The Graduate: Clayton Kershaw | Born: March 1988 | Left-Handed Pitcher
The seventh overall selection in the 2006 draft, Clayton Kershaw rocketed through the minor leagues and made his pro debut at the age of 20. He began the season by posting a 1.91 ERA, allowing 39 hits and striking out 59 in 61.1 innings at Double-A. Kershaw was then promoted to the Majors where he allowed 109 hits in 107.2 innings of work. He also posted rates of 4.35 BB/9 and 8.36 K/9. It’s easy to see why Kershaw favored his fastball (which he threw 71.4% of the time) because the lefty averaged 94 mph with it on the radar gun. He also utilized a nasty curveball (23%) and a change-up (5.3%).
The Riser: Victor Garate | Born: September 1984 | Left-Handed Pitcher
The organization is loaded with talent but Victor Garate stands out thanks to his interesting background. A middle reliever in the Houston Astros organization, Garate was nabbed by the Dodgers in the minor league portion of the 2007 Rule 5 draft. He was a little old for A-ball but he took to the starting role like a fish to water, so there may be something there. It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers organization fast-tracks him to Double-A even though he struggled a little bit in a tough pitching environment to finish the season at High-A ball (44 hits allowed in 38.1 innings, but with rates of 3.29 BB/9 and 11.03 K/9). Earlier in the season, Garate carved up A-ball hitters with 61 hits allowed in 77.2 innings. He also posted rates of 3.24 BB/9 and 11.94 K/9. The southpaw has a high-80s fastball and a plus change-up, as well as an OK breaking ball. If he can tighten up his third pitch, Garate could slide into a fourth or fifth starter’s role at the Major League level, thanks in part to solid deception and good command.
The Tumbler: Josh Wall | Born: January 1987 | Right-Handed Pitcher
The former 2005 second round pick out of an LA high school is slowly losing steam in the system. But 6’6” pitchers that can touch the mid-90s earn plenty of chances. Josh Wall allowed 152 hits in 129 innings this past season and posted rates of 4.40 BB/9 and 7.05 K/9. He needs to become more consistent – when he’s bad, he’s really bad – and his maturity has also been questioned. Wall’s ERA in High-A ball was a nasty 6.28 but his FIP showed some potential at 4.56.
The ’08 Draft Pick: Kyle Russell | Born: June 1986 | Outfielder
Kyle Russell made a lot of noise as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2007 by hitting 28 home runs in college but he spurned a pro contract offer from the Cardinals and returned to school for the 2007-08 season. He did not come close to duplicating his outstanding 2007 but he was still selected in the third round of the amateur draft by the Dodgers. Russell had a solid pro debut – albeit in Rookie ball which mainly consists of 17 to 19-year-old players). He hit .279/.358/.534 with 11 home runs and an ISO of .256 in 219 at-bats. Russell will really need to cut down on the strikeouts to succeed at higher levels: 37.4 K% in 2008.
The ’09 Sleeper: Andrew Lambo | Born: August 1988 | Outfielder
Andrew Lambo has been a hitting machine since signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .343 with an OPS of .953 in his debut in 2007 and followed that up with a 2008 line of .288/.345/.462 in A-ball. Lambo also received a brief call-up to Double-A where he hit .389 and slugged three home runs in eight games. He appears to be one of those players that needs motivation to play at his peak and he coasted a bit in A-ball. Lambo has displayed slightly below-average power for a left-fielder but he has more raw strength that could develop into usable power. He also needs to improve his defence.
Up Next: The Boston Red Sox