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January 4, 2011

Future Shock

Los Angeles Dodgers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: Multiple top prospects falter in 2010, but others step forward. The surprise signing of Zach Lee helps even things out.

Four-Star Prospects
1. Zach Lee, RHP
2. Kenley Jansen, RHP

3. Dee Gordon, SS
4. Trayvon Robinson, OF
Three-Star Prospects
5. Jerry Sands, 1B/OF
6. Rubby De La Rosa, RHP
7. Allen Webster, RHP
8. Aaron Miller, LHP
9. Leon Landry, OF

10. Ethan Martin, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Joc Pederson, OF

Nine More:
12. Chris Withrow, RHP: This power righty simply stopped throwing strikes in 2010, and attempted mechanical changes led to a velocity dip.
13. Ralston Cash, RHP: Cash, a second-round pick, has size, athleticism, and velocity, to succeed, but he's somewhat raw.
14. Garrett Gould, RHP: Gould is a highly polished product for teenager, but he doesn't have the fastball to overwhelm hitters.
15. Scott Elbert, LHP: Returning from a brief retirement, Elbert still has stuff to be a good power lefty reliever.
16. Jake Lemmerman, SS: This fifth-round pick had a massive debut at Ogden, but he's not a shortstop long-term.
17. Blake Smith, OF: A Cal product, Smith is a big athlete with impressive tools, but he still has plenty of swing-and-miss in his game.
18. Brian Cavazos-Galvez, OF: He had a huge year (.318/.343/.520) at Low-A Great Lakes, but he's also 23 years old with a poor approach.
19. Kyle Russell, OF: Russell has tremendous raw power, but it comes at a cost, with 439 strikeouts in 323 pro games.
20. Alfredo Silverio, OF: He would rank higher if scouts thought he could stick in center; gap power won't be enough in a corner.

1. Zach Lee, RHP
DOB
: 9/13/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, McKinney HS (TX)
2010 Stats: Did Not Play
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: One of the top quarterbacks in the country, Lee was committed to LSU and not even speaking to scouts this spring, leaving many to believe the Dodgers punted their first-round selection when they chose him. The industry was shocked when he spurned the gridiron at the deadline and signed for a $5.25 million bonus spread over multiple years.
The Good: Lee has everything scouts look for in a high school arm with frontline starter potential. Tall, projectable, and ultra-athletic, he dazzled scouts this spring by parking his fastball at 94-95 mph while refining his power slider into a true plus pitch with two-plane break. His delivery and arm action are clean, and he brings a football mentality to the mound, working quickly and aggressively.
The Bad: Lee's overall game still needs refinement, as baseball has never been his primary sport. He needs to develop a changeup, and he'll need to make adjustments against pro hitters as he learns that he can't blow them all away. More than anything, he needs innings.
Ephemera: McKinney's football team sure could play baseball. As one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Lee's favorite target was Matt Lipka, the Braves' top pick in the 2010 draft.
Perfect World Projection: A frontline starter.
Fantasy Impact: It's hard to project exact statistics at this point. Let's just say he's awfully good.
Path to the Big Leagues: Lee will likely spend the entire year at Low-A Great Lakes.
ETA: 2014.

2. Kenley Jansen, RHP
DOB
: 9/30/87
Height/Weight: 6-6/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2004, Curacao
2010 Stats: 1.50 ERA (18.0-15-6-28) at Double-A (11 G); 1.67 ERA (27.0-14-17-50) at Triple-A (22 G); 0.67 ERA (27.0-12-15-41) at MLB (25 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/control

Year in Review: This converted catcher made a surprisingly quick rise the the big leagues.
The Good: Jansen certainly has the stuff to miss bats, with a rate of 15.4 whiffs per nine in the minors and another 41 punchouts in his first 27 big-league innings. His best pitch is a 93-97 mph fastball that has touched as high as 99, and he's come leaps and bounds with a slider that often flashes plus.
The Bad: Jansen still looks like a catcher trying to pitch, with a max-effort delivery that borders on violent. He often overthrows both of his offerings, which hinders his ability to throw strikes and causes the slider to flatten out.
Ephemera: In his last eight appearances for Double-A Chattanooga, Jansen struck out 21 of the 34 batters he faced.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a power late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: He could provide tons of strikeouts as a reliever, and could get saves down the road for those in keeper leagues.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he throws more strikes this spring, Jansen will open the year in the big-league bullpen.
ETA: 2011.

