May 17, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Los Angeles Dodgers
Prospect #1: RHP Garrett Gould
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Gould has the profile of a strike-thrower with good stuff, but not the kind of stuff that can survive in the zone against quality hitters. In order to find sustainable success, Gould will need to refine his command to the point where he can hit spots in and out of the zone, and develop his arsenal to the point where he can mix his pitches with efficiency and keep bats off the fastball. When you see a 20-year-old that stands 6’4’’ and weighs 190 with a steep low-90s fastball and plus curve, you assume the sky is the limit and the margin for error is as broad as the shoulders of the pitcher in question. The problem with Gould is that despite having good stuff and a good vessel by which to deliver that stuff, the stuff in question just isn’t all that special and therefore even minor mistakes are magnified. Every source I spoke with thought Gould was a major league arm, the safest bet among the arms in the low-minors to reach the highest level. But they were realistic about his ultimate ceiling, which is more chewer than champion, with little chance of frontline development. You might be asking, how can a prospect with a proletarian profile rank number one in a system like includes a high-profile name like Zach Lee? The easy answer is that I couldn’t find one source that preferred Lee to Gould.
Prospect #2: RHP Zach Lee
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: When you give a high school pitcher $5M+ to forgo a college commitment and enter your developmental program, you are buying a lottery ticket with a huge payout. Unfortunately, the more sources I ask about Lee, the lower the ultimate ceiling seems to get, leaving the Dodgers with a promising player, but one that doesn’t possess the type of ceiling normally associated with such a bonus. As a pitcher with average-to-solid-average stuff, Lee isn’t going to blow away hitters; rather, like his rotation-mate Garrett Gould, he has to hit his spots and use sequence to force weak contact and limit damage. You might ask: isn’t it possible that his stuff will improve? Isn’t he projectable? It’s likely that his fastball will find consistent velocity in the solid-avg/plus range, and his secondary pitches in the same grade range, but he’s unlikely to become the type of arm with any plus-plus offerings. Lee receives praise for his pitchability and mound intelligence, and as the command improves and the stuff finds consistency, the 20-year-old Texan should emerge as a quality rotation horse, one that can take the ball every fifth day and keep his team in the game by hitting spots, changing speeds, and mixing pitches. That’s an incredibly valuable player, and arguably worth every cent of the lucrative two-sport contract the Dodgers dished out. But I think most fans and evaluators alike expected more electricity from his stuff, even if the present reality is far from a disappointment.
Prospect #3: OF Joc Pederson
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: I’ve seen Pederson in person and I’ve fallen in love like everybody else who has a chance to see him, but the profile itself is what presents the biggest issue. Pederson profiles as a left fielder, with a good bat (~.275+), decent pop (10-15HR), some base running ability, and the tools to handle the defensive requirements for the position, but that’s the ceiling, and anything below that will severely limit his value. When you have a 20-year-old in High-A that already fits into the left-field profile, the pressure on his bat increases, and Pederson lacks the high-end, impact offensive tools to quell the concerns over the positional projection. Because of these concerns, Pederson is the type of player that will need to prove it at every level, all the way up the chain until he reaches the majors, where he will have to prove it again. My biggest tool-based concern is the power, which some think could grade out as high as plus, while others see a more moderate ceiling of fringe-average. He has legit pop, but hitting for power at the major league level against major league-quality pitching is a different animal. Pederson has a more line-drive stroke, geared for hard gap-to-gap contact and not over the fence power. This comes back to the profile, where a plus hit tool and anything below average power just doesn’t pack enough punch for left field at the major league level. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than just #want to have value at a corner spot, so if Pederson wants to emerge as a first-division talent, the power will have to reach the high-end of its ceiling.
Prospect #4: RHP Allen Webster
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: After getting promoted to Double-A last season, Webster discovered that his sinking fastball couldn’t survive in the friendly confines of the hitting zone, not to mention that a fringy breaking ball doesn’t exactly intimidate Southern League hitters. Returning to the league in 2012, Webster is once again dealing with that reality; where offerings placed over the plate find more barrels than catcher’s mitts. Webster’s mechanics have very inconsistent, and his command and secondary utility have been affected as a result. An athletic pitcher, he should be able to make the necessary adjustments in his delivery, like staying closed and in a good line to the plate, but until he does, prepare for hitter-friendly counts and hard contact. Webster does not have the type of stuff to remain effective when he’s wild, especially at the higher levels, so he will need to find sharper command in order to find success. It’s cliché, but as the delivery goes, so goes the command and the secondary consistency, and without sound mechanics and a fluid delivery, it’s foolish to expect the stuff will play up to its potential. Webster is still a very talented arm who happens to be going through an adjustment period, so I wouldn’t panic about the depressed stuff quite yet. The initial ceiling might have been a little high, as the fastball is the only offering that looked like a consistent plus pitch, but the majority of the sources I spoke with still considered Webster a major league arm. He’s just currently a minor league arm, and the warts of the developmental process are visible.
Prospect #5: LHP Chris Reed
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Despite good statistical results, scouts continue to whisper "reliever" in my ear when I ask them about Reed’s ultimate role. The biggest issue appears to be the development and utility of the changeup, with the delivery being the main culprit. The best part of Reed’s arsenal is the hard stuff, which explodes from his delivery with a natural ease; the fastball has excellent life and appears more violent than the radar might indicate, and the slider is full of attack and intensity as well. The softer stuff arrives at the plate without much deception from the hand, and the movement isn’t as dramatic or effective. Whether a softer curve is the answer or just more time work with the changeup, Reed will need another pitch to play opposite his hard stuff if he wants to find sustainable success as a starter. If not, you are looking at a talented reliever, although one that is probably more of a setup-type than a closer. He has the potential for two plus pitches that would play up in bursts, he creates difficult angles, he can throw strikes, and he’s intelligent, so if comes down to thinking (sequence/situation), he’s going to have an advantage. But if Reed fails to develop the changeup into an average offering, and his ultimate role turns out to be in the ‘pen and not the rotation, the Dodgers will no doubt look back in regret for having to go affordable in a draft that was considered by many to contain the deepest crop of pitching talent in recent memory.