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February 8, 2010

Future Shock

Dodgers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Dee Gordon, SS
2. Chris Withrow, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. Ethan Martin, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Aaron Miller, LHP
5. Scott Elbert, LHP
6. Trayvon Robinson, OF
7. Garrett Gould, RHP
8. Ivan DeJesus Jr., SS
9. Josh Lindblom, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
10. Kenley Jansen, RHP
11. Kyle Russell, OF

Four More:
12. Andrew Lambo, OF: He isn't an athletic corner outfielder, and is instead a bat-only prospect who might not have enough bat.
13. Allen Webster, RHP: A highly projectable righty, Webster has the potential to rocket up this list after his 2010 full-season debut.
14. Pedro Baez, 3B: He needs to overcome an injury bug and plate discipline issues, but his tools remain outstanding.
15. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP: This Tommy John surgery survivor was kept on a short leash in 2009, but he was brilliant at times while showcasing one of the more live arms in the system.

1. Dee Gordon, SS
DOB: 4/22/88
Height/Weight: 5-11/150
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2008, Seminole CC (FL)
2009 Stats: .301/.362/.394 at Low-A (131 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: A highly athletic shortstop, Gordon earned Midwest League co-MVP honors in a stunning full-season debut.
The Good: Gordon's tools are the best in the system by a mile, and among the best in the game, with one scout calling him, "A Jimmy Rollins starter kit." He has outstanding hand-eye coordination and a knack for contact; he has the potential to develop enough power for 10-15 home runs annually. He's a pure burner who led the league with 73 stolen bases, and he's a quick-twitch athlete with well above-average range and arm strength.
The Bad: Gordon is quite raw, and while that creates plenty of room for excitement, as he's been able to produce big numbers on sheer athleticism, there's also concern, as he's far less refined than most players his age. He needs to improve his plate discipline and work on becoming more consistent defensively, but both of those issues saw considerable improvement as the 2009 season wore on.
Ephemera: Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson was a roommate with Gordon's father, Tom, when both were minor-leaguers in the Royals system.
Perfect World Projection: He's an All-Star shortstop.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gordon needs at least two more years in the minors, and there's still a chance he'll need to move to center field.
Timetable: Despite his performance, most see Gordon as a one-step-at-a-time player, so he'll likely spend most, if not all of 2010 at High-A Inland Empire.

2. Chris Withrow, RHP
DOB: 4/01/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Midland HS (TX)
2009 Stats: 4.69 ERA (86.1-80-45-105) at High-A (19 G); 3.95 ERA (27.1-24-12-26) at Double-A (6 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed

Year in Review: Finally healthy, this right-hander showed even more velocity than he did when he was a first-round pick in 2007
The Good: Withrow is a pure power arm, working low in the strike zone with a fastball that sits at 93-95 mph and consistently gets into the upper 90s. His hard curveball has heavy late bite and near slider-level velocity. His long frame offers plenty of projection, and some feel he's just starting to tap into his ability now that he's getting significant innings.
The Bad: Withrow has had some elbow issues in the past, and there is some effort to his delivery. Due to a tendency to overthrow, he's prone to bouts of command and control issues. His changeup is below average, as he telegraphs it with poor arm action.
Ephemera: After giving up a pair of home runs to catcher Guillermo Quiroz in his Double-A debut, Withrow did not give up another in his last five outings.
Perfect World Projection: Because of his velocity, Withrow could have the potential to be a second starter, and he has some closer possibilities if the changeup doesn't come around.
Path to the Big Leagues: Despite the missed time, Withrow is actually ahead of schedule at this point.
Timetable: Withrow will return to Double-A Chattanooga in 2010, and he'll have the potential to take off if he shows more consistency.

