Los Angeles Dodgers: Ranking the 10 Best Prospects in the Farm System
Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw were both drafted by the Dodgers and are a perfect example of how the organization develops talent.
As the team has been passed down from owner to owner, the organization has kept a firm belief in raising young, home-grown talent themselves as opposed to going out and signing high profile stars every few seasons.
The Dodgers picked up this season where they left off last season. They're struggling at the plate, struggling on the mound, have seen their attendance drop heavily and are unsure about their current and future ownership situation.
Despite the "worst start through 72 games in franchise history" record they just set this weekend, they still have tremendous domestic and international scouting as well as some of the best rookie ball and minor league ball in the MLB.
Here are 10 reasons Dodger fans should be excited for the future.
10: Gorman Erickson, Catcher
Erickson was picked up by the Dodgers in the 15th round of the 2006 June Amateur Draft and he made my list simply because of the organization's current depth chart. If you had to project a 2012, 2013 or even a 2014 Dodger lineup, the catcher spot (defensively and offensively) will most likely be weakest.
Erickson spent his first couple seasons playing rookie ball with the Gulf Coast Dodgers where he developed a reputation for being a stellar defensive catcher.
He is currently with the Class A-Advanced Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and is having a great season all around. He is hitting .313 and has an on-base percentage of .414.
He is still fairly young at 23 and although he does not have the upside that most of the players on this list have, he does have an advantage because he is a catcher and there is not a whole lot about Rod Barajas that excites me.
9: Kenley Jansen, Relief Pitcher
Kenley Jansen signed with the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent and a catcher in 2005. Jansen would spend time playing for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, Ogden Raptor and Class-A Great Lake Loons. His offensive numbers were always good but not great. In 2008, he hit .227 with nine home runs in 79 games.
The Dodgers began converting Jansen to a relief pitcher in 2009 during his time with the Inland Empire 66ers. After pitching well at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, Jansen was promoted to the Dodgers on July 23, where he would stay for the remainder of the year.
He only appeared in 25 games last season (pitching 27 innings producing a 1-0 record, a 0.67 ERA, and striking out 31). He also saved four games.
He is only 23 years old and still has not had much major league experience, but he has a big body (6’5” and 255 pounds), solid control and a good fastball. When he comes into his own he will be a fine addition to the bullpen.
8: Jerry Sands, Outfielder and First Basemen
Jerry Sands wasn’t drafted by the Dodgers until the 25th round of the 2008 draft and like most 25th-round picks do, Sands struggled through 2008 and some of 2009.
Sands spent all of 2010 climbing the minor league ladder. At the end of the year, after time with all three minor league affiliates, Sands was named minor league player of the year.
He was called up to the MLB after just 10 games in Triple-A this year. Sands played well early but saw his numbers decline after several weeks. 125 at bats into his first major league stint, Sands was hitting just .200 with two home runs and 17 RBI. The Dodger’s sent him back down to Triple-A on June 10 where he is currently hitting .333.
Despite being sent back down, Sands is just 23 and still shows signs of being a star on the big stage. He has a big build and is able to play several positions defensively.
7: Chris Withrow, Starting Pitcher
Withrow was the Dodgers' selection in the first round of the 2007 draft and entering the 2011 season, MLB.com had Withrow listed as the Dodgers sixth best prospect.
Withrow spent most of 2008 on the DL with various injuries that hindered his performance throughout the year. Healthy again in 2009, he spent the year with the Inland Empire 66ers where he posted a 6-6 record and a 4.69 ERA. His 2010 wasn’t any better statistically (4-9 with a 5.97 ERA) but scouts and the Dodgers did not seem overly concerned.
Withrow just turned 22, and like all the other names on this list, is very athletic and has the body of a successful major leaguer. He doesn’t seem to have an issue with velocity and has a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
If he has a solid year in Double-A and things go as planned, he could still become the starter and player the Dodgers saw him being when they drafted him.
6: Allen Webster, Starting Pitcher
Webster is one of the reasons the Dodgers are always known for having such a solid farm system. Drafted in the 18th round of the 2008 June Amateur Draft, Webster has seen his stock greatly rise.
At the end of the 2010 season, Baseball America had Webster ranked 11th on the Top 20 Midwest League Prospects list. This put him ahead of teammates Rubby De La Rosa (15th) and Jerry Sands (18th).
His few years in the minor leagues, working as a starter and in middle relief, have produced a career 22-14 record and a 2.73 ERA. He is currently with Double-A Chattanooga, where he has a 3.38 ERA. His career strikeout to walk total is 282:118 (a ratio of about 2.4:1).
