January 8, 2015
Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Corey Seager
What Happened in 2014: Seager served as a beautifully destructive offensive force for High Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga while holding his own on the defensive front as an oversized six-spotter, emerging as one of the game’s elite prospect talents.
Strengths: Excellent strength; fluid and functional swing that produces line drives to all fields; steady hands through launch and steady head throughout swing; proficient tracker; solid plate coverage, including improved coverage on the inner half, and high level of comfort hitting across the quadrants; easy, natural lift; increasingly produces backspin and carry; hands and arm play well on the dirt; has shown ability to make most out of limited range; if shifted to third, has the makings of a plus defender.
Weaknesses: Still learning to temper over-aggression, particularly early in count; lower half can get clunky and stiff in the field; defense unlikely to surpass fringe average at shortstop; highly likely to settle in to below-average straight-line speed at maturity.
Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player
Realistic Role: 6; first-division player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; successful in extended Double-A debut and developmental trajectory pointing up across the board.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: There is always risk in prospects, especially ones who have the potential to slide down the defensive spectrum. Seager is a special case though, having experienced upper-minors success at a young age, and receiving near universal praise for his bat. He might slide to third base down the line, but the state of that position isn’t so glamorous in fantasy circles that it would significantly dent his value. He should contribute to the four major categories as a future middle-of-the-order hitter, and will sprinkle in a steal here or there.
The Year Ahead: Seager entered the year ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the 44th best prospect in the game, and by mid-season had climbed to 19th. When the 2015 Top 101 list is unveiled, the former first-rounder will have solidified a spot among the elite position prospects in the game, thanks to a 2014 season that provided evaluators almost everything they could have asked for, from gaudy offensive production across two levels to improved plate coverage and strength to enough in the way of defensive chops to keep the door open to his logging major-league innings at the six spot. All of this came with Seager turning just 20 years old last April, and there is still additional physicality yet to manifest in the Tar Heel Stater’s projectable and athletic build. Seager falls shy of a true five-tool threat, but the bat, power, and arm could all mature to plus, and were he to shift to the hot corner his glove could bring the plus tool tally to four. Seager is near major-league ready, though there is not a present pressing need for his services in LaLa Land. He possesses the feel and maturity to make an impact upon arrival, and the potential to emerge as one of the game’s elite overall talents.
Major league ETA: 2015
2. Julio Urias
What Happened in 2014: Neither a bump in level nor a 33-inning jump in workload could sidetrack the teenage pitching savant, who completed a full year of impressive work in the High-A California League with all but four of his appearances coming at the age of 17.
Strengths: Advanced feel and pitchability; three-way fastball can run, sink, and cut across low-90s velocity band, reaching mid-90s; curveball plays average or better at present from upper 70s to and through low 80s, with a slider-like variation that can reach 83 to 84 mph without losing depth; chance to parse into two distinct breaking balls with continued refinement, each of which could grade out as above average to plus; low-80s changeup with arm-speed deception and abrupt fade down in the zone; mechanics work free and easy; creates solid angles through three-quarters release and solid posture; appears taller than listed 5-foot-11.
Weaknesses: Command and control can loosen with fastball at upper velocities; changeup comes and goes, sits flat and hittable up in the zone; can get predictable with runners on, relying on variations of fastball or breaking ball rather than full utilization of arsenal; still refining execution across arsenal; command lags behind control; body lacks projection and could become high maintenance based on present physique and body type; maintains stuff well but has yet to be tested by heavier workload.
Overall Future Potential: High 7; no. 1/2 starter
Realistic Role: 6; no. 3 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; yet to reach Double-A; needs to reproduce current effectiveness while more than doubling innings load to play as major-league starter.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: While there’s argument over whether Urias could be an ace at the major-league level, he’s talented enough to carry a fantasy rotation no matter what the designation. It might take some time for him to carry a full season’s workload, but he’s got an arsenal designed to miss bats, with the potential to be a strikeout-per-inning guy. He’s presently walking more guys than preferable, but at only 18 years old, there’s time for him to fine tune his control.
