Biggest surprise: Jacobs repeating the level, McDonald listed as outfielder
Best prospect: Seager
The Quakes are absolutely loaded to start the season, while the Loons have some quality lower-level prospects who could take a big step forward this season. The Lookouts have announced their roster, but I’ll include the with the Isotopes, which have yet to announce their roster.
Predicting minor-league rosters is a crap shoot — especially at the lower levels. I’ve done my best to see which players could at least begin the 2014 at which level.
There’s a lot more talent on some of these teams than there has been in years past (thank you Logan White, Bob Engle and Co.). Each level has players to watch on the mound and in the batter’s box. These rosters likely won’t resemble my predictions (or the actual roster) come the end of the season, but if you’re within viewing range of any of these teams, expect to see at least some of the players listed below at these respective levels.
The Loons have a lot of low-level talent, even if some of the pitchers don’t end up there quite yet. Scavuzzo and Arano (if he makes it) are the ones to really watch.
The Quakes are infinitely more talented than last season, as they’ll boast four of my Top 11 prospects to begin the season (Seager, Urias, Anderson, Windle).
The Lookouts should have the Dodgers’ most recent international signee and some interesting pitchers. I assume Arruebarrena will get promoted to Triple-A shortly after Guerrero is recalled to the Dodgers.
The Isotopes stand to have more talent than in most years. I know Chris Jackson doesn’t think Lee will go to Albuquerque, I don’t see a point to bringing him back to Chattanooga. Plus, pitching in the pitcher’s hell that is the Pacific Coast League could help Lee refine his approach and try to get more grounders — something that could help him going forward.
Baseball America released its Top 100 prospects on MLB Network Wednesday night. This is the 25th year the publication has compiled such a list. With BA’s list, most of the big-time prospectors have checked in with some form of a Top 100. I’m going to look at the Dodger prospects who placed on each list and figure how they shape up.
While Urias got the highest placement of any prospect (14 on Law’s list), it’s Seager who is the consensus best prospect in the system. Self-promotion: I ranked Seager as my No. 1 prospect in the system, and my first four match the first four here.
The biggest outlier is Pederson’s 75 from Crawford. If you look at the rest of his rankings, the 75 sticks out like Brandon League‘s 3-year contract. The biggest disparity is Urias’ 14 from Law and 73 from Hulet. A 17-year-old prospect will cause those disparities. Admittedly, 14 is a bit high for Urias — this year.
There are only two guys in danger of losing their prospect status after the season — Pederson and Lee. But that would mean things aren’t going particularly well in Los Angeles (probably). Anderson, with a good season, is primed to shoot up the lists on which he placed, and actually place on the others, next season.
Is there any doubt who the Dodgers’ right fielder will be in 2017? (By: Dustin Nosler)
It’s hard to project anything in baseball, especially something like a 2017 lineup. But that’s what I’m going to do here.
I usually attach this at the end of my prospect write-ups, but I wanted to go a little more in depth here. It takes into account who is currently in the farm system and who is on the big league roster. It doesn’t project trades or free agent signings.
Baseball America does this exercise yearly.
Seeing as the Dodgers don’t have a ton of catching depth, and A.J. Ellis would be entering his age-36 season, and there’s no guarantee his body is going to hold up, the Dodgers’ 2017 catcher might have to come from within the system. It’s either that or the 2017 catcher isn’t yet with the organization.
A.J. Ellis: Will be 36 and would be an unrestricted free agent; might be backup-quality by then. Kyle Farmer: Conversion prospect, will be 26 and there’s no telling if he’ll still be a viable option. Tim Federowicz: Will be 29 and has always profiled as a backup. Pratt Maynard: Second-most promising prospect, will be 27 and has athleticism; needs to hit. Spencer Navin: The best defender of this group, will be 24, needs to prove he can hit.
2017 catcher: Navin
Navin’s defensive ability alone gives him the advantage. While he’s logged all of 25 professional late appearances, the Dodgers drafted him in the 11th round and gave him $200,000 more than the slot recommended bonus. They obviously see something in him and, at worst, he should be a standout defender they could bat in the No. 8 spot (if there’s no DH in the National League by then; sad).
First base Adrian Gonzalez can’t do it forever, but if the Dodgers are looking for a replacement to come from within the farm system, they’re probably out of luck. Gonzalez will be 35 by the time 2017 rolls around, and will have two years remaining on his contract (worth $43 million — $21.5 million per season).
