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Buehler's meteoric rise to top-prospect status in 2017 was just the latest chapter in a history of excellence. The Lexington, Ky., native was considered a top two-rounds talent out of high school but fell to the 14th round due to a strong Vanderbilt commitment. In college, he started a College World Series championship game as a sophomore and led the Commodores to a national title, pitched for Team USA and was co-MVP of the Cape Cod League. He pitched through elbow soreness as a junior to wrap up a decorated career, and the Dodgers drafted him 24th overall in 2015. An MRI later revealed he needed Tommy John surgery, which he had shortly after being drafted, and he missed virtually all of 2016. Buehler looked like a different pitcher in his first full season back in 2017. He returned sitting 96-99 mph, after previously living 91-96, and rocketed from high Class A Rancho Cucamonga to the majors. Buehler is thin-framed, but that doesn't affect his stuff or the ability to hold it. His newly-enhanced fastball sits 97-98 mph deep into outings, reaching 100 and rarely dipping below 95. It jumps on hitters quickly out of his loose, athletic, elastic delivery, and he pounds the strike zone. The one shortcoming of his fastball is it doesn't have a ton of life, making it easier for hitters to square up when he misses his spot, a problem that was exposed during his September callup in the Dodgers bullpen. Buehler's slider and curveball are both plus pitches he locates well. His slider is a wipeout offering at 91-93 mph with tight spin and late tilt, and his north-to-south power curveball is equally dangerous at 81-84 mph. Buehler is still working on his changeup, with only about one in five he throws flashing average. He shows average to above command and control on all of his offerings. To top it off, he has a fearless mentality, exceptional makeup and a solid understanding of how to set hitters up. Buehler's slight frame gives a few evaluators pause, but most see him as an elite pitching prospect with top-of-the-rotation potential. He has yet to pitch more then 95 innings in a season and will likely start 2018 back at Triple-A Oklahoma City in an effort to increase his durability.
Most teams liked Verdugo as a pitcher coming out of high school in 2014, but the Dodgers went against the grain and drafted him as a hitter. It proved prescient.Verdugo's bat carried him all the way to Triple-A by age 21, when he earned a September callup in 2017. Verdugo possesses a keen eye that led to more walks (52) than strikeouts (50) at Triple-A Oklahoma City, and he keeps it simple when he does get a pitch to hit. He has excellent rhythm and body control and a level, line-drive swing that allows him to drive the ball all over the field. He doesn't have much lift in his swing, but evaluators see enough strength and bat-to-ball skills to project about average power to go with a .290 or better average. Verdugo has average speed and it plays up in center field with good instincts and a quick first step. His best tool is his plus-plus, accurate arm. Verdugo's skills are undeniable, but criticisms of his effort level and maturity have plagued him since his amateur days and were again prevalent in 2017. Verdugo will have a chance to win a roster spot in 2018, but he will have to improve his focus and motor to reach his above-average, everyday potential.
The Dodgers signed Ruiz for $140,000 out of Venezuela when he turned 16, intrigued by his advanced defensive skills. They got an even better deal than they thought. Ruiz's offense has blossomed since signing. He hit .316 with an .813 OPS across both class A levels in 2017 and finished the year on Double-A Tulsa's postseason roster, all in his age-18 season. Ruiz is a special switch-hitter with “a chance to be a star” in the words of one evaluator. He possesses superb timing, bat speed and ability to manipulate the barrel to all parts of the zone, and he began to learn to elevate for home runs toward the end of 2017. He makes solid contact from both sides but is much stronger lefthanded, though he is learning to take more aggressive swings righthanded. Behind the plate, Ruiz has good timing blocking balls and handles both good velocity and breaking stuff, but he loses focus at times and lets pitches to get away from him. He has average arm strength but an uncoordinated exchange and inconsistent footwork result in below-average pop times on throws down to second base. Ruiz has to shore up his throwing and become a more consistent receiver. If he does, he has a chance to be an extraordinarily valuable switch-hitting, middle-of-the-order catcher.
