Lost, maybe, in Matt Kemp‘s big game and the daily question of “how does Yasiel Puig‘s thumb feel / did he light a puppy on fire” is the fact that the “too many outfielders” problem that the Dodgers face isn’t because they have four outfielders. It’s because they have five, and I’m not talking about Scott Van Slyke.
It’s because of Joc Pederson, and how is he liking his first crack at Triple-A? Well, he went 0-3 in his first game. But then he homered in his second… and his fourth… and his fifth. In the six games after that debut, he has 10 hits — two doubles to go along with the three dingers — and, somewhat unbelievably, seven walks. (Against five strikeouts. He also stole two bases.) Before you can shout “BUT ALBUQUERQUE!”, well, the Isotopes started the season in Tacoma and Reno. They make their home debut tonight, with Zach Lee on the mound against the Rainiers.
Now, you can say “small sample size!” and you wouldn’t be wrong, because he’s… well, forget the number of plate appearances. His team hasn’t even played at home yet. That’s how early it is. But it’s still nice to see him at the very top of Baseball America‘s first Hot Sheet of the season:
If you’re looking for a safe bet for an upper-level prospect to post monster numbers this year, look no further than Pederson. He’s an elite prospect with a patient approach, plus raw power and is playing his home games in Albuquerque, a park that helps keep the stat sheet padded for veteran 4-A mashers every year.
But really, I’m writing this post almost entirely so I can show you this ridiculous homer he hit against Reno’s Alex Sanabia three days ago. Just watch the center fielder:
That’s Ender Inciarte, who is a real person who exists I guess, and he knows. He knows right away. You can’t even see where the ball landed. You can see a train moving, and according to Google Maps it’s an Amtrak headed east. If Pederson’s ball landed there, might be about 1,000 miles away by now. It’s the longest homer in baseball history. DO NOT TRY TO REFUTE THIS.
Since we’re here, Pederson hit one the day before off Derek Eitel. It’s not quite as much of a no-doubter, but it does make Roger Kieschnick sad.
Again, it’s only been a few games, and like I said yesterday, it’s far too early to be making substantial differences in player valuations. Pederson was a very good prospect before the season, and he’s a very good one now. The objective baseball analyst in me knows that it makes sense for him to be where he is, because it’s his first time above Double-A, because he still needs to improve his hitting against lefties — seven of the 10 hits, and all five of the extra-base hits, came against righties — and because the longer it is until his service time clock starts, the more years of control the Dodgers have over him. There’s not room for him in the bigs right now, so might as well have him somewhere where he’s playing every day.
But all that being said: the fan in me is getting excited to see what he can do at the big league level. The idea of Pederson alongside a healthy Kemp and Puig is jaw-dropping, with Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford either in reserve or traded or both. It’ll never happen, of course. It’s a fan’s dream. And so I’ll be just as excited — if not necessarily pleased — to see David Price in Dodger blue in July, after Pederson and Lee are sent east should Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore-less rotation prove to be fatal to their playoff hopes. Quiet, you: we all know this is what’s going to happen.
C. Robinson 1B
T. Robinson LF
There isn’t a ton of talent at the Double-A level — the most telling level for any prospect. The guy to watch there is Arruebarrena, but he’s going to spend a few weeks back in extended spring training at the Dodgers’ complex in Glendale.
The Isotopes might have their most talented team in years, with Pederson and Lee (called it) leading the way. Both of these rosters should be pretty fluid with guys coming up and and going down, as well as some getting to the majors.
Joc Pederson stands to make a lot of money, but the only question is when it happens. (By: Dustin Nosler)
Free agents are becoming fewer and less talented because of the new trend of teams locking up their players a year or two before they accumulate six years of service time.
Before the 2012 season, the Reds locked up Joey Votto and the Giants locked up Matt Cain to massive deals. They were both set to become free agents following the 2012 season. The Dodgers, famously, locked up Clayton Kershaw this winter — before he entered potentially his last year in Los Angeles.
For teams with money, it’s easier to accomplish this. For teams pinching pennies, they have to be creative.
It would buy out his six arbitration years and first year of free agency
Springer has yet to make his Major League debut
The second one is more interesting to me. With the changing financial landscape of baseball, this could end up being the next new fad. I cannot remember a prospect, who was drafted and came up through a team’s minor-league system, being signed to a Major League deal before he had even made his first plate appearance.
The closest I can recall is the Rays locking up Evan Longoria to a 6-year, $17.5 million deal after logging just six games and 24 plate appearances in the majors in 2008. The Rays are still reaping the benefits of that decision, as Longoria is making a paltry (for his level of production) $30 million in the next three seasons. His new deal (six years, $100 million) doesn’t even begin until the 2017 season. Mike wrote about Longoria’s deal over at ESPN on Friday (Insider required).
