Perpetually one of MLB’s best farm systems, the Los Angeles Dodgers still have as much young talent as any organization in baseball even after trading away Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz. Here are some of the biggest prospect names to watch in the Dodgers system moving forward.
1. Miguel Vargas – 3B – (Double-A)
Age: 22 | Height/Weight: 6’3′, 205 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $300K, 2017 (LAD) | ETA: 2022
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2021 Stats (A+/AA): .319/.380/.526, 23 HR, 52 XBH, 142 wRC+, 16.4 K%, 8.3 BB%
The hit tool was never question for Vargas, however question marks defensively paired with uncertainty about future power output at a premium offensive position held him back a bit in terms of prospect allure. Vargas answered those questions and then some with a ridiculous 2021 season on his way to winning the Dodgers Minor League Hitter of the Year award in a loaded system.
Vargas has a silky smooth swing and a barrel that lives in the zone. A simple set up from the right-side, Vargas doesn’t require much movement to deploy whippy bat speed which allows him to be consistently on time. The newly turned 22-year-old added some strength prior to the season and worked with the Dodgers to translate his high contact rate and bat speed into more power output.
A very smart hitter who knows how to play to his strengths, Vargas does major damage on pitches middle-in thanks to his explosive rotational ability. As a result, most of Vargas’ home runs are to his pull-side, however he has no problem barreling baseballs the other way, especially when behind in the count.
With great body control and pitch recognition, Vargas hit everything thrown his way; between High-A and Double-A, Vargas posted an OPS above .800 against fastballs, breaking balls, and changeups making him really difficult to game plan for. As a hitter who likes the ball down, we saw pitchers attack Vargas with velocity up at times, but he adjusted to that rather quickly as well.
A big key for Vargas’ improved power output was simply getting the ball in the air more, paired with the added strength. The Cuba native cut his ground ball rate by nearly 10% and boosted his HR/FB% by nearly 10% as well. The power is very real for Vargas and it did not come at the expense of his hit-tool. In fact, Vargas struck out less and walked more after his call up to Double-A Tulsa.
An average runner, Vargas will swipe a bag here and there, however speed will likely never be a huge part of his game. Vargas made improvements defensively in 2021, providing more confidence that he can play third base at least at an average level in the big leagues. While he may not have the most range, he can make the plays necessary and has an above-average arm.
To do what Vargas did to upper-level pitching as a 21-year-old is incredibly impressive. Prospects who have a track record of hitting and develop power later on have higher rates of success in the ever volatile world of prospects. Vargas is pretty close to big league ready and could be up as soon as next year if the Dodgers need him. Not only does LA have their third baseman of the future in Miguel Vargas, but I think that they have an All-Star.
2. Bobby Miller – RHP – (Double-A)
Age: 22 | Height/Weight: 6’5, 220 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 1st Round (29), 2020 (LAD) | ETA: 2023
It was a great first professional season for Bobby Miller, who really saw his stuff jump in his shortened 2020 collegiate season at Louisville. After the Dodgers took Miller in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, he capitalized on his momentum from his abbreviated junior season by continuing to develop his stuff at the alternate training site.
2021 Stats (A+/AA): 56.1 IP, 2.40 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 0.94 WHIP, .191 OPBA, 30.4 K%, 5.7 BB%
Miller has an assortment of pitches he can attack hitters with. The right-hander’s plus fastball gets better seemingly each time I see him throw. Miller throws both a four-seamer and two-seamer that continued to rise in the velocity department as the year went on. By the time Miller arrived in the Arizona Fall League, he was averaging around 98 MPH on the heater.
Miller’s two-seamer is a bowling ball with a ton of arm side run. The movement profile complements his plus slider well, but also helps Miller roll a ton of ground balls. Both heaters have a ton of life and are high spin at nearly 2500 RPMs on average. As Miller continues to gain a feel for distinguishing the two fastballs, the four-seamer should develop as more of a swing-and-miss pitch up in the zone, while the two-seamer should help him get weak contact and keep his pitch count down–something that Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara excels at, but few others are capable of.
Of his secondary offerings, Miller’s mid-80s slider is the most impressive. The pitch is already plus thanks to the late, sharp break it has as well as Miller’s strong command of it–especially to his glove side.
