Big League Promise, Big League Dreams
With Spring Training concluding and a fresh new baseball season on the horizon, many Dodger prospects have been finding out whether or not they will be making the cut with the big league club. Those who don’t start the year in minor league clubs or training sites. Despite a perennially stacked Dodgers roster, every season presents new opportunities for aspiring big leaguers through performance, injury, and September roster expansions.
For players, the debut is a celebration, and often for the fans as well. With each new debut comes a new personality, a new style. A hope that this new player will play at an all-star level and bring success to the team. For a sneak peek at what is coming, many fans look to Arizona or Florida during spring training. For Dodgers fans, this means the future resides at Camelback Ranch.
Only time will tell who is called upon and when, but here are a few of the names on the radar for 2021 or 2022 callups.
DODGER PROSPECTS 2021
Optioned to minor league camp on Friday, March 26th, DJ Peters spent his spring focused mainly on plate discipline. The power-hitting outfielder struck out 19 times in his 38 Cactus League appearances, batting .237 and hitting a pair of home runs. While his power and his outfield defense suggest he’ll be up to the big leagues sooner than later, the issue of plate discipline has been discussed openly by Dodgers coaches and Peters himself. While these things are impossible to predict, it is reasonable to expect his debut to come before September call ups in 2021.
Also optioned to minor league camp for the remainder of the spring was the young talented pitching prospect Josiah Gray. The young right hander flashes really excellent stuff with his electric fastball and his much-improved slider and curveball. But consistency comes with experience. As a young converted shortstop, Gray is still gathering experience on his road to the big leagues. While he is close enough that an excellent spring training probably could have put his name into the mix for fifth-rotation-spot competition or at least bullpen consideration, his inconsistencies were showcased in a couple of rough outings and his 11.81 spring ERA was certainly not enough to break camp with the major league squad.
A few bad outings in March after a pandemic-affected 2020 season should not concern Dodgers fans and Josiah Gray hopefuls however, as the highly touted prospect will most likely be pitching at Dodger Stadium at some point in 2021.
Positional versatility is the name of the game for Andrew Friedman’s Dodgers, and Michael Busch is no stranger to fielding multiple positions. Despite playing first base, shortstop and left field in college, the Dodgers scouted and ultimately drafted Busch primarily as a second baseman. But positions are fluid, especially in modern Dodgers baseball. While his spring training offensive numbers this year didn’t exactly impress, there is plenty more offensive upside to Michael Busch’s game. His bat, his athleticism, and his defense – Dave Roberts will likely put Busch into the lineup wherever he can in future seasons. With very limited experience in the minor leagues and a fully staffed major league squad ready to start the upcoming season, Busch is not being rushed to debut, but his time is coming soon.
Another infield prospect that has turned some heads in his pro career thus far is Jacob Amaya, a young middle infielder with excellent defensive skills and good plate discipline. Amaya’s speed is average in the field and on the basepath, and his power with the bat is less than average, but he makes up for his weaknesses with a strong and accurate arm, a mature swing, and mental acuity when it comes to the game of baseball. His presence in the Dodgers farm system is worth noting in the context of Corey Seager’s impending free agency. The Dodgers might also see a potential trade piece come July.
If you’ve read or heard anything about Ryan Pepiot, you probably know about his killer changeup. While his high spin rate mid-90s fastball is certainly a valuable tool, his ability to play off of it with a variety of breaking pitches is how Pepiot has gained notoriety in such a short amount of time with the Dodgers. Drafted in the third round in 2019, Pepiot came into pro ball having found success at the collegiate level.
The repeatability of his delivery (and subsequently the command of his pitches) has been perhaps his biggest challenge in moving up the ladder towards the big leagues. With the arsenal of pitches that he has, he very well could wind up a mid-rotation starter, but he certainly could also wind up a versatile bullpen piece. Control and command will be the name of the game for Pepiot. If all goes well we may see him as early as next year.
The Dodgers picked up Bobby Miller late in the first round of the MLB draft in 2020. His unique delivery scared off other potential suitors. The Dodgers were unafraid and ready to nab the dominant Louisville starter, and the risk seems to be paying off thus far with Miller continuing to improve his delivery and command, impressing at the alternate site and instructional league, and looking like a starter of the future. There is much to be excited about with Miller, with power and movement throughout his many different pitches. If you’re not hearing much about him right now, you will soon.
After a cup of coffee in 2020 and visa issues in the first few months of this year, Keibert Ruiz has arrived on American soil and is looking like he will soon be ready for another stint with the Dodgers at some point this year. While his behind-the-plate game won’t always grab your attention, his strong arm and his even stronger bat will.
There is a reason Ruiz is the Dodgers number one prospect, and while he is still only 22 years old, he is quickly furthering all aspects of his game and making it impossible for the Dodgers to keep him off of the roster much longer. If he can put it all together as hoped, we could be talking about him as one of the best catchers in baseball in a few years. At very least, he will likely be forcing Roberts and Friedman to make some tough decisions in the coming months.
Zach McKinstry Gets The Call
A 33rd-round draft pick. Zach McKinstry flew under-the-radar for quite some time as he has developed himself into a major league ballplayer but no longer. Launch angle and added power have helped put McKinstry over the top. Now, he’s touted as the 15th best Dodger prospect. His positional flexibility leads to comparisons to Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez. While his spring training showed moments of over-aggression at the plate with 14 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances, Zach McKinstry demonstrates his ability to course-correct at every level in his development.
As he becomes a more aggressive and powerful hitter, he still shows an ability to see the ball well and hit for average. A few at-bats in September last year may have given him a chance to dip his toes in the proverbial waters of the MLB, but 2021 will be the real test of McKinstry’s ability to find success at the highest level. Dave Roberts has announced that McKinstry will be on the squad for opening day. Dodger fans will have plenty of opportunity to see what this newest Dodger utility man has to offer in the coming weeks and months.
Part of the joy of prospect-watching is finding new players to watch, follow, and root for as they make their way to the majors. With a new season, a new batch of potential call ups and the quest for another World Series championship on the horizon, this is a magnificent time of year to be a baseball fan.
For more on how Dodger Prospects might factor into the 2021 season, click here.