The Year Ahead: Urias presents an interesting case study for evaluators, as the stuff, approach, and maturity all belie his age and experience, and have allowed for an aggressive set of assignments through his first two seasons. Add to that the fact that the Dodgers have been appropriately conservative in scheduling the workload for the uniquely talented lefty, and you are left with the profile of a dominant teenage arm with the stuff and the results to warrant additional promotion, but lacking the established durability to quell concerns about overuse or botched developmental refinement, and the dangers of potential long-term negative impacts resulting therefrom. It’s possible Urias could handle major-league bats as early as 2015, and it would not be a shock to see him in Dodger Blue this coming season, particularly later in the year as part of a playoff push. For now, Los Angeles is not lacking in quality arms, and the current regime has historically taken a fairly conservative approach to building innings and deliberately checking off developmental boxes when it comes to young pitching. However Urias is implemented in 2015, there is little doubt he will be a part of the Dodgers’ plans in the near future, and could quickly establish himself as a foundational talent.
Major league ETA: 2016
3. Joc Pederson
What Happened in 2014: Pederson produced the Pacific Coast League’s first 30 home run/30 stolen base season in over 80 years while continuing to display potential for five above-average tools, earning a September cup of coffee with the Big Club.
Strengths: Well rounded, above-average athlete with baseball skill set to match; plus bat speed, balance, and strong feel for zone could allow hit tool to play above average despite some coverage holes; comfortable working deep into count; improved approach against same-side arms; forces pitchers to beat him with quality offerings; chance for above-average leather up the middle; covers ground; arm strength and accuracy should produce kills and holds; shows feel on the bases to go with foot speed; should be an asset in all facets of the game.
Weaknesses: May lack impact tool if swing and miss eats into playable power; natural bat-to-ball, but doesn’t always find the barrel, particularly swinging from the heels; can be tripped up by sequencing and is at times slow to adjust to being pitched backwards; solid feel in center but reads need improvement for glove to reach potential; may ultimately fit best in an outfield corner (arm for right).
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division player/all-star
Realistic Role: High 5; above-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; received call up and showed very well in full season at Triple-A.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: While his 30/30 campaign in Triple-A might be a bit misleading, thanks to the inflated offensive environment of the PCL, Pederson could well be fantasy gold. He’s a potential five-category contributor and whether his defensive prowess holds up in center is of less of a concern to fantasy owners. There’s the potential for big volatility in his batting average, but he has the ability to be a 20/20 guy in relatively short order, given a full slate of at-bats.
The Year Ahead: Pederson is ready to take his well-rounded game to The Bigs after proving there is little left for him to work on at the minor-league level. The Palo Alto prep product has blossomed into a dynamic talent, capable of affecting the game in all areas and just has to continue his refinement at the major-league level in order to establish a foothold as a steady, everyday contributor. Pederson’s strikeout rates continue to float at a level higher than one would expect from a fairly sound and balanced swing, not to mention an advanced feel for the strike zone, though evaluators point to his improvement against same-side arms in 2014 as evidence of his ability to adjust and are generally comfortable with the extra swing and miss as part of his offensive profile, so long as the power production continues. It was a good year for the system’s top two positional prospects, with Seager and Pederson each poised to offer significant production at pre-arbitration prices in the coming years, and giving the deep-pocketed Dodgers flexibility to place their financial focus on other aspects of the 25-man roster.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2014
4. Grant Holmes
What Happened in 2014: The former Florida commit impressed on the showcase circuit and throughout the spring, coming off the board as the 22nd overall selection in last year’s draft, and proceeded to light up radar guns with his heater and drop jaws with his hammer in his professional debut.
Strengths: Big, strong, durable build; prototypical power stuff, headlined by plus or better fastball/curveball combo; fastball will kiss the upper 90s while working comfortably 93 to 95 mph, showing quality life; power curve draws wobbly knees and empty swings alike, operating low to mid-80s; feel for a changeup and has flashed ability to turn over plus-level offering with arm-speed deception and fade; can hold velocity to and through 75 pitches; aggressive demeanor; solid control profile at present and command could improve to above average at maturity; repeats well.
