Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Los Angeles in 2016
34 – Jordan Sheffield
41 – Will Smith
73 – Gavin Lux
173 – Dustin May
238 – Devin Smeltzer
303 – DJ Peters
322 – Kevin Lachance
447 – Andre Scrubb
463 – Errol Robinson
1.20 – SS Gavin Lux
(This is one of my more meandering first round pick breakdowns, so bear with me here. Something about Gavin Lux has me more turned around than I’m used to. Let’s try to figure this one out together…)
Many smart people were on Gavin Lux (73) going back well over a year. I wish I had listened to them. If not them, I should have at least listened to myself…
I’m a huge fan of Gavin Lux and think he could wind up in the first round conversation come June.
That was me in December 2015. Then six months later…
Lux is a really intriguing young hitter with the chance to come out of this draft as arguably the best all-around hitter (contact, pop, patience) in this high school class. That may be a bit rich, but I’d at least say his straight hit tool ranks only below Mickey Moniak, Carlos Cortes, and Joe Rizzo. If his bat plays above-average in all three phases – he could/should be there with contact and approach while his raw power floats somewhere in that average to above-average range – then he’d certainly be in the mix. A fun name that I’ve heard on Lux that may or may not have been influenced by geography: a bigger, stronger Scooter Gennett. Here’s some of what Baseball America had on Gennett in his draft year…
He profiles as an offensive second baseman, while Florida State intends for him to start at shortstop as a freshman. He’s a grinder with surprising power and bat speed for his size (a listed 5-foot-10, 170 pounds), and though he can be streaky, his bat is his best tool. He’s a better runner on the field than in showcase events, but he’s closer to average than above-average in that department. Defensively he gets the most of his ability, with his range and arm better suited for the right side of the infield than the left. He’s agile, though, and a solid athlete. Gennett would be a crucial get for Florida State, if he gets there. Most scouts consider him a third-to-fifth round talent.
A bigger, stronger, and arguably better (especially when likelihood to stick at short is factored in) Gennett feels about right, both in terms of draft stock (second to fourth round talent, maybe with a shot to sneak into the late first) and potential pro outcome. It should be noted that Lux’s defensive future is somewhat in flux. I think he’s athletic enough with enough arm to stick at short for a while, but there are many others who think he’s got second base written all over him. A lot of that likely has to do with his arm – it’s looked strong to me with a really quick release, but there’s debate on that – so I’d bet that there’s little consensus from team to team about his long-term position. Teams that like him to pick him high in the draft will like him best as a shortstop, so it’s my hunch that he’ll at least get a shot to play in the six-spot as a pro to begin his career.
Because I’m a completist, here’s a Gennett (top) and Lux (bottom) first year in pro ball comparison…
.309/.354/.463 with 5.9 BB% and 17.3 K% in 525 PA
.296/.375/.399 with 11.1 BB% and 20.2 K% in 253 PA
This doesn’t tell you much as we’re comparing Gennett’s first full year in low-A as a 20-year-old (he didn’t play after signing late in 2009) with Lux’s age-18 season in rookie ball, but, like I said, I’m a completist. Now that’s complete, at least for now.
As for Lux, the guy checks every box from a physical standpoint and his feel for hitting is damn impressive. He’s a deceptively high floor player (a 2016 MLB Draft theme I’ve been pushing of late) because his defense is either going to be good enough for shortstop or very good at second or possibly center. There’s really nothing not to like here. I’m trying to go back and audit my rankings some to figure out why I did what I did in some spots, and all I can figure with Lux is that the general dearth of quality shortstops in this class actually caused me to move everybody at short down rather than push up the top guys. Lux wound up ranking behind only Delvin Perez and Carter Kieboom among all shortstops in this class, yet he still barely cracked my top 75. Seems silly in hindsight considering the importance of the position. Another reason why I think Lux fell on my board is because I saw that top 75 or so as particularly strong. There were a few drop-off points that you could make into separate tiers along the way, but I think the truly elite draft prospects began to peter out right around 75. I don’t know what it means exactly, but players ranked 71st (Christian Jones), 72nd (TJ Collett), 74th (Austin Bergner), Charles King (75), Jeff Belge (78), Tyler Lawrence (80), Nick Lodolo (84), and Roberto Peto (85) all can be found at a local college near you this spring. I switched what went in the parentheses mid-sentence there, but I think the confusion fits the general feeling of this section so I’ll leave it. Plus, I’m lazy.
Of course, I’m not trying to completely walk back the ranking. I think the Dodgers made a good pick here because a) there were close to fifty players (at least) available at pick 20 that would have been easily justifiable in that spot, and b) I can admit that my evaluations, while obviously brilliant, are not the final word. I’m still not entirely sold on Lux hitting enough to be an impact regular and much of the feedback I’ve gotten on his arm puts him as a second baseman over the long haul. Part of what I missed in my pre-draft evaluation was that Lux could be a pretty useful player — and a guy worthy of a pick in the mid- to late-first round — even if the bat isn’t all it can be and he has to move off of shortstop. That’s big. High ceiling/moderate floor hitters typically find a home in the mid-first round, just as Lux did. I get it now.