White had Tommy John surgery in high school and took time to round into form in college. That finally happened his redshirt sophomore year, when his velocity spiked in Santa Clara's rotation and he flew up draft boards into the second round, where the Dodgers took him 65th overall. White's rapid ascent has extended to pro ball, where he overcame a broken toe that cost him six weeks to reach Double-A Tulsa in 2017. No pitcher in the organization is harder to square up than White. His fastball sits 94-97 mph at its best, 92-93 at its worst, and that velocity is enhanced with late run and sink. His heater plays up even more with how he mixes it with his plus slider. He will manipulate break and depth of the pitch and use it to steal a strike before coming back with a nasty fastball that moves in the opposite direction. When he wants to go north-south he'll unleash an above-average curveball. His changeup is developing. White is a good athlete with a fluid delivery, but he loses his release point and direction in spurts, leading to bouts of wildness. White has all the components to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. Improved control and health will be his biggest goals in 2018.
Alvarez had a big arm as a teenager in Cuba but failed to make the country's 18U national team because he was so wild. He popped up in the Dominican Republic throwing even harder, and the Dodgers signed him for an industry-stunning $16 million. After showing promise in his 2016 U.S. debut, his longstanding control problems resurfaced in 2017. Alvarez is built like a scout's dream with a six-pack core, long limbs and comically easy velocity. He sits 95-99 mph as a starter with shockingly little effort, and his 86-88 mph slider shows plus movement and depth. The problem is both his fastball and slider play down to due to poor control and command. Lots of contact is made on Alvarez's fastball despite its velocity because he can't spot it, and he rarely lands his slider in the zone. He also lacks a third pitch with zero feel for an 87-90 mph changeup. The result was a 5.31 ERA at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga and 6.8 walks per nine innings at Double-A Tulsa. Alvarez's youth and big velocity make him a big leaguer in evaluators eyes, but almost universally in the bullpen. He draws frequent comparisons with Neftali Feliz as someone too limited to be a starter, but electric enough to possibly be a first-
Diaz experienced great success in Cuba's junior leagues and major league before leaving the island. The Dodgers signed him for $15.5 million after the 2015 season and moved him aggressively, starting him at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga immediately and pushing him to Double-A Tulsa at age 21 in 2017. Diaz is an alluring package of strength, tools and athleticism, and he began to translate his raw gifts into consistent skills in 2017. After toning down his pre-pitch movement and adjusting his hand position early in the year, Diaz's bat was much more explosive and on time through the zone, showing above-average to plus contact ability and big exit velocities. He tends to drive the ball on a line from gap to gap rather than in the air, limiting his power production. Diaz expands the zone at times but is improving. He is an average runner but above-average underway on the basepaths and in the outfield. He is capable of playing center field but his range is more suited to right, where he tracks back well and his plus arm plays. Diaz is only beginning to turn his prolific tools into skills. He will start 2018 back at Double-A Tulsa with the chance for a quick move up to Triple-A.
Kendall grew up in Wisconsin playing hockey and baseball and went on to Vanderbilt, where he started as a freshman on the 2015 national runner-up and blossomed into a top draft prospect. Kendall had top-10 pick helium entering his junior year, but a 25 percent strikeout rate dropped him to the Dodgers at 23rd overall, and he signed for an above-slot $2,897,500. Kendall is a premium athlete capable of a highlight-reel play at any moment. He'll run down balls to the deepest parts of center field with his plus-plus speed, make leaping catches at the wall, throw out a runner on a line to or swipe a crucial bag. He shows a plus arm and is becoming a more efficient basestealer. The question is how much he'll hit. Opponents exploited the holes in his swing throughout college and at low Class A Great Lakes, deflating his average and nullifying his plus raw power. The Dodgers tweaked his setup and reworked his swing in instructional league to incorporate a more pronounced leg kick, and believe he can be an average hitter in time. Kendall has all the tools to be an everyday player but has to prove he can hit. He'll try to do that at the Class A levels in 2018.
Peters grew up in Glendora, Calif., 30 miles east of Dodger Stadium, and joined his hometown team when the Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round out of Western Nevada JC in 2016. He signed for $247,500 and went on an immediate tear, winning MVP of the high Class A California League in 2017 after finishing third in home runs (27), second in walks (64) and first in slugging (.514)--but he also ranked second in strikeouts (189). Peters is a tantalizing mix of size, power and athleticism. He is a muscular 6-foot-6 and a tick above average runner capable of playing center field. He carries his explosiveness into the batter's box. Peters' strength and long levers create tremendous impact, and he crushes anything left out over the plate with present plus power to all fields. He identifies pitches well and rarely chases, but he swings and misses through above-average velocity on the inner half and four-seamers up at an alarming rate. Peters projects as a right fielder, where he moves well side-to-side and his plus arm fits. He draws praise for his blue-collar work ethic and quiet leadership. Peters' ability to reach his middle-of-the-order upside depends on whether he closes the holes in his swing. He will try with Double-A Tulsa in 2018.
