I do not understand this fascination of wanting to move players around, especially when they are successful, maybe super successful, at their current positions.
Mookie Betts played SS in high school. Let’s take a poll and find out how many RH defensive position players played SS in high school. He started primarily as a 2B in Boston’s farm system. However, because Boston wanted Mookie in the Boston lineup, and Dustin Pedroia was the firmly entrenched at 2B, Mookie was converted full time to RF:
Mookie’s MiLB Positions:
- 2B – 1,992.2 innings
- SS – 112.1 innings
- CF – 387.0 innings
- RF – 36.0 innings
The Dodgers prefer Mookie to be the RF. They do like to get him on the dirt when they are playing on artificial turf. In the 2nd half, he played more 2B because Vargas could not hold onto the position that was handed to him.
Mookie has played all of 98.0 innings at SS at the MLB level (all last year). 210 innings post high school. Did very well. But not better than Miguel Rojas. Probably not better than Chris Taylor. He is not going to be the everyday SS. He is the everyday RF who will occasionally play 2B to get off the turf. How much 2B will depend if AF signs a 2B or OF.
Bill Russell was 21 when he started the conversion to SS. He was the full time SS at 23. Russell was never considered a good defensive SS. Competent? Absolutely. He never left his feet.
Jonny Deluca will be an older 25 year old next year (July 10 birthday), and has never played an inning in the infield, professionally or collegiately at Oregon.
A couple of scouting reports on Deluca.
DeLuca left Oregon as a speed-first switch-hitter but has gotten stronger as a pro (he’s actually broken some of the equipment the Dodgers use to measure lower body strength) and is now more of a well-rounded, righty-hitting outfield prospect with a fair blend of contact and power, both of which are slightly undercut by his swing decisions. While he’s capable of playing all three outfield spots, DeLuca is a 40 in center field and his best fit is in right. He doesn’t have a corner regular’s tools, but he does enough stuff well to have obvious big league roster utility, pinch-hitting here, pinch-running there, representing a defensive upgrade once in a while and getting the occasional start against a left-hander. That’s a modern fifth outfielder. He was added to the 40-man after the season, and with Los Angeles’ outfield situation in flux, he’s likely to debut at some point in 2023.
Scouting Report: DeLuca struggled as a switch-hitter at Oregon but has flourished offensively after the Dodgers made him hit righthanded only. He crushes lefthanded pitching with a strong, powerful swing and generates above-average power with his bulging, muscular forearms. He catches up to velocity, has above-average plate discipline and battles through at-bats. DeLuca is still getting used to seeing the ball from the right side against righthanded pitchers, but he crushes mistakes when they leave them over the plate. DeLuca is a plus runner and athlete in the outfield who can play all three positions. He has above-average arm strength that yielded seven outfield assists in 2022.
The Future: DeLuca projects to be a platoon or reserve outfielder who bashes lefties and plays all three outfield spots. He’ll begin 2023 back at Double-A Tulsa.
I cannot find where he was ever a top 30 prospect on MLB Pipeline. He has been at the bottom of other prospect lists, and excluded on others as well.
Doesn’t it make more sense to let him develop his hitting acumen and leave him in a comfortable position defensively rather than throw something else at him at 25. Fulltime infielders, Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch, are not considered viable 3B, but Deluca is? Both are better hitters than Deluca at the MiLB level.
As the scouting reports indicate, Deluca is probably more inclined to be a reserve OF who can come off the bench and hit LHP, and come in defensively in any of the 3 OF positions. There is nothing wrong with that.
The problem with him teaming up with Jason Heyward and platooning is that there are many more RHP than LHP. But IMO, that makes more sense than moving Deluca to 3B.
Another one I continue to read is move Will Smith to 3B. I do not understand the thought process of taking an All Star Catcher and moving him. So Diego Cartaya or Dalton Rushing can take over the everyday catching chores? Cartaya cratered offensively last year at AA, and caught a CAREER HIGH 68 games. Cartaya sported a 29% K rate and his BB rate dropped from 14% to 9%. I hope they can catch at the MLB level, but better than an All Star catcher? Neither are at the same level as Gabriel Moreno.
