This is it. This is the best of the best in the Dodgers’ farm system. There are future bench players, role players, stars and superstars on this list. All of the names should be familiar — even some of the players making their first appearances after strong 2014 seasons.
For the Top 30, I’ve included Overall Future Potential grades and risks. For example, if a guy gets a “50 low,” he’s basically a sure thing to be an average player at his position. If a guy gets a “55 high,” there’s a good chance he won’t reach that ceiling, but the potential is there. The grades are 20-80 (50 is average), and the risks are as follows:
- Low – Players who are older, have debuted, are relievers and/or have higher floors than ceilings
- Medium – Players who are a mix of young and old, usually have higher floors
- High – Players who are usually younger with potential, but also question marks
- Extreme – Players who are younger with star potential, but a ton of question marks
The aim is to offer a prediction of the player’s future worth in the majors. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus both do this.
Previous entries in the series:
Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). I am an amateur when it comes to evaluating players. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information to the masses. Notes and comments are based on personal observation, talking to sources, reading scouting reports and watching video. All ratings in the charts below are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is roughly average, 80 is elite and nearly unattainable (think Giancarlo Stanton‘s power), and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
10. 2B/CF Darnell Sweeney (6’1, 180 pounds, 24 years old)
Sweeney might be one of the better late-round (post-10th round) players the Dodgers have drafted in recent years. He was selected in the 13th round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Central Florida as a shortstop and has done (almost) nothing but hit since he debuted. He struggled a little in the hitter-friendly California League in 2013, but his 2014 in the Southern League quelled those concerns. He improved his walk rate to 13.1 percent and reduced his strikeout rate to 20 percent. He also established a career-best in home runs (14) and wRC+ (141). Unfortunately for him, he’s a player without a position. He moved from shortstop to second base toward the end of the 2013 season and played the vast majority of his games in 2014 at second.
A switch-hitter, Sweeney hits much better from the left side. From that side, he has a slightly open stance that is about shoulder width apart, his hands at shoulder level and his knees bent. Most of the time, his swing is short and controlled. He doesn’t have much of a leg kick, as he lifts his foot slightly and steps toward the mound. He has a slight hitch in his swing, but still has a quick bat to make up for it. He gets his front foot down and his hands through the zone. From the right side, he holds his hands at shoulder level and uses a moderate leg kick. His swing is a little longer from the right side and has displayed some pop from that side in the past. But, all but six of his extra base hits came from the left side in 2014, so that pop might be dissipating a bit. He doesn’t have the hit in his swing from the right side, as he drops his hands only slightly as he starts his swing. He has fringe-average power overall and the potential for an average hit tool due to his increased patience at the plate.
Sweeney is a fast runner, but he took a major step back. He was thrown out 16 times in 31 attempts, easily the worst of his career. He’s a much better runner once he’s underway and might not be the base-stealing threat some thought he might be in his first couple seasons. Defensively, Sweeney was atrocious at shortstop. He had bad footwork, a fringy arm and bad hands. His range played well there, but that was about it. At second base, he looks more natural and is able to make all the plays. He still has lapses, but he at least has a chance to make up for his mistakes at second. He also dabbled in center field so the player development department could increase Sweeney’s utility. He has plenty of speed and range to play center (and left) field, but he’ll need more time there to have a chance to play it in the majors.
If he could turn into even an average defensive second baseman, that would be best for his future. Likely, he’s a super utility player who can play second, center- and left field and shortstop in an absolute pinch. He has nothing left to prove in Double-A and should be a top-of-the-order hitter in Oklahoma City this year. If he makes his debut in 2015, things have probably gone terribly wrong in Los Angeles.
2014 ranking: 25
2014 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
9. LF/RF Scott Schebler (6’1, 208 pounds, 24 years old)
The Dodgers drafted Schebler in the 26th round of the 2011 draft, and he was a late signing, but a $300,000 bonus got him to forego his commitment to Wichita State University (from Des Moines Community College). He wasn’t particularly impressive in his first three seasons, as he hit just .270 and drew 44 walks in 893 plate appearances. But things turned around when he got to Rancho Cucamonga in 2013. He led the California League in total bases and was named the Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year. Some thought it might be a product of the environment, so Schebler went out and had arguably an even more impressive season in the Southern League. He led the lead in home runs, triples and slugging percentage while also improving his walk rate (6.6 to 8.0 percent) and decreasing his strikeout rate (26.2 to 19.6 percent). He has done nothing but produce as he’s moved up the minor-league ladder.