Smith caught scouts' attention as the catcher on Louisville teams loaded with pitching prospects, and the Dodgers drafted him 32nd overall in 2016 and signed him for $1,772,500. The best defensive catcher in the high Class A California League in 2017, he earned a bump to Double-A Tulsa, where a hit by pitch broke a bone in his right hand and ended his season. Smith was a high school shortstop who converted to catcher in college, and that athleticism has translated brilliantly. As a result, he is an above-average runner with quick footwork and excellent flexibility and reflexes. He is an above-average receiver with soft hands that allows him to handle 100-mph arms, and he consistently posts pop times of sub-1.95 seconds on throws to second base because of a lightning-quick transfer. He further draws high praise for his leadership behind the plate. Offensively, Smith has excellent strike-zone discipline and showed sneaky power after making swing changes at the Dodgers' request, but his contact rate dropped as a result. He faces questions about his overall hitting and contact ability. Smith will head back to Double-A Tulsa in 2018. The quality of Smith's defense can get him to the majors as a backup, while improved contact skills could make him an everyday option.
The Dodgers signed Santana for $170,000 as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but they moved him to the mound after he hit .198 in the Dominican Summer League in his first year. Santana took time learning how to pitch but blossomed the last two seasons, earning all-star honors in both the Midwest and California leagues and reaching Double-A Tulsa by age 21. Santana found his niche as a sinkerballer and has developed the pitch into a borderline plus-plus offering. He sits 94-95 mph and reaches 97 as a starter, frequently busting his catcher's thumbs with his life on the pitch. His late life often fools minor league umpires, too. Santana is still learning to harness the movement on his fastball, leading to an elevated walk rate. His slider is above-average but wasn't effective against lefthanders, so the improvement of his changeup in 2017 was critical. By the end of the year it was flashing average with increased consistency. Santana has the loose arm and athleticism of a starter, but his arm slot and cross-body delivery more resemble a reliever. His improved changeup gives him a better chance to start.
May is best known for his big, bushy red hair and gangly 6-foot-6 frame. He is increasingly getting noticed for more than his looks, however. After the Dodgers drafted him in the third round in 2016 and signed him for $997,500, May finished in the top 10 in the Midwest League in wins (nine), ERA (3.88) and WHIP (1.20) in his first full season and ended the year strong after a promotion to high Class A. May is a classic projectable righthander with excellent feel to pitch and velocity still to come. He presently sits 89-92 mph and will touch 94 with his high-spin rate fastball. While it's an average pitch, he attacks the zone and mixes it well with his above-average mid-80s slider, helping the pitches play up off each other. Both offerings could get to plus with added weight and strength. His changeup flashes average but is often too firm. Most importantly, May keeps his body and delivery in sync, no easy task with his long limbs. The result is true plus control that is best in the Dodgers system. May proved durable after pitching 138 innings including the playoffs in 2017, but he'll need to continue to get stronger to add velocity. He will start 2018 back at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Rios started all three years at Florida International and grew into his power as a junior, bashing 18 home runs in 2015 to finish one shy of the national lead. The Dodgers drafted him in the sixth round and signed him for $222,500. Rios has continued mashing in pro ball, with 27 homers in his first full season and 34 doubles, 24 home runs and .533 slugging percentage across Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. Rios is a big, physical lefthanded hitter with plus-plus raw power and the hittability to get to it. His swing gets long at times but he has electric hands and excellent timing, allowing his power to be a playable, carrying tool. Rios doesn't walk much but has good plate discipline and doesn't strike out much for a power hitter. Defensively he is below average at third base and has increasingly transitioned to first base, where he has a chance to eventually become average. He was also playable in left field in brief looks. Rios has the offensive impact to start, but with the Dodgers he seems limited to a bench option with Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner already occupying the corners in Los Angeles. Rios should be an appealing trade candidate, but for now will head back to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Lux's uncle Augie Schmidt was the No. 2 overall pick in 1982 after winning the Golden Spikes Award. Lux followed in his uncle's footsteps as a first-rounder when the Dodgers drafted him with the 20th overall pick in 2016 and signed him for $2,314,500. The Wisconsin native got off to a poor start in his first full season with low Class A Great Lakes, but rebounded to hit .260 with six of his seven home runs in the second half. Lux recognizes pitches, controls the strike zone and manages at-bats well. His lefthanded stroke features good bat speed and more strength than expected, although he is too passive at times. Lefties give him trouble, holding him a .165/.250/.217 line. Lux is a plus runner with above-average arm strength, plus hands and solid instincts at shortstop. His tools play down, however, because he has trouble syncing his upper and lower body and lacks fluidity in his transfer and throwing motion. The result was 14 of his 24 errors were throwing, and evaluators are concerned his lack of fluidity will only get worse as he gets older. Lux may have to move to second or third base, which puts extra pressure on his offense to improve. He will head to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2018.
