Pitchers and Catchers are just 12 days away from reporting to Camelback Ranch, 7 weeks later the Dodgers kick-off the 2014 Major League season in Australia. The winter doldrums, something you folks in Southern California don’t have to experience, are nearing an end for those of us in cold weather climates. Yes Dodgers fans it’s gonna be time for Dodger baseball very soon.
One of the favorite pastimes for websites all over the net this time of year is releasing their top 10 prospect lists. The Dodgers have done a phenomenal job of rebuilding a farm system that was gutted by the former ownership group. Fortunately for Dodger fans that gutting did not include losing Logan White, one of the best talent evaluators in the game. This years version of the clubs top prospects shows just how far the organization has come in terms of adding quality prospects and more importantly quality depth to the farm system.
You can find excellent analysis of the Dodgers top prospects at Baseball America, MLB.com, Prospect 361 Degrees and Grading on the Curve and several other sites. What you will notice is there seems to be a consensus top 10 from site to site, with just a few exceptions. However, if you go back and look at prior years, what stands out to me is how many of the top 10 don’t end up making an impact at the Major League level, which makes compiling these list kind of a crapshoot. Yet we all seem to enjoy looking at these list and debating who should and shouldn’t be included in the top 10, so without further ado here is my list of the Dodgers 2014 top 10 prospects.
Disclaimer, my list is based on position played by the prospects and the need for that position at the Major League level, so a potential MLB SS will have more value than an Outfielder or Pitcher. Along with that I put more value on how close a prospect is to making an impact at the Major League level, and finally I look at Minor League stats, so a Pitcher with 2 or 3 years of Minor League success is going to outrank someone who may have a higher ceiling but has limited experience. Not to say that my way of ranking prospects is the best way to do it, it’s just the factors that go into compiling my list.
1 – Corey Seager SS – Seager tops my list over Joc Pederson mainly because he plays SS and he’s been one of the youngest players at every level he has played so far. Nearly every scout thinks Seager will will wind up playing 3B at the Major League level due to his size but I disagree, mainly because when I sat down with Ned Colletti he specifically said the club has no intention of moving Seager from SS. I saw him play several times when he was with the Ogden Raptors and I thought he looked more than capable of being an everyday SS. With the potential for an impact bat at a premium position Seager is my top ranked Dodger prospect.
2 – Joc Pederson OF – Joc could easily be at the top of this list, and he is at the top of most prospect lists I saw and there’s many reasons to justify that. He has 5 tools and while none of them may be considered elite each one is above average. He too has been one of the youngest players in each league he’s played in but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up gaudy numbers. The biggest obstacle standing in his way is the log-jam the Dodgers currently have in the OF. But based on the number of injuries the Dodgers sustained in 2013 it’s not out of the question that we could see Pederson roaming any of the OF positions in Dodger Stadium in 2014.
3 – Zach Lee P – This was a tough call for me as Lee hasn’t put up dominant Minor League #’s, but he has been very good. He bounced back from a disappointing 2012 campaign with a very solid 3.22 ERA in AA Chattanooga last year. In 142 IP he struck out 131 hitters while only allowing 35 walks. He’s thrown just over 370 innings in his 3 Minor League seasons and has a shot at the #5 spot in the Dodgers rotation in 2014, depending on the health and effectiveness of Josh Beckett. He’s not viewed as a #1 starter but with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke locked up for at least the next 5 years it’s not like the Dodger need him to be a #1.
4 – Julio Urias P – Urias could easily have topped this list considering he put up a sub 2.50 as a 16 yr old for Class A Great Lakes. He threw just 54 innings in 2013 but struck out 67 while walking 16. His fastball has reportedly been clocked as high as 96 MPH and he’s going to add more size and bulk to his 5’11” 160 lb frame. It’s difficult to project just how high his ceiling is as not many 17 year olds could be pitching in AA in 2014. The club should be cautious with his workload but obviously there is a lot to like. It’s not out of the question he could be pitching in Dodger Stadium as a teenager, but that will all be based on his health and how he handles a higher workload. Regardless it’s hard not to be completely giddy about his future.
