At first blush, the Dodgers’ system doesn’t look that impressive but there are a number of pitching prospects that could be poised to take big steps forward in 2014. Add those players to the already-impressive bats in Corey Seager and Joc Pederson, and you have a solid system. The real knock, though, is the lack of depth but it’s getting better.
The Year in Review: The teenaged Seager celebrated his first full pro season with an opening day assignment to the Low-A Midwest League. There, he hit .309 with a .918 OPS in 74 games. He struck out just 58 times and showed gap power. Promoted to the High-A California League, the young infielder struggled with a .566 OPS and 31 strikeouts in 27 games. He also attended the Arizona Fall League, as one of the youngest participants, and hit just .181 with 25 strikeouts in 19 games.
The Scouting Report: A left-handed hitter, Seager has had very few issues against southpaws. He has an advanced hitting approach and understands the value in using the whole field. He can turn on a pitch and drive it a long way and could eventually hit more than 20 home runs in a full big league season. Currently a shortstop, Seager will likely move over to third base as he fills out and his range diminishes. He has a strong arm for the hot corner.
The Year Ahead: Seager will no doubt return to High-A ball for a second attempt at taming the league. Age is very much on his side so it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he were to spend the entire season in the California League.
The Career Outlook: Seager has a chance to be even better than his brother, Kyle Seager, who plays for the Seattle Mariners. The question with Corey is less about if he’ll hit and more about where he’ll play in the field.
The Year in Review: The young outfielder enjoyed his time in the Double-A Southern League. Pederson, 22, slugged a career high 22 home runs and also nabbed 31 bases in 39 attempts. In total, he produced an .878 OPS and walked 70 times in 123 games. On the downside, he struck out 114 times. Pederson also spent some time in the Venezuelan Winter League and produced a .912 OPS in 34 games. He walked 36 times (with 42 strikeouts).
The Scouting Report: Pederson just keeps getting better and better. He originally looked like more of a fourth outfielder or platoon partner but the California native has worked hard to become a potential impact player. He has a chance to have five average or better tools. He should hit for average against right-handed pitching (although southpaws are his kryptonite) and he’s learned to tap into his power more consistently and could hit 15-20 home runs in the Majors. He’s also a good base runner with above-average speed so 20-30 stolen bases in the Majors is a possibility. Pederson could be an average center-fielder or an above-average corner outfielder.
The Year Ahead: Pederson will move up to Triple-A where he should spend most of his season. The good news for the young prospect is that the Dodgers outfielders have a collective history of getting hurt so he should definitely make his MLB debut in 2014.
The Career Outlook: It won’t be easy for Pederson to assume a full-time gig on the veteran-heavy LA Dodgers but he may force the organization to find a home for him — unless he becomes trade fodder.
The Year in Review: The Dodgers’ first round draft pick in 2010, this former Texas high school star quarterback has taken some time to acclimatize himself to pro ball. Lee, 22, spent all of the 2013 season in Double-A where he allowed 132 hits and just 35 walks in 142.2 innings of work. He also struck out 131 hitters and induced an above-average number of ground-ball outs.
The Scouting Report: Lee has a four-pitch repertoire that is more solid than overwhelming. His fastball works in the 88-93 mph range and touches the mid 90s. His slider is his second-best offering over his curveball and changeup. His stuff plays up due to his solid command and control, as well as his ability to keep the ball on the ground. He lacks a reliable out-pitch.
The Year Ahead: Lee will almost certainly be assigned to Triple-A while awaiting an injury to open up an opportunity for him to make his first MLB appearance.
The Career Outlook: For me, Lee has the makings of a future mid-rotation starter. He’s not flashy but he gets the job done and has been quite durable and reliable to date.
The Year in Review: This young Mexican rose to prominence (and much hype among prospect followers) by posting a 2.48 in 18 starts as a 16 year old. He issued just 16 walks and struck out 67 batters in 54.1 innings of work.
The Scouting Report: Urias has good stuff for his age with a low-90s fastball that can touch the mid 90s. His curveball has a chance to be a plus offering and his changeup should be average or better. While Urias’ dominance over professional baseball players at such a young age is almost unheard of, some caution must be used before getting too excited. The young player doesn’t have the most projectable frame and it’s not likely that he’ll suddenly shoot up five inches; He’s listed at 5-11, 160 pounds and the only significant growth he’ll likely do is around the middle. His lack of size is somewhat worrisome from when projecting the likelihood of future injuries.
