Continuing our look at lesser-known Dodgers, Jharel Cotton had a breakout year last season and could factor into plans sooner rather than later.
Picked up in the 20th round of the 2012 draft out of East Carolina University, Jharel Cotton was not seen as much more than organizational depth for the Dodgers. He’d go on to impress in his brief time with the Rookie League Ogden Raptors, posting a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings on the bump.
The now 24-year old out of the U.S. Virgin Islands would split 2013 with High A Rancho Cucamonga and Double A Chattanooga, but spent all of 2014 in Rancho Cucamonga after getting lit up in Chattanooga with an 8.10 ERA.
He looked like true organizational depth until his breakout 2015 campaign. Cotton made a name for himself as a prospect last year by dominating his way all the way from the Low-A Great Lakes Loons to the Triple A Oklahoma City Dodgers where he was deployed out of the bullpen. The right-hander dazzled at every stop before stumbling in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League by giving up 4 runs in 7 innings. Even with the relative ineffectiveness while playing for Oklahoma City, he still managed a cool 2.45 ERA in 95.2 innings pitched on the year.
His 2015 may seem like a bit of an outlier, but he got his stellar results by keeping his walk rate around his career rate of 2.6 walks per nine innings and raising his strikeouts per nine innings to double digits for the first time since 2012. Scouting reports courtesy of Baseball Prospectus rate Cotton as having two above average pitches: a change up and a fastball that sits anywhere from 89-94 mph.
Today Jharel Cotton finds himself in big league Spring Training after having spent the Fall in the Arizona Fall League and was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Rated as the 8th pitching prospect and the 17th overall prospect in the Dodger’s system in 2015 by MLB.com, Cotton could find himself competing for a bullpen role with the big league team later on in the year. The starting rotation is overflowing with talent and it looks as if the late inning roles leading up to closer Kenley Jansen will be filled by Chris Hatcher, Yimi Garcia, and Pedro Baez. Between returning Dodger Joe Blanton, and lefties J.P. Howell and Luis Avilan, there could be no room left for Cotton on the opening day roster, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Dodgers look to him to fill a long relief role later in the 2016 season.