There is a raw, yet promising arm down on the Dodgers farm that you may not have heard of. The Dodgers have been bringing Imani Abdullah along slowly over the course of his first three professional seasons.
Abdullah is a big, projectable power pitcher with age on his side as he will only be 20 on opening day despite entering his fourth professional season.
Abdullah was drafted out of Madison High School by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft. Abdullah was committed to attend San Diego State, so teams stayed away from drafting him. The Dodgers liked Abdullah so much they signed him to an above-slot bonus (higher than what an 11th rounder was slotted to receive as determined by MLB) and had Magic Johnson himself call Abdullah to entice him to sign!
What’s amazing about Abdullah is he did not begin pitching till halfway through high school. After the draft, Abdullah entered pro ball in 2015 at a very young 18 years old and suited up for the Dodgers Arizona Rookie League team. He only appeared in 6 games after signing. In 2016, Abdullah saw his first taste of full-season minor league ball with the low-Class A Great Lakes Loons in Midland, MI. There, Abdullah made some strides while facing more advanced talent. He held his own as a nineteen-year-old, making 16 starts, posting a respectable 1.134 WHIP in 72.1 innings.
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Last season, the Dodgers continued to bring him along slowly as the organization wanted to see him become more consistent and build more strength. During this process, Abdullah had a setback with a non-serious injury, but it cost him a good chunk of the 2017 season, limiting him to 12 innings. Abdullah made up for lost time in the Fall Instructional League, where the Dodgers player development staff worked hard to refine his mechanics.
According to the MLB.com Prospect Watch, Abdullah ranks as the 19th best prospect in the Dodgers farm system., despite his abbreviated 2017 season. In his brief professional career, he has logged 97.2 innings, striking out 85 and walking a respectable 24 batters during that time. Considering his youth and inexperience, Abdullah has held his own. 2018 should be a breakthrough for Abdullah as he will look to log more innings and remain consistent.
Abdullah is now 6-6 and weighs about 220 lbs. He has a sturdy athletic build, reminiscent of Taijuan Walker of the Arizona Diamondbacks, another strong right-handed power pitcher. Abdullah’s fastball sits in the mid 90’s and apparently, his changeup is fairly advanced. Abdullah’s added strength should see his fastball gain a couple more tics in velocity as his frame fills out and his mechanics are smoothed out. Abdullah’s ceiling is unlimited. He may become a #2/3 type starter anchoring an MLB rotation. At worst he will be a back of the rotation starter, with the athleticism to eat innings.
Abdullah could start the year at Great Lakes, but with a good showing in minor league spring camp, he could be ticketed for high A Rancho Cucamonga if the Dodgers want to challenge him. Let’s hope they do as this summer my plan is to get a good look at Abdullah and several of the other Dodger prospects at Rancho Cucamonga. I think it is realistic to see Abdullah finish the year in AA Tulsa. It won’t be long before Abdullah joins the ranks of the Dodgers top-tier elite pitching prospects.