Gavin Lux wasn't part of the plan, not this year.
The Dodgers don't have enough jobs to go around as it is. They've stockpiled talent, building depth through channels both conventional and not, to the point they can do something as audacious as sitting Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo or A.J. Pollock at the drop of a hat. How could they possibly fit another bat into that mix?
Ah, but with the way Lux is performing, how could they not?
"There's hot and then there's what Gavin Lux is right now," fellow prospect Will Smith recently told MLB.com.
The 21-year-old had a relatively quiet day Wednesday, going 2 for 4 with a triple and two walks. Yeah, only two hits -- no home runs or anything. Oh, you think I'm being ironic? Here's what Lux had done in his first 19 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City:
Absurd. Too absurd to continue, of course, but nonetheless a testament to his meteoric rise up the prospect rankings. It began last year. He had always offered a good hit tool but truly emerged on the prospect scene with a showcase of power at high Class A. Still, many doubted it. He wasn't a consensus top-100 prospect across the various publications this spring. But he more or less validated his 2018 breakthrough with his work at Double-A this year, and now ... this.
Yes, it's the Pacific Coast League. Yes, it's in a record-setting season for offense with the introduction of a new baseball. Still, no one else has done quite this there.
"Everyone here is pretty much in awe of what he's doing," Oklahoma City manager Travis Barbary said.
Lux credits the performance to further refining his approach under the tutelage of Oklahoma City hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, who has him anticipating what a pitcher might throw rather than just reacting. Lux's success might also have a little something to do with how quickly he whips the bat through the zone, as you can see here:
If you haven’t seen Gavin Lux, I suggest you watch him smoke these baseballs. Outfielders don’t even move. All 6 of these HR’s are in his last 5 games. pic.twitter.com/XB9kNQ5hhQ— David Rosenthal (@_therealdrose) July 20, 2019
And yet ... there is no fit.
Calling him up now would force the Dodgers to sit Corey Seager or Max Muncy too often to justify. They're a heady organization. They're not going to start Lux's service clock just so he can sit on the bench, especially when there's still something to gain from him accumulating at-bats at Triple-A. He only just started there, after all.
I'm not suggesting it'd be ridiculous promote him, speaking generally on the topic of prospects and promotions, but it'd be ridiculous for the Dodgers to promote him, a 21-year-old with minimal experience in the upper minors, given that he doesn't represent a clear upgrade over what's already in place. So when push comes to shove, I don't think they will -- not unless a significant injury invites them to.
It doesn't mean you shouldn't stash Lux, particularly in deeper leagues, just in the not-so-remote event that I'm wrong, but for now, I'm leaving him out of my ...
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
2018 minors: .332 BA (407 AB), 24 HR, 20 SB, .989 OPS, 48 BB, 84 K
2019 minors: .265 BA (343 AB), 25 HR, 21 SB, .913 OPS, 41 BB, 95 K
The Lord works in mysterious ways, yes, but I'm not seeing a path available to Tucker right now. The once snakebitten Astros are nearly back at full capacity, what with Yuli Gurriel streaking, Yordan Alvarez thriving and Carlos Correa rehabbing, so even though Tucker has been getting more reps at first base as a way to widen his path, a seemingly ready-made opportunity has already passed him by. It'll still happen at some point this year, but it doesn't help that he's slumping again, batting .205 (18 for 88) with two home runs over his past 28 games.
Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
2018 minors: .286 BA (539 AB), 11 HR, 43 2B, 32 SB, .796 OPS, 48 BB, 101 K
2019 minors: .301 BA (219 AB), 8 HR, 17 2B, 15 SB, .873 OPS, 22 BB, 44 K
Bichette has also been scuffling of late, batting .207 (12 for 58) over his past 14 games, but unlike Tucker, his path is easy to see. The rebuilding Blue Jays are focused on elevating the trade value of a couple veteran infielders, Eric Sogard and Freddy Galvis, but once that's no longer a factor about a week from now, Bichette is a prime candidate to be called up -- this in spite of the fact that the Blue Jays went all of last year without promoting a streaking Vladimir Guerrero.
As @DShulman_ESPN is mentioning now, Eric Sogard an interesting trade chip. Expectation is that Bo Bichette will be summoned to the big leagues sometime in August, after July trades. https://t.co/Omr1yqp3jj— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 25, 2019
You see? It's not just coming from me.
Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
2018 minors: .269 BA (186 AB), 0 HR, 11 2B, 15 SB, .694 OPS, 12 BB, 52 K
2019 minors: .345 BA (348 AB), 21 HR, 32 SB, 1.030 OPS, 19 BB, 83 K
Robert has just two hits in his last 17 at-bats -- oh noes! OK, so it's kind of noteworthy because the rebuilding White Sox will use any excuse to keep him down. And while they may not be able to slow the momentum of a rocket ship hurtling toward space, Robert himself can power down the thrusters. We all know the score here, right? The guy is uber talented, in a way that'll wreak havoc on the traditional 5x5 categories, so you have to stash him if only to make sure he doesn't fall into the wrong hands. But he, in turn, has to keep the pressure on if he's going to thwart the White Sox's budget ambitions.
Mitch Keller, SP, Pirates
2018 minors: 12-4, 3.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 142 1/3 IP, 55 BB, 135 K
2019 minors: 7-4, 3.10 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 93 IP, 33 BB, 106 K
Though Keller has long rated among the top pitching prospects in baseball, he hasn't always looked like a dominant force in the minors, in part because the Pirates had him gradually incorporate pitches as he climbed the ladder. This year, the emphasis has been on the slider, and really since his failed major-league trial earlier this season, he has done a better job of blending his pitches. His 3.10 ERA leads the now hitter-friendly International League, and his next big-league opportunity is most certainly just around the corner. Jordan Lyles turned in his third miserable start in four, Wednesday, and isn't long for a starting role.
