Top 10 Prospects: The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers
2010 MLB Record: 80-82 (4th in the NL West)
Minor League Power Ranking: 17th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Dee Gordon, SS
Acquired: Drafted 4th Round, 2008
2010 Level: AA (Southern League)
Opening Day Age: 22.11

Notes: Despite being the son of former big reliever Tom ‘Flash’ Gordon, Dee didn’t pick up baseball until his senior year of high school. What he lacks in polish, he makes up for in athleticism. His speed rates as an 80 on the scouting scale, allowing him to steal 126 bases over the past two season at a 73 percent clip. At the plate, Gordon is a contact-oriented hitter with little power. He posted a meager .077 ISO last year, and after seeing him take batting practice at the Futures Game, I don’t expect him to ever post an ISO much higher than .100 in the big leagues. His swing plane is flat, and his bat speed isn’t good enough to overcome the physical limitations of his 150-pound frame. That being said, he does a good job of barreling the ball, and that skill, coupled with his outstanding speed and ability to make contact, should allow him to hit for average. In the field, Gordon has all the tools to be a plus defender, but he makes too many errors on routine plays. It’s not altogether uncommon for young shortstops to pile up big error totals in the minor leagues and still go on to become solid defenders in the big leagues, and judging by his actions, I think with more experience he’ll make the necessary improvements to stay at short. At his peak, I see Gordon as close to a .300 hitter, with 40 steals, and average defense at short.

2. Zach Lee, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round, 2010
2010 Level: None
Opening Day Age: 19

Notes: In high school Lee committed to play quarterback for LSU, and leading up to the draft most reports indicated that he was headed to LSU. In fact, when the Dodgers selected him there were rumblings from fans suggesting that the Dodgers took him knowing he wouldn’t sign, in an attempt to save money. Those fears turned out to be unfounded, as the Dodgers lured Lee away from his LSU scholarship with a bonus of over $5 million, the forth highest bonus given out in 2010. On the mound, Lee offers a tantalizing combination of projection and polish. He is an exceptional athlete, and reports indicate that he has a clean delivery. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball, a solid slider, and a change-up that is advanced for his age. Although the sky seems to be the limit for Lee, the usual caveats that come with high-school arms apply. You can dream on Lee and envision him anchoring a big-league staff, but there is too much risk to rank him ahead of Gordon.

3. Trayvon Robinson, CF
Acquired: Drafted 10th Round, 2005
2010 Level: AA (Southern League)
Opening Day Age: 23.7

Notes: Robinson is a solid prospect, but his ceiling is limited. On the one hand, Robinson is a solid athlete. He’s a plus runner, a good enough defender to play center in the big leagues, and at the plate, Robinson has improved in every season. While he only walked in 6.7 percent of his plate appearances in 2008, that number shot up to over ten percent in 2009 and all the way up to 14 percent this past season. His increased patience does not appear to have come at the expense of average or power, as Robinson hit .297 with a .138 ISO in 2010, the highest figures he has put up outside the California League. On the other hand, Robinson’s numbers were aided by an unsustainable .395 BABIP. It’s worth noting that he posted a .386 figure in 2009, so his BABIPs may always be above average, but to put those numbers in perspective, only three major league center fielders had BABIPs greater than .355 in 2010- Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, and Austin Jackson. Despite the improved plate discipline, Robinson still swings-and-misses too often, striking out in almost 29 percent of his at-bats in 2010. With his struggles to make contact, and a likely regression in his BABIP, Robinson seems like a .260 hitter in the big leagues, albeit one who provides a high OBP. Those numbers, combined with modest power and the ability to play center, likely make Robinson a regular.

4. Jerry Sands, COF/1B
Acquired: Drafted 25th Round, 2008
2010 Level: Low A/AA
Opening Day Age: 23.6

Notes: A relative unknown entering the year, Sands had a monster 2010 season. He slugged 35 home runs and hit .301 across two levels. Despite turning twenty-three in September, Sands began the season in the Midwest League. Even though he raked to the tune of an otherworldly 333/432/646 line over 287 plate appearances, many were eager to see how he would fair against more age-appropriate competition before buying in. After his promotion to AA, Sands continued to hit, posting a 270/360/529 line, despite a .286 BABIP. In addition to power, Sands is a patient hitter. He had a 12.4 BB% in 2010, and for a power-hitter, his strikeout rate of 24 percent is respectable. A capable defender at first and in either corner outfield spot, Sands has the makings of a bat-first corner outfielder, but I’d like to see some more data from the higher levels before I completely buy in.

5. Kenley Jansen, RHP
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent, 2004 (Curacao)
2010 Level: Hi A/AA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23.6

Notes: Signed out of Curacao in 2004, Jansen began his pro career as a catcher, but after several nondescript seasons with the bat, the Dodgers moved him to the mound in 2009. Jansen’s arm strength has enabled him to make the transition fairly seamlessly. His fastball sits in the mid-to-uper 90s, and his slider is good enough to keep hitters off-balance. On the strength of those two pitches, Jansen has put up some ridiculous strikeout numbers. He posted a 15.6 K/9 across Hi A and AA before being promoted to the big leagues where he still managed a K/9 of 13.7. Jansen’s biggest problem is his control. He has walked over five batters per nine innings over the course of his career, and even though he is new to the mound, he never figures to have even average control. The natural comparison for Jansen is Carlos Marmol, another converted catcher who racks up big strikeout and walk totals. Jansen isn’t likely to have the same impact as Marmol, as Marmol’s breaking ball is much better, but Jansen should nonetheless find a role as a solid 7th/8th inning option.

