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Los Angeles Dodgers

Original Published Date: Dec. 24, 2012

With the trades that the Dodgers completed over the past six months, I fully expected there to be very little left in their minor league system.  However, while the system is not deep, there’s still talent that could either help the big club or more likely be used as trade barter.

At the top of the list is $42 million dollar Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig.  While there is no place for him in Los Angeles, his power/speed combination is intriguing and will play in the Major Leagues.  Surprisingly, Joc Pederson comes in as my second ranked prospect ahead of the better known Zach Lee.  While Pederson doesn’t have a true carrying tool, I really like his ability to hit and hit with some power.  For fantasy owners, he’s a very intriguing under-the-radar prospect.  Another under-the-radar prospect is Corey Seager, younger brother of Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager.  Corey has a nice power/speed combination and could start moving up prospect list next year.

While I still like Zach Lee, particularly his athleticism and pitching mechanics, the arsenal has not developed like I thought it would.  I’m slightly down on him this year and that is reflected in my rankings.

Again, it’s not a great system, but the Dodgers still have talent and if I were a betting man, I think they’ll use that talent in the summer of 2013 to acquire some pieces for a likely stretch run to the playoffs.

1. Yasiel Puig (OF)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Cuba
Ht:6-3 Weight: 215
Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2012 R-HiA 82 20 5 15 8 .354 .442 81.7 14.6 .381

The history books will point to the Dodgers signing of Cuban defector Yasiel Puig as the start of their incredible and record breaking spending spree.  The $42 million dollar contract caught a lot of people off guard as Puig did not come with the hype of fellow countrymen Yoenis Cespedes or Jorge Soler.  However, the Dodgers saw something in Puig and decided to pull out the checkbook.

There’s actually a lot to like with Puig.  He has plus raw power, speed, and a cannon for an arm.   While he clearly has tools, the question is will he be able to hit enough to tap into those tools.  In looking at his swing, there are definitely questions.

Right-handed power hitters usually have long leveraged swings with nice lower half rotation.  However, in looking at Puig’s swing, it’s really very “armie” as he doesn’t use his lower half very well at all.  The fact that he launched five home runs in 82 professional at-bats is impressive given his swing.  I do know that the Dodgers worked on this during the fall instructional league and I was hoping to see the results in the Arizona Fall League but Puig was injured and did not play.  However, I have several reports that indicated that his swing was much improved from earlier in the summer.

Puig should start the year back in High-A, but could easily see Double-A by mid-season.  He’s an intriguing prospect with a Cespedes-type ceiling.  However, because he lost valuable development time during the time he was defecting, there is risk that he will hit that ultimate ceiling.  Plus, his path to the Major Leagues is blocked by large contracts; and given the free spending ways of the Dodgers, he might be blocked by high priced reserve outfielders.  The crème does rise to the top and if Puig delivers the results, he’ll get playing time in either Los Angeles or somewhere else.

Fantasy Impact: Puig has the power/speed combination that fantasy owners crave.  Plus, he’s been successful at the International level and a Major League team spent $6 million AAV (Average Annual Value) on him.  Granted the Dodgers are over spending on everyone, there is definitely a lot to like.  While he’ll rank in the back-half of my Top 100 list, it’s more due to risk and uncertainty as opposed to upside. In a dynasty draft, I might take him earlier than his ranking would indicate.

2. Joc Pederson (OF)

2013 Age: 21 BP: California
Ht:6-1 Weight: 185
Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2014
2012 HiA 434 96 18 70 26 .313 .396 81.3 11.8 .349

My scouting notes are in a much different format than the profiles I write.  So, for Joc Pederson I thought I would share my cryptic scouting notes – unedited.

Batting: No carrying tool; speed is 4.17 down to first but gets great jumps of pitchers – could steal 20+ bases; nice bat-speed with loud contact but lacks leverage; really good eye and approach.  Fielding: great jump on ball but path to the ball needs improvement.  Summary: Grades out to a solid average (5) but like him as a first division starter (6) because tools play up and he really can hit.  Top 150 prospect maybe more.

