Dodger farm system became a production company in 2016
By Cary Osborne
What good are baseball prospects if they don’t move?
The Dodgers came into 2016 with the top farm system in baseball across the board, according to MLB.com, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. They had five prospects in MLB.com’s preseason Top 100 Prospects list. And all five moved.
No. 1 overall prospect Corey Seager will, in all likelihood, be the National League Rookie of the Year. MLB.com No. 4 prospect Julio Uriás graduated from the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers as a teenager and showed rapid progress in the Majors with Los Angeles. No. 24 prospect Jose De León knocked on the door so hard that the Dodgers answered in September, calling him up and watching him contribute to wins right away. In addition, the Dodgers moved No. 62 Grant Holmes and No. 95 Frankie Montas to Oakland in the deal for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.
In all, seven Dodger minor-leaguers made their Major League debut this year. Many others raised their game, climbed the ladder and gave the Dodger farm good reason to be highly regarded next year as well.
ARRIVED IN THE SHOW
Due to Yasmani Grandal starting the season on the disabled list, Barnes was on a Major League Opening Day roster for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old batted .295/.380/.443 in 385 plate appearances with Oklahoma City. He has OPSed above .800 at every minor-league stop since 2013.
Jose De León
One of baseball’s premier right-handed prospects got a late start, missing all of April with a bum ankle. But in 16 starts with Oklahoma City, the 24-year-old had a 2.61 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings, earning a big league callup September 4.
The 2015 sixth-round pick started the season in Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and rose to the Major Leagues in 11 weeks, making his MLB debut with a start in Milwaukee on June 29. The 24-year-old right-hander was selected as the 2016 Dodgers Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year. At three levels — High-A, Double-A and Triple-A — he pitched a combined 121 innings with a 1.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 129 strikeouts and a 6.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Formerly a highly regarded prospect in the Rays organization, Toles was out of baseball for most of 2015 until he was signed late that September. Like Stewart, he started in High-A in 2016 and advanced three levels to the big leagues, making his MLB debut July 8. Toles hit .331/.374/.511 with 23 stolen bases in 82 minor-league games.
Still only 19 when his season began in Oklahoma City, he proved too advanced for the Pacific Coast League. He had a 1.40 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 6.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 45 innings.
TOP OF THE MINORS
Bellinger started the season as the Dodgers’ No. 6 prospect and ended it as their No. 1. He also skyrocketed to No. 32 on MLB.com’s Top 100 list after not appearing on it in the preseason. He ended the year, almost entirely spent in Double-A Tulsa, with 26 homers, a .271/.365/.507 line and 56 fewer strikeouts than he had in 2015. He hit eight homers in his final 12 games, including three in three games with Oklahoma City.
The 5-foot-8 second baseman and 2015 fourth-rounder began the season ranked No. 18 among prospects in the organization. By season’s end, he was ranked No. 4 and also No. 92 on MLB.com’s Top 100 list. The 21-year-old hit 27 homers for Double-A Tulsa with a .256/.319/.474 line and an organization-high 88 RBI.
Chase De Jong
In his first full season in the organization, the 22-year-old right-hander became the Double-A Texas League Pitcher of the Year. With Tulsa, he had a 2.86 ERA and a league-leading 1.02 WHIP and .203 opponents’ batting average.
The 23-year-old right-hander began the season with Rancho Cucamonga, then started 10 games each for Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Overall, he was 14-3 with a 3.28 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 5.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Like Stewart, the 22-year-old corner infielder played at three minor-league levels in 2016 — Low-A, High-A and Double-A. The 2016 Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year did most of his damage in High-A Rancho Cucamonga, where he batted .367/.384/.712 with 16 homers in 188 plate appearances. Overall, he batted .301/.341/.567 with 27 homers.
Among pitchers with at least 100 innings, Sborz had the best ERA (2.66) and WHIP (1.03) in the California League. He finished the season in Tulsa, where he made 10 relief appearances and had a 3.78 ERA.
The 2014 second-rounder made more progress in 2016, a year after winning the Branch Rickey Award. In 529 Double-A plate appearances, he hit .273/.336/.407 with a career-best 13 homers. The outfielder is now the Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect.
The 19-year-old right-hander jumped 10 spots to finish 2016 as the Dodgers’ No. 16 prospect. In 72 1/3 innings with Great Lakes, he had a 3.61 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 4.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The 20-year-old Cuban right-hander made his stateside debut in 2016, and between the Arizona Rookie League Dodgers and Low-A Great Lakes, he had a 2.12 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 81 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. Alvarez is the Dodgers No. 5 prospect and now ranks No. 96 in all of baseball.
The former Vanderbilt star and 2015 Dodger first-rounder got some late-season action after recovering from Tommy John surgery. His pro debut arrived July 7 with the AZL team, and he tossed three innings for Great Lakes. In total, he pitched 10 scoreless innings, including five in the postseason.
No. 11 on the Dodgers’ prospect list in the preseason, the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder climbed to No. 6 among Dodger prospects and No. 98 among those in MLB. He batted .272/.333/.418 with nine homers for Rancho Cucamonga.
The 18-year-old Cuban middle infielder jumped seven spots from the preseason to No. 12 on the Dodgers’ list after making his U.S. pro debut in 2016 with Great Lakes. He batted .255/.298/.389 with nine homers in 509 plate appearances. From July 1 on, he batted .308/.358/.473 with seven homers in 244 plate appearances.
The Dodgers’ 2015 second-rounder OPSed nearly .300 points higher in 2016 than the year before. He batted .311/.356/.491 with 11 homers for Ogden in 326 plate appearances.
The 21-year-old combined to OPS .975 with 12 homers in 230 plate appearances for Ogden and Great Lakes.
The Dodgers’ top pick in this year’s MLB Draft (20th overall) played most of the season for the Rookie Arizona League Dodgers, but also eight games for Rookie League Ogden. In 253 plate appearances, he batted .296/.375/.399 with five triples.
The 21-year-old outfielder was the organization and California League leader with 28 homers. He batted .247/.314/.510 in 514 plate appearances. In August, he hit 10 homers and OPSed 1.051.
The outfielder and Dodgers’ 2016 fourth-rounder obliterated Pioneer League pitching with Ogden to the tune of a .351/.437/.615 line with 13 homers in 302 plate appearances.
The 20-year-old pitcher allowed only two home runs in 111 1/3 innings with Great Lakes. He finished eighth in the Midwest League with a 3.07 ERA and third in strikeouts with 124.
The 2016 second-rounder out of Santa Clara University spread 22 innings over stints with AZL, Great Lakes and Rancho and allowed no earned runs, striking out 30 compared with 13 baserunners.