SS Corey Seager posted an .824 OPS with 16 home runs last season between both Class-A levels.
The Los Angeles Dodgers system took a hit last season with the graduation of top prospect Yasiel Puig to the major leagues. However, the organization had a slew of other promising young players step up in his place.
Left-handed hitters Corey Seager and Joc Pederson both had strong seasons at their respective levels and continue to move at an accelerated pace through the minor leagues. But with the organization’s aggressive spending on free agents (both international and domestic), it’s not even guaranteed that there'll be a spot for either player in the everyday lineup once they are deemed major-league ready.
And then, of course, there was the emergence of 17-year-old Julio Urias—technically, it was his age-16 season—who thrived as the youngest player at a full-season level. In what would have been his sophomore year of high school, the left-hander carved up considerably older hitters in the Low-A Midwest League.
Meanwhile, right-hander Zach Lee, the team’s first-round bonus baby from the 2010 draft—he accepted a $5.25 million signing bonus to pass on a football scholarship to Louisiana State—turned in the best season of his professional career at Double-A Chattanooga.
2012 fifth-rounder Ross Stripling spent most of the year pitching alongside Lee in the Double-A rotation, and he continued to quietly post impressive numbers against advanced hitters in the Texas League. Expect both right-handers to receive their first tastes of the major leagues in 2014.
The Dodgers also added a pair of advanced college arms in Chris Anderson and Tom Windle through the first-year player draft in June, and both pitchers impressed in their respective professional debuts. While neither player is expected to contribute in the major leagues next season, there’s a realistic chance they both finish the year in the Double-A rotation.
Here’s a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.
DOB: 5/20/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 195 pounds
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Stanford)
Only plus pitch is his fastball, which registers in the low to mid-90s and will occasionally scrape 96 mph; two-seamer comes in a few ticks slower and has lots of late life to the arm side; downward plane on fastball consistently induces ground balls; length of arm on the backside complicates his delivery and limits his control; had a scout tell me that the four-pitch walk is also known as the Chris Reed special; throws a hard slider in mid-80s with late, downer bite; he unsurprisingly struggles to throw it with a consistent, tight spin; changeup has the makings of an above-average offering and deceptive when he’s locating the fastball.
Ceiling: Late-inning reliever
DOB: 07/14/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205 pounds
Drafted: Ninth round, 2012 (Murrah HS, Miss.)
Bird has a durable frame at 6’4”, 205 pounds with plenty of room to add strength as he matures; he struggles to control his tempo at times and loses a feel for his delivery and release point; showed ability to make swift adjustments last season following a demotion to the rookie-level Pioneer League.
Right-hander generates effortless velocity, sitting in the 89-93 mph range with his fastball and running it as high as 95; added a cutter variation that will help keep opposing hitters from sitting on plus velocity; slider represents his go-to secondary offering, as it flashes bat-missing potential with good tilt and sharp break; curveball is a decent pitch he likes to throw early in the count; raw changeup will require significant refinement at higher levels.
Bird’s deep arsenal will only improve as he gains experience against better competition; right-hander may require an additional year or two in the low minors to put everything together and harness his pure stuff; could emerge as one of the organization’s top prospects in the upcoming season with improved command of fastball, especially early in counts.
Ceiling: No. 2/3 starter; late-inning reliever
DOB: 03/10/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4", 215 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Minnesota)
Windle has a projectable 6’4”, 215-pound frame with room to add strength; creates natural deception; minimal hip rotation; some use of lower half; almost max-effort delivery, though he repeats it well; tends to rely on arm strength; changes opposing hitters’ eye levels well; good sequencing; aggressive approach allows him to challenge both right- and left-handed hitters.
Fastball sits 90-92 mph with late life to his arm side; throws the pitch on a consistent downhill plane and pounds lower portion of the strike zone. Slider is an inconsistent offering but flashes plus potential; thrown in 81-84 mph range with depth and tilt off fastball plane; pitch is difficult to recognize due to arm action; only potential swing-and-miss offering. Changeup is a potential solid-average pitch thrown at 80-82 mph; really sells the pitch thanks to unorthodox arm action; turns it over well to create some sink and fade to the arm side.
Ceiling: No. 4/no. 5 starter; left-handed specialist
DOB: 04/01/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2007 (Midland HS, Texas)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)
Withrow spent first five seasons of his professional career as a starter before shifting to the bullpen during 2012 season; 6’4” right-hander flashed power stuff last season after reaching the major leagues in mid-June; was one of the Dodgers’ more consistent relievers after the All-Star break.
The 24-year-old’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and will scrape 98-99 mph; his command of the pitch early in counts was a revelation this year and played a huge role in his success in the majors this year; helps set up deep secondary arsenal highlighted by an above-average slider in the high 80s with tight spin and good depth.
