|Original Published Date: Dec. 13, 2013|
The Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system continues to be strong and should provide some much needed depth in 2014 as either trade-chips or direct help at the major league level.
It starts with two teenagers: Corey Seager and Julio Urias. Seager raked in Low-A before being aggressively promoted to the California League over the summer and finally stumbled. While he was overmatched at the higher level, the tools are there for him to be an impact player. Urias dominated as a 16-year-old in Low-A, and even at 5-foot-11, could find his way to Los Angeles by 2016 as a starter.
Joc Pederson continued to make steady progress and is now poised to make his major league debut in 2014. While the tools are alluring, there is concern about his platoon splits that could limit his overall impact. Zach Lee is also nearly ready to help in the big leagues and while he doesn’t have a top-of-the-rotation ceiling, he could be a solid number three starter.
The Dodgers also went back to the Cuban funnel and signed Alexander Guerrero to be their likely second baseman in 2014. While he doesn’t have the same upside as Yasiel Puig, he could provide some pop and play an adequate second base.
With minor league depth and seemingly money to burn at the major league level, the Dodgers could be a perennial contender for a long-time.
|2014 Age: 20||Ceiling: Role 6-7
|Ht:6-4 Weight: 215||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
When I first had a chance to scout Corey Seager in the California League, I was struck at how big he was. I’m talking Cal Ripken big – 6-foot-4 and a solid 215 pounds. The tools are all there for him to grow into a Role 6 player at the highest level, but I doubt that will be at shortstop.
Seager was taken as the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft and has been on the fast track ever since. He tore up the Midwest league as a 19-year-old posting a crazy .309/.389/.529 slash line with 12 home runs. He also made solid contact while showing excellent strike zone judgment in posting a 58K/34BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 272 at-bats. With nothing left to prove, the Dodgers promoted him to the California League and things did not goes as well.
Many claimed that Seager was tired and that drove his .160 batting average but I saw a player overmatched – particularly against left-handed pitchers. In one at-bat, he struck out on three pitches against lefty reliever, Jeremy Dobbs. All three pitches were sliders with only the first one being a strike. Seager actually smirked on the last swing, almost saying…”Wow, I can’t hit that”
Whether tired or over-matched, the Dodgers decided to push the teenager to the Arizona Fall League and he again looked – overmatched. He struggled against lefties and struggled with off-speed pitches.
So…why is this guy ranked as the number one player in the Dodgers organization and probably a Top 50 prospect? First, he’s 19-years-old and while he looked overmatched, the tools are very alluring. He’s got great bat speed with excellent hand-eye-coordination and once he gets more reps, I believe there is both an above-average hit tool and power in this bat. Clearly the Dodgers think so as they’ve been very aggressive with his development.
Seager should start 2014 back in the California League, but the Dodgers might push him to Double-A, Chattanooga in the Southern League. I personally would like to see them slow his development down so he can have time to adjust to advance pitching as to not destroy his confidence.
Fantasy Impact: Seager has the upside of a .280 batting average with a .350 OBP and the ability to hit 20 home runs at the highest level. While I would love to say it will be a shortstop, he’s likely to move to third base before being called to the major leagues.
|2014 Age: 17||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 5-11 Weight:160||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2016|
What were you doing when you were 16-years-old? Trying to make the JV baseball team after playing freshman ball? Mastering MLB2K?? You know what 16-year-old Julio Urias was doing? Winning professional baseball games against men five to six years his senior in the Midwest League. Pretty impressive!
While Urias numbers were impressive as he struck out 11.10 batters per nine while walking less than three per nine, more impressive was how he did it. His fastball sits in the low-90’s with a change-up and curve ball that are both showing a lot of promise. His mechanics are also very advanced as he has excellent momentum to the plate with nice balance. The balance is leading to him being able to repeat his delivery and command his pitches.
The big negative with Urias is his size. He stands only 5-foot-11 and while only 17-years-old, how much more will grow? He should fill out, but the odds of him getting taller are against him which put into question his long-term viability as a starter. In general, Major League teams are looking for 6-foot-3 and taller starters who can get downward plane on their pitches and have the size to log 200 innings a year. Urias did give up five home runs in 54.1 innings which was about league average.
Urias should start 2014 in the California League and could finish the year in Double-A as he turns 18-years-old. The Dodgers will likely keep him a starter until circumstances prove otherwise. Given the quality of his arsenal and the polish he has already shown, he could see Los Angeles in 2015. I know that seems crazy, but he’s pitching well above his age. The ceiling is a number two with the floor of a number three or late inning reliever. He could be homer prone given his size but with his control, the damage should be limited.
Fantasy Impact: Juilo Urias has a ceiling of a number two and could provide high strikeout totals and a low WHIP. He could be homer-prone and that could lead to an ERA that is higher than his skillset would casually predict. He’s a must own in a Dynasty League and will likely make the back-end of our Top 100 list.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014|
As the baseball world went nuts about Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, aka – the other Dodgers outfield prospect, kept working; and now he’s become an excellent prospect in his own right.
