ESPN’s Dan Szymborski released the ZiPS top 100 prospects for the 2018 season, which included four members of the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. Like he has in other prospect rankings, Walker Buehler led the organization at No. 39 overall.
He’s joined in the rankings by Keibert Ruiz (No. 60), Alex Verdugo (68) and Yadier Alvarez (75). The ZiPS projection system is data-driven, so the list was a bit different than other publications lists.
For example, ESPN’s module is lower on Buehler than others, as he was ranked 12th by ESPN’s Keith Law, 13th by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, and 21st by MLB Prospectus.
Buehler made his MLB debut in 2017, although he was called up as a reliever, which is a role that he is not used to. He is expected to again make an impact at the big league level this season, but it should be in his more traditional starting role.
Ruiz, a 19-year-old catcher out of Venezuela, is a little bit further away from reaching the Majors but could be the organization’s catcher of the future. In his first full Minor League season, Ruiz hit .316/.361/.452 with eight home runs and 51 RBIs in 101 games between Low-A Great Lakers and High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Verdugo’s situation is more similar to Buehler’s in that he was called up by the Dodgers last September. He struggled a bit, hitting just .174/.240/.304 with one home run in 15 games.
The 21-year-old will head into Spring Training competing for the starting left field job, although beginning the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City seems more likely.
Alvarez, a 21-year-old Cuban prospect, was highly regarded at this time a year ago but took a bit of a step back in 2017 due to control issues. In 21 games (18 starts) between Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa, he went 4-6 with a 4.68 ERA and 1.52 WHIP while striking out 97 and walking 50 in 92.1 innings of work.
While Alvarez has the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation starter due to his electric stuff, he could also end up being a late-inning reliever if he doesn’t correct his control issues.