Weaknesses: Body lacks projection; growth in stuff will likely be reliant upon improved tightening of physique and flexibility, adding to ability to execute with more precision; changeup still work in progress; fastball/curve too advanced for low-level bats, so will have to place purposeful developmental focus on off-speed; high-effort delivery; stuff saw downtick in power and effectiveness at end of long showcase circuit before returning in the fall and spring; yet to be tested on shorter rest and over long haul of full pro season.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: High 5; closer
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited pro exposure.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: Similarly to Urias, no matter where Holmes slots in the rotation for you, be it a mid-rotation arm or higher, he’ll play up in fantasy thanks to dynamic stuff and the ability to chew innings. There’s not a ton of growth left thanks to his barrel-chested frame, but he could burn through the lower minors quickly, providing immediate name value and the chance to sell high, early. This is a first-round talent in dynasty drafts, and arguably the top prep arm on the board if you’re too impatient for Tyler Kolek.
The Year Ahead: Holmes was arguably the best overall prep power arm in the 2014 draft class, considering the quality of his top two offerings and a lengthy track record that displayed an ability to replicate those offerings over multiple innings from appearance to appearance. The body is not projectable, and he is a bit undersized compared to your prototypical hard thrower, but the profile doesn’t require much in the way of projection to reach the requisite level to provide major-league value. Even assuming health, because of the effort in the delivery, the untested ability to maintain effectiveness over the course of a full pro season, and the still-developing third pitch, there is a risk that the arm tops out as a high-end relief option. Leading up to and during his pro debut, however, the South Carolina native has repeatedly shown an ability to effectively wield two, and at times three, above-average offerings with feel and control, and stands as one of the leading candidates to make a jump into the top tier of minor-league arms with a strong full-season debut.
Major league ETA: 2018
5. Zach Lee
What Happened in 2014: Lee advanced to Triple-A in 2014, logging 150 innings and continuing to show solid feel for four offerings, with the reports outdistancing the less than impressive production.
Strengths: Strong and athletic build; mechanics facilitate uniform release across arsenal; repeats well; fastball sits low 90s and can reach back for more when elevating ahead in the count; changeup flashes above average with solid deception and dive; slider serves as most dependable breaking ball, with solid shape and ability to throw to both sides of the plate; generally capable of working in the zone at will with all four offerings.
Weaknesses: Repertoire lacks impact; needs changeup to take consistent step forward in order to keep top-tier bats off fastball/slider; curve can get loopy and may be limited to occasional change-of-pace offering at highest level; while comfortable dropping all four pitches into the zone for strikes, command is generally loose and can get in trouble over the heart of the plate; slider may be more effective missing barrels than drawing swings and misses without quality changeup as a staple disrupting timing; can get more deliberate in his execution from the stretch, occasionally tipping pitches.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; reached upper levels and possesses feel and versatile arsenal to carve out major-league role.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: With a likely role as a back-end starter and a lack of a true bat-missing offering, Lee can safely be ignored in standard or shallow leagues outside of a streaming option once he does crack the majors. In deeper leagues he’s a fine SP6 or so, but the upside isn’t there to invest with any vigor.
The Year Ahead: When the Dodgers drafted Lee in 2010 and dropped a $5.25 million signing bonus on the two-sport LSU commit, the expectation was that the Dodgers were buying an elite talent to be molded into a front-end fixture in the LA rotation. Those expectations have softened as the Texan has traversed the minor-league developmental landscape, with the athletic righty now profiling more as a solid back-end option with enough feel and developmental room remaining to reach number three upside, which in and of itself would be a success on the acquisition and developmental front. Lee did not look overmatched at Triple-A, but likewise did not stand out, taking the ball each time out and showing the makings of a solid future major-league contributor but little in the way of impact. He struggled to handle same-side bats, in large part due to an inability to produce a consistent put-away breaking ball, and while there is some feel for sequencing, the command and consistency is not yet there for his average stuff to regularly dismantle more advanced sticks. He should return to the Pacific Coast League to start 2015 where a continued focus will be placed on finding more precision within the zone and more consistency in effectively setting up and implementing his slider and changeup. A 2015 major-league debut is likely, and provided he continues to fine tune his game, Lee should be in line to compete for a rotation spot no later than 2016.
Major league ETA: 2015
6. Chris Anderson
What Happened in 2014: The 2013 first-rounder overcame early-season struggles with control and execution to lead the California League in strikeouts (146) while routinely working five or more innings in his first full professional season.