With Miller’s dueling fastballs alongside his slider, the right-hander can create a tunneling nightmare for hitters. The 22-year-old also has an above-average changeup that showed plus in several outings in the Arizona Fall League. The changeup hovers around the upper-80s with impressive arm side fade. Miller showed a much better feel for the pitch as the season went on, but still has the tendency to tug it glove side at times. I am willing to bet on Miller’s changeup playing up to plus off of his fastball, especially if he continues to establish his four-seamer.
Miller’s fourth pitch is a curveball that he does not throw too often. The low-80s bender is a bit slurvy, but provides a different look and speed from his other offerings. While not used often, Miller has confidence in the pitch to steal strikes from left-handed hitters early in the count as well as bury it to righties to disrupt any pitch usage patterns. While it may not be plus, Miller’s curveball is a great fourth offering.
There is so much to like with Bobby Miller; the 22-year-old has two present plus pitches with a good chance for a third accompanied by already above average command. Miller’s stuff, command, and athleticism on the mound give him the upside of a frontline starter. Given the way the Dodgers ease workloads onto their young pitchers, we did not get to see Miller go deep into starts, but his ability to throw strikes and get ground balls should allow him to go deeper into games than most pitchers generating the kind of strikeout numbers he does. I can’t help but see some similarities to Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara.
3. Diego Cartaya – C – (Low-A)
Age: 20 | Height/Weight: 6’3′, 219 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $2.5 Million, 2018 (LAD) | ETA: 2024
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The top prospect in the 2018 international free agent class, the Dodgers inked Cartaya to a $2.5 million deal as a 16-year-old in 2018. Cartaya enjoyed a strong rookie ball showing in 2019 at just 17 years old, building a ton of excitement around him in the organization and later earning himself an invite to the Dodgers alternate training site, where he was the youngest player. Cartaya entered 2021 with high expectations and did not disappoint when healthy.
2021 Stats (Low-A – 31 G): .298/.409/.614, 10 HR, 16 XBH, 158 wRC+, 27 K%, 13 BB%
Cartaya entered 2021 as a teenager with big-time power potential. He put that power on display in his 31 games at the Low-A level, launching 10 home runs in just 137 PA’s. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury cut Cartaya’s season short or else he could have had a massive season. Still, the catcher took major strides towards realizing his potential at the plate.
Cartaya uses a rhythmic leg kick from the right side to help get into his back side. The right-handed hitter utilizes his strong lower half well, helping him produce consistently 105+ MPH exit velocities when he barrels the baseball. Put simply, Cartaya was just more advanced than his Low-A competition, which allowed for him to get away with some aspects to his approach that will probably not fly at the upper levels. The newly turned 20-year-old pulled the baseball a whopping 60% of the time, the highest rate of any full season prospect in the Dodgers organization.
A big factor for Cartaya’s pull-heavy approach is simply that he can get away with it. He was sitting dead red on fastballs during the season and daring pitchers to locate their off-speed. When he got the fastball, he didn’t miss it, posting an 1.100 OPS.
Pitches on the outer half–specifically sliders from righties and changeups from lefties–gave Cartaya fits at times and will be something to watch as he reaches the upper-levels. Given the fact that Cartaya has no problem catching up to elite velocity, thanks to a really quick bat and great feel for his swing, I expect him to continue to mature as a hitter and iron out those kinks.
Already earning high marks for the way he commands a game behind the dish, Cartaya is an incredibly cerebral catcher who pitchers love to throw to. Cartaya is an athletic catcher who moves and blocks well. Like many young catching prospects, Cartaya could use some improvement in the receiving department, but shows promise. The Venezuela native has a plus arm and should be an above-average all-around catcher, along with great intangibles.
One of the few prospects in the Dodgers top 10 that is still relatively far from his big league debut, Cartaya is still incredibly early in his development. The Dodgers absolutely love this kid and for good reason. You can dream on 30 home run upside with above-average defense from the catching position. Prospects like that do not grow on trees–not even for the Dodgers.
