2016 Los Angeles Dodgers Prospect Chat

We sat down with the top Dodgers bloggers to talk Dodgers prospects and more

We posed five intriguing questions about the 2016 Los Angeles DodgersTop Prospects to guru's Jeff Snider of BaseballEssential.com, Alex Campos of DodgersWay, Jared Massey from Dodger Blue, Scott Andes from LA Dodger Report, and Jeremy Dorn of Today's Knuckleball.

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2016 Los Angeles Dodgers Top Prospects Round-Up Chat

#1. Who is the most under-rated/under-valued Dodgers prospect?

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It’s always easier to tell who was overrated or underrated in hindsight, so I don’t know if it’s possible to identify an underrated prospect in the moment. But the Dodgers have so many prospects from so many backgrounds that there are probably at least a few who aren’t getting huge attention right now and are going to end up being very good. They have a big crop of international prospects who have flown a bit under the radar, so I am tempted to pick one of them.

But they have one other player who really excites be but who understandably hasn’t gotten a ton of publicity: Walker Buehler. Buehler was drafted in the first round even though the Dodgers knew he had an elbow injury. He underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted in 2015, so he has not yet pitched in the professional ranks and likely won’t until 2017 (when he will be 22 years old).But Buehler is a polished college pitcher from one of the best programs in the country, Vanderbilt. He has a great fastball and three other above-average pitches (curve, slider, and changeup). Once he returns from injury, he should move quickly through the minors and be ready to make an impact for the Dodgers by the time he is 24 or so.

The 2019 season seems far away right now, but I expect the Dodgers to be rewarded for their patience and risk.

Jeff Snider Baseball Essential
Alex Campos Dodgers Way

If you would have asked me this before Spring Training, Austin Barnes would
have been the answer. He was probably the least hyped piece of the Dee Gordon
trade, but is probably the one I was most excited for at the time. I’m a sucker for
versatility, so to not only acquire a guy that can play six positions in Enrique
Hernandez, but to add on a guy that can play second, third and catcher was huge for
me. He strikes me as a Buster Posey-type. Not to say he’s ever going to be as good as
Posey, but like Posey, there’s not really a glaring weakness in his game.If he sticks behind the plate, he’s a plus defender, great on base and contact skills, a bit of pop and he’s even had double-digit steals in each of his last two minor league seasons.

He’s a bit more on-the- radar after putting together a nice Spring, so I’d probably go
with Walker Buehler as the most under-valued prospect. The Dodgers have a
plethora of pitching prospects, and Buehler still hasn’t pitched since being drafted
due to a Tommy John. He’s hidden behind Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Grant Holmes
and Frankie Montas, but he was a stud in college and if he comes back healthy, could
be a top prospect moving forward.

I saw him pitch twice for Vanderbilt, once at the
Dodger Stadium Classic in 2014 and once while covering the Long Beach State
Dirtbags in 2013, and he was impressive both times. Plus, he has an 80-grade
twitter name (@Buehlersdayoff).

Probably Austin Barnes. Although he's consistently been rated as a top 10 player in the system (as high as fourth at Fangraphs), he has the potential to be a two-way catcher, which is a rarity these days. Add in his framing numbers and he should be starting for a Major League team instead of Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Jared Massey Dodger Blue
Scott Andes LA Dodger Report

Here are a couple. The first might be big first baseman Cody Bellinger. Although he is certainly getting more notice after he slugged 30 home runs for Class A affiliate Rancho Cucumonga. The Dodgers selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and he had somewhat of a breakout year for the Quakes last season. The Dodgers have worked on quieting his movements at the plate. However they hope his power doesn't diminish. He's only 20-years old, and could be a nice middle of the order type power bat once he matures to the major league level. Bellinger is thought of by many to be the heir-apparent for Adrian Gonzalez once he is ready to retire.

Another possibly under valued prospect in the lower levels of the Dodger's system is outfielder Alex Verdugo. Another left handed bat, the Dodgers selected him in the second round of the 2014 draft and he is only 19-years old. He batted .385 in 96 plate appearances for the Quakes in 2015, and has a career .322 average in his first two minor league seasons. He's more of a contact hitter that has shown good on-base skills. These are two kids that could be MLB ready by 2018.

