Last season, Triple-A Oklahoma City had a powerhouse. They finished the year 81-60, with no other team coming close to unseating them in their division. Nashville played OKC tough in the first round of the playoffs, but the Dodgers overcame a 2-1 deficit to come back and win the series.
But Oklahoma City couldn’t handle El Paso, dropping the Pacific Coast League championship series, 3-1. They’re restocked and looking to reach the Triple-A World Series in 2017.
The OKC Dodgers had some very good hitters last season, but not much in the way of top prospects. The team finished in the middle of the pack with a 4.82 runs per game average and a .752 team on-base plus slugging percentage. That ought to change this season.
The Dodgers’ big three hitting prospects are starting the season with OKC. Cody Bellinger, coming off his 26 homer campaign from a year ago, is the Dodgers’ top hitting prospect and one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball. He’ll man first base and see time in the outfield.
Alex Verdugo will be one of the youngest players in Triple- A, as he won’t turn 21 until May. After hitting .273/.336/.407, Verdugo went to the Arizona Fall League even though he was clearly fatigued. He batted just .140 in 13 games. Verdugo will look to improve his endurance for what may be his final Minor League season.
Willie Calhoun ranks among the best pure hitters in the Dodgers’ system. Even though he hit just .254 last season, Calhoun only struck out about 12 percent of the time. He also hit 27 home runs with Double-A Tulsa. The big question for Calhoun this season is where does he belong defensively?
Somewhat of a surprise addition to the Oklahoma City roster was Trayce Thompson, who appeared in 80 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 before suffering a back injury. Thompson last played in Triple-A in 2015 while still a member of the Chicago White Sox organization.
He hit .260/.304/.441 before making his Major League debut. Thompson is back in the Minors to get consistent playing time before eventually rejoining the Dodgers.
Two of the league’s best hitters from last season return for 2017. Rob Segedin made his Major League debut in 2016 after hitting .319/.392/.598 with 21 home runs in 103 games with OKC. O’Koyea Dickson was also among the league’s best hitters, batting .328/.398/.596 with 18 homers in 101 games.
Others of note: Bobby Wilson lit up the Cactus League this spring and may see the Major League roster this season. Charlie Culberson will forever be etched in the memories of Dodger fans, as he was the subject of Vin Scully’s final call at Dodger Stadium.
As with most years, the Dodgers have signed former Major Leaguers to Minor League contracts for depth. The two hurlers who fall under that umbrella this year are Justin Masterson and Jair Jurrjens.
Masterson last pitched in the Majors in 2015, making 18 appearances for the Boston Red Sox. Jurrjens made his last appearance a year earlier with the Colorado Rockies, making just two starts and allowing 11 runs in 9.1 innings.
The best pitching prospect with OKC is Trevor Oaks. After starting the 2016 season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, Oaks cruised through the upper Minors, finishing his season with OKC.
However, he only made 10 starts before a groin injury ended his season prematurely. Now Oaks is back and looking for his Major League debut later in the year.
To round out the rotation, the Dodgers will call upon a pair of hard-throwers. Wilmer Font made five appearances for the Texas Rangers in 2012-13, then pitched with the Independent Canadian-American Association Ottawa Champions in 2015. Fabio Castillo spent part of last year in the Korean Baseball Association, pitching for the Hanwha Eagles.
The Oklahoma City bullpen offers plenty of Major League experience as well. Not fitting that description is Jacob Rhame, but the 24-year-old flamethrower recorded seven saves in 54 games for OKC last season.
Adam Liberatore was one of the Dodgers’ final cuts during Spring Training. He pitched in four games for OKC last year, then posted a 3.38 ERA in 58 games in Los Angeles. Josh Fields also spent time in Triple-A last year and had success in the Majors. After being acquired by the Dodgers, he posted a 2.79 ERA in 22 Major League games.
Brandon Morrow, a non-roster invitee, was taken two picks ahead of Clayton Kershaw in the 2006 Draft. Morrow came close to a no-hitter in 2010 while striking out 17 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He was also on the roster bubble and could see time with the Dodgers at some point this season.
While Julio Urias was not included on Oklahoma City’s 2017 Opening Day roster, he’s expected to join the affiliate for a start on Monday. Drew Maggi, Henry Ramos and Brant Whiting began the season on the disabled list.
CF: Alex Verdugo
2B: Willie Calhoun
1B: Cody Bellinger
RF: Trayce Thompson
3B: Rob Segedin
LF: O’Koyea Dickson
C: Bobby Wilson
SS: Chris Taylor
Trevor Oaks, Wilmer Font, Jair Jurrjens, Fabio Castillo, TBD
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