With the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Minor League affiliates beginning their 2015 seasons last week, here’s a breakdown of the top performers.
Standout Hitter – Corey Seager
After batting .352 in High-A Rancho Cucamonga, no one expected Seager to continue his torrid pace when he was promoted to Double-A. But he did, batting .345 in 38 games with Chattanooga.
Seager hasn’t stopped hitting since, batting .281 in the Arizona Fall League, .333 in Spring Training and .438 through the first four games of his return to Double-A. Now in Tulsa, the soon-to-be 21-year-old shortstop has also flashed the leather, making a handful of nice plays up the middle while only committing a single throwing error in the early days.
Fans will clamor for his arrival in Los Angeles, but there’s no rush to bring him up with veterans ahead of him.
Standout Pitcher – Jose De Leon
The biggest surprise of the 2014 season continued his climb with an Opening Day start in Rancho. The right-hander sat down the first 13 batters he faced, nine by strikeout, before issuing a rare walk to break up his perfect game hopes.
The next batter singled to right-center field, ending the no-hit bid, then things got weird. Right fielder Joey Curletta made an errant throw to second base, which was backed up by Paul Hoenecke. The third baseman saw the hitter attempting to reach second base and threw the ball away down the right field line, allowing both runners to score.
De Leon induced a popout and recorded his 10th and final strikeout to end his outing. The 2013 24th-rounder boasts a career strikeout rate of 12.1 per 9 innings in 135 Minor League innings. He’s likely not long for A-ball and could figure into the big club’s plans within the next few years.
How the Dodgers’ top-10 prospects fared
Julio Urias: The 18-year-old southpaw made his first Double-A start on Friday, tossing five scoreless innings while striking out four. Urias wasn’t overpowering but worked his low 90s fastball to both sides of the plate, pumping it in faster when he needed it, touching 97 MPH. He’s scheduled to pitch again on Thursday in San Antonio.
Grant Holmes: Holmes was scheduled to make his debut on Friday as well, but poor field conditions ended up canceling the entire Opening Series at Dow Diamond. The Great Lakes Loons hit the road on Sunday, winning their delayed season opener, and Holmes is now scheduled to take the mound Monday against West Michigan.
Alex Verdugo: Like Holmes, Verdugo was delayed in his 2015 debut but managed to finally see some game action on Sunday. He went 1-for-4 with a walk while showing off his arm strength in center field. The 18 year old was also caught stealing.
Julian Leon: Leon batted fifth for the Loons on Sunday, singling in his first at-bat to drive in a run. He drove a few balls deep into the outfield but also struck out twice.
Behind the plate, he made a backhand save on an outside slider before letting another get past him, which allowed a runner to score from third. Leon received the ball well, framing some borderline pitches for called strikes.
Chris Anderson: Anderson pitched very well in his Double-A debut. Outside of a two-run homer he allowed on a hanging breaking ball, he showed that he could throw three pitches for strikes, with the confidence in his changeup to throw it behind in the count.
Anderson struck out six and did walk three, though it was more a case of him trying to be too fine on the edges rather than being too wild. He also hit 97 with his fastball and held his velocity through five innings.
Alex Guerrero: He earned his first Major League start and all he did was go 3-for-5 with a three-run home run and four RBIs while filling in at third base in the Dodgers’ win on Sunday.
Zach Lee: There may not have been anyone happier to find out the Dodgers were leaving Albuquerque than Zach Lee. In his 2015 debut, the 23 year old allowed just one run in six innings and scattered a pair of hits and a pair of walks while fanning half a dozen.
Lee also induced nine groundballs compared to just three fly outs. While there’s a procession of starters ahead of him on the depth chart, more starts like this will go a long way in convincing the front office that he’s Major-League ready.
Popup Guy – Brock Stewart
The Dodgers’ sixth-rounder from last year pitched mainly in relief during his debut, striking out 45 batters in 34.1 innings. The 23 year old was scheduled to be the Loons’ Opening Day starter on Thursday, but had to wait three days to fulfill his obligation.
Stewart pitched well, allowing one run on five hits over five innings. He struck out six, painting his low 90s fastball on the black while mixing in his slider and changeup. He could move fairly quickly, given his age, if this type of production continues.
Corey Seager Ignoring Outside Pressure