This is a tough choice. Before Spring Training, I might have said Cody Bellinger. Now, I'm inclined to choose Ross Stripling, because Bellinger has established himself with a monster spring. Stripling, on the other hand, has flown under the radar despite six innings of one-hit, scoreless ball this spring.Before going down with Tommy John and missing all of the 2014 season, Stripling was my favorite under-the-radar Dodgers prospect. He was a teammate of Michael Wacha's at Texas A&M, where Stripling thrived before eventually getting drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. He has a good low-to-mid-90's fastball with some cut and a nice change, slider and curve.

The Dodgers' system is stacked, so Stripling only ranks 16th according to MLB.com, but he has as good a chance as any starting pitching prospect to get an early-season call for a couple spot starts, assuming he continues to dominate in the minors. and maintains his post-TJ velocity and control.

Jeremy Dorn Today's Knuckleball

#2. What prospect has the best chance to be the break-out star this season?

Scott Andes LA Dodger Report

Of course that will likely be number one ranked prospect and wonderkid Corey Seager. The Dodgers called up the shortstop when rosters expanded last September so they could get a look at him and he did not disappoint. The Dodgers brain trust refused to trade him for a reason. The big framed rookie is talented in all facets of the game. The kid is going to be an all-star for sure and will be the Dodger's starting shortstop in 2016. He is 21-years old and the top prospect in the game today.

Corey Seager is the obvious answer here, but he has been so good in his brief time in the big leagues that it almost feels like cheating to consider him a prospect. Besides Seager, I think Frankie Montas has a great chance to really impact the Dodgers on the big-league level. He will miss half the season, probably, after having a rib removed due to a stress reaction, but there are no indications that the injury should cause longterm struggles for the hard-throwing righty.

The big question with Montas is whether he will be a starter or a reliever. He has topped 100 MPH with his fastball, but command has been a bit of an issue. He has developed a decent slider and has worked on a changeup. For 2016, a bullpen spot seems the most likely, but on a team that has had bullpen struggles the past two years, there is definitely the potential to make a big impression on the season in that role.If Montas returns by June, he could be a huge asset in getting the ball from the Dodgers’ starters to Kenley Jansen in the ninth..

Jeff Snider Baseball Essential

It would feel like cheating to call Corey Seager a potential breakout star, so let's go another route: Yaisel Sierra. The Dodgers' big league bullpen remains a question mark, and the parade of promising young arms they've tested over the last couple seasons has been helpful but largely underwhelming. Sierra, a 24-year-old Cuban the Dodgers signed this winter, may be the next in line.He sits mid-90's on a strong fastball and has touched 97 mph. He has a pretty promising slider and a change, and uses a lot of different arm angles (though he may be trying to focus on one with the Dodgers to improve his control).

Many scouts saw him as an immediate add to a big league bullpen, and if that's the case, the Dodgers could slot him in after a short stint at Triple-A. We're not looking at a 2002 Francisco Rodriguez-esque situation, but if Sierra can locate that heater and make a difference in the Dodgers bullpen, the team's scouting department may have struck gold.

Jeremy Dorn Today's Knuckleball
Alex Campos Dodgers Way

With the injuries the Dodgers have faced in the rotation, I think Ross Stripling has
a real chance at breaking out this season at the major league level. If Zach Lee and
Brandon Beachy can’t hold down the fifth starter spot until Hyun-jin Ryu comes
back or if another pitcher goes down, Stripling should get the nod over Urias or JDL.

He’s posted good numbers at every level in the minors and has been very impressive
this spring. If he’s finally healthy, he could give the Dodgers the opportunity to keep
their two prized pitching prospects in the minors until they’re absolutely ready,
whether that be September or next April. He’s been lights out in the Spring and
probably has more upside than Lee, whose “top prospect” shine has really worn off
over the years.

Yadier Alvarez. He got $16 million based off arm strength and potential, but what he's done in Spring Training leads me to believe he could dominate this year. He throws so effortlessly and already has some feel for a slider and a changeup. If one of those pitches takes a step forward, coupled with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, look out.

Jared Massey Dodger Blue

#3. What prospect do you expect to take the biggest leap forward in development this season?

Cody Bellinger took a big step forward in 2015. Some of that may have been related to playing in the California League, but he went from one home run every 70 plate appearances to one every 18. The league change can’t explain all of that.