6. Rubby De La Rosa, RHP
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent, 2007 (Dominican Republic)
2010 Level: Low A/AA
Opening Day Age: 22.1

Notes: De La Rosa had a breakout 2010 season. The 6’1″, 170-pound right-hander is a true fire-baller. He can run his fastball into the upper 90s, and it has some sink to it allowing him to rack up a solid ground-ball rate of 58% in 2010. Despite an electric fastball, De La Rosa’s strikeout numbers are pedestrian. His K/9 fell from 8.34 in the Midwest League to 6.88 when he was promoted to AA. The culprit seems to be his below-average secondary stuff, and De La Rosa’s ultimate role will be determined by the development of his breaking ball. With some improvement, De La Rosa would profile as a solid starter. Even if his off-speed pitches remain below average, his fastball is likely good enough that he could profile in the pen. There is some risk with De La Rosa, but also the chance for considerable reward.

7. Allen ‘Carl’ Webster, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 18th Round, 2008
2010 Level: Low A (Midwest League)
Opening Day Age: 21.2

Notes: An unheralded 18th round pick in 2008, Webster established himself on the prospect scene with an exceptional 2009 campaign in which his FIP never exceeded 2.39 at two rookie-level stops. Billed as a fairly polished arm, Webster made his full-season debut in 2010 in solid-if-unspectacular fashion. He threw 131.1 innings in the Midwest League. While his 3.02 ERA was still impressive, it masked a 7.81 K/9 (a drop of close to two strikeouts per 9 over his 2009 rate), and a BB/9 that increased to 3.63. Despite those concerns, Baseball America ranked him 11th on their Midwest League top 20 (for reference, De La Rosa ranked 15th and Sands 18th). The numbers Webster put up are respectable for a twenty year old, but when combined with his scouting reports, I have to question his ultimate ceiling. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein, Webster’s stuff is pretty average across the board- a low-90s fastball, a breaking ball that, while not a swing-and-miss offering, is solid, and an above-average changeup. Even pitchers who don’t have major league futures can often excel in the lower levels with off-speed stuff and some command. The lower you go the bigger the strike zone tends to be and the more will hitters are to expand the zone. The fact that a three-pitch command guy like Webster didn’t put up more impressive numbers gives me some cause for concern. I think Webster has a future in the big leagues, but I’d be surprised if he profiled as more than a 4th or 5th starter.

8. Aaron Miller, LHP
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round Supplemental, 2009
2010 Level: Hi A/AA
Opening Day Age: 23.6

Notes: A two-way player at Baylor, Miller split his time between the outfield and the mound in college, but it quickly became clear that his professional future lay on the mound. Miller got off to a good start in 2010. In 101.2 innings in the hitter-friendly California league, Miller posted a solid 3.58 FIP. But after a promotion to AA, Miller completely lost the strike zone. His BB/9 increased from 4.25 in Hi A to an abysmal 7.04 in AA. Miller’s walk rates were under 3 in his major league debut last season, so it’s possible that his mechanics simply got out of whack at the end of the season, and he’ll regain his old form in 2011. He is, however,┬áprimarily a two-pitch guy, working off his fastball and slider, and for him to profile as a starter he’ll need to improve both his change and his control. I don’t like the odds of him being able to do both. With that being said, even with modest improvement with his control he could profile as a valuable left-handed set-up guy.

9. Chris Withrow, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round, 2007
2010 Level: AA (Southern League)
Opening Day Age: 22

Notes: Coming into the season, Withrow was near the top of many Dodger prospect lists, and even featured prominently in many top 100 lists, but after a disappointing 2010 season he’s seen his prospect status plummet. Withrow spent 2010 back in AA, but failed to build off his impressive 2009 season. When Withrow is right, he has the power stuff to rack up big strikeout totals, but it didn’t appear that he was right for much of the year. While his control has always been spotty, it got worse in 2010, fueling a BB/9 of 4.79. His K/9 also went backward last year. While he struck out close to 11 batters per 9 in the California League in 2009, that rate fell to 8.33 in 2010. Withrow can’t afford to lose strikeouts, because his control is spotty and his ground-ball rates have been blow average throughout his career. His 5.97 ERA overstates his struggles, but if he can’t regain some of his prior form in 2011, Withrow could be a candidate to move to the pen in 2012 in hopes of rejuvenating his career. Having not seen him this year, it’s tough to gauge the likelihood that he bounces back, but I wouldn’t write him off.

10. Garrett Gould, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 2nd Round, 2009
2010 Level: RC (Pioneer League)
Opening Day Age: 19.8

Notes: Heading into the 2009 draft, many believed Gould was headed to Witchita State, but the Dodgers picked him in the second round and were able to sign him for $900,000. A high-school quarterback, Gould is a solid athlete, and standing 6’4″ 190, he has a projectable pitcher’s frame. Since signing, Gould hasn’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him. He spent all of 2010 in the Pioneer League, and while his numbers were solid, he didn’t dominate. In 57.2 innings he racked up a K/9 of 8.12, a BB/9 of 3.12, and a GB% of 55 percent. In spite of just a so-so 2010 season, I think Gould is one of the bigger sleepers in the system. His biggest problem is velocity. Reports indicate that he was sat in the upper-80s most of the year, and without a bump in velocity his upside is limited. But it’s not unusual for high school arms to see a jump in velocity in their second full professional season. In the second year, arms get acclimated to the increased workload and players begin to see the benefits of professional workouts. Gould will head to the Midwest League in 2011, and if he sees a spike in velocity he could have a big year.

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Spitball McPhee
12 years ago

Who are you and what did you do with Marc Hulet? Did you kill him to take over his Prospect Rankings? Judas.