Springer was the Astros’ minor-league player of the year after posting a .303/.411/.600 triple slash with 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases between Double- and Triple-A. He’s 24 years old and should have a spot on the talent-lacking Astros’ roster … right? Well, thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are more inclined to keep their players in the minors until June so said teams get an extra year of arbitration (avoiding Super Two status). That’s another issue for another day.
Twenty three million dollars over seven years is just less than $3.3 million per season — a minuscule sum to pay for a player after his first year or two of arbitration. Some say the Astros’ offer wasn’t good enough, which it really wasn’t (Negotiation 101), but they had the right idea. Signing players to deals in their arbitration years is a gamble — they’re trying to sign third baseman Matt Dominguez to a 5-year, $17 million deal with two options at $8 million and $10 million — but signing players to pre-MLB deals (for lack of a better term) is almost unprecedented. But it’s also something that could be more common (especially for smaller-market teams) as the years progress.
So, I’ve rambled for nine grafs almost exclusively about non-Dodger interests. What does this have to do with LA? May I present two names: Joc Pederson and Julio Urias.
The Dodgers aren’t strapped for cash (breaking news, I know), but I wonder if it would it make any bit of sense for them to lock up these two to pre-MLB debut deals.
Pederson, 22, is the Dodgers’ best position prospect closest to the majors (he’s expected to play at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014). He was their MiLB POY in 2012 and had arguably a better season in 2013 at Double-A Chattanooga. If there’s any prospect in the system worthy of a deal like this, it’d Pederson.
The only thing that gives me pause isn’t his “inability” to hit lefties (I don’t think it’s entirely accurate), it’s the roughly four outfielders in the majors signed through at least the next four years.
Yes, the Dodgers will probably trade Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier, but there’s no telling when that might happen. Pederson could use some seasoning in Triple-A, but if they came either midway through this season or shortly after the season with a 7-year, $35 million offer, I’m betting Pederson would take it. He could make more via the arbitration process and his first year of free agency — if he performs well. This way, he’s guaranteed $35 million before he hits free agency. I used Shin-Soo Choo‘s arbitration numbers for comparison’s sake. Choo made a little more than $17.5 million in his six years (hey, there’s that Longoria number). Choo is making $21 million in the first year of his 7-year deal in Texas. I’m not sure Pederson will ever be a $20-plus million per year player, but that’s $38.5 million for seven years. So, my 7-year, $35 million proposal isn’t that far out.
This is where it gets awfully interesting. It’s entirely possible my opinion is impacted by Urias’ spring training debut on March 15, but if the Dodgers are going to attempt one of these deals, it might be worth it get it done with him.
Urias will pitch the vast majority of the 2014 season as a 17-year-old (he turns 18 on Aug. 12). Some say he could make his MLB debut before he turns 18. It sounds crazy, but the only things that are seemingly holding him back are his lack of stamina and experience at the higher levels.
Now, Urias isn’t the next Kershaw. The Dodgers don’t have a guy like that. So, he probably won’t make nearly as much as Kershaw did in his first six years (almost $38 million), but perhaps the Dodgers can buy out more years of free agency because Urias is so young.
I’m thinking a 10-year, $50 million deal before he debuts. That would buy out four years of free agency (for argument’s sake, let’s say $15 million per season) and his six arbitration years (approximately $15-20 million), potentially saving the Dodgers $25-30 million in that 10-year span. Not many players who go through the arbitration process can say they made $50 million before reaching free agency.
There’s risk in either deal, but there’s especially more risk in the Urias deal. Pitchers are prone to more serious injuries than their position player counterparts — especially teenage pitchers who have all of 54 1/3 innings in professional ball.
If Urias agreed to such a deal, let’s say next year, he’d be a free agent in time for his age-28 season — prime time for players to hit the market.
The Dodgers probably won’t continue to have a payroll north of $250 million every year. The luxury tax cost would be enough to afford two or three quality players (50 percent tax on the amount more than $187 million after the 2016 season). By that time, Crawford and Ethier should be playing elsewhere, a cheap Corey Seager will have replaced Juan Uribe, someone other than Alex Guerrero could be playing second base and the Dodger rotation could have cheap options in Urias and Zach Lee. The Dodgers will effectively get younger while saving money longer than a team normally would.