Options Cody Bellinger: Most potential of anyone on this list, will be only 21 years old and could be heir apparent to Gonzalez. Justin Chigbogu: Most power potential of any 1B in the system, will be only 22, but most likely trade bait. O’Koyea Dickson: Would have to do something amazing in the next few years to even be considered, will be 27.
Adrian Gonzalez: Unless the Dodgers want to trade him, he isn’t going anywhere, even if he will be 35.
2017 first baseman: Gonzalez
Ned Colletti perused Gonzalez for years before finally getting him in 2012. There’s no real reason for the Dodgers to think about moving, especially since they don’t know what they have in Bellinger and/or Chigbogu. It’s a safe bet that one of them will replace Gonzalez come 2019. Then again, that could just be my optimism regarding the prospects.
The Dodgers signed Alex Guerrero for one reason: to be their second baseman of the future. After a slow start in winter ball following his October signing, Guerrero might be back on track. He’s drawn positive reviews in spring training thus far and is the odds-on favorite to open the season at second.
Options Erisbel Arruebarruena: Recent import (unofficially) would be an elite defender at second, will be 27.
Alex Guerrero: Will be 30 and entering the last year of his 4-year, $28 million deal. Darnell Sweeney: Converted shortstop has decent power/speed combo, will be 26, likely a backup. Jesmuel Valentin: Slick fielder who can walk has a decent chance, will be just 23.
2017 second baseman: Guerrero
It isn’t likely any of the others listed above would be able to out-hit Guerrero, while Arruebarruena and Valentin could certainly out-field him. But, the Dodgers can live with maybe average defense in return for the above-average offense.
This might be the most interesting position. While Juan Uribe will either be a former Dodger or merely a bench player in 2017, third base could end up being a position of strength after being a weakness for nearly a decade.
Options Hanley Ramirez: Could move to third in future, unsigned beyond 2014, will be entering age-33 season. Alex Santana: Former second-rounder could make some noise, but could also be destined for the outfield; will be just 23. Corey Seager: If they keep Ramirez and move him, Seager could be the shortstop; will be 23.
2017 third baseman: Ramirez
This was tough, but I think Ramirez might fit better at third base in his age-33 season. While he obviously feels more comfortable at shortstop, his frame might not allow him to stay there into his mid-30s. This also assumes a lengthy, lucrative contract extension is reached sooner rather than later.
Ramirez is firmly entrenched as the team’s shortstop, and the signing of Arruebarruena does nothing to change that for 2014 (or 2015). But the Dodgers have a lot more depth up the middle than they did two years ago.
Erisbel Arruebarruena: Easily the best glove, must prove he can hit, will be 27. Cristian Gomez: Only 42 pro games, could move to second base, will be just 21 and in the minors.
Hanley Ramirez: Already chosen as the 2017 third baseman, could play short in a pinch.
Corey Seager: Would be biggest regular SS in MLB history, plus bat, will be 23. Lucas Tirado: Will be just 20 and probably still working his way up the minor-league ladder.
2017 shortstop: Seager
The Dodgers could conceivable flip-flop Ramirez and Seager, but I’m thinking a 23-year-old Seager might fare better at shortstop than a 33-year-old Ramirez. Both should be well above-average hitters at either position.
The Dodgers have all of the outfielders, and they might have all of the outfielders in 2017. All of the big four are signed through at least that season, but only one can be the left fielder. Crawford and Ethier are slated to share left field duties in 2014.
Options Carl Crawford: Limited to left, will be 35 and entering the last year of his contract (worth $21 million). Andre Ethier: Can play all three spots, but profiles best in left, will be 35 with at least $20 million left on his deal. Matt Kemp: Not much of a center fielder, and won’t be in three years, will be 32 and owed $64.5 million on his deal.
2017 left fielder: Kemp
Kemp has the largest deal and the most talent. A move to left field should benefit him, provided he stays healthy. Come 2017, one of Ethier or Crawford will have already been traded (long ago), while the other will likely be on his way out (probably before 2017).
Kemp is the best option for the 2014 Dodgers, if he can run. Ethier filled in admirably last season, but he isn’t a realistic option come 2017.
Matt Kemp: Will presumably lose some range and profile better in a corner. Joc Pederson: This is the Dodgers’ CF of the future, will be 25 and just about to enter his prime.
