Welcome to the fourteenth installment of my series, 2021 Diamonds in the Rough. With the 2021 minor league season now underway, we finally get a chance to watch our diamonds shine in real-time.
In this article, I will break down four prospects–two hitting and two pitching–from the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system.
Last time out, I took a look at some of the Los Angeles Angels prospects.
In deep dynasty leagues, the ability to spot high-upside lower-ranked prospects before they become household names in the fantasy baseball community can make a big difference to the long-term success of your team.
To qualify as a diamond in the rough for this series, a player must be currently ranked lower than No. 15 on their team’s latest MLB Pipeline Prospect Rankings.
Check out our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings to help you dominate your leagues.
2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Diamonds in the Rough
Alex De Jesus, SS/3B (#16)
Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 Hit | 50 Power | 40 Run | 45 Field | 60 Arm
Highest Level: Rookie
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) August 28, 2019
The Dodgers signed Alex De Jesus out of the Dominican Republic during the 2018 international signing period.
During his 2019 professional debut, De Jesus needed only 13 games in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) before his promotion to the Rookie-level Arizona League (AZL). In his brief DSL stint, De Jesus hit .296/.381/.444 with one homer, eight runs, nine RBIs over 63 plate appearances.
After his promotion, De Jesus was the second-youngest player in the AZL (behind Oakland Athletics OF Brayan Buelvas, a personal favorite), at just 17 years old and over two and a half years younger than his average competition. In 44 games in the AZL, De Jesus proved that he belonged with the big boys. Over 178 plate appearances, De Jesus hit .276 with two homers, 13 runs, 25 RBI, and five steals.
Albeit in small sample size, De Jesus has displayed the ability to hit for both average and power. He possesses a simple, compact swing and above-average bat speed. Further, at the ripe age of 19, De Jesus has already shown signs of added strength and an above-average pull percentage, both of which bode well for his future power potential.
However, De Jesus has also displayed some swing-and-miss issues. This is due in equal parts to his aggressive approach at the plate and his early issues with pitch recognition. During his 44 games in the AZL, De Jesus posted a microscopic 6.7 percent walk percentage and an inflated 32.6 percent strikeout percentage. He also saw his wOBA drop from an excellent .398 to a just above average .320 and his wRC+ drop from an above-average 129 to a below-average 93.
It is important to keep in mind how much younger De Jesus was than his average competition. Sure, he is young and inexperienced. But that only makes the ceiling more intriguing. According to MLB Pipeline, “while [De Jesus] has a chance to stick at short or handle second base, most scouts outside the organization think he’ll end up at the hot corner.”
With only 57 professional games played, this is very much a “buy before he plays more and everyone realizes how good he is” type of situation. De Jesus has all the makings of a power-hitting third baseman and is primed to breakout in 2021.
Devin Mann, 2B/3B (#23)
Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 Hit | 50 Power | 45 Run | 45 Field | 50 Arm
Highest Level: High-A
49.781 2B/3B Devin Mann
Though a bit old for High-A, Mann had a power surge from 2018 to 2019: (1) AVG: .240➡️.286; (2) OBP: .348➡️.366; (3) SLG: .332➡️.501‼️; (4) HR: 2➡️19‼️; (5) R: 26➡️65; & (6) RBI: 30➡️64.
— Matt (@mattydubbz13) May 2, 2020
The Dodgers drafted Devin Mann out of the University of Louisville in the 5th round (164 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft.
Per MLB Pipeline, “[w]hen Mann played at Louisville, scouts regarded him as a fine college player but didn’t see a standout tool or think he fit the profile at second base. The Dodgers selected him in 2018’s fifth round because they thought they could unlock some improvements.”
Though Mann slashed a solid .288/.408/.458 over three years and 699 plate appearances at Louisville, he hit only 15 homers combined. Further, during his 2018 professional debut, Mann hit only two homers in 229 plate appearances. In addition, Mann hit a pedestrian .241/.348/.335 and posted a below-average .683 OPS, with his SLG coming in at 13 percentage points under his OBP. Not great, Bob!
However, with a new year came a new Mann. The Dodgers got Mann to use his legs more and add some loft to his swing. According to the Mann himself, “we made a lot of changes with my lower half and bath path, just making sure I was tapped into all the power that I have and making sure I’m staying through the zone better. It’s paid off so far.”
In 2019, Mann blasted 19 homers in just 440 plate appearances and was selected as a High-A California League All-Star. To put that power surge in perspective, Mann hit more homers in 2019 than he had in more than double the at-bats combined in college and his first professional season.
To go with his impressive homer total, Mann also hit a very respectable .286/.366/.501 with 65 runs and 64 RBI. Unlike in 2018, in 2019, Mann’s SLG was well above his OBP. Further, Mann posted a well above average .867 OPS. Mann also benefits from being a former contact-first hitter who has tapped into some raw power. To that extent, Mann has drawn praise from scouts for his patient approach and poise when he is behind in the count. This is evidenced by Mann’s above-average walk percentages and manageable strikeout percentages.
In addition to his improved power, Mann has also made great strides in the field. Though Mann has primarily worked at second base, the Dodgers have also begun giving some time at third base to increase his versatility. According to Mann’s California League manager Mark Kertenian, “[w]e’ve seen some really incredible plays out of [Mann] at both spots. Fearless going for it, but having his legs underneath him. I think he’s gotten the ball in and out of the glove with some velocity on the throws very, very well. That’s been a significant improvement.”
