10 Names You Need To Know – 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers
As most of my esteemed colleagues have already mentioned, 2020 hasn’t been good to baseball fans. If we break it down a bit further, say into 30 different teams, it’s a fair assumption that most team’s fans have already been tested in ways that were (fortunately) unbeknownst to most. Not only have we been tested in baseball – no MiLB in any capacity per 2020, having to endure that despicable labor dispute during a time when people needed baseball the most, and finally (in the saddest sense of the word) settling upon a 60-game “season” after being forced to watch a “season’s” worth of failed negotiations – we’ve been tested nearly every day of our “ordinary” lives.
This is what we do. We fight. This is why the inherent nature of baseball exudes that same spirit. The spirit that’s getting all of us through this year, this pandemic, and this rut. Fight harder, and into the night. No one embraces that same spirit more than our Minor League Baseball players. Playing for the chance to someday be lucky enough to tell their grandchildren about that time, that day, that month, those 25 years, when they were lucky enough to play Major League Baseball. That time-honored tradition and those men’s livelihoods vanish when baseball vanishes. We feel it, as Americans. Aside from anyone brave enough to join any of the Armed Forces at any time and at any place, there’s next to nothing more American than a Minor League Baseball player.
I’d like to celebrate ’10 Names’ in the Dodgers organization deserved enough for a chance to play with MLB’s elite. The Los Angeles Dodgers organization is the class of the National League. To be great enough to make this list therefore means each of these names have the greatness necessary to deserve that one chance. Without further ado, please allow me to introduce (and reintroduce for some) the 10 Dodgers prospects whom you need to know.
Josiah Gray, RHP
MLB Player Comp: Sonny Gray
Drafted by the Reds in the 2nd Round of the 2018 MLB Draft, the Dodgers struck gold converting a “two birds, one stone” situation. Offloading ballooned salaries from Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp, the Dodgers scored one of the freshest (Josiah Gray was a shortstop until his sophomore season in college and hadn’t taken the ball to start until his third and final year at Division II LeMoyne) and most exciting young arms available.
Gray throws primarily a hard, rising 4-seam (95-97 mph during Spring Training, 2020) with a high-spin, biting slider that falls completely off of the table. From the same arm slot, the FB-slider combo fooled nearly everyone in Gray’s first full year with the Dodgers in 2019. Successfully mowing down 3 full levels of pro ball last season, most of Gray’s starts came at Rancho Cucamonga. With the Quakes, Gray’s record was 7-0, with a 2.14 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and an 80/13 K/BB ratio. That’s a 6.15 K/BB-rate, not too shabby.
If the Dodgers can successfully teach him (which they can, especially given Gray’s intellect and athleticism) how to turn his average-graded changeup into a plus-pitch, the sky will certainly be the limit for this athletically gifted, fresh, and dynamic starting pitcher.
Kody Hoese, 3B
MLB Player Comp: Scott Rolen
Taken by the Dodgers in the first round of 2019 MLB Draft, Kody Hoese is a power-hitting third-baseman who statistically comprehensively paced all of NCAA baseball in his final (junior) year at Tulane. The biggest names of the 2019 NCAA season didn’t necessarily include Hoese. Not nearly as much as they did Spencer Torkelson, JJ Bleday, Andrew Vaughn, and Hunter Bishop. Yet by the end of that 2019 season, Hoese finished with a better AVG/HR combo than all four 1st round studs. Here are those AVG/HR combos.
Hoese – .391 AVG (23 HR)
Torkelson – .351 (23 HR)
Bleday – .347 (27 HR)
Bishop – .342 (22 HR)
Vaughn – .374 (15 HR)
Granted, Vaughn did put up a .400+ AVG and 23 HR’s as a sophomore in the year before (and those stats above are Tork’s sophomore year also) but remember that Vaughn went 3rd overall in 2019. Torkelson (of course) was the MLB consensus first pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Yet Kody Hoese went 25th overall and for a fraction of the signing bonus. Now that Hoese’s in one of the very best talent-developing systems in baseball, I predict that once he gets to Rancho Cucamonga his ascension into the mainstream will start there. Much like Cody Bellinger’s arrival at Rancho in 2015-where he, upon learning how to add loft to his already gorgeous swing, went from only 4 HR throughout his first two pro seasons (2013-2014) to an astounding 30 HR in 2015, I predict Hoese’s swing will go through the very same transformation and at the very same stop along the way. Fantrax lead prospect analyst, Eric Cross also gives Hoese a stellar review.