3. Ethan Martin, RHP
DOB: 6/6/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Stephens County HS (GA)
2009 Stats: 3.87 ERA (100.0-85-61-120) at Low-A (27 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The Dodgers' top pick in 2008, Martin was one of the more enigmatic players in the Midwest League, although he did strike out nearly 11 per nine innings.
The Good: Martin can show two big-league out pitches at times. When he's on, he'll sit in the low-to-mid 90s, sometimes touching 96 mph, and his big, bending curveball gave hitters fits at times. He's an outstanding athlete who received some first-round consideration as a third baseman out of high school, and he fields his position well. Scouts like his fearless demeanor on the mound.
The Bad: To call Martin inconsistent doesn't really do it justice. He had outings where he sat at 88-91 with a flat breaking ball without even using his changeup, which is a below-average pitch that needs the kind of improvement that comes only through repetition. Whether on or off, his control was an issue throughout the year.
Ephemera: Martin had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched in just seven of 27 outings in 2009.
Perfect World Projection: While Martin proved to be a bit more raw than expected, he still has the stuff and ability to be an impact-level starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Martin is at least two years away, and maybe a bit more.
Timetable: Martin will head to Inland Empire in 2010, where inconsistent outings have a tendency to show up in the stat sheet more often.

4. Aaron Miller, LHP
DOB: 9/18/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Baylor
2009 Stats: 6.35 ERA (5.2-8-2-10) at Rookie-level (3 G); 2.08 ERA (30.1-22-10-38) at Low-A (7 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Out of nowhere, this prospect took the mound for Baylor only because of injuries, but he nearly pitched his way into the first round of the draft. He was fantastic after signing.
The Good: While Miller first gets a scout's attention by showing well above-average velocity for a left-hander, he's much more than just a thrower. His fastball sits in the low 90s while topping out at 94-95 mph, but his low-80s slider has the makings of a potential wipeout offering with plenty of two-plane break. He has tons of projection due to his lack of experience, and his control and command are already solid.
The Bad: Miller is inexperienced, and at times it shows. He focuses primarily on blowing hitters away, and he needs to work on pitching intelligently, setting up hitters, and being more efficient. His changeup is rudimentary, and because of his age and lack of experience, some wonder if he'd be better off getting fast-tracked as a reliever.
Ephemera: While Miller was a two-way star in high school, he pitched only five innings during his first two years at Baylor. He entered the spring as only a possible late-round selection as a corner outfielder with a bit of power.
Perfect World Projection: Miller has star-level possibilities, but it's not without risk, and it requires a lot to go right.
Path to the Big Leagues: Miller is going to remain a starter for now, and he'll have to continue to stand out in a system filled with power arms.
Timetable: Miller will join Martin as part of a formidable one-two punch at Inland Empire.

5. Scott Elbert, LHP
DOB: 8/13/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/215
Bats/Throws:L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2004, Seneca HS (MO)
2009 Stats: 3.90 ERA (62.1-59-30-87) at Double-A (12 G); 3.74 ERA (33.2-34-14-38) at Triple-A (8 G); 5.03 ERA (19.2-19-7-21) at MLB (19 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: A top pick form 2004 and slowed by injuries, Elbert stayed healthy throughout the year while bouncing back and forth between the minors and majors.
The Good: Elbert has power stuff for a lefty, with a 91-93 mph fastball that touches 96 in short stints, and a power breaking ball with heavy late bite. His delivery features a bit of natural deception that makes the ball hard to pick up out of his hand, and he shows a surprisingly solid changeup.
The Bad: Elbert has the size and arsenal to start, but his history of shoulder issues, surgery included, makes it a risk. His ability to dominate lefties guarantees big-league value, but how much his arm can hold up will determine his ultimate value. He's never been a command specialist, but with his stuff, he throws enough strikes for it to work.
Ephemera: Minor-league lefties facing Elbert in 2009 struck out 40 times in 79 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: The Dodgers are still hoping Elbert can establish himself as a starter, with a good relief career the minimum expectation.
Path to the Big Leagues: As a reliever, he's big-league ready. As a starter, he might be as much as a year away.
Timetable: Elbert's performance in spring training will determine his role, but he might be asked to return to the minors in preparation for an audition in the big-league rotation.