Showed more confidence in his curveball last season, using it to keep opposing hitters off-balance in fastball/slider counts; also has a changeup, though it’s a raw offering for which he lacks a consistent feel; Withrow will be a solid late-inning option next year and could even get a crack at the ninth inning should an injury arise.
Ceiling: Setup man
DOB: 11/23/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 pounds
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2012 (Texas A&M)
6’3” right-hander has clean, repeatable mechanics; surprisingly athletic; advanced delivery; good drive with lower half; cuts his stride a bit short so as to work on a steeper plane; throws everything from a consistent over-the-top release point; floods the zone with strikes.
Stripling throws his fastball in the low 90s with enough in the tank to scrape a few ticks higher as needed; top-to-bottom curveball has nice shape, and he locates it with consistency; future above-average secondary offering; changeup is average but has steadily improved against more advanced hitters.
Ceiling: No. 4/no. 5 starter
DOB: 7/29/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Jacksonville)
Strong, physical right-hander at 6’4”, 225 pounds; utilizes strong lower half; long strides; good extension toward the plate; durable frame; fluid arm action.
Fastball sits 90-95 mph; will work toward the high end early in starts; can scrape a few ticks higher; velocity has fluctuated with heavy workload; pitch can have late life at times; curveball is least-developed offering; inconsistent spin and pace; thrown sparingly; at best a serviceable pitch.
Slider is a plus pitch at 82-85 mph; good depth and tilt; sharp, late-breaking dive out of zone; above-average command; swing-and-miss offering; changeup is average offering with the chance to add a grade with development; solid arm action; 80-83 mph; some late fade; present feel for the pitch.
Ceiling: No. 3/no. 4 starter
DOB: 9/13/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2010 (McKinney HS, Texas)
Lee possesses a highly projectable and durable frame at 6’3”, 190 pounds; excellent athlete who was poised to be Louisiana State’s quarterback before the Dodgers offered him a $5 million signing bonus after he was drafted out of high school.
Hasn’t showcased the mid-90s fastball that was present in the months following the 2010 draft; fastball usually sits 88-93 mph, and he uses it to attack both right- and left-handed hitters on the inner half; mixes in both a two-seamer with arm-side run and cutter with late slice to the glove side.
Deep arsenal consists of both a curveball and slider, with the latter representing the better offering; changeup has nice fading action in the low 80s and projects to be an above-average to plus secondary offering.
Ceiling: No. 3/no. 4 starter
DOB: 4/21/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185 pounds
Drafted: 11th round, 2010 (Palo Alto HS, Calif.)
The 21-year-old possesses quiet strength at 6’1”, 185 pounds; showcases an all-around impressive set of tools and athleticism; speed is only average, but his hard-nosed, aggressive mentality makes it play up a grade.
Has been developed as a center fielder over the past three seasons and may be able to stick there; both his reads and routes have an element of rawness; present athleticism and tremendous work ethic suggest they will continue to improve; above-average arm strength is more than enough for the position and will translate if he moves to a corner spot.
Continued to hit for power this season outside the California League; average or better power potential; demonstrates mature approach and works hard to put together at-bats; tracks the ball well and fires hands at the last minute; still has room to improve against same-side pitching; bat enters the zone on a nice downward angle, which results in backspin carry to all fields; potential for slightly above-average hit tool thanks to mature plate discipline and line-drive-oriented swing.
Ceiling: Second-division regular
DOB: 8/12/1996 (Age: 17)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160 pounds
Signed: August 2012 (Mexico)
5’11" left-hander already has projectable frame and is literally growing; special combination of stuff and pitchability at a young age; employs smooth, repeatable delivery; consistently uses lower half; easy arm action; fastball sits in the low 90s and bumps 94-95 mph; potential plus curveball, and he demonstrates confidence for throwing it in any count; present feel for changeup; ridiculously bright future with front-of-the-rotation upside.
Ceiling: No. 2/no. 3 starter
DOB: 4/27/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Northwest Cabarrus, N.C)
At 6’4”, 215 pounds, Seager has present physicality with room to tack on additional strength; boasts advanced left-handed bat with the potential for above-average hit and power tools; exhibits all-around good habits at the plate that are uncommon in a 19-year-old hitter; has an easy, direct swing that allows him to sting the ball from line to line with impressive power to the opposite field.
Noticeably employs a consistent approach at the plate and doesn’t get himself out; he’s selective, but it doesn’t impede his ability to attack and drive the ball; Seager’s struggles stem from a combination of him overstriding and drifting with his hips; causes him to fight against his body to keep weight on the backside, which in turn makes him vulnerable to quality secondary pitches.
Possesses slightly above-average speed on both sides of the ball, which tends to play up due to his instincts; range is only average but enough to remain at shortstop for the time being; there’s a chance he outgrows the position as he develops physically and shifts to third base.
Ceiling: First-division regular