Clayton Beeter, RHP
MLB Player Comp: Emilio Pagán
Taken in this year’s 2020 MLB Draft, Clayton Beeter throws right-handed, really hard, straight up and down (virtually 12-6 arm angle) and pitched collegiately.
Beeter’s stuff is quite incredible. As mentioned, his windup and delivery are uniquely deceptive. Beeter’s ability to hide the ball behind him for nearly as long as his windup will allow already put hitters at a massive disadvantage. Say Beeter was forced to go without his deception (which, logically should never happen), Beeter’s FB/slider combo is already wipeout.
Beeter dominated NCAA Baseball, to the tune of a 2.14 ERA with 33 K’s and only 4 BB’s through 21 IP before the 2020 season was prematurely ended. To put into perspective just how good Beeter’s 2020 8.25 K/BB ratio was, here are the current leaders in MLB in K/BB ratio, courtesy of Fangraphs. Through (roughly) the same number of starts, (as of Aug. 13th) Beeter lands ahead of numerous Cy Young-caliber pitchers, such as: Charlie Morton (8 K/BB), Yu Darvish (8), Trevor Bauer (8), Chris Paddack (7), and Jacob deGrom (5.6), just to name a few.
Bobby Miller, RHP
MLB Player Comp: Walker Buehler physically with Curt Schilling stuff
An absolute horse physically, at 6’5″ and 220 lbs, Bobby Miller‘s got the ace-like demeanor and utter explosiveness that scouts drool over. All of Miller’s peripheral stats back up the video too. Spin-rate, velocity (fastball lived in the high 90’s before the 2020 pandemic-shortened season ended), horizontal and vertical movement, were all elite. It’s pretty obvious what Andrew Friedman & Co. saw in Miller and why they made him their 1st pick in 2020.
Almost a bit of a throwback (cough… Curt Schilling) his FB is hard, it dives and dips, and it’ll heavily drop away from lefties and in on righties, virtually guaranteeing a shattered-bat per-inning (SHB/IP ratio). His slider bites harder than Shark Week, currently owns a fringy curve, and an average changeup that (with the right coaching… check!) should improve into a plus-offering.
Miller’s size, his explosiveness, the 97-99 mph bowling ball, and the 12-6 slider, all draw his projection arrow straight up. Now that he’s within one the best systems over the past 20-odd years, Bobby Miller legitimately gives the Dodgers yet another ace-in-training. In turn, the Dodgers are providing Miller with one of the very best roadmaps to becoming another legendary Dodger ace.
Michael Busch, 2B
MLB Player Comp: Chase Utley
Taken just 6 picks after Kody Hoese in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Dodgers landed a hit-first, left-handed hitting utility man (mainly around 1st base). Not only is Michael Busch versatile, he was also one of the best true-hitting collegiate infielders in the 2019 MLB Draft. Perhaps this comp will please a few Dodgers’ fans? The first player that came to mind when I started watching tape on Busch hitting with UNC was: Chase Utley. It’s safe to assume that if Busch ends up being half the ballplayer Utley was, this draft pick will prove to be a tremendous success.
In the box Busch has excellent hands, bat control, knowledge of the strike zone, patients, balance, bat-speed, and (phew) extraordinary weight transfer during the point of impact. Effortlessly driving the ball to both gaps, Busch possesses raw power right now that, upon a little pro-seasoning, should definitely translate to near-plus game-power. All of these attributes scream Utley. You can tell the second you see him on the field, in any aspect of his game, like Utley he’s simply a ballplayer. He’ll take very well to proper coaching, he’ll learn, and he’ll become a fine young ballplayer with every opportunity for a good sized ceiling.
