Who has debuted for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2018 that has stuck with the roster and has been consistently successful? And you can't say Will Smith as a counter ... because that's pretty much the only player. Unless you're a big Tony Gonsolin fan.
Every single year, the Dodgers' farm system is ranked among the best in the sport, yet it feels like there's been very little tangible evidence at the big-league level to suggest that claim's validity. And the fact that they've traded guys like Yordan Alvarez, Oneil Cruz and Josiah Gray -- all of whom are better than most of what the Dodgers have produced themselves -- perhaps speaks volumes.
The Dodgers might possess an uncanny ability to resurrect talent or maximize a player's usage to create positive production, but the track record after the debuts of Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler and Julio Urías is quite bad.
This year was supposed to represent a fearful youth movement that was ready to set the Dodgers up for the next decade. Hello Miguel Vargas, James Outman, Bobby Miller, Michael Busch, Gavin Stone, Emmet Sheehan and Jonny DeLuca!
Well, the headliner of that group in Vargas was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday because of how bad he's been. That's been the most glaring news out of any of the Dodgers' top prospects' struggles this year.
Does Miguel Vargas demotion show Dodgers farm system is overrated?
Everybody else got a bit of a pass, right? When Stone couldn't get things to click after three MLB starts, it was deemed he needed some more seasoning at Triple-A. Fair. There's been a similar discourse surrounding DeLuca, who only has 17 games at OKC under his belt. Also fair. Same goes for Sheehan.
But what about Outman, Busch and Miller? Vargas' demotion should be the alarm for the rest of these guys who are viewed as cornerstone pieces. Outman hasn't been himself since his six-week tear to start the campaign. Busch can't land everyday reps at the MLB level despite the fact he continues to own Triple-A pitching. Miller's first four starts were incredible, and his last four have largely been concerning.
Vargas had yet to run into any struggles with his bat before reaching MLB. Over the last couple months, he's endured the worst stretch of his professional career, and it isn't even close. He's still just 23 and has plenty of time to figure out what's resulted in his downturn, but this might be the first bit of reality that exposes the Dodgers' farm system for being a bit too overhyped annually.
At the very least, Vargas, Outman, Busch and Miller were supposed to be ready to positively contribute in 2023, but the results have largely been underwhelming. There are positives without a doubt, but all are far from finished products. That might be a harsh way to look at it, but this organization produced Seager, Bellinger, Urías and Buehler in their last round of youthful infusion. They've had some bad luck with injuries re: Gavin Lux and Dustin May, but it's not like those players had proven much before they went down.
Andrew Friedman joined the Dodgers organization after the 2014 season. He's now been a part of nine drafts. Only Buehler and Smith can be considered "hits" with his selections, with most of his better work coming in free agency and trades.
Building a farm system isn't easy, but the Dodgers have masked their shortcomings very well by hyping up the right players, mostly trading the right talent, and accumulating depth. As for the on-field successes in Los Angeles? Not very easy to find.