The seed was sown in early November, when Dodgers president Stan Kasten told the Times that “we believe we’re now on the precipice of the next wave of young people” and that the team “needs to make room to make that happen.”
Does that mean a full-fledged youth movement will sprout amidst the veteran core of a club built to compete for a World Series title every year? Probably not.
Andrew Friedman, president of the team’s baseball operations, admitted in November that there is some risk of adding too many prospects at once and that the Dodgers “need to find the right path and timing to attract some of these talented young players.” to integrate .”
Regardless of whether this youthful infusion is more of a trickle than a wave, there are at least five highly acclaimed prospects — pitchers Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone, infielders Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch, and outfielder James Outman — who appear poised, eventually next contributing season in Chavez Ravine.
“I think it’s one of those groups that has a chance to be successful going forward,” said Travis Barbary, who managed all five at Triple-A in Oklahoma City at various points in the 2022 season. “One does not know how quickly these effects will come, but it is a very special group.”
Who has the most advantages out of the five? Who has the best chance of playing a significant role in the big leagues in 2023? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
A closer look at the Dodgers’ Fab Five prospects, with input from Barbary and two major league talent evaluators — we’ll call them Scout One and Scout Two — who are familiar with the upper tiers of the Dodgers system and have been allowed to speak anonymously freely about the players .
MIGUEL VARGAS, 3B/1B/LF
Age: 23; Ht-Wt: 6-3, 205; Club throws: RR; Signed: Cuba, 2017.
Most scouts believe the Cuban-born’s hitter will play in the big leagues, and with few signs the Dodgers will bring back veteran third baseman Justin Turner, Vargas has the clearest path to significant playing time next season.
Vargas has a .313 average, .878 on-base plus slugging percentage, 49 homers and 265 RBIs in 410 minor league games, and hit .170 with one homer and eight RBIs in 18 games for the Dodgers in September.
He has displayed improved pull side power, the ability to drive the ball into the right midfield gap and advanced plate discipline, but defensive limitations leave him without a clear position.
“Our scouts like him — they think he’s an everyday hero in the big leagues,” Scout One said. “They’re just not sure where he’s going to play.”
Vargas has good hands and a decent arm, but slow feet limit his range and mobility in the infield. When Friedman was asked during baseball’s winter meetings Monday if he could name Vargas’ best position, Friedman said, “Probably third.”
Scout Two said he “thinks” Vargas can play third base in the big leagues, and Barbary said Vargas “made great strides at third base” in his 113 games at Oklahoma City in 2022.
“Reading hops, being in the right position based on our scouting reports, that focus between pitches, staying hooked from pitch to pitch and not letting his mind wander I thought were big keys for him last year ,” Barbary said. “He made a big leap forward in those areas last year.”
BOBBY MILLER, RHP
Age: 23; HW: 6-5, 220; BT: LR; Designed: Louisville, 2020 (1st round).
Miller wasn’t the first pitcher to be drafted from his collegiate rotation — that honor went to left-hander Reid Detmers, who was picked 10th overall by the Angels in 2020 — but he could be the steal of that first round at the 29th pick .
The burly right-hander mixes a four-seam riding fastball that ranges from 95 to 98 mph and touches 100 mph with a sinking, trailing 93 to 96 mph twoseamer, a late-breaking 84 to 87 mph slider, a mid-80s changeup and fringy low -80s curve.
Miller spent most of 2022 at Double-A Tulsa, going 6-6 in 20 games with a 4.45 ERA, hitting 117 — including 14 in six innings against Round Rock on Sept. 1 — and going 31 in 91 innings. He closed with four Triple-A starts and went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA, 28 strikeouts and six walks in 21 1/3 innings.
“He’s mean,” Scout One said. “He has power stuff. When I saw him early last year he was absolutely dominant.”
Barbary said Miller’s stuff is elite enough “to be a No. 1 guy on the rotation.” Scout One projects Miller as “at least a #3 starter and possibly better” if he develops a consistently effective third pitch.
“His fastball sliders were the better combo for me,” said Scout One. “He made a good move. He just couldn’t repeat it.”
Miller will likely open the season with triple-A, adding depth to the Dodgers’ rotation in the event of injury. His two-tone repertoire could also play well in a late-season relief role.
