Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
ALL GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE. No grade is final until January 10th, 2013
1) Yasiel Puig, OF, Grade B+: Considerable risk given small sample size, but I can understand what the Dodgers see in the Cuban slugger: enormous power, speed, and overall tools that looked very good in his brief North American debut. I'll buy into it.
2) Corey Seager, SS-3B, Grade B+: One of the best high school players in the 2012 draft, played well in the Pioneer League, projects as a better version of his older brother Kyle. Likely to end up at third base but has the bat to stick there.
3) Joc Pederson, OF, Grade B: Borderline B+. Many Cal League observers liked him better than teammate Zach Lee, who gets more press. Pederson has solid tools and terrific instincts, hit very well against older competition at age 20. Projects as a solid regular outfielder and perhaps more.
4) Zach Lee, RHP, Grade B: Some of his press clippings imply that he's a future ace, but both the scouting reports and sabermetrics project him as more of a number three or four starter, not that there's anything wrong with that. Good command of decent stuff, has been young for his levels and pushed quickly.
5) Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. This is honestly a wild guess, I really don't how to rank him. He pitched great in Korea, but what level of competition is that? Single-A? Double-A? Hard to say. He looks good on video. Scouting reports are ambiguously if vaguely positive. Some sources say he works in the upper-80s, some say he touches 95. Everyone says he has a good changeup and throws strikes, but reports on breaking stuff vary from average to above average. He could be Rookie of the Year, a mediocre number five starter, or an expensive failure. Follow spring training reports very closely.
6) Onelki Garcia, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Cuban defector looks very good in the early going, but like Ryu I am not sure how to rank him given his unusual background. He could turn into a very strong starting pitcher, or perhaps a power reliever if his changeup is an issue.
7) Matt Magill, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: Very underrated pitcher with solid stuff, strong performance record, chance to be a number three or four starter. Will need to sharpen command as he moves up to difficult Albuquerque environment.
8) Chris Reed, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Scouting reports are better than the stats, which were not great thanks to wobbly command and nagging injuries in Double-A. At his best, throws mid-90s heat and a good slider, but both velocity and secondary pitches are inconsistent.
9) Chris Withrow, RHP, Grade C+: I still like his arm strength and he seemed more comfortable in relief, where he can just come in and throw hard for an inning or two. Absolutely must improve his command to survive in Albuquerque.
10) Ross Stripling, RHP, Grade C+: From this point on, there are about 30 different ways you can order the C+ guys. I want to draw attention to Stripling, who was one of the best pitchers in recent Big 12 history, then saw his velocity spike in pro ball, from 88-91 at Texas A&M up to 92-94 in the Pioneer League. Given that he already has a strong curveball, solid changeup, outstanding command, and excellent makeup, any sustained velocity increase will result in a dramatic improvement in his prospect status.
11) Tim Federowicz, C, Grade C+: I've never been too wild about Federowicz, but I'm coming around. His glovework is very impressive, and while his Albuquerque stats (.294/.371/.461) can't be taken too seriously given the environment, he should produce just enough offense to hold a job.
12) Jesmuel Valentin, SS-2B, Grade C+: Hit just .211 in rookie ball, but with excellent plate discipline, shows power potential, and has major league bloodlines being the son of Jose Valentin.
13) Paco Rodriguez, LHP, Grade C+: First 2012 draftee to make the majors and could stay there for the next decade or longer as a terrific LOOGY/short man. Extremely deceptive and has the potential to close games if his command against right-handed hitters stays sharp enough.
14) Alex Castellanos, OF-INF, Grade C+: Older prospect at age 26, but seems like a perfect bench player with defensive versatility, touches of power and speed.
15) Stephen Ames, RHP, Grade C+: Middle relief candidate added to 40-man roster, shuts down right-handers with fastball/slider combination, should be ready for trial in 2013.
16) Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Grade C+: Acquired from Astros for John Ely. I like him better than the stats say I should, feeling that his stuff moves well and that even a minor command enhancement could make him a workable fourth starter. Could also slot in bullpen.
17) Garrett Gould, RHP, Grade C+: The Cal League will punish anyone with sloppy location high in the strike zone, resulting in 19 homers and 5.75 ERA. Still has fastball/curveball/changeup combo to be a fourth starter if his location improves.
18) Darnell Sweeney, SS, Grade C+: Borderline C. Interesting 13th round 2012 draftee from University of Central Florida showed speed and more pop than expected in pro ball, has a chance to stick at shortstop. Sleeper prospect that I like.
19) Jeremy Rathjen, OF, Grade C+: Borderline C. Another 2012 draftee, 11th rounder out of Rice, tore up Pioneer League (.324/.445/.500, 48 walks, 16 steals). Negative is age at 22, however, he is NOT some bulky masher with no tools chewing up young pitching. He is a very good athlete with speed and real power whose college career was slowed by injuries but who is now healthy. Scouts compare him to Corey Hart due to 6-6, 190 pound build and similar athleticism.
20) Zach Bird, RHP, Grade C: Borderline C+. Another interesting sleeper from '12 draft, showed 90+ heat and good curveball in rookie ball along with projectable build, athleticism. Potential bargain as ninth round pick, could shoot up the list.
OTHERS: James Baldwin, OF; Zach Bird, RHP; Jharel Cotton, RHP; Bobby Coyle, OF; O'Koyea Dickson, 1B; Jose Dominguez, RHP; Eric Eadington, LHP; Stephen Fife, RHP; Yimi Garcia, RHP; Scott Griggs, RHP; Aaron Miller, LHP; Angel Sanchez ,RHP; Alex Santana, 3B; Andres Santiago, RHP; Javier Solano, RHP; Blake Smith, OF; Miguel Sulbaran, LHP; Julio Urias, LHP; Jesus Valdez, 1B-OF; Scott Van Slyke, OF; Duke von Schamann, RHP.
The Dodgers system has been thin for awhile, but with the recent infusion of money it is turning around quickly. It has never been a question of competence for Logan White and his staff: it has always been an issue of resources. Give these guys some money to work with, and they will find players. We will have to see if the expensive investments in Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu are worthwhile, but the early returns in Puig, at least, are positive.
Although I don't buy into any propaganda about Zach Lee being a potential ace, he's certainly a good prospect and there is pitching depth behind him. There is considerable material for a potential bullpen and several plausible back-of-rotation starters. Performance has not always matched potential (Reed, Withrow, Gould, Aaron Miller) but there are interesting arms behind them who can take their place if the older guard doesn't get things going. I like Stripling a lot, and fellow 2012 draftee Zach Bird looks quite interesting, as does Jharel Cotton, a 20th round pick from East Carolina who started throwing in the mid-90s with good command after the draft. Big sleeper.
On the hitting side, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson both project as regulars alongside potential superstar Puig. The Cuban could also bust of course for I'm opting for optimism right now. There are several guys who could develop into useful role players, beginning with Federowicz and Castellanos at the upper levels. Although the Dodgers are often youth-oriented in their drafting, they find some potential college gems as well. Rathjen and Sweeney look like nice finds from 2012.
Overall, this organization has improved rapidly over the last 18 months and should continue to do so now that the staff has some cash to work with.