As Opening Day has commenced for the Dodgers and all of their affiliates, I’m going to tell you about some of the key players and who to watch on each roster.
Great Lakes Loons (Low-A)
The announcement of the Low-A Great Lakes roster did not include many surprises, as every player on the team for 2016 did not play above Class-A in 2015. Some of the headliners on the roster include Omar Estevez and Jordan Paroubeck.
Cuban second baseman Omar Estevez will be making his Dodgers debut with Great Lakes after being signed this past offseason. Estevez’s debut was in Cuba’s top league in 2014-15, where he only slashed .213/.264/.313. Estevez made consistent contact for his age, which helped him land a contract with the Dodgers.
Also, on the roster is Jordan Paroubeck, an outfielder acquired from the Atlanta Braves last season. Paroubeck was 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft but has struggled with staying healthy. Paroubeck will be someone to keep eyes on if he can stay healthy.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A)
Coming off of a successful 2015 season that included winning the California League Championship, Class-A Rancho Cucamonga looks to defend their title with yet another talented team. Atop the rotation will be Grant Holmes, 2014 1st round pick for the Dodgers. Holmes was excellent last season for Great Lakes, compiling a 6-4 record with a 3.14 ERA.
Also included on the roster is outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the 3rd ranked player in the international pool last offseason. Diaz, 19, was the favorite to win Cuba’s Rookie of the Year award last year but defected before he was able to receive the honor. Diaz has shown excellent hand-eye coordination along with power to the gaps. Diaz hit .348/.448/.440 in his last professional season in Cuba.
Tulsa Drillers (AA)
If you are looking for a great offense to watch this minor league year, then Double-A Tulsa should be the team for you. Tulsa is led by three of the Dodgers top offensive prospects in first baseman Cody Bellinger, outfielder Alex Verdugo, and infielder Willie Calhoun.
Bellinger, 20, broke out last season in High-A with huge power numbers. Bellinger hit 30 HR and 103 RBI to go along with a .264 average and .873 OPS. This will be Bellinger’s first season above Class-A, so we should not expect him in L.A. until at least next year.
Verdugo and Calhoun are both guys to keep an eye on this year as well, as both got some major league playing time this spring. Verdugo showed excellent contact skills last year but lacked to show the power potential he is expected to have. Verdugo has the best arm strength of any outfield prospect in the Dodgers system, so his fielding is a plus. Calhoun has had an interesting start to his pro career, being moved from the outfield to second base. Along with power, Calhoun shows great discipline with a career OBP of .390 in the minors. Early success from Calhoun could garner a call-up in the middle of the year, so we should expect to see him stay longer next with the big club next Spring.
Oklahoma City Dodgers (AAA)
After checking out the offense in Tulsa, why not just head down to Triple-A Oklahoma and take a look at that expected pitching staff. When Dodgers infielder Corey Seager loses his prospect eligibility, OKC is expected to have the unanimous top two prospects in the Dodgers system in Julio Urias and Jose De Leon.
Urias, 18, is one of the youngest prospects on the top prospect list. Urias is also the only Dodger last year to play at each level, starting at High-A and ending up at Triple-A. Urias spent most of the season at Tulsa in 2015, throwing 68 innings and posting a 2.77 ERA. Urias posted an impressive 0.99 WHIP, which is incredibly impressive for any minor leaguer. Urias is the most anticipated pitching prospect in the game and we should expect him up this year at some point.
Also having a great year in 2015 was Jose De Leon, who dominated in his time in Single-A, which gained him a promotion to Tulsa during the middle of the season. De Leon did not finish well in the wins column but was able to finish with a 2.99 ERA at both levels. De Leon is currently dealing with a minor ankle issue, so he will not be in OKC until the end of April.
Also starting in OKC will be the 2015 Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Zach Lee. Lee was in the running for the fifth spot in the rotation this past spring, but the job was given to Ross Stripling. Lee went 13-6 with a 2.63 ERA in 2015 but improved his BB/9 down to a 1.5. Lee’s control will be instrumental for him to get the call to the Dodgers, so that should be something to watch this year for him.
You can check out each roster and more at the links below, along with MLB.com‘s Top 30 prospect’s for the Dodgers.
It will be interesting to see where these guys end up in seasons to come, as the Dodgers are one of few teams to have a top ranked farm system and still be competitive at the Major League level. The consistentcy of the front office and scouts have shown, as the system is full of young talent. Expect these guys to lead the Dodgers for years to come.