Meet the 11 New Additions to the Dodgers' Player Pool
The Dodgers fleshed out their 60-man player pool last week, adding 11 more players to reach 58 in total (David Price, who is officially on the restricted list after choosing to sit out the season, and the three non-roster players placed, these moves would seem to confirm, on the COVID-19 related injury list—Zach Reks, Cody Thomas, and Edwin Uceta—don’t count toward the 60-man limit). The Dodgers will eventually open up an additional spot by moving Jimmy Nelson, who just had season-erasing lower back surgery, to the 45-day disabled list (this year’s abbreviated version of the 60-day), but they have not done so yet. The 11 new additions, all non-roster players, include the team’s top five picks in June’s amateur draft, a former All-Star attempting a comeback, a former member of the Phillies bullpen, a veteran minor leaguer, and a trio of youngsters that were already in the Dodgers’ system. Here is some more information on each:
Devin Mann, 2B/3B
Drafted out of the University of Louisville (see Bobby Miller below) in 2018’s 5th round, Mann split his time pretty evenly between second and third base last year in the High-A California League, a hitter-friendly league where Mann’s right-handed bat produced a handsome .286/.366/.501 line with 19 homers in 440 plate appearances at the age of 22. Prior to that season, the 6-foot-3 Mann worked with Craig Wallenbrock, the mentor of Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc, to add power, and Mann is one of many players on this list who seems likely to continue to benefit from the Dodgers’ progressive approach to developing hitters. Primarily a second baseman in college, Mann might be a better fit at third base given his strong arm, but he isn’t really a candidate for a major-league opportunity this season, and that flexibility could help him find a place on the team once he his.
Michael Busch, 2B
As I wrote in my look back at the Friedman-era Dodgers’ drafts in early June, Busch was selected 31st overall in 2019 with the compensation pick received after JT Ginn refused to sign the previous year.* Busch appeared in just 10 minor league games after signing last year, plus five more in the Arizona Fall League. It’s difficult to draw conclusions from so small a sample, but one thing is clear, his plate discipline is elite. In those 15 games, Busch drew 16 walks against nine strikeouts, which tracks with his college career, in which he drew 143 walks against 101 strikeouts in 184 games. A bat-first player, the 22-year-old Busch is a stocky, six-foot, left-handed hitter who spent most of his playing time in college at first base or in left field, but who the Dodgers think is athletic enough to handle second base (he was at second base for eight of his 10 regular season games last year, but just one of five games in the AFL). The obvious comparison here is Max Muncy, but Busch has yet to prove he can handle the keystone or professional pitching, both of which he’ll be working on while in camp and on the taxi squad.
*Ginn went to the Mets in the second round this year, 52nd overall, but signed for a well-over-slot $2.9 million, a good half-million more than the Dodgers offered him as the 30th pick in 2018.
Anthony Garcia, OF
The 28-year-old Garcia spent nine years in the Cardinals’ system after St. Louis drafted him out of a Puerto Rican high school in the 18th round way back in 2009. Originally a catcher, he became a full-time corner outfielder at 19, and, despite hitting .261/.349/.449 across 11 minor-league seasons, including stints in the A’s and Giants’ systems the last two years, he has yet to play a single game in the majors. That batting line is a good representation of what Garcia offers, as his career Triple-A line is a similar .253/.342/.443. A stocky, six-foot righty whose power has never fully flowered, his plate discipline is his best trait as a hitter. Garcia is purely a depth piece for an organization in no real need of outfield depth, but which recently put outfielders Zach Reks and Cody Thomas on the 10-day injured list (no reason was given, but most of the unspecified IL stints around the league this summer have been related to at least some concern of exposure to the novel coronavirus) and has been playing a clubhouse attendant in left field in intrasquad games.
Jake Vogel, CF
Vogel was the Dodgers’ third-round pick in this year’s amateur draft. Selected out of nearby Huntington Beach High School, he’s a right-hand-hitting outfielder who won’t turn 19 until mid-October and whose game can be deduced in part from his personal dimensions. He’s 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds and, yes, a speedy centerfielder. To keep him away from UCLA, the Dodgers gave him nearly three times the recommended slot bonus ($1,622,500 vs. the slot value of $581,600), which is more than they handed out to either of their second-rounders. Baseball Prospectus rated Vogel the 40th-best dynasty prospect to come out of the draft, well above his actual draft spot of 100th. The BP list is fantasy-focused, so it may just like him for his potential stolen base totals (Vogel’s speed is considered elite). Still, it seems there’s more here than just a speedy, slap-hitting centerfielder. Speaking to True Blue LA last month, Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino praised Vogel’s arm and play in center and suggests there’s some power in his bat. The scouting reports I’ve read disagree on that last point, but the Dodgers have an ability to maximize a hitter’s potential, so it will be interesting to see what they can get out of Vogel as he moves up the ladder.
