Monday, July 15, 2013

My 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers midseason Top 25 prospects

With the Major League Baseball season more than half over, it's time to unveil my midseason Top 25 Dodgers' prospect list.

There are some new faces, some young faces (Julio Urias, right) and some players who have broken out. There are also some who have fallen from their preseason rank. There wasn't as much an infusion of talent as there was in last year's midseason Top 25.

My top prospect might surprise some folks, but I've been on the Zach Lee bandwagon since last year.

Eligiblity
All players who have not reached 50 innings pitched, 130 at-bats in the Major Leagues and have less than 45 days of pre-Sept. 1 service time are eligible for this list.

Numbers in parenthesis are the player's rank in my preseason Top 50.

1. Zach Lee, RHP (1)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Chattanooga
- Lee is having a fantastic season as a 21-year-old in Double-A -- something for which he doesn’t get enough recognition. Lee is second on the Lookouts in innings pitched (98 2/3) and ERA (3.01) and has improved his strikeouts per nine innings rate to what would be a career-high if the season ended today (8.2). His secondary offerings have helped to improve that rate. Director of Player Development DeJon Watson said Lee’s slider has been the most improved and his curveball is tighter. For the rest of the season, I’d like to see him build more stamina and go later into games, as he’s averaging just 5.4 innings per start.

2. Corey Seager, SS (3, +1)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
- Seager has established himself as the team’s best hitting prospect and the best prospect in many others’ eyes. Despite fighting through a hamstring injury, he’s still hitting a .300/.382/.490 with eight home runs, 43 RBI and an .872 OPS -- all while playing a respectable shortstop. Watson said “He’s a shortstop, he’s staying at shortstop, he’s playing it well and he’s really just stabilizing the infield defense whenever he gets in the lineup.” So, I guess he’s a shortstop. I’m still not 100 percent sold, but if he can remain at short, his value increases exponentially.

3. Joc Pederson, CF (5, +2)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Chattanooga
- Pederson got off to a blazing start this season and, as one of the youngest hitters in the Southern League, is having a fantastic season. He represented the Dodgers at the Futures Game (1-for-1, walk, run scored) and was one of eight Lookouts named to the Southern League All-Star team. His .296/.386/.516 triple slash is impressive. His 14 home runs and 19 doubles are impressive. But most impressive is his 26-for-29 stolen base rate. He’s improved every aspect of his game, improving his power, his baserunning and his defense. He’s OPSing .10 points fewer than this season than he did in the California League last year. Pederson is now considered by most a legitimate starting outfield prospect thanks to his average-to-solid-average tools across the board.

4. Ross Stripling, RHP (11, +7)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Chattanooga
- Stripling began the season with the Quakes, and I actually got to see him in person. He had one of his worst starts of the season that night, but he was promoted to the Lookouts one start after I saw him in early May. He’s been awfully impressive at Double-A and the 23-year-old has established himself as a legitimate prospect. Stripling’s velocity has remained consistent and in the 90-94 MPH range. His curveball is as good as always and his changeup has improved since last season. He’s also added a legit fourth pitch in his slider. He should finish out the season at Double-A and have a shot at a Major League roster spot when the Dodgers break camp in 2014.
5. Julio Urias, LHP (25, +20)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
- Urias surprisingly made his full-season debut at the ripe old age of 16, and he’s been nothing but fantastic. In his first 33 1/3 innings, he has a 2.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.6 H/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 10.5 K/9.  He’s nothing short of amazing. He’s also bigger than the 5’11, 160 at which he’s listed. He’s closer to 6’1, 180 pounds. He owns an 88-92 MPH that has touched 93-95 MPH in every single start. He gets a little natural arm-side run. His changeup is his best secondary offering, grading as plus in the future. He also has a curveball that he throws on two different planes. One looks like a traditional 11-5 curve, one looks like a sharper, tighter curve that resembles a slider. Urias is a great prospect and should rank higher on this list as he matures.

6. Chris Anderson, RHP (NR)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
- Anderson was the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2013 and made quite a statement in his debut. The University of Jacksonville product has a low-90s fastball that he can sink. He can also run it up to 97-98 MPH on occasion, as he’s already done in his first action in professional baseball. He has a slider that sits in the low-to-mid-80s that could be a swing-and-miss pitch and an average changeup. He also has a “show me” curveball that he might need if he’s to remain a starter -- and there’s no reason to believe otherwise.