The Year Ahead: Los Angeles will have to be cautious (and patient) with the young Urias, who will spend most of 2014 playing in High-A ball at the age of 17. After failing to break the 60-inning mark in 2013, there is no guarantee that he’ll be allowed to surpass the 100-inning mark — although he should at least come close.
The Career Outlook: I’d personally peg Urias as a future No. 3 starter but he has a long way to go before he’s ready for The Show.
The Year in Review: It was a good year for Anderson. He was drafted 18th overall by the Dodgers out of Jacksonville University. The right-handed hurler was then assigned to the Low-A Midwest League where he posted a 1.92 ERA with 32 hits allowed in 46.0 innings. He also struck out 50 batters. The young hurler will need to find a consistent weapon against left-handed hitters who batted .277 against him (compared to righties at .149) with an eye-popping on-base percentage.
The Scouting Report: Anderson, a Minnesota native, has good stuff. His fastball works in the low 90s and can touch the mid 90s. He also has a slider that has plus potential and a changeup that could be average or better. His strong frame suggests he should be capable of providing 200+ innings a year. As mentioned above, he struggled against lefties in his debut but continued improvements with the changeup should eliminate their advantages.
The Year Ahead: If he looks good this spring, Anderson should open the year in High-A ball. Most clubs try to avoid exposing top pitching prospects to the potent California League for any longer than they have to so the right-hander could see Double-A in the second half of the season, if not sooner.
The Career Outlook: Anderson is just beginning to scratch the surface of his big league career but he looks promising and could eventually develop into a mid-rotation starter.
The Year in Review: Selected in the second round of the amateur draft out of the University of Minnesota, Windle was immediately assigned to the Low-A Midwest League where he pitched well. In 12 starts, he struck out 51 batters in 53.2 innings of work and gave up just two home runs. He posted a 2.68 ERA.
The Scouting Report: Windle has a chance to be a better-than-advertised pitcher. The lefty has good stuff with an 89-94 mph fastball and potentially-plus slider. His changeup has a chance to be average. He also has a strong frame. Windle has had a lot of success but he may be just scratching the surface on his potential considering his lack of experience compared to other pitchers his age. A Minnesota native, like fellow Top 10 prospect Chris Anderson, he didn’t have the benefit of playing year round like top prospects from California, Florida or Texas. As well, he spent the majority of his college career in the bullpen. The downside to Windle is his delivery, which isn’t the smoothest and may put added stress on his shoulder.
The Year Ahead: Windle’s strong start to his pro career has positioned him well to open the 2014 season in High-A ball. If he pitches well, the southpaw should see Double-A by the second half of the minor league season.
The Career Outlook: Windle may eventually move back to his previous role in the bullpen but he’s shown mid-rotation potential as a starter — assuming he can iron out his delivery.
The Year in Review: The Standford alum had a solid, but unspectacular, year in the Double-A Southern League. The southpaw made a workman-like 29 appearances (25 starts) and allowed 128 hits in 137.2 innings. He struggled with his control, as witnessed by 63 walks, and he struck out just 106 batters. However, he produced a high rate of ground balls. Reed received a little bit of extra work in the offseason with four starts in the Venezuela Winter League.
The Scouting Report: Reed can hit the mid-90s with his fastball but the pitch is at its most effective when he takes a little off, creates good movement and dives down in the zone. He’s a pitch-to-contact type of pitcher who will keep the infield defense hopping and he’s not likely to produce massive strikeout rates. Reed is still working to develop consistency with his secondary stuff — a breaking ball and changeup. He has a solid pitchers frame so he should be capable of providing lots of innings.
The Year Ahead: The lefty will open the 2014 in Triple-A, one step away from making his MLB debut, which could also come this year. Reed will have to battle fellow Top 10 arm, Zach Lee, for the first call-up to The Show.
The Career Outlook: Like Lee, Reed doesn’t have a massive ceiling but he has a shot at developing into a workhorse No. 3 or 4 starter. Failing that, the former college closer could return to the ‘pen as a set-up man.
The Year in Review: Stripling opened his first full pro season in High-A ball — a formidable assignment given the league’s offense-boosting qualities. The righty held his own thanks to a high ground-ball rate and good control. After just six starts he received a promotion to Double-A where he made another 21 appearances (16 starts) with similar results.
