The Dodgers are baseball's most efficient franchise. They keep cranking out wins at the big league level, including a franchise-record 106 last year as they captured their seventh straight National League West title. Their farm system continues to produce Top 100 Prospects who become impact players, including reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Will Smith, Julio Uríppas and Alex Verdugo in the last four years alone.
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Neither of those trends figures to stop anytime soon. Los Angeles has the most talented roster in the Majors and MLB Pipeline's No. 3-rated farm system. It has the favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year award in sweet-swinging middle infielder Gavin Lux, another prime candidate in right-hander Dustin May and a couple of sleeper possibilities in righties Brusdar Graterol and Tony Gonsolin.
The Dodgers have more potential Rookie of the Year winners for every season in the near future. Next up in 2021 are right-hander Josiah Gray and catcher Keibert Ruiz, who join Lux, May and Graterol on our Top 100 Prospects list.
More of a shortstop in his first two seasons at NCAA Division II Le Moyne (N.Y.), Gray became a full-time pitcher in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2017 and went in the supplemental second round to the Reds a year later. Los Angeles acquired him in December 2018 as part of a deal in which it cleared roster spots and salary by divesting itself of Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer. That trade also netted shortstop Jeter Downs, whom the Dodgers gave up along with Verdugo and catching prospect Connor Wong to land Mookie Betts from the Red Sox last month.
Gray has proven more advanced than expected in pro ball, reaching Double-A and winning Los Angeles' Minor League Pitcher of the Year award after logging a 2.28 ERA, .207 opponent average and 147 strikeouts in 130 innings at age 21 in 2019. He has an explosive 92-97 mph fastball, flashes a plus slider, mixes in a curveball and changeup and pounds the strike zone.
"When he reported to camp in 2019 and threw his first live BP, we knew we had a special athlete on our hands," Dodgers farm director Will Rhymes said. "His velocity was really high and his ability to repeat his mechanics was impressive. As we got to know JoJo, the way he competes really stood out."
As a 19-year-old in 2018, Ruiz spent the entire season in Double-A and split time with Smith on a Tulsa club that won the Texas League championship. While Smith was establishing himself in the big leagues last summer, Ruiz repeated Double-A and made a late-season cameo in Triple-A. His .261/.331/.347 batting line was the worst of his career, but he's still just 21 and remains one of baseball's best catching prospects.
"I think he's going to provide a lot of value on both sides of the ball," Rhymes said of Ruiz, who signed for $140,000 out of Venezuela in 2014. "His plate discipline, contact skills and miniscule K rate should translate into production against high-end pitching. I think his defensive skills continue to improve. His game-calling has improved and his ability to control a staff has improved.
"He had a great offseason and looks great physically. He dug in with our Major League hitting coaches in Spring Training to make some minor tweaks with his swing."
There's even more premium talent coming behind Gray and Ruiz, too. The Dodgers used both of their first-round picks in the 2019 Draft on college sluggers, and third baseman Kody Hoese and Michael Busch should arrive in Los Angeles in 2022.
• Q&A with Kody Hoese
In 2023, the Dodgers could welcome Venezuelan catcher Diego Cartaya, MLB Pipeline's top-rated prospect in the 2018 international class, and outfielder Andy Pages, a Cuban defector who batted .298/.398/.651 and led the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 43 extra-base hits in 63 games last summer. Their top international signing from 2019, Venezuelan outfielder Luis Rodriguez, could have solid tools across the board by the time he's ready in 2024.
A prize quarterback recruit whom some scouting services rated ahead of future NFL No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff when both were in high school, outfielder Cody Thomas played sparingly in football and baseball at Oklahoma before the Dodgers signed him for $297,500 as a 13th-rounder in 2016. His two best tools are his plus raw power and solid arm strength, and he showed off his pop by tying for the Spring Training lead with five homers while batting .318/.333/1.091.
"Cody had a really big Spring Training and the timing of the shutdown was unfortunate for a lot of our guys, especially him," Rhymes said. "He had a very good offseason too. He's starting to understand what's good when he's going really good and what's not going well when he's not going too well. We're very excited about the progress he could make this season."
The three best hitters in big league camp all were prospects. Outfielder Zach Reks, a 10th-round pick out of Kentucky in 2017 who had 28 homers and a .921 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A last year, batted .368/.556/.684. Infielder/outfielder Zach McKinstry, a 33rd-rounder from Central Michigan in 2016 who had 19 homers and an .882 OPS at the same levels, hit .407/.448/.778.
On the Minor League side, the Dodgers were enthused by the performance of right-hander Michael Grove. He signed for a well-over-slot $1,229,500 as a second-rounder in 2018 despite missing his junior season at West Virginia while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made a huge jump to Class A Advanced when he returned to the mound last year and his stuff and command fluctuated while he posted a 6.10 ERA (albeit with 73 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings).
"He came back looking really good," Rhymes said. "His stuff was up from the end of the year to Spring Training, where he was in the 94-97 mph range in bullpens and sitting at 95. The most impressive part was the development he did on his part to round out his arsenal.
"He did a ton of work on his changeup and he was throwing it to both-side hitters and was effective. His slider was one of his calling cards in school and it has returned. He was using his whole arsenal and feeling confident."
Prospect we'll be talking about in 2021
As an offshoot of the Betts trade, Pages reportedly was headed to the Angels along with Pederson and Ross Stripling for Luis Rengifo and additional players until Anaheim owner Arte Moreno became impatient and vetoed the deal. That may prove fortuitous for the Dodgers because Pages is a 19-year-old with well above-average raw power and arm strength and a track record of production.
"If he goes to full-season ball at his age and does what we think he can do as a very advanced hitter, he could build some momentum," Rhymes said. "He's a really instinctive player on both sides of the ball. His swing really holds up — there's some wasted motion with his leg kick, but the meat and potatoes of his swing are as good as anyone's."
Something to prove
When former Los Angeles vice president of baseball operations (and current Braves GM) Alex Anthopoulos saw Mitchell White in his first pro Spring Training three years ago, he remarked that the right-hander's stuff looked worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. A 2016 second-rounder out of Santa Clara, he can overmatch hitters with a mid-90s fastball with natural cutting action, a mid-80s slider with late bite and a high-spin downer curveball.
But White has yet to stay healthy for a full season in pro ball. He dealt with blister problems last year in Triple-A, where he posted a 5.09 ERA while exhibiting more ordinary stuff. Now 25, he needs to show more consistency and reliability if he's going to become part of Los Angeles' long-term plans.
"He has high-end stuff across the board," Rhymes said. "He has hard stuff that goes left and he can spin a couple of breaking pitches. It's just a matter of everything coming together rather than correcting any deficiency."