7. Chris Reed, LHP (8, +1)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Chattanooga
- Reed has always been a “favorite” of mine and, despite a slow start, posted some solid numbers in the first half. I still see Reed ending up in the bullpen, but it’s nice to see his stamina improving. He isn’t striking out as many batters as in years past, but he’s compensating for it by getting more ground ball outs. His 89-92 MPH fastball is his main weapon. He also has a low-t-mid-80s slider that used to get more swings and misses. His changeup is fringy, which is why I think he’ll eventually end up as a reliever.

8. Matt Magill, RHP (6, -2)
Started: Triple-A Albuquerque
Current location: Albuquerque
- The first prospect to fall from his preseason rank, Magill had an up-and-down season so far. He made him MLB debut, which was great. Other than that, he had a rough go at it in the majors. He’s handled the extreme hitter-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League well enough. His fastball is an 88-92 MPH offering that touches 94 at times. His velocity hasn’t been the issue. His command has been bad this season, causing him to walk more hitters (28) than he’s struck out (26) in the majors. His slider is still his out pitch and sits in the low-80s. He also has a changeup that he should probably throw a little more and feel for a curveball.

9. Rob Rasmussen, LHP (22, +13)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Triple-A Albuquerque
- Rasmussen joined the Dodgers when they sent John Ely to the Astros during the winter. He began the season with the Lookouts before being promoted to Albuquerque last month. He has an 88-92 MPH fastball, a curveball, slider and changeup. His frame is such that it isn’t conducive to starting long-term, but he’s been great in the minors this season. He has an outside shot of contributing this season, but more likely next season. At worst, he's a middle reliever in the majors.

10. Chris Withrow, RHP (21, +11)
Started: Triple-A Albuquerque
Current location: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Withrow was converted to the bullpen late last season and that’s where he’ll remain. His mid-90s fastball that touches 98 MPH is his best weapon. He also has a swing-and-miss slider and he recently rediscovered his curveball, which could make him even more dangerous. He could be a fixture in the ‘pen going forward.

11. Onelki Garcia, LHP (7, -4)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Chattanooga
- Garcia had a rough go early on, landing on the disabled list. He’s pitched primarily out of the bullpen, which is somewhat disappointing. The 23-year-old Cuban fireballer is posting an impressive 9.5 K/9, but he’s also walking 6.2 per nine innings, which hurts him as a starter in the long run. He still has a nasty low-90s fastball and upper-70s curveball. He also has a fringy changeup that he’ll need to develop if he wants to be a starter.

12. Jose Dominguez, RHP (23, +11)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Dominguez had to serve a 25-game suspension to begin the season, but he’s been nails ever since. He earned a promotion from Double-A to Triple-A before the Dodgers recalled him to make his debut this season. He’s averaging 98.4 MPH on his fastball in the majors. He routinely touches triple digits with it and it’s by far the best fastball in the system. He also has a nasty-at-times slider and a surprisingly effective changeup. He has late-inning reliever stuff, it just remains to be seen if he can put it all together consistently.

13. Duke von Schamann, RHP (31, +18)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Double-A Chattanooga
- The big right-hander has gone from system depth at starting pitcher to legitimate pitching prospect. He isn’t going to make a living by striking hitters out, but von Schamann possesses good control, a feel for pitching and an 88-91 MPH sinker that allows him to get plenty of grounds. He also has a feel for a slider and a changeup. He should remain at Chattanooga the rest of the season and possibly next season.

14. Yimi Garcia, RHP (19, +5)
Started: Double-A Chattanooga
Current location: Chattanooga
-  Garcia has established himself as the Lookouts’ closer and a potential bullpen option for the Dodgers in 2014. Garcia has a low-90s fastball and a slider that’s helped him accumulate an 11.6 K/9 this season. The 22-year-old has an impressive 6.5 K/BB rate, which should help him have a Major League career. He’s given up eight home runs this season after allowing five in his first four minor-league seasons, so that’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

15. Alex Castellanos, OF (12, -3)
Started: Triple-A Albuquerque
Current location: Albuquerque
- Castellanos has turned it on of late, but he’s probably nothing more than a fifth outfielder at this point (fourth at best). He has a quick bat, but no defined position. It finally seems the Dodgers have given up on him as an infielder, which is probably for the best. He probably won’t get a chance to show what he can do in the majors with the Dodgers, so a trade is probably his best bet for an MLB future.