Sheffield had a chance to be the first prep righthander taken in the 2013 draft, but succumbed to Tommy John surgery midway through his senior year and went to Vanderbilt instead. He became the Commodores ace as a redshirt sophomore and was drafted by the Dodgers 36th overall in 2016, signing for $1,847,500. Sheffield, whose younger brother Justus is a top pitching prospect for the Yankees, showed big velocity in his first full season but struggled mightily with his control (4.8 walks per nine innings) at the Class A levels. He sits 94-95 mph with his fastball and reaches 97 as a starter and 99 out of the bullpen. His fastball plays down because it is completely straight and he leaves it up, allowing hitters to barrel it or watch it rise out of the zone. He began experimenting with a two-seamer to try and give batters a different look. Sheffield's main secondary is an average-to-above slider and he also has a usable changeup, but he gets away from it too often. Sheffield's injury history, limited control and thin frame have most projecting him to the bullpen. He will try to prove he can stay a starter at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2018.
Oaks overcame Tommy John surgery in high school and a transfer from NAIA Biola (Calif.) to become one of the top Division II players in the 2014 draft at California Baptist. The Dodgers drafted him in the seventh round and signed him for $161,600. Oaks shot through three levels in 2016 and was solid again at Triple-A in 2017 before going down with an oblique injury in July. Oaks uses a heavy 92-96 mph sinker to do most of his damage. He generates downhill plane on the pitch and excels at avoiding barrels, helping draw consistent weak contact. He led the minors in double plays induced in 2016. Oaks' secondaries are limited, which cuts into his ability to miss bats. His changeup and cutter flash average, and he'll mix in a short slider and curveball to give batters a different look. He is efficient with plus control and has the physicality to eat innings. The depth of the Dodgers' pitching staff means Oaks likely heads back to Triple-A in 2018. If injuries strike, he'll be one of the first starters called up.
The Dodgers signed Santana for $50,000 late in the 2013 signing period out of the Dominican Republic, an under-the-radar transaction that drew little notice at the time. He spent three seasons in Rookie ball before a breakout 2017. Santana hit .537 with five home runs in 10 games in the Pioneer League, and followed by hitting .322 with five more home runs in two months at low Class A Great Lakes. Hitting ability had previously been the knock on Santana, but he made enormous strides in 2017. While he rarely walks, he has begun putting together consistent quality at-bats, and he has the bat speed and strength to punish the pitch he wants. He drives the ball to all fields and shows as much opposite-field power as pull power. Santana is a good athlete with the physicality to hit for power as he continues to grow. That athleticism also gives him a chance to be a plus defender with a plus arm at third base. Santana's performance track record is limited, but he showed enough flashes to excite evaluators as a potential everyday third baseman. High Class A Rancho Cucamonga is his next stop.
Heredia finished as the runner-up at the Under Armour All-America Game home run derby in 2014, hitting balls out of Wrigley Field at age 15. The Dodgers signed him for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic the following summer. Heredia tore through Rookie ball in his U.S. debut in 2017, hitting .427 with a 1.221 OPS in the Pioneer League before finishing at low Class A Great Lakes. Heredia is a physically mature specimen with plus power, thunderous hands and impressive speed for someone his size, routinely turning in average run times. He makes a tremendous amount of hard contact and can hit the ball out of any park on a line or in the air. He can be overly aggressive and breaking balls give him trouble, but he has shown the ability to make adjustments. Heredia's corner outfield play is wildly inconsistent, sometimes looking poor with a below-average arm and at other times looking solid-average with a plus arm. Nicknamed “Pit Bull”, Heredia can get too aggressive and play too fast on both sides of the ball, and he wore himself out by the end of the year. If Heredia can channel that aggressiveness, evaluators believe he could become a .240 hitter with 30 home runs. He will remain at the Class A levels in 2018.
