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Weekly Prospect Update: Los Angeles Dodgers

Many former top prospects are helping the Los Angeles Dodgers compete for a championship in 2017. At 102-57, they own the best record in baseball and will be a force to be reckoned with heading into the playoffs. Despite their incredible amount of talent in the Majors currently, the Dodgers still have even more talent in their system. With the Minor League seasons already in the books, here’s a look at how the top Dodgers prospects did in 2017.

10. Jordan Sheffield, RHP

  • Age: 22
  • Draft: 2016, CBA(36) – LA
2017 stats: (Single-A Great Lakes): 89.1 IP, 3-7, 4.03 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 91 K, 42 BB. (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 18 IP, 0-2, 8.00 ERA, 2.11 WHIP, 18 K, 15 BB.  

Sheffield started his first full professional season at Single-A Great Lakes, where he made 20 starts for the Loons. He had mixed results, showing signs of dominance at times, but also showing he has much to work on. He has the ability to generate swings and misses with any of his three pitches. Sheffield made this abundantly clear, striking out 109 batters in 107.1 innings. His biggest problem, though, was avoiding the big hit. Sheffield consistently worked into the fifth inning but left his pitches up too often and became increasingly susceptible to the long ball as the game went on. The problem got worse after he was promoted to High-A to finish off the season, as he allowed 16 earned runs in 18 innings.

9. Gavin Lux, SS/2B

  • Age: 19
  • Drafted: 2016, Round 1(20) – LA
2017 stats: (Single-A Great Lakes): 111 games, .244/.331/.362, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 68 R, 27 SB, 56 BB, 88 K.

The Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2016 tore up two different rookie leagues in his professional debut last year. While he didn’t have quite the same success in his first full season as a professional, he put together a solid year overall at the Single-A level. The 19-year-old demonstrated good patience at the plate, working 56 walks in 111 games. He also showed off his wheels, stealing 27 bases in 37 attempts. Lux’s power numbers spiked as well, with seven homers after not hitting a single one in 56 games last year. Lux is still young and is continuing to add strength and fine-tune his swing. All in all, the Dodgers should be happy with the improvement Lux showed at multiple parts of his game.

8. Will Smith, C

  • Age: 22
  • Drafted: 2016 Round 1(32) – LA
2017 stats: (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 72 games, .232/.355/.448, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 38 R, 6 SB, 37 BB, 71 K.

Like Sheffield and Lux, Smith was also taken in the first round of the 2016 Draft. The Dodgers loved his rare set of tools as a catcher and took him with the No. 32 pick. Unlike most catchers, Smith relies on his plus speed and on-base abilities to get the job done. While his average wasn’t great, he worked his walks and found ways to get on base. He also mashed 11 homers, the highest mark in his career. Smith has performed well as a catcher, but his athleticism and agility could allow him to play other positions, which the Dodgers have already started experimenting with. Smith finished the year on the disabled list but will make up for lost time during the Arizona Fall League, which starts next month.

7. Keibert Ruiz, C

  • Age: 19
  • Signed out of Venezuela in 2014 – LA
  • lists: Top 10 C Prospects (#7)
2017 stats: (Single-A Great Lakes): 63 games, .317/.372/.423, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 34 R, 18 BB, 30 K. (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 38 games, .315/.344/.497, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 24 R, 7 BB, 23 K.

Ruiz began hitting as soon as he made his U.S. debut last year and hasn’t stopped since. He has great contact ability from both sides of the plate and is adding power as he develops. In 101 games across two levels, Ruiz batted .316 with eight homers and 27 RBI. 2017 could be considered a breakout campaign of sorts for the 19-year-old. While he’s shown he could hit since being signed in 2014, 2017 was the first time that hitting ability was put on display over a full season. He’s pushed himself into the top 10 catcher prospects in all of baseball and could rise even higher from his No. 7 spot if he keeps it up.

6. Mitchell White, RHP

  • Age: 22
  • Drafted: 2016, Round 2(65) – LA
2017 stats: (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 38.2 IP, 2-1, 3.72 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 49 K, 16 BB. (Double-A Tulsa): 28 IP, 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 31 K, 13 BB. 

White took his biggest step forward since turning pro. After an impressive nine starts at High-A, White was promoted to Double-A Tulsa. He made seven starts with the Drillers and put up the best numbers of his young career. In 28 innings, he allowed just 17 hits, 13 walks and struck out 31 while posting an ERA under 3.00. White’s best pitch, his cutter, has come a long way and looks better than ever. That, along with his mid-90s fastball and curveball, makes him very hard to touch. White has continued to improve all parts of his game and has the looks of a consistent starting pitcher in the future.

