Eovaldi Leads New Wave of Arms in LA

From Clayton Kershaw to Chad Billingsley to Rubby de la Rosa (a recent victim of Tommy John surgery), the Los Angeles Dodgers have displayed a knack for developing top-flight pitching talent. The newest hurler to emerge is Nate Eovaldi, but he’s just the tip of the iceberg in what should be LA’s strong wave of young, cost-controllable talent. Other names to tuck away for future reference include Allen Webster, Zach Lee, Garrett Gould — and recent first-round pick, Chris Reed.

Eovaldi is probably the least-heralded prospect of the group. A former 11th-round selection in 2008 out of high school in Texas, he would have gone much higher if he hadn’t been slowed by Tommy John surgery in his junior year. He received an over-slot deal and has not had any major issues with his elbow in pro ball. Breaking out in 2011 at double-A, Eovaldi did a nice job of keeping runners off base (6.64 H/9) and struck out his fair share of batters (8.65 K/9). On the downside, the 21-year-old is a fly-ball pitcher and has struggled with his control (4.02 BB/9). Eovaldi is probably in the majors a little early, but his mid-90s fastball has a lot of promise; he just needs to learn to better-control his secondary pitches and learn the value of changing speeds.

Webster, another 21-year-old, has moved through the minor league system after being stolen in the 18th round of the 2008 draft out of a North Carolina high school. He was nabbed by the same scout, Lon Joyce, who also discovered outfield prospect Jerry Sands in the 25th round of the same draft. The right-hander has split 2011 between high-A and double-A. After dominating high-A ball, Webster now has a 4.00 FIP (4.75 ERA) in 77.2 double-A innings. His strikeout rate is still respectable, but it’s dropped from 10.33 to 7.18 K/9. With a fastball that can touch the mid 90s and a solid changeup, the consistency of his curveball is the primary thing that’s keeping him from becoming a solid big-league starter.

Despite entering the 2011 season with zero pro innings, Lee was considered by most talent evaluators as the organization’s top pitching prospect. The club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2010, he was considered tough to sign away from Louisiana State University, where he would have played both football and baseball. Lee has held his own so far this season in low-A ball, where he’s posted a 3.67 FIP (3.41 ERA) in 95 innings. He has a strikeout rate of 7.96 K/9 and has shown above-average control (2.65 BB/9) for his experience level. Lee has a well-rounded repertoire that includes a fastball that can touch 95 mph, a curveball and a changeup.

Taken out of a Kansas high school in 2009, Gould was a projectability pick. With a big, strong pitcher’s frame, he should add velocity as continues to fill out and he currently sits in the 88 mph to 92 mph range. He also flashes a potentially plus curveball and a developing changeup. Having only recently turned 20 and already in his third pro season, Gould has made huge strides low-A ball this year. The right-hander has shown good control (2.83 BB/9) while missing his fair share of bats (7.69 K/9). His FIP currently sits at 3.28 (2.35 ERA) in 114.2 inings.

Reed was a fast mover up the board as the 2011 draft approached. The left-hander showed the ability to reach the mid-90s and has an impressive slider and a promising changeup. He’ll need time to better-command his secondary pitches, though. The organization used its 16th-overall selection to take him and likely will develop him as a starter — even though he only made one start in three years at Stanford University. If he doesn’t have the consistency and overall game for the starting rotation, Reed could develop into a high-leverage reliever.

The Dodgers’ organization has seen some well-publicized pitching washouts — Ethan Martin, Chris Withrow — in recent years but there’s still much to get excited about as the prospects continue to develop in the minor-league system or move to the majors. There should be a plethora of impressive arms at Dodger Stadium in the future.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


29 Responses to “Eovaldi Leads New Wave of Arms in LA”

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  1. MintyRoadkill says:

    Noted washout Chris Withrow still has a chance of being a good major league starter

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    • Mike says:

      Considering he’s 22 and hasn’t been a good minor league starter yet, I wouldn’t bet on it. I’m a Dodger fan, so I think it’s too bad.

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  2. nick says:

    Was this written so all of us Dodger fans don’t slit our wrists?

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  3. I think it was written to convince us all to start up a Fangraphs ownership group to buy the Dodgers.

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  4. Luke says:

    Just a little request for clarification: So finding Jerry Sands is supposed to be an achievement on this scout’s record?

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    • Oasis says:

      Finding anybody that makes it to the major leagues in the 25th round is an achievement. Or do you think you can do better troll?

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  5. Chair says:

    The Dodger’s future bullpen looks just as good as the rotation:

    Kenley Jansen
    Scott Elbert
    Javy Guerra
    Josh Lindblom
    Blake Hawksworth
    Shawn Tolleson
    Steven Ames
    Cole St.Clair
    Javier Solano
    Ethan Martin
    Scott McGough

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  6. Joe Random says:

    what kind of ceiling does Eovaldi project to have? strong 3, fringy 2?