Bellinger is still growing — at 6’4” he probably won’t get any taller, but he probably has 20 or 30 more pounds to add to his frame as he fills out. I don’t think he will take the same leap in 2016 as he did in 2015, but a repeat performance at Double-A Tulsa would probably qualify as a leap in development and cement his status as a top prospect. It’s probably too early to start thinking about whether he is “blocked” at first base by Adrian Gonzalez (who is signed through 2018), but the future is bright for Bellinger.

Jeff Snider Baseball Essential
Scott Andes LA Dodger Report

My hope is that will be Catcher/second baseman Austin Barnes. I didn't think much of him when the Dodgers acquired him from the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade, but he's shown real potential to be a very versatile player. He not only can catch but can play second base. He's a solid contact hitter that gets on base and can run the bases well. For a catcher that is hard to find. With the injury to Yasmani Grandal, we might see more of Barnes utilized as depth at catcher and second base throughout the season, and I am hoping he blossoms into a productive major leaguer.

I think this is the year that Julio Urias makes sure the Dodgers can't afford to keep him down on the farm any longer. The southpaw has been impressive this spring, though with mixed results. Now that his eye surgery is behind him and he can focus on building up his innings and arm strength again, I expect Urias to dominate whatever level he's put at and earn a late-season call-up for some big league bullpen work. Urias is already phenomenal, but he will grow another year older and another year stronger, and mow down opposing minor league hitters in the process. Triple-A was his only hitch last year, and once he gets over that hump, it's only a matter of time.

Jeremy Dorn Today's Knuckleball
Alex Campos Dodgers Way

The exciting thing about the Dodgers is their willingness to spend in the Latin
markets. By doing this, they have a number of incredibly young prospects whose
developments will be so much fun to track over the coming years. They’ve had a few
busts in the Cuban market (Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena,), but they’re still
trying to find the next Yasiel Puig. 19-year- old Yusniel Diaz and 17-year- old Starling
Heredia were the third and ninth best international prospects last year on MLB.com.
They’re both so young and so full of potential. Obviously a lot could go wrong, but of the guys below the top two tiers of prospects in the Dodgers’ farm, these are the two I’m keeping my eyes on to take huge leaps in their first full years in the U.S.

Yusniel Diaz. He's only 19 and has five-tool potential, but he's understandably raw. This spring he's been hitting off his front foot and the speed and defense have been underwhelming, but the bat speed and athleticism are there for him to take a step forward.

Jared Massey Dodger Blue

#4. Realistic expectations for Julio Urias this season?

I touched on this in my last answer, but I think a September call-up isn't out of the question. As long as he still has a little wiggle room for his innings limit at that point, I'd hope the Dodgers give him a shot out of the bullpen - even if it's mop-up duty in a blowout. Realistically, I expect Urias to improve in the minors over the summer and work his way through Triple-A with pretty solid numbers across the board. At that point, the Dodgers will cave to the pressure and finally give the young gun a shot in a few meaningless September games.

Jeremy Dorn Today's Knuckleball
Alex Campos Dodgers Way

I was surprised that Julio Urias didn’t get a September call-up last season,
especially when he missed a chunk of the season after undergoing a procedure on
his eye. It helped keep his innings down, but he had two disastrous starts at AAA
and never got the call to the big leagues. The hype is real and he has nearly
unlimited upside, but the Dodgers are in a beautiful position where they don’t have
to rush him. I’d probably wish for the Dodgers to keep him in AA or AAA for the
duration of the season and maybe stretch him out a little more, as he’s never thrown
more than 88 innings in a season in the minors.
Youth is still on his side and there’s no real reason to rush him, so depending on how they manage his innings, maybe a
September call-up? If not, the Dodgers have Brett Anderson coming off the books
next year and depending on how Scott Kazmir performs, he could have an opt-out as
well, so he could slot into the rotation nicely in 2017. I think Urias will spend
another season in the minors and hopefully perform well in the hitter-friendly
Pacific Coast League, keeping his status as a consensus top-five prospect in the
majors.

Urias has never thrown 90 innings in a season in the minors, and he won’t be 20 until August. He also had the first hiccup of his career in Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, getting shelled in both of his starts there at the end of the season. He will start the 2016 season in OKC, and I expect him to spend most of the season there.

With Urias, I expect the Dodgers to make decisions based on what is best for his longterm development more than the needs of the big-league team. A big focus will be building up his innings without going overboard. I would be very surprised if he tops 120 innings this year, which probably means the occasional skipped start and shortened outing.

