Los Angeles Dodgers 2013 Top 15 Prospects
The rest of Bullpen Banter’s 2013 Top 15 Prospects can be found on the 2013 Team Prospect Lists Bar on the right side of your screen. Thanks for reading! -BB
Bullpen Banter Los Angeles Dodgers 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Chris Blessing: The Dodgers are a very strange system to evaluate. For one, the team doesn’t have one prospect that would rank as a clear-cut number one prospect in the organization. It’s my expectation that once Jeff, Al and myself submit our top Dodgers list, each of us will have a different number one prospect. Also, the team doesn’t have one prospect I’d grade with a B+ or better. While it’s feasible, by mid-season, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager or Zach Lee could elevate their prospect status enough to garner a higher grade, at this time, they simply aren’t good enough prospects during this snapshot.
Yasiel Puig and Corey Seager were two fantastic gets for the Dodgers this season and have addressed a need that has been void in the organization since the days of Matt Kemp and James Loney as legitimate offensive talent. I’ll go so far as to say, based on their need and available players, that Corey Seager was the best pick in the middle rounds of the draft last year. These two players are joined in my personal “Top 5” by outfielder Joc Pederson. Likely a corner outfielder in the big leagues, Joc Pederson had one of the best hit tools I saw in the Southern League all last year.
Throughout my lifetime, the Dodgers have been known for always developing good young pitching. Based on how strong the organization has been, the overall pitching just doesn’t look very strong. However, taking a look at the grouping, there are several major league arms scattered throughout the system. The obvious names are guys like Zach Lee, Onelki Garcia, Matt Magill, Chris Reed and Paco Rodriguez. But there is also a good scattering of relievers that may fail to make our top 15, or even most top 20 lists, yet can still make serious claims to big league careers. For this latter list, I’m talking about Stephen Fife, Steven Ames, Juan Dominguez and Chris Withrow.
So what is the deal with Chris Withrow? While other prospect evaluators have ranked Withrow as a top ten prospect, he has never been part of my discussion for the Dodgers top 10. For one, he’s injury prone and has lost a ton of development time during his prospect career because of that. In fact, he’s spent parts of the last four seasons in Chattanooga as a starter, finally converting to reliever last year. Fatigue has always been an issue with Withrow, especially during the summer. I’ve seen him reduced to labored breathing and fatigue as early as the second inning of work on a hot, southern day. The conversion to reliever was just an eventuality in my opinion. As a reliever, Withrow has been relying on his upper nineties four seam fastball and a very hard slider, which can break 90-91. When Withrow commands his fastball, he is virtually unhittable. However, in the last four years, I’ve seen him with good command only two or three times in about ten appearances. With a checkered injury history, a lack of consistent fastball command and the stamina issue creating an inability to be a starting pitcher, his stuff alone doesn’t warrant a top 10 ranking. I ranked him 15th on my list with the belief that he is simply “good health” away from a Major League Career. Unfortunately, although perhaps not surprisingly, he will begin spring training sidelined because of injury; a bulging disc in his back.
Al Skorupa: As Frank McCourt’s tenure as Dodgers owner came to a close it became clear he had done significant damage to many facets of the organization. The once highly praised scouting a player development arm was still exceeding expectations but was doing so on the cheap. The new ownership has pulled an abrupt 180 degree turn and now the Dodgers again spare no expense. This prospect list is headlined by a few pricey acquisitions. Looking at last year’s list reminds us what a welcome development this was.
Its always an open question whether we should regard older international imports as “prospects.” Yet at 25 and 22 years old neither Ryu Hyun-jin nor Yasiel Puig really fits the definition of “older.” Hyun-jin looks like he has the ability to immediately step in as a productive major league starting pitcher. Just be aware that neither his stuff nor velocity aren’t anywhere on the level of last year’s top Japanese import Yu Darvish. As for Puig, he may need some more time to adjust to the American game but he has some LOUD tools. I got some pretty humorous messages from fellow Bullpen Banter author Steve Fiorindo when he first saw Puig play at Ranco Cucamonga. The Cuban is a big, powerful athlete with a lot of thunder in his bat. Puig may take a whole to figure out more advanced pitching. Once he does he’s going to be a fun player to watch.