Webster, at 21 years of age, is still very young, and some big league scouts say of all the Dodger pitching prospects, he is the "safest bet" to become a big league starter.
5: Rubby De La Rosa, Starting Pitcher
Rubby De La Rosa signed with the Dodgers in 2007 and spent the next few years with the Dominican Summer League team and the Chattanooga Lookouts. During the 2010 season, he pitched in 22 games (starting in 13 of them), boasting a 7-2 record and a 2.37 ERA. He was named minor league pitcher of the year.
De La Rosa began the 2011 season with Chattanooga despite spending spring training with the major league team. His ERA through eight starts in Double-A this year was 2.92.
He was called up to the Dodgers on May 24th. He is currently 3-1 with the Dodgers and despite a relatively high ERA (4.58), his walk-to-strikeout ratio is OK (12:21) and he has shown a lot of control and confidence.
Lucky for the Dodgers, De La Rosa, like Zach Lee, is young (only 22), and if he puts in the work and the team remains confident in his ability, he can become a valued member of the starting rotation.
4: Ethan Martin, Starting Pitcher
Martin entered the 2011 season ranked second in MLB.com's list of the Dodgers' top 10 prospects, and just outside the MLB Top 50 overall. He was selected in the first round of the 2008 June Amateur Draft with big upside from the get go.
Since being drafted he has not had a strong season statistically, yet. Up to this point with Class A-Advanced Rancho Cucamonga his ERA is 7.47 and he has had a bit of trouble with control (his strikeout to walk ratio is less than 2:1).
Despite the poor numbers and signs for concern, Dodger scouts and MLB scouts are confident in Martin and his future. He is only 22 and scouts say he has a great arm that produces a fastball that is consistently in the upper 90s.
Martin is working on a changeup now to go along with his curveball, and if he can get into a rhythm, he could have a bright future.
3: Trayvon Robinson, Outfielder
The Dodgers drafted Robinson in the 10th round of the 2005 draft out of Los Angeles-based Crenshaw High School. Robinson spent his first few seasons playing rookie ball with the Gulf Coast Dodgers. In 2009, while playing for the Class A-Advanced Inland Empire 66ers, he hit .306 with 15 home runs and 43 stolen bases.
Robinson is currently in Triple-A playing with the Albuquerque Isotopes, and thus far in 2011 he is hitting .315 with 15 home runs, 44 runs batted in, and seven stolen bases.
He has become known for having an on-base percentage consistently around .400, and he is said to be a better athlete than Jerry Sands (someone he is competing for a spot in the big leagues with).
Whether it is next week, next month or opening day next year, the Dodgers did well drafting Robinson six years ago and have done well holding onto him.
2: Zach Lee, Starting Pitcher
The Dodger’s made a surprising move after the 2010 draft when they gave Lee, who was 18 at the time, the biggest signing bonus in franchise history ($5.25 million). Lee, one of the best high school pitchers in last year’s draft, fell in the draft because it was understood that he had committed to LSU, and barring a signing bonus upwards of $5 million, he would attend LSU and play football and baseball.
Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant general manager for amateur scouting, has said that Lee “has an absolute picture-perfect delivery and excellent arm action,” while adding that “he is as pure as any pitcher I have ever seen.”
Lee is currently with the Single-A Great Lakes Loons and is 5-1 this year with a 3.86 ERA. Lee has shown very positive signs early on by walking only 15 batters and fanning 41.
The Dodger’s took a $5.25 million risk last August, and as of now, I’m sure they believe that risk is turning into reward.
1: Dee Gordon, Shortstop
Dee Gordon, son of former reliever Tom “Flash” Gordon, was drafted in the fourth round by the Dodgers in 2008. Gordon spent all of 2009 with the Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers' Single-A affiliate, where he hit .301 and stole 73 bases. He was named MVP of the Midwest League while making the midseason and postseason All-Star teams. At the end of the season, the Dodgers named him their minor league player of the year.
Gordon had a solid 2010 with the Chattanooga Lookouts, hitting .277 and stealing 53 bases. Entering the 2011 season, Baseball America had Gordon ranked 26th overall on their prospect ratings list. Rafael Furcal’s latest injury caused the Dodgers to purchase Gordon’s contract on June 6.
Through 13 games at the professional level, Gordon is hitting .298 with four stolen bases.
Gordon has the preferable throws right/hits left combination for a shortstop and his ability to make things happen at the top of the order is a big reason the organization should be excited for the future.