4. Andy Pages – OF – (High-A)
Age: 21 | Height/Weight: 6’1′, 212 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $300K, 2017 (LAD) | ETA: 2023
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Similar to Diego Cartaya, Andy Pages put on a show in rookie ball during the 2019 season, building up anticipation for his full-season debut in 2021. Pages did not disappoint, putting his loud tools on display in High-A with the Great Lake Loons.
2021 Stats: .265/.394/.539, 31 HR, 57 XBH, 152 wRC+, 24.5 K%, 14.3 BB%
Pages is a fantastic athlete and you can see it when he is in the batter’s box. The 21-year-old is able to get away with a fair amount of movement thanks to said athleticism, however there is still some question as to whether Pages will be able to hit more advanced pitching. Given Pages’ raw strength, bat speed and twitchy athleticism, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make it all work–especially after seeing his approach and pitch selection improve as the season endured.
In each passing month of the second half, Pages saw his walk rate increase and strikeout rate decrease. Pages probably could have been called up to Double-A, however the Dodgers probably feel no need to rush him and the momentum the then 20-year-old was building with his improved approach is something you do not want to disrupt for a player as young as he is.
Pages has ridiculous pull-side power and also has no issue going dead central in even the biggest of yards. I’d like to see Pages use the whole field a bit more, but similar to Cartaya, it is hard to nail that into the head of a young hitter when they are torching A-ball pitching with a pull-heavy approach. Pages backspins baseballs really well, allowing for big-time carry even on balls that he misses under. For that reason, I think Pages will have no problem leaving the yard to all fields as he gains a bit more of a feel for the barrel.
You’re not going to find many strength/athleticism combinations in the minors more impressive than the newly turned 21-year-old Andy Pages. Time will tell on the hit-tool, but his improvements through the end of the season give me confidence that he can make the adjustment to Double-A pitching as he continues to refine his approach.
An above average runner, Pages is capable of playing all three outfield spots, though he made the majority of his starts in right field last year. Pages has one of the strongest arms in the Minor Leagues, making the right field profile even more clear long-term as he continues to get stronger. With a plus-plus arm, above-average range, and improving routes, Pages should easily be an above-average to plus defender in right field.
There just aren’t many players with the skillset that Pages has. Given how absurd his tools are and how raw he appeared to be coming into the 2021 season, last year was huge for his overall outlook and prospect value. Despite still having a little ways to go in regards to his approach, Pages is further along than many thought he would be. One of the more volatile prospects in a loaded Dodgers system, Pages has perennial All-Star upside, but a wider range of outcomes than others in the org.
5. Ryan Pepiot – RHP – (Triple-A)
Age: 24 | Height/Weight: 6’3, 215 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 3rd Round (103), 2019 (LAD) | ETA: 2022
Pepiot generated buzz both within the Dodgers organization as well as in the industry when his previous low 90’s heater made a significant jump by comfortably sitting in the mid 90’s in 2021. His 2021 was a tale of two halves; Pepiot dominated Double-A to the tune of a 34.8% strikeout rate while producing a manageable 11.2 BB%. The move to Triple-A was not as kind to Pepiot, as his strikeout rate dropped to 22.8% and his ERA ballooned to an unsightly 7.13. While the late-season struggles are certainly alarming, it should be noted that Pepiot’s workload was higher than ever and he could have been dealing with fatigue from a long season.
Standing at 6-foot-3 and a sturdy 215 pounds, Pepiot’s build, arsenal and poise on the mound give plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2022.
Pepiot deploys a high ¾ arm slot combined with a repeatable, low-effort delivery in which the ball explodes out of his hand. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s and can get up to 98 with fantastic spin rates and good horizantal movement. It generates swing-and-miss within the strike zone and has the ability to consistently miss bats at the top of the zone.
Pepiot commands his heater impressively to his armside, producing natural running action not seen on most four-seams. Pepiot’s command of his fastball is already average and projects to become above-average thanks to his-low effort mechanics and athleticism. At times, Pepiot’s fastball would run back over the middle, making him susceptible to the long ball, one of the only missing pieces in regards to his command.
Pepiot’s changeup is his claim to fame, garnering comparisons to Devin William’s infamous “airbender”. While it may not be quite the pitch that William’s deploys, this is still a bat-missing machine that consistently flashes plus-plus when Pepiot can command it.