Schebler, a left-handed hitter, sets up with his feet shoulder width apart with his knees bent slightly. He holds his hands at chest level and wiggles the bat a little pre-pitch. He has a small leg kick and doesn’t have much of a load. His hands are quiet and move directly toward the pitch, which helps him to maintain a level swing path. His stride is quite long — almost to the point where it looks like he’s over-striding. But, he clears his hips as his hands come through the zone and generates plus-raw power, but projects to have solid-average power (and has shown it in games). Most of his power is to his pull side, as just two of his home runs and five of his doubles were to left side. Surprisingly, nine of his 14 triples came to the left side of center field. He has improved his strike zone judgment and plate discipline in recent years, giving him a chance to be an average hitter at the next level. But if he isn’t hitting, he won’t be able to lean on his walk rate to keep him on the bases. Unlike most left-handed hitters with power, Schebler’s swing is level and doesn’t have much of an upper-cut to it. He also has shown an ability to hit southpaws, which at least gives him a chance to be an everyday player going forward.
Despite his bulky, somewhat compact frame, he has enough athleticism and speed to be a threat with his legs. He isn’t Dee Gordon, but he could swipe 10 bases at his best in the majors. He also has played a little center field in his career, but he’s best suited for a corner spot. Since his right arm would be fringy in right field, he profiles best as a left fielder. Schebler could be a second-division starter if he keeps improving his walk- and strikeout rates and continues to hit for power. He might profile best as one half of a platoon, but his splits show he really doesn’t need a platoon partner. He was added to the 40-man roster in November, but he’ll go to Oklahoma City and hit in the middle of the lineup and probably do impressive things there. He could debut in 2015, but he’s more likely ready for an MLB bench spot in 2016.
2014 ranking: 13
2015 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City
8. RHP Zach Lee (6’3, 195 pounds, 23 years old)
You all know the story by now. The Dodgers drafted Lee with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft, and many thought it was a punt attempt by Frank McCourt because he was thought to be unsignable, with his commitment to play quarterback at LSU. The Dodgers actually signed Lee to a $5.25 million bonus (spread out over five years) and was thought of as the next ace in the system. Unfortunately for he and Dodger fans, that isn’t the case. Lee has performed well since his 2011 debut at Low-A Great Lakes, but has struggled when he pitched in hitter-friendly leagues like the California (had good peripherals) and Pacific Coast Leagues. His best season was 2013 in the Southern League, when he won the Dodgers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year award and showed some of the potential that made him a Top-15 prospect in his draft year. He took a step back in 2014, but some of that can be attributed to the harsh environment of Albuquerque, and the rest of the PCL. Everything went the wrong direction. The most alarming is his strikeout rate dipping to 5.8 per nine innings. He hadn’t been worse than 7.5 per nine, and was at 8.3 in 2013.
Lee has a classic starter’s arsenal. His fastball sits in the 88-93 MPH range and has touched 95-96 MPH in the past. It sat on the lower end of that range last season, but he improved his 2-seamer to the point where he might be able to use it more frequently. His 4-seamer is pretty straight, while his 2-seamer features some nice arm-side run and boring action to right-handed hitters. For his sake, he might want to start throwing it more than his 4-seamer in an attempt to reinvent himself as a ground ball pitcher. He established a career-best in ground out-to-fly-ball-out ratio in 2014, also a product of the environment. Lee’s secondary stuff hasn’t come along as planned/projected. His best breaking ball is his curveball, which is a 12-6 breaker that sits in the low-70s. It isn’t a big swing-and-miss offering, but he’ll surprise hitters with it and throw it when they’re expecting something else. He has a fringy slider that features some cutting action and low-80s velocity. It flashes average potential at times, but it’s too inconsistent and doesn’t have enough tilt for it to be a true strikeout pitch. His changeup has flashed solid-average potential and sits in the low-80s. It features good downward fade to left-handed hitters when he stays on top of it.
