The Dodgers signed right-handed sinkerballer Zach Neal to a minor league contract, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Saturday. Neal elected free agency from the Athletics in October and was said to be seeking another minor league arrangement this offseason. He’s expected to receive an invitation to spring training, though the deal has yet to be officially confirmed by the club.
The 29-year-old righty has seen limited time in the majors since his debut with the A’s in 2016. He logged just 14 2/3 innings at the big league level in 2017, racking up a 7.98 ERA, 0.6 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9 in six relief appearances. He bounced back and forth between Oakland and Triple-A Nashville several times throughout the year and was able to produce slightly more palatable numbers at a lower level, finishing his Triple-A run with a cumulative 4.82 ERA, 0.9 BB/9 and 3.9 SO/9 in 99 innings.
Part of Neal’s appeal, Rosenthal adds, is his familiarity with current Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi, who was serving as the Athletics’ Director of Baseball Operations when the right-hander signed his first minors deal with the team in 2013. While it’s hard to see Neal carving out a full-time role in the Dodgers’ bullpen next spring, his exceptional control and prior major league experience could give him a leg up as he looks for his next big league tryout.
ESPN’s Keith Law has released his annual top-100 prospects list. According to Law, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna is the number one prospect in baseball.
After blazing through High-A and Double-A ball last season, Acuna was the youngest player in Triple-A in 2017. He was 19 years-old all season long and put up a fantastic line of .335/.384/.534 in 486 plate appearances at Double and Triple-A. He then went on to star in the Arizona Fall League, leading that circuit in homers. Law, who is not one to throw hyperbolic comps around, says, “if Acuna stays in center and maxes out his power, he’s going to be among the best players in baseball, with a Mike Trout-ish profile.”
Acuna, who is 20 now, is likely play the bulk of the season in Atlanta, even if he’s kept down at Triple-A for the first couple of weeks of the season to manipulate his service time, er, I mean to allow him to develop his skills more fully. Or something. Given the presence of reigning Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte, Acuna is not likely to man center for the Braves this year, but Law says he’d be a plus right field defender, which could make the Braves outfield Death to Flying Things in 2018. At least when Nick Markakis is not playing.
Number two on the list: Blue Jays third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As law notes, the name may be familiar but he’s not very much like his old man. Mostly because young Vlad can take a walk. Which is better, even if it’s nowhere near as fun as swinging at balls that bounce in the dirt first.
For the other 98, you’ll have to click through.