1.32 – C Will Smith
If you toss out Zack Collins and Matt Thaiss for defensive reasons, you could make a case for Will Smith (41) as the draft’s top college catching prospect. I had him right behind Sean Murphy (longer track record), but it was pretty much a coin flip. Slick grab by Los Angeles here to nab their catcher of the future. Still, it’s a little odd to me to see the Dodgers use a premium pick on a player with a profile so similar to a minor league player they seem unwilling to give extended playing time at the big league level — note to 29 MLB teams: trade for Austin Barnes while you can — but what do I know. Let’s look at some college numbers for fun…
.308/.379/.429 with 30 BB/29 K in 312 AB
.291/.392/.410 with 48 BB/50 K in 412 AB
Top was Barnes at Arizona State, bottom was Will Smith at Louisville. Smith went off in his junior year in a way that Barnes never did — .382/.480/.567 with 19 BB/14 K — and is the better all-around defensive player, but the numbers are still pretty interesting. Also interesting was the way Smith was used by the Dodgers in his debut: 39 games at catcher, 8 games at third, and 6 games at second. That usage feels a little Austin Barnes-ish, doesn’t it? Clearly Los Angeles values that skill set. Something to consider going forward.
As for Smith, that aforementioned junior year explosion clearly paid a large part in his selection. That’s a good thing, clearly, but also a bit of a red flag. Most college hitters taken in the top one hundred picks or so have extended track records of success. Smith didn’t do much his freshman year in 77 AB, upped his power slightly in 2015, and then had the monster junior season. That’s one concern. Another would be Smith’s lack of a clear carrying tool. He’s a really good runner — and not just for a catcher! — and his approach is beyond reproach, but you’re probably hoping for an average hit/average power offensive game at best. That’s the negative portion of our Will Smith section. I mean, it’s not even all that negative — who wouldn’t be intrigued by an average offensive catcher? — but it’s negative by my alleged Pollyanna standards. Now let’s get into some good news.
I’ve heard three names for Smith that could make for intriguing career arcs. I think the first two work best when combined: Jason Kendall and Brad Ausmus. I’d put Smith in between those two in terms of physical ability, so maybe something like .275/.350/.375 with around a dozen steals a year (or a Kendall/Ausmus 162-game average middle ground) would be a fair ceiling. That’s not entirely dissimilar to what Carlos Ruiz has done in his career. Ruiz with speed is something I could buy. A little more power that pushes him to that .275/.350/.400 range feels right to me. The third comp besides Kendall/Ausmus was fellow prospect Chance Sisco. You’d get more speed and less hit with Smith, but it’s not too far off the mark. A .260ish hitter with double-digit homers (close to that 50 hit/50 power expectation) and steals with crazy athleticism behind the plate is a really nice player.
1.36 – RHP Jordan Sheffield
On Jordan Sheffield (34) from May 2016…
For as much as we as fans, writers, and/or internet scouts want to believe otherwise, prospects don’t really have anything to prove to anybody. Control what you can control on the field and let the chips fall where they may beyond that. Having said that, the young Vanderbilt righthander has done just about everything I had hoped to see out of him in 2016. Others may still have questions about how his command and smaller stature will hold up pitching every fifth day professionally – perfectly valid concerns, for what it’s worth – but I’m personally all-in on Sheffield as a starting pitching prospect. He knows how to pitch off the fastball (if anything you can make the case he falls in love with it at times), his curve and/or his change can serve as an above-average to plus pitch on any given day, and his junior year leap can’t be ignored. Let’s look at the pre-season take…
It’s a lazy comp, sure, but the possibility that Sheffield could wind up as this year’s Dillon Tate has stuck with me for almost a full calendar year. He’s undersized yet athletic and well-built enough to handle a starter’s workload, plus he has the three pitches (FB, CU, CB) to get past lineups multiple times. If his two average-ish offspeed that flash above-average to plus can more consistently get there, he’s a potential top ten guy no matter his height.
…so that we can revisit that lazy comp. By the numbers, here’s what we’ve got…
11.09 K/9 – 3.31 BB/9 – 2.29 ERA – 70.2 IP
9.67 K/9 – 2.44 BB/9 – 2.26 ERA – 103.1 IP
Top is Sheffield so far, bottom is Tate’s draft year. I asked around and nobody particularly liked the Tate comparison, but more because of the belief that Sheffield is a fairly unique pitcher than that it’s a bad comp. The only alternate name I heard was a tepid Edinson Volquez 2.0 endorsement. I actually kind of dig that one. At the same age, Volquez was listed at a mere 6-1, 160 pounds, a far cry from his current listed 6-0, 220 pounds. He was known back then for his electric fastball (check), plus changeup (check), and above-average slider, a pitch that eventually morphed into his present above-average curve (check). I can definitely some young Volquez in Sheffield’s game.
