This past week, Baseball America put out their top 10 prospect list for the Dodgers. There really was not a surprise. All 10 of the LAD top 10 prospects are expected to reach MLB with 6 and maybe 7 to play at the MLB level in 2023. Diego Cartaya, Dalton Rushing, and Nick Nastrini are at least 1 year away, but no more than 2.
I like Baseball America more than the other prospect evaluator publication because they do not rely strictly on metrics. They actually watch the prospects and their connections to top baseball scouting personnel is unequaled (IMO). Baseball Prospectus relies a lot on metrics as they are primarily a fantasy baseball source, and do an outstanding job in that arena. I do like their scouting reports. FanGraphs is a hybrid. Eric Longenhagen is an excellent evaluator. While they have created their own metric tools, and use them in their evaluations, they also physically see most of the top prospects. Keith Law (The Athletic) is a Baseball Prospectus alum, and Kiley McDaniel (ESPN) is a FanGraphs alum. Both of these gentlemen are excellent sources and have MLB scouting experience. I am also now including Prospects Live, in my reviews. I will need to do some more research on their personnel, but I have found their scouting reports very good and thorough.
Anyway, on to Baseball America.
Baseball America – Top 10 Dodger Prospects Pre – 2023
- Diego Cartaya – 21.4 years old
- Bobby Miller – 23.8 years old (24 baseball age)
- Miguel Vargas – 23.2 years old
- Michael Busch – 25.2 years old
- Ryan Pepiot – 25.4 years old
- Gavin Stone – 24.3 years old
- Andy Pages – 22.1 years old
- Dalton Rushing – 21.9 years old (22 baseball age)
- Nick Nastrini – 22.9 years old (23 baseball age)
- James Outman – 25.7 years old (26 baseball age)
I have included their ages because of a comment made by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy in a column titled: “A Dozen Key Takeaways From This Year’s Top 10 Prospect Rankings”.
Bluto alluded to the key takeaway that affected the Dodgers the most: The Dodgers Have The most Productive Group of Top Ten Prospects. As a reminder here is what was written on this topic:
“Based on a tally of players’ estimated wins above replacement in the minor leagues, Dodgers Top 10 Prospects produced 32 WAR, more than any other system.
This makes intuitive sense when you factor the Dodgers’ player development track record and simply the experience level of Los Angeles’ Top 10. With an average age of about 22.5 years old, the Dodgers had the second-oldest Top 10.
Now, these WAR totals should be regarded as estimates of player value. I calculated crude WAR values for position players’ batting contributions—with no fielding component—and pitchers’ contributions scaled to strikeout, walk and home run rates—better known as fielding-independent pitching or FIP.”
Now most will come away with LAD top ten prospects producing a 32 WAR, more than any other organization’s top 10 prospects. As you can read in the explanation, this is not a total WAR projection, but a scaled down version. My biggest problem with that is no defensive considerations are made for position players. And while I do like FIP as a metric, it cannot be the only metric for a true WAR calculation.
My personal takeaway is that the average age of the top 10 prospects is 22.5 years, which is the second oldest group of top 10 prospects. There are only three prospects projected to start at AA or below, thus the experience of the prospects is paramount. Only Dalton Rushing is expected to start in A+, while Cartaya and Nastrini should begin 2023 in AA. The players should have dominated.
6 of the above top 10 should be top 100 Baseball America prospects, but the scaled down WAR total was buoyed by 25 year old James Outman’s 5.2 WAR. While he had a fantastic season, not one publication believes Outman is an everyday OF. Most (if not all) see him as a platoon or 4th/5th OF…a defensive OF with some potential pop. Can he overcome the negativity and become a regular CF for the Dodgers? Of course he can. Will he? Let’s see what happens this season.
Other scaled down WAR projections for LAD prospects:
- Gavin Stone – 4.2
- Miguel Vargas – 3.8
- Michael Busch – 3.8
- Diego Cartaya – 3.7
- Bobby Miller – 2.8
Has Andy Pages dropped out of Baseball America’s Top 100? He is not in the top 6 that are expected to make the list. We will have to wait and see for that list. Maybe the Dodgers will get 7.
