MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has already run through the American League Central and the American League West in previewing some of the interesting young talent that could surface in the Majors this season. We’ll tackle the NL West next — a particularly interesting division given the enviable bevy of young talent that has been cultivated by both the Dodgers and Padres. Los Angeles and San Diego have two of the game’s best systems, but there are varying degrees of high-end talent bubbling to the surface for all five NL West clubs…
Jon Duplantier is a former top 100 prospect whose debut effort in 2019 was slowed by shoulder troubles. He notched a 4.42 ERA and 34-to-18 K/BB ratio in 36 2/3 innings when on the roster, though he was optioned to Triple-A five times. There’s no room in Arizona’s rotation at the moment, but Duplantier and his career 2.54 minor league ERA with 10.5 K/9 will be one of the first lines of defense should a need arise. Righty Kevin Ginkel also got his feet wet in the big leagues and, after posting a 1.48 ERA and a 28-to-9 K/BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings of relief, should have the inside track on a bullpen spot whenever play resumes.
Elsewhere in the D-backs’ system loom catcher Daulton Varsho, infielder Andy Young, first baseman Seth Beer and right-hander J.B. Bukauskas. Varsho is a homegrown talent who’s considered to be among baseball’s 100 best prospects, although the presence of Carson Kelly in the big leagues puts a roadblock in his path to Phoenix. He’s yet to play above Double-A, but a big Triple-A showing and an injury to Kelly and/or Stephen Vogt could propel Varsho to the bigs.
Young, Bukauskas and Beer were all acquired in trades — Young alongside Weaver and Kelly in the Paul Goldschmidt swap and the others in the Zack Greinke blockbuster. Arizona’s infield is stacked at the moment, but Young can play anywhere in the infield, so he’s a nice depth piece … who happened to bash 21 homers and slug .611 in 277 Triple-A plate appearances last year. Beer showed big pop of his own in a pitcher-friendly Double-A setting last season. Bukauskas will be looking for a rebound after a poor showing in Double-A.
Rox fans have been waiting since 2015 to get a good look at Brendan Rodgers, the No. 3 overall pick in that year’s draft. Rodgers has ranked among the game’s elite prospects each season since being drafted, and he finally made his big league debut in 2019 … only to undergo shoulder surgery after all of 81 plate appearances. He might open the year in the minors, but Rodgers will be looming in the event that Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson struggle or get hut. Either way, if he’s healthy, Rodgers should force the team’s hand.
Elsewhere on the roster, expect to see Sam Hilliard play a prominent role in the outfield mix. He received a similarly sized cup of coffee to Rodgers and made the most of it, raking at a .273/.356/.649 clip. Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl are locked into two spots, but Hilliard will vie for at-bats with Raimel Tapia as Ian Desmond slips further into a reserve role. Yonathan Daza could also factor in as a bench option, depending on the health of those ahead of him on the depth chart.
Someone asked me in this week’s MLBTR chat who might step up in the event of a Nolan Arenado trade, and the club isn’t short on options — including Arenado’s own cousin, Josh Fuentes. He’s already 27, though, and had a rough showing in Triple-A this past season. More intriguing options include Tyler Nevin — yes, Phil’s son — and Colton Welker.
Southpaw Ben Bowden could emerge in the bullpen, and given the uncertainty at the back of the big league rotation — Chi Chi Gonzalez might’ve been the favorite in the fifth spot — we could see either of righty Ashton Goudeau or Antonio Santos get a look.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Gavin Lux, one of the game’s top 1o prospects, will get the opportunity to claim second base as his home for the foreseeable future. He didn’t do much in 82 MLB plate appearances last season, but if you want a laugh, check out Lux’s line in 49 Triple-A games: .392/.478/.719 with 13 home runs, 18 doubles and four triples in 232 plate appearances.
