Dodgers' 10 Sleeper Prospects to Watch in Spring Training
The 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers are a team that is built for the here and now.
The starting lineup and starting rotation are both cemented by veteran leadership with pinches of youth added into the mix, a concoction that proved very successful last year.
Heading into the upcoming season, there are a crop of young players who have been rising through the minor league ranks in the hope of one day making the big club.
The 17-year-old pitching phenom Julio Urias was ranked No. 14 overall, while position players Corey Seager (No. 18) and Joc Pederson (No. 41) also made the list.
Besides these names, there are several other players that will be showcasing their talent in spring training. Most of these hopefuls are pitchers, consistent with the Dodger tradition of developing hurlers.
The following slideshow examines potential sleeper prospects for Los Angeles heading into the 2014 season.
10. Jose Dominguez, RHP
Dodgers fans may remember Jose Dominguez, who was with the team in 2013 for three weeks before straining his left quad.
For a guy who already has major-league experience, it's difficult to classify Dominguez as a sleeper. But since he will have to prove himself again in spring training, Dominguez rounds out the back end of this list.
During his brief stint with the Dodgers, Dominguez allowed two earned runs in 8⅓ innings with the big club. His average fastball velocity of 98.5 mph trailed only Bruce Rendon of the Tigers, but Dominguez only struck out four major league batters and 17 of the 39 he faced reached base.
Still only 23 years old, Dominguez will be competing for a bullpen spot in spring training and should be expected to make the club at some point in 2014, even if he's not with the Dodgers for Opening Day.
9. Red Patterson, RHP
The Dodgers drafted pitcher John "Red" Patterson in the 29th round of the 2010 draft out of Southwestern Oklahoma State.
Patterson says that he has had the nickname "Red" since he was in grade school.
A former coach gave him the nickname to differentiate red-haired right-hander from two of his teammates also named John, according to Harold Uhlman of Think Blue LA.
With so many pitching prospects in the organization, it has sometimes been difficult to differentiate Patterson from the pack. But flying under the radar, he has climbed up the ranks fairly steadily.
At Triple-A Albuquerque in 2013, Patterson made 12 starts and finished with 109 strikeouts and a 3.03 ERA, the lowest of his four-year professional career.
With an invitation to spring training, he'll have an opportunity to prove himself to the big club.
8. Scott Schebler, LF
With Joc Pederson and Corey Seager stealing most of the limelight when it comes to the Dodgers' young batting prospects, Scott Schebler has been able to become an offensive sleeper over the past few seasons.
The former 2010 draft pick clubbed 27 home runs and 69 extra-base hits in 125 games at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2013, and the production earned him the Dodgers' Minor League Player of the Year award.
Schebler was also invited to the team's Winter Development Program at Dodger Stadium but will most likely begin spring training in Double A with the potential to land in Triple A if he performs well.
With an outfield logjam at the big league level, it may take some time for Schebler to break all the way through.
Still, the Dodgers have every right to be excited about the outfielder's potential. His 27 home runs this past season were more than double his previous high of 13 in rookie ball.
7. Seth Rosin, RHP
Rosin, 25, has never pitched above Double-A and did not stand out last year in his first season as a starter. He compiled a mediocre 4.33 ERA in 23 starts, but Los Angeles has plans to convert him back to a reliever.
J.P. Howell, the Dodgers' current lefty specialist, caught a glimpse of Rosin at the minicamp.
Rosin has a low-90s fastball that he can ramp up to 94, and his velocity shouldn't be a concern at the major-league level when he gets there. Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti told True Blue LA's Eric Stephen that he is "very interested in seeing what (Rosin) can bring."
With that quote, it's clear that all eyes will be on Rosin during spring training. It's up to the tall pitcher to carry out a tall order if he wants to turn heads in the organization.
6. Yimi Garcia, RHP
The Dodgers added wiry right-hander Yimi Garcia to their 40-man roster over the winter and also invited the Dominican native to their Winter Development Program at Dodger Stadium.
Originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2009, Garcia made it to Double-A Chattanooga in 2013 where he went 4-6 with 19 saves and a 2.54 ERA in 49 games. The numbers earned him a spot on the Southern League Midseason All-Star team.
Using a sharp slider as his best strikeout pitch, the 23-year-old also limited batters to a .164 average in the Arizona Fall League, fanning 85 and walking just 14 in 60 innings.
Garcia is projected to be a set-up man in the majors, and with Brandon League and Chris Perez coming off shaky 2013 campaigns at the big-league level, the door may be opened sooner rather than later if those two can't get back on track in 2014.
5. Miguel Rojas, 2B
Los Angeles doesn't have many holes at the major league level, but one of the biggest question marks heading into 2014 is at second base.
