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Busch, Pages take center stage in Dodgers system

Top 100 prospects leading next generation toward Los Angeles
No. 75 overall prospect Michael Busch reached Double-A -- and the 20-homer mark -- in his first full-season campaign. (Joshua Tjiong/
November 22, 2021

Each offseason, goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

Each offseason, goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

If there was ever a team that defined the pomp and circumstance of the city it calls home, it's the Dodgers. Owners of the largest payroll in baseball and a farm system that continues to funnel talent into the Majors, Los Angeles figures to continue its reputation as one of the preeminent organizations in the sport.

Coming off its first World Series crown since 1988, the Dodgers saw their streak of eight consecutive National League West Division titles end, albeit by a single game. But the club still mauled its way to 106 victories and a fourth NLCS appearance in five years with contributions from youth and veterans alike. The club's Opening Day roster featured 14 homegrown players while several big names -- Mookie Betts prior to 2020 and 2021 mid-season acquisitions Max Scherzer and Trea Turner -- were brought aboard with the help of a robust system.

Such trades have washed away some of the luster of what has been one of the top-producing farm systems for the last decade, but it is still one that a majority of the 29 other teams would enjoy owning.

The Dodgers have five players on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospect list: No. 28 Diego Cartaya, No. 61 Ryan Pepiot, No. 75 Michael Busch, No. 78 Bobby Miller and No. 100 Andy Pages. Although none of their five domestic teams claimed a championship in 2021, they all finished with winning records and combined for a .533 winning percentage, tied for the seventh-best mark in baseball.

Dodgers Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Keibert Ruiz, Triple-A Oklahoma City (52 games), Los Angeles (six games): Cartaya's inclusion here would not only be fair but also appropriate, considering he spent the entire year with the organization. However, the club's former top prospect deserves top billing. Before being traded to the Nationals in the deal for Scherzer and Turner, Ruiz was one of the most dangerous hitters in the Minors. The Venezuela-born backstop was batting .311 with a 1.012 OPS, 34 extra-base hits and 16 home runs in 206 at-bats. Buoyed by his 45 RBIs and 39 runs scored, Ruiz posted a phenomenal 143 wRC+ while keeping his strikeout rate at a solid 11.7 percent.

First baseman -- Matt Davidson, Oklahoma City (83 games): One thing Davidson has been able to do since breaking in as a professional in 2009 is hit. The 30-year-old entered 2021 with 166 home runs as a Minor Leaguer, including a career-high 33 in 2019. He added 28 more to that total in his first year with the Dodgers while driving in 81 runs 313 at-bats. The 35th overall pick in the 2009 Draft batted .294/.365/.629 overall, elected free agency following the season and signed with the D-backs on Nov. 19.

Honorable mention: If not for Davidson, Justin Yurchak would have been the easy choice at first base. The 24-year-old posted the second-best average (.365) and on-base percentage (.443) in the Minors in 2021. Yurchak's lack of power -- he homered seven times in 340 at-bats -- is not ideal for a corner infielder, but he did collect 26 extra-base hits and drove in 58 runs in 92 games across two levels.

Second baseman -- Michael Busch, Double-A Tulsa (107 games): For all intents and purposes, 2021 was Busch's first season as a professional. The No. 3 Dodgers prospect played in just 10 games in 2019 after his first-round selection out of the University of North Carolina. But he showed this season why Los Angeles was so high on him entering that Draft.

The 24-year-old posted a .870 OPS and a 134 wRC+ with 20 homers, 84 runs scored and 67 RBIs in 407 at-bats. A poor June (.173/.326/.200) and swing-and-miss tendencies (26.1 percent K rate) put a dent in his overall numbers, but he showed strong plate discipline (70 walks) and thrilled Dodgers director of player development William Rhymes.

"From the time we started scouting him, we considered Michael to be a really special player," Rhymes said. "He's got the foundation you want in a hitter -- plate discipline, a good walk rate and a beautiful and classic left-handed swing. To make the adjustments he did and put up those numbers in his first full year, in Double-A no less, was impressive. It was an incredible year for him."

Third baseman -- Miguel Vargas, Tulsa (83 games), High-A Great Lakes (37 games): Owner of perhaps the best all-around season in the Dodgers system, Vargas broke through in the power department right on schedule. Los Angeles' sixth-ranked prospect maintained his .300 average but increased his home run output from seven in 2019 to 23 this year. Coupled with 27 doubles and two triples, Vargas slugged .523 en route to a .906 OPS in 483 at-bats.

The 22-year-old finished third in the Minors with 154 hits and his 98 runs were tied for third. Vargas has a speed element at play too, swiping 11 bags in 12 attempts after stealing 20 over his first two seasons.

"Miguel is a great guy and an incredible teammate to boot," Rhymes said. "He's universally well liked and to see him have this type of success is great. He's always had great bat-to-ball ability and has been able to go the other way with authority. This year, he started to open things up a bit, going to center field and to his pull side (left field) to leverage that strength."

