It was a busy Friday for the reigning champs. A day after making the Trevor Bauer signing official, the Dodgers added to a deep farm system that already ranks among the best in the league.
More importantly, however, the club added potentially crucial players to help in the pursuit of a second consecutive World Series championship.
Trade 1: Dodgers send OF Cody Thomas and LHP Adam Kolarek to Oakland for IF Sheldon Neuse and RHP Gus Varland
Sheldon Neuse – Giving up Cody Thomas is big for the Dodgers, but they have the depth to absorb the loss. The good news is that fans should grow to love Sheldon Neuse rather quickly. The 26-year-old infielder who was ranked as the A’s number 5 prospect finally broke out in 2019 with a .317 batting average along with 27 home runs and 102 RBI in AAA.
The right-handed batter has improved his approach at the plate through his time in the minors, which coincides with his increased efficiency at the plate from the year before.
Sheldon Neuse's batted ball profile at AAA in 2019:
Pull – 21.6%
Center – 36.4%
Oppo – 41.9%
For reference, LeMahieu, for his career:
Pull – 25.5%
Center – 39.3%
Oppo – 35.2%
With a 91 mph avg exit velo, if they can get him to tap into pull power, he could be quite the get.
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) February 13, 2021
Defensively, he’s primarily played third base in his minor league career — an area of weakness for LA, particularly without the return of Justin Turner. He’s also picked up innings at second base, shortstop, and left field. With the loss of Kiké Hernandez, the club needed to replace that versatility with a right-handed bat.
Assuming that Neuse is able to get some playing time in spring training, there is a very good chance that he could compete for the last bench spot over the likes of Zach McKinstry and Matt Beaty.
Gus Varland – Varland is an intriguing prospect, and he could end up being a steal for the Dodgers. The 24-year-old currently projects as a starter, and he seems to have the stuff to stay there. Throughout his minor league career, Gus has pitched to the tune of a 1.54 ERA in 64.1 innings pitched.
Varland has a bulldog mentality when he’s on the mound, and his focus on attacking hitters has led to a 4.8/1 strikeout to walk ratio in the minors. His presence on the mound is undeniable. The biggest question when it comes to prospects is if they have the drive and attitude necessary to make it. Well according to Oakland A’s scout Derek Lee, Varland has what it takes to go all the way.
“I think he’s got the makeup and he’s got the stuff (to be a big-league pitcher),” Lee said. “He’s been blessed with a great arm and he’s an outstanding young man. He’s not arrogant or cocky, but he’s confident in his ability and he’s a great kid.”
I really like #Athletics Gus Varland's stuff. Good movement on the fastball (arm side) and slider (glove side). Hard to gauge how well they mirror but I am excited to see him in 2021. pic.twitter.com/5biChnM8hf
— Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) January 31, 2021
Varland is expected to begin the year at Double-A Tulsa for the Dodgers, where he can continue to develop and improve.
Trade 2: Dodgers send RHP Dylan Floro to Miami for LHP Alex Vesia and RHP Kyle Hurt
Alex Vesia – Vesia is a California native who was drafted by the Marlins in the 17th round of the 2018 Draft out of Cal State East Bay. While he was a starter in college, the Marlins transitioned him to a reliever role in the minors, which has done wonders for his efficiency. Through his first two years in the minors, Vesia has a cumulative 1.62 ERA in 100 innings pitched across 5 levels.
His success led to an Opening Day roster spot last season, but he got off to a rough start. In just 4.1 innings pitched, Vesia gave up 9 earned runs, 3 home runs, and 7 walks vs just 5 strikeouts. The sample size in the majors is obviously small, which leaves hope that whatever issues he had can be corrected.
One thing to note with Alex Vesia is that he has some filthy movement on his pitches. His incredible spin rate gives his fastball some late life, and the two-seamer shown below would be an absolutely nasty pitch to try to hit.
— Alex Vesia (@Alex_Vesia) January 23, 2021
The sky is truly the limit for Vesia, especially now that he is in an organization that has proven to help pitchers thrive. He should spend most of the season in AAA, but he could be a potential call-up option if the Dodgers need another lefty reliever at the major league level throughout the year. He has three options remaining on his contract and is under team control for 6 more seasons.
Kyle Hurt – The Marlins selected Hurt in the 5th round of the 2020 Draft out of USC, meaning that he is still unproven at the professional level. During his 3 seasons with the Trojans, Hurt had a combined 5.06 ERA in 172.2 innings pitched. And while those numbers don’t scream future All-Star, the raw potential that Hurt possesses is still intriguing.
His senior year got off to a great start before being interrupted by the pandemic. In the 17 innings he pitched his final season, Hurt held opponents to a .190 batting average while leading the team with 25 strikeouts. With a fastball that sits at 95-96 MPH, Hurt could get the coaching he needs to become a top will join a farm system that has had great success with their young arms, hopefully becoming another success story for LA.
Related: LA Completes Trades With A’s & Marlins!
While the Dodgers traded quality major league talent in Dylan Floro and Adam Kolarek, chances are that they would struggle to make the opening day roster. In these transactions, the club adds players under team control and with option years to shuttle back and forth from the minor leagues during the long 162 game season.
Trust the process when it comes to Andrew Friedman.