VERO BEACH, Fla.—Dodgers lefthanders Clayton Kershaw and Scott Elbert are just about three years apart age-wise, two years apart draft-wise and four levels apart experience-wise . . . but not very far apart at all stuff-wise.
Both high school drafts—Elbert the 17th overall in 2004 and Kershaw the seventh pick in the first round last June—it doesn't seem like Kershaw has all that much catching up to do.
Elbert will likely repeat at Double-A Jacksonville this season, where he struggled with command issues at times, while Kershaw is slated to begin his first full season after getting just 37 pro innings under his belt in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season.
We talked to a veteran National League scout, who graciously compared the two lefthanders and talked about the future ceiling of each:
"Two different animals, but they're both power arm guys with electric stuff. They both repeat well and have weapons in terms of secondary stuff—breaking balls are both really good. Kershaw right now, his delivery is a little more under control and seems to repeat a little bit better. But I think Elbert's not far from being there—he has more innings and more experience. At the same time, we're talking about Elbert, who's an elite athlete, a running back. So he's that bull in a china shop that just keeps coming and coming at you—no fear . . . about anything.
"Kershaw for me is more cerebral in his approach and even with the power stuff he can work both sides of the plate, command the fastball and locate.
"But the stuff--if you were to take fastball against fastball, they're probably very close. Last time I saw Kershaw he was 93-95 (mph), touched 97. Elbert the other day was 92-95 and kind of pitched consistently at 93-94 so we're not talking about a large margin of difference here as far as stuff goes.
"In terms of the breaking ball, Kershaw is more of a slurve and Elbert is more of a power downer. They're changeups are close together too—but I think they're really both in the learning stages. They're both so young and they have a feel for it, but with having so much success with two pitches over each of their brief careers, I think they're still coming with the changeup.
"I can't say one is ahead of the other—they're right in that same ballpark for me now. It's impressive for a guy like Kershaw to be where he is, because he's right out of the draft.
"Sometimes Elbert can almost be too aggressive. I think he needs to stay over the rubber more—he rushes with his lower half at times and doesn't give his arm a chance to catch up. When he does that, his fastball eats way too much (hitters make contact at a high rate).
"Both these guys have a chance to pitch in the front end of a big league rotation—and for as far ahead Elbert might be development wise with what level he's at, there really isn't much separation at all between them if we're talking about pure stuff.
"Kershaw just needs more game experience, and I think with better body control he'll have a chance to move just as quickly . . . maybe quicker.”