His delivery is extremely clean — not uncommon for high-round Logan White draftees. He holds his glove hand out in front as he gets the sign from the catcher. He reaches in and begins his motion. Because it’s so quick, he has to adjust his grip (based on the pitch) while he’s in his windup. He makes a quick turn on the rubber and has a high leg kick that comes up to chest level. Despite that, he maintains good balance through his delivery. He drops his hands to belt level while putting his weight on his back leg, which doesn’t collapse much. He drives off his back leg and has a long stride toward home plate. His arm is in really good position to deliver the pitch as his front foot lands. He does a full circular motion with his arm as he releases from a high three-quarters arm slot. He is able to repeat that with ease, but he might benefit from dropping it slightly to get more movement on his 2-seamer and changeup. But Lee, despite last year’s hiccup, as solid-average command/control that could tick up as he matures as a pitcher. And for a 23-year-old, he’s already a mature pitcher. His athleticism helps him to be consistent with his delivery and he’s in great fielding position after he delivers the pitch. He is the definition of pitchability.
He let the environment of the PCL get in his head last season, which contributed to a subpar performance. But he’s mentally tough enough to overcome that and potentially reach his ceiling. Now, Lee isn’t going to be Zack Greinke, Don Drysdale or any other near-ace right-hander the Dodgers have employed in the past. But, he still has a chance to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He’s almost assured to be a back-end starter. Because of his stuff and profile, he probably wouldn’t succeed as a full-time reliever. If he fails as a full-time starter, he could carve out a niche as a spot-starter/long reliever type. He’s on the 40-man roster and should be atop the Oklahoma City rotation. He should make his MLB debut at some point in 2015.
2014 ranking: 3
2015 location: Triple-A Oklahoma City/Los Angeles
7. CF Alex Verdugo (6’0, 200 pounds, 19 years old)
The Dodgers have done this before: They draft a player to do one thing when most other teams saw him as something else (James Loney, Ethan Martin, Aaron Miller, etc.). Verdugo was taken in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft as a hitter. Most teams liked his arm to play on the mound (low-90s with movement, power curve, developing changeup), but the Dodgers saw his athleticism and wanted him in the field. And Verdugo wanted to be in the field (and at the plate). Not many teams were willing to let Verdugo hit, but the Dodgers were. Logan White compared him to No. 3 on this list, which is high praise for an 18-year-old 2nd-rounder. He signed for $914,600, which was the recommended amount. He played a good center field in his debut and OPS’d .932 between the Arizona Rookie League and 20 Pioneer League plate appearances. Most impressive: He walked (20) more than he struck out (18). No high-round Dodger prospect has done that since Loney.
Verdugo stands with his feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and slightly open. He holds hands at about shoulder level and loads them back when he begins his swing. His leg kick is small and stride is short. His hands are really quick and they come through the zone after his front foot lands. He’s a rotational hitter and produces above-average bat speed. He doesn’t clear his hips that well, which partly is why he didn’t show a ton of power in his debut. But his power potential is apparent and should come with more instruction and experience. He also has some natural loft to his swing. He’s already adept at going the other way, but most of his power is to his pull side. Defensively, he’s athletic enough to handle center field and could be at least average there, which would increase his overall value significantly. He needs to improve reading pitches off the bat, but that will come with experience. He has at least average range for the position. If he has to move to right field, he could end up being a plus-defender there. He definitely has the arm for it.
There were concerns about Verdugo’s maturity in high school (an immature 17-year-old? I never!), but he’s been a model player in his brief career. He might not hit for enough power to be considered a middle-of-the-order, but he should be a good hitter regardless. He got a late-season taste of Ogden and probably should go back there to start the season. But if the Dodgers think he’s advanced enough, they might push him to Great Lakes. He could always go back to Ogden if he struggles.
