GLENDALE, Ariz.—The Dodgers have an impressive collection of arms—five of their top six prospects are pitchers—but the one with the chance to make the biggest leap on the prospect scene this year might be righthander Allen Webster, the organization's No. 10 prospect.
Webster showed flashes of three above-average pitches in three innings of work yesterday against the Rangers, though he got into trouble as he didn't have his best control and command. Webster's fastball generally sat at 91-94 mph, touching 95 once. He also flashed two potentially above-average secondary offerings, a lively 78-81 mph changeup and a tight 76-79 mph curveball with sharp break and good depth.
Not bad for a 20-year-old kid picked in the 18th-round pick two years ago with limited pitching experience.
"He’s still learning it," said Chuck Crim, the pitching coach for low Class A Great Lakes. "We drafted him as a shortstop out of high school so he’s still learning how to pitch. He had one extended spring training last year where he was learning how to pitch, and he’s made great strides."
One of the major changes Webster has made has been smoothing out his mechanics. Webster has a relatively slow, deliberate delivery, which can get him in trouble out of the stretch with runners on base but also creates some deception with his arm speed. He walked 17 batters in 18 innings of relief in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after he signed in 2008, but he showed better control last year in the Arizona League, where in 47 2/3 innings he walked just 14 batters, or 2.6 per nine innings. He followed that up with three impressive starts for Rookie-level Ogden in the Pioneer League, including one of the best outings that Crim said he saw all year in 2009.
"He was a lot different when we first got him," Crim said. "He was kind of a thrower, not really using his lower half to throw the ball—we’re still working with him on that—but he’s just got a good quick arm and he's a very projectable kid. He rides his power out."
Webster also showed off his athleticism with no outs and a runner on second in the first inning, fielding a bunt down the third base line and firing to third to get the runner on a tag play.
"He’s made great strides," Crim said. "We worked real hard with him in instructional league last year. Granted, aptitude has to be a key factor in these kids, and we try to draft kids who do have good makeup, good aptitude. If they don’t have good aptitude it means they’re not willing to learn from the experts. Webby’s got great aptitude and wants to learn."
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