Again, as a completist I’m obligated to update you on Sheffield’s final 2016 numbers…
10.00 K/9 – 3.54 BB/9 – 3.01 ERA – 101.2 IP
Similar strikeouts to Tate with an extra walk per nine and a little less in the way of run prevention. It was an imperfect comp from the start, so, you know, no harm no foul. I still like the Volquez the comp, especially the 2008 version of Volquez. You could also draw some parallels between Sheffield and Volquez’s teammate in Kansas City, Yordano Ventura. Electric fastball, two offspeed pitches he can get swings and misses with, and inconsistent at best command of it all. Sheffield will be a good, if occasionally frustrating, pitcher to watch over the next decade plus.
2.65 – RHP Mitchell White
Let’s talk a little about how amazing Mitchell White’s debut with the Dodgers organization turned out. First, the most basic of exciting peripherals: White struck out 12.27 batters per nine and walked 2.45 batters per nine in 22.0 innings across three levels, the majority of which were spent in Low-A. His combined WHIP during those 22.0 IP: 0.59. That’s seven hits allowed to go along with those six walks in his twenty-two innings. Via the great MLB Farm, 31 of the 44 (70.45%) recorded batted balls against him as a pro were hit on the ground. Also via MLB Farm, White threw 278 pitches in his 22.0 innings. That’s 12.64 pitches thrown per inning worked. Only one qualified pitcher in baseball (Ivan Nova at 14.26 P/IP) came within two pitches of that. I don’t really know what that means or if there’s any predictive value there, but it’s pretty cool to me.
That was fun. Now for something less fun. Let’s talk about why Mitchell White, the sixty-fifth player selected in the 2016 MLB Draft, didn’t make my top 500. Off the top, I’ll admit that I goofed. What I had on his stuff — 87-93 FB, above-average SL, above-average cutter — and his size (6-4, 210) and his track record (11.25 K/9 in 2015, 11.54 K/9 in 2016) all should have been enough to get ranked. Heck, I even wrote this about him back in March…
Mitchell White is a redshirt-sophomore with a fastball that dances (87-93 with serious movement), an above-average slider, and an intriguing cutter. On his best days, the three pitches seem to morph into one unhittable to square up offering. I like him a whole heck of a lot right now.
Not ranking him was a clear oversight on my part. That said, I also missed on him in part because what I had on him was increasingly dated information. Every start White made from about midway through the year onward revealed something new about his repertoire. I literally couldn’t keep up with him past a certain point in the season. If that’s not the definition of an ascending talent, then I’m not sure what is. Dodgers fans should be really excited about this guy.
3.101 – RHP Dustin May
If you can tell me what 6-6, 180 pound righthander Dustin May (173) is going to look like three to five years down the line, then do yourself a favor and play your lucky numbers in tonight’s lottery. If I’ve learned but one thing in the eight drafts I’ve covered since starting this site, it’s that the path for any prep righthander from boy to man is rife with twists and turns. Figuring out which young pitcher is going to blossom into an effective professional — let alone a star — can feel like equal parts art, science, and fortune. Sometimes it feels like the only way you can guarantee success in the high school pitching racket is to try, try, try and then try again. Little of this has to do with Dustin May specifically, save for the fact that the long and lean Texan’s listed 6-6, 180 pound frame makes him the unofficial poster boy for non-first round but still early round high school projection picks.
May’s awesome start to his pro career (10.09 K/9 and 1.19 BB/9 in 30.1 IP) and quality present stuff that includes an already solid fastball (87-91, 93 peak) and a pair of breaking balls with promise (79-81 SL, 72-76 CB) gives him a fantastic starting point to work from even if some of that promised projection never quite comes as hoped. May was described to me over the summer as a prospect who might be little more than a consistent refined breaking ball, effective changeup, and a few ticks on the fastball away from really skyrocketed up prospect lists. Well, sure, is that all it will take? I mean, just give me those three things and I guarantee I’d be a #1 starter. But the reason why it makes sense to set such a lofty goal for May is that those benchmarks are well within his reach. He’s really, really close to potentially putting it all together. And, if he doesn’t put it ALL together, then he’s still got a great shot of putting most of it together. Or at least some of it.
