The latest MLB Pipeline Top 30 Prospect list for the Dodgers was released last week. In just a little less than 6 months there are 6 players that dropped off while only 2 have graduated so far. Over the next few weeks we will see more graduating off the list as they reach their rookie limits. At the end of last February I did my previous comparison of the MLB Pipeline lists.
The List Comparison
The first column is a note about why a prospect is missing from then until now. The second column is the list from February 27, 2019 and the forth column is for the August 4, 2019 list. The ranking number is in the third column with the sixth column being the difference in placement.
Josiah (JoJo) Gray
It should be no surprise that Josiah Gray has rocketed up the prospect list. He started in Low-A and after five starts he was promoted to High-A. After dominating the California League for 12 starts he was promoted to AA. He’s only had 4 starts in AA but has a 1.54 ERA in 23.1 innings, giving up only 15 hits and 3 walks while striking out 20.
I'm going to go way out on a limb and say that Josiah Gray will have the best career of all the Dodgers' starting pitcher prospects. Not only is he dominant on the mound but there is an "it" factor about him.
— Tim Rogers (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) July 26, 2019
I wrote about Devin Mann in late June and now he’s starting to get noticed. He’s gone from a light hitting second baseman to a power hitting versatile infielder. Mann has played almost as much third base as second this season. He’s been injured for the last couple of weeks and I don’t have any information about his return. There is a lot of talent and he’s finally been able to unlock it.
Vargas is just 19 years old and in his second year of professional baseball. He spent the first two and half months of 2019 in Low-A then was promoted to High-A. He has gotten off to a slow start at the higher level but has started to get hotter. There have been some questions about his defense but he has been in the lineup at third base with a noticeable improvement. Again, he is only 19 years old and his is still growing. I expect a lot of power within the next two years and I believe he could be the future third baseman.
Jeren Kendall was the Dodgers’ first round draft pick in 2017 and got off to a great start. When he was promoted to Low-A he started to struggle. The Dodgers put him in High-A at the beginning of 2018 and he struggled even more. Kendall has amazing athletic ability and talent but he has one weakness, making consistent contact. The strikeout numbers are frustrating for all. I have seen some adjustments to his swing and if he can have better contact he will become a top prospect again.
Yadier Alvaraz was the Dodgers prize signing during the 2015 International Signing Period. Like Kendall, he has elite talent but has a major hole in his game, trouble throwing strikes. He had an excellent 2016 but after that the control problems keep getting worse. The Dodgers seem to be in desperation mode with Alvarez as they started changing his mechanics in Spring Training of 2019. He’s only pitched in 2 games in 2019 with disastrous results before being put onto the Injured List.
I believe the Dodgers are using his injury to continue working on his mechanics. If they can harness his talent he could be a dominant pitcher.
Connor Wong was drafted in 2017 in the third round and ended up in High-A at the beginning of the 2018 season. He had a solid season in 2018 while catching a lot but also playing some second base. I was shocked to see that the Dodgers held him back to High-A at the beginning of the 2019 season. After thinking about it, the Dodgers had Keibert Ruiz at AA and Will Smith at AAA so there wasn’t room for Wong. In simple terms, the Dodgers are overloaded with talent. To make it worse, Wong got off to a slow start. He was finally promoted to AA on July 15 and is getting regular playing time behind the plate with some spot starts at second. I expect him to climb up the rankings again, soon.
A Nice Surprise
Andre Jackson was drafted in 2017 despite dealing with Tommy John surgery. He didn’t debut until 2018 and pitched in 18 games, 17 of them starts. He finished the season in Low-A and started the 2019 season in Low-A again. Jackson dominated his 10 starts and was promoted to High-A. I was able to watch one of his starts during a Corey Seager/A.J. Pollock rehabilitation start and came away impressed. Despite his progress I had not seen much about him until this list came out. Jackson was a two-way player in college and doesn’t have a lot of pitching experience. He was plenty to learn and grow from but is making great progress.
Many of the other new players appearing on the list are either from the draft or international free agent signings. One re-appearance that I was happy to see was Jordan Sheffield. He has found his niche as a reliever and is now making excellent progress. It is important to note that, despite so many graduations and poor draft positions, the Dodgers have the number 3 ranked system according to MLB Pipeline. As we see so many excellent contributions from rookies this season, the only question becomes, who’s next?