Willie Calhoun is Drilling His Way to Los Angeles

With September call-ups around the corner, fans of every franchise are glancing at their teams’ minor league systems. Fortunately for the Dodgers, the organization has one of the best in baseball and plenty of options from which to choose (though the injuries on the 40-man make it more complex).

Pitcher Jose De Leon has generated a lot of intrigue, largely because he’s due for a promotion. As the injury bug continues to bite L.A. pitchers, the team has stood strong on its stance of leaving De Leon in Triple-A. It appears his debut is near, however, which leads us to investigate the next wave of talent.

[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=”https://dodgersnation.com/jose-de-leon-let-the-kid-in-the-picture/2016/08/15/”]Jose De Leon: Let the Kid in the Picture[/button]

If you’ve read some of my previous pieces, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of first baseman Cody Bellinger (see: here and here). But Bellinger isn’t the only exciting bat expected to play an important role in the Dodgers’ future. Let’s talk about Willie Calhoun.

On Sunday, Calhoun hammered two home runs in an 11-3 win for Double-A Tulsa. That gives the second baseman 25 dingers on the year, with three two-homer performances as a feather in his cap. He leads the Drillers in homers (Bellinger is second with 17) and RBI (79; Alex Verdugo ranks a distant second with 56). Calhoun also leads the team in runs scored (67), hits (112), doubles (23), at-bats (423), total bases (212) and games played (112). Calhoun has a shot at breaking the team record for home runs, currently held by Tim Wheeler for a 33-homer season in 2011.

That’s earned him a spot as the Dodgers’ fourth ranked prospect, and a national ranking of No. 99, per MLB.com. So the production is expected, but the power surge is what impresses most. Calhoun is fourth in Double-A in homers and eighth in slugging. The 21-year-old is listed as 5’8” 187 lbs. There are plenty of successful small players, but few have demonstrated the power potential Calhoun has at this stage. He set records in college after a 31 homer campaign, so perhaps he’s picking up where he left off. He hit 11 home runs in the Dodgers system before exploding recently.

Calhoun’s shortcoming is his defense, which isn’t terrible, but a shortcoming nonetheless. He is a below average defender at second with a .953 fielding percentage with the Drillers this season. To put this into perspective, Chase Utley has a .991 fielding percentage this year for the Dodgers at second.

Some scouts have suggested a position switch, but for now it appears Los Angeles plans to keep him where he is. Calhoun has the potential to be one of the best hitting at his position, so the team will likely live with him being a defensive liability. He is nimble and athletic enough to improve at the position, but as he puts on more weight, keeping that may be challenging. Either way, his bat has him destined for Chavez Ravine.

Rumors will swirl in the offseason about the possible major acquisition(s) the Dodgers make, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to include Calhoun in those talks. The No. 99 listing is starting to look low. Calhoun is ascending through the system quick enough that it’s becoming a reality to possibly see him in Dodger blue next year.

Playing in his favor, as opposed to Bellinger’s situation, is how the cards are stacked at his position in Los Angeles. Chase Utley is a soon-to-be free agent with an uncertain future. Howie Kendrick is in a “down” season and has been spending time in left field. If Justin Turner is re-signed, he’s likely staying put at third.

What that means is second base is open. Expect the team to try to add or extend a stop-gap option until Calhoun is ready. He’s another piece of the Dodgers’ youth movement that will allow for heavy spending in 2018 free agency (which many believe is a “target” year for the franchise). Similar to the model implemented by a certain team in the Bay Area, Los Angeles is on its way to a mostly homegrown infield. Excluding third base, Bellinger, Calhoun and Corey Seager look like the future. And again, having them all under control during the upcoming historic free agency periods is of the utmost importance.

[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=”https://dodgersnation.com/lets-avoid-more-disaster-julio-urias-needs-to-start/2016/08/16/”]Let’s Avoid More Disaster: Julio Urias Needs to Start[/button]

It’s a matter of when, not if, with Calhoun’s call-up; but the when might be sooner than initially anticipated. He’s looking like a true fourth round steal. The Los Angeles sports scene doesn’t have a shortage of young stars – Seager, Julio Urias, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald – maybe Calhoun will be part of the next group of players who capture the hearts of Hollywood.

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Gabe Burns

Gabe Burns is an award-winning journalist. He serves as a reporter and editor at the DodgersNation news desk. He additionally works as editor-in-chief of The Spectator, Valdosta State University's student paper. Gabe's work has been featured on a number of platforms, including Draft Breakdown and Pro Football Spot. His byline has been cited in media such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Aside from covering Dodgers baseball, Gabe enjoys watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning. He can be followed on Twitter at @GabeBurns_DN.


  1. Gabe how can you not mention Segedin? The guy can hit. He was by far the leading hitter in Okie City and has shown the ability to put together professional at bats in the big leagues. 
    Bellinger is blocked for the next 2 – 3 years but he is young so that is OK. I know Segedin plays 1st, 3rd and the outfield I wonder if he can play 2nd? 
    The problem to me is pitching… We shall see…

  2. Tmaxster I totally agree. However I can see Belling or Segedin sooner or later spitting time with Agon. But as you said, pitching has been and will be our determining factor as to how far we go this year and those to come. Our starters complete less innings probably of any playoff contending team. It’s like a relay team. When you have to throw four or five pitchers, somewhere in passing the paton you will have one who won’t hold up. And that will cost us the race, or game.

  3. Robert Hamilton  Tmaxster Exactly Like Drayton tonight at some point someone is going to have a bad night and hang one or two pitches. Also I do understand we have a great stable of pitchers coming up from the Farm. But pitchers need experience they are not going to be great right away. I think Urias and Stripling have done well but they are young and erratic. That is what you see from young pitchers. Look at the Phillies I think they have some very good very young arms but no experience. In a few years they will be very good.
    The Dodgers have the same issue. Urias will be a very good pitcher. Will he be great? We do not know. We hope so. Same as DeLeon, Stripling, Alavarez, Buehler in the next few years what is their ceiling and how long will it take to get there? 
    The Dodgers need to win now. If Kershaw comes back and performs at his norm then we have a pretty good rotation if Hill finally pitches and is good as he was earlier in the year. Maeda has been very good. hopefully Anderson can regain form. 
    We shall see.

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