Wong started at shortstop as a freshman at Houston but moved to catcher for his sophomore season. His progression in two years behind the plate and a solid junior season that included 12 homers and 26 stolen bases convinced the Dodgers to draft him in the third round and sign him for $547,500. Wong immediately went out to low Class A Great Lakes and took over as the Loons' starting catcher. Wong is in the same vein as organization-mates Austin Barnes and Will Smith as plus athletes capable of catching or playing the middle infield. He is a plus runner with above-average-to-plus arm strength and the athleticism to become an above-average receiver, although he needs work to get there due of his lack of experience. He can fill in at shortstop, third base, or even the outfield as needed. Wong has sneaky power and good plate discipline, but his lack of noticeable bat speed limits his overall offensive potential. The Dodgers believe Wong can become a plus defensive catcher as he gets more reps behind the plate, with enough bat to play everyday. He'll head to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2018.
Cooper had Tommy John surgery his sophomore year at Texas and took time to round back into form, but two years later emerged as the Longhorns' top starter in 2017 and finished second in the Big 12 Conference in strikeouts. The Dodgers drafted Cooper in the second round and signed him for $867,500. Cooper battled shoulder tendinitis at the end of the college season, and the Dodgers shut him down to rest rather than send him out to an affiliate after signing. When healthy Cooper sits 92-95 mph with steep downhill angle on his fastball. He pounds the bottom of the zone and commands his heater well. A hard curveball was previously his main secondary, but he began to favor his slider as the spring went on. His slider now projects above-average to go with an average curveball and a changeup still to come. Cooper has at least average control, and the Dodgers had him as a plus strike-thrower in college. Cooper has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter with a four-pitch power mix, but his injury record is concerning. He is tentatively ticketed for a Class A affiliate in 2018 pending his health.
Ferguson had Tommy John surgery his senior year at West Jefferson (Ohio) High and intended to honor his commitment to West Virginia, but the Dodgers drafted him in the 38th round a few weeks after surgery and signed him for $100,000. Ferguson slowly worked his way back and pitched a full season in 2017 for the first time in four years. He led the high Class A California League in ERA (2.87) and finished third in strikeouts (140) at Rancho Cucamonga. Ferguson is a physical lefthander who flashes intriguing stuff with a low-90s fastball that will touch 94 mph and a 12-to-6 curveball with bite in the mid-70s. The two pitches get him swings and misses, but he often nibbles with his fastball and his curveball feel comes and goes, resulting in a high walk rate (4.0 per nine innings). He also has a fledgling changeup that shows late action and fade. Ferguson's arm is late in his delivery and causes him trouble repeating his release point, leaving evaluators skeptical his control will get better. Most see Ferguson as a future lefty specialist if he can improve the consistency of his curveball. He will remain a starter for now at Double-A Tulsa in 2018.
Beaty delivered a decorated four-year career at Belmont, finishing in the top five in school history in hits, doubles, triples, RBIs and walks. The Dodgers then selected him in the 12th round in 2015 and signed him for $60,000, and he's kept on hitting in pro ball. The pinnacle came in 2017 when Beaty hit .326 with 15 homers at Double-A Tulsa and earned the Texas League MVP while also winning the batting title. Beaty doesn't have the loudest tools but he seemingly does everything right. He has an advanced approach at the plate, rarely strikes out and consistently gets the barrel to the ball. He adjusts quickly and is rarely fooled. Beaty's power is mostly pull-side, but he has shwon the ability to line the ball to all fields, as well. Beaty is a solid-average defender at third base with an average arm and is adept at playing first base too. He recently began playing both corner outfield spots to enhance his defensive versatility. Beaty has the approach, energy and grinder mentality to play above his tools, which should help him find a home on a big league bench in the future. He'll head to Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2018.
