If you’ve scoured social media recently, you’d think some were bored of watching the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers based on all the scuttlebutt about the franchise’s prospects.
Prospects? Who cares about prospects right now? The Dodgers are in first place! Their roster is stacked! Unless we’re talking about trades, who cares? Right?
If that’s you’re thinking, you probably haven’t been paying attention to the Dodgers’ prospects. This isn’t Minor League talent with a future hope so much as players who legitimately could make an immediate impact at the Major League level, if not for how deep the Dodgers’ roster already is.
Yet, it is possible, if not likely, that some of them will become contributors before the season’s over. Any chance for them to also make the postseason this year?
For a few, the answer is 100% yes.
The players we’re talking about are Gavin Lux, Will Smith, DJ Peters and Dustin May. Not included here is yet another top prospect in Keibert Ruiz — who will be on this list in short order.
However, Ruiz is just 21 years old and stuck behind Smith on the organizational depth chart. Furthermore, he suffered a fractured finger that’s ended his season.
Gavin Lux (Baseball Prospectus: No. 11 prospect, Baseball America: No. 12)
Lux was the team’s first-round pick in 2016, and this year has been a breakout for the infielder, as he has dominated Double-A and Triple-A as just a 21-year-old to the tune of a .358/.429/.624 combined batting line with 23 home runs.
To top it all off, Lux plays a premium position. As a result of all this, he has moved into the top-20 on some prospect lists despite the fact that the Dodgers don’t have an obvious need for his services right now.
With Corey Seager just four years his senior, it appears the Dodgers already have their shortstop of the future. So what about Lux?
The easiest option might be second base — where he has 12 starts thus far this season, especially considering it’s a spot without an obvious starter at the Major League level. Max Muncy has been getting time there, but he could easily be shifted over to first base if needed.
The problem with that scenario, however, is the logjam it creates in the outfield when all players are healthy.
If Muncy (the Dodgers’ second-best hitter at the moment) moves to first base full time, that means the outfield needs to find space for Cody Bellinger (who is playing every day), A.J. Pollock, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor (.786 OPS).
The end result? It’s unlikely that Lux makes an impact this season, barring a barrage of injuries, but it feels safe to say that his ETA of 2021 has probably moved up a year.
And while it remains unclear what role, if any, Lux might have with the Dodgers this season, manager Dave Roberts said at minimum he will join the club to be exposed to daily life in the Majors.
Will Smith (BP: NR, BA: No. 56)
After separate stints with the Dodgers, Smith now is with the team for good. His arrival came in response to Austin Barnes’ being demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City amid an ongoing slump.
Like Lux, Smith was also a first-round pick in 2016 (although he came through college, and so he’s 24). And also like Lux, Smith has been sky-rocketing up prospect rankings thanks to a scorching-hot 2019.
With Smith supplanting Barnes as the starting catcher, he’s seemingly played his way into becoming a lock for the Dodgers on a potential postseason roster.
DJ Peters (BP: NR, BA: NR)
Another 2016 prospect. Peters was popped in the fourth round of that year’s draft, and the 23-year-old has followed suit in having a massive 2019.
For Peters, however, this year’s performance is just about on trend. In 2017, he hit 30 home runs. The following year, 29. So far in 2019 he has added another 23.
At 6’6, Peters looks like an outfielder destined to the designated hitter role — but in some ways he’s comparable to Bellinger in that he doesn’t necessarily fit that mold.
Many looked at Bellinger and figured he was too tall to play center field, and those critics have been silenced by now. While Peters won’t be mistaken for Bellinger defensively, the versatility is there — and if he can stick in the outfield, his value only gets higher.
While 2019 is unlikely to feature time on the playoff roster, at least he can rest comfortably on the fact that he hit a baseball off a hotel well beyond the field of play in Oklahoma City.
DJ PETERS JUST HIT A HOTEL WITH A BASEBALL pic.twitter.com/NchAz9KXgW
— Oklahoma City Dodgers (@okc_dodgers) July 20, 2019
Dustin May (BP: No. 7, BA: No. 27)
The lone non-position player on this list, May is actually the organization’s top prospect according to Baseball Prospectus, who ranked him as the No. 7 in all of baseball.
At 21, May was a third-round pick in 2016 (starting to think this was a good draft for the Dodgers?) and has done nothing but impress since turning pro.
Despite being young for his level, May has combined to post an ERA of 3.38 with more than one strikeout per inning. While his long-term future is as a potential ace, it’s worth watching what contributions May could make in October as a fourth starter.
He additionally is believed to be under consideration for a spot in the Dodgers’ postseason bullpen. However, with Roberts acknowledging Rich Hill will not have ample time to build up as a starter, there’s a sudden need for the Dodgers.