Top Prospects Who Can Get the Dodgers, Tigers over the Hump Next Season
A trio of rookie pitchers led the way for the Cardinals in the NLCS, as right-handers Michael Wacha (13.2 IP, 13 K), Carlos Martinez (4.2 IP, 4 K) and Trevor Rosenthal (5 IP, 7 K) combined to hold the Los Angeles Dodgers scoreless throughout the series—even pitching Game 6 in order to clinch a World Series berth.
For the Red Sox, top prospect Xander Bogaerts, who turned 21 on October 1, gave the team’s offense a much-needed boost over the final games of the ALCS against Detroit. After hitting a double and scoring a run as a pinch hitter in Game 4, Bogaerts found himself in the starting lineup at third base instead of Will Middlebrooks for the next two games.
The youngster responded by getting on base five times (three walks) in seven plate appearances and, if that wasn’t enough, he added three runs scored and two doubles.
While both Detroit and Los Angeles boasted their own impressive young talents in shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Yasiel Puig, respectively, neither player was able to push his team to the World Series.
Here’s a look at prospects from both organizations who could help them get over the hump next season.
Yimi Garcia, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Stats (Double-A): 19 SV, 60.1 IP, 2.54 ERA, .164 BAA, 85/14 K/BB (49 G)
Yimi Garcia was dominant in his full-season debut in 2012, registering 16 saves and striking out 82 batters in 52.1 innings between Low-A Great Lakes and High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He’s not overpowering, but the 23-year-old right-hander’s funky arm action makes him highly deceptive and an uncomfortable at-bat for opposing hitters.
Moved up to Double-A Chattanooga for the 2013 season, Garcia continued to surpass expectations by improving his command to the tune of an 85/14 K/BB ratio in 60.1 innings. The right-hander was especially effective against same-side hitters with a 1.86 ERA and 53/8 K/BB ratio in 38.2 innings.
If there’s a concern with Garcia, it’s that he yielded nine home runs this season in 60.1 innings after allowing none in 2012. Still, there’s something to be said for his ability to consistently miss bats over the past two years.
Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Stats (Double-A): 10-10, 142.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, .247 BAA, 131/35 K/BB (28 G/25 GS)
The Dodgers signed Zach Lee for a franchise-record $5 million out of high school, in 2010, and the right-hander turned in a solid full-season debut at Low-A Great Lakes the following year.
However, the organization rushed Lee up the ladder in 2012, as he registered a 4.39 ERA as a 20-year-old between High-A and Double-A. They handled him more appropriately this past season, allowing him to develop at a natural pace back at Double-A. The right-hander rewarded the Dodgers’ patience by emerging as one of the top pitchers in the Southern League.
Considering Lee’s improvements this season at Double-A—not to mention the organization’s track record of promoting young pitching prospects to the major leagues—it’s likely that the 22-year-old right-hander will make his debut at some point during the 2014 season.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Stats (Double-A): .278/.381/.497, 81 R, 49 XBH (22 HR), 31 SB, 114/70 K/BB (123 G)
After posting a .913 OPS with 18 home runs and 26 stolen bases for High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2012, Joc Pederson has improved his prospect stock this season with a strong showing at Double-A Chattanooga.
Previously viewed as a potential fourth outfielder, Pederson’s performance this season in the Southern League makes me believe he can be an everyday guy. More specifically, there was concern heading into the season that the outfielder’s production wouldn’t translate outside the hitter-friendly California League.
Suffice it to say the 21-year-old silenced his skeptics by ranking third in both OPS (.878) and stolen bases (31) among all qualified hitters in the Southern League.
A left-handed hitter, Pederson has the potential for an above-average-to-plus hit tool, as he already knows how to control the strike zone and get the barrel to the ball. The fact that his power has translated at Double-A continues to be a pleasant surprise and suggests the potential for above-average power at maturity.
Pederson receiving consistent playing time in the major leagues next season would most likely be a result of an injury to one of the Dodgers’ everyday outfielders. However, even if that’s not the case, he could still wind up getting a look in a reserve role.
Corey Knebel, RHP, Detroit Tigers
2013 Stats (Low-A): 15 SV, 31 IP, 0.87 ERA, .133 BAA, 41/10 K/BB (31 G)
Corey Knebel was widely regarded as the best true closer in the 2013 draft class, so it wasn’t surprising that the Detroit Tigers, a team with major question marks surrounding their big-league bullpen, took him with the No. 39 overall pick.
Boasting a plus fastball-curveball combination ideal for a late-inning role, the 21-year-old was dominating as the closer for Low-A West Michigan this summer in his professional debut. Granted, he faced mostly younger hitters in the Midwest League, but Knebel has put up exactly the type of numbers the organization expected.
Currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League, Knebel is quietly on the fast track to the majors. Both his stuff and makeup are nearly ready for the highest level, and I expect him to emerge as the Tigers’ closer by the end of the 2014 season.
Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
2013 Stats (Triple-A): .276/.343/.450, 81 R, 56 XBH (18 HR), 76 RBI, 100/54 K/BB (134 G)
2013 Stats (MLB): 5-for-18, R, K (11 G)
Nick Castellanos is one of a select few prospects in the minors with the potential for a legitimate plus hit tool in the major leagues.
A lanky right-handed hitter, Castellanos has always stood out for his pure bat-to-ball ability and excellent barrel control. However, his overaggressive approach and penchant for expanding the strike zone was exposed last year following a midseason promotion to Double-A Erie.
Despite posting a .678 OPS in 79 games last year for Erie, the Tigers aggressively promoted Castellanos to Triple-A Toledo to begin the 2013 season. Overall, he made significant adjustments at the plate, demonstrating a more advanced approach that led to more walks and fewer strikeouts.
While he had shown plenty of gap power in the past, the 21-year-old developed more consistent over-the-fence pop this past season. His defense is another story—he moved from third base to the outfield a little over a year ago—as both his reads and routes can be rough. Still, the bat was enough to get him the major leagues for the final month of the regular season.
Though Castellanos isn’t guaranteed to take over as the Tigers’ everyday left fielder, he is expected to contend for the spot next spring.
Melvin Mercedes, RHP, Detroit Tigers
2013 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 23 SV, 53 IP, 1.19 ERA, .229 BAA, 36/14 K/BB (50 G)
Signed by the Detroit Tigers in the spring of 2008, Melvin Mercedes boasts two potential plus-plus pitches ideal for a late-inning role in the major leagues.
The 22-year-old throws his fastball with effortless velocity, frequently working in the upper-90s and down in the zone. Meanwhile, he snaps off a nasty slider in the upper-80s with excellent tilt and a late, sharp break.
The right-hander opened the year by posting a 0.96 ERA with 11 saves at High-A Lakewood and was rewarded with a promotion to Double-A Erie in late June. He made a smooth transition at the more advanced level, proceeding to pile up 12 saves with a 1.44 ERA over 26 appearances.
While he didn’t miss as many bats as one might expect, Mercedes still showed a knack for generating weak contact and pitching well in high-leverage situations, which suggests his potential as a future seventh- or eight-inning option in the major leagues.
Because he’s already on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, expect the organization to give Mercedes an extended look on the mound next spring.