Because he’s a natural on the diamond I think those great hands will translate in his move from 1st base to 2nd base. Again, with the right player development, Busch’s transition should come pretty easily.
Jimmy Lewis, RHP
MLB Player Comp: Dustin May
Jimmy Lewis is the type of player who screams future projection. Hailing from Lake Travis High in Texas, Lewis was already used to the scout-filled stands and high-pressured situations brought-on (aside from his own talents) by the 12th overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft, 1B power-hitting teammate turned Mets prospect, Brett Baty. During Lewis’s senior season filled with scouts and the like, he threw two one-hitters and one no-hitter.
Playing for a highly touted, highly scouted, big Texan school, the Dodgers absolutely knew that they’d have to sway Lewis away from college baseball. Thus it took a $1.1M signing bonus to get the Texan-sized righty to with the Dodgers and not SEC powerhouse, LSU. Not only does Lewis look the role of a starting pitcher in the making, he already has the MLB arsenal as well. Far more polished than any typical high school starter, the 6’6″ righty already possesses a low-to-mid 90’s mph 2-seam FB (that touched 95 mph during his senior season) that can easily spot anywhere, anytime. His bread n’ butter is the consensus (as of the 2019 MLB Draft) plus-curveball that Lewis willingly shapes and artfully targets anytime he feels the urge to drop the deuce. Andthe 19-year old already owns a changeup that currently flashes average.
Therefore, Lewis is a 6’6″ righty, SP prospect who projects to add at least 3-4 maybe even 5 more ticks to a 2-seam he already locates with ease, anywhere in the zone. With that, he (again) already has two secondary offerings, one of which (the curve) projects as a possible plus-plus secondary offering and Lewis is already at the point in his very young (embryonic) career where his average changeup can use some tweaking to get it into the next tier of effectiveness. I cannot stress how impressive Lewis’s entire arsenal as a 19 year-old actually is. Potentially, he’s another Dodger ace.
I’d say the $1.1M was well worth it.
Jeren Kendall, OF
MLB Player Comp: Grady Sizemore
“Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is…” No, it’s not HOV. It’s Jeren Kendall. Former 2017 MLB Draft 1st round, 5-tool, star centerfielder with Vanderbilt. I’ve never been happy with Kendall’s pro career, in that he’s still yet to breach Double-A. How on earth is that possible? Even barring serious injury or two. The kid played for a national powerhouse, he was drafted in 2017, yet he’s yet to break with AA-Tulsa??
Aside from questions regarding the amount of competition Kendall’s faced (or not faced), I dug around and have even a more legitimate case for Kendall’s eventual breakthrough than previously thought before. So please, allow me to reintroduce you all to Jaren Kendall.
He played for Vanderbilt, ’nuff said. Everyone knows (especially Andrew Friedman) the value Vandy brings to any pro prospect. That and the relentlessly steady influx of Vandy alums who are now studs in MLB. Kendall’s still young. At only 24 the world is still the kid’s oyster. Kendall still plays Gold Glove caliber CF. That never goes out of style. He’s still fast. In fact, Baseball America just named Kendall the Dodgers’ “Best Athlete in 2020” some 3 years removed from his 2017 Draft. In theory, Kendall is still the 5-tool star all/any organization(s) dream about.
How about some hard numbers? Last season (2019) Jeren Kendall ranked fifth in all of MiLB in hard-hit rate (44%). Imagine the filter for all of MiLB. Change it to filter only the players who accumulated at least 350 PA’s or more, and Kendall ranked higher, at #3. Just to put into perspective the type of hard contact 44% on the season actually is, here are two extremely hard-hitting prospects (one plays for the Dodgers, in the Bigs, as we speak) and the other? He just so happens to be a consensus Top-10 prospect across baseball. Ready? Edwin Rios and Julio Rodriguez are bangers at 42.8% and 40%, respectively, and both had less hard-hits than Kendall in 2019.
Obviously the tools are still there. Time to put ’em to use.
