In our next positional prospect report, Dodgers Nation takes a look at the top middle infielders. There aren’t any middle infielders that look ready for the Major Leagues yet but the year 2020 could see one or more make it by the end of the season. The top six are evaluated but there are others that will warrant a look next year including Deacon Liput, Devin Mann and Eddys Leonard.
Gavin Lux – SS/2B, Age 21, Tulsa (AA), ETA late 2020
Lux finished his high-A ball season with a slash line of .324/.396/.520 (batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage) when he was promoted to AA. He continued his great season by slashing .324/.399/.495 in AA. The improvement with the bat from 2017 (.244/.331/.362) should be credited with just growing up physically and getting comfortable with pro ball. For 2017 he walked 56 times and struck out 88 with 2018 numbers being 57 and 88.
“Lux found success at the plate as he started to use his legs more in his left-handed swing. He added strength last offseason and is driving the ball more in the air, changes that coupled with his bat speed could make him a 15-20 homer threat on an annual basis. He controls the strike zone well for a 20-year-old and should provide more offense than most middle infielders.
Lux has the solid speed and the savvy to steal 20 bases per year, though there are diverging opinions as to how well that quickness translates to his defense. He has reliable hands but he can look more stiff than athletic at shortstop. Though he has a strong arm, he has mechanical issues that lead to throwing errors at shortstop and he’s much more reliable at second base.” – MLB Pipeline
As noted above, there is some concern about his ability to play shortstop. His bat will force playing time and, with Corey Seager entrenched at shortstop, second base will likely be his future. His minor league numbers do have drastic splits between hitting lefties verses righties so I am hopeful that changes. Overall, Lux is one of the Dodgers top prospects and is in high demand from other teams.
Omar Estevez –SS/2B, Age 21, Rancho Cucamonga (high A), ETA late 2021
I was able to watch a lot of Omar Estevez in 2018. He mostly played shortstop once Lux was promoted in mid-summer. A native of Cuba, Estevez was signed in 2105 and will be entering the 2019 season as a 21 year old. He is starting to get some extra notice as minorleagueball.com has him rated at the Dodgers 9thbest prospect.
“Age 20, signed out of Cuba in 2015; hit .278/.336/.456 with 43 doubles, 15 homers, 45 walks, 138 strikeouts in 515 at-bats in High-A; this includes .308/.374/.515 in the second half as he did a better job of controlling the strike zone and tapping his power as the season progressed; reliable defender though range and arm fit better at second base rather than shortstop; has been young for his levels; second half reports were quite good and may presage a true breakout in ’19” – Minor League Ball, John Sickels, Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 prospects for 2019
It is expected that he will be promoted to Tulsa in 2019. The big question is will he play second base or shortstop? He’s physically getting stronger and jumped from 4 home runs in 2017 to 15 in 2018. I expect him to continue to add more power as he continues to get older. He’s not very tall but looks very strong. Third base could also be in his future so 2019 will be a very big year for him.
Drew Jackson – SS/2B, Age 25, Tulsa (AA), ETA 2020
Drew Jackson was acquired from the Mariners in a trade of minor leagues in the spring of 2017. His best tool is his arm and is regarded as a very good fielder with good speed. He plays mostly shortstop and second base but has also played third and centerfield. The defensive tools are there for him to be a major leaguer on the defensive side.
“Jackson is one of the best athletes in the system. Both his cannon arm and his speed grade well above average and give him the ability to play all over the diamond. He’s a quality defender at second base and capable at shortstop, his two main positions, and also appeared briefly at third base and center field last year.
A lack of feel for hitting hurt Brett Jackson and the same fate may befall Drew, who has been exposed earlier in his pro career. He’s most effective when he shortens his right-handed swing, forgets about power and uses the whole field, but he has difficulty maintaining that approach. If he could get on base consistently, he could wreak havoc with his speed.” – MLB Pipeline
Despite his potential, he was left eligible for the rule 5 draft when the Dodgers didn’t protect him. Any team can select him during the rule 5 draft and the Dodgers would get nothing in return for him. With his skills on the defensive side I expect that he will be taken by another team. If not then he will be assigned to Oklahoma City, the AAA affiliate.
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Ronny Brito – SS, Age 20, Ogden (Rookie), ETA 2022
Ronny Brito was signed as a free agent in 2015 at the age of 16. He is rated as an excellent defender and has started to add some offense to his arsenal. Brito spent most of the 2018 season with Ogden and slashed .288/.359/.496 with 21 walks in 53 games. He did strike out a lot but his production grew by a lot. In just 38 games at shortstop he made 13 errors so there is some work to be done.
“aggressive hitter with power upside, plenty of bat speed but approach rather raw; range and arm work well at shortstop and errors should decline with experience;” – Minor League Ball, John Sickels, Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 prospects for 2019
It is expected that he start the season at Great Lakes (A) but I would not be surprised to see him reach the Quakes (high-A) by the end of the season. That would be some rapid advancement but the Dodgers push their prospects fast when warranted.
Jacob Amaya – SS, Age 20, Great Lakes (A), ETA 2022
Jacob Amaya was selected in the 2017 draft by the Dodgers right out of high school. He is a Los Angeles County kid and it will be exciting to see him come through the system.
“hit .346/.465/.535 in 127 at-bats in Pioneer League, then .265/.390/.306 in 98 at-bats in Low-A; needs more strength but controls strike zone well and makes contact; also stole 14 bases; far more reliable than most shortstops his age and should stick at the position;” – Minor League Ball, John Sickels, Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 prospects for 2019
He will probably start the 2019 season at Great Lakes as he only played about a month there is 2018. A mid-season promotion to the Quakes is very possible. Getting stronger without losing his speed will be key. The idea that he can stick at shortstop is encouraging.
Errol Robinson – SS/2B, Age 24, Tulsa (AA), ETA late 2020
Robinson came to the Dodgers in the 2016 draft and has moved pretty quickly through the system. In 2017 he played at three different levels while playing all over the field, even though his primary position is shortstop. He is regarded as the best fielder in the Dodgers system.
“In little more than a year, Robinson has established himself as the best defender among the system’s infield prospects. He has nice actions, solid range to both sides, soft hands and the arm to make all of the throws. The Dodgers have given him extensive action at second base to enhance his versatility, and they’ve also played him briefly at third base and center field.
Even with the good start to his pro career, Robinson still projects to hit at the bottom of a batting order. There’s a lot going on in his right-handed swing and though he still manages to make consistent contact, he provides very little in the way of power or walks. He gets the most out of his solid speed on the bases.” – MLB Pipeline
Errol Robinson seems to project as someone who will initially make it to the Major Leagues as a utility player. His bat will determine if he ever gets a shot at being a full time player. Since the Dodgers value versatility I expect to see Robinson playing more time at other positions in AAA during the 2019 season.
Other than Gavin Lux, the other candidates have more to prove they have a path towards the Major Leagues. Players like Jackson and Robinson are older and need to be up soon or they may end up in other organizations. Estevez, Brito and Amaya are younger and none have played above A ball. This next year is important for all these players to make a further impression on the Dodgers and other teams. The one sure thing is Lux and I look forward to seeing him at Dodger Stadium within the next two seasons.
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