National League West Prospects to Watch
To conclude our “MLB Prospects to Watch 2020” Series, the focus will shift to the National League West. The National League West has been a division ruled by the Los Angeles Dodgers for a handful of seasons now. The Dodgers won the division title for the seventh consecutive season last year.
Once again heading into this coming season, the Dodgers look like the odds-on favorite to do that once again. Followed by the Dodgers are the Arizona Diamondbacks – a team that has mastered the beauty of rebuilding and staying competitive at the same time. Besides the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, there are the San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, and San Francisco Giants. All three of those teams have varying odds of competitiveness this coming season, but the Padres could be the most exciting team to watch.
San Diego boasts a very fruitful and intriguing farm system loaded with young, high-ceiling prospects. Meanwhile, the Rockies will look to try to contend for a postseason berth after a disappointing season last year. Finally, the Giants will look towards the future this year and hope that some of their youngsters come through.
Without ado, here is one prospect to watch for every National League West team this season.
As mentioned previously, the Arizona Diamondbacks are one of the more intriguing teams in the National League. The Diamondbacks have mastered the art of being able to stay competitive at the big league level, while rebuilding. Rebuilding from the standpoint of stockpiling prospects at all levels of the farm system.
Under the guidance of General Manager Mike Hazen, the Diamondbacks have had a very good offseason. The team was able to sign Madison Bumgarner to bolster the starting rotation. Additionally, the team brought in catcher Stephen Vogt and outfielders Kole Calhoun and Starling Marte. On top of that, the Diamondbacks bolstered their bullpen with the addition of right-handed pitcher Hector Rondon. Overall, it was a very positive offseason for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Seth Beer, First Baseman/Outfielder
The prospect to watch for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season is first baseman and outfielder Seth Beer. Beer currently ranks fourth on the team’s Top 30 Prospects list and was acquired from the Houston Astros in the Zack Greinke trade last July.
Many scouts rave about the strength and discipline that he shows at the plate during his at bats. In both of those categories, Beer scored a 55 on the scouting scale. When Beer was with the Astros, the organization helped him improve his ability to hit the ball to all fields. Those efforts seemed to pay off in a big way, and it will be fascinating to see Beer continue his development this year.
Some scouts are concerned that Beer doesn’t have the defensive skills to play either first base or the outfield. However, others believe he is best suited for first base, and that very well could be where he opens up the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Right now, the team has Christian Walker penciled in at first base, although if Beer has a strong spring and sways the team’s hand, anything is possible.
After what turned out to be a horrendous 2019 regular season, the Colorado Rockies are hoping that this year is a bounce back season. In fact, Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort is so confident that he proclaimed the team would “win 94 games” this coming season. It’s going to take quite a bounce-back year from nearly every single player for that to happen though.
While the Rockies do have some talent in spots — most notably with shortstop Trevor Story, third baseman Nolan Arenado, and starting pitchers Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray — they also have some weaknesses. The Rockies have yet to bear much fruit from players such as second baseman Ryan McMahon and outfielder David Dahl, but the 2020 regular season could be the year that finally happens for both players.
Colton Welker, First Baseman/Third Baseman
Colton Welker currently ranks on the Colorado Rockies Top 30 Prospects list in the three spot. Welker has the ability to play first or third base, but unless a trade of Arenado happens in the not-too-distant future, it looks like he could be the team’s next impactful first baseman. As it stands right now, Daniel Murphy is the team’s starting first baseman. However, Murphy is a free agent after this coming season, so Welker very well could get his shot come the second half of this season.
The biggest thing that scouts rave about Welker is his ability to make hard contact at the plate on various pitches. Scouts note that Welker has really started to show some pop in his swing and has improved his plate discipline as well. Last season, Welker recorded 32 walks over 98 games.
Although there is a lot to like offensively, Welker really shines with his arm. Scouts gave Welker a score of 60 in the arm category and believe it’s his best selling point. Furthermore, Welker’s hands play a key role in his overall game and the transfer skills when making critical plays is superb.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers know how to win and know how to do it year-in and year-out. The Dodgers have found the recipe to success and have done a very good job of building up impact at all levels of their farm system. If you look at the Dodgers roster right now, many of their impact players are homegrown names.
Additionally, the Dodgers have a very good 26-man roster, and one that easily gives them the advantage to represent the National League in this year’s World Series. With the addition of outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price, the Dodgers roster got even stronger. Both Betts and Price turn the Dodgers into a legitimate contender.