Signing players to pre-MLB deals could be the way for the Dodgers to reduce payroll while not only keeping their homegrown players, but their potentially superstar homegrown kids. These deals would require the youngsters to be on the 40-man roster soon after signing them, so if they’d be open to such deals, the Dodgers would have to make sure there’s room for them to play.
Also, it’s a two-way street. Players would need to be willing to sign such deals, and there’s no guarantee Pederson or Urias would be interesting in doing this.
I don’t expect either of these deals to happen, but it’s something the Dodgers should look into with their top-flight prospects (if they aren’t planning to trade them) to (hopefully) save some money in the long run.
Joc Pederson is going to be a good baseball player. There’s no denying that. He has a sweet swing, better-than-advertised power and can play good defense in center field (despite letting that popup drop in on Saturday night).
The question many fans are asking is, “Is he going to break camp with the team?” The answer is simply, no. The 22-year-old is plenty talented to start in center field for at least a third of the teams in the majors right now, but there are a lot of things that would have to happen for him to don a Dodger jersey on opening day.
Matt Kemp is going to begin the 2014 on the disabled list. He’s doing more baseball stuff, but he won’t be ready for March 30 — three weeks from today. So, that’s a plus on Pederson’s side. Since Kemp figures to be the center fielder, that spot is technically open. But that spot will also be filled by Andre Ethier, who played a not-terrible center field in Kemp’s absence last year.
Barring anything unforeseen, Yasiel Puig will play 150-plus games this season, so right field is out of the question. Even Scott Van Slyke has laid claim to the team’s No. 5 outfield spot.
That leaves the left field duo of Carl Crawford and Ethier. Both of them have spent ample time on the disabled list in recent years, but for Pederson to be on the 25-man roster on opening day, Crawford and Ethier would have to be on the DL.
While Pederson is arguably as talented as those two (probably more so), he isn’t going to win a job over them in spring training. We all know spring training stats are generally useless, let’s remember Puig hit .514/.500/.828 last year and began the season at Double-A. Pederson is hitting .250/.423/.600 in 12 games this spring. If he were Puiging this spring training, he might have a more solid case.
The Dodgers’ top three outfielders would have to be on the DL for an extended period of time for Pederson to make the team. It wouldn’t make sense to have him up for only a handful of games, just to send him down to Triple-A.
Pederson will make his debut in 2014, because the likelihood of all four outfielders making it through the season unscathed is minimal. When Pederson comes up, it will be — at minimum — for a 10-15 game stretch in which he plays every day. That will be fun to see.
But until that time, spend the $20 on MiLB.tv and watch him hit in the Pacific Coast League. That will pay for the service by itself.
Today in Arizona, Joc Pederson did the second-best thing to taking a five-iron to Matt Kemp‘s ankle in terms of trying to make the team: he took Chicago’s Jake Petricka deep down the left field line ifor a home run in the seventh inning. Petricka’s not exactly Chris Sale or anything, but he is a noted groundballer who had allowed only 14 homers in 352.2 minor league innings, so taking him deep is an accomplishment.
Pederson is still not very likely to make the Opening Day roster, but he’s not doing anything to diminish his prospect status… or his trade value. Either way, we’ve heard so much about him over the last four years since the Dodgers took him in the 11th round of the 2010 draft that it’s fun to see him live and in person — or on television, whatever — and doing the things we’ve all heard he’s capable of. I’m still not sure we’ll ever see him as a Dodger in the big leagues. For right now, I’m enjoying what I can get.
That Pederson’s dinger accounted for the initial runs in a 5-0 win — Dee Gordon later scored in the eigthth (after stealing second) on a Mike Baxter hit, then Baxter scored on a Brendan Harris sac fly, then Baxter came in on a Clint Robinson dinger — means little, though the zero on the Chicago scoreboard means that the Dodgers pitched very well against what was more or less the White Sox’ regular lineup. Hyun-jin Ryu and relievers Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen, Chris Perez, J.P. Howell, Jamey Wright, and Matt Magill blew through the Chicago offense with relative ease, and while it’s of course only Feb. 28, that deep, strong bullpen has a chance to be an enormous strength for the Dodgers this year. Also potentially a strength: Wright giving interviews, based on how he insisted to SNLA’s Alanna Rizzo that he was “feeling terrible,” with more than a little smirk.
Also good: Alex Guerrero looked strong on defense, though he was 0-2 at the plate, fielding a few grounders and seamlessly turning a 6-4-3 DP.
In other news, pitching prospect Ross Stripling is awaiting the results of his MRI. He’s already dropped the term “UCL”. He is, I am sad to say, just about certainly going to hear bad news. As always, pitching through arm pain never ever goes wrong.
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).
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