|Original Published Date: December 19, 2014|
The Dodgers won 92 games in 2013 and 94 games in 2014, but general manager Ned Colletti was dismissed after failing to advance pass the divisional series. While very Steinbrennerish, it’s also what happens when ownership spends $235 million dollars and doesn’t see the World Series. Fair? Of course not, but I’m sure Colletti knew what he was getting himself into, but I wonder if Andrew Friedman does?
Friedman does inherit an excellent farm system. Corey Seager tops the list for the second year in a row and is a star in the making. He could play shortstop early in his career but will eventually find third base his home. Joc Pederson is next up and had an amazing season by going 30/30 and batting .300. He’s ready and based on the winter moves, should get his chance in 2015.
Julio Urias is the highest impact pitcher and he could be special. While he doesn’t have the classic size of a front-line starter, the stuff and pitchability have a chance to be elite. Right-handed pitcher Zach Lee and outfielder Scott Schebler are both nearly big league ready with Lee having a solid mid-rotation ceiling and Schebler demonstrating big home run power with improved contactability. If that isn’t enough, Darnell Sweeney had a true breakout season in Double-A posting an .848 OPS with an impressive 117K/75BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.
But wait…there’s more. In 2014, the Dodgers drafted a potential impact right-handed pitcher in Grant Holmes in the first round and one of the more promising bats in Alex Verdugo in the second round. While they are far away, both have impact talent.
By moving Matt Kemp and not resigning Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers are cutting payroll. The good news is that their farm system is strong enough to absorb the trimming. It’s a great position to be in and should allow them to compete both next year and over the next several years. Friedman will have Ned Colletti to thank for that.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: All-star
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 215||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
I first laid eyes on Corey Seager in August of 2013 and he immediately passed the eye test – tall, muscular, with the stride of an athlete. Batting practice was good and then game-time came and he looked totally over-matched. He chased pitches down and away and was late on everything. The second time was during the 2013 Arizona Fall League. Same impression – he looked the part but was overmatched. Despite the disappointing at-bats, I still ranked Seager number one in the Dodgers organization and number 33 overall in our Top 100. Why? In talking with others who had seen him earlier in the year, they simply said he was worn out. “The bat speed is there”, and “he’s just a kid” (19 years-old), and “…just wait until next year.”
Next year came and Seager has grown into one of the best prospects in all of baseball. He turned it around in the California League by slugging .633 and hitting 18 home runs in 80 games. On July 19th, he was promoted to Double-A and the Southern League and continued to rake with a .915 OPS. The home runs slowed, but his .534 slugging showed he was still hitting the ball with authority. I personally saw him in Rancho Cucamonga and the Arizona Fall League in 2014 and he looked more confident and was swinging the bat very well. However, he still did expand the strike zone from time-to-time.
Seager could have a special bat. With plus bat speed, size and raw strength, he has plus future power potential. That said, he doesn’t have a home run swing as it’s more level. However, given how hard he stings the ball, I believe 20 home runs, if not 25 is achievable. He also has terrific hand-eye coordination and despite expanding the strike zone from time-to-time, he has the ceiling of an above-average if not plus hit-tool. The only offensive tool not in the bag is speed.
The Dodgers continue to play Seager at shortstop and while there’s a very good chance that he will grow out of the position, he has enough current athleticism and arm strength to play the position for the first few years of his major league career. It will not be a plus defensive profile but it’s likely to be better than Hanley Ramirez.
Seager will likely start the 2015 season in Triple-A and could see Los Angeles after 300 at-bats. I doubt the Dodgers will play the Super-2 game and instead will promote Seager when he’s ready.
Fantasy Impact: Seager is a top 10 prospect in baseball and will be a very good fantasy asset. He profiles as a classic number three hitter with 20-25 home runs power, scoring and driving in 90 while batting .280 to .300. There will likely be very little stolen bases and that will always limit his fantasy upside, but if you’re good with a $25 dollar player, enjoy!
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: All-star
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014|
Joc Pederson had one of the best minor league season…well…ever. He was a 33 HR/30 SB performer who hit .305 and walked 100 times with an OPS of 1.023 in only 120 games. Ok, it was the PCL, but come on…that’s just ridiculous.