2017 center fielder: Pederson
This was the easiest choice. While Pederson might not be the best center fielder to ever put on a uniform, he’s plenty capable of handling the position adequately and should provide at least average offensive output. In 2017, Pederson will, in theory, be entering his first year of arbitration.
Joey Curletta: Big power and arm, will be 23 and challenging for MLB playing time.
Yasiel Puig: Will be in the sixth year of his 7-year deal, provided he doesn’t opt for arbitration after the 2015 season (he probably will).
Jacob Scavuzzo: Will be 23, loud tools, might end up in left.
Scott Schebler: Same age as Puig, but not the same talent level, likely trade bait.
2017 right fielder: Puig
This is a no-brainer. Puig will be just 26 and entering his prime. If his 2013 season is any indication, the Dodgers and their fans should be in for a treat in 2017 (and likely sooner).
Yesterday, Ken Gurnick posted a story at dodgers.com about Hanley Ramirez, mainly focusing on Ramirez’ intention to be healthy — he claims to be pain-free in his back and his ribs — and his still uncertain contract status, which Ramirez punctuated by saying “I want to be a Dodger for life.” Yet the most interesting piece of news about Ramirez’ future didn’t even come in that article, it came buried at the bottom of a story about the Dodgers working to sign Cuban Erisbel Arruebarruena:
The Dodgers still apparently are interested in giving a contract extension to current shortstop Hanley Ramirez, but with an understanding that he would move permanently to third base when a shortstop replacement is ready.
That’s a story unto itself, because Ramirez has long preferred to remain at shortstop rather than move to third, very vocally stating that when the Marlins forced him to move over to start 2012. Ramirez played the first eight games of his Dodger career at third, then moved back to shortstop, where he’s been ever since. Despite a surprisingly decent 2013 fielding performance, I think we all know that as he ages and slows in his 30s, shortstop isn’t the ideal position for him, and so if he signs an extension, moving him to third base makes all the sense in the world.
Except… what of Corey Seager? Perhaps it’s premature to be asking this, because Seager is all but certain to start the year at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, and even with a strong showing it’s difficult to see him reaching the bigs before a late call-up in 2015 — at best — and ideally with an eye towards being a regular big leaguer in 2016. That’s two years from now, and so much can happen between now and then. He can flame out, like Joel Guzman, or be involved in some ludicrous trade for a Giancarlo Stanton or David Price. Ramirez could depart or decline or get injured. This could be a conversation that never ends up being relevant.
Still, the thought of Ramirez at third long-term does make you start thinking about where Seager’s place in all this is, because at 6’4″, he’d be one of the biggest shortstops in history. Only Cal Ripken, Jr., managed to have any sort of career at the position, and it’s long been assumed by nearly every outside observer that Seager moving to third was an inevitability. If Ramirez is there, that presents a sizable roadblock, and while Arruebarruena may not hit enough to start shortstop, the rumored amount of money the Dodgers are prepared to give him — still unconfirmed, of course — indicates otherwise about how the Dodgers look at him.
Since Arruebarruena hasn’t even officially signed yet, let’s not worry about him for the moment. The question then becomes, do the Dodgers really see something in Seager that absolutely no one else does? I’m not even really being facetious there — from Keith Law to Ben Badler to Baseball Prospectus to everyone else, I don’t think I’ve seen a single reputable prospect report that gives him a chance of sticking at shortstop.
But then, the only opinion that matters is that of the organization, and I go back to what DeJon Watson said to our pal Christopher Jackson last July:
He’s a really good player. Grounded, just an unbelievable feel for the flow of the game. His internal clock is really advanced for his age. He’s a shortstop, he’s staying at shortstop, he’s playing it well and he’s really just stabilizing the infield defense whenever he gets in the lineup. His play has been consistent, he never wavers. Again, he’s a pretty advanced player for such a young age. We’re really excited for him.
It could be posturing to improve Seager’s perceived value, or he could really mean it. We don’t know, though there’s really not a ton of urgency to move him. (Manny Machado, for example, played exactly two minor league games at third after 203 at shortstop before being promoted to the hot corner in Baltimore. It worked out just fine.)
Either way, a Ramirez extension seems more likely than not, and the premise of him playing third base for most or all of that deal seems likely as well. Maybe the idea would be that it’s, say, a four-year deal that gets done before the season, and that Seager could manage to handle short for his first year or two in the big leagues until Ramirez is gone and then Seager makes the same transition. (Where all this ends up leaving Arruebarruena, I have no idea.) Maybe one or both is gone before then. No matter what, it’s an interesting wrinkle to the future of one of the top prospects in the system… and a wonderful problem to have.
