After the completion of the regular season and alternate training sites, most player development staffs have turned their attention to instructional league play. In the past, instructional leagues have been populated by new draftees, recent international signings and players at the bottom rungs of their organizational ladder. This year, in an attempt to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, it’s been expanded to include many more players. MLB Pipeline will be providing position-by-position reports from instructional league camps in Florida and Arizona.
Aldry Acosta, RHP; Clayton Beeter, RHP (No. 8); Jeff Belge, LHP; Logan Boyer, RHP; Jacob Cantleberry, LHP; Gerardo Carrillo, RHP (No. 16); Braydon Fisher, RHP; Osvanni Gutierrez, RHP; Andre Jackson, RHP (No. 28); Jimmy Lewis, RHP (No. 26); Jack Little, RHP; Jose Martinez, RHP; Bobby Miller, RHP (No. 7); Juan Morillo, RHP; Aaron Ochsenbein, RHP; Cole Percival, RHP; Nick Robertson, RHP; Jordan Sheffield, RHP; Mitchell Tyranski, LHP; Jesus Vargas, RHP; Bryan Warzek, LHP; Zach Willeman, RHP; Kendall Williams, RHP (No. 23).
Though the Dodgers were contenders (and eventual World Series champions), their lone in-season trade exchanged a veteran for prospects rather than the other way around. They shipped Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays at the end of August for right-hander Kendall Williams and a player yet to be named.
A second-round pick out of a Florida high school in 2019, Williams has a projectable 6-foot-6 frame and could have a solid three-pitch mix when he's fully developed. Los Angeles got to see him in action at its alternate camp in September and has had him work on his secondary offerings while quickening his delivery during instructional league.
"We were very excited to get Williams," Dodgers farm director Will Rhymes said. "He's been very impressive, a very aggressive strike thrower. He's very physical and still growing into his body. He's been 93-94 mph, attacking the zone and getting a lot of ground balls.
"He's been working on his slider quite a bit and he's confident with that and his changeup as well. Our pitching crew has done a great job with him to get him to move faster and use his athleticism. His velocity has ticked up and he has made a lot of progress since he first got to our alternate site."
Another 6-foot-6 righty drafted in the second round out of high school a year ago, Jimmy Lewis, has seen his first pro action during instructs. Diagnosed with a partially torn labrum during a post-Draft physical, he avoided surgery and is back to throwing in the low 90s with his sinker. He also shows flashes of a plus curveball and earns praise for his mound presence.
Diego Cartaya (No. 5), Wladimir Chalo, Hunter Feduccia, Yeiner Fernandez, Carson Taylor.
The Dodgers keep churning out catchers. Even after graduating Will Smith to the big leagues and sending Connor Wong to the Red Sox as part of the Mookie Betts trade, they have one of baseball's best catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz and the top-rated talent in the 2018 international class in Diego Cartaya. Next in line is Yeiner Fernandez, who came out of the same Venezuelan program that spawned Cartaya.
The youngest player in Los Angeles' instructional league program, Fernandez turned 17 a week before it started in late September. He starred at the 2015 Little League World Series and has the tools to hit for average and power. His offense is more advanced than his defense, but the Dodgers believe he'll be able to stay behind the plate.
"It's a really good swing," Rhymes said. "Fernandez is quick and explosive with a natural hit tool and surprising power given his age. This is a chance to get him exposure to high-level competition and to our staff.
"His background as a catcher isn't as long as some because he was previously a second baseman, but he's learning the position and picking it up quickly. He throws well, he's a good athlete and with his hands from being an infielder, he's taking to receiving really well."
Just as he did in alternate camp, second baseman Michael Busch has stood out not just with the offensive ability that got him drafted in the first round a year ago, but also with his defense at a position he played only briefly in college. Though he doesn't have a typical second baseman's build at 6 feet and 207 pounds, he has some deceptive athleticism that made him a three-sport star (baseball, football, hockey) as a Minnesota high schooler. Both his arm strength and range have improved.
"It's hard to believe how far Busch has come in a year, particularly given the time off this year," Rhymes said. "We were optimistic that he had the ingredients for second base, but there was work to be done. Where he is now is grades better. He's solid.
"He's learning all the feeds and turns. He's looking much more natural and comfortable out there. He did a lot of work at our alternate site with our pitching guys and he's throwing the ball really well. His slot changed a little bit and he's throwing more efficiently."
The Dodgers almost dealt Ross Stripling in February as an offshoot of the original version of the Betts trade. But when the Betts deal got held up with the Red Sox, Angels owner Arte Moreno backed out of a swap that would have sent Joc Pederson, Stripling and outfielder Andy Pages to Anaheim for Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward.
Pages has some of the best tools in the system. He led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in extra-base hits (43) in 2019 while ranking second in homers (19), RBIs (55), total bases (153) and slugging (.651). He has well above-average raw power and arm strength and solid speed.
"Pages is not just a prospect but also one of our brightest guys in terms of listening and helping his teammates understand the game," Rhymes said. "It's all been on display. His timing was off a little bit early but he got it going.
"Watching him do his work in the cage and on the field, there are just a lot of reasons to believe he can be very good."