Maybe I should just share my scouting notes as it sure would be easier than turning them into long narratives.  Anyway, as you can see there is a lot to like with Pederson.  The hit-tool is very good; including the swing mechanics and the approach.  While I’m not sure he’s an annual .300 plus hitter, I could definitely see a .290 hitter with a couple of peak years due to high BABIP where he could breech the .300 threshold.  While I think there is power and speed in his game, I think the power will be 15-18 home runs but believe he could steal 20 bases annually.

Fantasy Impact: Pederson is teetering on being a Top 100 prospect but from a fantasy standpoint, I’ll definitely be adding him to my team with a nice power/speed combination who can also provide batting average upside.

3. Zach Lee (RHP)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Texas
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right
ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 HiA-AA 121.0 129 59 15 2.38 7.66 4.39 1.33

I love premium athletes who take the mound and while my support for Zach Lee waned in 2012, he still has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter at the highest level.

The Dodgers paid a whopping $5.25 million dollars signing bonus to Zach Lee in a surprise 2010 signing during the McCourt years to lure him away from playing quarterback at LSU.  Blessed with great athleticism, Lee has terrific pitching mechanics that enable him to repeat his delivery and achieve excellent control (2.38 BB/9 in 2012).  The delivery is clean and easy with excellent balance on his landing.

My problem with Lee is the arsenal.  It really hasn’t developed since he was drafted.  The fastball sits in the low 90’s, which is actually down from when he was drafted and his breaking pitch has yet to develop into a plus offering.  In fact, he has a troubling reverse split that indicates that lefties are not being fooled by the pitch.  On the positive, the changeup looks good with nice fad and velocity separation with his fastball.

It’s not all bad with Lee.  Yes, the arsenal needs improvement but with his excellent pitching mechanics and nice downward plane, he is getting a ton of ground balls (2.16 G/F in 65.2 inning in Double-A) with a reasonable six home runs allowed and great control.  However, the strikeouts are below eight per nine and that will fall as he moves through the system.

I no longer see a top-of-the-rotation ceiling but believe a mid-rotation ceiling is now more realistic.  However, this assumes he can develop his slider which is not a certainty.

Fantasy Impact: I see Lee as a late round flyer in a Dynasty League and no longer a must-add.  In fact, he could be a better major league pitcher than a fantasy pitcher given the lack of strikeouts.

4. Corey Seager (SS)

2013 Age: 19 BP: North Carolina
Ht:6-3 Weight: 195
Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
2012 SS 175 34 8 33 8 .309 .383 81.1 12.0 .341

Many times it’s the older brother who’s the better professional player – Cal Ripken and Billy Ripken; Payton Manning and Eli Manning.  However, that might not be the case with the Seager brothers as Corey Seager’s ceiling appears to be much higher than older brother and Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager.

Selected in the first round (pick 18) of the 2012 draft, Corey Seager had an excellent start to his professional career by showing a plus hit-tool with the ability to drive the ball to all fields.  He has plus bat speed but does get a little out of his right-foot which if not corrected could make him vulnerable to soft stuff away as he faces more advanced pitching.

The swing is not a home run swing but because of his plus bat speed, Seager has a chance to hit for some power at the highest level.  While not a burner, he’s able to read pitchers well and should be good for double digit stolen bases.  The biggest issue that I see with Seager is his ability to stay at short.  His actions and footwork are good but at 6-foot-3 he will likely outgrow the position and move to an outfield position or possibly third base.

Fantasy Impact: I’m drafting Seager in a Dynasty League as a later round selection.  There is 15/20 power/speed potential with batting average upside.

5. Chris Reed (LHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP: California
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 195 Bats: Left Throws:Left
ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 HiA-AA 70.1 56 31 3 4.37 8.60 3.98 1.28

Chris Reed was one of the last transactions made by the McCourt regime and while he will likely be a major leaguer, he will not enjoy the level of success that many taken after him should achieve.

