Last spring, Los Angeles Dodgers fans were treated to one of these younger players in the form of outfielder Yasiel Puig. Just 22 years old, Puig hit .517 in the spring with 30 hits in just 27 games and gave fans just a taste of things to come in the future. The outfielder was called up in June and hit .400 in his first month before finishing the season at .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI. He now heads into the 2014 season as the team’s right fielder.
With that in mind, we took a look at the Dodgers’ top-10 prospects heading into the spring:
10. Scott Schebler, Outfield (23)
Often forgotten is that Scott Schebler received the 2013 Branch Rickey award for the Dodgers’ minor-league player of the year. In Advanced-A last season, the left-handed hitting Schebler hit .296 with 27 home runs and 91 RBI in 125 games. Drafted in the 26th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, the 23-year-old doesn’t have the hype that the other prospects on the list have, but has been climbing the ranks and developing into a solid prospect.
Schebler has stolen at least 16 bases the past two seasons, giving him a bit of a speed element to complement his bat. He’s struggled with strikeouts, racking up 140 in 125 games last season, but still managed to keep a high OBP of .360. Defensively, Schebler has a rather strong arm and is a solid defender in the outfield, playing mostly right field.
Although he has a difficult path to the big leagues ahead of him, Schebler should continue to develop and give the Dodgers another outfielder to consider in the future. The Dodgers have a crowded outfield as is and Schebler has never played anything above A-ball, making him at least a few years away from making the club.
Schebler will likely spend the 2014 season in Double-A and another strong season could earn him a major-league invite to spring camp next season.
9. Yimi Garcia, RHP (23)
A 23-year-old reliever out of the Dominican Republic, Yimi Garcia spent last season as a closer in Double-A. He saved 19 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts with a 2.54 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 60.1 innings. In the 49 games he pitched in, he finished 44 of them. Overall, Garcia has saved 35 games the past two seasons between Single-A, Advanced-A and Double-A. Garcia could find himself competing for a roster spot this spring after being added to the 40-man roster in the off-season.
Garcia is a strikeout pitcher, evidenced by his career 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and uses his slider as his most effective pitch. He’s developed quickly and had his best season in 2013, including a WHIP of 0.81 and just over a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Garcia was a Southern League All-Star last season and was one of Dodgers two representatives in the AFL Fall Stars game in October.
The Dodgers have depth in the bullpen after the signings and re-signings of four relievers, but injuries and ineffectiveness could give Garcia his chance to shine. Being on the 40-man gives Garcia an advantage over most other arms in the farm system and he’d most likely be brought up in September for added depth in a playoff push.
Expect to see Garcia and his slider in Double-A again this season, with his next move being promoted to the big leagues.
8. Pedro Baez, RHP (25)
Following in the footsteps of Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez is a converted pitcher with an impressive arm. He spent his first five years in the organization as a third baseman who struggled at the plate and in the field. Seeing his strong arm, it was decided that Baez would become a pitcher and he’s garnered a lot of attention for the move.
Last season was his first season on the mound and Baez had a 3.88 ERA split between Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and the Lookouts. Baez struggled a bit with 23 walks in just 58 innings, while only striking out 55. He hit 96 mph on the gun and is still learning the nuances of a new position. He impressed the Dodgers enough to warrant a spot on the 40-man roster.
Baez struggled a bit in Double-A but did manage to average a strikeout per inning and decrease his walk total. Once Baez can build confidence in his curveball to complement his fastball, he’ll become a force on the mound much like Jansen did after developing his cutter.
Being on the 40-man gives Baez a good chance of getting some reps with the Dodgers this season, but he’ll likely remain in Double-A to continue his development as a pitcher.
7. Chris Reed, LHP (23)
One of only two left-handers on the list, Chris Reed was the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2011 MLB Draft. Originally from Great Britain, Reed pitched at Stanford before being drafted. Last season, he started 25 games for the Lookouts and went 4-11 with a 3.86 ERA. He pitched in the 2012 All-Star Futures Games on the World Team and also saw some time with Great Britain the qualifying rounds of the World Baseball Classic.
At Stanford, Reed was the closer in his final year but with three strong pitches, the Dodgers decided to have him start games. He struck out 106 batters in 137.2 innings last season, but struggled a bit with command, averaging just over four walks per nine innings. Reed will have to drastically improve those numbers in order to reach the big leagues.
Reed’s win-loss record isn’t an indication of how he pitched and his ERA dropped from the year before, indicating some improvement and development. He’s not currently on the 40-man roster and he’ll need a very strong showing this season to garner any consideration for the majors. With his stuff, Reed could be moved back to the bullpen depending on the needs of the club.
The 23-year-old left-hander will likely split time between Double-A and Triple-A this season and will need at least two more years before reaching the big leagues.
6. Zach Lee, RHP (22)
Often considered the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, Zach Lee hasn’t quite shown the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors. With the Lookouts last season, the 22-year-old was 10-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 28 games, starting 25 of those games. He had 131 strikeouts in just over 142 innings and limited his walks.
Lee had a strong season, despite his 10-10 record, but hasn’t shown that extra gear often shown by top prospects. The numbers are there and he has continued to develop into a talented pitcher. His strikeouts are up, walks are down and WHIP is solid and some believe that he’s waiting to be challenged to push him into the pitcher that he’s believed to be.
Invited to big league camp, Lee is preparing for a chance to steal a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation. Josh Beckett is the team’s fifth starter at the moment and he’s coming off surgery that could hinder his performance. Now is the time for Lee to rise to the occasion and demonstrate why he’s been the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect for a while.
If he doesn’t make the club in the spring, Lee will head to Triple-A and will likely be moved up with any injury to a starting pitcher.
Next Page: See Who We Ranked In The Top-5