Despite recently graduating the likes of Corey Seager and Julio Urias, and trading Jose De Leon and Frankie Montas, among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system remains on of the best in baseball.
It’s stocked with plenty of pitching depth and also includes talent at several other positions. In DodgerBlue.com’s first installment in ranking the organization’s top prospects, Jared Massey reviews a 17-year-old from the Dominican Summer League and a 25-year-old in the high Minors.
50. Melvin Jimenez, RHP
Every year, there’s a Dominican Summer League standout that deserves some attention. This year, the honor belongs to Jimenez, a 17-year-old righty who absolutely dominated the competition during his debut.
Signed in December of 2015, Jimenez made his DSL debut in 2016. In 12 starts, he posted a 1.47 ERA with 66 strikeouts. Jimenez allowed just 35 hits, but no homers, and issued 18 walks in 55 innings.
What can be expected of him in 2017? It’s difficult to say. Given his age, Jimenez could spend another year in the DSL, or he could make his way stateside and debut in rookie ball. Either way, he’s a name to watch.
49. Oscar Arzaga, RHP
Arzaga’s path to the pros was unique. Born in Mexico, he intended to move to the states as a teenager to be eligible for the 2017 draft after failing to secure a signing bonus to his liking, only for the Dodgers to swoop in and sign him just before his 17th birthday.
In his debut, Arzaga posted a 4.00 ERA in 12 games, including five starts, while striking out 26 batters in 36 innings. The big, physical righty is listed at 6’4 and a conservative 200 lbs. He attacks hitters with a fastball that sits around 90 mph currently but has touched as high as 95 and should gain velocity as he matures. He already flashes a promising curveball and changeup, but needs to work throwing strikes and repeating his mechanics.
Arzaga is still at least three years away from reaching the major leagues, but that timeframe will greatly depend on the development of his body, as well as his secondary offerings and his command.
48. Francis Cespedes, LHP
Cespedes is the biggest wild card in the Dodgers’ system. Originally signed in 2013 by the Texas Rangers, he somehow made his way into the Dodgers’ organization and pitched with the Arizona League club last season.
While his stats weren’t impressive, Cespedes’ stuff was among the most electric in the system. The 22-year-old southpaw has a fastball that can reach triple digits and sits in the mid 90s. His changeup is also a devastating offering that generates plenty of swings and misses.
So, why would a pitcher with that type of stuff rank so low on this list? His stats begin to tell the story. Cespedes posted a 9.42 ERA last year, while allowing 19 hits and 13 walks in 14.1 innings. He also threw 16 wild pitches and hit three batters.
Unless he can find some semblance of consistency and control, Cespedes will be relegated to the low Minors. If he’s somehow able to figure things out, he could give the Dodgers an electric bullpen option.
47. Jose Santos, RHP
Santos doesn’t look like he belongs in the top 50. He’s listed (perhaps generously) at 6’0 and 165 lbs. He just turned 25 and has only pitched for two years. But last season, he established himself as a legit bullpen arm while spanning three levels.
The diminutive righty started the season in the AZL, where he pitched just five games after striking out 10 batters in just 5.2 innings. He moved up to Rookie-level Ogden, where he continued to pile up strikeouts, whiffing 27 in 16 innings.
Then he ended the regular season with Low-A Great Lakes, throwing 8.1 scoreless frames with 11 strikeouts.
While he doesn’t look like a power pitcher, Santos can get into the mid 90s with his fastball. He compliments it with a curve, slider and changeup, showing confidence in the change and using the slider as a strikeout pitch.
He’s been moved slowly thus far, with just four games above rookie ball, but should get the chance to prove himself in 2017. If he keeps missing bats again this year, expect him in the upper Minors by season’s end.
46. Erick Mejia, SS
Acquired by the Dodgers in the Joe Wieland trade, Mejia has been a consistent performer during his past four seasons in the Minos. The switch-hitting speedster stole a career-high 24 bases (though he was caught 15 times) while adding 12 triples.
Mejia posted a slash line of .287/.343/.393, and had a batting average of at least .280 for the fourth consecutive year.
While he has the tools for shortstop, Mejia is not refined defensively. He committed a whopping 38 errors in 110 games there this season and added three more at second base. He’s never walked a whole lot and doesn’t hit for much power, so his offensive profile is dependent on making quality contact.
