Los Angeles Dodgers: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Los Angeles Dodgers: Scouting Reports




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

Sure, Manny Ramirez got the headlines for helping the Dodgers reach the playoffs in 2008—and win a postseason series for the first time in 20 years. But the real impetus was all the young talent the club had assembled over the previous few years. Los Angeles may have won just 84 games, but that was enough to take the National League West by two games over the Diamondbacks.

Young veterans such as Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin formed the heart of the team. Billingsley was the club's best starting pitcher, while Broxton took over as closer when Takashi Saito went down. Ethier and Kemp vastly outperformed fellow outfielders Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre at a fraction of the price, while Loney led the team with 90 RBIs and Martin was its lone all-star.

Rookies such as Blake DeWitt, Clayton Kershaw and Cory Wade stepped in to make valuable contributions as well. DeWitt filled a hole at third base early in the year and took over for a banged-up Jeff Kent at the end, while Kershaw held down the fourth spot in the rotation and Wade provided quality middle relief.

The farm system also offered valuable trade fodder. With owner Frank McCourt unwilling (or unable) to take on additional payroll, the Dodgers gave up more in terms of prospects in order to avoid taking on more salary.

To get Casey Blake, Los Angeles parted with Carlos Santana, whom it had converted from an outfielder into one of baseball's top catching prospects, and righthander Jon Meloan. In the three-team deal that brought Ramirez from the Red Sox, the Dodgers sent third baseman Andy LaRoche, who had been their top position prospect, and righty Bryan Morris to the Pirates. They also got Greg Maddux late in the season for a pair of minor prospects, lefty Michael Watt and righty Eduardo Perez.

Manager Joe Torre, brought in after clubhouse rifts help spell the end for Grady Little, had to manage this transition—and the pivotal addition of Ramirez. After sulking his way out of Boston (and the two option years remaining  in his contract), Ramirez spurred Los Angeles to a 19-8 finish. He hit .396 with 53 RBIs in as many regular-season games, then led the Dodgers to a Division Series upset of the Cubs.

Los Angeles' roster for the NL Championship Series against the Phillies included 10 homegrown players, including six of the 11 pitchers on the roster. The farm system could provide more reinforcements in 2009, with James McDonald the leading candidate to fill Derek Lowe's vacancy in the rotation.

With so many players reaching the majors or being traded, the Dodgers are thinner at the upper levels of the minors than they have been in recent years. They believe they're replenished their system with their last two drafts, which have included six of the top 10 prospects on this list: outfielder Andrew Lambo; righthanders Ethan Martin, Josh Lindblom, Chris Withrow and Nathan Eovaldi; and shortstop Devaris Gordon.

1.  Andrew Lambo, of   Born: Aug. 11, 1988. B-T:L-L Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190.
Drafted: HS—Newbury Park, Calif., 2007 (4th round). Signed: Chuck Crim.
Andrew LamboBackground: A preseason high school All-American in 2007, Lambo fell from a possible supplemental first-round pick to the fourth round because of makeup concerns. At Cleveland High in Reseda, Calif., he got suspended as a freshman for missing classes, then got caught smoking marijuana under the bleaches as a sophomore. Though there were no further incidents in his final two years after he transferred 35 miles north to Newbury Park (Calif.) High, scouts still thought he was immature. But Dodgers area scout Chuck Crim pushed for Lambo, and Los Angeles took him in the fourth round. He had grown up a Dodgers fan, and they signed him away from an Arizona State commitment for a slot bonus of $164,250. Lambo won the Guy Wellman Award as the Dodgers' best first-year player in 2007, when he ranked second in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in on-base percentage (.440) and third in hitting (.343). He played in the low Class A Midwest League all-star game in his first full season last year. As one of the few bright spots on a bad Great Lakes club, Lambo ranked among the MWL leaders in several categories when he was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville in late August, just two weeks after turning 20. Los Angeles made the move so he'd be eligible to play in the Arizona Fall League, but he handled the jump well, hitting safely in all eight games he played. Lambo capped his year by hitting .313 in the AFL, where he was one of the youngest players.

Strengths: Lambo has plus raw power and bat speed, with an ideal swing path and mechanics. For a big player, he has a short and direct path to the ball, and he's very consistent with his stroke. He shows mainly gap power now, but he has the big frame to provide leverage for more homers in the future. He hangs in well against lefthanders, hitting .323 against them in 2008. Though he hasn't been a pro for long, Lambo has the confidence that makes him feel he can hit any pitcher. After playing right field and first base in his pro debut, he played a solid left field last season, about on par with Andre Ethier. If he returned to first base, his main position in high school, he'd be an above-average defender. Lambo has put his off-field problems behind him and has started to grow up.

