Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects for 2014
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 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. The book has been delayed by my head injury, but it will come out eventually. Thank you for your patience and we still need pre-orders!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated 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.
1) Joc Pederson, OF, Grade B+: Let’s see…he hits for power, posts strong OBPs, steals bases, can play all three outfield positions, and has good makeup. Sounds like a prospect to me. The only thing he doesn’t do well is hit left-handed pitching, so it is possible he might wind up as a platoon guy if he can’t solve that, but that isn’t a forgone conclusion at age 21.
2) Julio Urias, LHP, Grade B+: Mexican lefty dominated Low-A hitters at age 16, which may be unprecedented in the modern age. Velocity is picking up from upper-80s when signed well into the 90s and he already knew how to pitch. Key factor now is staying healthy, building stamina and innings after being kept on a short leash last year. Heading for a Grade A next year if he does that.
3) Corey Seager, SS, Grade B+: 2012 first-rounder blasted Low-A pitching (.309/.389/.529) but was horrible after moving up to High-A (.160/.246/.320) and was overmatched in Arizona Fall League. He doesn’t turn 20 until next month so the negatives are forgivable. Should hit for average and power, likely moves to third base where his glove should be very good.
4) Zach Lee, RHP, Grade B: Throws strikes with four average big league pitches, resulting in pleasant K/BB ratios (131/35 in Double-A last year). Eats innings, profiles as prototypical mid-rotation starter. I don’t think he will be an ace but he should be good.
5) Alexander Guerrero, 2B, Grade B-: Borderline B. Might go with a straight-B here when final grades are done. Not really a "prospect" in the classic sense at age 27, but he’s a rookie so I have to list him somewhere. Other teams didn’t like him as much as the Dodgers but they were right about Puig, so they could be right here too. If he pans out, perhaps something like a Cuban Jeff Kent.
6) Chris Withrow, RHP, Grade B-: A technical rookie although he’s past the 30-inning cutoff I usually use for relief pitchers. I like him though, so I’ll write about him. Have to like this arm in relief, upper-90s heat with a good slider and curve, no need to worry about mediocre changeup in pen. Could close someday.
7) Chris Anderson, RHP, Grade B-: 2013 first-rounder from University of Jacksonville could end up similar to Withrow, has low-90s fastball as a starter but could throw harder in relief, good slider, changeup and command need work. Mid-rotation potential but relief a backup option as it was for Withrow.
8) Tom Windle, LHP, Grade B-: Second round pick from University of Minnesota performed well in Low-A with low 90s fastball and very good breaking ball. Like Anderson he could be a mid-rotation arm with bullpen use a fallback possibility.
9) Chris Reed, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. 2011 first rounder from Stanford had puzzling year in Double-A (4-11, 3.86, 106/63 K/BB in 138 innings), gets lots of grounders with sinker and changeup but slider reportedly went backwards and his command is erratic. Future fourth starter or (broken record) could make a solid reliever.
10) Matt Magill, RHP, Grade C+: Solid in Triple-A (3.47 ERA, 101/50 K/BB in 86 innings, just 76 hits in Albuquerque pinball machine) but struggled with command during big league trial (28 walks in 27.2 innings). Fourth starter stuff, would be in rotation mix for many teams but could wind up in bullpen here or trade bait.
I am confident on the ordering in spots 1 through 10, but from this point on you could come up with about a hundred valid rankings with good logic behind them. I selected the ones that are most interesting to me for various reasons.
11) Onelki Garcia, LHP, Grade C+: Seems ideally-suited for relief work with power stuff from the left side, assuming he makes a little more progress with his command and that his elbow is OK.
12) Jose Dominguez, RHP, Grade C+: Another power bullpen arm who could contribute soon, health and command allowing. The Dodgers have a bunch of these guys.
13) Yimi Garcia, RHP, Grade C+: Another bullpen option, not as well known as Onelki or Dominguez and doesn’t throw quite as hard, but with a very strong performance record, 2.54 ERA with 85/14 K/BB in 60 innings, just 35 hits in Double-A. Stays healthy and throws strikes.