The Dodgers were able to add some interesting talents in the Draft as well. Corey Seager can really hit. He has very good bat speed and a feel for barreling up the ball. I have every expectation that in a few years the Dodgers will have a young third baseman who is an above average hitter an above average defender. Jesmuel Valentin was a high school teammate of first overall pick Carlos Correa at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Valentin had some pre-draft helium and his floor is likely that of a hard playing utility infielder. The strange saga of Onelki Garcia and his agent would have scared me away on draft day but Kudos to the Rangers for calling his bluff. Logan White found a way to add a very exciting lefty arm to his organization.
Through some liberal spending, smart maneuvering and savvy talent evaluation the he Los Angeles farm system has quickly rebounded. If the Dodgers approach the 2013 Draft and International signing period with the same dedication as they did in 2013 I have no doubt this system will quickly rank among baseball’s best again.
Jeff Reese: After the reserved interregnum period that resulted from the downfall of McCourt, the Dodgers began a spending spree under the new ownership group. Some well regarded prospects were used to facilitate deadline deals; what’s left is a shallow system without any elite talents at the top. Zach Lee is the top prospect for me, but that should not be considered a major endorsement. The athletic righty was paid handsomely to become a full time baseball player, but unlike most two-sport athletes, Lee was fairly polished coming out of high school. The stuff points to more of a mid rotation starter than someone who will profile at the top of one; his safety is what lead me to putting him at the top. Corey Seager was not far behind however. The Dodgers’s top draft pick in 2012 will end up at third base like his brother but has the actions and tools to standout there… along with the offensive upside that his brother just doesn’t possess.
After Lee and Seager, we move down to the next tier. Many are wont to group Yasiel Puig with them; I remain cautious. There’s no question that he has the strength and raw power to be a loud offensive player, but his pro debut was abbreviated by injury; I want to see how he handles more advanced pitchers and sequencing before full buying in. Joc Pederson may not have the same upside in his bat, but he has good all-around tools and impressed in the California League as a 20 year old. Another outfielder that intrigues me is Rice product Jeremy Rathjen. His collegiate career had its share of injury delays, but the tall, lanky outfielder still seems to be growing into his body. Along with the speed to play center field, he showed easy power in game with his smooth right-handed swing. The ball jumped off of his bat in my looks, and he may end up as a real surprise.
The Dodgers have always been known for their pitching prospects, and there continues to be a nice pool of live arms. Chris Reed was a budget first rounder from 2011, but that doesn’t diminish his profile. The power lefty was used out of Stanford’s bullpen because of deficiencies in his command; the transition to a starting role in pro ball has been gradual, but I consider the fact that he made it to double-A to be a positive development. Many in the system could go either way — starter or reliever — but the most inevitable transition is Chris Withrow. After emerging in the CAL a few years ago his progress has been stagnant, perhaps even retrograde, during his 80 game (65 of those being starts) career in Chatanooga. The control and pitchability issues should be minimized in the bullpen, and his raw stuff gives him back of the bullpen aspirations. Steven ‘Paco’ Rodriguez has already flew through the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in the same year that he was drafted. The former Florida Gator was technically the setup man to Austin Maddox, but make no mistake, he was their relief ace, capable of throwing 3-4 innings if necessary. With his share of reliever eccentricities — pre pitch he lifts his lead leg and flutters his glove as he moves into the set position — Rodriguez utilized a quality fastball, slider, cutter repertoire that he commands well.
As you can probably tell, I liked the Dodgers’s last draft class. It contained a number of college players that I felt were a bit under-appreciated, along with quality preps in Seager, Onelki Garcia, Zach Bird, et alii. Their new-found opulence allows the Dodgers the luxury of not needing to retain a stout farm system capable of sustaining their big league club.
OF Yasiel Puig (Steve Fiorindo)
RHP Zach Lee (Steve Fiorindo & Chris Blessing)
3B Corey Seager (Steve Fiorindo)
OF Joc Pederson (Chris Blessing)
LHP Onelki Garcia (Chris Blessing)
LHP Chris Reed (Chris Blessing)
RHP Matt Magill (Chris Blessing)
RHP Chris Withrow (Chris Blessing)
RHP Garrett Gould (Steve Fiorindo)