As I wrote about in the Brandon Marsh section in the Angels review, I think boom/bust prospects — a designation often ascribed to prep pitchers — aren’t quite as boom/bust as they may seem at face value. Guys are typically called boom/bust types when they have obvious physical gifts and equally obvious distance to cover in putting those gifts to use on the diamond. What is often missed is that just having those gifts in the first place can literally be enough to get you to the big leagues; we can crack wise about how velocity-obsessed we are now, but if you can hit upper-90s (even if it’s straight and your secondaries are iffy and your control isn’t great) then your chances of at least reaching AAA, a level you’re literally just a phone call from the big leagues, are high. Same thing if you’re like the aforementioned Marsh (or any other toolsy prep position player prospect who can run and defend): you don’t have to profile as a .300 hitter or a 20+ homer threat if you can do other valuable things that fill a role.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I think Dustin May, assuming decent health, will pitch in the big leagues in some capacity before he decides to hang up his cleats. A perfect outcome could lead to him starting playoff games at or near the top of a rotation. A more likely outcome would be a long career as a mid-rotation starter with flashes of better mixed in along the way. A less good (but still fine!) outcome would be pitching out of the bullpen or as an up-and-down fifth starter who teases with his stuff but is never fully able to have everything working for him at the same time for an extended stretch.
(This ridiculous tweet was supposed to be linked to that #1 starter joke above, but WordPress embedded it instead. You get the idea.)
4.131 – OF DJ Peters
Hold on, let me write an email real quick to a buddy of mine who is always on the lookout for some minor league fantasy sleepers. Don’t mind me, it’ll only take a minute…
Here’s a guy you might like. DJ Peters from Western Nevada CC. Fourth round pick of the Dodgers. Great size (6-6, 225), good approach, solid defender in a corner, plus arm, average speed, and at least above-average raw power. Hit .419/.510/.734 with 34 BB/33 K and 7/10 SB in 203 AB at Western Nevada. Then he hit .351/.437/.615 with 11.6 BB% and 21.9 K% in 302 PA in rookie ball. He’ll be 21-years-old in December and should start next season in the Midwest League. Looks like the prototypical right field prospect to me and potentially a really good one at that. Kicking myself for ranking him so low (303) back in June.
Back! Fantasy is fantasy, but there’s obviously some real crossover when it comes to assessing a player’s future value. My friend in particular is always on the hunt for the three P’s: power, patience, and position. Peters hits on all three. And his name begins with a P! Illuminati? Probably. I like this pick a lot.
5.161 – LHP Devin Smeltzer
If deception is your thing, then prepare to enjoy the work of Devin Smeltzer (238) quite a bit. The 6-2, 180 pound lefthander has a delivery that makes it really tough to pick up the ball until it’s almost too late. Smeltzer also has outstanding command of his fastball, a pitch that he’ll throw at any speed between 85-91 with very rare dalliances all the way up to the mid-90s. He throws both a mid-80s cut-slider (flashes plus) and an average or better true slider (76-82), as well as a slower curve and a low-80s change. I’ve been slow to embrace Smeltzer in the past, but I think I’m ready now. Streamlining his repertoire and continuing to put good weight on could make him a potential mid-rotation arm in the big leagues.
6.191 – SS Errol Robinson
The tools are clearly there for Errol Robinson (463) to have a long, successful big league career. Knowing that makes this pick worth it right off the top. Having a developmental plan in place to help Robinson bridge the gap from said tools to consistent effective on-field performances could make this pick a smashing success. I have little doubt that Robinson can at least have a long career in pro ball due to the strength of his glove, speed, athleticism, and willingness to work deep counts, but assessing his upside is tricky from the outside looking in. It’s a cop-out to be sure, but so much of what will happen next with Robinson will depend on Robinson. Well, Robinson and Los Angeles’s minor league staff tasked with working with Robinson. This is obviously true of any draft pick — attempting to tease out the amateur evaluation side of drafting with eventual pro development is impossible, a conclusion that makes grading drafts years after the fact an exercise in missing information — but I think it’s more true of some guys, like Robinson for one, than others.
Lack of pop could mean the difference between a potential career arc of utility work versus getting regular time up the middle, but I keep coming back to Robinson’s pro debut (.282/.336/.395) as a potential sign of things to come. Predicting a player’s rookie ball stats will wind up aligning with his upside as a big league hitter might be silly, but, if you’re willing to go out on that limb with me, projecting a future somewhere in the Jordy Mercer universe (more speed, less strength) doesn’t feel out of line.
7.221 – OF Luke Raley
Luke Raley was a career .379/.471/.654 (56 BB/42 K) hitter at Lake Erie College with 27/33 SB. That line included a junior year that saw him hit a robust .424/.528/.747 (28 BB/11 K) in 158 AB. He seemed to come by those numbers honestly, too: his average led the team by 45 points and his OBP was best by 99 points. Guys who hit like Raley did at whatever level they are at deserve attention, so I’m glad the Dodgers dug deep in finding him. And I’m a little annoyed I missed on him. I’ll be watching his career closely. Incidentally, I really wanted Lake Erie College to be super close to the Dodgers low-A affiliate (Great Lake Loons), but, alas, my geographical hunch proved incorrect. The two locations are almost five hours apart. Would have been nice for him to get some “home” games in after being drafted. “I like him better than [Ryan] Rua,” was the only bit of info I could grab on Raley post-draft outside of the quoted stats above.