5. Yusniel Diaz, OF

  • Age: 20
  • Signed out of Cuba in 2015 – LAD
2017 stats: (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 83 games, .278/.343/.414, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 42 R, 7 SB, 35 BB, 73 K. (Double-A Tulsa): 31 games, .333/.390/.491, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 15 R, 2 SB, 10 BB, 29 K.

Diaz made good use of his first full, healthy season as a professional. He played well enough at High-A to earn a promotion to Double-A Tulsa. The increase in competition didn’t phase Diaz, who performed even better since moving up. In 31 games with Tulsa, he batted .333 with three homers and 13 RBI. Diaz has a mature approach at the plate with great hand-eye coordination. While he’s not a big power threat, he makes up for it with the rest of his tools. His above-average contact ability was put on display in 2017 and should only improve as he ages.

4. Jeren Kendall, OF

  • Age: 21
  • Drafted: 2017, Round 1(23) – LAD
2017 stats: (RK-PIO): 5 games, .455/.455/.727, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 5 R, 4 SB, 3 K. (Single-A Great Lakes): 35 games, .221/.290/.400, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 21 R, 5 SB, 13 BB, 42 K.

Had it not been for struggles with striking out, Kendall could have been a top 10 pick in this year’s Draft. Still, the Dodgers took him with the No. 23 pick. Kendall is a very toolsy player with the ability to shine at every part of the game. He quickly showed that the Pioneer League was too easy, logging 10 hits in just 22 at-bats. He also stole four bases in those five games. The Dodgers sent him to Single-A shortly after his professional debut, where he came back to earth a bit. While he obviously couldn’t maintain his .455 clip at the rookie level, Kendall was still able to show off some of his skills at Single-A. He stole five bases and legged out seven triples in 35 games.

3. Yadier Alvarez, RHP

  • Age: 21
  • Signed out of Cuba in 2015 – LAD
  • lists: Top 100 Prospects (#45)
2017 stats: (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 59.1 IP, 2-4, 5.31 ERA, 1,45 WHIP, 61 K, 25 BB. (Double-A Tulsa): 33 IP, 2-2, 3.55 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 36 K, 25 BB.

Alvarez took a step back in 2017 after ending last season on a high note. His control was an issue for much of last season, but he seemed to figure things out down the stretch. Unfortunately, he didn’t carry that into the new season. Across two levels, Alvarez walked 50 batters in 92.1 innings compared to 97 strikeouts. It was especially bad after moving to Double-A, as he struck out just 11 more batters than he walked. On the bright side, he was able to limit the long ball and work deeper into games than he had in the past. Alvarez’s elite fastball, along with three other possible plus pitches, has the Dodgers optimistic. He’s working on his fine-tuning his delivery, and as he grows into his frame, he could see an improvement in his control.

2. Alex Verdugo, OF

  • Age: 21
  • Drafted: 2014, Round 2(62) – LAD
2017 stats: (Triple-A Oklahoma City): 117 games, .314/.389/.436, 6 HR, 62 RBI, 67 R, 9 SB, 52 BB, 50 K. (MLB Los Angeles): 13 games, .150/.227/.300, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K.

Verdugo hasn’t stopped hitting since making his professional debut in 2014. This year, he swung a consistent bat all year and was rewarded with his first taste of Major League action when rosters expanded in September. Verdugo’s terrific plate discipline stood out most for the Dodgers. In 117 games, Verdugo walked 52 times while striking out 50. His good eye, along with his great ability to make contact, was enough for the Dodgers to add him to the big league club. He’s collected three hits with the Dodgers, including his first career Major League homer. Verdugo’s great season should give him a chance to compete for a big league roster spot come spring training.

1. Walker Buehler, RHP

  • Age: 23
  • Drafted: 2015, Round 1(24) – LAD
  • lists: Top 100 Prospects (#10), Top 10 RHP Prospects (#2)
2017 stats: (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 16.1 IP, 1.10 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 27 K, 5 BB. (Double-A Tulsa): 49 IP, 2-2, 3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 64 K, 15 BB. (Triple-A Oklahoma City): 23.1 IP, 1-1, 4.63 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 34 K, 11 BB. (MLB Los Angeles): 6.1 IP, 1-0, 8.53 ERA, 2.05 WHIP, 9 K, 5 BB.

Buehler has seen a little bit of everywhere in 2017. He started the season in High-A Rancho Cucamonga and will close it out with the Dodgers. Overall, it’s been a solid season for the No. 10 prospect in all of baseball. Before making his debut, he posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.11 WHIP across the three Minor League levels. What was most impressive was his 31:125 BB:K ratio. His command has been superb and should help him be a force at the top of the Dodgers’ rotation for years to come. He’s been used out of the bullpen by the Dodgers down the stretch but should absolutely get a shot at a rotation spot in spring training.

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