The future of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise is in good hands if recent prospect rankings are any indication of what’s to come. Thus far, Cody Bellinger (No. 6 first baseman), Jose De Leon (No. 5 right-hander), Micah Johnson (No. 7 second baseman), Corey Seager and Julio Urias have been ranked among the top prospects at their respective position by MLB Pipeline.
In Seager’s case, he was ranked the top shortstop prospect, while Urias received the same honor among left-handed Minor-League pitchers. Bellinger, De Leon and Urias will join the Dodgers as non-roster invitees during Spring Training.
Team president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has made a concerted effort to stockpile young talent, and his work extends beyond the group of players who are viewed in high regard nationally.
While the Dodgers have assembled a deep pool of talented prospects, the familiar names continue to dominate headlines.
The latest to recognize the organization’s Minor Leaguers is Baseball Prospectus, who ranked Seager No. 1 overall on their list of 2016 top 101 prospects:
1. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s dangerous to read too much into a month’s worth of major-league plate appearances, especially when that month is September. Maybe Corey Seager took advantage of 40-man roster fodder and teams with one foot on the golf course to hit .337/.425/.561 as the 2015 season waned, but that’s pretty consistent with what he has done at every other stop in his professional career. He hits for average. He hits for power. He may not be a shortstop forever, as he is a very large human, but the bat is good enough to play anywhere. Regardless, Seager will be the Dodgers shortstop in 2016, and he may very well be the best one in the National League from the moment he sets foot on the field Opening Day.
The next prospect in the Dodgers organization to appear in the ranking is Urias, who was rated sixth overall:
6. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Following prospects is a great way to be continuously aware of your own encroaching mortality. Urias is not the youngest player on this list, but he did spend most of last season as an 18-year-old, and he finished it in Triple-A. This isn’t just agerelative-to-league novelty: The stuff is potentially elite, and he has pitchability beyond his years. Urias was dominant in 2015 while only facing two batters who were younger than him (both during rehab). His combination of youth, polish and stuff draws comparisons to Felix Hernandez, in part because he is very good and in part because there’s no one else similar in recent history. The cold water: Unlike Felix at the same age, Urias has never thrown even 90 innings in a season, and may not be able to handle a full 200-inning workload until 2018. But he will be getting major-league hitters out well before then.
Last year Seager and Urias were ranked seventh and 10th, respectively, by Baseball Prospectus. There’s some drop off after the duo, though De Leon makes an impressive appearance at No. 28:
28. Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
De Leon was a breakout star in the Dodgers’ system in 2015. He features an explosive fastball that shows good late life, and his changeup has improved to the point where he is comfortable throwing it to both right-handed and left-handed batters. De Leon’s delivery produces extension and deception, which makes the whole package play up. But don’t take our word for it, just ask Cal and Texas League hitters, who struck out 35 percent of the time against De Leon last season.
Also ranked in Baseball Prospectus’ top 101 are right-handers Grant Holmes (No. 40) and Yadier Alvarez (No. 78), and outfielder Yusniel Diaz (No. 91) rounds out the group of Dodgers appearing on the list.
Holmes, taken 22nd overall in the 2014 draft, went 6-4 with a 4.01 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 24 starts with Low-A Great Lakes last season. He threw 103.1 innings after tossing a combined 48.1 innings with Rookie Level Ogden and the Arizona League Dodgers in 2014.
Alvarez, a 19-year-old Cuban native, received a $16 million signing bonus from the Dodgers last July. He’s yet to make his professional debut with the club. Diaz was also signed during the current international signing period, agreeing to a contract last November that included a $15.5 million signing bonus.
The Baseball Prospectus 2016 book can be preordered, with a Feb. 9 release date.