Weaknesses: Lambo's stroke is very level, and he may need to make some adjustments to add loft and produce more power in the future. Despite his textbook swing, he fanned 119 times in 2008 and will need to tighten up his strike zone. While he was a successful high school pitcher, his arm is just adequate, which prompted his move from right field to left. He's a well below-average runner, though he compensates on defense by reading balls well off the bat.

The Future: Lambo projects as a middle-of-the-order bat, someone who can hit .285-.300 with 25 or more homers in the big leagues. His AFL performance reinforced that he has advanced hitting ability and gives the Dodgers confidence that he can handle a full-time assignment to their new Double-A Chattanooga affiliate in 2009. He could make his big league debut toward the end of 2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Great Lakes (LoA)
.288
.346
.462
472
58
136
33
2
15
79
41
110
5
Jacksonville (AA)
.389
.421
.750
36
7
14
2
1
3
12
2
9
0
 
2.  James McDonald, rhp   Born: Oct. 19, 1984. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195.
 Drafted: Golden West (Calif.) JC, D/F 2002 (11th round). Signed by: Bobby Darwin.
James McDonaldBackground: McDonald's father James Sr. played college basketball at Southern California and then made the Los Angeles Rams as a tight end. James Jr. is also a cousin of former big leaguers Darnell and Donzell McDonald. He made a name for himself in last year's postseason, striking out seven Phillies in 5 1/3 scoreless innings in the NL Championship Series.

Strengths: McDonald can add and subtract velocity from all three of his pitches—fastball, curveball and changeup—and has strong command. His best pitch is his 11-to-5 curve, which ranges from 69-77 mph, and his changeup is a plus offering with sink. When he pitched in relief in the majors, his fastball jumped up to 93-96 mph. He pitches from a high arm angle, using his height to deliver the ball on a downward plane to the hitter. He also shows great composure and feel for pitching. His first postseason pitch, with the bases loaded in the third inning of Game Two of the NLCS, was a changeup to Pat Burrell for a swinging strike. He's a terrific athlete who spent 2004-05 as an outfielder when he came down with a sore arm.

Weaknesses: McDonald's fastball is very straight, and when he pitches as a starter it has fringy velocity at 87-91 mph. However, his secondary pitches help compensate for his fastball's shortcomings. His curveball can be inconsistent at times.

The Future: The Dodgers' 2009 rotation is very unsettled thanks to free agency and Chad Billingsley's broken leg. McDonald will make Los Angeles' Opening Day roster in some capacity, with a good chance of earning a job as a starter. He projects as a No. 3 starter or late-inning reliever.starter, though outside observers believe it's more likely he'll be a top setup man or closer.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jacksonville (AA)
5
3
3.19
22
22
0
0
118.2
98
12
46
113
.227
Las Vegas (AAA)
2
1
3.63
5
4
0
0
22.1
17
3
7
28
.200
Los Angeles
0
0
0.00
4
0
0
0
6.0
5
0
1
2
.227
 
3.  Ethan Martin, rhp   Born: June 6, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195.
 Drafted: HS—Toccoa, Ga., 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Lon Joyce.
Ethan MartinBackground: As a high school quarterback and star third baseman/pitcher in high school, Martin never suffered a serious injury. He won BA's 2008 High School Player of the Year award, went 15th overall in the draft (he was the first prep pitcher taken) and signed for $1.73 million. Then at the Dodgers' postdraft minicamp, he tore the meniscus in his right knee when he slipped covering first base during a fielding drill. He returned in instructional league but has yet to make his official pro debut.

Strengths: A good athlete who could have been drafted in the second round as a slugging third baseman, Martin stands out most with his arm strength. His fastball ranges from 90-96 mph, sits at 92-94 and has bat-breaking run and sink. He has the makings of a power curveball with depth, tilt and hard rotation.

Weaknesses: Due to his past as a hitter, Martin remains raw as a pitcher and missed needed development time thanks to his knee injury. He must clean up his delivery and his changeup also needs a lot of work.

The Future: Martin needs lots of innings to close the gap between his current ability and his potential as a frontline starter. He has a good chance to make his debut in low Class A and could advance quickly once things start coming together.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Injured
 
4.  Josh Lindblom, rhp   Born: June 15, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220.
 Drafted: Purdue, 2008 (2nd round). Signed by: Chet Sergo.
Josh LindblomBackground: The Dodgers liked Lindblom out of high school in 2005, but the Astros picked him in the third round just as Los Angeles was ready to take him. Lindblom turned down Houston, went to Tennessee and then transferred to Purdue, where he became a closer. He worked just 41 innings as a junior, so scouts didn't see him much, and the Dodgers felt fortunate to get Lindblom with a second-round pick and $663,000 bonus.