2014 ranking: NR
2015 location: Low-A Great Lakes/Rookie Ogden
6. RHP Jose De Leon (6’2, 185 pounds, 22 years old)
It isn’t often a 24th-round pick (2013) cracks a team’s Top 10, but here is De Leon. He had a pretty unspectacular debut season and didn’t take things too seriously. He came into 2014 spring training a bit out of shape and worked hard in extended spring training to lose 20 pounds. Once he did, he was sent to Ogden where he dominated. He won the league’s pitcher of the year honor and earned a late promotion to Great Lakes. He was even better there, posting a 1.19 ERA and a video game-like 42:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He even broke Clayton Kershaw‘s Loons’ franchise strikeout record of 12 by striking out 14 on Aug. 14. He didn’t just succeed at the lower levels of the minors, he was flat-out dominant. He is a college draftee, so his dominance against younger players could be looked at with some skepticism. But, the fact it was his first full(ish) season and he was so dominant is reason for optimism.
De Leon has a sitting low-90s fastball that has touched 96 MPH. He gets some good life and arm-side run on it and is his go-to pitch. He commands it well and can located on each corner. It flashes plus-potential and could tick up as he pitches more. His slider is a mid-80s pitch that features some sharp 11-5 break. It has a lot of depth and good tilt and is a true swing-and-miss pitch. The changeup, his favorite pitch, is a low-80s that features some good bite and diving action. He isn’t afraid to throw it to right-handers, which makes it a much more viable pitch. It has average potential and could be solid-average if he becomes more consistent with it.
He holds his hands at belt level and his feet close together as he begins his windup. He brings his hands all the way over his head as he turns on the rubber. He has a high leg kick and stays balanced through his delivery. He doesn’t collapse too much on his back leg and drives off the mound to generate his velocity. His arm gets in good throwing position as his front foot lands. He finishes by falling off to the first base side slightly. His front side stays closed well, but it opens up sometimes, which causes him to miss up-and-away to left-handers. His release point is high three-quarters, and that allows him to get some movement on his pitches.
De Leon has the stuff to be a No. 2/3 starter, but his limited professional experience prevents me from putting that ceiling on him. He could be a middle-of-the-rotation guy with three average-to-plus pitches. If he gets there — and adds to his resume — then he might be a No. 2/3 starter. If he falters in the rotation, he could always go to the bullpen. His stuff would certainly tick up there. After just 22 2/3 (dominant) innings, I wouldn’t be surprised to see De Leon in Rancho Cucamonga to start the season with a midseason promotion to Tulsa a possibility. Now that he’s out there, he could move rather quickly.
2014 ranking: NR
2015 location: High-A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Tulsa
5. RHP Chris Anderson (6’4, 215 pounds, 22 years old)
Anderson was drafted with the 18th overall selection in the 2013 draft and has been up-and-down so far in his career. He began pitching limited innings (after a full college workload) in Great Lakes and did almost everything well there. He walked too many hitters (4.7 per nine innings), but he paired that with almost a 10.0 K/9. He went to the Cal League in 2014, where he got off to a terrible start. He had a 5.96 ERA in his first 11 starts and walked five hitters per nine. His next 10 were better (3.54 ERA, but still had a 5.4 BB/9). He made bigger strides later in the season, as he had a misleading 4.30 ERA, but only walked seven hitters in 37 2/3 innings. He also recorded 10/11/10 strikeouts in his final three games. That is particularly impressive for a player in his first year and having thrown the fourth-most innings of any Dodger prospect in 2014.
He has a heavy fastball that sits in the 92-95 MPH range. He touched 98-99 MPH when I saw him this season. He can sink it, but when he throws it really hard, there isn’t a ton of movement to it. He had problems early in the season commanding the pitch. He would leave it up and it would get hit hard at times. He improved on that late in the season. It could be a plus-pitch if he completely improves his command of it. His curveball is probably his best present off-speed pitch. He throws it in the 78-81 MPH range with a sharp 11-5 break. It has some depth to it and flashes solid-average potential. Anderson also throws a hard slider in the 85-88 MPH range. It almost looks like a cutter at times, but the shape of it isn’t always consistent. His arm tends to slow when he throws it, which can be picked up by opposing hitters. He made progress with it as the season went on. It’s probably no better than an average pitch, but it’s borderline fringy at present. The pitch that could be an equalizer is his changeup. It’s a mid-80s pitch that features some nice downward movement in the zone. If lefties don’t bite on his curve or slider, his changeup is going to be even more important.