8.251 – RHP Andre Scrubb
Andre Scrubb (447) has it in him to be a quick-moving reliever now that he’s entered pro ball. From February 2016…
Scrubb’s heft and arm action have me leaning towards more of a bullpen future for him – fair or not – but he can throw two breaking balls for strikes, so starting as a pro shouldn’t be off the table. He’s coming off a really impressive 2015 season, so I could see teams that value performance giving him the edge.
He followed up his strong 2015 with a very interesting 2016 campaign. His strikeouts were up (11.43 K/9 from 8.00 K/9), his walks were up (6.57 BB/9 from 3.17 BB/9, though closer to his freshman year mark of 6.25 BB/9), and his ERA just about doubled (2.50 ERA to a 4.86 ERA). So, some good and some not so good there. Most importantly, his stuff remained strong. His heater continued to be a weapon (88-94, up to 96 in relief) and his breaking ball flashes plus (hard curve that might as well be a slider at this point). It’s easy to see it all working as an effective yet frustrating big league reliever. You’ll get your strikeouts, ground balls, and walks as Scrubb does the tightrope thing for years to come.
9.281 – RHP Anthony Gonsolin
Two-way players have always fascinated me. Good two-way players that profile both offensively and on the mound in the pros are even better. That’s Anthony Gonsolin, a righthanded pitcher/outfielder from St. Mary’s that generated as close to a 50/50 split among those “in the know” I talked to pre-draft as to what side of the ball he’d play as a pro. As a position player, Gonsolin could run, throw, and hit a mistake a long way. That’s all on the back burner for now as the Dodgers made the wise choice to see what he’s got on the mound first. With a fastball up to 95 (90-94 mostly) and a quality upper-70s curve, he’s got the one-two punch needed to pitch in middle relief someday. It’s not a thrilling profile at face value, but the hope that comes with any two-way player giving up hitting for pitching (the preferred two-way move, all else being equal) taking a leap forward on the mound could mean there’s still some hidden value left in Gonsolin’s right arm.
10.311 – SS Kevin Lachance
Kevin Lachance (322) is a quality senior-sign who agreed to terms with the Dodgers for the low low price of $2,500. I’m a little skeptical that his senior year power spike was anything more than a typical senior year power spike (ISO by year: .098, .044, .085, .166), but that doesn’t mean Lachance can’t have a long pro career as a utility infielder who can run, capably defend multiple spots (arm is a touch stretched for the left side, but it should do in a pinch), and sneak his fair share of mistakes into the gaps.
11.341 – RHP AJ Alexy
AJ Alexy played his high school ball about 45 minutes west of me at Twin Valley HS. I saw him throw once in January and then again during the spring season. He’s pretty good. The 164-Pitch Man has an upper-80s fastball (up to 92), a low-70s curve that steadily improved as the season went on, and a usable changeup that could be a decent third pitch in time. I didn’t see him drop the occasional knuckleball in, but I certainly heard plenty about it. All in all, Alexy is your typical high school righthander with solid present stuff, a frame (6-4, 190) you can project some additional growth on, and a cold weather/non-baseball background that could indicate some hidden value to come.
13.401 – OF Cody Thomas
On Cody Thomas from April 2016…
When it comes to straight draft intrigue, few players in this class can match Oklahoma outfielder Cody Thomas. With Thomas you’d essentially be drafting a high school player in terms of experience and present skill levels, but the upside is very real. Size, athleticism, power, arm strength, speed…if he can hit, a significant if, then he’s a potential monster.
His pro debut was Cody Thomas in a nutshell: prodigious power, impressive speed, lots of swing-and-miss. He’s still a big project, but the payoff could be huge.
14.431 – RHP Dean Kremer
Dean Kremer’s unspectacular sophomore year (5.03 K/9 and 2.50 BB/9) at UNLV felt like it could be enough to keep him in school another year, but the Dodgers clearly felt differently. If his pro debut is any indication (9.97 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9), then they know what they are doing. Perhaps they focused more on his emerging velocity (low-90s, up to 95), depth of offspeed stuff (CB, SL, CU), and relative youth (he won’t turn 21 until January) than his iffy peripherals. He’ll have the advantage (and pressure) of a built-in fan base in pro ball as Kremer is the first Israeli citizen drafted and signed by a MLB team. I’m personally looking forward to dropping that fact on my Jewish in-laws at Thanksgiving this year. Or not, if they read the site between now and then. They don’t, though. Let’s not kid ourselves.
15.461 – OF Brayan Morales
Brayan Morales hit .354/.425/.566 with 19 BB/28 K and 24/32 SB in 218 PA at Hillsborough CC this past spring. That’s all I’ve got.
