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Dodgers Spring Training Predictions: 2018 Breakout Prospects

With 2018 fast approaching, we are now officially in our top 5 prospects for our Farm-Hand Fridays. As you know, in that series we are taking a look at each of our top 10 prospects. So far we have covered #10 Dennis Santana; #9 Will Smith; #8 DJ Peters; #7 Yusniel Diaz; #6 Jeren Kendall, and #5 Mitchell White. But it is important to not just talk about our top 10 prospects. It is important to discuss our prospects beyond the top 10, as many of our top 10 prospects did not start in the top 10. In fact all of our top 10 prospects so far, except for Kendall, did not debut in our top 10 prospects on most lists. That means there are definitely Dodgers 2018 breakout prospects candidates within our system right now.

We need to also remember that many players from over the years, like Cody Bellinger, Kenley Jansen, or Austin Barnes did not have instant acclaim as top prospects among the scouting world. Each one of the above mentioned players started outside of the top 10 prospects on many lists, and eventually broke into them. With how deep our system is over the last few years, being able to crack the Dodgers top 10 prospects is a big deal.

Because of this, and the fact that a few of our top prospects could graduate from prospect status, there are a few fast risers in our system that could crack our top 10 list by years’ end. So with that in mind, let’s check out some fast rising prospects that could breakout in 2018.

Our only criteria to qualify is as follows:

  1. Prospect is not universally a top 10 prospect in our system.
  2. This prospect has not been listed as a top 10 system prospect before.
  3. Prospect has at least one year in our system – 2017 draftees/international signees don’t qualify in this case.

With this in mind, let us begin with our first breakout prospect candidate.

Starling Heredia

Starling Heredia is actually a pretty easy first choice here for a breakout candidate. However, his breakout wouldn’t be a surprise to many. Heredia was an international signing out of the Domincan Republic in the 2014-2015 signing period. At the time he was only 16 years old. He was one of many signings in that period that had raw tools, but were a gamble nonetheless. Indeed the Dodgers liked what they saw, so he was given a $2.6 million signing bonus. In 2016 he hit to an ok tune of .244/.331/.390 in the Domincan Summer League. Displaying solid tools many scouts still saw the talent he had. Especially being only 17 years old. Fast forward to 2017 and Heredia put up a much better triple slash of .325/.397/.555 with 30 extra base hits, and 10 stolen bases in 52 games.

Moving forward into 2018, Heredia is on the cusp of most Dodger farm system rankings. Many lists, including my own, have him ranked at #11. It is very likely he begins the year again at single-A Great Lakes. But if he performs really well and continues to make adjustments, he could be pushing his way to AA Tulsa by years end. If he can do that as a 19 year old, he will vault well into many top 10 lists, and potentially top 100 overall prospect lists. Heredia has the potential to be a solid hitting 20/20 corner outfielder if he reaches his ceiling. As I said, if he can replicate his 2017 success in 2018, while progressing forward in the system, he will definitely be in my top 10 by years end.

Dustin May

Dustin May is another prospect that, while not unknown, is not universally seen as a top 10 prospect. Drafted in the 3rd round (101st overall) of the 2016 draft, May was a high-school arm given an above-slot $1 million signing bonus. The Dodgers brought him on board because they liked what they saw in him as a projectable arm, like they did with Imani Abdullah. Unlike Abdullah though, May has already 164.1 innings under his belt. Whereas Abdullah has only 97.2 innnings with one more season under his belt.

What causes Dustin May to really stand out, other than his crazy red hair, is his impeccable command for a 20 year old. As a 19 year old reaching all the way to A+ Rancho Cucamonga he only walked 1.8 batters per 9 innings. Additionally he struck out 8.6 batters per 9 innings. Even though he threw only 11 innings at Rancho Cucamonga he struck out 15 and walked only 1 batter there. He does this with a solid three pitch arsenal: a low-mid 90s fastball with high-spin, a high spin rate curveball, and a harder slider. Those 3 pitches are currently average to slightly above-average.

Currently he has no true plus to plus-plus pitches, which is most likely why he hasn’t cracked any top 10 lists. However, as he continues to add to his 6’6″ frame it is certainly reasonable to see at least one of his pitches becoming a true plus pitch. He will start 2018 again at Rancho Cucamonga at around 2-3 years younger than his competition. It isn’t a stretch to say he’ll end up at AA by years end. Even if he continues to do what he has been doing, he will definitely inch his way into top 10 lists.

Imani Abdullah

Speaking of Imani Abdullah he is another arm that is ready and poised for a breakout season. Despite only logging 97.2 innings since being drafted in 2015, much of that time has been spent refining his delivery and pitches at extended Spring Training and instructional leagues. Now in 2018 it looks like he is finally ready to have a full season to show his development. 2016 was his best season yet at a 3.61 ERA, 7.3 K/9, and 1.5 BB/9.

Abdullah is similar to May in many respects except his development has been a bit slower. He also features a solid three pitch arsenal. But instead of a slider he features a plus potential change-up that is his best put away pitch by far. His fastball sits in the low-mid 90s and has some sink to it. And his curveball is also solid, but not as polished as others in the system.

It is still uncertain whether Abdullah will start 2018 at Great Lakes or Rancho Cucamonga. If he starts in RC and show how his development there, like May, he could end up in AA by years end and knocking on top 10 lists everywhere.

Cristian Santana

The final breakout prospect candidate is Cristian Santana. Previously we briefly covered Santana in our GM Mondays piece on third-base. Santana was signed towards the end of the 2013-2014 international signing period in July of 2014. He is one of the few true 3B prospects in our system. Because of this, the Dodgers really hope he can continue to develop as one. In 2017 he really made great strides forward, hitting an excellent .363/.390/.563. He has excellent, quick twitch bat speed which allows him to turn on inside fastballs with ease. He also has good raw power which he could translate into 25+ HR power down the road. His defensive instincts are good enough for him to continue to stay at 3B. And his arm is one of the better infield arms in the system.

In 2018 we can expect him to start in A+ Rancho Cucamonga. Hopefully he will continue to move up the ladder in the system. Presently he sits around #20-25 on most lists, though I would rate him closer to #15. Because of his poor plate discipline (only 11 walks in 228 plate appearances), pitchers may expose him at higher levels in the minors. However, if he makes the necessary adjustments, he can get by with his more aggressive, high contact approach.

The Conclusion

Despite the fact that in the next year we could easily see 2 to 3 prospects graduate from our top 10 list there are plenty of prospects ready to take that next step forward and vault themselves from a “solid prospect” status, to a “top prospect” status. I am extremely excited to watch each one of these players in 2018. These 4 prospects’ development will allow our system to continue to be a top-notch farm system. I foresee no less than 2 of these prospects breaking into the top 10 by mid-season.

Written by Blake Coble

Born and raised in SoCal and bled Blue my whole life. Absolutely love baseball and absolutely love the Boys in Blue! I have a fascination with analyzing the statistics and trends that drive player performance, and I love following our minor league prospects as well! Active duty Air Force currently stationed in Central California! Follow me on Twitter @yarritsblake

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