At least Smith has played 486.1 innings at 3B in MiLB. But if the Dodgers believed he could be an everyday 3B then maybe he would have played more 3B. The Dodgers had Keibert Ruiz in the system, and it would have been much more logical to make that move before Smith was an All-Star.
I understand and appreciate the frustration. So 3B is where I am going to start my positional status review.
It would be great if either Miguel Vargas or Michael Busch could assume 3B. Maybe this year will be different??? Busch has been my choice, but another LHH infielder? Vargas has just as many supporters, but… Much has been written about both, so this exercise will highlight the other 3B prospects in the system.
The Dodgers do not have any legitimate prospects ready to adopt 3B at the MLB level. The closest to MLB are:
- 23 year old infielder from Venezuela, Jorbit Vivas. Vivas is another in the long line of utility infielders in the Dodgers system. Jorbit is more of a 2B who can play 3B. Vivas has been pushed a little because he was added to the 40 man after the 2021 season. He has one option year remaining before he needs to stick to the MLB roster without being designated for assignment, beginning 2025.
- 25 year old undrafted free agent Austin Gauthier. He is a contact first over power hitting infielder. More of a LAD specialty as a utility player. He could replace CT3 in a couple of years more than Muncy. He played very well at Great Lakes and Tulsa last year. He has more career BB than K. His career slash line is .291/.433/.433/.866. He is not a MLB 3B. Gauthier has moved from undrafted in 2021 to the LAD #30 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. I do see him as a MLB player, just not as a LAD 3B. Utility player?
- 26 year old former 1st round draft pick, Kody Hoese. Hoese has never played above AA, and has not hit well as an older player at that level. Last year at Tulsa he slashed .244/.300/.390/.690. He hit 11 HRs at a power position, one less than Gauthier. His career metrics .237/.294/.355/.649. Career HR’s 24 and career doubles 38. I cannot see Hoese as the LAD 3B, and I never did see it.
- 22 year old Kyle Nevin. 11th round pick in 2022 from Baylor (same as Muncy). He started at Rancho but spent almost the entire year on the IL. He was a good player when he did play. In 209 PA, .312/.388/.473/.861 with 11 doubles and 5 HR. Understanding that the Dodgers are slow to move players, Kyle will undoubtedly start 2024 at Rancho.
- 22 year old Jake Gelof. 2nd round pick in 2023 from Virginia. He is considered a more power oriented player than his brother Zack. Zack got off to a better start in his professional career. Jake was at Rancho for almost all of his 1st year in Pro Ball. I hope the Dodgers push him, but he is already getting the scouting report that he is too slow for 3B and is better suited for 1B or the corner OF. I look forward to see what BA and FanGraphs have to say about him this year.
- 20 year old Rayne Doncon, IFA from San Pedro de Macoris, DR. This will be Doncon’s 4th year in the organization and his 3rd He quickly moved past the much more heralded SS, Wilman Diaz, in the eyes of the scouts and LAD player development personnel. However, he took a step back last year at RC, but he is still very young. No reason whatsoever to give up on him. He is included in the 3B review, but he is more of a 2B who can play 3B. Sound familiar? For 2023, with 473 PA,.215/.283/.368/.651. For his career with 850 PA, .237/.305/.414/.719. He is another in a long line of LAD utility players.
- 20 year old, 6th round High School draft pick in 2022, Logan Wagner. He has been injured for most of his career, thus he has only 73 PA. Tough to garner any thoughts on his MLB viability. Hopefully he will reach Rancho this year, and we can see what he can do.
- 18 year old Elias Medina. 2023 IFA from Bani, DR. Medina played mostly 3B in the DSL and hit very well. .313/.381/.553/.934. It is hard to evaluate him on his DSL stats, but as I indicated in my DSL write up a few weeks back, he is someone I look forward to monitoring in 2024. He was not very good defensively, but it was a very small sample size.
That is your LAD organizational 3B, or more likely, utility infielders. There is more of the same at SS and 2B when I get to those positions.