16.491 – OF Darien Tubbs
Fun little tidbit (in bold for you convenience) from the January 2016 piece on Darien Tubbs…
JR OF Darien Tubbs leaps past the field as Memphis’s best position player prospect. He’s got the type of build (5-9, 190) that inspires the “sneaky pop” disclaimer in my notes, but his days of catching opposing pitchers by surprise might be over after his breakout sophomore campaign. Tubbs can run, defend in center, work deep counts, and knock a ball or ten to the gaps when you’re not careful. Tubbs isn’t quite a FAVORITE yet, but he’s as close as you can get without tempting me into holding down the shift key. A friend who knows how much I went on about Saige Jenco over the past year reached out to me to let me know that he believed Tubbs was a better version of the same guy. Fun player.
The Dodgers went on to draft Jenco eight rounds later! Neat. Tubbs went on to have a junior season just a hair worse across the board than his breakout sophomore season, but he still flashed all the of the positive traits (speed, range, occasional pop) that made him a noteworthy prospect in the first place. Fourth outfielder upside if it all keeps clicking for him.
19.581 – RHP Chris Mathewson
This one makes me mad. I wrote 3811 words about the Big West’s 2016 MLB Draft prospects this past March. I felt really good about it. The piece originally was a few hundred words longer, but I cut out a section on Chris Mathewson. Despite hearing that he was 2016 draft-eligible (forget where I heard it, but I know I did), I cut him out. The reason for this was simple: I reached out to a pretty solid contact who absolutely should have known definitively one way or another about Mathewson’s draft eligibility, and was told he was a 2017 guy. I was still skeptical because I knew I had heard otherwise (really wish I could remember where), so I checked into it myself. He was drafted in 2014 out of high school. He spent two years at Long Beach State without redshirting. He wouldn’t be turning 21-years-old until a month before the 2017 MLB Draft, much like many of his age-appropriate sophomore year classmates. What was I missing? Heck, what am I currently missing? I can’t figure out for the life of me why Chris Mathewson was eligible for the 2016 MLB Draft. Anybody?
Anyway, Mathewson is a good pitching prospect and an absolute steal at this stage in the draft. His fastball is all over the place — I have readings that hit every number from 85-95, though I’d put him in the 86-90 (92 peak) range for now if I had to make a judgment call on the pitch — and his 78-82 MPH breaking ball could be a real weapon in time. Add in an average or so changeup and a sturdy (if not filled out already) 6-1, 200 pound frame, and you’ve got a potential average big league starter. I forget the exact nature of the comp, but I recall Sam Monroy dropping Vicente Padilla’s name when writing about Mathewson this past spring. I like that one.
20.611 – 3B Brock Carpenter
There’s a lot to like about Brock Carpenter’s game. His strong arm is the first thing that jumps out at you with his intriguing power upside and physical 6-3, 200 pound frame coming in neck-and-neck for second. He’ll work lots of deep counts and pile up the walks (and strikeouts) that come with such an approach. All in all, it’s a nice package in the twentieth round, especially if you’re a believer in him as a long-term defender at third.
21.641 – RHP James Carter
On James Carter from March 2016…
James Carter brings pinpoint fastball command of a pitch that also hits 94 (88-92 otherwise); he’s still on the mend from 2015 Tommy John surgery, but I could see a team that’s done a deep dive on him prior to the elbow explosion keeping interest in him through the ups and downs of recovery.
It only makes sense that a team based out of Los Angeles would take a talented but underexposed (15.2 college IP since start of 2015) pitching prospect out of UC Santa Barbara. Sometimes geographical proximity can be a really good thing. A healthy Carter could move very quickly through the low-minors.
22.671 – RHP Jeff Paschke
From UC Santa Barbara to USC, the Dodgers stay at home with the selection of Jeff Paschke in the twenty-second round. Paschke, a legit two-way prospect in his high school days, is still in the early stages of his pitching development, but any pro coach would be happy to work with a 6-5, 215 pound righthander with a fastball up to 95 (87-93 normally), a steadily improving low-80s slider, and plenty of athleticism. It’s another homer pick by the Dodgers, but, like the James Carter selection one round earlier, it’s another good one.
24.731 – OF Saige Jenco
Saige Jenco just missed out on the top 500 this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a big personal favorite. Jenco, the 494th ranked draft prospect in the 2015 MLB Draft per this very site, is a lot of fun to watch. Here’s some history on him, first going back to December 2014…
rSO OF Saige Jenco is a really good ballplayer. His plus to plus-plus speed is a game-changing tool, and, best of all, his understanding of how and when to utilize his special gift helps it play up even more. It’s rare to find a young player who knows what kind of player he truly is; the ability to play within yourself is so often overlooked by those scouring the nation for potential pros, but it can be the difference between a guy who gets by and a guy who gets the most out of his ability. Jenco knows how and when to use his speed to every advantage possible. From running down mistakes in the outfield, swiping bags at a solid rate, working deep counts and driving pitchers to frustration (40 BB/23 K), to knowing adopting the swing and approach of a power hitter would lead to ruin, Jenco fully understands and appreciates his strengths and weaknesses. While it’s true the lack of present power is a significant weakness (.032 ISO is mind-boggling low), Jenco’s strengths remain more interesting than what he can’t do well. A career along the lines of Ben Revere, Juan Pierre, Dee Gordon, or Craig Gentry, who had an ISO of just .087 in his junior year at Arkansas before returning for a senior season that helped him show off enough of a power spike (.167 ISO) to get drafted as a $10,000 senior sign, is on the table with continued growth.
