Thursday, June 30, 2011

Allen Webster: the Dodgers' most underrated prospect

When the Dodgers drafted Allen Webster in the 18th round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of McMichael High School in North Carolina, folks didn't give it a second thought. And why would anyone? I mean, there aren't that many 18th-round picks who end up being successful in the minor leagues, let alone the major league.

However, Webster has done nothing but impress in his three-plus seasons as a professional baseball player.

He's made all the usual stops so far: the Gulf Coast League (2008), Pioneer League (2009), Arizona League ('09), Midwest League (2010), California League (2011) and now the Southern League ('11). He has more than held his own at every stop.

For his career, he has a 2.79 ERA, 7.6 H/9, 0.4 H/9, 3.6 BB/9, 8.5 K/9 and a 2.35 K/BB ratio. He threw a career-high 131 1/3 innings last season, and he's on pace to best that this season.

One of the best things about Webster is he doesn't have to rely on a 98 mph fastball to get hitters out. Because of this, he's the best pure pitcher in the Dodgers' farm system. He works with a low-90s fastball with good sink and movement, a power curveball in the upper-70s and a low-80s changeup that is his sleeper pitch.

So, with the great numbers and good stuff, why does he not get more recognition? It's easy to see why he's overshadowed by the likes of Rubby De La Rosa, Zach Lee and Chris Withrow. All three are flamethrowers and have better pure stuff than Webster. However, Webster is the best pitcher of them all.

He also gets a ton of groundballs. For his career, his ground out/fly out rate is at 2.39, including a 4.33 rate for Double-A Chattanooga. For comparison's sake, he would be mentioned in the same breath as Tim Hudson (2.41 in 2011), Brett Anderson (2.32) and Trevor Cahill (2.24). This bodes well for his future success.

I rated him my No. 3 prospect in my midseason Top 15 and No. 6 in my preseason Top 30. Baseball America had him unranked after his debut season and rated him No. 10 in 2010 and No. 5 this season. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked him the Dodgers' seventh-best prospect heading into the season and No. 13 in 2010.

Despite some high rankings, it still feels like he's underrated and undervalued by the masses. There is a lot of value in a guy who projects to be a 180-200-inning, middle-of-the-rotation starter. He doesn't have the ceiling of De La Rosa, Lee or Withrow, but if I had to put money on the most successful of the quartet, it'd be on Webster.

Chad Moriyama of True Blue L.A. and Memories of Kevin Malone fame did a nice write-up on Webster in March.
"Webster has a good combination of tools for success. He has shown the willingness to be coached, he has projection, and he has three potentially good pitches with good control and solid command. That said, questions do exist. His fastball command needs to improve, he needs to locate and execute his power curve consistently, and one of his two off-speed pitches has to emerge as a tool he can use to get swings and misses from advanced bats. As a whole though, the positives outweigh the negatives, leading to his lofty status as a prospect."
A fair and object look at the right-hander.

Depending how the rest of his season goes, he could contend for a rotation spot in 2012, if the Dodgers need it. If not, I could see him getting a shot in Triple-A, but wouldn't be surprised to see him return to Double-A. The Pacific Coast League is a notorious launching pad and the Dodgers are hesitant to send good pitching prospects there.

Webster is my favorite prospect in the Dodgers' system. I'm excited for his future and can't wait to see him in person -- either in the PCL or the majors.


Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness recounts the 51 sins of the Frank and Jamie McCourt era. It's a great read.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has a recap of the Dodgers in June.

Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts has his sixth edition of "Dodger Cogs and Dogs" - always a fun read. Matt Kemp is No. 1 for the fifth consecutive edition.

Roberto Baly of Vin Scully is my Homeboy urges folks to connect with him via Social Media. 150,000 pagviews? Dayum!

DodgerBobble recaps his day at Viva Los Dodgers, which includes autographs from Steve Yeager and Ron Cey.

Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman's Performance ponders how many innings the Dodgers should let De La Rosa throw this season.

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