Strengths: Looks the part of a big and durable innings-eater; creates good plane on fastball and leverages size to create tough angles; low-90s fastball can reach 94/95 mph and comes with heft; tilted slider will flash plus and can be legit swing-and-miss offering with solid depth and bite; changeup will play above average down in the zone with fading action on trajectory parallel to fastball; desire and ability to reach back for something extra when situation calls to put someone away.
Weaknesses: Overall approach and mentality in 2014 seemed defined by desire to try and overpower hitters; needs to improve ability to maneuver around challenges rather than trying to throw through them; arsenal is impactful at highest setting, but comes with erratic control (league-leading strikeout tally came hand in hand with league’s third highest walk totals); durability and breadth of weaponry to hang as a starter long term, but stuff could play down some as he learns to rein in and execute pitches with more precision.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; size/strength and quality of arsenal will play in some capacity at major league level.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: Getting Anderson out of the California League will be the first step towards figuring out his ultimate role. While he didn’t have any trouble missing bats and has the frame to log plenty of innings, there are still rumors of a future role in the bullpen. Anderson has the stuff to post SP3 numbers, but there’s enough risk here that he’s more appropriately valued as an SP4/5 going forward.
The Year Ahead: The Dodgers took it easy with Anderson in 2014, affording the former Jacksonville Friday night ace a full season in one locale, where he showed equal parts dominance and ineffectiveness. The impact nature of the stuff is undeniable, but it is still an open question as to whether or not the potential workhorse can keep a handle on the high-octane stuff while mashing the pedal firmly to the floor. Los Angeles is not without options in the rotation, so there is time to continue to take things slow with Anderson in order to allow him the opportunity to figure out the ebb and flow of pacing, both throughout the course of a start and over the span of the season. There’s mid-rotation upside here, with a fairly high floor as a durable number four starter whose start-to-start production may very well be tied directly to his volatile strike-throwing ability on any given day.
Major league ETA: 2016
7. Jose De Leon
What Happened in 2014: The former 24th rounder took a nice developmental step forward, parlaying improved consistency with his slider and a mid-90s velocity bump into 77 whiff-laden, low-minors innings while posting a quality aggregate walk rate of 2.5 walks per nine.
Strengths: Fastball is plus offering at present and could mature a half grade higher with continued command refinement; will sit 92 to 94 mph and can touch 96/97; improved comfort working in/out; low-80s slider has gained consistency in shape and bite; changeup lags but foundation there for a third future average or better offering; soft body has firmed some; ability to maintain velocity through middle innings; herky-jerky deception; ball comes out quickly and jumps on hitters.
Weaknesses: Body still soft; will need to stay on top of conditioning; showed well deeper in games but yet to be tested over course of full season; changeup not yet a dependable third offering; fastball overpowered low-level hitters but will need to demonstrate more sophistication in pitch implementation as competition improves; can get formulaic in mixing fastball/slider.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; late-inning relief
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to reach High-A.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: There’s a ton of risk involved in a guy who has only thrown 22.2 innings of full-season ball, but De Leon might be a guy to target toward the back end of dynasty drafts. The mostly anonymous hurler struck out 49 percent of the batters he faced in Low-A (small sample size warning) and walked just over two percent. He is old for the level, but has the stuff and control to warrant a closer look, and could see his stock explode if he’s returned to Low-A to start 2015.
The Year Ahead: With an improved slider and developing feel with the fastball, De Leon took two important developmental steps in 2014, looking much more the part of a potential big-league starter while retaining a comforting safety net as a late-inning power arm. The bulky righty is now regularly filling up the strike zone with a plus heater, and the emergence of a solid breaking ball in the form of a slider gives De Leon the requisite one-two punch to solidify some foundational value and, more importantly, gives him ample firepower to work through low-level lineups as he continues to log reps and work to improve his off-speed and overall command. This season should serve as a solid indicator as to where De Leon currently sits on his developmental journey, testing his ability to both maintain his stuff over a longer haul and implement it effectively against more disciplined lineups. If it all comes together the result could be a plus command, mid-rotation arm leaning heavily on an impact fastball.
Major league ETA: 2018
8. Darnell Sweeney
What Happened in 2014: The 23-year-old put together a strong showing with Double-A Chattanooga, demonstrating an advanced feel for contact, on-base ability, and a workable glove at all three up-the-middle positions.