6. Trayvon Robinson, CF
DOB: 9/1/87
Height/Weight: 5-10/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 10th round, 2005, Crenshaw HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .306/.375/.500 at High-A (117 G); .246/.358/.439 at Double-A (19 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: A more patient approach and a bigger bat led to a breakthrough season for the toolsy outfielder.
The Good: Robinson packs a lot of athleticism into a small package. He has enough power to project for 15-20 home runs annually, and he's a 65 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He learned how to work the count much better in 2009, making scouts more comfortable in projecting him towards the top of a big-league lineup. As a switch-hitter, he's equally adept against both lefties and righties.
The Bad: Robinson's overall game needs refinement. He struck out 143 times in 2009, and he's still prone to chasing balls outside. He has the speed to stay in center field, but he often needs it to make up for poor jumps. His arm is below average.
Ephemera: Located in the heart of South Central Los Angeles, Crenshaw High has not only produced baseball stars like Darryl Strawberry and Ellis Valentine, but has also produced leading entertainment figures, including rapper/actor Ice-T.
Perfect World Projection: He's an everyday center fielder who provides value in many different ways.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Dodgers' outfield situation is a crowded one, but at the same time, this could be Manny Ramirez's final year in blue.
Timetable: Robinson will begin 2010 in Double-A, with an outside chance at getting a look in September if he continues to perform.

7. Garrett Gould, RHP
DOB: 7/19/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, Maize HS (KS)
2009 Stats: 10.12 ERA (2.2-4-2-4) at Rookie-level (3 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of the top high school arms in the Midwest, Gould nearly moved into the first round, and he signed for a slightly over-slot bonus in the second round.
The Good: Gould moved up draft charts thanks to a velocity spike that saw his fastball suddenly sitting at 90-92 mph, sometimes touching 94. His best pitch is a classic overhand curveball that was among the best in last year's high school class, as it generates plenty of swings and misses. He has some sense of a changeup, and his pitches play up due to a herky-jerky delivery that creates deception.
The Bad: Gould's delivery is far from textbook, but he repeats it well and throws strikes, so few want to change it. Like many inexperienced young pitchers, his changeup needs work. His fastball is far from overpowering, which limits his projection for some.
Ephemera: Despite being a town with less than 2,000 people in southern Kansas, Maize High has produced five MLB draft picks, including Tigers lefty Nate Robertson.
Perfect World Projection: Gould projects to be a solid third starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's only faced 14 batters as a pro.
Timetable: While Gould's late signing limited him to just three Pioneer League appearances, his overall game should be mature enough to handle a full-season assignment at Low-A Great Lakes.

8. Ivan DeJesus Jr., SS
DOB: 5/1/87
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2005, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
2009 Stats: .200/.308/.300 at Rookie-level (4 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: The top infield prospect in the system had a lost year after breaking his leg during spring training.
The Good: There are few weaknesses in DeJesus' game. He has the best plate discipline in the system, rarely swings at bad pitches, and uses the entire field with a smooth, line-drive swing. His defensive fundamentals are also well above average. He has outstanding hands, smooth actions, and a solid arm.
The Bad: DeJesus was merely an average runner before the injury, and now even more questions abound as to his ability to stay on the left side of the infield. He'll never hit for much power, so he'll need to remain an on-base machine to have value in the big leagues.
Ephemera: While his father of the same name is more known for his time with the Cubs and Phillies, he was originally signed by the Dodgers, and he played parts of three seasons with them from 1974-76.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid if unspectacular middle infielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: The big-league second base job should open up before the one at shortstop does.
Timetable: DeJesus will begin 2010 at Triple-A Albuquerque, a great place to get things going again offensively.

9. Josh Lindblom, RHP
DOB: 6/15/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, Purdue University
2009 Stats: 4.71 ERA (57.1-55-14-46) at Double-A (14 G); 2.54 ERA (39.0-34-12-36) at Triple-A (20 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: A second-round pick, Lindblom nearly made his full-season debut in the big leagues after an impressive spring training show. He pitched well at Double- and Triple-A.
The Good: A closer in college, the Dodgers moved Lindblom back to relieving in Triple-A, and his stuff plays better in short stints, with a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96 and a plus power breaking ball that falls off the table. He's a big, intimidating presence on the mound, and he pitches with a nasty streak. He throws a surprising amount of strikes for a physical power reliever.
The Bad: For a player with Lindblom's stuff, he doesn't miss as many bats as one would expect. He seems reluctant to use his breaking ball as a chase pitch, and he throws too many hittable strikes when ahead in the count. His changeup lags behind his other pitches, but that's far less of an issue out of the pen.
Ephemera: Lindblom was a third-round pick by the Astros in 2005 out of Harrison High in West Lafeyette, Ind., the same school that produced Eric Bruntlett and Todd Dunwoody.
Perfect World Projection: He's a good reliever, but not a closer.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's close to a finished product.
Timetable: Lindblom will be given a long look this spring; he'll have an outside shot of breaking camp in the big leagues. If not, he'll head back to Triple-A to wait his turn.

