Clayton Kershaw: The Next Dodger Legend

Marcel SmithSenior Analyst IJuly 21, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 07:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the New York Mets on July 7, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Three years ago, shortly before the 2006 MLB Draft, left handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw out of Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas was considered the best high school prospect. He had already been named "High School Baseball Player of the Year" by USA Today and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in high school baseball after he had a 13-0 record with 0.77 E.R.A. and 139 strikeouts in 64 innings in his senior season. 

Then, the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him with the seventh overall pick and Kershaw turned down a scholarship from Texas A&M to accept a $2.3 million bonus from the Dodgers. Kershaw pitched great in the beginning of his minor league career as he showcased his low to mid 90's fastball, his amazing mid to high 70's curveball which has a hard one to seven trajectory from the hitter's view along with clean mechanics and no history of any arm trouble. 

Along with all of that, he stands at 6 foot three inches tall and 220 pounds, is extremely humble, quiet and country, the complete opposite of the Hollywood personality big stars in Los Angeles have. He listens to Christian Rock music, has had his girlfriend for several years now, and also is very spiritual and close to God. 

Then, in 2008, he was finally brought up to the Dodgers and he pitched solid, but wild and inconsistent for the rest of the season, which is very common for young pitchers in the big leagues. He ended the his rookie season with a 5-5 record along with 100 K's in 107.2 innings, a 1.50 WHIP, a .250 opponents batting average and a 4.26 E.R.A as he struggled with his control as he walked 52 batters. 

Then, entering this season a lot of pressure was put on Kershaw's shoulders as the Dodgers let Brad Penny and Derek Lowe leave via free agency. Chad Billingsley was considered the new ace of the rotation after a fantastic third season in which he went 16-10 with a 3.14 E.R.A. and 200 K's and so far he has been very good.

However, Kershaw is the one who is looking like the ace of the Dodgers for the next decade recently. The 21 year old has simply been the best pitcher in baseball over the past month. Since June 16, Kershaw has had a 5-0 record in seven starts with a 0.64 E.R.A. and 42 strikeouts to 21 walks in 37 innings. 

So far, his totals for the season are an 8-5 record, a 2.95 E.R.A., 104 K's and 60 walks in 106.2 innings, a 1.22 WHIP, five homers allowed and an amazing .193 opponents batting average.

Even though he is still inconsistent with his control as he walks way too many batters right now, he still has good enough stuff to be dominant as he strikes out nearly a batter an inning, doesn't allow too many homers (rare for a young power pitcher) and gets lots of outs on ground balls and fly outs evidenced by his wonderful opponents batting average. He has gotten better due to better control of his fastball, a tighter curveball and the more frequent use of his potentially great change-up. 

The scary thing about Kershaw is that even though he is already great, he will become a much better pitcher as he is only 21 years old and he has only a little bit over 200 innings of major league experience. Once he gets more control and walks less batters (which will come as he gains more experience), I don't think there will be a better pitcher in the league than him. 

There have been rumors that the Dodgers are interested in Halladay and are willing to pay his full salary for the remainder of this season and all of next year. However, supposedly the Dodgers don't have good enough pitching prospects to get Halladay, unless they're willing to give up Billingsley or Kershaw, who are completely untouchable as they will be a dominant one two lefty/righty punch for the next several years. 

I want the Dodgers to offer 3-4 very good prospects for Halladay as a trio of Halladay, Billingsley and Kershaw should be enough for the Dodgers to win it all as they have an above average offense, a very good defense and a solid bullpen. A package I would offer the Blue Jays for Halladay would be James McDonald, Josh Bell, Josh Lindblom and Dee Gordon. 

The Blue Jays would be getting two very good pitching prospects in McDonald and Lindblom. Mcdonald has the potential to be an excellent relief pitcher or a solid second starter in the rotation. They would also be getting third baseman Josh Bell, who has 30 home run potential and shortstop Dee Gordon, who is an excellent hitter with 40 plus stolen base potential and good defense. 

Overall, I believe the recent success of Clayton Kershaw is just the beginning of the next dominant left handed pitcher as he will end up as one of the greatest pitchers of all time as long as he stays healthy as he has the complete package and is in a great situation to succeed as he is in a poor offensive division and in a pitcher's ballpark.

Finally, I believe the Dodgers should go hard after Halladay (currently the best pitcher in the league as no one goes deep into games as much as he does), but if the Blue Jays want Kershaw, Billingsley or Kemp in the deal, they should and will immediately decline it with a resounding no as Kershaw and Billingsley are the cornerstone of the rotation and Kemp of the team for the next decade.