Dodgers: Previewing the Oklahoma City Dodgers
The 2017 Oklahoma City Dodgers are one of the most talented teams in the minor leagues, with a great mix of top prospects and veterans who will or have contributed to the Los Angeles Dodgers at some point. OKC figures to be a taxi squad to Los Angeles because of the team’s talent.
A few of the aforementioned players that are starting the season at AAA, but were important to the Dodgers’ success in 2016, are Trayce Thompson, Adam Liberatore, Charlie Culberson, Rob Segedin, and Josh Fields. Of these players, it seems that Liberatore, Culberson, Segedin, and Fields are only in AAA because their fellow competitors did not have any more options left. Thus, LA had to keep them on the major league roster instead.
Liberatore was arguably Los Angeles’ best lefty specialist out of the pen last year, until he went down with injuries, while Josh Fields was one of the team’s most effective right-handed relievers. Trayce Thompson is most likely starting the season in the minors to get in regular at-bats and prove he’s recovered from his back injury from last season. Should an outfielder on the Los Angeles roster go down, Trayce will most likely be the first player called up.
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Joining Trayce in the Oklahoma City outfield is a highly regarded Dodger prospect, Alex Verdugo. Verdugo spent all of his 2016 season at Double-A, so this is the last minor league stop for him. Should he have another solid season, he will have proven to the front office that he has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Two other top prospects making their first full season stops at AAA are Cody Bellinger and Willie Calhoun.
Both Calhoun and Bellinger are the Dodgers’ top offensive prospects and are on the verge of being major league ready. All three prospects are knocking on the door to make their major league debuts, which could come when rosters expand in September unless injuries force them up sooner.
Besides the plethora of young prospects at AAA, there is also a blend of minor league veterans who will help round out the lineup, such as O’Koyea Dickson, Brett Eibner, Chris Taylor, and Bobby Wilson. All four had very solid Spring Training for the Dodgers, with Chris Taylor and Bobby Wilson almost forcing the front office’s hand to add them to the Opening Day roster.
Taylor batted .354 while playing all-around the Los Angeles infield and a little center field. Wilson was signed purely for depth, as it was widely assumed that Austin Barnes would be Yasmani Grandal’s backup in 2017. However, Wilson almost made the team by hitting four home runs. Brett Eibner also made his mark this spring, blasting two moonshots. If it wasn’t for the signing of Franklin Gutierrez, he may have made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.
Oklahoma City’s starting rotation will feature Julio Urias at some point early in the season, as well as underrated, but polished, prospect Trevor Oaks. Brock Stewart, who was shut down during the spring due to shoulder problems, will also make his way into the AAA rotation when healthy. Once Stewart is healthy, he could be the first AAA pitcher called upon, should injury strike the Dodgers’ rotation.
The rotation will also be the home for two reclamation projects in Justin Masterson and Jair Jurrjens. Both Masterson and Jurrjens were once top prospects for the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves, respectively, who seemed ticketed for stardom. Unfortunately, both had an abrupt fall from grace and are now trying to work their way back oto a major league team.
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Altogether, the Oklahoma City Dodgers are one impressive minor league team that could be the best hitting team at the AAA level. Spearheaded by Cody Bellinger and Willie Calhoun, the offense should put on an impressive showing. It’s probable that we will see some of the current Oklahoma City players in Los Angeles this season, making in impact in the Dodgers’ pursuit of a fifth straight National League West Division Championship.