“Worst case scenario,” said Scout Two, “you stick it in the bullpen and it’s bombs away.”
JAMES OUTMAN, BY
Age: 25 HW: 6-3, 215; BT: LR; Designed: Sacramento State, 2018 (7th round).
Outman, 25, is the best athlete in the system, a late bloomer with above-average speed and arm strength, the defensive instincts and speed to play in midfield and a keen eye to use his burgeoning power at the plate.
A standout linebacker in high school, Outman had a breakout in 2022, batting .294 with .978 OPS, 31 home runs, 106 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 125 games for Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and hitting twice in five days for the cycle span in late August.
But there are concerns about an uppercut in his swing that leaves Outman vulnerable to elevated fastballs and balls breaking down and away, and contributed to his 152 strikeouts last season.
“When you hit the lower leagues that often, it worries me a bit,” Scout One said. “That good of an athlete? He shouldn’t hit 152 times. But I believe he has the hand-eye coordination to smooth his swing and be a better hitter not just trying to hit the ball on every shot.”
Outman could emerge as a draft partner with Trayce Thompson in midfield, and his speed, power and ability to play three outfield spots make him an ideal replacement.
“To be a corner guy with the Dodgers, look at 20+ homers, 85+ RBIs and an .800 OPS,” said Scout Two. “I’m not sure he’s that guy at the big league level every day. I still think he’s an extra outfielder.
GAVIN STONE, RHP
Age: 24; HW: 6-1, 175; BT: RR; Designed: Central Arkansas, 2020 (5th round).
Stone isn’t as physically imposing as Miller and may not have Miller’s advantages, but he could be the biggest league-ready of the team’s top-pitching prospects.
Stone, the organization’s 2022 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, attacks hitters with a lively fastball that ranged from 90 to 92 mph in Central Arkansas but rocketed to 93 to 97 mph in 2021 when he defeated the farm system at 138 Class Strikeouts Led -A Rancho Cucamonga and Great Lakes.
Stone went from Class-A to Double-A to Triple-A last season, going a combined 9-6 in 26 games with a 1.48 ERA, hitting out 168, walking 44 and holding batsmen in 121 2 /3 on a .206 inning average.
His low release point creates a good run on his fastball, and his mid-80s slider and high-80s switch with late-fading action have evolved into solid secondary pitches. Stone excels as a back-of-the-rotation starter, but he could also be used as a multi-inning reliever.
“You look at stuff and you think it’s a no-brainer, Miller has the higher ceiling,” Barbary said. “But when you watch Stone pitch, there’s just something about his composure with himself.
“He pitched some big games for us at the end of the year and wasn’t impressed at all. I have a feeling he could start a playoff game [for the Dodgers] and do the same thing up there as we did in Oklahoma City.”
MICHAEL BUSCH, 2B/OF
Age: 25 HW: 6-1, 210; BT: LR; Designed: North Carolina, 2019 (1st round).
Busch’s stocky frame, powerful left-hand strike, ability to put the ball in both gaps, plate discipline, and defensive positions — first base in college, second base in the pros — have drawn comparisons to Dodgers batman Max Muncy.
Busch hit .274 with .881 OPS, 32 homers, 38 doubles and 108 RBIs in 142 games at Tulsa and Oklahoma City in 2022, with 167 strikeouts and 74 walks in 552 at-bats. However, some question his ability to play as second base in the big leagues.
“He’s a hitter — there’s no question about that,” Scout One said. “He can use the whole field. He stayed pretty good against lefties. But with shift abolished, it will be harder to hide him [on defense]. I described him as some kind of utility guy who can hop around.
Barbary, who had Busch for 111 games at Oklahoma City last season, disagreed.
“Watching him read hops knows when he gets the ball, when he leans back, how he hits the right angles, how he turns the doubles game… it wasn’t the same guy I saw two years ago.” said Barbary. “That was much more efficient, the ball quickly in and out of the glove, precise thrower, very confident.
“I think for sure he can play as second base in the big leagues.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-12-06/dodgers-prospects-james-outmangavin-stone-miguel-vargas-bobby-miller Here’s a closer look at the Dodgers’ top five prospects