This category is really between Pederson and Seager. Pederson has shown the ability to hit/get on base at the most telling level of the minors, while Seager finished his first full professional season flashing a plus-hit tool more often than not.
Curletta and Scavuzzo showed a good ability to put the barrel on the ball, as well as walk, but they did it in rookie ball. If they do it in the Midwest League in 2014, then they could be in play for this distinction next year.
Best Hitter for Power
Best Hitter for Average
Best Power Hitter
Best Strike-Zone Discipline
Best Defensive Catcher
Best Defensive Infielder
Best Infield Arm
Best Defensive Outfielder
Best Outfield Arm
Best 5-Tool Prospect
This category speaks for itself — it’s for the hitter who has the most power potential in the system. It isn’t necessarily the ability to hit the ball over the fence, but all extra base hits and the authority with which they hit the ball.
The fact there are three teenagers on this list is impressive. Chigbogu and Medina probably have the most raw power. Medina hit 10 home runs in his first taste of professional ball. Curletta didn’t show as much power potential as the other two, but he is one of the strongest guys in the system. Schebler showed some solid-averge power potential, but he’ll have to do it outside the California League to show it wasn’t a fluke.
Again, this comes down to Pederson and Seager. While Seager could hit 25-30 HR a season at his peak, Pederson is more likely to sustain that. When he needs to, Pederson can drop his back shoulder and get some loft on his hard contact. Once a sure bet for 15 HR per season, now it’d be surprising if he didn’t top 20 HR annually for many years.
Best Strike-Zone Discipline
This category for the players who display the best strike zone judgment and ability to minimize the bad pitches at which he chooses to swing.
Pederson and Seager will probably make the most of their plus-plate discipline, but they won’t win this category. Ogle showed an ability to take walks, which would look better if he were behind the plate instead of first base.
This one comes down to Maynard and Valentin. Maynard had a 1:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 2013, while Valentin has struck out just two more times than he’s walked in his first two seasons. This one is tough, but Maynard’s ability to display plus-plate discipline at a higher level (despite being five years Valentin’s senior) gives him the edge.
Of all the categories, this is the most self-explanatory. This is for the fastest Dodger prospect. I also factor in base-stealing ability (success rate, not just pure numbers).
Pederson dramatically improved his base-stealing in 2013. Sweeney has plus-speed, but he doesn’t always show it in game action. Holland stole 44 bases in Ogden in 2012, but only 27 in 2013.
Naturally, two center fielders are contending for this distinction. Cuevas has sneaky speed, not just quickness. But Baldwin is one of the best athletes in the system, and easily the fastest base runner.
This is for the most athletic Dodger prospect. It’s usually reserved for an outfielder, but sometimes an infielder can sneak his way into the mix.
Cuevas, Schebler and Sweeney (all of whom played with the Quakes last year) have above-average athleticism for their respective positions. Holland was a defensive back in high school and had a scholarship to Boise State. But, the Dodgers have two prospects who are more athletic.
It’d be easy to just give this to Baldwin because he’s the fastest, but being the best athlete isn’t all about speed. Scavuzzo has the ability to play center field, but is better suited for a corner. This is the closest matchup thus far.
Winner: Baldwin (barely)
This is not only the pitcher who throws his fastball with the most velocity, but the ability to command it is a factor.
Garcia’s fastball could tick up once he moves to the bullpen full-time. Martin already has a fastball that consistently touches the mid-90s. Stripling has the second-best fastball of any starting pitching prospect in the system. Urias could take that distinction as he ages, though.
Anderson’s fastball could be a plus-plus pitch down the road, though, an above-average grade is more realistic. Dominguez regularly touches the high-90s and even hits triple digits.
The curveball has taken a back seat to the slider as the primary off-speed offering for many pitchers these day. However, Vin Scully didn’t dub Clayton Kershaw‘s curve “Public Enemy No. 1″ for nothing.
Gould has topped this category the last two years, but as he moved up the minor-league ladder, the curveball has lost its effectiveness a bit. Garcia has a slider-esque curve that flashes plus-potential.
But the top two curves reside in the arms of Stripling and Urias. Stripling’s curve is a true 12-6 offering that features sharp downward break. It’s his best swing-and-miss pitch. Urias’ is more of an 1-7 offering that could be a great pitch one day.