Abdullah primarily played golf before pitching for the first time as a junior at San Diego's Madison High. He took to pitching immediately, and his projectable 6-foot-4 frame and fresh arm throwing 88-90 mph fastballs convinced the Dodgers to draft him in the 11th round in 2015. Abdullah signed for a well over-slot deal of $647,500, which was the equivalent of third-round money. In addition to the large money offer, Magic Johnson was the one who made the phone call telling Addullah he was drafted in hopes of further enticing him to sign with the Dodgers. Since then, the organization has managed Abdullah carefully. The Dodgers held him back in extended spring training during the first half of the 2017 season on a strength and conditioning program, and then shut him down due to shoulder discomfort after only six starts at low Class A Great Lakes in the second half. When healthy, Abdullah features a 92-94 mph fastball and an advanced changeup that projects as a plus pitch. He is still trying to find a grip and feel for a breaking ball. Abdullah has sprouted to 6-foot-6 and is a good athlete with body control, but his lack of command due to inexperience has alternately led to too many home runs allowed and too many walks. The Dodgers believe Abdullah possesses mid-rotation upside, but patience will be needed because he is still so raw in learning how to pitch.
Farmer's big league debut in 2017 encapsulated the Dodgers' magical summer. Hegot his first big league at-bat when he entered as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 11th inning of a July game against the rival Giants. With the Dodgers trailing 2-1 and runners on first and second, Farmer lined a full-count fastball down the right field line for a walk-off, two-run double and was promptly mobbed by his new teammates at second base as Dodger Stadium shook with the noise of the crowd. Farmer, who was college teammates at Georgia with Dodgers lefthander Alex Wood, is a former shortstop who converted to catching after the Dodgers drafted him. It took time, but he has developed into a solid defensive catcher with quick feet, a clean exchange and accurate throws, although his arm strength is just average. At the plate, Farmer has good knowledge of the strike zone and a compact, righthanded swing that produces a lot of line-drive contact. He began to elevate and hit a career-high 10 homers in 2017. Farmer isn't flashy but has produced at every level. He is ready to be a big league backup catcher.
Marinan shot up draft boards after showing a velocity boost up to 96 mph as a senior at Park Vista Community High in Lake Worth, Fla. The Dodgers plucked the 6-foot-5 righthander in the fourth round in 2017 and signed him away from a Miami commitment for $822,500, more than double slot amount. Marinan showed promising tools in the rookie-level Arizona League after signing but also showed wildness, with as many walks as strikeouts (14) in 17 innings. Marinan is a long-term project. He sits 90-93 mph with sink on his fastball, but his velocity drops off after the first inning. He is still trying to figure out if a curveball or slider works better for him, although he shows feel to spin in general. At times Marinan will show advanced feel for a changeup and at others none at all. He has a fluid delivery but loses direction in his stride, often going towards first base, which caused his high walk rate. Marinan is physically well put together and a good competitor. The Dodgers believe added strength and mechanical fixes can help him become a three-pitch power starter. He will begin that process in extended spring training to begin 2018.
Sborz carried Virginia to the 2015 national championship as the Cavaliers' relief ace and was named the College World Series' Most Outstanding Player. The Dodgers drafted him the supplemental second round, signed him for $722,500 and made him a starter, a role in which he pitched the entire season at Double-A Tulsa in 2017. Sborz, whose older brother Jay pitched for the Tigers in 2010, lacks overwhelming stuff but keeps runs off the board. His fastball sits 92-94 mph with armside run, and his out pitch is an above-average slider with depth and late break. His fastball command isn't sharp, however, and his slider is inconsistent. As such, he struggled to the highest walk rate (4.3 per nine innings) and lowest strikeout rate (6.3) of his career in 2017. Sborz is an elite competitor with moxie and guile, though, and frequently pitched his way out of jams. He has a top-to-bottom curveball and changeup that flashes average, but neither are particularly reliable. Sborz's lack of swing-and-miss stuff and shifty control prevent him from projecting as a major league starter, but his fastball gets up to 97 mph in relief and gives him a possible future there.
Raley hit .424/.528/.727 his junior season at Lake Erie (Ohio), and the Dodgers made him the highest Division II player taken in 2016 when they selected him in the seventh round. He signed for $147,500. Raley made the jump from D-II competition to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga without a hitch in 2017, earning all-star honors in the California League and finishing with an .848 OPS. Raley is a physical, strong lefthanded hitter who wears cutoff T-shirts to show off his biceps. He packs legitimate above-average power and has the bat speed and swing path to get to it without sacrificing batting average. His power plays to all fields, and more could come as he learns to be more consistent in putting together quality at-bats, an area targeted for growth. Defensively, Raley is above-average in left field. He has good pre-pitch instincts, closes distance on ground balls exceptionally well, is quick getting the ball out of his glove and has an above-average, accurate arm that flashes plus. Raley further draws raves for his work ethic and competitiveness. Scouts consider Raley a sleeper who could bust out if his power goes up one more tick. He will head to Double-A Tulsa in 2018.
