The Dodgers will trot out a formidable wave of big league talent to take on the National League West in 2013 but the strength of the major league club comes at the expense of the minor league system. The organization has flipped its home-grown talent to acquire the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Hanley Ramirez. The new draft and international free agent rules will affect LA’s ability to over-pay for amateur talent but the club showed the ability to work within the new guidelines and had a solid 2012 amateur draft.
Lee, 21, is an athletic pitcher who’s still learning to channel his raw skills to the mound and he doesn’t dominate as much as expected. The right-handed Texan split 2012 between high-A and double-A pitching a total of 121 innings.
He walked just 32 batters, displaying above-average control for his age, but also struck out just 103 batters because his secondary stuff – curveball, slider, changeup – has yet to fully develop. He offsets his lack of Ks with above-average ground ball numbers. A former star high school quarterback, Lee has moved quickly through the system and may need to spend all of 2013 in double-A before his ticket to L.A. is punched.
A closer at Stanford University, Reed was immediately converted to starter in pro ball after being selected with the 16th overall selection of the 2011 draft. His first full season did not go as planned, though, when he missed time with blisters and a sore shoulder. He appeared in 19 games split between high-A and double-A.
Reed, 22, has a fastball that works in the low-90s and touches the mid-90s with good sink. He also has a promising slider and is working to develop both a changeup and a cutter. The southpaw should return to double-A to begin the 2013 season and he has the makings of a No. 3 starter. If he can avoid the disabled list, Reed could receive a taste of the big leagues in the coming year.
The brother of Seattle’s Kyle Seager, Corey Seager is a talented left-handed hitter who was selected with the 19th overall pick of the 2012 amateur draft out of a North Carolina high school. He came out swinging in his debut and hit .309 with eight home runs, while also controlling the strike zone quite well. He has immense potential and above-average power to all fields.
Seager made 17 errors in 44 games at shortstop after turning pro and is probably too big to stick at shortstop for much longer. The hot corner is his most likely destination. Seager, 18, could move swiftly through the minor league system and should open 2013 in full-season A-ball. He has the ceiling of an All-Star hitter playing on the left side of the infield.
Puig’s raw ability is undeniable but he’s a bit of an enigma. A free agent signing out of Cuba, the outfielder is reportedly 22 years old with a massive 6’3” 215 lbs frame. He dominated the low minors but appeared in just 23 games. Puig showed plus power, ran well for his size and controlled the strike zone well. In the field, he showed a strong arm and profiles well in right field.
The Cuban prospect will likely open 2013 in either high-A ball or double-A, with the decision probably somewhat dependent on how he looks in spring training after missing the Arizona Fall League due to a staph infection and then struggling a bit in the Puerto Rico Winter League. Signed to a seven-year $42 million contract — compared to the more advanced Yoenis Cespedes’ four year, $36 million contract — Los Angeles clearly expects Puig to develop into a star.
The Dodgers’ second pick (51st overall) of the 2012 draft behind Corey Seager, Valentin also comes with outstanding pedigree. His father Jose Valentin spent 16 years in the majors. He’s not flashy but the infielder is a steady athlete with a strong arm who has shown the ability to play shortstop and second base.
At the plate, Valentin struggled in his debut, hitting just .211 in 43 rookie ball games. On the plus side he walked more than he struck out (35-24) but could stand to be a little more aggressive when he gets pitches to hit. He shows gap power and average speed. The Puerto Rico native has good baseball instincts but he’s more raw than Seager and may need another season on extended spring training and rookie ball before he’s ready for a full-season assignment.
A Kansas native, Gould is a big strong right-hander with a sturdy pitcher’s frame who projects to develop into a middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater. A second round draft pick from the 2009 draft, the pitcher has moved steadily through the minor league system and should open 2013 in double-A despite modest numbers in the California League last season. Gould, 21, has a low-90s fastball that can touch the mid-90s and features a very good curveball. He also has a developing changeup.
Like Yasiel Puig, Garcia is a bit of a mystery after making just one regular season appearance after signing. The Cuban was declared eligible for the 2012 draft and went to the Dodgers in the third round. The big, strong left-hander projects as a big league reliever capable of pitching in the eighth or ninth inning thanks to a low-to-mid-90s heater and promising curveball. Although I haven’t seen him pitch, fellow FanGraphs prospect writer Mike Newman was impressed with Garcia when he saw him pitch first-hand. He will likely open 2013 in double-A and could be pitching at the big league level before the year is out.
A former first round draft pick, Withrow hasn’t developed as hoped and he’s played parts of four seasons in double-A. After hitting the wall, the former starter was shifted to the bullpen in 2012 while also dealing with injuries. He appeared in just 22 games (seven starts).
A strong-bodied right-hander, Withrow gets his heat up into the upper 90s but he struggles to control his stuff and walked 36 batters in 60 innings. He also features a curveball, slider and changeup but will likely trim his repertoire if he stays in the bullpen. Although his 2012 numbers were just so-so, a change of scenery could help and he should spend most of 2013 in triple-A.