3. Dee Gordon, SS
DOB
: 4/22/88
Height/Weight: 5-11/150
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2008, Seminole Community College (FL)
2010 Stats: .277/.332/.355 at Double-A (133 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/power

Year in Review: The Dodgers moved Gordon up two levels in 2010, and while the tools still shine, the holes in his game were more exposed.
The Good: Gordon's athleticism generates plenty of excitement. He has good bat speed and a knack for contact, while his top-of-the-line speed makes him a danger to beat out any ground ball to the left side. He should be able to steal 50-plus bases per year. He has tremendous range to both sides and a strong arm.
The Bad: Scouts have difficulty wrapping their head around Gordon, as he'll turn 22 in April yet still plays with the rawness of an 18-year-old. He needs to develop a more patient approach at the plate, and while he has all of the tools to be a plus shortstop, he's so sloppy there that some scouts would like to see him tried in center field. His thin, lanky frame has no power projection.
Ephemera: No player drafted 127th overall has gotten more than 616 major-league at-bats (Larry Lintz, 1971).
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday up-the-middle player with a high batting average and plenty of speed.
Fantasy Impact: He'll bring stolen bases for sure, with a good average and nothing in the power department.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gordon will move up to Triple-A in 2011, but there's no guarantee of a big-league look this year.
ETA: 2012.

4. Trayvon Robinson, OF
DOB
: 9/1/87
Height/Weight: 5-11/195
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Signed: 10th round, 2005, Crenshaw HS (CA)
2010 Stats: .300/.404/.438 at Double-A (120 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/power

Year in Review: Always a toolsy outfielder, Robinson took another step forward in converting his athleticism to baseball skills.
The Good: For those that believe plate discipline can't be learned, Robinson is the counter-argument. After drawing just 32 walks in 2007, he has become a true leadoff hitter with a patient approach who finished third in the Southern League with a .404 on-base percentage. He has gap power with enough strength to hit 10-12 home runs per year, and his above-average speed makes him a solid center fielder and stolen-base threat.
The Bad: Robinson can get power conscious at times, which leads to him loading up his swing and plenty of strikeouts. He's still learning how to use his speed on the basepaths, and has been successful on less than 70 percent of his stolen-base attempts over the last three years.
Ephemera: Robinson turned into a walking machine after the All-Star break, drawing 32 free passes against just 117 at-bats as part of a .308/.464/.453 batting line.
Perfect World Projection: He's a classic leadoff-hitting center fielder.
Fantasy Impact: He'll have average and stolen bases, with an added bonus for leagues where OBP counts.
Path to the Big Leagues: Robinson will move up to Triple-A in 2011, and his game is refined enough to earn a big-league call should the need arise.
ETA: 2011.

5. Jerry Sands, 1B/OF
DOB
: 9/28/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 25th round, 2008, Catawba College (NC)
2010 Stats: .333/.432/.646 at Low-A (69 G); .270/.360/.529 at Double-A (68 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/speed

Year in Review: This 25th-round pick came out of nowhere to compete for the minor-league home-run title by blasting 35 jacks in 502 at-bats.
The Good: With his performance at Double-A, Sands has sold scouts on his ability to hit. He has a relatively patient approach to go with a swing that is not only sound, but features considerable power and leverage without the need to pull or load up to hit home runs. He's a good athlete for his size, and can hold his own at both first base and a corner outfield slot.
The Bad: Sands' value lies primarily in his bat, as his size and below-average speed limits him to the right side of the defensive spectrum. Multiple scouts noted how surprisingly bad he can look at times against good breaking balls, and he did strike out 123 times in 137 games.
Ephemera: Right-hander Ben Callahan, who appeared in four games for Oakland in the 1983 season, is the only player drafted out of Catawba College to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He'll have enough bat to be a solid everyday first baseman or left fielder.
Fantasy Impact: It's not huge because of the position, but he'll put up numbers.
Path to the Big Leagues: The numbers game will determine if Sands returns to Double-A at the beginning of 2011 or moves up to Triple-A
ETA: 2012.