Kiebert Ruiz, Catcher
Although the Dodgers have two other highly talented prospects in middle infielder Gavin Lux and right-handed pitcher Dustin May, the one to watch is going to be catcher Kiebert Ruiz. Ruiz ranks third on the team’s Top 30 Prospects list currently. Ruiz originally signed with the organization in July of 2014.
What makes Ruiz so intriguing is his ability to hit from both sides of the plate. In fact, in 2018, Ruiz went almost 13 plate appearances between every strikeout that he recorded. Furthermore, scouts love his raw power and believe that it will ultimately lead him to have some sneaky-good home run instincts at the big league level. It would not be a surprise to see Ruiz hit 20-25 home runs eventually every season.
Additionally, Ruiz rates very well behind the plate with his defense. On the scouting scale, Ruiz received a grade of 55 in the fielding category and a 50 in the arm category. Scouts note that Ruiz does an excellent job of framing and blocking behind the plate as well. Projecting forward, it would not be a surprise to see Ruiz get called up to the big leagues around May or June of this coming season.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres are a team that is beaming with a treasure trove full of high-ceiling prospects. San Diego has done a tremendous job over the past few seasons of collecting that talent, and it is waiting to all culminate together at the big league level. For the Padres, the pressure to win is now, and the organization wants to be a contender as soon as this coming season.
Ultimately, although the Padres might be another year or two away from being a true contender, there is a lot to like, especially down on the farm. At the big league level, the lineup is very good when everyone is performing at the same time. The Padres have impact offensive players such as Eric Hosmer, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Tommy Pham. When adding the young pitching that the team possesses, it very well could equal a postseason-bound team in 2020.
Luis Patino, Right-handed Pitcher
Originally signed by the San Diego Padres during the 2016 International Draft, right-hander Luis Patino is one of a handful of exciting pitching prospects the team possesses. Patino has a very high ceiling overall and is still only 20 years old. That means that with more grooming and development, Patino’s craft could become even greater.
Last year between High-A and Double A, Patino posted a 2.57 ERA over 94 2/3 innings of work. In that span, Patino recorded an opponent batting average against of .198 and 123 strikeouts. One of the reasons why Patino was so successful was because of his above-average slider. On the scouting scale, Patino received a score of 60 on his slider. The only pitch with a higher score was his fastball at 65.
Scouts really like Patino and his ability to throw all four of his pitches throughout the strike zone. Another thing scouts like is Patino’s ability to keep consistent velocity, even late into games. That should fare well for Patino, who looks to have the makings of a future front-end starting pitcher, potentially as soon as this coming season.
San Francisco Giants
After a prolonged championship window and a decade-plus under the direction of manager Bruce Bochy, the time has come for the San Francisco Giants to turn the page to a new chapter, a new era of Giants baseball, and one with an eye focused on building back up a farm system that was depleted during that championship window.
At the big league level, the San Francisco Giants will likely have a tough season this year. Unless something unforeseen happens, it would not be a surprise to see the team finish in the cellar of the National League West. However, that doesn’t mean that brighter days aren’t ahead and that the team isn’t looking to enter a four- or five-year rebuild starting now.
Logan Webb, Right-handed Pitcher
Most of the San Francisco Giants top prospects on their Top 30 Prospects list are still another year or two away from the big league level. As a result, the prospect to watch this season in the Giants organization is right-hander Logan Webb. Webb was originally drafted by the Giants during the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft.
Furthermore, Webb features three different pitches in his pitch repertoire with his fastball and slider receiving excellent marks. Webb has the ability to throw a very good power breaking ball that is deceptive to hitters. According to scouts, it has usual slider-like velocity but has some late curve on it that really deceives hitters. Overall, Webb received a grade of 60 on the scouting scale for his fastball and slider.
Looking ahead to the future, the verdict is still out about whether or not Webb will be a starting pitcher or reliever. Some scouts believe that his highest ceiling will be as a late-inning reliever. However, others believe that he has the stuff and athleticism to be a typical number three starting pitcher.
In the end, the National League West is likely to be ruled by the Los Angeles Dodgers once again. The Dodgers have their eyes set on making the postseason and ending their World Series drought. Meanwhile, both the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres will look to make the postseason while the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants will be in a likely battle for the fourth and fifth spot in the division. Regardless, while some teams will be more exciting than others to watch at the major league level, there is plenty to be excited about in regards to each team’s farm system.
Embed from Getty Images