Pederson posted an impressive .278/.381/.497 slash line in the Southern League showing both over-the-fence power and a plus run tool. The 6-foot-1, 185 pound left-hander has premium bat speed that he combines with leverage to profile with above-average future power. He has an aggressive approach at the plate but did manage a 74% contact rate to complement his 16% walk rate.
The biggest knock on Pederson is his platoon splits – and they are not good. In 141 at-bats against left-handed pitching, he managed a paltry .206 batting average with a 70% contact rate. It’s a real concern, with many people starting to whisper the words “Platoon player”.
Pederson primary position has been center field and sources are split on his ability to stay there. I’ve seen him multiple times and his ball tracking skills are good but do play up with his above-average foot speed. If he has to move off center, he could play an adequate right field as his arm is above-average.
While there are flaws, Pederson is getting close to being ready for the jump to the major leagues. Of course there is no room at the inn as the Dodgers have four outfielders for three spots today. Something will have to break and it could very well be Pederson’s inclusion in a trade to land the Dodgers pitching depth.
Fantasy Impact: Joc Pederson has a nice power/speed profile that should bring fantasy owners significant value. However, the splits are concerning and if promoted today, he would have to be used in a platoon situation. This will reduce the number of at-bats and therefore, reduce his overall production putting his ceiling at a 15/20/.280 hitter with 60 runs/RBIs. If he can solve the platoon splits, he could be a fantasy monster.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight:190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
I’ve been running hot and cold on Zach Lee since he signed a $5.25 million dollar Major League contract after being selected as the 28th overall pick in the 2010 draft. He was drafted as a raw athlete who spent most of his time in high school on the football field instead of the baseball diamond. Once the Dodgers signed him, the pitching indoctrination started and as with most young pitchers, there have been and ups and downs.
After a disappointing 2012 season where Lee’s overall performance did not show the anticipated up-tick, 2013 was a different story. In 142.2 innings in Double-A, Lee posted an impressive 131K/35BB strikeout-to-walk ratio while giving up 13 home runs. The stuff played better as he started to show better fastball command and overall pitchability.
Lee has a good but not great arsenal. His fastball sits 90-92 MPH but does have some late life given his positive momentum to the plate. His best secondary pitch is his slider that has a tight two-plane tilt delivered at 84-85 MPH. He also throws a serviceable change-up that will keep right-handed batters honest. When I saw him in May, he also threw a curve that he struggled to throw for strikes. While it had nice shape, it’s behind his other three pitches.
Lee should start the 2014 season in Triple-A and should see time in Los Angeles at some point later in the season. He has the size and polish to be a solid number three starter in the big leagues.
Fantasy Impact: As a huge over-slot signee, Lee has been on Dynasty League radars for a long time. Owners should start to see a return on their investment in 2014 with an upside of 7.5 strikeouts-per-nine with slightly better than league average ratios. A good pitcher but not a fantasy stud. If you can sell him on his name, I would do it.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight:215||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
The Dodgers selected Jacksonville University junior right-handed pitcher Chris Anderson as the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Anderson rose through the ranks after having an impressive junior year with a 2.21 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, and a 70K/8BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings.
In his first taste of professional ball, Anderson continued his success showing two plus pitches but struggled with his command. His fastball sits 90-93 MPH and can touch higher with nice late life. His second plus pitch is a nasty two-plane slider that will definitely miss bats. He also throws a change-up that shows promise and should be an average pitch going forward.
While the arsenal is solid, his 24 walks in 46 innings were concerning.
In looking at this mechanics, they are pretty simple and clean. First, he throws from a modified stretch with a simple drop and drive delivery. While this will negate some of the length he gets from his 6-foot-4 frame, it works. Both his balance and posture are ok, although he does fall off to the first base side, but regardless, he looks to be able to repeat his delivery. It’s possible his diminished command was simply a result of being tired after a long college season and then pitching 46 innings of professional ball.
Anderson profiles as a solid number three starter. He’s likely to start 2013 in Low-A and could see Double-A by the end of the year.
Fantasy Impact: Anderson is a top 200 prospect and is draftable in a deep Dynasty League. He should provide good strikeout totals with slightly better than league average ratios.
|2014 Age: 27||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:5-10 Weight: 197||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
With the success of Yasiel Puig, it’s easy to get excited when you see the Dodgers sign yet another Cuban émigré. While his 4-year, $28 million dollar deal will give him ample opportunity to break camp as the full-time second baseman, one thing is for sure – he’s no Yasiel Puig; not even close.
Guerrero posted an impressive .290/.402/.576 slash line in 2012 while playing for Las Tunas in the Cuban National Series. He also managed to hit 21 home runs with a 30K/39BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 328 at-bats which was almost identical to his 2011 stat line. The question is…how will this carry over to major league baseball?
At a reported 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Guerrero is powerfully built with plenty of natural raw power. His swing is a long with some unnecessary movement in his lower half, but it all works to get maximum pull power. The bat looks a little slow to me and I do worry about his ability to catch up to premium velocity. I also worry about his vulnerability to outside stuff away as he seems to pull everything.
Guerrero should come North with the Dodgers as their full-time second baseman. While there could be above-average power, I question the hit-tool and his ability to hit any higher than seventh in the order.