It sits in the high 80’s with elite arm side run and plenty of sink. He throws the change with terrific arm speed and it is unhittable when located down and to his arm side. While it may be Pepiot’s go-to pitch for strikeouts, he still needs to refine his ability to throw it for strikes.
The slider may be the most important pitch when considering Pepiot’s ability to start at the big league level. At its best, he can throw it for strikes to his glove side with sharp and late movement. Like his changeup, the slider sits in the high 80’s with his command of the offering wavering from start to start. Pepiot has also experimented with a cutter and curveball, although he has yet to throw them with any consistency.
Pepiot’s power arsenal is intriguing and can be dominant when he is on. Several hitting prospects I spoke to in the minors cited Pepiot as one of their most difficult at-bats of the year. He can deploy three bat-missing offerings and absolutely take over a game. Refining the command of his secondaries will be what ultimately takes him to the next level and dictate whether he is a late inning relief option or a capable three starter in a rotation.
6. Michael Busch – 2B – (Double-A)
Age: 24 | Height/Weight: 6’1′, 210 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 1st Round (31), 2019 (LAD) | ETA: 2022
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Busch is a unique cast of an older prospect who we had hardly seen until 2021. Drafted 31st overall out of UNC in 2019, Busch played 10 professional games after his collegiate season then like everyone else, he could not play in 2020. Busch worked hard during instructs and impressed the Dodgers with his advanced approach and feel to hit.
2021 Stats (AA): .267/.386/.484, 20 HR, 48 XBH, 134 wRC+, 26 K%, 14 BB%
A very patient hitter, Busch is comfortable in two-strike counts and leverages his hitter’s counts really well. Busch has a swing geared for line drives and is comfortable spraying the ball all over the field, however he does have impressive pull-side power and will unload on pitches in on the middle half or down in the zone.
Busch has a really strong lower half and uses it well. He stays in his base throughout his swing and demonstrates impressive body control. Despite a bit of a high K-rate at 26%, it is important to note that this year was essentially Busch’s first professional season and he made the jump to Double-A.
Another interesting factor with Busch is that his zone contact rate is actually above average. Part of the reason why Busch will strikeout a bit more than one might expect is because of his propensity to get deep into counts; it is a big reason why his on-base percentage is so high, however it will also leave him a bit susceptible to K’s.
Busch has above-average power and knows when to try to do damage, allowing him to get the most out of it. High on-base with 25-30 home run pop is the outcome to hope for with the Dodgers’ second-best infield prospect.
This is the department where Busch leaves a bit to be desired. His defense did improve as the year went on at second base and Busch did make some starts at first base as well. An average athlete, Busch is never going to be a big factor on the base paths or with the glove, however if he can be just average in both departments, the bat should lead the way.
Busch’s profile reminds me a lot of a Max Muncy lite. The on-base skills, power and swing from the left side all have similarities to the Dodger star. There’s a decent deal of pressure on Busch’s bat–especially if he moves to first base–but his polished approach and high-end contact skills have me confident in his long-term outlook as an above-average MLB bat.
7. Landon Knack – RHP – (Double-A)
Age: 24 | Height/Weight: 6’2, 220 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 2nd Round (60), 2020 (LAD) | ETA: 2023
Another intriguing arm from the impressive Dodgers 2020 draft class, Knack carved up High-A hitters with his three-pitch mix and strong command. Knack ran into louder contact in Double-A, however he held his own in his 22.2 innings up there.
2021 Stats: 62.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, 33.3 K%, 3.3 BB%, .216 OPBA
Knack’s four-seam fastball sits in the mid-90s and pushes 2400 RPMs. When Knack locates the pitch, it plays well. Despite his strong overall command, Knack at times had the propensity to leave his fastball running back over the middle which is when he would get burned. The vast majority of the home runs Knack allowed were on his heater. The pitch has a strong profile and has the makings of at least an above-average offering as he continues to feel out how he wants to attack hitters.
Knack’s pair of secondaries are both above-average, playing up with his strong command of them. The slider stands out as Knack’s most reliable out pitch and he commands it exceptionally well to his glove side. Knack can sweep the pitch away from righties as well as get it in under the hands of lefties with late break.
