New Mann: 'Most improved' prospect now at AFL

September 26th, 2019

After the Dodgers made Devin Mann a fifth-round pick in 2018, he didn't immediately justify that investment by producing in his pro debut. He batted .240/.348/.332 with two homers in 65 games, mostly in low Class A, and didn’t demonstrate much aptitude beyond bat-to-ball skills.

Fast forward a year later and, well, he's a new Mann. Despite missing a month as a precaution with some mild soreness in his knee, he batted .278/.358/.496 with 19 homers in 98 games to earn All-Star honors in the high Class A California League. He also made himself into a better defender and one of the Los Angeles' best position prospects.

Now the next step in his development will come in the Arizona Fall League, where Mann is playing second base for the Glendale Desert Dogs. The AFL will allow him to make up for the at-bats he lost to the knee injury and leave him better prepared to make the jump to Double-A in 2020.

In college at Louisville, Mann focused more on making contact and getting on base. The Dodgers asked him to adapt a more aggressive mentality in pro ball, and they got him to add some loft and use his legs more with his right-handed swing. He got stronger and began pulling more pitches while driving more balls in the air, helping him look the part of an offensive-minded second baseman.

"Last year when I got drafted and I went to full-season [ball], I had kind of that reserved swing," said the 22-year-old Mann, who ranks No. 17 on MLB Pipeline's Dodgers Top 30 Prospects list. "In the offseason, we worked on more on bat path, just lower half, having a more aggressive approach, just trying to do damage in the air ... I just sort of ran with it and made adjustments as the season went along."

Mann's defensive transformation may be more stunning than his offensive metamorphosis. He still has fringy speed but has improved his footwork, range and arm strength and now has enough carry on his throws to get the job done at third base. One Dodgers official called him the most improved prospect in the system in 2019.

Mann's ceiling looks considerably higher than it did a year ago. That should help his cause in an organization that features the best team in the National League at the top as well as one of the most talented farm systems in the game.

While the Dodgers are loaded at second base -- Max Muncy was an All-Star at the position in July, elite prospect Gavin Lux has taken over this September at age 21, Omar Estevez is a $6 million bonus baby who has conquered Double-A at the same age, Michael Busch was a first-round pick in June -- Mann relishes being part of a talented organization.

"It's so much fun just to be around that," he said. "You get to see guys ahead of you that are super talented and what they're doing, and it just makes you want to work harder. I think being around in the organization just elevates your game. It's a great opportunity to be around everyone like that."

Dodgers hitters in the Fall League

Omar Estevez, 2B/SS (No. 15 on Dodgers Top 30) -- The Dodgers paid Estevez a $6 million bonus and MLB a matching amount in penalty tax in November 2015 because they prized his advanced hitting skills. The Cuban batted .292/.353/.429 with six homers in 83 Double-A games this summer, losing five weeks to a hamstring injury.

Jeren Kendall, OF -- The best college athlete in the 2017 Draft, Kendall slid to the 23rd overall pick amid signability and swing-and-miss concerns, and the latter have been an issue since he signed for $2,897,500. He hit just .215/.300/.356 with 12 homers, 37 steals and 158 strikeouts in 114 games while repeating high Class A in 2019.

Justin Yurchak, 1B -- A 2017 White Sox 12th-round from Binghamton who was dealt to the Dodgers for Manny Banuelos a year later, Yurchak is a patient hitter with some raw power. He batted a combined .321/.418/.571 with 13 homers in 64 games between Rookie ball and low Class A this year, though he was old for both levels at age 22.

Dodgers pitchers in the Fall League

Mitchell White, RHP (No. 9) -- A second-rounder from Santa Clara in 2016, White has some of the best stuff in the system, showing a mid-90s fastball with run and sink, a devastating slider and a hammer curveball when he's on. He's still seeking consistency, as his 2019 numbers between Double-A and Triple-A attest: 5.09 ERA, 105/31 K/BB ratio in 93 2/3 innings.

Gerardo Carrillo, RHP (No. 22) -- A product of the Dodgers' strong scouting efforts in Mexico, Carrillo signed for $75,000 in 2016 and works off a heavy sinker that has touched 98 mph and a tumbling changeup. He struggled as a 20-year-old in high Class A this year, recording a 5.44 ERA with an 86/51 K/BB ratio in 86 innings and missing three weeks with a lat injury.

Marshall Kasowski, RHP (No. 27) -- Kasowski has dominated pro hitters by relying heavily on his fastball, a 91-97 mph riser that hitters have trouble picking up out of his over-the-top delivery. A 13th-round pick from West Texas A&M in 2017, he led Minor League relievers in strikeouts (111) and strikeout rate (15.4 per nine innings) in 2018 and posted a 2.45 ERA with 46 whiffs in 29 1/3 Double-A innings this year while dealing with minor injuries.

Brett de Geus, RHP -- Signed for $75,000 as a 33rd-rounder from Cabrillo (Calif.) JC in 2017, de Geus now operates with a 93-98 mph fastball with running action, a hard slider and a power curveball. He excelled in his full-season debut this year, logging a 1.75 ERA, .205 opponent average and 72/13 K/BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings between two Class A levels.