (he turned 20 in July).
When it comes to tools, arm strength is probably the only area where Mieses currently really excels. But he doesn’t have any major weaknesses, and he projects to be above average in all aspects of the game. His speed is not anything to write home about, but his instincts help him play faster than you would expect; he has a 79.2 percent success rate on stolen bases in the minors, and he has played good defense at all three outfield positions.
Watch some video of Mieses’ “showcase game” this past August in Rancho:
19) Josh Sborz – RHP
Date of Birth: December 17, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2″/209 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted second round in 2015
Sborz is an intriguing prospect. You get the impression that he could be a big success or a huge flop, and he could do either one as either a starter or a reliever. He went back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen in his three-year career at the University of Virginia, and he won the Most Outstanding Player Award for the 2015 College World Series. A couple month later, he was posting a 1.50 ERA for the Quakes in High-A after moving quickly through Ogden and Great Lakes.
Sborz’s success in Cucamonga came out of the bullpen, but the Dodgers want to give him a shot as a starter. He is big and strong, and he turns 22 this week, so he has likely reached his full stature. He only really has two good pitches, a fastball and a slider; neither is overpowering, but both show a lot of late life that makes them hard to make solid contact against. He has shown a changeup in the past, and it’s possible that he will re-develop a feel for that pitch as a starter.
For Sborz, the big question is his command. He has some unique arm action that makes it harder to locate his pitches, but it also likely contributes to his deception and makes him harder to hit. The key to his long-term success will be whether he can develop his command without sacrificing the effectiveness of his pitches.
18) Chase De Jong – RHP
Date of Birth: December 29, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’4″/205 lbs.
Acquired: Trade with Toronto Blue Jays in 2015
De Jong came to the Dodgers in a midseason trade with the Blue Jays and was slotted directly into the Quakes starting rotation. Any analysis of De Jong is bound to have many uses of the word “despite.” Despite relatively high fly ball rates, his home runs per nine innings rate in the hitter-friendly California League was just 1.1. Despite his powerful 6’4″ frame, his fastball generally sits in the high 80s. And despite that unimpressive fastball, he struck out 52 hitters in 50 innings with Rancho, due mostly to late movement that indicates a strong spin rate.
De Jong’s command and control indicate that he is near his peak, and at his age — he turns 22 at the end of this month — it would not be surprising to see him hit the majors in 2016. His ceiling is not nearly as high as those of some the other prospects on this list, but his floor is pretty high, too. His fastball and curveball are both better than average, and his command of the curve is outstanding. His ability to develop his changeup will determine just how far he can go.
17) Starling Heredia – OF
Date of Birth: February 6, 1999
Height/Weight: 6’2″/200 lbs.
Acquired: International Free Agency in 2015
Heredia makes the list almost purely on potential — with a 16-year-old out of Cuba, there’s not much else to go on. But the potential is outstanding.
Like Mieses above, Heredia seems likely to end up better than average at nearly everything. His power and his throwing arm are both already very good, and everything else is above average. Some scouts expect him to lose some speed as he continues to fill out, which would probably mean a move from center field to right field, but his arm is plenty strong to handle that change.
It remains to be seen whether Heredia will need to change his hitting approach as he faces professional pitching; he has a pretty big leg kick that might put the old Eddie Mathews quote to the test: “It’s only a hitch when you’re in a slump. When you’re hitting the ball its called rhythm.” But if Heredia can adjust and progress, he could hit the big leagues by age 20 and has potential for stardom.
16) Brendon Davis – SS
Date of Birth: July 28, 1997
Height/Weight: 6’4″/163 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted fifth round in 2015
Davis is almost all upside. As it stands right now, he is a tall, skinny kid with no power who missed his entire senior year in high school with a broken wrist. But he is 6’4″ and has at least 30 pounds to add to his frame — he is listed between 155 and 163 pounds — which could and should add strength and power to his repertoire.
And Davis is going to need that power, because while he is a shortstop at the moment, he is projected to move to third base. Slap-hitting third basemen don’t last long in the big leagues, so Davis will need to develop 20-homer power at least.
So while Davis is nearly all upside, the upside is significant. The Dodgers took a gamble drafting Davis in the fifth round after he missed the entire season, but that gamble could pay off big if he fills out and adds power to his considerable set of tools.