How Will The Win Now Los Angeles Dodgers Promote Its Top MLB Prospects?
Emerging from the late McCourt era which culminated in the team’s bankruptcy, the Guggenheim group poured money into the Los Angeles Dodgers and quickly re-established their place as one of the premier spenders in baseball. Not only did the team aggressively pursue established veterans, but high priced foreign free agents too – the most notable being Yasiel Puig ($42MM over seven years) and Hyun-jin Ryu ($36M over six years). With such an extravagant budget and a win now mentality, it can be difficult to predict when opportunities will arise for minor leaguers within the organization. The Los Angeles Dodgers farm system houses a trio of prospects with impact potential in Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, and Julio Urias. How do the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers work them into the high pressure, win now atmosphere of Los Angeles?
Given the roster composition, Corey Seager (ROTOscouting Report) has the easiest path to playing time. The former first round pick has steadily progressed through the system, impressing at each level. He finished the year at Double-A Chattanooga and is currently playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League.
Seager excites with his pure hitting skills and future power potential. Thanks to advanced instincts for the position, he has played exclusively at shortstop despite his large frame and below-average range. On a pure tools analysis, Seager fits best at third base long term, but where he actually slots into the Los Angeles Dodgers plans will likely depend on whether Hanley Ramirez is retained.
Ramirez is a pending free agent who will assuredly be seeking a multi-year deal. His offensive production remains elite for the position, but defensive and injury concerns could blunt his pay day. Erisbel Arruebarrena is also in the fold and signed through 2018. His reputation as a plus defender and 25-million dollar contract will afford him the first crack at shortstop if Ramirez leaves. Juan Uribe is also signed for one more season at the hot corner and provides steady, above-average production. Succeeding Uribe in 2016 appears to be the most likely outcome, but at either shortstop or third base, Seager won’t be rushed into action and will open 2015 in Triple-A.
Joc Pederson (Scouting Report) received a September call up and got his first taste of major league baseball. However, when we break down the current outfield, his path to playing time is murky. Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig are all signed through 2017 (or later) at large financial commitments. Ethier and Crawford will be difficult to trade without a substantial dowry attached. Matt Kemp would have more suitors, but the Dodgers will prefer to keep Kemp’s bat around.
Pederson, meanwhile, has continued to refine his offensive game, showcasing a solid hit tool, plate discipline, power, and speed. He’s capable of playing center field, but, as with all of the Los Angeles Dodgers’s outfielders, he fits best in a corner. Still, center field is his best path to an everyday role. Matt Kemp’s defensive issues keep him anchored in left, and Andre Ethier’s decline makes his roster spot most vulnerable. If a move isn’t made to find room on the 25-man roster, Pederson will return to Triple-A Albuquerque, waiting for an opportunity to seize a future role in the outfield. Given the injury history of the established outfield, his wait may not last long. However, remember Desmond Jenning’s path to Tampa Bay. He accumulated nearly 1,000 plate appearances in Triple-A before surfacing at the MLB level for good. Fridman and company were known for slow rolling top prospects.
With Seager and Pederson we can look to the immediate horizon and project timetables based on how the current roster is composed. Julio Urias (Scouting Report) is a different challenge. The talented 18 year old spent the year at High-A Rancho Cucamonga and performed exceptionally in the hitter friendly environment. His arsenal is advanced with a lively fastball and quality off-speed pitches. The progression of his command will determine how quickly the left-hander reaches the majors. He should move up to Double-A in 2015, and performance against more advanced hitters will give us a better picture of his future. If the top-100 prospect’s dominance continues, Urias may force his way into the Dodgers’s near term plans.
Can the Los Angeles Dodgers Stay Ahead of the Curve?
With large market teams the pressure to be a World Series contender each season can sometimes provoke rash decisions. Overspending for top free agent(s) or hastily dealing a prospect for immediate help is common. These tendencies elate the average fan, but long term consequences may ultimately prove harmful. ROTOscouting’s Grant Schiller recently spoke to a scouting contact who believe Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias are top-15 prospects in all of baseball at the moment. How the Los Angeles Dodgers work them into the active roster will play a major role in the organization’s long term success or failure on the field.
The Phillies and Yankees are two recent examples of teams failing to react quickly enough to an aging, expensive roster. The Dodgers are reaching a similar crossroads with large contracts on the books for players who are beginning to slow down with age. Their answer was to lure Andrew Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays. Friedman, now the Dodgers’s President of Baseball Operations, has a long history of excelling under budgetary constraints and now has access to a much larger purse. Expect changes this winter, and it will be interesting to see what a fiscally responsible Los Angeles Dodgers roster looks like.
16 Oct 2014 / Jeff Reese /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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