The Blue Jays geared up to sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr. during the 2015 international signing period, but also craved enough pool space to only take one year of signing penalties instead of two. To that end, the Dodgers sent three international bonus slots totaling $1,071,300 to the Blue Jays and received Locastro and righthander Chase De Jong in return. The speedy Locastro hit .308 and stole 34 bases at Double-A and Triple-A in 2017, and made his big league debut in September. His carrying tool is his plus-plus speed, so much so the Dodgers considered carrying him on their postseason roster solely as a pinch-runner. He is a quick-twitch athlete whose elite speed plays up with exceptional reads and jumps. He averaged 33 stolen bases at each of his full-season stops, and did it at a nearly 80 percent success rate. Locastro is also a solid contact hitter who gets out of the box quickly and posts a lot of doubles with his speed. His actions at second base and shortstop aren't particularly smooth, so he began playing center field, where is still not comfortable with his routes. Locastro's speed and touch of hitting ability make him a utility candidate––a role he is ready to fill in the majors in 2018.
Robinson entered his junior year at Mississippi with top three-round expectations, but hit just .270 and dropped to the sixth round. Robinson rebounded to reach Double-A in his first full season in 2017 and earned wide praise as the best defensive infielder in the Dodgers system. Robinson possesses special hands at shortstop that vacuum up even the toughest hops and make every play look smooth. He converts all the routine plays and then some, even though his range isn't exceptional. He slides over to second base effortlessly when needed, and evaluators believe he could play center field and third base, too. Robinson is an above-average runner with a grinder mentality that helps him excel anywhere on the field defensively. Offensively, Robinson is an aggressive sparkplug who brings energy and swagger to the top of an order, but power isn't his game and he is an average hitter at best. Robinson lacks a carrying tool but has the aptitude to rise as a utility infielder. Triple-A awaits in 2018.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto went on a trading spree after the 2016 season and orchestrated two deals with the Dodgers, the second of which sent Jackson and reliever Aneurys Zabala to Los Angeles for righthander Chase De Jong as spring training opened. Jackson missed a month at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga after jamming his shoulder but returned to finish 2017 in Double-A. Jackson is a plus-plus runner who flies out of the righthanded batter's box, and his arm strength from shortstop is easily plus-plus. While his tools are prolific, his hitting ability is limited. His feel for the barrel has been questioned since college. He gets out of his approach too easily and lacks natural rhythm and timing in his swing. His offensive profile further gets knocked for his timidity on the basepaths despite his elite speed, though he made strides in 2017. Jackson's arm, glove and speed give him a chance as an utility infielder.
Sierra never experienced much success in Cuba despite premium stuff, but the Dodgers saw a powerful arm and shocked the industry when they gave him a six-year, $30 million contract in February 2016. Sierra got crushed in high Class A and was outrighted off the 40-man roster by July 4 of his first season. Sierra pitched well in the bullpen at Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. He can run his fastball up to 97 mph and mixes in a slider that flashes average, but below-average command limits his effectiveness. His contract complicates his situation. Placing Sierra back on the 40-man puts the Dodgers even higher above the luxury tax threshold and increases their competitive balance tax bill. Sierra is likely stuck in the minors no matter how well he performs, similar to the situation with Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo.
The two highest exit velocities in all of professional baseball belonged to Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in 2017. Isabel was third. The chiseled, long-levered Dominican hit home runs of legendary proportions throughout 2017 at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga, including an opposite-field blast at his home park that cleared a nearly 40-foot-high scoreboard in right-center and another at Lake Elsinore that cleared a two-lane road and landed in a grocery store parking lot. Isabel, who the Dodgers signed for $80,000 in 2013, led the system with 28 home runs and possesses true 80-grade power with his premium strength and elite bat speed. The problem is every other tool is near bottom-of-the-scale. Isabel swings from his shoes, is completely undone by breaking balls and has so much head and lower half movement in his load and swing that scouts give him “no chance” to hit at higher levels. Defensively Isabel is awkward and gangly at first base and frequently butchers routine ground balls. He has zero speed. Isabel has few believers, but if he can get to his mesmerizing power even a little at Double-A in 2018, he may get a shot as a bench bat.
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