16. Jesmuel Valentin, SS/2B (13, -3)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Pioneer League Ogden
- Valentin began his season at Great Lakes, which was aggressive. Since then, he’s been demoted to Ogden, which isn’t an indictment of his abilities. With Seager manning shortstop in Midland, it makes the most sense for Valentin to play every day in the Pioneer League. Valentin has struggled a bit this season, but he’s still showing good on-base ability. He’s also one of the best defensive players in the Dodgers’ system.

17. Jon Garcia, RF (48, +31)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Double-A Chattanooga
- The third Garcia to check in, Jonathan began the season repeating the California League. He hit so well he was promoted to Double-A. With Blake Smith switching to the bullpen and Yasiel Puig being promoted to the majors, the Lookouts needed another outfielder. He’s only played 14 games, so it’s too early to tell how he’s truly handling advanced pitching. His play has catapulted him back into the prospect discussion. He has good raw power and a cannon for an arm in right field.

18. Scott Schebler, OF (37, +19)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
- Schebler has been the biggest breakout of prospect in the system so far. Yes, he’s playing in the Cal League, but he’s also showing every facet of his game. He’s a solid defender in the corners, he’s hitting for power and showing some speed. He’s posting reverse platoon splits and doesn’t have that big a split when it comes to home and away games. He’s a guy to watch the rest of the season. The 22-year-old will need to prove his numbers just aren’t a product of his environment.

19. Darnell Sweeney, SS (18, -1)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
- Sweeney hit for the cycle in a game during the first half, but he hasn’t been able to get over the “mediocre” hump so far. While he has the ability to play shortstop, he has committed 29 errors this season. He has a decent even arm and good range, so he could stick at short for awhile. He’s also hit better from the right side than the left. He might consider giving up switch-hitting if he doesn’t improve from the left side. His walk rate has fallen and his strike rate risen, which isn’t a good combination. Still, he’s a decent prospect who could improve in the second half.

20. Miguel Sulbaran, LHP (30, +10)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Great Lakes
- Overshadowed by Urias, the 19-year-old Sulbaran has posted solid numbers in his first full season at Great Lakes. He’s not the strikeout pitcher Urias is, but he records his fair share of outs. He’s 5’10, 185 pounds, so it remains to be seen if he can stick in the rotation. If not, he should be able to carve out a career as a left-handed reliever with an 88-91 MPH fastball, a low-70s curveball, a potentially plus changeup and a “show me” slider.

21. Jharel Cotton, RHP (43, +22)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Double-A Chattanooga
- Cotton, my choice for sleeper prospect back in January, had a nice showing with the Loons before being promoted to Double-A. Since being promoted, Cotton has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. His fastball is an 88-90 MPH that touches 92 MPH, a potentially plus changeup and a fringy slider. While his future likely lies in the ‘pen, the Dodgers shouldn’t give up on him as a starter just yet.

22. Alex Santana, 3B (28, +6)
Started: Pioneer League Ogden
Current location: Ogden
- It’s a small sample size, but Santana is off to a much better start to the 2013 season compared to the numbers he posted in 2012. His .907 OPS comes with the caveat that he’s playing in an extreme hitter’s haven, but he also has ability as a former second-round draft pick. Santana has big power potential, but also a lot of swing-and-miss. Still, he’s just 19 and in his third minor-league season. He should continue to improve even more.

23. Zachary Bird, RHP (14, -9)
Started: Low-A Great Lakes
Current location: Pioneer League Ogden
- Bird was a steal in the 2012 draft and was given an aggressive assignment in Low-A. However, Bird didn’t handle it too well, posting an ugly 7.7 BB/9. He was demoted to Ogden and hasn’t fared much better. He’s only 18, so there’s still plenty of time for him to figure things out. He still projects as starter going forward.

24. Noel Cuevas, CF/LF (NR)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
- Cuevas was a surprise draft signee in 2011 and took a little while to break through, but he’s done so this season. While Cuevas doesn’t have a lot of power potential, he does everything else well. He has enough range to stick in center field and enough arm for the position. When I saw him in person in May, he was tracking down all sorts of fly balls as the Quakes’ center fielder. He also has plus speed, swiping 22 bases so far. The 21-year-old should see Chattanooga  in 2014.

