Over the last couple of years, the Dodgers new front office has made moves that some fans may like, while others may question. But while the trades, signings, and acquisitions could be debated, one thing that most certainly can’t, is the increased focus on the farm system. The Dodgers haven’t had a core of top prospects like they have now in a very long time.
Some prospects are still years away from making the club. Also, there will surely be additional moves made that could send some of these guys to other teams before they ever have a chance to wear Dodger Blue. The depth that the Dodgers now have in their minor league system gives them plenty of flexibility. So, instead of looking too far down the road, we take a look here at 11 prospects that could play a role and contribute to the Dodgers club in 2016. (Where each player ranks on the prospect list in parentheses.)
Corey Seager (#1):
Not only the Dodgers top prospect, but likely the #1 prospect in all of baseball going into 2016. After getting a September call-up last season, Seager is ready to take over the starting shortstop duties this year. The Dodgers will likely try to temper their expectations, and not put too much pressure on their rookie, but it’ll be hard not to get excited about the possibilities. In his brief stint with the team last year, Seager hit .337 with 4 home runs in 113 AB. Dodgers fans are anxious to see what a full year will bring. He’s the one prospect on this list that will almost certainly be playing on opening day.
Micah Johnson (#8):
Acquired by the Dodgers this off-season in a three-way trade with the Reds and the White Sox, Johnson has a chance to not only make the opening day roster, but possibly be in the mix for the starting 2nd base job. Currently, the Dodgers only other options are 37-year old Chase Utley, who’s coming off a down 2015 season, and utility man Kiki Hernandez. Johnson has blistering speed (he stole 84 bases in his 2013 minor league season) and could be a needed table setter at the top of the order. He does have some improvements to make on the defensive end, and it’s unsure if the Dodgers would be willing to hand over the 2nd base job to another rookie, with one already likely to be playing shortstop, in Seager. Johnson played briefly for Chicago last year, and hit .230 with a .306 OBP. The Dodgers would like to see those numbers look closer to his minor league numbers (.301 Avg & .368 OBP over last 4 minor league seasons.)
Trayce Thompson (#16):
Yet another piece in the same trade with the Chicago White Sox that brought in Montas and Johnson, Thompson could provide depth in the outfield. He’s very athletic (his brother is NBA star Klay Thompson) and has some pop in his bat, but he hasn’t shown the ability to hit consistently in the minors. He also strikes out a lot. Though Thompson likely won’t earn a starting job anytime soon with the crowded outfield that the Dodgers currently have, he could find a reserve role with the team. Perhaps the same type of role as Chris Heisey had last year. Thompson will be 25 years old to start the 2016 season.
Might Make An Appearance
Zach Lee (#19):
A first round draft pick in 2010, Lee was once consider one of the Dodgers top prospects before dropping down in the rankings the last few years. He played most of last year at AAA, where he pitched well, posting a 2.63 ERA. Lee doesn’t necessarily have a high ceiling like some of the other pitching prospects, but he has seemed to run his course in the minors. The Dodgers starting rotation looks pretty deep right now, and it doesn’t appear they have room to pencil in any rookies at this point. However, if, and when, injuries happen, Lee could be one of the first guys to get a chance for a spot start throughout the season.
Jose De Leon (#3):
If the Dodgers were ever going to give one of their rookie starting pitchers a chance to win a spot in the rotation during spring training, De Leon seemed like the best candidate. But with the off-season acquisitions made, it’s doubtful now that he’ll get a realistic look for 2016. De Leon started to turn heads when he was named the pitcher of the year in 2014 for the Rookie-level Pioneer League. He struck out hitters at a 13.9k/9 inn rate that year, and 12.8k/9 inn last season. As the #3 prospect overall for the Dodgers, many teams surely had De Leon included on their asking price for any possible trades. But thus far, the Dodgers have resisted parting with him, or any of their other top guys. The Dodgers would probably like to let him develop another year in the minors, but he could be one of the first to get a call if a need arises for a starter. De Leon is 23 years old, the same age as Noah Syndergaard, who turned into one of the best pitchers last year for the NL champion New York Mets.