It wouldn’t at all surprise me if Knack’s changeup ended up overtaking his fastball. As the season went on, Knack developed more and more confidence in the pitch. The offering has great arm side fade and some vertical drop as well giving left-handed hitters fits.
Three potential above-average pitches and plus command give Knack a high floor moving forward. If Knack can limit the long ball and continue to develop his three-pitch mix, he has a chance to be a No. 3 starter with a high likelihood of becoming a strong No. 4.
8. Clayton Beeter – RHP – (Double-A)
Age: 23 | Height/Weight: 6’2, 220 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 2nd Round (66), 2020 (LAD) | ETA: 2023
The Dodgers were delighted to see the supremely talented Beeter fall to them with the 66th overall pick in the 2020 draft and gave him an above-slot $1,196,500 signing bonus to sign. While injuries held Beeter back at Texas Tech, he was able to produce an exciting professional debut that saw him strike out over 36% of hitters between A+ and AA. Beeter’s stuff is among the most electric in the Dodger’s system and his ability to miss bats will keep him on the Dodger’s radar as soon as 2022.
2021 Stats (A+/AA): 52.1 IP, 3.44 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 36.6 K%, 10.3 BB%
Beeter’s delivery and arm slot are unique, as he starts with slow-moving actions at the beginning of his delivery before slingshotting the ball from a directly over-the-top arm action, creating natural deception that makes it tough for hitters to identify pitch type. It appears that Beeter doesn’t start accelerating his arm till the very last second, unleashing terrific arm speed that produces low-to-mid 90’s fastballs with fantastic vertical movement.
There’s some effort involved with the delivery and there are times when he struggles to consistently repeat it, leading to some command problems that wavered from start to start.
As he progresses through the minors, Beeter’s command of his fastball will need to both improve and become more consistent. He gets away with leaving the fastball over the middle in the lower minors, however he will need to refine his ability to command it east-west as he continues to develop. At its best, Beeter’s fastball can miss bats within the strike zone and is particularly effective when located at the top of the zone.
Beeter’s pair of breaking balls are among the most aesthetically pleasing to watch among all minor leaguers. The slider is the better of the two, a mid-to-upper 80’s offering that features incredible drop for a pitch of that velocity. It is an elite bat-missing pitch when he locates it down and to his glove side and Beeter uses it for strikeouts to both lefties and righties. Beeter’s low 80’s curveball is another plus offering that features 12-6 movement and fantastic vertical drop.
He has been developing the curveball as a pitch to steal strikes, consistently throwing it in neutral counts, as well as when he is behind. It becomes drivable when he misses up in the zone but produces soft contact when located for a strike at the bottom of the zone.
Beeter’s low 80’s changeup rounds out his arsenal and he uses it similarly to his curveball, to steal strikes. He throws it more confidently to lefties and he generates good ASR and sink when located to his armside. Beeter slows his arm down a bit when he throws it and as he continues to refine and develop the changeup, that will be a point of emphasis.
Beeter’s electric arsenal and unique arm slot give him a solid floor as a back-end relief option where his fastball-slider combination could miss bats at a potentially elite rate. Beeter is unique because he has a true four-pitch mix that allows us to project him as a starter, however, his command of all four pitches needs significant improvement if he is to reach his ceiling as an impact starting pitcher.
9. Andre Jackson – RHP – MLB
Age: 25 | Height/Weight: 6’3, 210 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 2nd Round (66), 2020 (LAD) | ETA: 2023
Jackson is an exciting athlete on the mound who pitched his way to a big league call up after posting strong Double-A numbers. Jackson struggled to miss bats in Triple-A and the Big Leagues at times, but showed flashes of what the Dodgers org loves about him.
2021 Stats (AA/AAA): 95.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 5.18 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, 26.3 K%, 7.7 BB%
Jackson’s fastball sits in the low 90s, touching 94, but has a ton of life and high spin. From his high release point, the heater has a ton of arm side run, which he struggles to command at times. When Jackson uses that ASR to his advantage, the fastball is a great weak-contact inducer and sets up his above-average cutter well with opposite action.