We checked back in on Jenco again in January 2016…
Jenco followed the Gentry college career path fairly well by putting up an improved .136 ISO last year. The Red Sox couldn’t get him to put his name on a pro contract last summer and their loss is the Hokies gain. Not much has changed in his overall profile from a year ago — he’s still fast, he still has an advanced approach, he can still chase down deep flies in center — so the ceiling of a fourth outfielder remains. Of course, guys with fourth outfielder ceilings with similar skill sets (speed, patience, defense) have turned into starting players for some teams as the dearth of power in the modern game has shifted the balance back to the Jenco’s of the world.
Not all of these guys are great examples of that archetype, but a quick search of 2015 seasons of corner outfielders (200 PA minimum) who slugged less than .400 but still finished with positive fWAR includes Brett Gardner, Nori Aoki, Jarrod Dyson, Ben Revere, Delino Deshields, Rusney Castillo, and Chris Denorfia. David DeJesus, a pretty good tweener who feels like a really good fourth outfielder or a competent starting corner guy that is often one of the first names I think of when I think of this type, fell just short of the list. I’m not necessarily comparing Jenco to any of those guys — while some of those guys are great in a corner and stretched in center, Jenco is really good as a CF — so consider this more of an exercise in theoretical player comparisons as we attempt to define the various types of players that teams seem to like these days. As far as comps go, I’ll stick with my Gentry one for now.
Let’s check on that Craig Gentry comp now that Jenco has some pro data to go on…
.308/.395/.422 in 248 PA with 22/23 SB (11.7 BB% and 16.5 K%)
.281/.350/.385 in 246 PA with 20/26 SB (3.7 BB% and 15.0 K%)
Top was Jenco’s debut, bottom was Gentry’s. Jenco did his while younger and at a level higher than Gentry, FWIW. I still think a career approximating Gentry’s would be a more than acceptable outcome for the perpetually underrated Jenco. After all, Gentry has played over 450 games in the big leagues and pocketed over $5 million for his hard work. If the Dodgers get that out of a twenty-fourth round pick, then that’s a major win.
25.761 – RHP Chandler Eden
There are notes on the site that follow Chandler Eden from high school to junior college to his final stop at a four-year college. A well-traveled arm like his — Oregon State to Yavapai to Texas Tech — can sometimes be viewed in one of two ways. The pessimistic view is that all that movement means Eden’s never been able to settle down in one spot and make one school his true home away from home. Without knowing the exact reasons for a given player’s thought processes that lead them to each transfer, it’s useless to speculate. That’s why I opt for the optimistic view: three college stops just means that Eden is a talented guy that’s frequently in demand. From a straight stuff standpoint, such a description certainly fits the thrice-drafted Eden. His fastball is a knockout offering (90-95, 97 peak), his 75-80 MPH breaking ball is easily above-average when right (often better than that, too), and he can even mix in a usable change when he’s really feeling it.
So, how does a player like that wind up in a round like this? Control, or a serious lack thereof. Eden’s busiest year was his 2015 season at Yavapai. That year he tossed 41 innings with a BB/9 of 7.90. Yikes. He followed that up with an insane season line at Texas Tech: 9 IP 8 H 8 ER 7 BB 10 K. But that’s not all! He also threw 12 wild pitches, hit 8 batters, and even added in a balk for good measure. I’m not even mad at that line; that’s amazing. A complete overhaul of Eden at the pro level that magically fixes his control woes (an obvious super-duper long shot) would be fantastic, but it doesn’t even have to be that drastic. Just a little bit more control would still make him a potentially lethal late-inning option. Easy to say here, but far more difficult to actually pull off with a real living breathing human baseball player. I would have loved to have been there for the first conversation between the amateur draft side of the Dodgers organization and the lucky player development staffers tasked with “fixing” Eden. Whether or works out or not — I’m oddly bullish, for what it’s worth — those coaches all deserve a raise.
26.791 – 2B Brandon Montgomery
Love this one. Brandon Montgomery makes a ton of contact. Brandon Montgomery has some serious juice in his bat. Brandon Montgomery can run. That’s a heck of an enticing prospect starter’s kit, especially in round twenty-six. Montgomery played both second base and center field in his debut. Keeping him in the infield is obviously ideal, but the thought of him using his plus speed to run down balls in center is a pretty appealing fallback plan.