14) Ross Stripling, RHP, Grade C+: Would rank at Grade B- and in the 7-9 range if not for Tommy John surgery. I have liked him since he was getting people out at Texas A&M. He can be a fine fourth starter if he recovers properly.
15) Jesmuel Valentin, 2B-SS, Grade C+: Hit .284/.379/.396 in Pioneer League, which isn’t that good for the context, but he gets on base and I think more power could come. Should be good fielder at second base but stretched at shortstop. Still just 19.
16) Scott Schebler, OF, Grade C+: Hit .296/.360/.581 with 27 homers, 16 steals in High-A California League. Impressive power/speed combo, but aggressive approach/contact problems (35 walks, 140 strikeouts) could be troublesome against advanced pitching and Cal League breakouts need to be duplicated at higher levels.
17) Victor Arano, RHP, Grade C+: Another product of Dodgers renewed efforts in Mexico, posted 4.20 ERA with 49/13 K/BB in 49 innings in Arizona Rookie League, showing big league arm strength and decent command at age 18. Long way off and he shouldn’t be expected to duplicate Urias, but still interesting.
18) Erisbel Arruebarruena, SS, Grade C+: Another Cuban defector, rated very highly as a defensive player but with questions about his bat. Glove should get him to the majors but we’ll have to see if he hits enough to start.
19) Darnell Sweeney, SS-2B, Grade C+: Another power/speed combo player, hit .275/.329/.455 with 48 steals, 34 doubles, 16 triples, 11 homers in High-A. Stretched at shortstop, better at second, but as with Schebler there are contact issues which could be a problem at higher levels (151 whiffs in 552 at-bats for Rancho).
20) Jacob Scavuzzo, OF, Grade C+: High-ceiling hitter from 21st round of ’12 draft, unable to hit rookie ball pitching in ’12 (.220/.281/.317) but exploded in ’13 (.307/.350/.578, 14 homers in Pioneer League) with dramatic reduction in strikeout rate. Transition to full-season ball will be illuminating.
OTHERS: Pedro Baez, RHP; Cody Bellinger, 1B; Zach Bird, RHP; Jharel Cotton, RHP; Noel Cuevas, OF; Joey Curletta, OF; O’Koyea Dickson, 1B; Kyle Farmer, RHP; Victor Gonzalez, LHP; Scott Griggs, RHP; Adam Law, INF-OF; Jarret Martin, LHP; Seth Rosin, RHP; Alex Santana, 3B; Brandon Trinkwon, SS.
They aren’t perfect, but the Dodgers have one of the better farm systems in baseball right now, particularly on the pitching side.
They have a broad array of impressive pitching arms, beginning with Mexican lefty Julio Urias. He is a very unusual prospect and I think it is wise to keep expectations at a reasonable level right now. He needs to build up his stamina and we need to see what kind of workload he can handle, but his gains in size and velocity over the last year, combined with an already-strong feel for pitching, make him one of the top southpaw prospects in the game.
Chris Withrow is ready now, Zach Lee should be ready to do something in ’15, and Chris Anderson and Tom Windle from the ’13 draft could move quickly. Ross Stripling was ready to help soon but unfortunately Tommy John will get in the way in his case. Products from the revived Latin American program like Jose Dominguez and Yimi Garcia provide additional depth, and there are a lot of arms down at the lower levels who can follow in their footsteps.
Hitting is less impressive but there is still talent available. Joc Pederson has exceeded expectations. Corey Seager projects as a regular. Many of the Grade C+/C types have big league tools but we need to see them outside the pro-hitting California and Pioneer Leagues. The hitting list could look much deeper a year from now if toolsy players with contact issues like Scott Schebler, Darnell Sweeney, and Noel Cuevas perform well in Double-A.
Heavy investments in unconventional foreign talent like Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu paid immediate dividends, and revived efforts in Mexico brought in Urias. We’ll have to see if the same holds true for Guerrero and Arruebarruena.
I think the biggest difference between the Dodgers now and where they were a couple of years ago is simply money: Logan White and his scouts always knew what they were doing, but financial limitations were a big problem. That is no longer the case under current ownership, and as long as the money spigot stays running, the scouts and player development folks should continue to produce talent.