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You might not know it by listening to talk radio or television discussions about the club, but it’s an awesome time to be a Dodgers fan right now. They continue to use their financial might to bring in a plethora of international and domestic amateur prospects, then proceed to pawn off their international bonus slots for even more prospects. While they’ve gotten a lot of criticism for letting Zack Greinke go and not dishing out any of the bigger contracts this offseason, the reinforcements they have available in their minor-league system are at least a part of the reason why. Not only do they boast one of the deepest major-league rosters, they have ready-made replacements within a couple levels of their parent club, particularly on the pitching side. On top of that, they keep making shrewd mid-level trades and taking some of my favorite upside talents in the amateur draft. At every turn, their process has been consistent and on point.
You could make a case that they’re light on impact offensive prospects outside of the guys who’ll be starting the year in Los Angeles and first baseman Cody Bellinger, but they have enough depth in the next tier down. Outfielders Johan Mieses, Jacob Scavuzzo and Alex Verdugo are close in the outfield, while Willie Calhoun and hopefully a return to form by Micah Johnson give them options in the infield should multiple position players falter this year. Julio Urias and Jose De Leon are two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, and could handle a promotion in the near future if pressed into duty.
Austin Barnes and Trayce Thompson are in the 50+ FV group here, despite how Barnes is only the club’s second or third option at catcher, and Thompson’s reputation in recent years as a questionable bat who might not make it in the big leagues. Thompson is quicker to explain: I really like the changes he made to his swing and approach. No one ever denied the tools and overall athletic ability, and barring a step back for some reason, he’s positioned to develop into a legitimate starting option in the outfield.
Barnes is much farther out there compared to perception, I’m well aware. He’s not a big power guy, and he doesn’t have big arm strength, both tools that historically are typical of catching prospects. His atypical profile is probably why he didn’t get more of an opportunity in the Marlins organization. Perhaps it’s telling, however, that one of the smartest front offices in baseball targeted him. As a professional, all he’s done is hit, flirt with an on-base percentage over .400, steal some bases and be one of the best pitch framers in the minor leagues — for years now. He makes enough contact and has a good swing, so there’s no reason I can find that he won’t continue to do it against big-league pitching. I don’t see any reason to discount his receiving behind the plate. Watch a Dodgers spring-training game and you’ll quickly notice what makes him so special back there.
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