10) Jharel Cotton – RHP
Date of Birth: January 19, 1992
Height/Weight: 5’11″/185 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted 20th round in 2012
Cotton was a 20th-round in the draft pick just three years ago, but he saw a huge jump in his prospect status when his fastball jumped from 88-91 to 92-95. At just 5’11”, Cotton’s fastball velocity can catch hitters off guard, and his over-the-top delivery makes it hard to pick up at times.
Cotton has a curveball and a changeup, both of which have the makings of being plus pitches. The changeup has been described as “cartoonish,” but he also has a tendency to telegraph it and it can be predictable in its movement. The curveball has similar issues — he throws one or two great ones each game, but it often breaks early and is easy to pick up out of his hand.
Cotton’s future is largely dependent on those secondary offerings. As of now, his offspeed stuff plays better as a reliever, where he is unlikely to go through a batting order a second time. Until he can sharpen up his curve and change, he is likely to face trouble from professional hitters who get a chance to figure him out a couple times a night.
But for an undersized 20th-round pick out of the U.S. Virgin Islands, even a solid reliever is a plus.
9) Yadier Alvarez – RHP
Date of Birth: March 7, 1996
Height/Weight: 6’3″/175 lbs.
Acquired: International Free Agency in 2015
Alvarez is not yet 20 and his tall frame is still filling out, but he is already touching 98 on the radar guns. That sort of power is what led the Dodgers to give him a huge $16 million signing bonus out of Cuba despite never having seen him pitch in any real game.
Like many young fireballers, Alvarez has a hard time finding the strike zone at times, but with his dominant fastball and a slider and changeup that both project to be plus pitches for him, he will surely be given plenty of opportunities to get the kinks worked out. Having Alvarez as a fireballing reliever seems like a worst-case scenario, but he has real potential to be a frontline starter after a few years of seasoning in the minors.
8) Austin Barnes – C
Date of Birth: December 28, 1989
Height/Weight: 5’10″/185 lbs.
Acquired: Trade with Miami Marlins in 2014
Barnes has a lot going for him, most notably his versatility. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but it is developing as he matures. He has more walks than strikeouts in his minor league career, and his .300/.390/.439 career line in the minors would be outstanding at either catcher or second base, both of which he plays very well.
Some evaluators list Barnes as the key element in the trade that sent All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to Miami, valuing him over Howie Kendrick, Kiké Hernandez, and Chris Hatcher. The nephew of former big leaguer Mike Gallego, Barnes has the bloodlines and the instincts to be a solid player.
Barnes is probably not the second coming of Craig Biggio, but he has all the tools to be a very good player. With Yasmani Grandal blocking him at catcher, it will be interesting to see if the Dodgers give him a chance at second base.
7) Cody Bellinger – 1B/OF
Date of Birth: July 13, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’4″/180 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted fourth round in 2013
Bellinger hit 30 home runs in High-A in 2015. Of course, the California League is a hitter’s paradise, so that number should be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, the 6’4″ is only 20 years old and figures to add some bulk to his 180-pound frame, so perhaps that grain of salt has been neutralized.
Bellinger still seems to be figuring out who he is as a hitter. He showed much more power in 2015 than he had previously, but he also sported a lower batting average and a higher strikeout rate. The son of former big leaguer Clay Bellinger, he is a very good defensive first baseman and was even good enough defensively that the Quakes threw him out in center field on occasion.
The next two years will go a long way in determining who Bellinger is and what sort of production the Dodgers can expect from him. With Adrian Gonzalez signed for three more seasons, the Dodgers would love to see Bellinger develop into his replacement for 2019.
6) Alex Verdugo – OF
Date of Birth: May 15, 1996
Height/Weight: 6’0″/205 lbs.
Acquired: Drafted second round in 2014
Verdugo was a two-way player in high school, and many teams liked him more as a pitcher than as a hitter. He wanted to hit, though, and the Dodgers liked him enough on offense to go along with that. In his first two seasons in the minors, he has a .322/.363/.460 line in 756 plate appearances.
Verdugo is a good defensive outfielder and has an outstanding arm, as you would expect from a guy who threw 94 as a high school pitcher. He has played center field so far, but he projects more as a right fielder going forward. With his rifle arm and his potential 20-25 home run power, he slots in well in right field.
Verdugo does everything well, and as a hitter he has potential to be very good.