There were some other interesting takeaways:
Washington has the youngest group of Top 10 Projects, averaging less than 20 years. Five of their top 10 are HS players drafted during the last three years, and 2 IFA from 2022. Colorado also has a below 20 year old average top 10 prospect list.
Thus while the Nationals and Rockies have top 10 prospects average less than 20, the Dodgers youngest player is Diego Cartaya at 21.4 years.
What does that mean? Nobody can truly tell until they get to MLB. Some will flame out, while most will not become regulars. Some will become All Stars.
The DBacks and Nationals have the most first round picks in their top 10 prospect list with 5 each. The Dodgers have two…Bobby Miller and Michael Busch (supplemental). Dalton Rushing was a 2nd round pick.
The Reds have the most top 10 picks via trade with 7. The Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle deadline trades last year, netted the Reds with 4 of the 7. The other 3 came from the March 2022 trades of Sonny Gray and the Jesse Winker/Eugenio Suarez. They have done a good job at reshaping their farm system. Now if LAD can grab one of their top middle infielders for Andy Pages.
The White Sox have the most international free agents in their top 10 list with 6. The Dodgers have 3.
Four teams have drafted 14 top 10 prospects. This includes prospects drafted by the original team and later traded to other teams to join their top 10 lists. Braves, Mariners, Padres, and Phillies.
One other forecast I found interesting was the projected 2026 lineup. Now nobody expects this to come to fruition, because it does not take into account any trades or FA signings. It only considers players currently in their system.
Projected 2026 Lineup
- Catcher – Will Smith
- 1B – Freddie Freeman
- 2B – Michael Busch
- 3B – Miguel Vargas
- SS – Gavin Lux
- LF – Andy Pages
- CF – James Outman
- RF – Mookie Betts
- DH – Diego Cartaya
- 1 Starter – Walker Buehler
- 2 Starter – Julio Urías
- 3 Starter – Tony Gonsolin
- 4 Starter – Bobby Miller
- 5 Starter – Dustin May
- Closer – Brusdar Graterol
In 2026, I do not expect to see both Walker Buehler and Julio Urías in the rotation. We may not see either of them. Remember the Dodgers have that stable of 94 RHP they need to make room for. If as was reported in the MLB Pipeline Poll, the Dodgers draft the best, make the most of the IFA market, and develop the best, then some of these 94 have to be Aces, right? Yes I am being sarcastic. Outside of Bobby Miller, there is not one pitcher in the system who projects to have a ceiling higher than #3, and that is generous. Almost all of them have extreme relief risk (including Miller and Stone). Some of the younger ones could continue to develop and become the next Gavin Stone. Look for the Dodgers to sign FA starting pitchers in the next 1-2-3 years, or make trades. Hopefully they will be able to re-sign Buehler and/or Urías. Ohtani??? I am scaling down my hopes to Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, Max Fried, and Corbin Burnes. I would not mind taking a flyer on Jack Flaherty. Boy, that choice of JT Ginn over Shane McClanahan is looking worse and worse every day.
One other lineup selection caught my eye. Will Smith is still projected to be the catcher in 2026 (and I do not disagree). But that put Diego Cartaya as the DH. Smith is 7 years older than Cartaya. While Cartaya is considered the best defensive catcher prospect in the LAD system, he is still considered a bat first catcher. As is Rushing, although the reports on Rushing’s development are promising.
While I love to monitor prospects and follow them in MiLB, they are just that…prospects. There have been too many can’t miss prospects who have missed and missed badly. If trading Diego Cartaya nets you an elite starting pitcher, why would you not consider it? With Dalton Rushing waiting, and someone who can move quickly through the organization if not blocked, the sting of losing Cartaya would be minimal, especially if a #1 or #2 pitcher is returned. For instance, the Rays have one catching prospect in their top 30 (at #23). Could Cartaya headline a package to get Shane McClanahan? Obviously extremely doubtful, but just an example as to why there is no reason to make any prospect a never trade prospect.