In the spirit of the great movie “High Fidelity” I am continuing to compile top 5 lists, this one about the prospects that surprised me in 2019 Spring Training.
For us #ProspectHuggers we know a lot about the top prospects for the Dodgers. Spring Training games have given us a nice window to watch them in game action. There are options to watch some of them during the season but nothing like watching them on an MLB broadcast. I know all of these observations include using a very small sample size of Spring Training statistics.
Tony Gonsolin Way Better Than I Thought
After I left Tony Gonsolin off my top 15 prospects list he immediately went out and started to prove me wrong. The day after my list was published he went out and threw 2 shutout innings. He earned a couple of starts and threw a total of 6 shutout innings in those starts including just 2 hits. He ended the year in AA and I expect him to start the year in AAA.
My skepticism about him is based on his first 2 years in professional ball. He was decent in 2016 and 2017 as a reliever but 2018 saw him excel as a starter.
He will begin this season in the minors, but scouts across the sport are citing him as a candidate to make a major league impact sooner than later. His fastball has hit 100 mph. His breaking balls break. And he is new enough to this that more potential remains. – The Athletic
The velocity jumped a lot in 2017 as stated by MLB Pipeline:
Gonsolin began 2017 with an 88-92 mph fastball but was hitting 100 by the end of that season, and he operated at 93-97 mph as a starter in ’18 while maintaining his velocity into the late innings. His upper-80s splitter devastates hitters with the way it dives at the plate, and his low-80s curveball has become a consistent plus offering with nice shape. He also uses a mid-80s slider to give hitters a different look.
Gonsolin is a late bloomer and Spring Training 2019 gave us a glimpse of what we might see at Dodgers Stadium in 2019 or 2020.
Jeter Downs Looks Very Advanced
Jeter Downs was acquired from the Reds in the Kyle Farmer trade in December. He turned 20 in the middle of the 2018 season and looks to have grown a bit physically as you could see some of that strength in his at-bats. What I saw reminds me of what happened with Gavin Lux last season. Lux came back from 2017 bigger and stronger and he had a breakout 2018 season. I see something similar happening with Downs. In his brief appearances that I saw, he looked mature, confident and hit the ball hard.
He should start the 2019 season with the Quakes and I expect him to get promoted to AA in mid-season. Downs is a player that will move fast and it is good to have some right-handed hitting prospects.
Edwin Rios Can Play Defense
Edwin Rios was drafted in the 6th round in 2015 as a hit-first type player. His defense has been a problem as he has played first, third and the outfield in the minors; none of them very well. In 2018 there were some improvements though. I made sure to watch Rios as much as I could during Spring Training and he passed the eye test on defense. He played all his positions and looked like he can handle them at the Major League level.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 16, 2019
The above catch was a nice highlight for Rios and got him some attention. He will probably never dazzle on the defensive side but his offense will get him to the Major Leagues. He is already on the 40-man roster so I expect him to get called up to Dodger Stadium at some point in 2019. I hope to continue to be surprised by his improving defense.
Jeren Kendall Swing Modifications
Although Jeren Kendall only had a few Spring Training plate appearances but there were some modifications to his approach at the plate. He put in the work over the winter.
But Kendall readily admits his offensive development over the past two seasons has not been what he hoped. He spent time this winter in the Los Angeles area working with hitting guru Craig Wallenbrock and newly hired Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc.– Baseball America
What my eyes saw were a definite change in his hands and getting to the ball quicker. There are still improvements to be made.
Yeah the lower half still moves like his body is two pieces that are connected, but it's way better. Once his lower body movement is more kinetic with the top I reallllly like his swing.
(Did that make sense?)
— AJ Gonzalez? (@AJontheguitar) March 22, 2019
I am very encouraged that Kendall has taken some steps towards being a better hitter. He has outstanding talent and the huge contact issues have kept him back. If he can continue to improve at the plate he will become a high-level prospect again.
Dustin May Impresses The Most
Who stood out for you this spring? #Dodgers Dave Roberts didn't hesitate: "Dustin May. Dustin May is probably the biggest standout. Much more advanced. Then just the makeup, his presence, the feel. Everything."
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 23, 2019
To get that type of endorsement from the manager of the Dodgers is a big deal. I’ve written about Dustin May a few times and to watch him get better and better is impressive. 2019 will be his year 21 season and he is moving quickly through the organization. He could start in AA or AAA but don’t be shocked if he’s in LA by the end of the season. There was a reason May was not traded to acquire some good players; he keeps getting better. His fastball keeps gaining velocity and nobody knows if he’s topped out yet.
Other players in consideration were Omar Estevez, Stetson Allie and D.J. Peters. 2019 has been one of my favorite Spring Trainings as the prospects have been very impressive. There are always issues and some have a long way to go (also small sample size). As Spring Training ends all these players mentioned will be sent to various teams within the Dodgers’ minor leagues. I will keep my eye on them via MiLB.tv and will keep you updated throughout the season. I will also be reporting on many Quakes games during the season so you’ve get plenty of information about those players.
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