6. Rubby De La Rosa, RHP
DOB
: 3/4/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/170
Bats/Throws: R/R/
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 3.19 ERA (59.1-49-17-55) at Low-A (14 G); 1.41 ERA (51.0-38-21-39) at Double-A (8 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: A relatively unknown Dominican, De La Rosa came out of nowhere to light up radar guns and move up to Double-A.
The Good: De La Rosa has the best fastball in the system, sitting 95-96 with a whippy delivery, consistently touching the upper 90s and at times scraping triple-digits. While he uses a four-seam delivery, he gets some natural sink on the pitch, and gives up few home runs. He controls the pitch well considering his experience and velocity.
The Bad: For a pitcher who throws as hard as De La Rosa, he struck out just 7.7 batters per nine innings because the rest of his arsenal lags behind. His mid-80s slider often sweeps across the plate, and his changeup is little more than a show-me pitch. While he throws strikes, he often grooves the fastball down the middle and needs to learn how to locate better.
Ephemera: In a strange combination of splits, De La Rosa was hit for a .306 opponent's average at home during his stint at Low-A Great Lakes, but limited batters to a .190 mark on the road. At the same time, his home ERA was 2.93 while his away mark was 3.27.
Perfect World Projection: If he can figure out the secondary stuff, he has impressive potential as a starter, but late-inning relief is the more likely scenario.
Fantasy Impact: It's hard to say without knowing his role.
Path to the Big Leagues: De La Rosa will return to Double-A in 2011, and likely remain a starter for the time being.
ETA: 2012 as a reliever, 2013 as starter.

7. Allen Webster, RHP
DOB: 2/10/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 18th round, 2008, McMichael HS (NC)
2010 Stats: 2.88 ERA (131.1-119-53-114) at Low-A (26 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Changeup/curve

Year in Review: One of the best finds in the 2008 draft, Webster encountered few obstacles in his full-season debut.
The Good: It's hard to find a weakness in Webster's game. His low-90s fastball is a tick above average, his curve is solid, and his changeup is a true plus, giving him a complete big-league arsenal before his 21st birthday. He throws his fastball for strikes, and uses all of his pitches anywhere in the count.
The Bad: As much as scouts like Webster, there's little to get excited about. There is debate as to whether he'll have a true out pitch as he moves up the ladder, and with a frail frame, there's not much projection left. He has problems commanding his secondary offerings at times and needs to improve his overall command.
Ephemera: More than a quarter (6 of 23) of Webster's starts in 2010 came against the Indians' Midwest League affiliate of Lake County. He was 5-1 in those outings with a 0.77 ERA in those games, and 7-8, 3.64 in all other games.
Perfect World Projection: Few pitchers this young are a safer bet to become a good third starter.
Fantasy Impact: It's solid but unspectacular.
Path to the Big Leagues: Webster will move up to the Dodgers' new High-A team in Rancho Cucamonga, a much tougher environment to pitch in compared to the Midwest League.
ETA: 2014.

8. Aaron Miller, LHP
DOB
: 9/18/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2008, Baylor University
2010 Stats: 2.92 ERA (101.2-76-48-99) at High-A (19 G); 7.04 ERA (23.0-28-18-22) at Double-A (6 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/control

Year in Review: This supplemental first-round pick achieved the rare feat of putting up good numbers while pitching in the California League before struggling at Double-A.
The Good: Miller has an especially good fastball for a southpaw, sitting at 92-94 mph and touching 96. His low-80s slider feature good break, and he's already comfortable throwing it for strikes or using it as a chase pitch. He's an excellent athlete who fields his position well, and he should provide some value at the plate as well (for a pitcher).
The Bad: Miller seems to battle his own mechanics at times, and was visibly frustrated in the Southern League as he lost both the strike zone and zip on his fastball. His changeup currently grades out as a 40 on the 20-to-80 scale and is inconsistent.
Ephemera: Miller was an 11th-round pick by the Rockies in 2006... as an outfielder. He pitched only 13 innings as a senior at Channelview High, but hit .581 with 14 home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He'd be a mid-rotation starter.
Fantasy Impact: He'll be a good starter, but hardly an early pick.
Path to the Big Leagues: Miller will get a second crack at Double-A to begin 2011.
ETA: 2012.

9. Leon Landry, OF
DOB
: 9/20/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, LSU
2010 Stats: .349/.399/.510 at Rookie (57 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/power

Year in Review: Seen as a possible first-round pick coming into the spring, Landry had a disappointing junior year but exploded in the Pioneer League after signing.
The Good: Landry can flat-out hit. He stays back on balls well, has plenty of bat speed, and outstanding hands that lead to consistent hard contact to all fields. He has gap power and could end up with double-digit home-run totals down the road. He's not a burner, but is an above-average runner with very good instincts in center field.
The Bad: Landry profiles best as a top-of-the-order hitter, so he'll need to develop a more patient approach instead of attacking fastballs early in the count. His speed never paid off on the basepaths in college, and he was caught in nine of 22 attempts during his pro debut. His arm is weak.
Ephemera: When batting in the third inning of games for Ogden during his pro debut, Landry went a remarkable 20-for-33 (.433) with just one strikeout.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid everyday outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: He'll be more well-rounded than impact.
Path to the Big Leagues: Landry's debut could lead to a first full year at High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
ETA: 2013.