Jackson’s cutter sits in the mid-80s and he will use it to saw off left-handed hitters as well as manipulate it into more of a slider against righties. Of the assortment of offerings Jackson can attack you with, his changeup is his best and flashes plus when he is on. From Jackson’s over the top release point, it is incredibly difficult for hitters to differentiate the fastball from the changeup out of his hand. Pair that with his crazy arm speed and it is understandable why Jackson is an especially difficult at-bat for left-handed hitters. The 25-year-old will also mix in a change of pace curveball to steal some strikes which ranges from 78-82 MPH.
With his deep bag of pitches and built-in deception, Jackson has a high floor as a back-end rotation piece, but could also excel in a bullpen role, allowing him to focus on taking his fastball and changeup to the next level. I still think Jackson can start, however he needs to sort out which of his pitches he is most comfortable with and the most effective way for him to utilize them to attack hitters. I am willing to bet on the Dodgers helping him figure that out.
10. Luis Rodriguez – OF – (Rookie Ball)
Age: 19 | Height/Weight: 6’2′, 175 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $2.67 Million, 2019 (LAD) | ETA: 2025
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Whenever the Dodgers spend big on international free agency, people take notice. The Dodgers shelled out just under $2.7 million to sign Luis Rodriguez out of Venezuela in 2019. Rodriguez struggled a bit in his professional debut, which on one hand doesn’t matter too much, but on the other hand was a bit surprising considering the general perception of him being advanced for his age.
2021 Stats (Rookie): .216/.326/.367, 8 HR, 13 XBH, 86 wRC+, 31 K%, 11.4 BB%
Rodriguez’s tools were evident despite his struggles, launching eight home runs in just 54 games. When Rodriguez is under control, his swing looks quick and smooth. The issue for the teenager was that he was easily thrown from his base and took a lot of half-hearted, lounging swings. It was Rodriguez’s first exposure to professional pitching and it is hard to know what kind of pitching he has faced prior. Taking the positives, Rodriguez showed strong pull-side power and his athleticism shined through.
In the limited looks I got of Rodriguez in the outfield, he seems more than capable of sticking in center field. Of course, Rodriguez has plenty of room to fill out and could slow down a step, but it’s just too early to tell on that front. Rodriguez showed above-average to borderline plus speed up the line and should have his athleticism factor into his game in many ways.
With Rodriguez’s tools and flashes of offensive ability, it is easy to see what the Dodgers saw in Rodriguez to pay him $2.7 million. That said, Rodriguez has a long way to go and still a wide range of outcomes even though he is viewed as advanced for his age.
Other Names to Watch
Ryan Noda – 1B/OF – (Double-A): Noda has done nothing but hit since he entered professional baseball. Noda’s limitation to first base or subpar corner outfield has made him one of the more overlooked prospects around as a flat out masher. The 25-year-old has plus power, producing exit velocities over 110+ MPH as frequently as anyone in the Dodgers system. Pair the power with a high walk rate and Noda could be a really interesting platoon bat or big-time bench bat next year for the Dodgers.
Hyun-il-Choi – RHP – (High-A): Choi utilized his elite command to dominate Low-A hitters on his way to winning Dodgers MiLB Pitcher of the Year. While his fastball leaves a bit to be desired, he spots it up incredibly well and changes speeds well with the fastball, changeup and slider. The quality of stuff is average at best, but Choi can flat out pitch and could be a back-end starter.
Kody Hoese – 3B – (Double-A): Hoese struggled mightily in his second professional season, which came as a bit of a surprise given his college production and bat-to-ball skills. The former first round pick got blown up by fastballs.
Maddux Bruns – LHP – (Rookie): The Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, Bruns has absurd stuff from the left side which caught the attention of the Dodgers enough to spend their first round pick on him this year. Bruns will be a bit of a project, but one that will be fun to monitor with the Dodgers track record of development.
Brandon Lewis – 3B/1B – (High-A): Lewis is a bat-first corner outfielder with major power accompanied by swing-and-miss. Lewis launched 30 homers between Low-A and High-A. Big power that is worth watching, but there’s legitimate concern about whether he can make enough contact to make it work.