5 Dodgers Minor Leaguers Who Will See Time in the Majors This Year
The Los Angeles Dodgers have their sights set on reaching the World Series this year thanks to a roster full of experienced veterans and All-Star-caliber talent at nearly every position. Veteran teams with championship aspirations don’t normally rely heavily on minor league talent—the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals notwithstanding—and Los Angeles is no different in that regard.
However, the Dodgers have a handful of prospects who are likely to have an impact at the major league level at some point during the 2014 season. Here are five Dodgers minor leaguers who will see time in the majors this year.
5. Jose Dominguez, RHP
Jose Dominguez has already gotten a taste of life in the big leagues, appearing in 13 games for the Dodgers over the past two seasons (including four appearances this year). Unfortunately, the 23-year-old right-hander has yet to exhibit the control needed to consistently retire major league hitters, nor has he missed enough bats.
In 13.1 innings pitched for Los Angeles, Dominguez has allowed 15 hits—including a pair of home runs—and eight earned runs, while walking five batters and striking out 11.
With a fastball that routinely tops out at 100 mph, Dominguez is blessed with an electric right arm that could eventually make him an elite setup man or closer. And because every Dodgers relief pitcher not named Chris Perez has struggled at times this season, Los Angeles could use an effective Dominguez sooner rather than later.
4. Onelki Garcia, LHP
Like Dominguez, Onelki Garcia has already had a cup of tea at the major league level—albeit a small one. After breezing through Double-A and Triple-A last season, Garcia made three brief appearances for the Dodgers last September.
In 1.1 innings, Garcia allowed one hit while walking four batters and striking out just one. To make matters worse, the one hit he allowed was a two-run home run to San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt during a 19-3 loss.
Garcia has yet to pitch this year as he recovers from two offseason surgeries.
He underwent a cleanup procedure to remove bone spurs from his left elbow last November. Garcia also underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee in January.
Garcia is currently on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to March 14, so he is at least three weeks away from making his 2014 debut. If he can return to form relatively soon and the Dodgers bullpen continues to struggle, we could see Garcia back in the majors before the All-Star break.
3. Alex Guerrero, 2B
Alex Guerrero was expected to emerge from spring training as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman after signing a four-year, $28 million free-agent contract with Los Angeles last October. However, Guerrero’s transition from shortstop to second base was not as smooth as the Dodgers had hoped, forcing him to open the season in the minors.
After missing the first three weeks of the season with an oblique injury, Guerrero has been tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A Albuquerque. In 14 games he’s put up a .348/.434/.630 slash line with seven extra-base hits and just four strikeouts in 46 at-bats.
It’s exciting to see Guerrero demonstrate the offensive prowess that he was known for when the Dodgers signed him out of Cuba. But remember, he was sent down to work on his defense at second base, which is still a work in progress.
Dee Gordon has been surprisingly excellent for the Dodgers as he continues his own transition from shortstop to second. As long as Gordon continues to thrive, there is no rush to get Guerrero to Los Angeles.
However, given the investment that the Dodgers have made in Guerrero, there is no doubt that he will get a chance to prove himself in the big leagues later this summer.
2. Zach Lee, RHP
Zach Lee has been the top pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ minor league system ever since they selected him with the 28th pick of the 2010 amateur draft. Now that Lee is experiencing some early success in his first year at the Triple-A level, Dodgers fans should get their first look at the 22-year-old right-hander later this summer.
In 26.1 innings this year (five starts), Lee has a 3.42 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with a 17-7 walk-to-strikeout ratio. While those numbers are not overly impressive, Lee’s overall stats are distorted by a particularly bad outing last Sunday.
In a road start against the Fresno Grizzlies, Lee allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in just 3.2 innings. He did allow just one free pass in that game while striking out four, and he’d yet to allow more than two earned runs in any of his previous four starts.
The Dodgers rotation is set for this season, particularly if staff ace Clayton Kershaw doesn’t experience any setbacks after making his expected return from the DL next week. However, Los Angeles has only three starting pitchers under contract beyond this season (not including Dan Haren’s vesting option that kicks in if he pitches at least 180 innings), including Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Even as they attempt to win their first World series title since 1988, the Dodgers will likely want to find out if Lee has a chance to fill out their rotation in 2015. While that opportunity may not come until September, Lee’s long-awaited major league debut is almost certain to come in 2014.
1. Joc Pederson, OF
Even before this season, Joc Pederson had emerged as the Dodgers’ top overall prospect (No. 34 on Baseball America’s preseason list of the top 100 prospects in baseball). While the Dodgers’ crowded outfield situation is impeding Pederson’s path to the majors, he is doing everything in his power to force the team’s hand.
Like Lee, the 22-year-old Pederson is also in his first year at Triple-A Albuquerque. Pederson is making the promotion look easy, posting a ridiculous .389/.495/.644 slash line with five home runs and seven stolen bases in 109 plate appearances.
While Pederson reminds many of a young Andre Ethier, keeping him in the minors for more seasoning may not be a bad thing.
Pederson absolutely crushes right handed pitching. But as ESPN.com’s Chris Crawford points out in his latest fantasy baseball prospect ranking’s (Insider subscription required to access full article), Pederson shares Ethier’s penchant for struggling mightily against lefties.
That may be a weakness that Pederson carries throughout his career. However, the Dodgers have the luxury of letting him improve on his approach against lefties for an entire season if necessary.
Barring an injury or a trade, Pederson is unlikely to get a promotion from the Dodgers before September. But it will be interesting to see if they become more likely to trade one of their high-priced outfielders if Pederson continues to produce at this rate.
I’m sure Ned Colletti would love to shed at least a little salary, particularly if Los Angeles plans on re-signing Hanley Ramirez to a new long-term contract before next season.