Strengths: Lindblom touched 96 mph as a college reliever, and he still pitched with plus velocity (89-94) as a pro starter, with plenty of heavy life on his fastball. His heater bores in on righthanders, his slider has lateral tilt and his splitter is a swing-and-miss pitch. He has a durable body, clean delivery and good mound presence.

Weaknesses: Hitters can sometimes pick up Lindblom's pitches too easily out of his high arm slot. He tends to favor his splitter over his changeup, which the Dodgers want him to use more often.

The Future: For now, the Dodgers will leave Lindblom as a starter, knowing he always can go back to relief. He finished his first pro summer in Double-A and will head back there to open 2009. He should be the first member of Los Angeles' 2008 draft class to reach the majors—perhaps sometime this year.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Great Lakes (LoA)
0
0
1.86
8
8
0
0
29
14
2
4
33
.137
Jacksonville (AA)
0
0
3.60
1
1
0
0
5
5
0
1
4
.263
 
5.  Scott Elbert, lhp  Born: Aug. 13, 1985. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 210.
 Drafted: HS—Seneca, Mo., 2004 (1st round). Signed by: Mitch Webster.
Scott ElbertBackground: A 2004 first-round pick who signed for $1.575 million, Elbert had scar tissue removed from the labrum in his shoulder in 2007. The shoulder issues also forced him to spend much of the past three seasons in Double-A, but when he jumped to the majors last August, he struck out five of the first seven hitters he faced. He spent 2008 as a reliever because the Dodgers wanted him to work his way back more slowly.

Strengths: Elbert still has a live arm, and his fastball was back up to 90-94 mph in 2008. He has a hard, two-plane curveball at 83-86 mph and runs it under the hands of righthanders. His changeup is also a plus pitch at times. He usually operates in the bottom of the strike zone.

Weaknesses: A former all-state running back, Elbert has a football mentality on the mound, resulting in a high-effort delivery and a tendency for his front side to fly open when he rushes. Missing most of 2007 didn't help his mechanics, and there's some thought he may not be able to go back to starting because he can't repeat his delivery. He pitches away from contact, leading to erratic control and command.

The Future: If Elbert makes the Dodgers out of spring training, it will be as a reliever. If not, he'll probably return to starting at their new Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate. If he can't re-assert himself in that role, he'll still be valuable as a late-inning reliever, perhaps even a closer.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jacksonville (AA)
4
1
2.40
25
1
0
0
41.1
22
2
20
46
.157
Los Angeles
0
1
12.00
10
0
0
0
6
9
2
4
8
.346
 
6.  Ivan DeJesus Jr., ss   Born: May 1, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 189.
 Drafted: HS—Guaynabo, P.R., 2005 (2nd round). Signed by: Manny Estrada.
Ivan DeJesusBackground: The son of the former big league shortstop by the same name, DeJesus stood out much more with his defense than his offense before 2008. Then he led the Southern League in on-base percentage (.419) and ranked fifth in hitting (.324). He played in the Futures Game and finished the season with a 23-game hitting streak.

Strengths: DeJesus has an advanced approach, uses the whole field and shows good plate discipline. He has the ability to square up a fastball, and some power could come as he gets older, because he knows which pitches to pull. Defensively, he has solid range and arm strength to go with good actions and instincts. He's an average runner with savvy on the bases. His bilingualism, leadership skills and personality help make him a positive clubhouse presence.

Weaknesses: DeJesus has a tendency to be too flashy on defense, especially with his throws, and otherwise gets careless mentally. Some SL observers thought he looked more comfortable at second base. He won't be a big home run or stolen base threat.

The Future: For now, DeJesus will stay at shortstop, where the Dodgers have a greater organizational need. The re-signing of Rafael Furcal makes it more likely that DeJesus will open the season in Triple-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Jacksonville (AA)
.324
.419
.423
463
91
150
21
2
7
58
76
81
16
 
7.  Devaris Gordon, ss   Born: April 22, 1988. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 150.
 Drafted: Seminole (Fla.) CC, 2008 (4th round). Signed by: Scott Hennessey.
Devaris GordonBackground: A son of big league reliever Tom Gordon, Devaris originally attended Southeastern (Fla.) before transferring to junior college to become eligible for the 2008 draft. He didn't play at Seminole (Fla.) CC because of a grade mixup, so scouts couldn't see him in game action last spring. As a Royals farmhand, Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson once roomed with Tom Gordon, who tipped off Watson about his son. Los Angeles liked what it saw in workouts and signed him for $250,000 in the fourth round.

Strengths: Gordon is a pure athlete who can cover 60 yards in 6.3 seconds and dunk a basketball despite standing 5-foot-11. He sprays the ball from gap to gap and showed little rust by ranking fourth in the Rookie-level Pioneer League batting race with a .331 average in his pro debut. He has plus range to both sides, a solid arm and the actions of a big league shortstop.

