Dodgers minor league camp: Diego Cartaya, Bobby Miller, other top prospects shine

Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Diego Cartaya, of Venezuela, waits for batting practice before a baseball game
Dodgers catcher Diego Cartaya, shown in 2018, is continuing to develop this spring, both at the plate and behind it.
(Michael Owen Baker / Associated Press)

Will Rhymes doesn’t stay in any one place too long.

Instead, the Dodgers director of player development moves about the club’s Camelback Ranch complex each afternoon, from bullpen sessions in the 10-mound throwing area, to defensive drills on a stand-alone infield, to hitting exercises in the open-air batting cage, and of course live game action on three fields adjacent to one another.

Coming into this year’s minor league camp, he knew there’d be talent. Even amid their major league success, the Dodgers’ farm system has hardly suffered, considered by most publications to still be one of the best in the sport.

But after a couple weeks, even Rhymes has been impressed by what he is watching on a daily basis — reinforcing his conviction in the promise of the club’s future.


“The level of play is extremely high on both sides of the ball,” he said Sunday. “It’s almost surprising, at this point of the year, where so many of the guys are at. It’s really high quality.”

This past week, reporters have been allowed to observe camp. Here are five observations about the team’s young talent:

Cartaya developing at, and behind, the plate

In between rounds of live batting practice on Saturday, Diego Cartaya was soaking up information.

For several minutes, the 20-year-old catcher chatted with Andy Burns, an eight-year minor-league veteran with MLB experience, for several minutes about his approach at the plate. Then, Cartaya conversed with a Dodgers staffer before stepping back into the box.

It was a snapshot of the way Cartaya is continuing to develop this spring, another small moment for the Dodgers’ top-ranked prospect to absorb some wisdom ahead of what could be a pivotal season in his development.

While the lockout has major league players away from spring-training activities, minor leagues have begun to prepare for the season.

March 3, 2022

“I try and learn and see what their thought process is,” Cartaya said. “See if it works for me.”


Cartaya has put his raw talent on display, too. In his next at-bat in the live BP, he smashed a towering home run against seven-year big-leaguer Robbie Erlin. “Wow,” one Dodgers coach said as the ball sailed out to left field, where a parking lot beckoned just beyond the wall. “That’s off a car!”

In an intrasquad scrimmage the next day, Cartaya smoked a 107 mph line drive the other way that skipped past the right fielder and went all the way to the wall.

“You don’t often see a right fielder get burned that quickly on a ball,” Rhymes said. “He has continued to impress.”

In addition to his swing, Cartaya said he is also focusing right now on his game-calling and defensive duties behind the plate, making it a point of emphasis this season after being limited to 31 games in 2021 because of back and hamstring injuries.

“It’s really exciting when someone naturally has that ability on both sides of the ball,” Rhymes added. “We’ll see over the next few years whether he’s able to continue that progress, but as of now he’s on a great track.”

Pepiot, Miller flash on the mound

It didn’t matter to a couple of the Dodgers’ top pitching prospects that, during an exhibition against a barnstorming independent team this week, the competition was nowhere near what they’ll see in the minors this season.


Highly touted prospects Ryan Pepiot and Bobby Miller threw their best stuff anyway.

Dodgers pitching prospects Ryan Pepiot, left, and Bobby Miller in 2021
(Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos via AP)

Miller, the club’s No. 4 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, averaged 100 mph with his fastball during his outing. It was the latest camp highlight for the 2020 first-round pick, who Rhymes said has been one of the most improved players at camp so far.

“He seems to be [setting personal records] with his velo every time he goes out there,” Rhymes said.

Pepiot, the team’s No. 2 prospect, was also impressive, striking out five batters as he continued to sharpen an arsenal that includes a trademark changeup and a developing slider — one Pepiot now throws with the same grip as Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen.

“Picked it up in the offseason,” Pepiot said. “It’s come a long way.”

Busch focused on defense

Second baseman Michael Busch is only two years removed from being a first-round draft pick, but the Dodgers’ No. 3 ranked prospect already talks with the single-minded focus of a big-leaguer.

In the same game against the independent team, the 2019 first-round pick blasted a long home run to right. Asked a day later about the blast, he softly smiled and deflected.


“They all count the same,” he said.

Instead, it was his defensive improvements that Busch was as eager to discuss as anything else. After playing primarily at first base throughout his college career, he transitioned to second during his first full minor league season last year, building foundations at the position he’s aiming to build upon this year.

“He’s always been a great hitter,” Rhymes said of Busch, who batted .267 with 20 home runs in double-A last year. “Defensively, he just looks more and more comfortable. You would think he’s played second base his whole life.”

Cuban sluggers shining

The style of their games are different, but Andy Pages and Miguel Vargas have followed similar development paths in their pro careers.

Both of the Cuban prospects were signed by the Dodgers in 2017. Both came back from the canceled 2020 season with strong performances last year. And they find themselves side by side in the Dodgers’ prospect rankings, with Pages ranked fifth and Vargas sixth.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has found one silver lining to the lockout: having time to watch his son Cole play his junior season at Loyola Marymount.

March 4, 2022

Pages is the more natural slugger, a 6-foot-1, 212-pound outfielder who belted 31 home runs in Class High A last season, and who has sprayed the ball around the park during camp games this week.

“Usually when guys are that big, there’s length and slower movements,” Rhymes said. “But he has exceptional control of his body and his hands.”


Vargas, a third baseman who can also play at first and second, developed more pop last year, pulling the ball with power more frequently during a 21 home run campaign that earned him the club’s minor league player of the year honors.

“It was an organic progression of a young hitter who could use the opposite field effectively, control trajectories that way,” Rhymes said. “He looks really good. He’s got a chance to be a pretty special player.”

Developing more pitching depth

One of the Dodgers’ organizational strengths in recent years has been their depth of pitching talent. This spring, that effort has continued.

Right-handers Landon Knack, Clayton Beeter and Hyun-il Choi are all attempting to build off strong 2021 campaigns. Knack and Beeter are both top-10 ranked prospects in the farm system, while Choi is the Dodgers’ reigning minor league pitcher of the year.

Maddux Bruns is in camp for the first time after being taken in the first round of last year’s draft. While the left-hander can get his fastball into the upper-90s, he said his current focus is on developing more consistent control.

There are also a couple new pitchers with past MLB experience in Jon Duplantier and Carson Fulmer, who were both snagged by the Dodgers in December’s minor league Rule 5 draft.


Duplantier, 27, is a former third-round pick who has pitched in parts of two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Fulmer, 28, was a college teammate of Walker Buehler’s at Vanderbilt and was drafted eighth overall by the Chicago White Sox in 2015. He has struggled in six major-league seasons, posting a 6.41 career ERA, but struck an optimistic tone while speaking with reporters this week.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” he said. “I’ve heard so many good things about this organization. I’m just happy to be here now.”