The Scouting Report: A fifth round draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2012, Stripling has been a quick mover due to his polished approach. He doesn’t have “wow” stuff but his fastball works in the 88-93 mph range. He also possesses a slider, curveball and changeup. All three secondary offerings have a chance to be average or better. Stripling does a nice job of inducing ground balls and both his command and control should be better than average.
The Year Ahead: There may be some competition for Triple-A roster spots with Zach Lee and Chris Reed ahead of Stripling on the depth chart (The club will also need veteran insurance at AAA) so the Texas native may have to open the year back in Double-A.
The Career Outlook: Stripling profiles as a No. 4 starter capable of providing a lot of innings.
The Year in Review: A Cuba native like Yasiel Puig, Guerrero signed a four-year, $28 million contract back in October and is the early favorite to open the 2014 season as the Dodgers starting second baseman. He may be rusty, though, after a significant layoff while establishing himself to play in North America.
The Scouting Report: Guerrero, aka the Wildcard, is a bit of an unknown quantity, much like Puig was in his first pro season. There is much debate over his hit tool with a wide range of opinions. He’s not the most fluid or athletic player but he has shown flashes of hitting for a solid batting average with 10-15 home run pop. He’s a solid base runner but he’s never been a big base stealer. Defensively, he played shortstop in Cuba but projects better at second base due to his modest range and arm.
The Year Ahead: If things go as planned, Guerrero will be the Dodgers’ starting second baseman in 2014. However, not everyone is an immediate MLB star like Puig so it’s possible that the young Cuban could need a few months of minor league seasoning.
The Career Outlook: Cuban players are notoriously hard to project but the Dodgers are expecting him to be a good everyday middle infielder.
The Year in Review: Valentin suffered from a false start in 2013 when his opening day assignment to Low-A ball in the Midwest League didn’t go so well; he was returned to extended spring training and later finished up the season in the Pioneer League. The good news is that the 19-year-old infielder wasn’t terribly overwhelmed even when he did struggle and was able to make decent (albeit weak) contact.
The Scouting Report: The switch-hitter needs to get stronger to avoid being overpowered by good fastballs, and to work on his approach at the plate. He’s a little too passive at times and needs to find a balance between attacking the ball the waiting for the right pitch. When he’s at his best, he shows a profile befitting a No. 2 hole hitter. Originally a shortstop, Valentin has spent more time at second base in pro ball and he profiles well there due to solid range, good actions and a solid arm for the position.
The Year Ahead: Valentin will return for a second shot at the Midwest League in 2014 and he’ll hopefully be more prepared for the return engagement.
The Career Outlook: The young Puerto Rican definitely needs to get stronger if he’s going to realize his full potential as a starting, big league second baseman or utility infielder.
The Next Five:
11. Onelki Garcia, LHP: As you might have heard, the Dodgers have had a little bit of luck with Cuban players… and Garcia could be ready to make an impact in Los Angeles in 2014. He made his MLB debut in 2013 (three games) but spent most of the year split between Double-A and Triple-A. He has a strong fastball with excellent sinking action that induces high ground-ball rates. His secondary stuff is still developing but his breaking ball has promise. His biggest issue right now is his lack of consistent command/control — as well as health.
12. Cody Bellinger, 1B: A 2013 fourth round draft pick out of an Arizona high school, Bellinger flashes plus defensive skills at first base. He didn’t hit much in his pro debut but he has a promising stroke and a projectable frame that could eventually add enough muscle to develop average power. He’s a sleeper worth keeping an eye on.
13. Matt Magill, RHP: A former 31st round draft pick out of a California high school, Magill made his MLB debut in 2013 — his six pro season. He was bounced around a bit in six starts because he struggles with both his command and control. When he’s at his best, the right-hander displays an average repertoire and durability that should allow him to chew up innings in the backend of a big league rotation or as a long man out of the ‘pen.
14. Zach Bird, RHP: It was a rough 2013 season for Bird but the potential is still there. He has the raw talent to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter but his command and control issues are currently wreaking havoc on his development plans. He’ll likely have to give Low-a ball another shot in 2014.
15. Kyle Farmer, C: Farmer? The eighth round draft pick from 2013 who signed for just $40,000 as an eighth round pick? Well, the college shortstop was immediately shifted behind the plate in pro ball to take advantage of his strong arm. If the move sticks (He’s not without his rough edges as witnessed by the 13 passed balls), the catcher could have significant value. He hit .347 with a .919 OPS in 41 games during his pro debut and has a chance to be an average-hitting catcher.
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