Isan Diaz, 2B, Marlins
2018 minors: .232 BA (431 AB), 13 HR, 14 SB, .739 OPS, 68 BB, 140 K
2019 minors: .303 BA (346 AB), 24 HR, 20 2B, .974 OPS, 45 BB, 88 K
It's honestly dumbfounding to me how a guy who cracked most every top 100 list as a teenager is receiving so little hype now that he's actually delivering on that promise at age 23. And yes, Diaz plays in the Pacific Coast League with its high elevations and juiced balls, but it doesn't explain why he's putting the bat on the ball more. I can't say for sure whether the trade deadline is the tipping point for bringing him to the majors -- the Marlins are presumably still trying to showcase Starlin Castro right now -- but president baseball of operations Michael Hill isn't tipping his hand, telling the Miami Herald "we don't have to rush guys anymore." I guess because they're so bad?
"Sometimes, the circumstance forces guys to the big leagues sooner rather than later. That's not the case now with Isan," Hill said. "We can allow him to play and get his regular at-bats and continue to keep himself sharp and ready to go when an opportunity presents itself."
Whatever, dude. You're the one presenting the opportunities.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
DJ Peters, OF, Dodgers
2018 minors: .236 BA (491 AB), 29 HR, 23 2B, .793 OPS, 45 BB, 192 K
2019 minors: .272 BA (338 AB), 20 HR, 15 2B, .880 OPS, 47 BB, 115 K
Remember the improvements Gavin Lux credited to Oklahoma City coach Scott Coolbaugh? I made mention of it at the top of the article, so you just exposed yourself for being the dastardly skimmer you are. But anyway, Peters is a fan, too.
"I was already very familiar with Coolbaugh. Him and I clicked right away," Peters told MLB.com. "When a player has a really strong relationship with a coach, as a hitter it helps a lot. You trust that person, you trust the game plan they came up with."
It certainly seems like it. Peters is batting .360 (32 for 89) with nine homers since joining Coolbaugh at Triple-A in late June. How much of it is the coach vs. the environment vs. the growth of the player himself is impossible to say, but as I pointed out for Lux, not every hitter in the Pacific Coast League is doing these things. Peters has a big power bat, but at 6-feet-6, he strikes out a lot. It seems unlikely the Dodgers will be able to find a spot for him this year.
Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins
2018 minors: .348 BA (512 AB), 20 HR, 44 2B, .970 OPS, 38 BB, 86 K
2019 minors: .284 BA (236 AB), 4 HR, 13 2B, .759 OPS, 21 BB, 55 K
One of the biggest prospect breakthroughs a year ago, Kirilloff has seen his production drop precipitously while battling injuries this year, primarily to his wrist. He may finally be feeling right again, though, because he has hit the ball significantly better since his latest IL stint, piling up multi-hit games so far in July. The power production has been underwhelming, but that's just a byproduct of having not advanced to Triple-A yet, where all the home runs are being hit (he said only half jokingly). The offensive potential for Kirilloff, a former first-round pick, is well documented by now, and the fact he has played banged up should be reason enough to keep the faith.
Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals
2018 minors: .246 BA (423 AB), 11 HR, 8 SB, .738 OPS, 62 BB, 88 K
2019 minors: .289 BA (353 AB), 16 HR, 13 SB, .888 OPS, 43 BB, 80 K
A 20-year-old is a little young to be playing at Double-A, which has been the story of Carlson's career to this point. The Cardinals have promoted him aggressively, and only this year has he reached the point of not be overwhelmed by it, instead flashing an all-around skill set that made him a fixture on midseason top-100 lists. It's a little reminiscent of David Dahl, actually, so Carlson deserves to be on your radar in dynasty leagues.
Tarik Skubal, SP, Tigers
2018 minors: 3-0, 0.40 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 22 1/3 IP, 4 BB, 33 K
2019 minors: 4-6, 2.24 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 96 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 131 K
Skubal's 13 strikeouts over six one-hit innings last time out were indeed a season high, but they were preceded by 10 strikeouts over five three-hit innings, which were preceded by 11 strikeouts over five one-hit innings. Those are the only three starts Skubal has made since his promotion to Double-A. He was overlooked as a pitcher who needed Tommy John surgery straight out of college, but now that he has a 12.2 K/9 vs. 2.1 BB/9 in his second season back, it's time to take notice. With two plus breaking balls, a fastball with natural cutting action and a deceptive delivery that features a high leg kick, he doesn't seem like a fluke.
Alex Jackson, C, Braves
2018 minors: .201 BA (333 AB), 8 HR, 23 2B, .647 OPS, 32 BB, 120 K
2019 minors: .239 BA (226 AB), 22 HR, 6 2B, .887 OPS, 18 BB, 82 K
Jackson probably doesn't have a future as the Braves' primary backstop, not after they just made collegiate catcher Shea Langeliers their first pick in the 2019 draft. There's also William Contreras, so the best Jackson can hope for is keeping the seat warm for one of those two. He hasn't made a significant enough offensive impact in the minors, but at the same time, there's no doubting what he can do to a ball when he squares it up. And we've seen a lot more of it lately, resulting in seven homers in his past 11 games. Brian McCann and potentially Tyler Flowers are both looking at free agency this offseason, so maybe Jackson will get the 2020 season to state his case before facing real competition.