Pederson has a grinder mentality and succeeds more for his hustle and lacks true outstanding tools. The outfielder can play all three outfield positions but center field is a stretch on an everyday basis. The 20 year old hit has a career batting average of more than .300 but he’s also played in some very good hitters’ leagues. Pederson shows good pop off the bat and uses the whole field.
He has slightly-above-average speed but is still polishing the rough edges. He stole 26 bases in 2012 but was also caught 14 times. Pederson played in the Arizona Fall League but hit just .096 in 15 games and will face a stiff test at the double-A level in 2013. He has the ceiling of an average big league corner outfielder.
The right-hander has lots of projection with a promising pitcher’s frame and a repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball and potentially-plus curveball. Just 18, he was selected in the ninth round of the 2012 draft and signed away from a commitment to the University of Southern Mississippi with a slightly-above-slot contract. Bird actually pitched a little better than expected after turning pro with 46 strikeouts and a plethora of ground-ball outs in 39.2 innings of work. He will likely open 2013 in extended spring training with another go through short-season ball. Bird has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.
Selected 36th overall in 2009 out of Baylor, Miller’s career has not gone as planned. After missing significant time in 2011 due to injury, the left-hander saw his control regress in 2012 when he walked 71 batters in 121.1 innings of work. The Texas southpaw has lost some zip on his fastball in pro ball, perhaps in part due to injuries, and currently works in the 87-91 mph range. He has a promising slider but his changeup has average-at-best potential.
Miller, 25, could perhaps find new life with a move to the bullpen where he could focus on his two best pitches while also hoping to breathe some extra life into his heater. The missed time due to injury has hurt the left-hander more than most because he did not focus on pitching regularly until his junior year of college after showing earlier promise as a hitter.
Federowicz, 25, has spent parts of the past two seasons in triple-A and is poised to break camp in 2013 as the Dodgers’ back-up catcher to starter A.J. Ellis. A defensive whiz, Federowicz is known for calling an excellent game while also providing good receiving skills and a strong arm (He nabbed 39% of base stealers in AAA in 2012).
Previously considered a below-average hitter, the former Red Sox prospect has improved his offensive game to the point where he could provide average offense for a catcher. He should hit for a solid average with gap power. Ellis will turn 32 early in 2013 so it remains to be seen how long he can shoulder the load of being the club’s first-string catcher; Federowicz has enough potential to suggest he could eventually take over the starter’s role.
A life-long Dodgers fan, Rasmussen expressed his excitement when he was recently traded from the Houston Astros to the Los Angeles Dodgers. A former second round draft pick out of UCLA by the Miami Marlins, the left-hander was sent to Houston in mid-2012 along with former first rounder Matt Dominguez for veteran outfielder Carlos Lee.
A scout I spoke to about the former UCLA pitcher sees a big league role in his future. “I think he’ll be able to get people out at the big league level but he’s got to get the ball down,” he said. “He’s up to 94 mph with two breaking balls. The little dude works his tail off.” Two concerns brought up were his lack of deception, as well as his command/control issues – although he has few red flags in his delivery.
Because Rasmussen has a short, slight build, it’s difficult to project him as a big league starter, although he’s been extremely durable in the minors by pitching almost 300 innings during the past two seasons. He’s also known for being competitive so he could have the perfect makeup for a reliever. I was given a loose comp to lefty reliever J.P. Howell, formerly of the Royals and Rays. If Rasmussen can find a way to get on top of the ball and create downward action on his pitches, while also harnessing his breaking balls, he could be a valuable piece of the Dodgers bullpen as soon as mid-to-late 2013.
Rodriguez was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft and was taken more for his ability to move swiftly through the system than for his ceiling. The lefty should be a solid, but unspectacular, reliever at the big league level but could top out as a lefty specialist. He has an upper-80s fastball that can touch 91 mph, as well as a cutter and slider.
Rodriguez, 21, appeared in 21 minor league games and then another 11 at the big league level in 2012, becoming the first member of the 2012 draft to reach the majors. There aren’t a ton of lefties on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster so Rodriguez will likely have a good shot at breaking camp with Los Angeles to begin the 2013 season.
Stripling enjoyed his first taste of pro ball in 2012 when he dominated the Pioneer League with 37 strikeouts and a high rate of ground-ball outs in 36.1 innings of work. A senior signee out of Texas A&M, the right-hander could have a little more upside than the typical four-year pick. He didn’t focus on baseball in high school as a multi-sport athlete and didn’t begin pitching regularly until college.
Stripling has an athletic frame and getting onto a regular, full-year-round-baseball schedule could help unlock some additional potential. He currently shows above-average control and a three-pitch repertoire that includes an 87-92 mph fastball, curveball and changeup. Because of his background it would make sense for Stripling to open 2013 in low-A ball with a quick promotion to high-A, if he finds success early on.