Weaknesses: Despite his big league bloodlines, Gordon is raw and the time off last spring didn't help. With his size, his power potential is limited. He must learn to play more under control so he can be a more consistent defender.

The Future: Gordon will move as fast as he can mature, with his next test to come in low Class A. If all goes well, he could blossom into a leadoff hitter and plus defender.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Ogden (R)
.331
.371
.430
251
45
83
13
3
2
27
16
29
18
 
8.  Josh Bell, 3b   Born: Nov. 13, 1986. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 235.
 Drafted: HS—Santaluces, Fla., 2005 (4th round). Signed by: Manny Estrada.
Josh BellBackground: Bell lost 30 pounds before the 2008 season and was playing well at high Class A Inland Empire until a knee problem shut him down in late May. Surgery revealed a small divot in the cartilage near his kneecap which, if left untreated, could have expanded and threatened his career.

Strengths: Bell has the most raw power in the system and combines it with good leverage in his swing. He has a good approach at the plate, swinging mostly at strikes and using the whole field. He has an above-average arm at third base.

Weaknesses: His noticeably improved dedication to his career does give Bell more of a chance to stay at the hot corner, but his lack of speed and range still may force a move. He has a thick lower half—earning the nickname "Baby Kemp" for his resemblance to Matt Kemp—and could wind up at first base or an outfield corner.

The Future: Bell was scheduled to resume baseball activity in December and take part in a winter development program at Dodger Stadium in early January. He still has a high ceiling with the bat and should make his first trip to Double-A in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Inland Empire (HiA)
.273
.373
.455
187
34
51
12
2
6
21
31
56
4
 
9.  Chris Withrow, rhp   Born: April 1, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195.
 Drafted: HS—Midland, Texas, 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Calvin Jones.
Chris WithrowBackground: Withrow, whose father Mike pitched professionally and coached him in high school, signed for $1.35 million as the 20th overall pick in the 2007 draft. He has pitched just 13 innings since, however, missing most of 2008 with a tender elbow. He managed to get back on the mound for four innings in August and took part in instructional league.

Strengths: Withrow hit 98 mph with his fastball in the 2007 Gulf Coast League championship game and sat at 92-94 mph in 2008. He has a power curveball and a clean delivery. He's a solid athlete who would have been a two-way player at Baylor if he hadn't turned pro.

Weaknesses: Because he was away from pitching so long, Withrow needs to regain his command of the strike zone. While he has shown a feel for a changeup, it's not reliable yet. He hasn't had a serious injury, but his health has to be a concern.

The Future: The Dodgers remain high on Withrow but also will continue to monitor his workload closely. They may have him open 2009 in Inland Empire so he can avoid the cold climate of the Midwest League. Getting in a full, healthy year would be a step in the right direction.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Inland Empire (HiA)
0
0
4.50
4
0
0
0
4
2
0
6
1
.182
 
10.  Nathan Eovaldi, rhp   Born: Feb. 13, 1990. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195.
 Drafted: HS—Alvin, Texas, 2008 (11th round). Signed by: Chris Smith.
Nathan EovaldiBackground: After Tommy John surgery in May 2007, Eovaldi rushed back to pitch as a high school senior, returning to game action 11 months after surgery. Committed to Texas A&M, he scared clubs off with his signability. But area scout Chris Smith didn't give up, and the Dodgers signed Eovaldi in the 11th round for $250,000.

Strengths: Eovaldi projects as a classic Texas power pitcher. His fastball already had climbed back to 91-93 mph in the spring, and in his final outing of the summer, he didn't throw a pitch under 94 and hit 96 mph 20 times. He has a strong body, a decent delivery with good downhill plane and an aggressive approach on the mound.

Weaknesses: Eovaldi's hard breaking ball was inconsistent before he got hurt and he didn't try to throw it as a high school senior. The Dodgers helped him develop a tighter, sharper curveball in instructional league and think it can develop into a solid-average pitch in time. He has little experience using a changeup.

The Future: While he will need innings to polish some rough edges, Eovaldi could move fast because of his live arm. He should open 2009 in the Great Lakes rotation, looking to grind through a full pro season. The development of his changeup will help determine if Eovaldi remains a starter long-term or moves to the bullpen.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Dodgers (R)
0
1
1.13
6
0
0
1
8
6
0
3
9
.207
Ogden (R)
0
0
0.00
1
0
0
0
2.2
1
0
0
2
.125

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits: Paul Gierhart (Lambo)
Bill Mitchell (Gordon)
Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers
(McDonald, Lindblom, DeJesus, Bell, Withrow)
Juan Ocampo (Martin)