The Dodgers have an embarrassment of wealth in terms of young pitching, headlined by righty Dustin May, who’s already posted a 3.63 ERA and 32-to-5 K/BB ratio in 34 2/3 MLB frames. Fellow righty Tony Gonsolin impressed in his own ’19 debut, and the Dodgers added some triple-digit heat to the bullpen by acquiring Brusdar Graterol from the Twins. Behind that trio? Josiah Gray, acquired in the Homer Bailey salary dump with the Reds, posted a 2.28 ERA with 147 punchouts in 130 Double-A innings in ’19.
Catcher Keibert Ruiz is somewhat blocked by fellow youngster Will Smith, but he could be in line for a promotion should Smith sustain an injury. If there’s an injury (or multiple injuries) elsewhere on the roster, any of corner infielder/outfielder Edwin Rios, center fielder DJ Peters or Swiss army knife Zach McKinstry could get the call. Rios hit well in a limited debut last season, and McKinstry is cut from the Chris Taylor/Enrique Hernandez cloth, having appeared at shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield slots in recent seasons. (Sometimes it feels like the Dodgers grow these guys on trees.)
San Diego Padres
You won’t find many (any?) organizations with a more tantalizing pairing of pitching prospects than lefty MacKenzie Gore and righty Luis Patino. Either or both could conceivably reach the Majors in 2020. Gore is particularly touted, generally ranking inside the game’s top 10 overall prospects after posting a sub-2.00 ERA in 20 starts between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.
Center fielder Taylor Trammell still hasn’t tapped into his raw power, but his tantalizing package of tools landed him among the game’s top 100 prospects for a third straight offseason. The Padres’ outfield has turned over in a major way, and while Trammell might need a big showing in Triple-A to force the organization’s hand, he’s not far off after spending all of 2019 in Double-A.
The Padres have plenty of players with rookie eligibility who briefly saw the big leagues this past season. Righty Michel Baez and lefty Adrian Morejon aren’t quite on that same level as the Gore/Patino combo, but they were both high-profile international signings — Baez commanding a $3MM bonus and Morejon landing $11MM — and have both been top 100 entrants themselves. (Morejon still is.) Righty Ronald Bolanos also commanded a seven-figure bonus (just north of $2MM) and briefly debuted in ’19. Reliever David Bednar was sharp in Double-A and logged 11 MLB frames with San Diego, too.
If there’s a particularly intriguing prospect here, it could be Jake Cronenworth. He’s not considered a premium prospect, but the 26-year-old posted a .949 OPS in Triple-A with the Rays last year and has been developing as a two-way player. He’s more in the Michael Lorenzen mold, so he might not get two-way designation anytime soon thanks to MLB’s bizarrely stringent eligibility requirements — essentially, only Shohei Ohtani or Brendan McKay could qualify — but he brings a unique skill set to the table all the same.
San Francisco Giants
Expect Mauricio Dubon to get a long look, perhaps even in center field. The former Brewers/Red Sox middle infield prospect played there earlier in spring and could be an outfield option, depending on how the team uses Wilmer Flores and (if he makes the roster) Yolmer Sanchez. Slugger Jaylin Davis didn’t hit much in a 17-game September cameo, but he cranked 35 long balls between Double-A and Triple-A, which should get him a look on a power-starved Giants roster.
Logan Webb could end up as the team’s fifth starter — particularly now that Tyler Beede will miss the 2020 season. Webb didn’t fare well in eight MLB starts a year ago and has been hobbled by injuries since being a fourth-round pick in 2014, but he shoved with a 1.84 ERA across three minor league levels in 2019 prior to his promotion.
The big question for Giants fans is, of course, when will they get their look at Buster Posey’s heir apparent? Joey Bart, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, has flat-out raked at every stop and is a rare, fast-rising catching prospect. He won’t turn 24 until next offseason, but Bart is a .284/.343/.532 hitter in the minors — including a .316/.368/.554 effort in a 22-game showing at Double-A last year.