Fantasy Impact: With major questions about his bat and little speed, I believe Guerrero is only an option in deep NL-Only Leagues in 2014. Yes, I’m fully aware of the impact that Cespedes and Puig have had over the past two year, however, that doesn’t mean it will continue. It’s possible, but not likely.
|2014 Age: 23||Ceiling: #5 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight:195||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014-15|
Drafted in the first round of 2011, Chris Reed just hasn’t made the progress that the Dodgers envisioned when they invested $1.6 million dollars in the Stanford University lefty. While the arsenal shows promise, his command just hasn’t developed and that is causing questions about his long-term viability as a starter.
The arsenal shows promise with a low-90’s heavy fastball that has really good movement. The pitch has so much sink that Reed produced the seventh best GO/AO ratio (3.90) in all of the minor leagues. He complements his fastball with a slider that can be a real weapon but as with his fastball, he struggles to throw it consistently for strikes. While the change-up will flash above-average, it’s not keeping right-handed batters at bay as his splits are not good .360 vs. RHB and .282 vs. LHB.
Part of Reed’s command problems can be traced to his pitching mechanics. They are in a word – stiff. They are slow and methodical and it looks like Reed is aiming his pitches instead of just allowing his stuff to naturally leave his hand. He doesn’t always finish off his pitches and leaves a lot of them outside to his arm-side.
After repeating Double-A in 2013, Reed should begin 2014 in Triple-A Albuquerque. If he can improve his command he does have a chance to see Los Angeles sometime later in the season but it will likely be as a bullpen arm.
Fantasy Impact: Given his high draft status, Chris Reed is owned in too many Dynasty Leagues. For me, he’s a Top 300 prospect at best and should be treated as such.
|2014 Age: 23||Ceiling: Role 4-5
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 208||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
I had a chance to see Scott Schebler play twice in 2013 and he went a collective 5 for 8 with two home runs, a double, and a stolen base. I also popped him on a dig to first in 4.14 seconds and thought the bat speed looked great. While I knew who Scott Schebler was, I muttered to myself after the second home run – who is this guy?
Schebler was drafted in the 26th round in 2010 out of Des Moines community college and has had an interesting professional career. He hit the ground running in 2012 and posted a .529 slugging percentage while hitting 13 home runs in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League. His next stop was the pitcher-friendly Midwest League and the power all but disappeared, posting a .388 slugging percentage. Spin forward to 2013 and he smacked 27 home runs in the California League posting an impressive .581 slugging percentage. Again, who is this guy?
Having seen his play, I think Scott Schebler has raw power and bat speed, but a swing that is more of a line drive stroke than a leveraged home run power stroke. I would put his power potential at average to above-average future potential. He’s also an aggressive hitter that struggled to make contact and while he posted a .296 batting average, it was helped along by a .364 BABIP.
Fantasy Impact: Schebler is an interesting fantasy prospect given his potential power/speed combination. My projection is 15-20 home run power with 20 stolen bases and a .250 batting average but not playing for the Dodgers. He’ll likely get traded and if that is to a second division team, he could be an interesting player to own. Also, if the power continues in Double-A, I would add him in a deeper Dynasty League.
9. Tom Windle (LHP)
I had a chance to see the Dodgers’ 2013 second round pick Tom Windle pitch in the fall instructional league and was impressed. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds with a nice fastball/slider combination. The fastball sits 90-93 MPH and he can throw it for strikes. The slider sits 84-85 MPH with nice cutting action which should miss plenty of bats. In reviewing video of him pitching at the University of Minnesota vs. what I saw this fall, the mechanics are little smoother although he does rush things and is still somewhat stiff. Windle should continue to develop with a ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation starter.
10. Ross Stripling (RHP)
Ross Stripling was drafted as a senior in the fifth round of the 2011 draft and had a really good, “under the radar” year in 2013. In 94 innings, he struck out nearly eight per nine, showing pinpoint control. He has a nice three pitch mix that starts with a 91-93 MPH fastball and a slider and change-up that both can miss bats. His fastball does play down as he doesn’t get good extension to the plate. While he pitched out of the pen for the month of July, the Dodgers stretched him back out in August giving hope that he is still considered a starter. He should see time in Los Angeles in 2014 or could be used as trade bait to improve the parent club in other areas.
2014 Emerging Prospect:
Jacob Scavuzzo (OF)
I have a long list of prospects for each organization that I track and they form the basis for my Top 10 lists. The names get on to the list in a variety of ways: a scouting trip, a high selection in the draft, a big international sign, a source telling me about a player, etc…
In the early stages of doing my research, I always look through each player’s stat lines looking for a player that I might have missed. When doing the Dodgers research, I found Jacob Scavuzzo. Drafted in the 21st round in 2012, Scavuzzo had an impressive year, posting a .928 OPS while hitting 14 home runs as a teenager in the Pioneer League. What’s even more remarkable is that he rode the pine in the AZL in 2012 and only had 82 at-bats. While the Pioneer League is a hitter friendly environment, something clearly clicked for the 19-year-old outfielder and he is now clearly on my radar.