As with George Springer, a fairly reasonable comparison (maybe slightly less power), he’s going to have a ton of swing and miss in his game. The swing can get long and he can chase pitches. However, he has very good plate discipline that should help his overall batting average and on-base percentage and the result could be a .260 batting average with a .340 on-base percentage. Throw in 25 home runs and 30 stolen bases playing an above-average center field, and George Springer could be light and Grady Sizemore, the good Sizemore, could be more realistic.
Pederson has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues and the trade that sent Matt Kemp to the Padres clears the path for him to start the season in center field in Los Angeles.
Fantasy Impact: Pederson will be drafted in nearly every fantasy league in 2015. As with most rookies, Pederson will struggle and could strikeout so much that he might not be able to get to his plus power. However, the speed with be there and his glove should keep him in the lineup. It could take a few years, but Pederson has monster fantasy potential with a ceiling of a back-of-the-first round selection.
|2015 Age: 18||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 5-11 Weight: 160||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2015-16|
Julio Urias turned 18-years-old on August 12, 2014 and pitched the following day in High-A against a lineup with nobody under the age of 22. How did he do? He pitched five innings, gave up one run, struck out nine while walking only one. I was there, it was impressive.
Provided he stays healthy, Urias will pitch in the big leagues while he’s still a teenager – if not in 2015, than surely in 2016. It’s an impressive combination of pitchability and stuff, all put together at an extremely young age. How did he do it? I’m not sure, but he did it and it’s very real.
He has a three pitch arsenal that consists of a fastball that sits from 92-95 MPH that can touch 96. While he’s listed at 5-foot-11, his delivery allows him to get on top of his pitches and keep his fastball down in the zone. The result is a 1.61 ground-ball-to-fly ball ratio which isn’t great but should allow him to not be overly homer-prone. He complements his fastball with a plus curve ball that ranges from 75 MPH to 81 MPH. The slower version is more of a classic curve ball with excellent shape and depth and the harder is more of a slurvy tighter curve. He can throw all of it for strikes. His change-up is a little behind the other two pitches, but I would grade it out as an average pitch.
Urias is a battler on the mound. He challenges hitters and throws strikes. He does work slow, and things really bog down when runners get on base. He’s also slow to plate from the stretch (1.44 to 1.58). The pick-off move is also impressive as I saw him pick-off two San Jose Giants during his outing.
The arsenal is plus, the control is there, the command is inconsistent but should develop. Is there any concerns? There’s one and it’s his delivery. It’s funky and inconsistent. His landing is stiff and he almost throws his trailing leg over to complete the delivery. It’s just not natural. What’s more concerning is sometimes he doesn’t follow through with his trailing leg and all the kinetic energy lands in his shoulder. It’s very apparent when looking at him from the first base side. It’s clearly something in which the Dodgers need to work on with Urias but remember, he’s still only 18, so you have to expect some fine tuning.
Fantasy Impact: Urias has a chance to be a very special pitcher. The total package is there. I wish the package included a height of 6-foot-4, but it doesn’t. The upside is a high strikeout pitcher who keeps the ball in the ballpark and wins a lot of games. I’m all in.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 215||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2017-18|
Grant Holmes provides yet another potential impact player for the very rich Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. Taken as the 22nd player in the 2014 first year player draft, Holmes has a nice combination of plus arm strength and advanced pitchability that could allow him to move quickly through the development process.
At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Holmes is a solid kid with a strong arsenal that starts with a fastball that sits 93-94 MPH with plenty of 5’s and 6’s. Because of his elite velocity, Holmes can currently get away with pitching up in the zone. While lower minor leaguers can’t catch up to the pitch, as he progresses through the system, more established batters might have an easier time. He does get decent plane on his pitches given his high three-quarters delivery.
His best secondary pitch is a hard curve that could be a real swing and miss offering. As with most teenage pitchers, he needs to command the pitch better but the depth on the pitch is quite good. He also throws a change-up but it’s clearly behind the other two pitches.
The most encouraging aspect of the package is Holmes ability to control both his fastball and curve. His 2.42 walk-per-nine rate was indeed impressive. Granted it was in rookie ball, but the performance should be noted.