27.821 – LHP Austin French
I have a side gig where I see players sometimes and share those thoughts with somebody willing to pay me a few bucks for those observations. I saw Austin French pitch this past year for Brown and came away with a positive report. Secondaries remain underdeveloped and his control isn’t great, but his size (6-4, 215) and fastball (87-92, 94 peak) were worth a mid-round draft pick. Glad the Dodgers pulled the trigger on him. I’ll be rooting for it to work out.
28.851 – RHP Jake Perkins
Jake Perkins was off my radar, but the righthander from Ferrum College pitched really well (10.64 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9 in 77.0 IP) as a senior. Results like that and a low-90s fastball (up to 93) are a pretty nice combination to land in the twenty-eighth round.
30.911 – C Ramon Rodriguez
“Very young for his class” was all I had on Ramon Rodriguez prior to the draft. Baseball Reference lists 17 players named Ramon Rodriguez who have played pro ball; none, unbelievably enough, have reached the big leagues. This Ramon Rodriguez got one hundred grand to sign, so it stands to reason he’s got a shot.
31.941 – C Steve Berman
Love this one. Maybe even LOVE it, in as much as anybody can love a thirty-first round pick. Steve Berman can play. From March 2016…
Berman’s case is a little tougher to make, but he’s a dependable catcher with an above-average arm who puts his natural strength to good use at the plate. In a class loaded with noteworthy catchers, Berman flies comfortably under the radar. Feels like a potential steal to me.
Give me a potential big league backup catcher in the thirty-first round any time. Berman can throw, defend, work a count, and drive a mistake. Works for me.
32.971 – RHP Conor Costello
If you wanted to call Conor Costello a rich man’s version of ninth round pick Anthony Gonsolin, I wouldn’t stop you. From March 2015…
Oklahoma State is loaded in its own right with draft-eligible pitchers. rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello has the depth of stuff to start and the athleticism to repeat his delivery through long outings. He’s also a decent enough hitter that letting him start in the National League could lead to some fun at bats.
Costello went on to hit more than pitch in 2016, though he didn’t do a whole lot of either (111 AB and 6.1 IP) on a stacked Cowboys squad. He made more of an impression as a hitter, but one look at him on the mound (92-96 fastball, quality upper-80s cutter, effective 78-82 spike-curve) is enough to realize the Dodgers were wise to start him out as a pitcher. That’s not to say he’s not a fine position player in his own right — good runner, solid approach, big raw power, and all the arm strength you’d expect — but his fastest path to the big leagues looks to be from the starting position of the bullpen. Maybe I’m just too optimistic about draft prospects — if all the players I liked actually made it, they’d need to expand by a few teams to fit everybody — but I can’t deny a strong instinctual hunch with Costello. Good arm, good athlete, not a lot of wasted bullets, growth potential from finally devoting himself full-time as a pitcher…those are all things to be excited about.
33.1001 – SS Zach McKinstry
Seeing Zach McKinstry sign with the Dodgers was a pleasant surprise. I was excited to see if because it meant that I’d get one last chance to write about him. Of course, it’s a slight bummer that he won’t be around Central Michigan to do his thing for another year in college ball, but onward and upward, I say. McKinstry has an undeniable hit tool, above-average speed, and a rock solid glove wherever you put him in the infield. The Dodgers played him primarily at second in his debut with some shortstop sprinkled in. I think he showed enough as a Chippewa to get an honest shot at shortstop in the pros, but showing multi-position versatility is likely his most direct line to the big leagues anyway. A lack of pop could ultimately be his undoing, but he’ll do his part to fight the good fight for high-contact, patient, speedy middle infielders everywhere.
34.1031 – RHP Joel Toribio
Here’s a really sweet article that includes the fun anecdote about Joel Toribio’s barber being the one to break the news to him that he was drafted by the Dodgers. How can you not love that? Also lovable for Dodgers fans should be Toribio’s fastball (my not super helpful notes: “throws hard”) and success missing bats (13.16 K/9) at Western Oklahoma State. Iffy control (5.03 BB/9) and underdeveloped secondary stuff explain how a big arm with a fun backstory fell to the thirty-fourth round.
35.1061 – OF Nick Yarnall
If you can grab an ACC outfielder in the thirty-fifth round coming off back-to-back excellent seasons (.330/.436/.580 in 2015, .309/.439/.556 in 2016), you do it.
38.1151 – RHP Kevin Malisheski
A torn ACL kept Kevin Malisheski under the radar this past spring, but the Dodgers stuck with him, gave him close to a quarter million bucks, and could soon begin to reap the rewards. He’s a great athlete with a promising breaking ball and as much upside as anybody signed in the thirty-eighth round. That’s only a pool of nine guys, but still. Malisheski is legit.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Graham Ashcraft (Mississippi State), Dillon Persinger (Cal State Fullerton), Cole Freeman (LSU), Bailey Ober (College of Charleston), Cal Stevenson (Arizona), Enrique Zamora (?), Zach Taglieri (The Citadel), Will Kincanon (Triton JC), Ryan Watson (Auburn)