Dodgers in the AFL: Versatile Farmer continuing transition to catcher
Club's No. 24 prospect working on defense in Fall League with eight other L.A. participants
Before he turned pro, Kyle Farmer had more appearances in Hollywood blockbusters than he did behind the plate. But he's adjusting quite nicely since becoming a regular catcher.
In his 2013 pro debut, Farmer, the Dodgers' No. 24 prospect, batted a robust .347/.386/.533 in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. He appeared in the low Class A Midwest League All-Star Game in his first full pro season, then made the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and reached Double-A in his second.
The next step in Farmer's development comes in the Arizona Fall League, where he's off to a strong start with the Glendale Desert Dogs. Farmer hit .303 in his first eight games while leading the league in doubles (six) and plate appearances per strikeout (17.5).
Of course, offense is a secondary concern for most catchers -- especially those still learning the position. Farmer said his defense remains his primary focus.
"We have a great pitching staff here, and I'm looking forward to working with them," Farmer said. "Also, honing in on my own skills and working on blocking the ball better, receiving better and stuff like that. It's fun, and it's an honor to be out here."
While at Marist (Ga.) High, Farmer achieved a small measure of fame by making a cameo as a quarterback in the movie "The Blind Side," which grossed $256 million and earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar for best actress. He then spent four years at the University of Georgia as a shortstop, but his below-average speed wasn't going to cut it at that position in pro ball.
As a college senior, he signed for $40,000 as an eighth-round pick, and then Farmer immediately made the transition to catcher. His soft hands, solid arm strength and leadership skills all fit nicely at his new position, and his receiving and blocking are coming along. He threw out 42 percent of basestealers in 2015, though he committed 12 passed balls in 84 games.
Farmer has showed the ability to make consistent contact at each of his four Minor League stops, though he doesn't have much home run power and walks infrequently. He's a career .300/.349/.435 hitter with nine homers in 254 pro games.
At age 25, Farmer profiles more realistically as a backup than as a starter. His ability to play the infield helps his cause, and the Dodgers deployed him at third base a couple of times per week after promoting him to Double-A in mid-June. He said he likes getting time at the hot corner because it enhances his versatility and saves him some wear and tear behind the plate.
"I played shortstop at Georgia and I love playing third base, but I'm starting to like catcher a little bit more," Farmer said. "Wherever they want me to play, I'll play, as long as I'm in that lineup. It kind of all works together. Definitely, playing third takes some stress off my legs, which I need a lot."
Dodgers hitters in the Fall League
• Brandon Dixon, 2B/OF - He had the College World Series-winning hit in 2012, sparking Arizona to the championship a year before Los Angeles made him a third-round pick. He batted .263/.303/.443 with 19 homers and 26 steals in 128 games between high Class A and Double-A in 2015, with his solid speed rating as his best tool.
• Jacob Scavuzzo, OF - A 21st-round pick from a Southern California high school in 2012, he translated his above-average raw power into game production by hitting .286/.337/.500 with 18 homers at two Class A stops this season. He also won the AFL's Bowman Hitting Challenge.
• Brandon Trinkwon, INF - The 2013 seventh-rounder from UC Santa Barbara batted .278/.367/.362 with 12 steals in 128 games between high Class A and Double-A. His sure-handed defense at multiple positions is his strong suit, and he profiles as a utilityman.
Dodgers pitchers in the Fall League
• Scott Barlow, RHP - A sixth-rounder out of a California high school in 2011, he had Tommy John surgery the following year. The Dodgers' No. 28 prospect has regained his stuff, including a low-90s fastball and a decent slider, and went 8-6 with a 3.35 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings at four levels (mostly in high Class A) this year.
• Ralston Cash, RHP - A second-round choice in 2010, Cash seriously injured his hip on a wet mound during his pro debut and hasn't had the same stuff since. Featuring a cutter as his best pitch and a fastball that tops out in the low 90s, he spent most of 2015 in Double-A and recorded a 3.47 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 57 relief innings there.
• Jharel Cotton, RHP - The 20th-round pick in 2012 from East Carolina is trying to become the second U.S. Virgin Island-born pitcher to reach the big leagues. Armed with a 92-95-mph fastball, the Dodgers' No. 15 prospect went 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings at four levels (mostly in Double-A) this season.
• Michael Johnson, LHP - He's a lefty specialist who relies heavily on his three-quarters breaking ball. A 14th-rounder from Dartmouth in 2013, he posted a 3.07 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings at high Class A this year.
• Rob Rogers, RHP - Two years after signing as a 32nd-rounder from Keystone (Pa.), Rogers spent almost all of 2015 in high Class A. Working with a low-90s sinker and a slider, he recorded a 3.42 ERA and 70 whiffs in 73 2/3 innings.