When Andrew Friedman took over as President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers, one of the main pillars of his new regime was going to be the rebuilding of the Dodgers’ talent development system. While he can’t take full credit for a system that has produced the young prospects taking part in this year’s Cactus League, Friedman is sure to be pleased with the quality that’s already starting to percolate for LA.
During the first two Spring Training games we’ve seen 20-year-old Corey Seager and 24-year-old Darnell Sweeney already contributing. We’ve seen 22-year-old Joc Pederson bust out of the gate with guns blazing, ready to fight off any challenger to his claim on center field (visions of Ethier’s dropped ball on day 1 must still be causing Joc to smile on the inside). Mix in the drama of 28-year-old Alex Guerrero (who claims there’s no way he’s returning to the minors) and we already have a very intriguing March. We have as many compelling storylines as the first season of Better Call Saul, and this write-up won’t even delve into Kendrick, Rollins, Kershaw, or Puig.
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In the pre-season opener Pederson and Guerrero both went 2 for 2. Pederson flexed his muscles on his second hit when he reached for a high breaking ball and appeared to barely get the end of the bat on it. A few seconds later Mr. Spalding was careening off the wall left of the 410 marker (possibly a home run at Dodger Stadium where center field tops out around 400 feet).
In the second game, Corey Seager put his smooth fielding chops on display at shortstop, showing quickness and composure for a youngster. Unlikely he will see much time on the first team this year but there is boundless potential with this kid. This is a perfect time for Dodger fans to get an early view of the guy who might be the starting shortstop in the not-too-distant future (at least for those of you who can see Dodger games).
The next few days will bring a variety of opponents: Mariners, Brewers, Indians, The Hated Ones. While it’s always fun to see the stars come out to play (Kershaw’s curve ball was in devastating form in his first start), this year’s Cactus League has plenty of drama simply involving the youngsters. This is a trend that Friedman will work to expand on in the years to come as a way to protect the Dodgers from both rising payroll costs and the steep peaks and valleys that teams experience when they rely too heavily on big-name free agents.
Friedman is a finance guy. In his world a productive youth development farm system operates like an investment in put options. No matter how poorly the first team may perform or how big a bust an expensive free agent might be, there will always be a stock of talented youngsters available to stem the tide of a struggling club from one season to the next. They may not win you a pennant immediately, but their day will come. Like calculating the future value of current assets, something else Friedman is certainly keen on.