Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I'm ready for spring training to begin.
Top 10 prospects
With spring training drawing near, let's take a look at the Dodgers' top 10 prospects heading into the 2018 season.
1. Walker Buehler, 23, RHP. We all know Buehler because he pitched for the Dodgers at the end of last season. There was some talk of him becoming a big surprise and boost for the bullpen in the playoffs, like Francisco Rodriguez was for the Angels in 2002, but Buehler wasn't quite ready. He dominated at Rancho Cucamonga, striking out 27 in 16.1 innings with a 1.10 ERA. He struck out 64 in 49 innings at double-A Tulsa and 34 in 23.1 innings at triple-A Oklahoma City. The Dodgers envision him as a starter, and he should get some starts this season. He will probably be on an innings limit, though, which the Dodgers do for pretty much all their young pitchers, though there is no evidence it does any good.
2. Alex Verdugo, 21, OF. He will be battling for the starting job in left field during spring training. He hit .314/.389/.436 at triple-A last season, impressive considering he was five years younger than the average triple-A player. He has a great eye at the plate, walking more than he struck out in the minors and is a good fielder. The big question is if he will hit for power. But keep in mind, he's only 21 and the Dodgers refused to give him up in any trade, so they are very, very high on him.
3. Yadier Alvarez, 21, RHP. Alvarez took a slight step back last season, losing track of the strike zone with 50 walks in 92.1 minor-league innings. He still has a good fastball and a wicked slider. He'll start the season in the minors, but keep an eye on his walk numbers. If he starts to turn that around, you'll know he's on the right track.
4. Keibert Ruiz, 19, C. Ruiz hit .316/.361/.452 in the minors last season. And he's only 19. He also gets praise for his defense and his arm. If he keeps it up, Austin Barnes' tenure as Dodger starting catcher may end in a couple of seasons.
5. Mitchell White, 22, RHP. White had a 2.93 ERA, 88 strikeouts and a 1.032 WHIP in 73.2 innings spread among three minor league teams last season. Has a fastball that reaches 98 mph. Everyone raves about his cutter, though. He projects as a starting pitcher, but don't look for him in the rotation until 2019.
6. Yusniel Diaz, 21, OF. Hit .278 for Rancho Cucamonga, then was promoted to double-A Tulsa, where he hit .333/.390/.491. Has very raw skills right now, sort of like a younger Yasiel Puig with less power and poorer defense.
7. Jeren Kendall, 21, OF. Kendall is fast and plays center field well. The thing holding him back is his bat. He struck out 45 times in 162 at-bats last year. He was a first-round draft pick in 2017, which is the main reason he's on this list. But if the Dodgers need an OK fielder who strikes out a lot, they already have Joc Pederson. If Kendall shows no signs of improvement at the plate this season, this will be his last appearance on this list.
8. Will Smith, 22, C. An excellent defensive catcher, Smith threw out 42% of attempted base stealers last season. He hit .232/.355/.448 at Rancho Cucamonga. He's fast and athletic and if his bat develops further, he could be in the majors for a long time. With Ruiz ahead of him on the prospect list, Smith could become excellent trade bait.
9. Starling Heredia, 18, OF. Hit .325/.397/.555 for three teams in the low minors last season. Too soon to tell just how good he will be, but his youth plus strong offensive numbers earn him a spot on this list.
10. D.J. Peters, 22, OF. He probably should really be around 14th on this list, but I saw him play a few times at Rancho Cucamonga last season, and he is impressive to watch. He's 6-feet-6 and hit 27 homers last season, finishing with .276/372/.514 slash numbers. Of course, he did strike out 189 times, so not everything is peaches and cream.
Speaking of Rancho Cucamonga
If you live in the Los Angeles area and haven't been to a Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game, you are missing out. I take my family a few times each season and always have a great time. Plus, I got to see a lot of the players on the above list. You can see a game for under $10 and there's plenty for kids to do. I highly recommend it. Go here for more info.
The greatest of all time
I asked you to send me your list of the 10 greatest Dodgers of all time. Anyone who had a Dodgers connection, Los Angeles or Brooklyn, was eligible, including managers, announcers and front-office people.
Well, I have received more than 4,000 ballots. Some interesting trends so far:
—No one has been named on every ballot. (Yes, one person did not have Sandy Koufax in the top 10 and three people did not name Jackie Robinson).
—Fifteen different people have received first-place votes.
—The top three are far, far ahead of everyone else.
—There is a serious battle for Nos. 15-20 on the overall list, so make sure your choice doesn't miss out. There is still time for you to vote. Voting closes at midnight, Jan. 31. Email me your list of Dodgers you consider to be the 10 greatest. Please list them in order from 1 to 10. Points will be assigned based on their place in the ballot, with 12 points going to your No. 1 choice, 10 points for No. 2, eight points for No. 3, seven points for No. 4, all the way down to one point for No. 10.
Soon after balloting ends, I will count down the top 20 vote getters, starting with No. 20 and revealing one each newsletter until we reach No. 1.
Giants get Andrew McCutchen
Don't look now, but the San Francisco Giants are trying to insert themselves back into the NL West title race after falling apart last season. Not only have they acquired Evan Longoria to play third base, this week they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We'll talk more about this as we get closer to the season and run through the NL West rankings at each position. But don't count the Giants out (unfortunately).
Shameless Plug Dept.
Some of you came out for my discussion with Ned Colletti a few weeks ago at the South Pasadena Library Community Room. Well, another discussion is taking place later this month (Jan. 29) with Dodgers announcer Joe Davis.
Joe and I will talk about Vin Scully, Orel Hershiser and just about anything Dodgers related we can think of, and we will be taking question from the audience.
The 2018 Dodgers Fan Fest will take place Saturday, Jan. 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Dodger Stadium. For more info, click here.