That innings limit could benefit Urias in terms of promotions, though, because the back of a major-league bullpen is a very nice place to put a guy on an innings limit. I could see Urias coming up right around the time he turns 20 on August 12 and spending the rest of the season in the bullpen. If they can get him to 120 innings this season, that opens him up to hopefully be ready for 150 as a 20-year-old starter in Los Angeles in 2017.

Jeff Snider Baseball Essential

Urias really just needs to build up innings. I know fans are anxious to see him in the big leagues but he's not ready for a Major League workload yet. If he can throw about 120 innings this season, it would set him up to join the rotation in 2017. It's possible he comes up for a cup of coffee, but I wouldn't bank on an extended stay with the Dodgers this year.

Jared Massey Dodger Blue
Scott Andes LA Dodger Report

I think we can probably expect to see him in the Dodger's rotation at some point during the 2016 season. The Dodgers have a slew of annoying injuries which may accelerate his promotion. Urias will start the year in the minors again, but is available to be called up if the Dodgers need him. We might not see him until September when the rosters expand because I think the brain trust feels he is not quite ready for big league action. More seasoning in the minors might help his development. They probably feel this way more so after he struggled a little bit when first promoted to triple-A. However when he is ready to be called up, you can expect him to be at least a solid mid-tier type arm. He has a bright future ahead.

#5. The Dodgers have one of the best farms systems in all of baseball, after Urias, Seager, and DeLeon who becomes their #1 prospect?

Grant Holmes. He got lost in the shuffle a bit in 2015 but he's already got the plus fastball and breaking ball, as well as a reliable changeup. If the command improves, he could establish himself as one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball.

Jared Massey Dodger Blue
Scott Andes LA Dodger Report

That's a tough question. The Dodgers have a ton of talented prospects in a rich farm system that was ranked as the best in baseball. It could be flame thrower Yadier Alvarez. Or it could be first baseman Cody Bellinger. It could be Alex Verdugo, or Grant Holmes. Or it could be Jharel Cotton? The list goes on and on. The Dodgers farm system is stacked.

Grant Holmes is listed by most people as the Dodgers’ best prospect beyond those three, and I think he’s probably the best answer. Holmes throws hard and has a good curveball and a developing changeup, and he has the stuff to be a very good starting pitcher. He is only about five months older than Urias, and while he is not quite as far along in his development, he should be ready to contribute to the big-league team by 2018.

Jeff Snider Baseball Essential
Alex Campos Dodgers Way

The Dodgers’ farm system is so deep, there are a handful of players I could see as
a top prospect once Seager, Urias and JDL graduate to the majors. I already talked
about Buehler, but Grant Holmes could be another name rising up the prospect lists.
He’s already in most top-100 lists and has posted some solid numbers in the minors.
MLB already has him as the Dodgers’ fourth-best prospect, so it makes sense that
once the top-three graduate, he’d take over.
Another guy I’m really high on is Alex Verdugo. The combination of age (19), success
at the lower minor league levels and seemingly untapped potential is very intriguing
to me. Many teams saw him as a pitcher in the draft, but the Dodgers drafted him as
an outfielder and he could be the next farm system outfielder to make an impact for
the Dodgers. He doesn’t walk much, but he’s only struck out 65 times in 512 minor
league plate appearances headed into the season and looked really solid in his
limited time in the Spring. His pitching background should translate to a great
outfield arm, and if he keeps progressing I could see him being a top guy sooner
rather than later.

Bellinger, for sure. Even though incumbent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez shows no signs of slowing down at age 33 and has a contract through the 2018 season, Bellinger will be there to take over whenever A-Gon starts to decline. Bellinger turns 21 this season and has proven himself as a solid minor league hitter (30 HR, 103 RBI last season) with big league defensive chops. Surely, the Dodgers would love to see him work on plate discipline, as he struck out 150 times in 128 games in 2015, but they have to be pleased with his progress so far this spring. Bellinger has only whiffed five times (as opposed to nine walks) in 35 plate appearances this spring, and is hitting a robust .423 with a .571 on-base percentage. You can take spring stats with a grain of salt, but the big lefty looks like he has "top prospect" listed all over him - and for many teams, he might already be that guy.

Jeremy Dorn Today's Knuckleball

We appreciate everyone taking the time to share their thoughts, opinions and commentary on the 2016 Los Angeles Top Prospects in our Round-Up Chat.  Based on everyone's feedback we put together a Julio Urias Scouting Report.

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