The Dodgers have four players that could seriously be considered for the top spot on this list, and while I opted to keep Zach Lee in that spot, the players spurred some interesting discussions with scouts and front office folks. All four players are quality prospects that have a chance to impact the big league club in significant ways. After the big four, the Dodgers system falls off relatively and gets into a host of players with considerable warts, extreme developmental needs or limited ceilings. With the talent currently at the big league level, Dodgers fans shouldn’t be too worried, but they will wan to keep tabs on the 2012 draft class, particularly guys like Corey Seager and Zach Bird, to make sure there is more in the pipeline for 2015 and beyond.
1. Zach Lee – RHP (Last Year’s Rank: 1)
Lee repeats atop this list and while I seriously considered Chris Reed in this spot, Lee’s extreme projection takes the day. Lee is a plus-plus athlete with a great pitcher’s frame and quality present stuff. When he was originally drafted, some scouts believed Lee could be a frontline starter. Those projections have tempered some but Lee still looks the part of a high-end number three starter with a chance to be more and a very good likelihood of getting there.
2. Chris Reed – LHP (5)
A Stanford product, Reed relieved much of his college career and scouts questioned whether he would be able to transition to a starting role as a professional. Scouts reported that Reed reached 95 mph as a starter in 2012 and he backs it up with a quality slider and useable change-up. He has progressed nicely since signing and looks the part of a starter, possibly of the number three variety down the road.
3. Corey Seager – SS (NR)
If I really wanted to be aggressive, Seager would rate as the best prospect in the Dodgers system. He has good bloodlines and projection in both his hitting ability and power. He could be a dynamic offensive player that hits in the middle-of-the-order, giving him enough offensive upside to profile well no matter where he lands defensively. He has the instincts and athleticism for shortstop but if he fills out, he may be forced off the position to third base.
4. Yasiel Puig – OF (NR)
The Dodgers gave Puig $42 million after he defected from Cuba and established residency in Mexico. The contract seemed crazy by most accounts, but Puig’s brief debut was impressive, showing the tools to become an impact player. Puig has 20-home potential and the potential to be an average hitter with quite a few strikeouts. His speed plays well in the field and he has a traditional right-field profile. Puig advanced quickly to High-A where he played 14 games in 2012 and he could spend a considerable part of the 2013 season in Double-A, making him a viable big-league option in 2014.
5. Joc Pederson – OF (10)
Pederson significantly improved his overall profile in 2012, taking on the appearance of a potential solid everyday player, rather than a fringe guy. His power began to play a little more and he projects to hit for good gap power with 15 home runs a year. He has solid speed and could steal 15 bases as well. Pederson’s profile struggles defensively, as he is stretched a bit in center field and will need to max out his offensive potential to survive in left field. Pederson’s game has developed quickly and he could continue that trend in 2013 by mastering Double-A.
6. Paco Rodriguez – LHP (NR)
The Dodgers second round pick in June, Rodriguez raced through the minor leagues and pitched eleven games in the big leagues for the Dodgers. Rodriguez attacks hitters with a 90-91 mph fastball and relies heavily on a cutter that comes in a couple miles an hour slower, but has excellent movement. His slider is a solid pitch that he can use effectively against both right and left-handed hitters. Rodriguez is definitely ready to succeed in the big leagues and he should be a big part of the Dodgers bullpen going forward.
7. Jesmuel Valentin – 2B/SS (NR)
A supplemental pick last summer, Valentin is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin, and his feel for the game is evident every time he steps on the field. At the plate, he is a quality hitter with the ability to move the ball around and drive it to the gaps. He has the potential to hit .280+ with plenty of doubles. With the ability to play shortstop in addition to second base, Valentin has a variety of options available to him and his feel for the game could allow him to move quickly.
8. Onelki Garcia – LHP (NR)
Already 23-years old, Garcia was caught in the middle of an awkward MLB scenario where he was declared eligible for the MLB draft after defecting from Cuba, but was then pulled out of the draft in 2011. He sat out until this year’s draft and was popped in the third round by the Dodgers. Garcia has a solid-average fastball from the left side and he could tick up with a more consistent throwing program. His curveball flashes plus potential but his change-up needs work.
9. Jeremy Rathjen – OF (NR)
A long, lean athlete with excellent physical projection, Rathjen finally signed in 2012 after being drafted for the third time. Rathjen is an aggressive player whose tools play up because of his effort. He projects as an average hitter with average power and the ability to steal 10-15 bases a year. Scouts give Rathjen a chance to stick in center field but he could handle right field defensively, though his prospect stock would take a hit with the added offensive demands of the position.
10. Shawn Tolleson – RHP (12)
Though Tolleson pitched 40 games in the big leagues in 2012, he only amassed 37.2 innings, making him eligible for this list. His fastball reaches 95-96 mph when he needs to and he throws a cutter that can get in on left-handed hitters. His slider played a little better in 2012 and he can miss some bats when he sets it up well. Tolleson profiles as a potential setup man and he could help fill that role at times this year.
11. Chris Withrow – RHP (6)
A first-round pick in 2007, Withrow has endured a long and arduous path up the minor league ladder. Walks have consistently held him back and while he still lacks refined control, he throws enough strikes in relief to profile as a potential seventh inning guy. His fastball fits in the late innings, reaching as high as 98 mph at times, and his curveball is a dominating pitch when it’s on. Withrow needs additional time in the minor leagues to continue his transition to the bullpen, but he could reach Los Angeles this year.
12. Zach Bird – RHP (NR)
Bird could be one of the Dodgers biggest sleepers form the 2012 draft class. He has a lean, projectable frame and solid present stuff. He is an aggressive pitcher that can reach 92-93 mph and sits at 90-91 with tons of projection for additional velocity. His curveball flashes plus potential and he occasionally shows some feel for a change-up, giving him the potential for three quality pitches and a good approach on the mound. Bird is very raw and will need developmental time, but he has the raw ingredients to become a frontline starter.
13. Tim Fedorowicz – C (13)
Federowicz has spent limited time in the big leagues each of the last two seasons and he is currently in line to be the primary backup catcher in LA in 2013. His defense and leadership stand out more than his bat, and he could be one of the better overall defensive catchers in the big leagues, if given the opportunity. He won’t be a black hole at the plate either, with the potential to hit .270+ with 20 doubles and a solid approach; enough to allow him to contribute from the bottom of the order.
14. Jarret Martin – LHP (NR)
Martin arrived with Tyler Henson in exchange for left-hander Dana Eveland in 2011 and his arm strength stands out and earns praise from scouts. Throughout 2012, Martin showed the ability to reach 93-95 mph with his fastball and flash an impressive slider. He struggles to repeat his delivery and throw strikes consistently, but some scouts believe he could become a dominating late inning reliever in the not too distant future.
15. Ross Stripling – RHP (NR)
Stripling isn’t a flashy prospect but he continues to get the job done and get outs. His fastball sits in the average range and reaches 94 on rare occasions when he really tries for more. His curveball and change-up both project as solid-average pitches and they play up because of his feel for pitching. Stripling profiles as a number four and he could reach the upper levels quickly and be on call for the big leagues.