Nate Eovaldi of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter at Busch Stadium on August 22, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Zach Lee, RHP, Grade B+: His statistical performance in the Midwest League was solid rather than spectacular, but I like the combination of present stuff and projection. Future number two starter if all goes well.
2) Nate Eovaldi, RHP, Grade B, Borderline B+. He made huge progress last year, although his major league K/BB ratio was poor and indicates he still needs some refinement. He would probably better off pitching out of the major league bullpen than going to Albuquerque if he doesn't make the rotation in spring training.
3) Allen Webster, RHP, Grade B: Some rough patches in Double-A prevent a B+ in my mind, but he looks like another solid mid-rotation starter.
4) Garrett Gould, RHP, Grade B: I may be overpartial to pitchers from the Midwest, but I like the progress he made last year, regaining his velocity from high school. Like the guys above him, he looks like a future workhorse starter to me.
5) Alfredo Silverio, OF, Grade B-, borderline B: It took him a long time to develop skills to make his tools meaningful, and he still has issues with the strike zone and using his speed on the bases, but progress has been real and he's the best position prospect in the system. Should put up huge numbers in Albuquerque even if his underlying skills don't improve.
6) Chris Reed, LHP, Grade B-, borderline B: They'll need to proceed with some caution as they transition Stanford product from relief to starting, but I like his chances to develop into a number three starter.
7) Josh Lindblom, RHP, Grade B-: Horrible in 2010, much better in 2011, an example of why teams are loathe to give up on pitchers with live arms. Should have a fine career in the bullpen, could get a chance to start again at some point given assortment of pitches.
8) Chris Withrow, RHP, Grade B-: He has just as much talent as the right-handers ahead of him, but is still more thrower than pitcher. The huge leaps that Eovaldi and Lindblom made last year show what can happen when something clicks, and Withrow could be next.
9) Joc Pederson, OF, Grade B-: Very attractive combination of tools and skills. Grade could be much higher next year if he can hit outside the Pioneer League.
10) Angel Sanchez, RHP, Grade B-: Made his pro debut at age 21 in the Midwest League. Live arm, and yet another guy who could be a mid-rotation starter if his secondary pitches develop properly.
11) Gorman Erickson, C, Grade C+: Sleeper catching prospect is more interesting to me than Tim Federowicz. Erickson's glove is solid, he has terrific plate discipline and some power potential, and is nine months younger.
12) Angelo Songco, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Huge power numbers in the California League, but has problems against lefties and is shifting the wrong way on the defensive spectrum. Double-A performance will be instructive, should tell us if he's a future starter or a role player.
13) Blake Smith, OF, Grade C+: Another college bat that mashed in the California League with big power numbers but needs to prove himself at higher levels. More defensive value than Songco, good throwing arm, but a year older.
14) Shawn Tolleson, RHP, Grade C+: Most impressive (after Lindblom) of several live arms that should get a shot in the bullpen within the next year.
15) Aaron Miller, LHP, Grade C+: Forgotten man after losing most of the season with a hernia, but he still has solid stuff from the left side and could blossom with better health and some adjustments with his command.
16) Alex Castellanos, OF-INF, Grade C+: Acquired from the Cardinals. Older prospect at age 25 but has some pop in his bat, runs well, and is versatile with the glove.
17) Scott Van Slyke, OF-1B, Grade C+: Devastatingly effective in the Southern League (.348, 20 homers, 45 doubles) and good bloodlines, but tools are mediocre, he's 25, isn't a great fielder, and scout aren't sure he can catch up with major league pitching. If he keeps hitting like this they will find a place.
18) Jonathan Garcia, OF, Grade C+: Hit just .228 in the Midwest League, but with 19 homers and didn't turn 20 years old until last month. Improvements in plate discipline could result in a breakout in the Cal League.
19) Steve Ames, RHP, Grade C+: Another live-armed bullpen candidate who can emerge in the next year or two.
20) Jake Lemmerman, SS, Grade C+: Scuffled with strike zone in Double-A, but has average tools across the board, some pop, and is praised for his makeup.
OTHERS: Michael Antonini, LHP; James Baldwin, OF; Logan Bawcom, RHP; Justin Boudreaux, SS: Ralston Cash, RHP; O'Koyea Dickson, 1B; Eric Eadington, LHP; Tim Federowicz, C; Stephen Fife, RHP; Leon Landry, OF; Ethan Martin, RHP; Pratt Maynard, C; Scott McGough, RHP; Chris O'Brien, C; Ryan O'Sullivan, RHP; Red Patterson, RHP (a sleeper); Juan Rodriguez, RHP; Kyle Russell, OF; Alex Santana, 3B; Scott Schebler, OF; Josh Wall, RHP.
The Dodgers farm system isn't in terrific condition, but it's not bad, either. They have good strength in right-handed starting pitching: Lee, Eovaldi, Webster, Gould, Sanchez, and Withrow could all develop into workhorse starters and perhaps more. Lee has the best projection and gets the highest grade, but all of these guys have the stuff to succeed, if they stay healthy, of course. There are also several impressive relief arms, beginning with Josh Lindblom who has already shown what he can do in the majors. Keep a close eye on sleeper prospect Red Patterson, who I might bump up to a C+.
Chris Reed and the now-overlooked Aaron Miller provide some southpaw balance as potential mid-rotation starters. Lefty efficiency specialist Mike Antonini is a Grade C type, but was added to the 40-man roster and has the potential to be a surprise. Guys like him sometimes pitch better with a major league defense behind them than they do in the minors, at least in short stretches.
The system is a lot weaker with position players. There are some exciting tools guys (Baldwin stands out) in the organization, but only Silverio and Pederson have shown much polish, the former after a long struggle. Pederson could have the highest grade a year from now if he performs well in full-season ball. There is a group of interesting power hitters (Songco, Smith, Van Slyke, Russell, possibly Dickson) who put up big numbers, but have flaws in their approach, are old for the level, or lack the tools to interest scouts. They should at least get a role player out of that group, although which one it will be is hard to say. Catching prospect Gorman Erickson needs a lot more attention than he's received. Baseball America loves Tim Federowicz. I respect his glove and he'll have a long career, but I don't see his bat being good enough for him to get beyond role player status.
Overall, the system is in fairly decent condition, although the low-budget 2011 draft and lack of aggression on the international market will take a toll if the financial situation isn't rectified quickly. It only takes a bad year or two of weak acquisitions to gut a system, and it is easier to ruin an organization than build one.