The Dodgers will likely start Holmes in full season ball to start the 2015 season. I’m sure they will work on establishing his change-up but the Dodgers could also be well served to introduce a two-seamer to Holmes arsenal. The fastball is pretty straight and I do worry what will happen once he starts to face more advanced hitters.
Fantasy Impact: Holmes should definitely be on fantasy owner’s radar for leagues that roster 150 or more prospects. There is significant strikeout upside with Holmes with the potential to be at least a solid number three starter.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Back in the Frank McCourt days, the Dodgers were not the free-spending Dodgers they are today. However, in 2010, they surprised the baseball world by selecting Zach Lee in the first round and paid him a franchise record setting $5.25 million dollar signing bonus.
Lee was a raw talent back then with the ability to touch 94-95 MPH but with under-developed secondary pitches. In his four years of professional development, his curve ball and change-up have both improved but not to the point of either being a plus pitch. What has improved though is his command and control. He’s able to throw all three pitches for strikes and command his fastball in particular to both sides of the plate. Additionally, he gets great plane on his pitches, keeping the ball low in the zone and getting a ton of ground balls.
2014 was a tough year for Lee as Albuquerque and the PCL did not agree with the right-hander. In 150.2 innings, he gave up 177 hits, 18 home runs, and struck out only 97. Even his usually plus control went backwards. I’m not too worried as the arsenal is still solid with a chance for his control to return, even with a promotion to the highest level.
Fantasy Impact: I’ve always loved the athleticism that Lee brings to the mound but the arsenal just hasn’t developed like I had hoped. The secondary pitches are just average and the fastball is only a tick above average. Everything though does play-up given his ability to throw strikes. I think a realistic ceiling is a solid 200 innings pitcher with 160 to 170 strikeouts and a 3.50 to 3.75 ERA.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: 1st-Div
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 180||Bats: Both Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
Darnell Sweeney quietly had one of the better breakout seasons in the minors. In 131 games in Double-A, he posted an .848 OPS with 14 home runs and 15 stolen bases and a 117K/75BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Sweeney has always had the athleticism and bat speed to be a first division baseball player. His game started to come together in 2013 as he hit 11 home runs in High-A while adding 48 stolen bases. However, he was one of the last cuts on our Top 10 list last year as he struck out 151 times and struggled with off speed pitches. Plus the performance was in the Cali League and I wanted to see more. Well, we saw more and it was good.
Not only did some of his doubles power turn into over-the-fence power but he improved his walk rate from 7.0% to 13.1% and cut his strikeouts by a third. The one issue, and for fantasy players, it was alarming, his stolen bases went from 48 to 15 and making matters worse, he got caught stealing 16 times.
I did have a chance to see him play in the Arizona Fall League and he looked very good. The swing is compact with plenty of bat speed. He showed some real pop in batting practice and also made in-game hard contact. On one occasion, he pulled a 94 MPH Vincent Velasquez fastball for a hard hit single. I did get him from the left side at 4.04 to first, so the straight-line speed is clearly there. I can only deduce that he’s just a lousy base stealer and was exposed once he hit the upper minors. Fortunately, stealing bases can be learned through repetition, so 20 to 30 stolen bases annually seems like a reasonable projection.
Finally, defensively the Dodges have him splitting time between second and short but he did spend time in center field in the Arizona Fall League. He’s athletic enough to play all the positions but is likely more suited for centerfield or second. Since both of those positions are taken in Los Angeles, he’s blocked.
Fantasy Impact: Sweeney can really play but will likely need to be traded in order to see any consistent playing time in the major leagues. He’s way under-the-radar in fantasy leagues and is a guy I would be targeting. You do have to believe that he’ll learn to steal bases more effectively, but if he does and his hit tool breakout is real, he could be a very interesting fantasy asset.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 215||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Chris Anderson has the size that you want to see in a major league starter. While he has the upside of a number four starting pitcher, it was a tough year for the 22-year-old righty.
Anderson got hit hard in the California League and posted a disappointing 4.62 ERA. However, the stuff is still quality with a fastball that sits 90-93 MPH with a really good slider. He also has a decent change-up with some fad and deception. It’s definitely behind his slider but grades out as an average future third pitch.