Drafted out of Stanford, Reed’s arsenal is solid with a fastball that sits 89-90 mph with a lot of downward plane.  His outpitch is a nasty two-plane slider that really has right-handed batters chasing.  His changeup is average but is still a solid offering.

The mechanics are inconsistent with poor posture that is leading to an unbalanced landing and the loss of his arm slot.  His delivery from the windup is better than the stretch where he starts to aim the ball and can get very mechanical.  In looking at the delivery, it’s easy to see why he struggled to find the plate, particularly when he was promoted to Double-A (5.00 BB/9 in 35.1 innings).

Fantasy Impact: Reed looks like a back-of-the-rotation starter to me.   While the arsenal is solid and he keeps the ball down, I don’t see a strikeout pitcher.  Instead, I see a pitcher who will struggle with his control and therefore struggle to work deep into games.

6. Onelki Garcia (LHP)

Onelki Garcia was the talk of the 2011 draft when hours before the draft, his agent announced that he would be eligible for the draft.  Twitter went nuts and in the end, he was ruled ineligible and eventually drafted by the Dodgers in the 2012 draft in the third round.    He’s got size at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with a nice arsenal of a low 90’s fastball and the ability to spin a curve.  The problem is he pitched only five innings in 2012 – but they were pretty good as he didn’t give up a hit and struck out 11 while walking one.  One of the outings was in the Double-A playoffs.

In digging a little deeper on Garcia, I reviewed his mechanics in those five innings and didn’t like what I saw.  His release distance was really poor; in other words, it looks like he is short-arming the ball.  This causes him to remain open on his landing and I would assume struggle with his command.  Again, with only five innings in which to evaluate, it’s hard to draw any conclusions.  However, Garcia is one of those pitchers that I’m anxious to see in the spring to see how he is progressing

7. Garrett Gould (RHP)

Garrett Gould was taken in the second round of the 2009 draft.  He’s a big kid at 6-foot-4 but doesn’t throw very hard as his fastball sits in the upper 80’s while peaking in the low 90’s.  He does have a plus-plus curveball that one source told me was one of the best pitches he saw in 2012.  His changeup is considered average but has improved from when he was drafted.  His pitching mechanics are kind of herky-jerky though and that is causing some noticeable control problems.  Gould’s ceiling is a 4-5 starter.

8. Matt Magill (RHP)

You’ve never heard of Matt Magill?  Well, you’re not along.  He’s been making slow but steady progress through the Dodgers organization since being drafted in 31st round in 2008.  However in 2012 Magill dramatically improved his changeup and things started to click.  He held RHB to a .202 batting average and struck out 168 batters in 146.1 innings.  In addition to his changeup, Magill throws a low 90’s fastball which I would grade out as average and a slider that looks really good.  The command is not great due to poor mechanics; in particularly his right shoulder flies open causing him to not finish off his pitches.  Magill should start 2013 in Triple-A and could see the Majors by year-end.  I have his ceiling as a #3-4 starting pitcher.

9. James Baldwin (OF)

While James Balwin’s 53 stolen bases were dwarfed by Billy Hamilton’s 155, it still ranked as the eighth most in all of baseball.  Yes, Baldwin can fly and he also has a little pop in the bat; the problem is he struck out 177 times in 440, which is downright ugly.   This is a typical tale of a toolsy athlete who shared his focus with football and basketball and now his hit tool is way behind.  So, will he ever hit?  Nobody knows but the bloodlines are there as his father James Bladwin Sr. was a major league pitcher for the White Sox along with several other big league clubs.

10. Alex Castellanos (OF/IF)

Alex Castellanos made it to show in 2012 with 23 at-bats.  While he only batted .174, he did manage to go yard in the last game of the year.  Castellanos has played all over the field and this versatility will eventually get him to the majors for good.  While he doesn’t have a carrying tool, he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses with the ability to make solid contact, hit a few home runs and steal some bases.  While he’ll never be an all-star, he has a chance to be a second division player or a super utility player on a contender.

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