25. O’Koyea Dickson, 1B (20, -5)
Started: High-A Rancho Cucamonga
Current location: Rancho Cucamonga
- Dickson hasn’t hit for as much power as expected (10 home runs), but he’s been nothing if not consistent for the Quakes this season. He does have 25 doubles, which is nice. While his strikeout rate has decreased from last season, so has his walk rate. As a guy who’s going to make the majors based solely on his bat, he needs to get that walk rate back to 10 percent while also increasing his slugging. He’s limited to first base defensively despite logging five games at third base and one in left field this season.

The next five (in alphabetical order): Cody BellingerJustin Chigbogu, Victor Gonzalez, Garrett GouldJarret Martin

Graduated: Yasiel Puig (2), Hyun-Jin Ryu (4), Paco Rodriguez (10), Tim Federowicz (26), Scott Van Slyke (44)
Dropped out of Top 25: Garrett Gould (9), Blake Smith (15), Andres Santiago (18), Jesus Valdez (24)
Moved into Top 25: Anderson (NR to 6), von Schamann (31 to 13), J. Garcia (48 to 17), Schebler (37 to 18), Sulbaran (30 to 20), Cotton (43 to 21), Santana (28 to 22), Cuevas (NR to 24)
Traded: Steve Ames (16), Angel Sanchez (36), Josh Wall (NR)
Biggest riser: J. Garcia (48 to 17)
Biggest faller: Smith (15 to 50)

This year's draft wasn't particularly strong, which is why only one player from the class made the midseason Top 25. The team traded three prospects, but none of them projected as more than relievers at the next level. This system is top-heavy and should get a boost from the international signings of the last two years.

Photo credits
Urias (courtesy): Nick Anderson, Great Lakes Loons
Anderson (courtesy): Ali Messick, Great Lakes Loons
All others: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

4 comments:

  1. Isn't it a sign of a weak system if guys who're drafted immediately show up on the top 25 prospect list?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not necessarily. A lot of guys are high draft picks because they're talented. The No. 18 pick in the draft holds more value than an organizational depth guy who's floundering in A-ball.

    ReplyDelete
  3. AJ Ellis is a BeastJuly 18, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    Great list. Would like to point a couple things out for discussion, not criticism.
    Seager is the easy #1 in my mind, and the best Dodger prospect since Kershaw. He's one of the youngest players in a pitching friendly league and OPSing .896. Even more impressive is the 12% walk rate and reports of ridiculous opposite-field power. He'd be a top prospect even if he played any other position (remember, Joc couldn't hit here as a 19 year old), but Seager also happens to play the most hitting starved position on the diamond. Keep in mind that Asdrubal Cabrera, with his career .755 OPS and terrible defense, is a 3 WAR a yr player. I know that a 19 y.o. in A ball will bust more times than not, but Seager has hanley-type upside and scouting reports to match. Keith Law just ranked him the #16 prospect in baseball and I think he's the no doubt Dodger top prospect.
    Also, I think Lee is a little overrated and Stripling a little underrated, and they are actually the same prospect. Lee has age and draft status on his side, and I know age is a big thing, but they have similar scouting reports, and Stripling has the slightly better numbers and secondary pitches. If I'm the GM, I sell high on ZLee and value Stripling as the new Lee. My top 5 is Seager, Joc, Lee, Stripling, Urias. Again, your list is excellent work; I'm not hating, just discussing

    ReplyDelete
  4. AJ Ellis is a BeastJuly 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    With that being said, who do you see as most likely to be traded from this list? It's probably gonna be guys with rising stock. This is how I see the trading block:
    1st tier SP
    Lee
    Stripling
    Reed

    2nd tier SP
    Rasmussen
    Duke
    Bird
    Sulbaran
    Caughel

    RP
    Dominguez
    Y Garcia
    Thomas

    OF
    Joc
    JGarcia
    Schebler
    Cuevas

    What would your thoughts be on a trade with MIL if they decide to unload? I'd try to land Gallardo, Axford, and A ram all in one deal, knowing that Axford is a possible nontender for MIL and A ram is owed $20M next year. I'd offer one from each of the above categories (no Joc). So Gallardo/Ax/Aram/int'l money for Zlee(reed if possible)/Duke/Dominguez or YGarcia/JGarcia. Yes or no?

    ReplyDelete