The Dodgers, who were razor thin at short entering 2016, now have some solid options throughout the Minors, including Mejia, Gavin Lux and Drew Jackson. Mejia will need to continue producing at the plate and cleanup his baserunning and defense in order to stand out.
45. Kevin Malisheski, RHP
The Dodgers took some high-ceiling prep arms late in the 2016 Draft. The one that got away was 12th-rounder Graham Ashcraft, but the club still signed a pair of promising righties in 11th-rounder AJ Alexy and 38th-round selection Kevin Malisheski.
The Illinois native pitched well in his debut, striking out 18 batters in 14 innings while walking just four. Listed at 6’3 and 200 lbs, Malisheski is already physically imprssive but still has projection.
With a fastball that’s into the low 90s and a promising curveball, there’s plenty to like about this former two-sport star. Still a teenager, there’s no reason to rush the young righty.
Malisheski’s debut was promising but the organization could be extra cautious and keep him in rookie ball for another year. If they’re aggressive, expect to see him pitching for the Loons early this season.
44. Errol Robinson, SS
There was talk of Robinson being a first-rounder early last spring. The Ole Miss shortstop had a strong sophomore campaign but regressed as a junior, which caused him to fall to the sixth round.
Robinson bounced back in his debut by batting .282/.339/.395 for Ogden, with 18 steals in 20 attempts. He committed nine errors in 35 games but is a slick fielder and a very good athlete.
Robinson needs to prove himself in full season ball during the 2017 season. It’s possible he could be skipped to High-A Rancho Cucamonga, with Lux likely beginning the season as Great Lakes’ starting shortstop. The California League should be a challenge, and hopefully Robinson is up for it.
43. Ronny Brito, SS
Yet another shortstop makes an appearance on the list. This time it’s a bonus baby. Brito signed with the Dodgers in 2015 for $2 million. He debuted last season in the Dominican Summer League, along with fellow signees Starling Heredia and Oneil Cruz.
Brito’s profile starts with his defense. He’s already an advanced fielder, with good action and hands as well as a strong arm. He projects to stay at short throughout his professional career.
Offensively, he has some work to do. He drew 38 walks in 250 plate appearances, but hit just one home run and batted .228 overall. He’s on the smaller side, listed at 6’0 and 175 lbs., though Brito’s bottom half is already beginning to fill out.
While his glove should get him to the Majors, how much Brito matures physically could impact him on both sides of the ball. If he adds too much weight, he could force himself off short. Too little and he might not hit.
Hopefully the young shortstop finds a balance which allows him to thrive as a two-way player.
42. Scott Barlow, RHP
A sixth-rounder in 2011, Barlow was run into the ground in his high school days and paid for it the following year, missing the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s worked his way back, slowly but surely, and had a productive 2016 season at the ripe old age of 23.
Barlow’s repertoire runs the gamut from fringy to solid average. He offers the conventional four-pitch mix, with his fastball residing in the low 90s and his slider being his out pitch. He wouldn’t be described as a strike thrower, but he’s not wild.
After six years, Barlow set a career high in innings pitched with 124.1, having reached 100 only twice since his debut in 2011. He’s likely slated for Triple-A Oklahoma City to start 2017 and could knock on the door for his big league debut this year.
41. Kyle Garlick, OF
Not much is expected of fifth-year seniors being drafted in the 28th round, but not all of them hit like Garlick has. In his debut, Garlick overmatched rookie league competition in eight games before going to Great Lakes and batting .327/.385/.517 in 38 games.
He then moved up to Rancho and continued to slug, posting a 1.167 on-base plus slugging percentage in 14 games. Last year, the trend continued, as he started back with the Quakes and hit .306/.367/.551 in 49 games before being promoted to Double-A Tulsa.
Garlick finally came down to Earth but was still productive, to the tune of an .814 OPS with 29 doubles and eight home runs in 79 games. Garlick doesn’t have explosive tools but he does have power, at least enough to keep him in a corner outfield spot.
He doesn’t do much running and his walk numbers are a bit low, and he did strike out a good deal in 2016. Already 25, time’s running out for Garlick to improve his plate discipline, which could keep him from reaching the show.
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