Carson Taylor, C/1B
The Dodgers took Taylor out of Virginia Tech in the fourth round of this year’s draft a little more than a week after his 21st birthday. A solidly built, 6-foot-2 switch hitter, Taylor split his time between catcher and first base in college. Taylor was only at Virginia Tech for two years. He broke his hamate bone as a freshman, tried to play through it in the Cape Cod League last summer, then had his sophomore year cut short before entering the draft, so it’s very difficult to figure out exactly what L.A. has here. Still, the Dodgers appear to love Taylor’s bat (he hit .431 in 16 games before the NCAA shut down this spring), which fits with their overall focus on bat-first players.
Edubray Ramos, RHP
A scrawny Venezuelan righty, Ramos spent parts of the last four seasons in the Phillies bullpen. For the first three, he was a reliable contributor, posting a 120 ERA+ and averaging 51 appearances (but just 47 innings) per season. Last year, he was undone by shoulder problems which robbed him of two miles per hour off both his four-seamer and slider and limited him to 15 major league innings in which he allowed a whopping five home runs. Dropped from the Phillies’ 40-man in November, he elected free agency and signed a minor-league deal with L.A. in January. Still just 27, Ramos, who will also mix in an effective changeup, could be useful relief depth if his shoulder is back to full strength.
AJ Ramos, RHP
Ramos was once one of the better relief pitchers in the majors. From 2013-16 he posted a 147 ERA+ in 278 1/3 relief innings, striking out 319 men and allowing just 14 home runs over that span. In 2015, the Marlins made him their closer, and, in 2016, he represented them in the All-Star Game. Starting in 2017, his home run and walk rates started to climb. Dealt to the Mets at the 2017 deadline, he struggled down the stretch and early the next season, then tore the labrum in his pitching shoulder in May 2018 and hasn’t pitched since. Some of that absence was awful timing. Ramos was a free agent after the 2018 season, leaving him to rehab on his own. Failing to find a home for 2019, he ran right into 2020, and now he’s here, trying to restart his career a bit more than two months shy of his 34th birthday. It would certainly be a great story if he succeeded.
Brett de Geus, RHP
Drafted as a starter in the 33rd round in 2017, de Geus moved to the bullpen in 2019 to great effect, striking out 72 men against just 13 walks without allowing a home run in 61 2/3 innings split between the Midwest League and the hitter-friendly High-A Cal League. That performance, fueled by a fastball that can reach the upper 90s, a slider-like cutter and a curve, produced a 1.75 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 5.54 strikeout to walk ratio. Already 22, he could move quickly if he keeps putting up Geus eggs, giving him an outside shot at contributing to the major-league pen as early as this year.
Bobby Miller, RHP
The Dodgers drafted the 6-foot-5 Miller out of the University of Louisville with the 29th overall pick in June, making Miller the third Louisville product drafted in the first round by the Friedman administration in six years (2015’s 35th overall pick, Kyle Funkhouser, didn’t sign; 2016’s 32nd overall pick, Will Smith, is the Dodgers’ primary catcher). Those picks have come largely on the recommendation of area scout Marty Lamb, who noticed that Miller made significant adjustments to his delivery prior to the 2020 season. Miller added several miles per hour to his fastball with those adjustments and now throws in the mid- to upper-90s with a slider, changeup, and curveball. The Dodgers hope the 21-year-old has future in the major-league rotation.
Clayton Beeter, RHP
The second of the Dodgers’ two second-round picks this June, Beeter, the 66th overall pick, signed a significantly larger bonus ($1,196,500) than 60th overall pick Landon Knack ($715,000; see below). A 6-foot-2 righty out of Texas Tech, Beeter missed his freshman year due to Tommy John surgery, was a reliever in 2019, and made just four starts in 2020 before the season was shut down. Still, the Dodgers expect to develop him as a starter. Beeter’s calling card is a curveball that many called the best in the entire draft class, and which The Athletic’s Keith Law said might be “the single best pitch” of any kind in the draft, calling it “an absolute yellow hammer with spin, bite and depth, a pitch he can land for strikes and use to get swings and misses.” Beeter rounds out his repertoire with a mid-90s fastball, a slider, and a changeup.
Landon Knack, RHP
Knack converted to pitching as a junior at East Tennessee State, posted a 2.60 ERA and 5.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 15 starts, then entered the draft only to see all 40 rounds go by without his name being called. Absolute nails in his first four starts as a senior this year (25 IP, 12 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 51 K), he ran into a cancelled season and a severely attenuated, five-round draft but still landed with the Dodgers in the second round. That helps explain his relatively low bonus, but don’t let that bonus mute your enthusiasm for Knack’s future. Motivated by the 2019 draft, Knack hit the weight room and pushed his fastball into the mid- to upper-90s, tightened up his slider to help separate it from his curve, and will join Beeter and Miller in pursuit of a future rotation spot in L.A.
Cliff Corcoran covers baseball for The Athletic and is a former lead baseball writer for SI.com. The co-author or editor of 13 baseball books, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he has also written for USA Today, SB Nation, Baseball Prospectus, Sports on Earth, The Hardball Times, and Boston.com, among others. He has been a semi-regular guest analyst on the MLB Network and can be heard more regularly on The Infinite Inning podcast with Steven Goldman. Follow Cliff on Twitter @CliffCorcoran.