Dodger’s 2021 ROY Candidates

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The Dodgers have been spoiled since Friedman and Co have taken over the reigns on the farm system. Consistently ranked among the top 10 in the game every year, it feels like the Dodgers constantly have someone in the running for ROY. Even last year when the early on favorite Gavin Lux of the Dodgers disappointed, they had incredible Rookie campaigns from Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, and even Edwin Rios that were worthy of consideration.

So here we are again with the Dodgers looking to add their young talent to the roster as they reset for another go at the World Series. We have our top 5 Dodger prospects that we think have the chops to win the NL ROY in 2021. And if not, we still think they all have shots at breaking out for the 21 Dodgers Squad.

Highlights

  1. Keibert Ruiz
  2. Zach McKinstry
  3. DJ Peters
  4. Josiah Gray
  5. Zach Reks
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  • C, Keibert Ruiz, 23 yo

A lot would have to happen for Ruiz to produce enough to be in contention for the ROY award. He just has that talent. He’s been up and down, but has remained one of the Dodger’s top prospects throughout his young career.

He’ll turn 23 next year as he hopefully reaches rookie status. The solid sized, switch hitting catcher was once renowned for his fielding abilities, but has become quite the threat at the plate. He’s not fast, but few catchers are.

Outside of that though, he has really no weaknesses to his game. Scouts grade him as an all around plus MLB prospect. The easiest player comp to make is Yasmani Grandal. The once Dodger was also a solid threat from both sides of the plate while being among the elite defensive catchers. Hopefully, Ruiz can find more consistency in his approach at the plate though.

He made a quick debut in 2020 for 8 at bats and wowed in his first with a rope of a home run. He’d hit another single to OPS .875 in his taste of the bigs. The weakest point of his game to date has definitely been his power, but it seems it’s developing as he’s grown into his frame.

But as of right now, Will Smith has a firm grasp on the starting catching job, and Austin Barnes earned his way to splitting the playing time overall. It’s unlikely the Dodgers ever move Smith, but it’s possible they decide to move Barnes to a more catcher needy team. Or maybe they think Smith could be effective as a 1st baseman.

If that happens or someone unfortunately gets injured, Ruiz could see enough at bats and games to actually make an impact on the year. At his best right now, he could probably hit around .270/.350/.475. More realistically he’ll hit around .245/.330/.400. Still, with his plus defense, that would make him one of the best backup, backstops in the game already.

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  • INF/OF, Zach McKinstry, 25 yo

Zach McKinstry caught the eyes of just about every Dodger fan who watched the original 2020 spring training. The 1001st pick of the 2016 draft had humble beginnings, but found a new level to his game in 2018.

In 2019, he showed he could improve further with his career best slashlin e of .300/.366/.516. Most of that coming from his massive .382/.421/.753 line once he was promoted to the championship OKC Dodgers, alongside Gavin Lux.

Then came the spring training of 2020 that shot him up the prospect boards. He hit .414/.452/.862 in his 29 at bats. He had 3 homers, a triple, 2 doubles, and a single. He was looking like a shoe-in for the roster until Covid tore 2020 apart.

He came back for a small taste of the bigs as well with 7 at bats. He had a double and a single against 3 strikeouts.

Now he has the shot to be the left handed replacement for Kike Hernandez. Now they have a left handed bat to go along with Chris Taylor. He finds himself as the left handed platoon option, or day off specialist, just about for the entire team.

He could grab Joc’s time as the left-handed platoon player with Pollock. He could find himself as an option at 3rd base depending how the Dodgers play the rest of the offseason. He could even compete with Gavin Lux for the starting second base job. He could be the person that pushes Gavin into Left Field.

If any of those happen, be could be the surprise dark horse of the ROY race pretty easily. The NL West is currently loaded with right handed pitching.

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  • OF, DJ Peters, 25 yo

DJ Peters is a Dodger fanatic favorite. Few baseball players can match his 6’6″ frame and play the outfield. He’d be among the top 3 tallest outfielders, only behind Aaron Judge as far as we can tell right now.

His best tools? Strength based of course. He has a 60 grade on his power and arm. His arm in left field, next to Bellinger and Betts, could be the most feared outfield in baseball. It’s worth noting he’s used to playing right field because of his arm. But that’s also been part of the reason he’s been caught in the log jam of Dodger’s OF talent.