Robbie Peto, RHP
MLB Player’s Comp: Pablo Lopez
The only undrafted FA signed by the Dodgers in 2020, Robbie Peto hails from the ‘Horse Factory’ aka: Stetson University. Of course the allure of Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber come with the name of Stetson. But there’s something undeniable about that school’s ability to produce MLB hosses. Similar to those who came before him, Peto looks like an MLB starter in the making.
At 6’4″, 225 LBS, his presence on the bump screams alpha. As if he’s literally saying this to himself on the mound (about the hitter) “This is how it’s gonna be, I’m gonna blow this by you and after I do, all you’ll do is watch my name from the back of my jersey stare you down while I slowly circle the mound or strut straight back to the dugout.” Peto’s nickname should be: the “Immovable Object.”
Peto commands his FB for strikes and lives mid-90’s. His changeup is arguably the best in all of college baseball. Yes, you read that correctly. I had Bryce Jarvis graded-best change before I watched the (albeit sparse) but well-focused video on (via his Stetson profile page) Peto circa 2020. It falls completely off the table and runs with perhaps more movement on the run than the dip and inherently 10 mph slower, with location. Yikes. He has what appear to be two types of curves. One’s loopy and the other is harder and snappy. I’d certainly stick with the harder one. Peto made a huge improvement to his numbers early in 2020. He posted a 41/13 K/BB ratio and 15 hits through 25.1 innings. That’s a very respectable 1.10 whip and an even better 1.78 ERA with an incredible 14.5 K/9 ratio. Look out for Robbie Peto.
Keibert Ruiz, C
MLB Player Comp: Joe Mauer
Again falling into a similar category as Kendall, you’ve probably heard Keibert Ruiz, the ‘wunderkind’ catcher who switch-hits and is (back then perhaps) 18 years old. Since then? Well, he just turned 22. Will Smith has been the regular starter at catcher for LA, with Austin Barnes subbing in, but that looks to be changing. Smith went on the IL August 15th and Ruiz got his first call to the majors! Ruiz has only played a total of 9 games at Triple-A thus far. However, during those 9 games last season Ruiz managed to go 12-of-38 with 6 runs scored, 2 HR and 9 RBI.
Remember Ruiz’s age, having just turned 22 one month ago, it feels like his time has already come and gone. Yet he’s still an incomprehensible 6.3 years younger, on average, than the rest of Triple-A. Mind blown. During his time with AA-Tulsa? 5 years younger. And even with Rancho, 4.7 years younger. He just got to MLB, so let’s remember his age.
Ruiz has always been an OBP% monster who limits his K-Rate better than most players in baseball. An example of his incredible eye? Last year, through two levels, Keibert had the 2nd best K% in all of MiLB (only 6.3%).
Brandon Lewis, 3B/1B
MLB Player Comp: Troy Glaus
An absolute bomber from UC Irvine, the Dodgers decided to draft the plus-plus power-tool (bench-saw, if that’s a real tool?) in the 4th round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Brandon Lewis‘s most obvious and enticing skill is his prodigious light-tower power to all and every part of the field although he does pull a bit more than the alternative. Thus far as a pro Lewis’s power prowess has translated through 3 levels in 2019. Upon finishing with the Great Lake Loons (the Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate), Lewis accumulated a .297 BA, 13 HR’s, 46 RBI, and a .899 OPS (.365 OBP% + .534 SLG%).
Lewis should draw the more obvious comp with Glaus because of their Southern Californian collegiate careers (UC Irvine and UCLA respectively), immense size, position, and extraordinary power-stroke. In fact, Lewis tied UC Irvine’s single-season record of 14 HR’s in 2019.
There’s something to be said about that record. Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark’s massive dimensions are 335 feet to left field, 405′ center field, 355′ right field, 380′ to the power alleys and the best part, a twelve foot tall fence that surrounds the entire ballpark. With the organization’s help Lewis can mold himself to be more selective. Thus cutting back on whiffs and swinging at better pitches. He’s only aggressive because he knows what he can do with the stick. However, even power-hitting monsters must have one or two boundaries.
Those are the ’10 Names You Need To Know’ Dodgers edition. Hopefully all ten will become Hall of Famers and in turn make me look like a genius. Until then! Hang in there folks, we’re almost there. Go Blue!