Strengths: Athletic build and actions; good balance at plate; rotates well through core and generates solid bat speed, natural loft from left side, resulting in surprising pop; right-side swing geared more to contact with flatter plane and earlier extension; can put together professional at-bats; willing to take a walk; plus speed should allow for increased on-base production; decent lines on the bases allow speed to play up in grabbing extra bases; glove works up the middle; chance to fill super-utility role as a capable shortstop, second baseman, and center fielder.
Weaknesses: Outfield feel lags well behind actions on the dirt; lacks feel on the bases; poor reads and jumps off pitchers; makes too many outs attempting steals negatively impacting value as pinch-run option; hit and power could both max out as fringe average; will fall into ruts where he tries too hard to drive the ball resulting in empty swings and zone expansion; can be led out of zone with competent sequencing.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average regular
Realistic Role: High 4; utility option
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; Achieved Double-A success; versatile skill set should find a major-league role
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: While he generates good pop for the position, Sweeney’s defensive issues make him more of an offense-first backup and thus lacking in fantasy value. He’s not someone to roster outside of extremely deep leagues with minor-league depth. If he’s starting for a major-league team it’s likely something has gone wrong, but he’d still be worth rostering were that the case.
The Year Ahead: The ceiling is limited for the UCF product, but there is much value to be realized in a cost-controlled, versatile up-the-middle asset with some feel for contact and enough pop to keep pitchers from pounding the middle of the zone. If Sweeney can tame some of his aggressive tendencies that lead him to give away at bats via swing and miss there is an opportunity for him to develop into an above-average option at the keystone. He isn’t quite steady enough at short to profile well there in an everyday capacity, but his ability to handle the position with limited exposure improves his stock, as does his ability to handle himself in center if needed. He should make the jump to Triple-A in 2015 and is close to being ready to contribute to the Big Club. As he continues to grow his game across the board so too grow the odds of Sweeney carving out a long-term niche for himself at Chavez Ravine.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Alex Verdugo
What Happened in 2014: After an inconsistent spring, on the bump, at the plate, and in the field, Verdugo came off the board to Los Angeles in the second round of this June’s draft and proceeded to square up everything he saw in 54 games between the Arizona Rookie League and short-season Ogden, slashing a combined .353/.421/.511 over both stops.
Strengths: Gets the barrel to the ball consistently; plus raw power to pull, with strength and swing to drive the ball oppo; hard contact plays well to the gaps and could produce 20-plus home runs annually at maturity; in pro debut greatly improved discipline and implemented selectively aggressive approach with aplomb; moves well enough to cover the requisite ground in center at present, but may project best in right field where plus arm would be an asset and overall defensive package could play to plus; good jumps and reads on the grass and on the bases.
Weaknesses: Has shown tendency to get frustrated on field; will let mental slip ups snowball; agitation will carry over in game and can impact performance, including abandoning of approach at the plate; will need to demonstrate mental fortitude to work through struggles when they come; in the field, better coming in on the ball than ranging back to either side; as body matures, foot speed to slip to below average.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Realistic Role: High 4; fourth outfielder/below-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; short-season resume.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: Power will be the key determinant to whether Verdugo can secure a role as an everyday player, and thus fantasy value, or be relegated to fourth-outfielder status. He’s a worthy flier after the middle rounds in dynasty drafts as there’s a chance you got a solid five-category contributor, but expectations should be light on the power front, and thus realistic regarding his future playing time.
The Year Ahead: To say Verdugo’s pro debut came as a surprise would be an understatement. The Arizona native has always been known to evaluators as a talented two-way player, but his performance through the spring leading up to the draft was peppered with inconsistencies and at times sloppy and borderline disinterested play. While reports will still note some questions as to makeup and on-field demeanor, Verdugo handled his in-game business through his first 216 professional plate appearances, and has taken a step towards winning the LA decision-makers over a as a future position player (at the time of the draft there were rampant rumors that the Dodgers would allow Verdugo to begin his career in the field in order to induce his signing, but that his ultimate developmental track was most likely to come on the mound). There is still a lot of work to be done before Verdugo steps onto to field at Dodger Stadium for his first major-league game, but the early returns have been encouraging. He should make the jump to Low-A Great Lakes for the 2015 season, and a similarly loud showing could see the 2014 second-rounder jump up the rankings, both organizationally and nationally, come this time next year.
