David Barr goes one-on-one with MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis to discuss how Dodgers prospects performed in the Arizona Fall League
As we enter the last month of 2018, Beyond the Bricks chatted with MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis to review the performances of the Los Angeles prospects in the Arizona Fall League as well as an end of year review of the Dodgers farm system.
DB: Catcher Keibert Ruiz was the highest ranked prospect in the organization according to you and MLB Pipeline to participate in the AFL. His season was unfortunately cut short due to a death in the family. He is so young and so talented.
JC: You are right, extremely young and very talented. He only played in half of the games in Arizona. He hit for average but not much power. He was by far the best catching prospect out there I don’t think there is any question. Good receiving skills. Good bat to ball skills. In the games I saw him play, he was impressive. He might not have put up a huge statistical line, but he was one of the youngest guys in the league and it’s tough on catchers in the AFL after you’ve been through a full season. He was clearly the best catcher in the league.
DB: He’s in an interesting situation with the Dodgers. He and fellow highly thought of catching farmhand Will Smith have come up through he system together with Smith making it to Oklahoma City last season. Now with Yasmani Grandal gone in free agency this is a battle to watch come the spring and next season.
JC: I like Will Smith, but Ruiz is clearly the better prospect. Smith has struggled to hit in the Minor Leagues and that’s the one thing that Ruiz has shown he can do at a high level. I think Will is a more polished defender at this point and better receiver, but I really like Ruiz’s upside more and the fact that Ruiz is three and a half years younger than Smith says a lot too. I think Ruiz is the Dodgers catcher of the future. He’s probably a year away from being the everyday guy.
DB: Shortstop Errol Robinson and third baseman Jared Walker were also on that Glendale Desert Dog roster. Robinson continued to impress with his glove and after a slow start, Walker was one of the hottest hitters in the AFL at the end of the season.
JC: Robinson didn’t have a great Fall. He is what he is — glove first utility type. He can make some contact, steal the occasional base. There’s not much power there. I don’t read too much into AFL statistics but there was nothing new that we learned about Robinson. Walker played first base for most of his appearances in Arizona. He’s got tremendous raw power but hasn’t always been able to tap into it. He struggled at the beginning of the Fall season and when I talked to him, he thought he was just trying to do too much. When he slowed it down and let the power come naturally, he was much better. I wouldn’t say his raw power was the best in the Fall League but was definitely among the best.
DB: Ben Holmes was the only Dodgers starting pitching prospect in Arizona with a handful of others appearing in relief roles.
JC: Holmes is also a guy who is what he is. He’s 26-years old and his stuff is average with his cutter being his big pitch. In the long run I think he’s going to be a long innings reliever. Jordan Sheffield had a pretty good Fall. His stuff has never been a question. He was a supplemental first-round pick. He can hit 98mph in short stints. He just hasn’t thrown strikes or been consistent and healthy. I do think a relief role is going to be better for him. Nolan Long is interesting. He got hit around some, but he also pitched 11.3 innings and gave up 11-runs but struck out 16 guys. He’s a guy who played college basketball at Wagner. He’s usually 92–96 mph. He’s a huge guy so it’s a different look.
JC: The Dodgers have promoted a lot of big-name guys to the big leagues in the last couple of years and trades have depleted the system some, but it is still a good farm system. I think in 2016, Los Angeles was ranked number one in MLB for prospects and that’s been tapped into some, but you still have one of the top hitters in the Minors in Verdugo who is kind of blocked at Triple-A right now. Ruiz is one of best catching prospects in the Minors. Dustin May and Gavin Lux really made names for themselves with big rises this year and theirs some depth behind them too. We haven’t ranked farm systems in a while but I think they are still a top 12 system.
DB: Is there one position that you can look at and say the Dodgers are deep?
JC: I would say catcher. I mean, you look at Ruiz and he has the offense and defense to be a top prospect. Will Smith is also on our Top 10 catching prospects list and even behind them you have a guy named Diego Cartaya who was our top ranked international prospect this summer. He signed for $2.5 million and hasn’t debuted yet. He’s an interesting guy. Connor Wong was a third-round pick in 2017. He hit 19 home runs in his first taste of pro ball and he’s really athletic for a catcher. He’s really interesting too. No doubt, catcher is the position to watch for the Dodgers.