Kershaw didn’t have a slider coming up through the minors, yet he’s added the pitch and it’s become one of the best in the game.
Garcia’s slider is inconsistent, but his best off-speed pitch. Magill’s slider could tick up if he moves to the bullpen down the road. Martin’s slider is a true swing-and-miss pitch at times. Windle’s is good and could top this category as early as next year.
This comes down to two former first-rounders in Lee and Reed. Lee’s slider has come a long way since his debut. It’s his best breaking pitch. Reed’s slider is a killer on lefties. It flashes plus-potential and works better out of the bullpen. But Lee’s wins out because he can throw it against lefties and righties.
This is one of my favorite pitches, but it’s vastly underused in baseball.
Baseball America rated Lee’s changeup the best, and it’s pretty good. However, changeups from the two lefties have better potential. Urias’ showed signs of being a plus-pitch, while Gonzalez’s changeup is easily his best off-speed pitch.
There are no Derek Lowe‘s here, but the Dodgers have some guys who can get some ground balls.
Farmer was a shortstop in college, but made the transition behind the plate surprisingly well. Maynard has good athleticism and a solid arm. But Navin made my Top 50 almost solely based on his defense.
Best Defensive Infielder
Cesar Izturis is one of my favorite Dodger players of all-time, and I can’t quite explain why. I’m sure it has something to do with his glove.
Gomez could end up being the best of this quartet (and best of the middle infielders), but he’s still young. Valentin is praised in the organization for his glove, even if it profiles better at second base.
Bellinger is already a Major League-average defender at first base and should only improve. However, Ned Colletti has talked up Rojas and his glove for the last six weeks. A guy who hit an empty .234 in Double-A shouldn’t be getting this much run.
Best Infield Arm
Gone are the days of Rafael Furcal, but there are some guys who can sling the ball across the diamond.
Rojas has a strong arm and is the only true shortstop here. Santana has a strong arm — strong enough for the outfield.
Seager has a potential plus-arm at third base and it’s plenty good for short. Guerrero has a strong enough arm for short that should play up at second. This is the second-toughest decision on this list.
Winner: Guerrero (barely)
Best Defensive Outfielder
Each of these guys are better than any of the four Dodger outfielders, but it’s likely only one sees the majors in an extended capacity.
James Baldwin Chili Buss
Pederson has made marked improvements since 2011. Buss got to the majors last season and has enough glove to play center field.
Cuevas and Baldwin are the two best, with Baldwin having the edge in range. However, Cuevas’ arm and instincts give him the overall edge.
Best Outfield Arm
Remember this? Yeah, no one has that kind of arm, even if there’s a former pitcher and guy who was draft-eligible as a pitcher.
Candidates Joc Pederson
Scavuzzo could end up being the best 5-tool prospect in the system, but he’ll have to prove his 2013 wasn’t a fluke in full-season ball. Schebler doesn’t have as much speed or arm as most 5-tool guys, but he has solid power and bat tools.
Pederson’s ability has improved every season, and he’s the best of the best in the system.
Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). This is an amateur scouting report based on what I know about baseball and from following the sport all my life. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information to the masses. 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 an Aroldis Chapman fastball), and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
1. Corey Seager, SS/3B (6’4, 220, 20 years old)
It looks like the Dodgers hit big on their 2012 first-round pick in Seager. His debut season was solid, and his sophomore season was even better. Seager began with Great Lakes and ripped up the league, hitting .309/.389/.529. A .918 OPS in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old is fantastic. A late-season promotion to Rancho Cucamonga didn’t go well (.160/.246/.320) and he struggled in the Arizona Fall League. But that shouldn’t matter too much. Seager uses his pure and smooth left-handed stroke to generate the best bat speed in the system. He has average power now and projects to have above-average power at his peak. He also has good opposite-field power. Seager is a polished hitter for being as young as he is, as he’s willing to go the other way and he’s more than willing to take a walk. He has a hole in his swing (inside corner) that could get exposed by advanced pitching, but he’s a good enough hitter to adjust to it. There’s still a lot of projection left in his body, but he’s starting to fill out, hence the plus-power potential.