Major league ETA: 2018
10. Scott Schebler
What Happened in 2014: Schebler continues to defy the scouting reports, displaying impactful power with Double-A Chattanooga, including a Southern League leading 28 home runs over 560 plate appearances, with almost half of his hits (65 of 137) going for extra bases.
Strengths: Powerful build and leveraged swing produce plus raw pop; bat speed to turn on inner half or let ball get deep away before uncorking; strength and feel for the barrel allows him to drive ball to all fields; has paired power production with improved command of the strike zone, growing on-base profile; tracks well out of lefty and righty arms alike; continues to improve approach and shows ability to make adjustments game to game and across multiple looks at pitchers over course of season; could play as useful number five or six bat on a first-division club; potential run producer.
Weaknesses: Value tied almost exclusively to the bat; below-average arm likely limits to left field long term; fringe-average straight-line speed that plays down due to jumps in the field and on the bases; liberal approach to contact limits hit utility, with hard and soft contact both coming regularly; aggressive nature can force to work behind in the count; can let bats get away from him once behind.
Overall Future Potential: 5; average major leaguer
Realistic Role: High 4; below-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; profile close to maturity with Double-A success under his belt.
Craig Goldstein’s Fantasy Take: If you could combine Schebler’s power with Verdugo’s hitting ability, you’d really have something. Not that Schebler is shabby in his own right. He’s shown a surprising ability to hit for average the last few seasons, though that’s still expected to be an issue at the major-league level. He does have real pop though, and in another organization could be a useful platoon outfielder, if not more. Given LA’s outfield depth, it’s going to take a trade to give him near-term fantasy value.
The Year Ahead: Schebler has led his league in extra bases in each of the last two seasons, and has tallied 55 home runs over 260 games during that same span. It isn’t a dynamic profile, but Schebler has enough feel for the stick and raw strength to continue to rack up extra bases as he completes his ascension to The Bigs. Because the former 26th rounder is unlikely to impact the game outside of his bat, there will be a lot of pressure on his reaching his full potential in that department. This year should see Schebler taking on Triple-A arms, and should an opportunity arise at an outfield corner in LA, Schebler could find his way to the big-league club sooner rather than later.
Major league ETA: 2015
Prospects on the Rise (by Tucker Blair):
1. C Julian Leon: The Mexican catcher flashed his talents in the Pioneer league this season, demonstrating the ability to hit for average and power. Leon displays good bat speed along with ample strength, potentially developing into a solid all-around hitter at the plate. Defensively, Leon displays a fringe glove at present, and while he boasts a plus arm he will need to improve upon his footwork and transfer and release—challenges exacerbated by a thick lower half—in order to avoid seeing his catch-and-throw game play down. The overall value will be tied primarily to the progression of his defense, but the bat could make the profile, and already looks to be on the right developmental track.
2. RHP A.J. Vanegas: An extensive injury history and a high-effort delivery dimmed the allure for some within the industry heading into the draft, but the overslot Stanford graduate retains a solid ceiling, tooled with a fast arm and a high-powered heater that tops out at 97 mph, rounding out the arsenal with a quality slider and cutter. At its best, the slider shows bite and tilt, but can become loose and fluctuate in its effectiveness. The cutter may be more accurately described as a short slider, coming with slightly more horizontal action. While the role is a pure relief profile, Vanegas has enough talent to potentially provide innings in the back end of a bullpen. Consistency gained in normalizing his arm path and release points will go a long way in helping to play up the deception of his fastball and slider.
3. RHP Kam Uter: The righty was a two-sport standout in high school (football), and now brings his full attention to developing on the mound. With a sturdy build and broad shoulders, Uter has the physicality to develop into a workhorse. His low-90s fastball has arm-side run, and he pairs this with a potentially above-average curveball that flashes good shape and bite. Uter’s development has just begun, as he only threw in five games after being signed for $200,000 in the 12th round last season. While the main focus in development will be tied into repeating his mechanics and finding a comfort zone with his arm path, he has a loose and quick arm that can generate velocity and spin. Next season will shed further light on the talents, and ultimate ceiling, of the Georgia native.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015) (by Tucker Blair):
1. C/2B Austin Barnes: Recently acquired in a deal with Miami, Barnes brings a flexible profile capable of filling a super utility role at the highest level. Barnes displays capable defense behind the plate, but is likely not a full-time starter at the position. His quality footwork and hands help his defense play up at the keystone. While Barnes may not boast impact tools, his average hit tool, good approach, and grinder mentality allow for him to provide value in versatility. With time spent at Double-A, the 25-year-old is close to the majors and could see time this season as a depth piece.