Anderson has a clean delivery like many Dodger pitching prospects. He begins normally, but he leans slightly toward second base before he makes the turn on the rubber. He kicks his leg high and crosses it over his back one. He has a slight shoulder turn away from the hitter as to keep the ball hidden as long as possible. He swings his front leg forward and his arm action is inconsistent. Sometimes he’s in good position and sometimes his arm drags. When it drags, his command and control suffer. He finishes off the delivery and falls off to the first base side a little more than is preferred. He releases his pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot and gets good downward plane on his pitches. This is why he should be able to drive his fastball and keep them down in the zone. He has a tendency for his front side to fly open, which is where the command issues lie mostly. The Quakes’ coaching staff worked hard with him on it and he got a lot better with his command late in the season.
One day, Anderson is a middle-of-the-rotation starter with No. 2 upside. The next, he’s a power reliever. His consistency and development of off-speed pitches will determine his future role. As a younger college draftee and his struggles, it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see him go back to Rancho Cucamonga to begin 2015. But, with Matt Herges (former Quakes’ pitching coach) getting promoted Tulsa, it might be best for Anderson to go to Double-A to start the season.
2014 ranking: 7
2015 location: Double-A Tulsa/High-A Rancho Cucamonga
4. RHP Grant Holmes (6’1, 215 pounds, 19 years old)
There’s almost no scenario in which the Dodgers saw Holmes falling to them at No. 22 in 2014, but he did, and they snapped him up. He signed for $2.5 million — almost $520,000 more than the slot-recommended amount — and went straight to the Arizona Rookie League. He struck out 33 batters in 30 innings (and walked just seven) and earned a late-season promotion to Ogden. He wasn’t as sharp there as he was in Arizona, but he was still good. He struck out 58 hitters in 48 1/3 innings and should continue that kind of dominance as he progresses through the minors.
Holmes is armed with a low-90s fastball that touches the mid-90s. He was clocked as high as 100 MPH before the draft and he sat at 94-96 MPH in his debut (at times), but that kind of velocity isn’t sustainable for him as a starter. Still, his low-90s heater with movement projects as a plus-pitch, and maybe even a little better. He commands the pitch well enough, but he still has some work to do in that department. He has a plus-curveball that features a sharp 11-5 break. It almost looks like a slider at times, but it sits in low-80s. It’s a true hammer. He also developed a slider after turning pro that sits in the mid-80s. It still needs a lot of work, but it flashes at least average potential and could tick up as he gets more comfortable with it. If he doesn’t develop it to where it needs to be, he can always ditch it. To round out his arsenal, he has a changeup that needs improvement, but could be his primary weapon against lefties down the road. It’s a low-to-mid-80s pitch that features some good downward fade. He leaves it up in the zone too often at present and needs to work on finishing it off.
He has a compact delivery. He sets his hands in front of his face while he gets the sign from the catcher. Everything in his motion is normal when he turns on the rubber. He drops his hands to belt level and kicks his leg high. He drops his hands down again as he breaks his hands. He has a circular arm motion and a quick arm. He releases from a high three-quarters arm slot. He doesn’t get a ton of downward plane on his pitches (not many shorter pitchers do), but it doesn’t matter with his pure stuff. He finishes in good fielding position. When he gets out of sync, his front side opens up slightly.
If Holmes reaches his ceiling, he could be a No. 2 starter. Realistically, he’s a middle-of-the-rotation guy in the mold of Chad Billingsley. He has also drawn comparisons to Matt Cain. If, for whatever reason, he can’t stick in the rotation, he could have a future as a late-inning reliever. He only logged 19 2/3 innings in Ogden, so the Dodgers could keep him at extended spring training and send him back to Ogden for a refresher. But, this organization has been known to be somewhat aggressive with pitching prospects in the past, so an assignment to Great Lakes isn’t out of the question.