Shortstop -- Alex De Jesus, Low-A Rancho Cucamonga (97 games): Competing domestically and in his first full season at 19 years old didn't bother De Jesus. The No. 21 Dodgers prospect was a stabilizing force up the middle for the Quakes and showed not only potential with the bat, but plus power.

"Alex worked extremely hard during the pandemic but his age and the lack of at-bats made the start of [2021] tough on him," Rhymes said. "He went to work on a few things and incorporated those changes into his game ... and the results showed as the year went on. He doesn't chase, he's got electric hand speed and the ball jumps off his bat. He still has a lot of potential to tap into."

While De Jesus' .268 average was buoyed by a .386 BABIP, he walked a solid 16.4 percent of the time, earning 69 free passes in 422 plate appearances. The Dominican Republic native went deep 12 times and collected 38 extra-base hits among his 94 knocks, good for a .834 OPS. De Jesus drove in 73 runs and scored 67 more, pushing his wRC+ to an impressive 123.


Andy Pages, Great Lakes (120 games): With 20 home runs in his first 401 career at-bats, Pages already boasted plus power as part of his arsenal. The No. 5 Dodgers prospect turned up the dial even more in 2021, connecting on 31 long balls and 57 extra-base hits across 438 at-bats. The 20-year-old scored 96 runs, drove in 88 and posted a .933 OPS on the strength of his slugging prowess and 77 walks, good for a 14.3 percent walk rate. His ability to produce runs amounted to an impressive 152 wRC+.

Pages went deep at least five times each month, punctuated by an 11-tater June, and put the finishing touches on his season by batting .322/.459/.610 in September. He was rewarded with the High-A Central Most Valuable Player Award for his efforts.

"We're extremely high on Andy, for obvious reasons," Rhymes said. "He's probably got the best baseball IQ in our system and just continues to get better. It was an aggressive promotion to assign him to High-A after playing in short-season in 2019. We really didn't know how he would respond, but his walk rate went up, his K rate went down and his power remained at the top of the charts. He answered a lot of questions we had this year."

Ryan Ward, Great Lakes (107 games): Los Angeles knew it had talent with Ward, but the jump he made from 2019 was immense. The Dodgers' 2019 eighth-round pick went from four homers in his pro debut to 27 this year, fifth-most in the organization. Ward added a .278/.352/.524 slash line, scored 91 runs and plated 84 to form a lethal 1-2 punch with Pages.

The 23-year-old's 23.8 percent K rate was respectable considering it was his first full season, and his 135 wRC+ more than made up for his swings and misses. Ward was named High-A Central Player of the Month for August, when he hit .323 with 10 homers, 25 RBIs and a 1.107 slugging 24 games.

Luke Raley -- Oklahoma City (72 games), Los Angeles (33 games): In the midst of a career year with OKC, Raley got his first taste of The Show in 2021. Despite playing in only 72 Triple-A games, the 27-year-old batted .294/.393/.570 with a 137 wRC+, 19 homers and a career-high-tying 69 RBIs. The Ohio native fell one home run shy of matching his personal best established in 2018 despite stepping to the plate 233 fewer times.

Raley struggled in his first go-around at the big league level, albeit in limited action. In 72 plate appearances spanning 33 games, he batted .182 while striking out nearly 35 percent of the time.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Clayton Beeter, Great Lakes (23 appearances, 22 starts), Tulsa (five starts): Beeter's professional debut was delayed a year due to the pandemic, but he made up quickly for lost time. The No. 9 Dodgers prospect averaged well over a strikeout per inning, whiffing 78 in 52 1/3 frames while walking 22.

Although he was winless in six decisions, the 23-year-old with the mid-90s fastball was tough on opposing batters. The Texas native limited them to a .205 average while running a K rate of nearly 37 percent. Beeter compiled a 3.44 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while averaging 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

"Clayton just blew us away with his performance," Rhymes said. "We were careful with his usage early on, but he ended up getting a nice amount of innings in. He's got a special fastball with late life and deception, an above-average curveball and a developing change he was toying with in instructs. He's a real horse and a fast mover like we thought he'd be."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Alec Gamboa, Great Lakes (22 games, 11 starts): Gamboa enjoyed a solid first full-season campaign and pitched far better as a starter. The 24-year-old posted a 4.21 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP overall, but his numbers when taking the mound at the start of a game were far more impressive.

Gamboa limited opponents to a .253 average and carried a 2.75 ERA across 39 1/3 innings in that role. Although his strikeout rate dipped compared to his time in the bullpen, he still ran a 33-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Relief pitcher -- Darien Núñez, Oklahoma City (31 appearances, one start), Tulsa (one appearance): Núñez made his well-deserved Major League debut in 2021 at 28 years old. The native of Cuba posted career highs across the board, including a 2.38 ERA which shows just how effective he's been in his three-year Minor League tenure. Núñez limited opponents to a .174 average and ran a 83-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings, good for 13.9 K's per nine and a K rate better than 40 percent.

In six appearances with Los Angeles, the southpaw compiled an 8.22 ERA, although he did whiff eight in 7 2/3 innings and tossed a perfect frame in his debut.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.