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Dodgers: The Top 5 Starting Pitching Prospects Heading Into 2019

DENVER, CO - JUNE 1: Relief pitcher Scott Alexander #75 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers to home plate during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on June 1, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

In the spirit of the great movie “High Fidelity” I will be doing a series of top 5 pitching prospect lists. The first top 5 list will be the top 5 starting pitching prospects in the Dodgers organization. I will follow up with the top 5 relief prospects and the top 5 under the radar starting pitching prospects.

In looking at the Dodgers top pitching prospects, the interesting characteristic you’ll see is that they are all right handed. However, the other characteristic is that they all throw hard. These are very exciting prospects but they all come with warnings: not all will have Major League success (some might not even get there), and some could be used in a trade. The list is my order based on how good I feel they will be as Major League starters.

1. Big Red

  • Dustin May
  • Drafted in 3rd round in 2016
  • Turned 21 on September 6, 2018
  • 6’6” and 180 pounds
  • ETA: September 2019

Dustin May continued to make great strides and to climb up every prospect list that I’ve kept track of. He started 2018 either at the bottom or outside of all the top 10 lists that I saw. His fastball has jumped up to now top out at 97 MPH that is now a two-seamer. His two-seamer has plenty of sink to it which helps get more ground balls. The Dodgers also eliminated his slider to help focus on a curveball that brings more grounders. I’m a big fan of keeping the ball on the ground in this era of players trying to hit more balls in the air.

May’s 2018 season started in single A with the Quakes where he had 17 starts for 98.1 innings that saw him walk only 17 and strike out 94. He was then promoted to AA with Tulsa and his ERA went up from 3.29 to 3.67 but he was still darn good. In his 6 starts he went 34.1 innings while keeping his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) almost the same at 1.10 in A verses 1.14 in AA. He did have a higher walk rate in AA but a lower batting average against.

He likely begins the season at Tulsa in AA again, but he’ll be in AAA by mid-season if he continues his progression. At the end of the 2019 season he will need to be added to the 40 man roster, so he is a candidate to be called up later in the season. He’ll be 22 in September and is still growing into his height. I see a very high ceiling for May and 29 other teams would love for the Dodgers to trade him. If he wasn’t traded during the 2018 season in the Machado trade I doubt he gets traded at all. Expect him to get a cup of coffee some time in 2019, and see some action in the starting rotation for the Dodgers sometime during the 2020 season.

2. The Former Shortstop

  • Dennis Santana
  • Signed in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic
  • Turns 23 on April 12
  • 6’2” and weights 160 pounds
  • ETA: debuted in 2018

I reviewed Dennis Santana’s season already but he is always fun to talk about. He throws a fastball, changeup, slider and a slurve. He followed a progression in 2018 from AA to AAA to the Majors that ended up with him getting hurt. Losing more than 3 months to an injury was a big setback and did slow his progress.

Santana can get the ball up to 98 MPH but sits at 93-95. Like May, his fastball sinks a lot and he gets a lot of groundouts. Again, this is a trend I like. He does have some command issues and walked 16 batters in 49.2 innings. Some say that he might end up as a reliever if he can’t be more in command of his pitches. His slider can be good and he’ll need to develop the changeup further in order to be a full-time starter in the Major Leagues.

His rapid rise to the majors was a surprise, considering he’s only been pitching since 2014. It is too bad he got hurt because his only MLB appearance was in Colorado. If everyone is healthy to start the season I expect Santana to start in AAA, which will allow him to get some more experience, but he will be an excellent option as circumstances warrant. Even though I prefer Dennis as a starter I think he could be dominant in the bullpen. By 2020 he will be a full-time member of the Dodgers.

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/rosenthal-dodgers-out-on-harper-machado-and-explains-their-spending-practices/2019/02/02/”  color=”blue”]ROSENTHAL: DODGERS OUT ON HARPER/MACHADO AND EXPLAINS THEIR SPENDING PRACTICES[/button]

3. The Mustache

  • Tony Gonsolin
  • Drafted in 9th round in 2016
  • Turns 25 on 5/14
  • 6’2” and 180 pounds
  • ETA: September 2019

Clint Evans had an interview with Tony Gonsolin in September that gave Dodgers Nation readers a glimpse of him. A reliever before the 2018 season the Dodgers shifted him to the rotation and he took off. His fastball can hit 100 MPH and he sits up to 97 during his starts. He definitely found something between 2017 and 2018 and went from a prospect who was very low on all lists to a legitimate top 10 prospect.

Gonsolin turns 25 this May and is the oldest of this group. Like May, I expect him to start in AA and earn his way to AAA by the middle of the season. He will also need to be protected on the 40 an roster after the 2019 season so a call up near the end of the 2019 season is a possibility. With his velocity he could easily be a bullpen candidate for the Dodgers at some point in 2019. He’s another that should be on the Dodgers full-time in 2020.