2014 ranking: NR
2015 location: Low-A Great Lakes/Rookie Ogden
3. CF Joc Pederson (6’1, 200 pounds, 23 years old)
Pederson was the Dodgers’ 11th-round pick in 2010 and signed for $600,000. He was committed to USC, but the Dodgers got him out of it. His father Stu Pederson was a former Dodger. Pederson has done about all he can in the Dodgers’ system since being drafted. He has won two player of the year honors, made multiple All-Star teams, had a Futures Game appearance and just completed the first 30-30 season in the Pacific Coast League in 80 years. The path for him to Los Angeles was cleared by trading Matt Kemp.
His stance is straight up-and-down, but he leans back before the pitcher comes set. He holds his hands at shoulder level and loads his entire top half when the pitcher begins his delivery. He has an exaggerated leg kick and is able to generate a lot of power potential. He gets his front foot down and has plus-bat speed. His hips clear nicely as he brings his hands through. He has a natural, slight uppercut swing. He probably won’t be a .300 hitter in the majors, but he should hit enough. And, coupled with his great plate discipline, he’ll be just fine. He does take too many pitches at times and needs to be more aggressive, but he was visibly timid in his MLB debut. He has plus-plus raw power and plus-power potential in-game. He’s an above-average runner and defender. He could be a 15-20 stolen base guy in the majors. He has an above-average arm that would play up if he had to slide over to left field. He should be able to handle center field for the majority of his career, as he has good instincts.
It’s anyone’s guess where he hits in the lineup. He has enough power to be a middle-of-the-order hitter, but also enough on-base skills to be a No. 1 or 2 hitter. At his peak, I see him as a No. 2 hitter with big power. He should be the Dodgers’ starting center fielder, as he’s the team’s best option for that spot.
2014 ranking: 2
2015 location: Los Angeles
ETA: Debuted 2014
2. LHP Julio Urias (6’1, 190 pounds, 18 years old)
Some were excited when the Dodgers signed Urias out of Mexico in 2012 for about $1 million, but no one knew he would turn into this. He made his pro debut in Great Lakes in 2013. That was surprising because he was all of 16 years old at the time and had skipped completely over rookie ball. He struck out 11.1 hitters per nine innings in his debut, and followed it up with 11.2 per nine in the Cal League in 2014. Urias was six years younger than league-average age in both of his pro seasons, so to see him flat-out dominating older hitters is thoroughly impressive.
Urias’ fastball sits in the 89-93 MPH and has touched 96-97 MPH in his career. It features some arm-side run that comes naturally to lefties. With his secondary stuff, his fastball looks like it has more velocity than it actually does. It profiles as a potentially plus-plus pitch. He has a 2-seam fastball that he uses to get ground balls. He sometimes loses command of the pitch when he rushes it, and it ends up over the plate. Even left-handers can hit it with authority when that happens. He backs up his fastball with a 75-79 MPH curveball that flashes plus-potential. It has a sharp 2-8 break to it and gets plenty of swing-throughs on it (even from elite prospects like Carlos Correa). He throws it to both lefties and righties with the utmost confidence. He also has a developing slider that looks more slurvy right now. It’s a low-80s pitch with a similar break to his curveball. If he wants to keep using it, he’s going to have to get more consistent with it and define it as a true slider. Despite that, it flashes average potential. He has a devastating low-80s changeup that is hell on right-handed hitters. He throws it with consistency, but he has just a little trouble locating it at times. He’ll throw it in any count.
He comes set at stomach level with his hands and his feet close together. His motion is normal through the turn on the rubber. He has a high, crossing leg kick. He straighten his right leg as he swings it toward the plate. He puts his weight on his back leg and drives off the rubber when he delivers his pitches. He has an incredibly quick arm and brings it through his delivery on time. It’s clean and repeatable. He’ll fly open with his front end if he rushes it, but otherwise, it’s advanced. Unconventionally, he falls off a touch to the first base side of the rubber (instead of the third base side).
The thing Urias doesn’t get enough credit for is his maturity and poise on the mound. He’s 18 years old and pitches like he’s a 10-year veteran. That might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s the truth. He understands situations and knows how to go after hitters. When he gets into trouble, he doesn’t panic or lose his cool. That is something that can’t be taught.