His primary problem is below average control and poor command. The problem stems primarily from a lack of hip rotation and that leaves his landing open. There are also balance issues on the landing. On the positive, he does get very good momentum to the plate but there is clearly some clean-up work left to do.
Anderson is a better pitcher than what he showed in 2014 and I expect improvement as he moves out of the California League. The arsenal should allow him to have a ceiling of a number four starting pitcher but he will not be able to reach that until he cleans up his delivery which will then in turn improve his control.
Fantasy Impact: Anderson should be rostered in all leagues with 200 minor league prospects. The upside is a top 50 fantasy starter with eight strikeouts per inning. However, unless he improves his control, his ratios could be a problem.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: 1st-Div
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 200||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2017|
Drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft (pick 62), Alex Verdugo had a terrific beginning to his professional season, slashing .353/.421/.511 in 190 at-bats in rookie ball. While it’s difficult to give too much credence to stats in the AZL, he showed a better than advertised approach at the plate and the ability to make hard contact.
The toolsy and athletic Verdugo was one of the more intriguing players during the 2014 draft as many expected him to be drafted as a pitcher. While his mid-90’s fastball will likely never see the bump, his plus arm should play nicely in the outfield. Also, his plus speed should allow him to play any outfield position with centerfield definitely an option.
While his plus running speed and arm strength are impressive, what will get Verdugo to the major leagues is his ability to hit. The swing is compact and short to the ball with enough bat speed to eventually have above average power. The added bonus that he showed in the AZL was his plate patience. In 170 at-bats, he had struck out 18 times while walking 20. Again, while you have to take AZL stats with a grain of salt, it was indeed impressive.
Fantasy Impact: While he’s young and a long way from the major leagues, Verdugo is showing contactability, plate patience and emerging power. When you find those qualities in any player, you should find a way to get him on your Dynasty League. That said, only have a few high-upside, long-way-away players on your roster at any time.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 210||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Scott Schebler was drafted as the 806th player in the 2010 first year draft and has now hit 55 home runs in the past two years in High and Double-A. Yet, he gets very little love in prospect circles.
Part of the reason for this lack of respect was the 71% contact rate he posted in 2013. However, that improved in a big way this past year as he shorten up his swing and improved his contact rate to 78%; and he did it by not reducing any of his in-game power. Throw in his average running speed that translated to 10 stolen bases and he has a chance to be a solid contributor at the big league level. Granted he’s completely blocked in Los Angeles but if he keeps putting up these types of numbers, he’ll play somewhere.
Fantasy Impact: Schebler is completely under-the-radar in fantasy circles and while he doesn’t have the upside of a first division starter as the bat speed is just average, he could hit 20 home runs if he gets regular playing time. That will likely not come in Los Angeles and therefore he’ll need a trade to open up playing time.
|2015 Age: 28||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht: 5-10 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Alex Guerrero is a good player and technically is better than the 10th best prospect on this list. However, he’s 28-years-old with no projection left. What you see is what you get. So, what exactly is that?
Guerrero has good bat speed that translates to not only hard hit balls but over-the-fence power. I think he’s a lock for 20 home runs at the major league level. However, he’s an extremely aggressive hitter and demonstrated that in 2014 when he walked 10 times 65 games in Triple-A. While he’ll make good contact, the lack of plate patience will ultimately hurt his on-base percentage and his overall effectiveness.
Defensively, he’s a below average defender with sloppy foot work but a good arm. I don’t think he’ll play shortstop, nor do I think Dee Gordon will move to short. That makes him a man without a position.
Fantasy Impact: Guerrero might get moved in the off-season as he’s just not a fit in Los Angeles. He can hit and will put up 20 home runs but it will likely come with a sub-300 on-base percentage. There is also little speed. From a fantasy standpoint, it’s a middle infielder profile.
2015 Emerging Prospect:
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Zach Bird passes the eye test for what a young projectable pitcher is supposed to look like. The arsenal continues to improve as his fastball now sits comfortable in the low 90’s with plenty of life and sink. The secondary pitches continue to be a work in progress but his curve ball is starting to show flashes of being a quality pitch. The performance has yet to catch up with the raw stuff as Bird pitched to a 4.25 in 118.2 innings in the Midwest League.