In case you missed it last May (see the tweet above), I am hereby issuing another New Mann Alert. Though Mann has not played a game above High-A, he is already 24 years old and has shown tremendous improvement both with the bat and in the field. If Mann can sustain his power surge and continue to develop his defensive versatility, I could see him rising quickly through the Dodgers system and making a name for himself at the highest level.
Jimmy Lewis, RHP (#28)
Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 55 FB | 55 CB | 50 CH | 50 CNTRL
Highest Level: High School
— Prep Baseball Report (@prepbaseball) June 4, 2019
The Dodgers drafted Jimmy Lewis out of Lake Travis High School (Austin, TX) as a compensation pick in the 2nd round (78 overall) of the 2019 MLB draft. Lewis was a high school teammate of the Mets’ Brett Baty. He is also the son of former Triple-A pitcher Jim Lewis, who was also drafted in the 2nd round of the MLB draft, by the Houston Astros in 1991.
Lewis had a monster senior year at Lake Travis. He pitched 53.1 innings, giving up only four earned runs and racking up 83 strikeouts and only 15 walks. Though Lewis missed his senior year state playoffs with what was initially believed to be a lat strain, Dodgers medical staff later diagnosed him with a partially torn labrum in his shoulder during a post-Draft physical. Despite this diagnosis, the Dodgers still signed Lewis for an above-slot $1,097,500 to pry him away from his commitment to pitch at Louisiana State University.
Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at just over 200 pounds, Lewis is a towering right-hander with significant projection remaining in his frame. Despite his size, Lewis has a relatively simple and repeatable delivery, which is rare for a pitcher of his stature. According to Baseball America, Lewis has a “polished delivery and clean arm action that portends a future starter [and] he repeats his delivery and has an advanced feel to pitch for his age.”
Lewis’ arsenal is headlined by a sinking fastball that sits 92-94 mph and can get up to 96-97 mph. At just 20 years old with no shortage of athleticism, Lewis will likely see his fastball continue to tick up as he grows into his projectable frame.
In addition, Lewis possesses an interesting curveball that has shown above average potential. Though his curveball has below average spin and vertical drop or horizontal break, the pitch plays up due to Lewis’ ability to throw it for strikes to both sides of the plate. Further, Lewis has a developing changeup with good velocity separation from his fastball.
The Dodgers system has a way of making the most out of their pitching prospects. I think that they have an absolute superstar in the making with Lewis. Yes, I said superstar. Lewis has a lively fastball that is still picking up steam. Further, both of his secondary offerings are augmented by his consistent delivery and release point.
Lewis has yet to pitch a professional game. However, he threw 14 innings at 2020 instructs and drew rave reviews from both Dodgers and rival brass. When a team signs an injured player for an above average slot, you know the team is high on them. If Lewis can stay on the field, I think he has one of the higher ceilings in a system chalk full of high ceiling arms and has a real chance of blossoming into a top 100 prospect. Lewis is one of the arms I am most excited to see debut in 2021.
Kendall Williams, RHP (#25)
Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 55 FB | 55 CB | 50 SL | 50 CH | 50 CNTRL
Highest Level: Rookie
For the late night Dodger fans out there here is newly acquired RHP Kendall Williams making a GCL hitter look silly. The strikeout is followed by a closer look at his mechanics. #Dodgers pic.twitter.com/gXl57V5LHU
— Tyler J. Spicer (@tylerjspicer) September 2, 2020
The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Kendall Williams out of the IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL) in the 2nd round (52 overall) of the 2019 MLB draft. At the IMG Academy, Williams served as the number two starter behind now Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Brennan Malone. The Dodgers acquired Williams in August 2020 as part of a package in exchange for sending Ross Stripling to Toronto.
Like Lewis, Williams is another very projectable right-hander standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at just over 200 pounds. Williams had an excellent professional debut with the Blue Jays Rookie affiliate in 2018. In six games (five starts), Williams compiled a sterling 1.13 ERA and 0.813 WHIP, with 19 strikeouts over 16 innings. Further, Williams held hitters to a paltry .109 AVG and struck out over 30 percent of hitters he faced. Small sample size, yes, but impressive nonetheless.
Williams also struggled with control at times, posting an awful 11.1 percent walk percentage. However, evaluators are generally impressed with Williams’ balance and polished delivery and project him to have at least average control.
At just 20 years old, Williams possesses an impressive four-pitch mix, headlined by a fastball that sits 92-94 mph and touches 96 mph. But the beautiful thing about Williams is his feel for his secondaries and knack for effectively tunneling his offerings. According to Baseball America, Williams’ curveball, slider and changeup “could all be average or better.” Currently, each of the pitches grade as 50 or better and are only getting better.
Williams has a nasty 12/6 overhand curveball and a late-fading changeup that both tunnel very effectively with his fastball. Each of Williams’ curveball and changeup have flashed 55 grade potential. That would give Williams three pitches graded at least 55 or better. You do the math. Lastly, Williams’ slider is the newest addition to his arsenal. The pitch features good late bite and has experienced an uptick in velocity as Williams has continued its development. Another pitch, another potential average or better offering in Williams’ bag of tricks.
According to Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, Williams “had a Mike Clevinger look in the bullpen last spring.” Maybe it’s the hair, but I like the comparison, though Williams is a bit taller and tends to favor his curveball over his slider.
With all that being said, Williams carries oodles of upside due to his size, remaining projection, and advanced four-pitch mix. Coming into 2021 with only 16 professional innings pitched and impressing at instructs, Williams looks to be a serious breakout candidate and a worthy investment in deeper dynasty fantasy baseball leagues.
To uncover more high-upside lower-ranked prospects, you can access all of the articles for other teams in my 2021 Diamonds in the Rough series here.
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