The Dodgers have (rightly) brought Urias along slowly. He has 142 innings pitched in two seasons, and should crack the 100-120 barrier in 2015. He is good enough to pitch in the majors right now, but he wouldn’t be able to maintain a spot in the rotation. He has thrown five or more innings just eight times in his 43 career appearances. I could see the Dodgers bringing him along the way the Twins did with Johan Santana — start him in the bullpen (long relief) and help him build stamina and confidence. But, he’ll need to get stretch out a bit in the minors this season. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff and ability. At worst, he’s a mid-rotation guy. He is truly a phenom.
2014 ranking: 4
2015 location: Double-A Tulsa
1. SS Corey Seager (6’4, 215 pounds, 21 years old)
Was there ever a doubt? The Dodgers popped Seager in the first round of the 2012 draft and signed him for an above-slot $2.35 million. And no, they aren’t sorry they passed on Michael Wacha. From the second he was drafted, everyone has tried to move him to third base. Alas, he has played just one game at the position. He has hit at every level, save a hiccup in late-2013 in the Cal League. To prove that wasn’t the norm, he won the league MVP award in 2014, was named to the Futures Game and shared the Branch Rickey award (top Dodger minor-league hitter) with Joc Pederson. He became the first Dodgers’ prospect to hit 50 or more doubles in a season since Delwyn Young hit 54 in Triple-A in 2007. His walk rate took a step back in 2014, but his bat took a major step forward.
Seager is a big, strong left-handed hitter who projects as a plus-hitter. He sets up with his feet more than shoulder width apart. His front leg is angled back toward the catcher. He loads all his weight on his strong back leg as he begins his swing. His hands drop slightly and he takes an incredibly long stride toward the mound. The rest of his pre-swing stance is really quite. His hands are at shoulder level without much bat movement. He has a slight toe-tap mechanism for timing. His hips explode open and his hands follow with his plus-bat speed. He rolls over on his front foot when he hits a ball particularly hard and has a strong follow-through. At the point of contact, he keeps his eyes locked on the ball and he has the classic power-hitter’s finish. He projects to have plus-power and a potentially plus-plus hitter. He has good strike zone judgment and has shown the willingness to take a walk, but with him hitting so well last season, it was hard for him not to swing away. He isn’t much of a runner. He’s below-average with the minimal potential to be a fringy runner. Speed definitely isn’t part of his game.
On defense, Seager is a smart player who uses all the advantages he can to make up for his lack of range at shortstop. He positions himself well and has a high baseball IQ. He has just a little range and won’t get to the same number of balls a plus-defender at short would. He has extremely soft hands and a plus-throwing arm that he shows off plenty in games. There haven’t been many full-time 6-foot-4 shortstops, so if Seager is able to handle the position, he’ll be in exclusive company. I don’t see any reason he can’t remain at shortstop for at least a few years. And when he does eventually move to third base, all of his defense ticks up. He projects to be a plus-defender at third base because of his hands and instincts. His lack of shortstop range is mitigated at third base.
Seager is the best offensive prospect the Dodgers have had since Adrian Beltre. He has All-Star potential at either position and his value would increase if he remains at shortstop for a few years. His makeup is off-the-charts. He is one of the game’s elite prospects and should be a fixture in the Dodgers’ lineup soon. He profiles as a middle-of-the-order hitter. He could go back to Double-A for a refresher course before moving onto Triple-A. There’s an outside chance he makes his MLB debut in 2015, but if he doesn’t, he will in 2016.
2014 ranking: 1
2015 location: Double-A Tulsa/Triple-A Oklahoma City
And because many will ask — seeing as the Dodgers are the reported favorites to sign Yoan Moncada — I’d rank him at No. 4 in the system, just a hair behind Pederson. Moncada has more upside than Pederson, but Pederson’s proximity to the majors (and skill, obviously) wins out.
This concludes the Top 100 prospects series. I hope you have enjoyed. This is a labor of love and the Dodgers’ system is in great shape. I’ll follow up this series with some supplemental prospect articles.
Next up: Best tools