4. Highest Upside

  • Mitchell White
  • Drafted in 2nd round in 2016
  • Turns 25 on 12/28
  • 6’4” and 207 pounds
  • ETA: 2020

Mitchell White had a rough 2018 in his first full year of AA. After some success at the end of 2017 in AA it was expected that he’d make the leap to AAA sometime in 2018. He had some arm issues at the beginning of the season and did not get on track until the last few games. He has a plus fastball that sits around 95 MPH along with an excellent slider and a good curveball. White is also working on a changeup to go along with his 3 plus pitches. His mechanics are well regarded and many believe the tools are all there for him to be excellent.

I ranked him as number 4 on the list because of the setbacks he had but I do love his upside. He has the most advanced pitch selection of all the prospects and if things come together he will advance quickly. I have his ETA as 2020 but if things get back on track he will be up by 2019. For a note of encouragement his last 10 starts netted him a 3.02 ERA with his final start being 7 innings of shutout ball while giving up just 2 hits. He should start 2019 in AAA.

5. The Former Red

  • Josiah Gray
  • Drafted in 2nd round in 2018
  • Turned 21 on 12/21/18
  • 6’1” and 190 pounds
  • ETA: September 2021

Josiah Gray was part of the Kyle Farmer trade on his 21st birthday and comes to the Dodgers as a possible top 10 prospect. He’s another hard thrower who dominated in his first year of professional baseball. He can touch 97 MPH and sits around 95. His second pitch is a slider and he needs to develop his changeup to remain as a starter.

His numbers in rookie ball were pretty awesome. In 52.1 innings he only gave up 29 hits, walked 17 and struck out 59. His WHIP was .88 with a batting average against of .155. That is dominance. He will probably start the season in low A at Great Lakes but will be in high A pretty quick into the season. I expect him to make his Major League debut sometime late in the 2021 season but the Dodgers will push the good ones fast.

Final Thoughts

I’m very optimistic that all 5 of these pitchers can make it to the Major Leagues. These are all top 10 quality prospects and will be in demand from other teams. After 2019 both Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu are free agents so there will be some opportunities coming soon. The other issue is that pitchers break so that will mean more opportunities during the 2019 season. I would expect Dennis Santana will be the first option up, but May, Gonsolin and White could also break through. These are exciting times for this #ProspectHugger and I am going to enjoy watching their growth.

Credits

My resources for this article are as follows:

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/the-potential-future-of-caleb-ferguson-for-2019-and-beyond/2019/02/01/” type=”big” color=”red”]The Potential Future of Caleb Ferguson for 2019 and Beyond[/button]

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Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

8 Comments

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  1. Good assessment. The Dodgers’ farm system has been constructed to have prospects at all levels, insuring a steady supply to the major league club every year. This doesn’t happen by chance, Friedman is brilliant and sees the big picture.

  2. Look for Michael Grove to squeeze his way into your top 5 before the end of this season. Last year’s pre-draft Baseball America scouting report included “…pre-injury he was blowing away hitters with a 93-96 mph fastball and a plus breaking ball with above-average control.” TJ surgery in 2017 shutdown his 2018 season, but prior to the injury he was projected as a first round prospect.

  3. Look for 2018 second rd pick Michael Grove to work his way into your top 5 by the end of this season. TJ surgery in 2017 wiped out his 2018 season, Baseball America draft scouting report: “… pre-injury he was blowing away hitters with a 93-96 mph fastball and a plus breaking ball with above-average control.” Prior to TJ, Grove was considered to be a first round talent.

    • Apology for duplicate articles; first one did not appear at first, so assumed that it was lost.

  4. Great information on all these top 5 articles I am sure we all appreciate the time and effort it takes to put them together. I plan, as I live in AZ, to be at quite a few Spring games and see some of these guys trying to make an impression. Hoping Michael Grove gets a Spring invite.
    As Daniel stated the Dodgers have players coming up in waves and it is not luck. Kasten and Friedman are masters at developing Farm Clubs and the Dodgers spend more money and resources than almost any other club in the MLB.
    I am always shocked that writers like the LA Times Hernandez so fixate on mega stars and do not seem to understand the Business Plan of the Dodgers that Kasten has put together. I think sometimes they think that one or two stars like in Basketball can bring you a Championship. Baseball while like every sport is talent driven one or two mega stars do not get you to the WS. Look at the National with Harper or the Orioles record with Machado. It is all about balancing the roster 25 man and 40 man against the cap.
    Pitching and great defense that aids pitching wins Championships. I think the Dodgers are well positioned to be competitive for a very long run as long as this ownership and management team are in charge.
    I really like how good this team should be defensively with improvements in the outfield and catcher. Verdugo and Toles have cannon arms and know how to hit the cut off man.
    Looking forward to the end of this month…Go BLUE

  5. At that weight how does Mitchel White even make his way to the mound!? Jk, excellent article! I love reading about our prospects, I hope Mitch has a healthy year and shows the organization that they made a great choice using their second round pick on him, I also hope Yadier Alvarez finds his groove and has a season he (and we) can be proud of. Best of luck to all our other prospects.

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