2. RHP Yimi Garcia: The 6-foot-1 Dominican spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Albuquerque while also receiving a cup of coffee with the big-league club, showing solid command and deception with his arsenal. Garcia has a pure relief profile, and possesses a heavy fastball and split change that some industry sources believe could induce ground balls at an efficient rate. Garcia’s breaking ball plays best when it is short and sharp like a cutter, but he can loosen it at times to provide the look of a more natural slider. Overall, he has the ability to provide value in the bullpen for the Dodgers next season, especially if he can keep working down and reduces the amount of pitches left flat and fat up in the zone.
3. LHP Chris Reed: The southpaw logged more than 150 innings for the first time in his professional career, and signs of fatigue cropped up toward the end of the season. Reed possesses a heavy low-90s fastball which can be tough to lift and drive when down in the zone. His low-80s slider can be efficient at drawing empty swings and soft contact when showing tilt and crispness. Reed flashes more control than command currently, but both tend to slip the further he goes in an outing. While the durability and fatigue issues may push Reed into a relief role down the road, the change can play to average and there is still a glimmer of hope that he may stick in the back end of a rotation. Regardless, his heavy fastball and tight slider are potential weapons in the bullpen.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)
The Dodgers have enjoyed back-to-back National League West Championships the last two seasons due in large part to the Nick Punto blockbuster and the Hanley Ramirez trade. The trades made the major-league squad much more talented and primed for contention, but also purged some young, big-league ready talent like Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi, and Rubby De La Rosa. The 2014 club had veterans at every position, with only two of these players getting a cup of coffee, and only All-Star Yasiel Puig getting regular play with the big club.
December’s Winter Meetings had new Dodgers brass Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi wheeling and dealing even more, adding more stubble to the Dodgers team—they inherited the fifth oldest positional talent and fourth oldest pitching staff in all of baseball. At just 26 years of age, Dee Gordon was replaced with 31-year-old Howie Kendrick at second base and 30-year-old Hanley Ramirez was replaced with 15-year vet Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. Both replacements are in the last year of their contracts, which could open the door for a new influx of young talent.
Puig leads the pack for the second year in a row and remains a dynamic and controversial star. The powerful Cuban had his ups-and-downs during the season, from being benched Opening Day because he was late for warm-ups to making the All-Star team to sitting in Game 4 of the NLDS because of his inability to make contact. Regardless, Puig remains a five-tool player with as much raw talent as anyone in the league, yet people still are begging for more from the young star. Hopefully, entering his second full season in the majors, he can compose himself better in pressure situations on and off the field.
Erisbel Arruebarrena signed a 5-year, $25 million contract in February that was a bit of a head-scratcher, but he owns a plus-plus glove and at least above-average arm from shortstop which is extremely valuable. He struggled with the bat in the majors, but scouts who saw him in the come through the system think that there’s a little more to come. Arruebarrena was recently designated for assignment to create space for starter Brett Anderson, so it remains to be seen if he has a future with the Dodgers. The newly acquired Joe Wieland was shelved for most of 2014 because of elbow surgery, but should be ready for the 2015 season as a swingman or #6 starter role with the Dodgers. With major-league experience on his resume in 2012 and 2014, all he needs is to stay healthy and he could find a job with the big club.
The farm is as strong as it has been since the Clayton Kershaw/Andy LaRoche class of 2008 which also includes a bunch of guys in the 11-17 range that could easily slide into that ten spot in this list. With strong talent throughout the minor leagues and a major-league team looking to make it back-to-back-to-back NL West Titles, things could be going worse in Chavez Ravine. —Chris Rodriguez
A Parting Thought: There are precious few organizations that can boast comparable impact talent, particularly at the upper levels, and the complimentary blend of potential major-league contributors across the full spectrum of roles and roster spots should help place the Dodgers in the upper echelon of systems in the game, not to mention provide a steady pipeline of supplemental talent to the 25-man roster over the coming seasons.
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses at Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.