There isn’t much question about his offensive ability. His defensive position should change. Some in the organization think he can stick at shortstop, although that opinion is changing a bit. At worst, Seager is an average third baseman. He’s adept at shortstop, but his size and range should prevent him from playing there in the majors. He has a quick first step, soft hands and plenty of arm for either position. If he were to play shortstop in the bigs, however, he’d be the biggest shortstop to ever play the position. His final destination on the diamond is likely at third base, but the Dodgers are going to keep him at shortstop for a lot of the 2014 season. He’ll begin in Rancho Cucamonga with a midseason promotion to Chattanooga more than likely.
2. Joc Pederson, CF (6’1, 210, 22 years old)
Pederson established himself as a legitimate Top 40 prospect in baseball with a really good season in Double-A. He was one of the league’s youngest players, and one of its top performers. Pederson uses his strong hands and wrists to generate plus-bat speed and has flashed plus-power potential in batting practice. That power potential is carrying over to game action. Once considered a fourth outfielder by some, Pederson profiles — at worst — as a second-division starter, possibly in center field. His hit tool trails only Seager’s in the system, but he might have a better eye than the teenager. He’s a pull hitter, but has shown a willingness to go the opposite way at times.
Pederson also improved his defense in 2013, making a future home in center field a real possibility. His arm is a tick above-average and while he probably profiles better in left field, he could handle center field long-term. He also improved his baserunning. After stealing just 26-of-40 bases in High-A in 2012, he stole 31-of-39 bases at the most telling level of the minor leagues. He should begin 2014 with the Albuquerque Isotopes and will almost certainly debut in the majors at some point.
3. Zach Lee, RHP (6’3, 190, 22 years old)
Lee is basically the pitching version of Pederson (kinda). He’s underrated by most and has a future as a regular in the majors. Lee was facing advanced competition at age-21 in the Southern League and more than held his own. He was my Dodgers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and the Dodgers bestowed upon him the same honor. He posted career-bests in almost every major pitching category. What’s most impressive is he not only increased his strikeout rate, but also reduced his walk rate. Lee has a fastball that sits in the 89-92 MPH range and touches 95 MPH at times. He can cut and sink it to get outs as well. His best secondary pitch is a low-80s slider, which features inconsistent two-plane break. It flashes plus at times, but he can get under it at times. He also has a changeup that has above-average potential. It’s also a low-80s pitch and he gets good downward movement against left-handers. Lee also has a curveball he uses less than the other two secondary offerings that is an average pitch.
His delivery is smooth and repeatable. Combine his repertoire, poise, athleticism and pitchability, and there’s a No. 3 or 4 starter there. He’ll need to improve his stamina (5.4 innings pitched per start) and be more consistent with his off-speed pitches to reach that. The Dodgers could start Lee at Albuquerque, but it’s understandable if they send him back to Chattanooga. Either way — he’s nearly MLB-ready and should debut in 2014.
4. Julio Urias, LHP (6’1, 180, 17 years old)
Urias was the talk of the Dodgers’ farm system after making his professional debut in May — and what a debut it was. Urias signed for roughly $1 million out of Mexico in 2012 and figured to pitch in short-season ball in 2013. His full-season assignment was a shock to most outside the organization. Urias didn’t do anything to fuel the naysayers. His 2.48 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.1 K/9 are really, really good numbers for, say, a 19- or 20-year old in the Midwest League. Urias did it at 16. 16 years old. Amazing. His fastball is an 89-93 MPH offering that routinely touches 95 MPH and got as high as 97 MPH (as a 16-year-old!). It doesn’t do a whole lot, but it features a little arm-side run and projects as a plus-pitch. His best off-speed pitch can be debated. His changeup is nasty at times, but also a touch inconsistent. It features good diving action that can get a considerable number swing-throughs from righties. His curveball is a low-to-mid-70s pitch that is a little loopy at times. But when he gets on top of it, it almost acts more like a slider in its break.
His command and control are surprisingly advanced for a young teenager, but he’ll need to continue to work on it going forward. His delivery is polished and repeatable. But, Urias’ best attribute might be his poise on the mound. He pitches like a pitcher well beyond his years. He has more poise than some Major League pitchers. It’s hard to project a phenom at times, and Urias is no different. If everything comes together, he’s a future ace. As of now, he looks no worse than a No. 3, but more likely a No. 2 starter. An aggressive assignment to the California League could be in order, but it’s entirely possible the Dodgers could have Urias begin back in the Midwest League before a promotion. He’s only 17, after all.