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  7. Tommy Lasordas Pasta says:

    Now if we could only put together a lineup that doesn’t completely suck.

    Matt Kemp excepted, of course.

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  8. jim says:

    is there any work on the careers of pitchers who have TJ while still in high school? sounds like it would be a big red flag…

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    • SKob says:

      Not knowing how much work this guy put in as a kid, I would just think it’s good he got it out of the way in HS.

      If his coaches or dad had him throwing a ton, not caring about pitch counts… It would be interesting to see that list though, just to see who did have it done in HS and how they did.

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  9. What I want to know is why the Dodgers always gets the accolades for their farm system’s pitching, when the Giants have produced more and better?

    All through the 2000′s, I got to hear about how much better LA’s pitching prospects were, but many just ended up failing and falling to the wayside. Meanwhile, Cain turned out to be much better than any of the Dodger prospects he was compared unfavorably against and the Giants have a lot more talent and pitching from homegrown prospects than LA does.

    Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez, Wilson, Romo. Plus, we had Wheeler, still have Surkamp, Humbree, and many others.

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    • Chair says:

      Kershaw, Billingsley, De La Rosa, Broxton, Kuo, plus we had James McDonald, and Edwin Jackson, still have everyone listed in this article and many many more. Why do Giants fans try and compare themselves to the Dodgers all the time, we do not care about your team.

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      • Bip says:

        After seasons of being frustrated by Billingsley, Kuo and Broxton, I’m pretty ready to agree that the Giants develop better pitching. Bumgarner and Cain are both a lot better than Billingsley, their bullpen hasn’t fallen apart like ours has, and I don’t believe the Dodgers have any two-time Cy Young award winners. The only thing we have on them is that Kershaw has seemingly overtaken Lincecum and may be better going forward.

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      • cs3 says:

        wait so are Broxton, Billingsley, and McDonald supposed to prove your point, or negate it?

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      • cs3 says:

        that was directed at chair

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      • Chair says:

        Billingsley is as good as Cain. Broxton was as good as Wilson before this season. The point is both teams have had plenty of pitching talent, however that’s not what this article was about, so why come on here to complain? Do you really think there needs to be an article about Lincecum, Cain, and Wilson right now?

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      • Ivdown says:

        CS3, only an idiot would think Billingsley is not a success. Even struggling this season he is still going to be above average to good by the end of the season. And he’s had a 4.4 and a 4.6 WAR season with a 3.1 WAR season in the middle. Again, you’d be an idiot to think anything but that he’s a success story.

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    • Ivdown says:

      It’s cool that you commented just to whine. Way to go.

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  10. Joey E. says:

    finally some Dodger love. They always fly under the radar. their system is really strong with pitching. great piece Marc

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  11. Ned Colletti says:

    *drooling*

    I can’t wait to trade all this pitching away for backup catchers and 4th outfielders!

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  12. Duder says:

    @obsessivegiantscompulsive

    The Giants pitching prospects were heavily touted, too. Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, and Wheeler were all high 1st round picks… Lincecum was a top prospect for the short time he was in the majors, Cain and Bumgarner were top 10 prospects according to most publications, and Wheeler was top 50 prospect despite having serious control problems. The Dodgers were never in position to pick high in a draft except the one were they took Kershaw and Scott Elbert, two who are pitching well with the big league club.

    Also, couple of things:
    - while showing flashes of brilliance, Jonathan Sanchez has only been above average for one season (if that). he’s never posted a 3.0 WAR season and he hasn’t shown signs of having consistent controls. He’s a #4 starter, nothing less, nothing more.

    - Broxton was better than Wilson until he broke down in July of last season. Torre left him in a game in St. Louis in July where he threw 45 pitches. Sergio Romo was an excellent find by Sabean and co., though.

    - Again, most of the Giants top prospects were due to them sucking the previous season. Bumgarner, Cain, Wheeler and Lincecum were top picks. The Dodgers were only fortunate enough to get Kershaw in 2007. Other than that, Rubby De La Rosa and Angel Sanchez were discoveries in the Dominican, Eovaldi was a late pick, Allen Webster was a late pick, Gould was a supplemental pick, Lee was a late 1st round pick and was considered unsignable, Billinglsey was a late 1st round pick, Tolleson was a late find, etc, etc. Hell, even Matt Kemp was taken in the 6th round.

    - If memory services me correctly, Bills and Kershaw were the only highly touted prospects. And Cain was a better prospect than Bills in ’05 according to BA… and Kershaw wasn’t even suppose to best lefty in the minors – that award going to the great Andrew Miller.

    Why bring the Giants into this dicussion? Your just asking for a flame war.

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  13. Duder says:

    also, every time has there share of failed prospects.

    Merkin Valdez, Marcus Sanders, and Tim Alderson don’t ring a bell?

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  14. bluetrain says:

    unusually good writeup on Dodger farmhands, missed a few, but still nice
    train

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