His grades on speed and fielding are average, and his hitting just below average. If we actually had to comp him to a player right now, we’d probably say Joey Gallo. MLB compares him to Jayson Werth.

He hit 20+ homers in his last 3 minor league seasons. He has officially shown he can do it at every level of the minors as he spent his most recent registered time in AAA Oklahoma. He slashed .260/.388/.490 in that second half of 2019, which was right in-line with his career milb stats of .269/.363/.501.

Now the Dodgers seem to be moving on from Joc Pederson, and Pollock in the latter half of his contract, Peters seems to be the hope for a near term starter in left. Right is Betts’ until he decides otherwise. But Peters has a chance to slug his way into the Dodgers starting lineup.

He’s the fourth outfielder on this current roster, behind an “unlucky with injuries” Pollock. Beyond that, we want to see what Peters can do at first. If he’s truly that athletic at 6’6″ and can handle low picks, his size at first could be an advantage. IF the DH does come back, he’s a clear candidate for that as well.

Peters could win ROY if he somehow gets enough ABs to hit 30+ homers. He’d probably be reminiscent of the Joc and Bellinger rookie campaigns.

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  • SP, Josiah Gray, 22 yo

This one feels like cheating, because of course it’s easy to say the top ranked prospect is a ROY candidate. But we placed him low on the list because we don’t think he has much of a chance.

Gray is still new to pitching (he was a shortstop) and may just be an ace in the making. He comes at batters with a plus fastball and slider combo, with average offerings in his curveball and changeup. He worked his way all the way up to AA in less than 40 starts with a 2.37 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.

He was one of the most impressive prospects at the alternate Dodger training site this last year. Most considered him the best pitcher there. The downside is there’s just no room for Gray to start enough games to be ROY.

Michael Fulmer was the last SP to do it in the AL in 2016 and it took him 26 starts. As for the NL, technically the last pitcher to win, was reliever Devin Williams last year in 2020. However, that was a special situation where no one pitched over 100 innings. Before him, the last pitcher, and specifically starter, was Jacob Degrom in 2014. He did it in 22 starts.

As of right now the Dodgers starting pitching depth chart goes as follows.

  • Walker Buheler
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • David Price?
  • Julio Urias
  • Dustin May
  • Tony Gonsolin
  • Mitch White
  • Victor Gonzalez
  • Josiah Gray

There’s a good 8 options to fill 5 spots ahead of Gray. 9 if you consider the Dodgers just may choose to have a bullpen day if it comes to it. Nevertheless, we’d be stunned if Gray doesn’t make his debut this upcoming year. We could see him starting before Gonsolin, White, and Gonzalez if they’re all in preferred in the pen.

But again, we don’t see him as the Dodgers most likely option at ROY. He’d have to blow them away in spring training to earn a rotation spot, David Price would almost certainly have to opt out, and other young pitchers would have to get injured long enough for Gray to start at least 20 times AND do exceptionally well.

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  • OF, Zach Reks, 27 yo

Finally we have Zach Reks. We had a hard time choosing between him and Luke Raley because they are essentially competing for the same roster spot. But we gave the edge to Reks. He’s a year older, and looks like he took a big leap before the minors got shut down in 2020.

Reks has always had an exceptional eye at the plate with high averages and OBP. He’s a career .300 hitter in the minors so far. (.383 OBP). But his power has been developing in each of his 3 years, officially exploding in 2019.

He upped his OPS from the high 7’s to a slash line of .291/.385/.536 for an OPS of .921 across the two highest levels of the minors. All thanks to his surge in power. He went from 5 homers in 2018, to 28 in 2019. 19 of them were for the championship OKC squad.

He was the other star of the 2020 spring training. He was right behind McKinstry with a .368/.556/.684 line in 19 ABs. He only hit 1 homer, but had 3 doubles. He also showed off his eye with 8 walks to 6 strikeouts.

At 27, he should be in the prime of his career, and has a chance to occupy the vacancy left by Joc Pederson in the outfield. If he can work his way into the Dodgers lineup against righty pitchers, he could pull together a ROY season.

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