5. Alex Guerrero, 2B (5’11, 205, 27 years old)
The Dodgers signed Guerrero two times before officially signing him to a 4-year, $28 million (with incentives up to $32 million) contract in October. Guerrero spent some time in the Dominican Winter League, but a hamstring injury hampered his ability to play and showcase his talents. The Cuban import isn’t the next Yasiel Puig, but he should be an above-average offensive second baseman. Guerrero’s best tool is his bat, and he shows surprising pop for a second baseman. His swing looks effortless at times and he has good bat speed. He’s not opposed to going the other way and shorten up his swing with two strikes. He won’t be a threat on the basepaths, but he also won’t be a base-clogger.
Guerrero was a shortstop in Cuba, but it’d be a surprise if he played there long-term in the majors. He’s a little stiff defensively and doesn’t have the greatest range. His arm is strong enough to play shortstop, but it profiles much better at second base, and he’s athletic enough to handle second. If he works at it, he could be a plus-defender, but the Dodgers would probably settle for average defensive ability at the position. Some penciled him in as the Dodgers’ opening day second baseman (present company included), but with an injury-riddled winter, it’s entirely possible he could begin the season in the minors with a quick call-up after some seasoning. As an older prospect, he might not need more than a month or so in the minors.
2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Majors/Triple-A Albuquerque
6. Ross Stripling, RHP (6’3, 190, 24 years old)
Stripling was the Dodgers’ fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, he signed for nearly $100,000 less than slot — and he looks like an absolute steal. He isn’t Michael Wacha (his teammate at Texas A&M), but he has some of the same attributes as the budding Cardinals’ star. Stripling uses a four-seam fastball that is an 89-92 MPH pitch that touches 94-95 MPH on occasion. His mid-70s curveball is his best off-speed pitch. He throws it at 12-6 and it gets good downward movement when he snaps it off right. He also throws a high-70s/low-80s changeup that is a weapon against left-handed hitters. He also added a slider for the 2013 season that is still a work in progress.
His delivery is smooth and repeatable, leading to some of the best command/control in the system. From the stretch, he clocks in around 1.4 seconds. His arm angle is over the top, which allows him to get some nice downward plane on his pitches. Stripling has at least average athleticism on the mound. For me, he projects as a No. 4 starter with a low-end No. 3 ceiling. His floor is a quality reliever who could see his velocity tick up a bit in that role, but he struggled in that role with the Lookouts this season. He threw nearly 100 innings at Double-A, so a promotion to Triple-A could be in order. After Lee, Stripling could be the Dodger starting pitching prospect next in line to make MLB debut.
2013 ranking: NR
2014 location: Triple-A Albuquerque/Double-A Chattanooga/Majors
7. Chris Anderson, RHP (6’4, 215, 21 years old)
Anderson was the 18th overall selection in the 2013 draft, and the Dodgers found another good one. Despite being a college junior, he was drafted as a 20-year-old. Anderson was overused a bit at Jacksonville University, causing him to drop from a preseason Top-10 pick to a mid-first-rounder. Despite that, he showed real promise in his professional debut. He has three pitches that should be at least average. He throws heavy fastball in the 92-94 MPH range and can run it up to 96-97 MPH at times. He gets good sink on the pitch. It’s by far his best pitch. Anderson also features a slider that flashes plus-potential at times. He gets solid tilt on the pitch that sits in the low-80s. He can get a little inconsistent with the pitch at times, causing it to go flat. His changeup might be his best secondary offering. It’s also a low-80s pitch that he throws more consistently well than his slider. It’s his primary weapon against lefties. Anderson also has a curveball that’s little more than a “show me” pitch. It doesn’t project to be much more than a below-average offering.
Anderson’s delivery isn’t as picturesque as Lee or Stripling’s, but there’s potential for it to be cleaned up, thus improving his command/control. Right now, that’s his biggest weakness. Anderson’s ceiling is a No. 2 starter. More likely, he’s a No. 3 or 4 starter. If his off-speed pitches don’t improve enough, he could be a nasty back-end reliever, possibly a closer. He should go to the hitter-friendly California League to begin 2014, with a promotion to Chattanooga more than likely.