The Dodgers signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero to a lucrative contract over the winter, but the 27-year-old is unproven and may not be ready for spring training after suffering a hamstring injury in winter ball.
One of the more unlikely prospects whose name keeps surfacing regarding second base is Miguel Rojas.
A career .234 hitter over eight seasons in the minors, Rojas is known more for his slick glove and was invited to the team's Winter Development Program. The issue is that, like Guerrero, Rojas is a natural shortstop.
But Los Angeles seems interested in Rojas, as they already have him trying out the new position at Camelback Ranch.
Rojas, who turns 25 this month, should definitely be considered a serious sleeper as he will be one of the few prospects with a legitimate shot at cracking the Opening Day roster in 2014.
4. Chris Reed, LHP
The Dodgers selected left-hander Chris Reed with the 16th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Stanford University. In 25 starts for Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, Reed compiled a 3.86 ERA but only a 4-11 record.
He enters 2014 rated as the Dodgers' No. 8 prospect by Baseball America and limited left-handed batters to a .171 average last season. Overall, opponents hit .250 against him.
Los Angeles invited the first-round pick to the team's Winter Development Program last month, which is an indication that management likes his 94-mph fastball and electric slider.
The Dodgers view Reed as a key bullpen piece in the future, but he must polish his command issues in order to have a legitimate shot at the big club. He walked 63 batters last season in 137 innings pitched.
With an invitation to spring training, Reed will have a shot to iron out the kinks and head to Chavez Ravine but a more realistic starting point for him in 2014 is Triple-A Albuquerque.
3. Ross Stripling, RHP
One of the Dodgers' biggest sleeper prospects is 24-year-old Ross Stripling, a pitcher who made some moves up the minor league ranks last season and finished the season as the No. 10 prospect in the organization.
The former 2012 draft pick out of Texas A&M began the 2013 season in High-A but was promoted to the Chattanooga Lookouts at the Double-A level where he went 6-4 for the Lookouts with a 2.78 ERA.
Besides the low ERA, Stripling also put together a 4.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 94 Double-A innings. Not even a young Clayton Kershaw's ratio was that high in Double A.
His pitching arsenal includes a fastball, changeup, curveball and a newly added cutter that he's still fine-tuning.
Stripling will get a chance to prove himself in big-league spring training although he is not on the team's 40-man roster.
But with so much depth in Los Angeles' starting rotation, the only way Stripling makes it to Chavez Ravine in 2014 is if veterans like Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and Dan Haren aren't up to the task—which isn't out of the question by any means.
In the event that he does not make the 40-man roster, look for Stripling to improve his numbers as one of the Lookouts' most important pitchers in 2014 with a strong possibility that he makes it to Triple-A and perhaps beyond.
2. Onelki Garcia, LHP
Onelki Garcia might be the Dodgers' most prized left-handed pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Los Angeles drafted the Cuban native in 2012, and he made his major-league debut just one year later.
During that season in the minors, Garcia compiled a 2.90 ERA between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque, including 67 strikeouts, 35 walks and just three home runs allowed in 62 innings.
Left-handed batters hit just .149 against him in the minors, but Garcia had a rougher go of things upon his promotion to the big club. He walked four of his nine hitters faced in his three appearances with the Dodgers and finished with a 13.50 ERA.
Following the season, Garcia attempted to play in the Arizona Fall League but was shut down after only one appearance and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow in November.
The 24-year-old should be fully recovered for spring training and will be competing with Chris Reed and Paco Rodriguez for a left-handed bullpen spot to accompany the team's main southpaw reliever, J.P. Howell.
1. Zach Lee, RHP
There are several question marks regarding the back end of the Dodgers' starting rotation.
Veterans Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley are both coming off long-term injuries and free-agent addition Dan Haren also spent time on the disabled list last year. All three have been trending downward in terms of their productivity over the past few seasons as well.
Enter Zach Lee, the Dodgers' top sleeper prospect heading into 2014.
The Texas native's name has been thrown around the organization ever since Los Angeles gave him a record signing bonus after the team drafted him with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Despite the lucrative signing bonus, Lee has not stood out during his three years in the minors (25-22 combined record), yet he has been solid (cumulative 3.67 ERA).
At the Double-A level in 2013, Lee went 10-10 with a 3.22 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 28 games. These numbers weren't spectacular, but they were good enough for him to be selected to the Southern League All-Star Game. The Dodgers also chose Lee as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Clearly they are high on the 22-year-old.
Heading into 2014, Lee understands that the back end of Los Angeles' rotation is crowded. But he must also realize that it's shaky.
"I'm trying to win a job, striving to get here as soon as I can," Lee told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. "If I pitch well and control what I can control, the opportunity will present itself not far down the road. There are contractual issues, but if you outperform people, there will be a spot for you."
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.
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