5 – Ross Stripling P – This was another tough call for me but Stripling gets the nod based on his 160+ IP. Plus I saw him in person in Ogden and was very impressed. Ogden is nearly 4,000 ft above sea level and is a hitters paradise, but Stripling was dominant in 2012. He didn’t slow down in 2013 jumping all the way up to AA while maintaining a sub 3.00 ERA with 177 K’s in 127 IP while allowing only 4 HR. His performance earned him an invite to Dodgers Spring Training and again based on what happens with Beckett, Stripling may wind up battling Zach Lee for the #5 rotation spot.
6 – Chris Anderson P – The Dodgers top pick in the 2013 draft didn’t disappoint in his debut. He probably has the best pure stuff of anyone on the list with a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and touches 98. His only concern was his high walk rate, 24 BB in 46 IP but he offset that limiting hitters to a stellar .201 BA. He’s expected to move quickly and should reach AA this year. If he can stay healthy he could be pitching in Dodger Stadium as soon as 2015. Scouts love his 6’4″ durable frame that allows him to attack hitters with a downhill plane. His small sample size is the only thing that puts him 6 on this list but a solid 2014 would see him make a big jump.
7 – Alexander Guerrero 2B – I debated on whether to add Guerrero to the list or not because I’m not sure someone who has significant professional experience, albeit in Cuba, and is already is 27 years old is really a prospect. But since there’s a chance that he begins the season in the minor leagues he makes the list. Based on my rating criteria he should be higher on the list since he plays a premium position and should be very close to reaching the Majors, plus the Dodgers lack position player prospects as the list is pitching heavy. Scouts seem to think the Dodgers overpaid for Guerrero but they said the same thing about Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
8- Chris Reed P – The Dodgers are sticking with their plan of using the former Stanford closer as a starter. It has been mixed results for Reed thus far but his mid-90’s fastball and nasty slider translated into his best season for AA Chattanooga in 2013. If the Dodgers lose Paco Rodriguez or JP Howell to injury in 2014 Reed could easily pitch in the Dodgers bullpen this year. He was also invited to Spring Training so the club will get a first-hand look at the former 1st round pick this Spring.
9 – Onelki Garcia P – Another lefty with lights out stuff Garcia made his Dodgers debut in 2013. He has struggled with his command at every level but his high KO rate has helped him maintain a career ERA under 3.00. He has also been hampered with injuries and had elbow surgery this off-season to remove a bone spur in his pitching arm. If he can command his fastball he’s another candidate to pitch out of the Dodgers bullpen in 2014.
10 – Yimi Garcia P – This was another call. Scott Schebler and his 29 HR’s in 2013 could have nabbed this spot, as could Chris Withrow, but I don’t consider Withrow a prospect since he was pitching meaningful innings for the Dodgers in the NLCS. Tom Windle was another candidate as was Jose Dominguez, which illustrates just how good of a job the Dodgers have done in rebuilding the farm system. However, Garcia gets the nod based on the dominant numbers he put up in 2013. 85 K’s and 14 BB’s in 60 IP with a .164 opponents BA and a 0.85 WHIP. He’s really developed since I saw him pitch for Ogden in 2011. back then he wasn’t throwing in the mid-90’s. He’s not as big as your prototypical Closer but his numbers have improved at every level, he’s on the 40 man roster and should Brandon League and Chris Perez pitch like they did in 2013 Garcia is a candidate to pitch out of the Dodgers pen in 2014.
Well there you have it, feel free to add your comments below and let me know where I blew it and anything else that is on your mind. Considering how much the Dodgers top 10 prospect list has improved in 2 short years, and that the club signed nearly 50 international free-agents this year, we may have to expand the list to 15 or 20 prospects going forward as they system is sure to develop quality young talent. Here’s hoping these guys have a healthy and productive 2014 season and it will be interesting to see how many of these guys end up in Dodger Blue this year.