8. Chris Reed, LHP (6’4, 195, 23 years old)
A personal “favorite” of mine, Reed reinvented himself a bit in 2013. A college reliever who got plenty of swings-and-misses, Reed transformed into a groundball pitcher, with mixed results. The 2011 first-round pick spent all of 2013 in the Southern League and enjoyed moderate success. Reed’s fastball is an 89-92 MPH offering that rarely touches 94-95 MPH as a starter. He sinks at 88-91 MPH it to get a better groundball rate than the pitchers rated ahead of him on this list. His slider is his best secondary pitch, but it’s been quite inconsistent in his career. At times, it flashes plus-plus potential, but it has the potential to be just average because he can’t throw it from a consistent arm slot. Reed also has a changeup that is a below-average pitch and doesn’t project to be much more than that.
He throws his pitches from a three-quarters arm slot that has yet to be conducive to great command. The converted college reliever doesn’t have a great chance of sticking in the rotation. His mechanics aren’t smooth enough to have an easy, repeatable delivery. He’s likely a reliever at the next level, but there’s an extreme outside chance he remains as a starter if he can nail down a third pitch. If he goes to the bullpen, he could re-reinvent himself as a power lefty with a sinker that can’t be touched, but he’ll need to improve his command for that to happen. If he sticks in the rotation, he’s a No. 4 or 5 starter. After spending all of 2013 at Double-A, it isn’t unrealistic for the Dodgers to send him to Triple-A. If things fall his way (which means things aren’t going well in LA), he could make his big league debut in 2014.
9. Onelki Garcia, LHP (6’3, 220, 24 years old)
Garcia was the Dodgers’ third-round draft pick in 2012, and reports said he would have been the Dodgers’ selection over Reed in the 2011 draft, if he were eligible. A native of Cuba, Garcia has the most potential of any Dodger pitcher in the system, but there are a number of issues would need to overcome to realize that potential. Garcia throws a heavy fastball that sits in the 90-93 MPH range. He touches 95 MPH with the pitch at times with some heavy sink. He gets natural arm-side run with the pitch that he throws from a high three-quarters arm slot. His high-70s/low-80s curveball acts more like a slider than a curve because of its tight spin. It’s also the pitch on which he gets a lot of swing-throughs. Garcia has toyed with a changeup in the past, but it’s not even a “show me” pitch at this point. He’s really similar to Reed, but has better velocity.
His mechanics aren’t technically sound, as his delivery looks as if he’s “pushing” the ball toward the plate. The arm slot is fine, but his mechanics don’t lend themselves to being easily repeatable, and his command/control will suffer because of it. He profiles as a nasty late-inning reliever from the left side who should be able to get righties out with his plus-curveball. Garcia made his MLB debut in 2013, but there’s little chance he begins 2014 in Los Angeles without an injury ahead of him. Likely, he’ll go back to Triple-A, where he pitched in August for a few weeks before being promoted to the Dodgers in September.
2013 ranking: 7
2014 location: Triple-A Albuquerque/Majors
10. Matt Magill, RHP (6’3, 210, 24 years old)
Magill made his Major League debut in 2013 and was fantastic against the Brewers. He went 6 2/3 innings, gave up two runs and struck out seven. It looked like he might stick when the Dodgers needed pitching depth. However, he got roughed up in most of his remaining outings and ended up walking more batters (28) than he struck out (26). He was jerked around in the minors, having outings canceled, postponed or shortened on the off chance the Dodgers might need to recall him. In 2014, he should benefit from some consistently. Magill’s fastball is an 89-93 MPH pitch that touches 94 MPH at times. He’s able to get some movement on the pitch to throw a decent 2-seamer. His best off-speed pitch is his low-80s slider that flashes plus-potential at times. It’s still inconsistent and he has trouble locating it at times. He also has a changeup that has solid-average potential. His curveball is almost not worth mentioning. He’ll need to improve both pitches if he’s going to remain a starting pitcher.
He draws comparisons to former Dodger Tim Belcher, as his delivery is reminiscent. He throws from an over-the-top arm slot and his delivery appears to be repeatable. But Magill has trouble repeating it, which leads to his mechanics getting thrown off, which leads to below-average command. He seemed to have made strides in that department in 2012, and he showed an ability to throw his pitches for strikes in the minors. But the Major League stage proved to be quite the hurdle for him. If he can’t consistently repeat his mechanics and throw strikes, a bullpen role might be in his future. His fastball could play up out of the ‘pen, and he could ditch his changeup and curveball in favor of working on his slider. He’ll go back to Albuquerque in 2014 with a chance to contribute to the Dodgers in some capacity this season.
2013 ranking: 6
2014 location: Triple-A Albuquerque/Majors