Chat it up: Dodgers Top 10 Prospects Chat with Ben Badler
Knowledge is Power: Dodgers Top 10 Insider
Want More? Complete Top 10 Prospects Rankings
Go 30 deep: Order the 2017 Prospect Handbook!
TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Cody Bellinger, 1b/of|
|2. Yadier Alvarez, rhp|
|3. Jose De Leon, rhp|
|4. Alex Verdugo, of|
|5. Willie Calhoun, 2b|
|6. Andrew Toles, of|
|7. Yusniel Diaz, of|
|8. Brock Stewart, rhp|
|9. Gavin Lux, ss|
|10. Austin Barnes, c/2b|
Not only has a World Series title eluded the Dodgers, owners of the highest payroll in baseball, but all four of their National League West rivals have played in the World Series since Los Angeles last appeared in 1988. But the Dodgers have been able to accomplish a universal goal among front offices. They have constructed a team that’s built to win both in the present and the future.
With their fourth straight NL West division title in 2016, the Dodgers rank second in the league in wins in the past four seasons, trailing only the Cardinals. Homegrown ace Clayton Kershaw is on a Hall of Fame trajectory and remains the centerpiece of the team’s success, but the rest of the club is built around young talent, with more help on the way.
Shortstop Corey Seager led the offensive charge in 2016, not only running away with the Baseball America Rookie of the Year award but also becoming one of the game’s stars at just 22 years old. Seager, the No. 1 prospect in baseball entering the 2016 season, is an elite offensive player who has defied expectations about his defense by sticking at shortstop.
Lefthander Julio Urias made his major league debut as a 19-year-old in 2016 and showed a calm, easy delivery with three plus pitches and feel for pitching far beyond his years during his rookie season. He projects as a top-of-the-rotation starter. With Yasmani Grandal locked in at catcher and Joc Pederson in center field, the Dodgers are young and strong up the middle.
More young talent is headed to Los Angeles soon. The team’s top prospect is Cody Bellinger, the rare first-base prospect with a chance for five average or better tools. He has a chance to hit in the middle of the lineup and play Gold Glove defense. With veteran Adrian Gonzalez under contract for two more years, Bellinger’s ability to play the outfield could come in handy.
On the pitching side, righthander Jose De Leon must prove he can handle a starter’s workload after running into durability issues the last two seasons—but he has mid-rotation starter potential. De Leon, Brock Stewart and Trevor Oaks are all righthanded starters who should figure into the Dodgers’ injury-prone rotation. The team’s best pitching prospect is Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez, who carries extreme risk but looked superb in his pro debut.
The Dodgers have enormous financial advantages over their rivals, but the majority of these young players are a testament to the team’s scouting and player development system. The organization has burned through a lot of money on bad investments in Cuban signings, but the core young talent in the major leagues and the next wave coming from one of the better farm systems in baseball has more to do with smart evaluations and good development than having a big bankroll.
1. Cody Bellinger, 1b/of
Born: July 13, 1995. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Chandler, Ariz., 2013 (4th round). Signed by: Dustin Yount.
Background: Bellinger’s father Clay played three seasons with the Yankees from 1999-2001 and two games with the Angels in 2002, batting .193 over 311 career at-bats. While Clay’s major league career was brief, his son Cody has a chance to develop into one of the game’s stars. Bellinger was 17 when the Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and signed him for $700,000. His first two years in the system, Bellinger showed impressive pure hitting ability but mostly gap power as a first baseman. In 2015, Bellinger transformed himself into slugger who hit 30 home runs at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga despite skipping a level. In 2016, after missing most of April with a strained left hip, he put himself among baseball’s elite prospects with a terrific season in the Double-A Texas League. In September, he joined Triple-A Oklahoma City, hit three home runs in three games, then went to the Arizona Fall League and batted .314/.424/.557 in 85 plate appearances. Cody’s younger brother Cole is committed to Grand Canyon.
Scouting Report: While most first base prospects tend to be one-dimensional sluggers, Cody is a dynamic all-around player in both the batter’s box and with his glove. He made an adjustment in 2015 to load his hands to create better torque instead of relying more on his body in his swing. That change increased his power production, but also created a more uphill swing plane, leaving him with a bigger strikeout rate. Toward the end of 2015, Bellinger condensed his hand trigger slightly and became more studious of opposing pitchers and his own strengths and weaknesses, which allowed him to cut his strikeout rate. Those changes carried over into 2016, as he lowered his strikeout rate from 27 percent at high Class A in 2015 to 20 percent at Double-A in 2016 without sacrificing his power. Bellinger has a balanced lefthanded swing with plus bat speed, good leverage and use of his lower half, generating the potential to hit 30 home runs at the next level. He has good hand-eye coordination and a disciplined feel for the strike zone and he hangs in well against lefties. Bellinger is a supreme athlete for a first baseman and a gifted fielder who earns 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for his defense. He’s a potential Gold Glove winner with excellent range, smooth actions, clean footwork and soft hands to go along with a plus lefthanded arm. Bellinger is even an average runner, so the Dodgers have had him play the outfield as well. He’s stretched thin in center field but is playable at both corners.
The Future: Bellinger has a chance to be a foundational hitter in the middle of a lineup who can also save runs with his fielding at first base. The Dodgers have first baseman Adrian Gonzalez signed through the 2018 season, but Bellinger will be ready before then, so Bellinger’s versatility and athleticism in the outfield could come in handy soon. Bellinger should start 2017 in Oklahoma City, but he could make his major league debut in the second half of the year.