10. Kenley Jansen, RHP
DOB: 9/30/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/220
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: Netherlands Antilles, 2004
2009 Stats: 4.63 ERA (11.2-14-11-19) at High-A (12 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: This strong-armed/no-hit catcher made a late-season conversion to the mound and was one of the talks of the Arizona Fall League.
The Good: Jansen has massive arm strength, unleashing 94-97 mph fastballs that have touched as high as 99 when he really rears back. He throws a low-80s slider than flashes plus at times.
The Bad: Jansen is much more of a thrower than a pitcher at this point. "He looks like a catcher throwing as hard as he can," said one scout, as his delivery is quite violent, and his breaking ball is highly inconsistent. He does not repeat his release points, and his command and control are all over the place.
Ephemera: Right-handed hitters facing Jansen in the AFL went 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts, but the one hit was a home run by Royals prospect Jeff Bianchi.
Perfect World Projection: On the rawest of levels, he has potentially closer-worthy stuff, but it comes with no guarantees.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he starts throwing more strikes, it could be a short one. If he doesn't, it could be a never-ending one.
Timetable: Jansen's performance this spring will determine his Opening Day assignment, with Chattanooga the most likely destination.

11. Kyle Russell, OF
DOB: 6/27/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, University of Texas
2009 Stats: .272/.371/.545 at High-A (133 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 10

Year in Review: Russell, a power-hitting outfielder, showed all the positives and negatives in his game by leading the Midwest League in both home runs and strikeouts during his full-season debut.
The Good: Russell's power is undeniable, with his raw power rating as a pure 80 on the scouting scale. He hit several tape-measure shots during the 2009 season, and he can pull rockets over the right-field wall as easy as he goes the other way. More than just a one-dimensional slugger, he's a long, loose athlete who plays well in the field, has one of the best arms in the system, and is an above-average runner who stole 20 bases in 22 attempts.
The Bad: To say the Russell has contact issues is to be far too kind, as he whiffed 180 times last year, a disturbingly high number for a player from a major college program in Low-A. He has real trouble against lefties, against who he hit just .235/.336/.417 with a strikeout for every 2.4 at-bats.
Ephemera: With 281 home runs, Paul O'Neill is the all-time leader in home runs among players drafted 93rd overall. Javier Valentin is second with 45.
Perfect World Projection: He has to tools to be an absolute stud...
Path to the Big Leagues: ...but those possibilities come with a ton of risk.
Timetable: Russell could put up some huge numbers in the hi-A California League this year, but we might not know much more about his future until he gets to Double-A.

The Sleeper: An obscure 25th-round pick in 2008 out of tiny Catawba College in North Carolina, first baseman Jerry Sands has hit .276/.380/.554 so far as a pro, and he has breakout potential based on his combination of power and the ability to make consistent contact.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Matt Kemp, CF
3. Jonathan Broxton, RHP
4. Chad Billingsley, RHP
5. Dee Gordon, SS
6. James Loney, 1B
7. Chris Withrow, RHP
8. Ethan Martin, RHP
9. Aaron Miller, LHP
10. Scott Elbert, LHP

It's easy to forget just how young the Dodgers' core talent is. Clayton Kershaw is an ace in the making, and if anyone is going to prevent Tim Lincecum from winning a third straight Cy Young award, he's your best pick. Kemp is another budding superstar who is still just scratching the surface of his abilities. Broxton crossed into that unreal dominance level last year, and he should keep it up. Billingsley has regressed a bit, and conditioning may have played a role; he still has the raw stuff to be a front-line starter. Loney is a highly overrated talent, because in the end he's a first baseman with on-base skills that are average at best and below-average power. Just missing the list are James McDonald, a decent middle reliever, and Blake DeWitt, a former first-round pick who admittedly has a beautiful swing, but has never put up big numbers at any level.

Summary: The Dodgers do have Gordon and a slew of power arms at the top, but the depth falls off quickly from there, leaving the system well short of their developmental heyday.


Next up: the Milwaukee Brewers.

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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