Led by first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, the Los Angeles Dodgers placed six Minor Leaguers on ZiPS’ list of the top 100 prospects for the 2017 season. Bellinger was rated the No. 4 prospect, on the heels of being named the sixth-best prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law.
Other Dodgers to appear in the ZiPS rankings are outfielder Alex Verdugo (No. 18), right-handed pitcher Yadier Alvarez (No. 61), outfielder Johan Mieses (No. 72), second baseman Willie Calhoun (No. 73) and right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler (No. 96).
Bellinger, a 2013 fourth-round selection, hit of .263/.359/.484 with 23 home runs, 17 doubles and 65 RBIs in 117 games with Double-A Tulsa last season. The 21-year-old demonstrated his versatility while with the Drillers, playing 81 games at first base, 13 in left field, 13 in center field and nine in right field.
Bellinger was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City with three regular-season games remaining and stuck with the affiliate through their playoff run, which lasted nine games.
Similarly, Verdugo spent all of last season with the Drillers. In his first action above High-A, the 20-year-old batted .273/.336/.407 with a career-high 13 home runs, 63 RBIs and 44 walks across 126 games.
Verdugo went 4-for-12 in four playoff games with Oklahoma City. And like Bellinger, Verdugo was also sent to the Arizona Fall League and named to the Fall Stars Game. During time spent in the AFL, he joined the Mexican National Team for an exhibition series in Japan.
Alvarez was the Dodgers’ jewel during the 2015-16 international signing period of 2015, receiving a $16 million signing bonus to boot. The Cuban native was recently rated the organization’s top prospect by Baseball Prospectus.
Alvarez began his professional career last season with the Arizona League Dodgers, and also spent time with Low-A Great Lakes, where he posted a 3-2 record in 39.1 innings pitched. The 20-year-old yielded a 2.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and .214 opponents’ batting average during his time with the Loons.
Mieses’ fourth Minor League season with the Dodgers was spent solely with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. While playing all three outfield positions, he batted a solid .247/.314/.510 with 28 home runs, 78 RBIs, 31 doubles and 36 walks.
Calhoun spent all of his 2016 season with the Drillers, as his progression took center stage on what was a spectacular season. In 132 games, he hit .254/.318/.469, with 27 home runs, 88 RBIs, 25 doubles and 45 walks.
Calhoun joined OKC for the Pacific Coast League championship, though only appeared in one game off the bench. Among the Dodgers’ prospects sent to the AFL, not only did Calhoun homer alongside Bellinger in the Fall Stars Game, he was also named the MVP.
The 22-year-old was rated a top-10 second baseman prospect by MLB Pipeline heading into this season.
Soon after he was drafted by the Dodgers 24th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft, Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery, which delayed his professional debut until last July. His first action on the mound in 2016 was two scoreless innings for the Loons.
After pitching two shutout frames in relief with the AZL Dodgers, Buehler re-joined the Loons and closed out the regular season with one scoreless innings. The 22-year-old pitched twice in the playoffs, including a start in the finale of a best-of-three series that sent the Loons to the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship.
Buehler didn’t factor into the decision, but contributed two scoreless frames. He then tossed three shutout innings in Game 2 of the Midwest League Championship to help the Loons pull even in the series.