10. Ethan Martin, RHP
DOB
: 6/6/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, Stephens County HS (GA)
2010 Stats: 6.35 ERA (113.1-120-81-105) at High-A (25 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: Martin, the Dodgers' 2008 first-round pick, suffered through a nightmare in 2010.
The Good: All of the parts are there for Martin to be a very good prospect. When he's on, his 92-94 mph fastball can touch 96 with strong boring action, and he's always had a plus power curveball with heavy break. He's an outstanding athlete who had first-round potential as a third baseman in high school.
The Bad: Everything about Martin's game declined throughout the year, with one scout classifying a late-season start as “a complete disaster.” Clearly scuffling mechanically, Martin lost the strike zone and all of his pitches fell at least one full grade. His changeup has never been a point in his favor, and he made little progress with it in 2010.
Ephemera: In his last eight starts of the year, Martin went 0-7 while allowing 48 hits, 30 walks, and 38 runs over just 29 1/3 innings, good for an 11.04 ERA.
Perfect World Projection: Martin still has the tools to be an above-average starter, but he's in the tall weeds for now.
Fantasy Impact: It's anything but a sure bet at this point.
Path to the Big Leagues: Martin hasn't earned a promotion to Double-A, but the Dodgers might send him there just as a change of scenery. It will all depend on how he looks this spring.
ETA: 2013.

11. Joc Pederson, OF
DOB
: 4/21/92
Height/Weight: 6-1/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 11th round, 2010, Palo Alto HS (CA)
2010 Stats: .000/.417/.000 at Rookie (3 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/arm

Year in Review: Seen has having a strong college commitment to Southern California, The Dodgers made a run at Pederson in the 11th round and ultimately signed him for $600,000.
The Good: While he doesn't have the monster athleticism normally associated with the term, technically Pederson is a five-tool player. He's a good hitter with a smooth strike, he's shown solid-average power in batting practice, he's a tick above-average runner, and a good outfielder. He gets strong scores for his work ethic and makeup.
The Bad: Pederson lacks a single-star level tool, so he'll need to develop secondary skills, beginning with better pitch recognition. He profiles better as a corner outfielder, so the power will need to continue to develop. His arm received mixed grades in high school, with some specific concerns over his accuracy.
Ephemera: Located adjacent to Stanford, Palo Alto High has produced a number of prominent women of rock, including folk singer Joan Baez, Grace Slick, and all four members of The Donnas.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid everyday corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Like Landry, Pederson's projection lacks a glaring fantasy weakness, but has no real strengths either.
Path to the Big Leagues: Pederson's spring will determine if he spends April at Low-A Great Lakes or in extended spring waiting for the Pioneer League to begin in June.
ETA: 2015

The Sleeper: A fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, outfielder James Baldwin is the son of the former big-league starter with the same name. He's a raw but toolsy athlete with above-average speed and intriguing power potential.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Zach Lee, RHP
3. Kenley Jansen, RHP
4. Dee Gordon, SS
5. Trayvon Robinson, OF
6. Jerry Sands, 1B/OF
7. Rubby De La Rosa, RHP
8. Allen Webster, RHP
9. Aaron Miller, LHP
10. John Ely, RHP

As he's entering his fourth year in the big leagues, it's easy to forget that Kershaw doesn't turn 23 until March. To finished fourth in the National League in both hits and strikeout rate at 22 speaks to his potential, and while he was a premature pick by yours truly to win the Cy Young award in 2010, I might just pick him again this year. Ely did admirable work as a fill-in starter, but he has pure fifth-starter stuff, and this year's Dodgers Christmas card features the 2011 rotation with Ely nowhere to be found.

Summary: The Dodgers have been on a roller-coaster of late, making the playoffs in four of the last seven years but finishing fourth in the National League West in the three other years. The talent isn't there to provide an immediate turnaround from last year's losing team, but long-term there's plenty of potential, especially on the pitching side.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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