Dodgers growing stellar crop of arms on farm
MLB Pipeline checks in from Spring Training camp, unveils team's Top 20 Prospects
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers' scouting and development philosophy has been seemingly direct over the past several years: You can never have enough power arms.
While that might be an oversimplification, it is true the Dodgers have drafted a pitcher -- typically one with plus arm strength -- with their first selection in 10 out of the previous 11 Drafts. It started with Chad Billingsley back in 2003. Clayton Kershaw followed in 2006, and Zach Lee -- currently No. 4 on the Dodgers' Top 20 Prospects list -- was added in 2010.
Pitching is still the name of the game, with 13 of that top 20 coming in the form of young arms. There is some definite depth, in terms of hard-throwing relievers, with the Dodgers augmenting their pitching Drafts with international signings, as well.
"I think we do have some power arms," Dodgers vice president of player development De Jon Watson said. "I think our strength is still our pitching, with Zach Lee being the starter there. You have Matt Magill, who got to the big leagues, came back down [to the Minors], made some adjustments.
"When you get to the bullpen arms, we don't know how our big league club will break camp. There's Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez, if they're there or if they come back to us, it's really strong."
Yimi Garcia is No. 16 on the Top 20 list, and Jarret Martin, another lefty who didn't make the list, impressed in big league camp.
Those pitchers are all at the upper levels. Coming up behind that group is young southpaw Julio Urias (No. 3), as well as 2013 first and second rounders Chris Anderson and Tom Windle.
The one year the Dodgers didn't take a pitcher first was 2012, and that was when they selected Corey Seager, currently their No. 1 prospect. No. 2 is Joc Pederson, while people want to see what prospects like Scott Schelber (No. 15) will do for an encore after a big California League season a year ago.
"It'll be an interesting year," Watson said. "If [the position players] can get over the hump, I think the perception of where we are from that standpoint will change drastically."
Even if it does, the pitching bread and butter isn't likely to change. Whether it's funneling arms up to Los Angeles or using them to trade for important pieces, those power arms will continue to have tremendous value for the organization.
"It's kind of the way it's shaken out," Watson said. "If you look at the guys we moved -- Allen Webster, Ethan Martin -- those guys were moved for players that came to help our Major League club. From a development standpoint, we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, as far as getting them prepared and making them viable for [general manager] Ned Colletti and the Major League staff to use how they see fit to make us competitive at the Major League level."
Three questions with Chris Anderson
Pitcher Chris Anderson was the Dodgers' first-round pick, taken No. 18 overall, in 2013.
MLBPipeline.com: This is your first Spring Training. Is it what you expected? Any surprises so far?
Anderson: I have a lot of people close to me who have been in the game. They gave me pretty good insight as to what it was going to be like. It hasn't been too different from what I thought it was going to be. Really not a whole lot of surprises, just a lot of guys trying to get better and make clubs.
MLBPipeline.com: What did the brief time last summer, getting out and getting your professional feet wet, do in terms of giving you a sense of what you needed to do during the offseason to be ready for your first full year?
Anderson: I think it was big to get out and play as soon as I could. The more experience you get, I think, the better you are. It just prepares you for what's to come. I think last year gave me a little feel about what was going to happen this year. I think it did me well.
MLBPipeline.com: Last year, during your junior season [at Jacksonville], how much did you pay attention to all of the Draft stuff?
Anderson: I don't think anybody puts it completely out of their mind. It's really hard to do with the positions most of these guys were in, myself included. I thought I did a pretty good job of getting my goals straight. My goal was to help my team win every single day I was out there. If I were to do that, then the Draft would take care of itself.
Camp standout: Pedro Baez
The Dodgers originally signed Pedro Baez back in 2007, as a third baseman with a big arm and a lot of raw power. The bat never came around, and Baez was stuck at Double-A Chattanooga.
After the 2012 season, the Dodgers decided to try Baez's arm strength on the mound. They'd had some success with conversions, after all, with Kenley Jansen going from catcher to closer -- making it to the big leagues surprisingly quickly after making the switch.
It looks like Baez might be joining Jansen on the express. He reached Chattanooga in his first season of pitching a year ago, showing a fastball that hits the mid 90s easily, a rapidly improving slider and changeup. Baez was added to the 40-man roster, and while his time in big league camp was brief, he definitely opened some eyes and didn't seem out of place.
"He had a little buzz when he came back down," said Watson of Baez, who tossed two scoreless innings in his two Cactus League appearances. "It was pretty interesting. They were talking about him and how well he showed in Major League camp."
Breakout candidate: Adam Law
Adam Law was a freshman in college in 2009. He didn't play baseball again until 2012, finishing his college career in '13 before getting drafted in the 12th round by the Dodgers.
Law's disappearance from the game wasn't injury related; it was planned. A student at BYU and a Mormon, he was on his two-year mission in Zimbabwe. After scuffling a bit in 2012 upon his return, Law had a terrific 2013 season and then continued to rake during his pro debut.
"We started him in the Arizona League, then moved him to Ogden [in the Pioneer League]," said Watson about Law, who hit .343 with 40 steals in 58 games a summer ago. "We probably could've moved him to A ball, but that team was contending for the playoffs and we wanted him to be on a club that was fighting for a playoff spot, so he understands the importance of what we're trying to do here."
The son of former big leaguer Vance Law, it appears Adam Law is following in his father's footsteps, in terms of being able to play multiple positions. The younger Law played second, third and all three outfield positions during his pro debut. Because of his time away from the game, he is 24, so he'll have to get a move on. But the Dodgers feel Law is going to do just that in 2014.
"He could be a fast mover," Watson said. "He's a plus runner, he can defend -- whether it's in the infield or outfield. He's a line-drive, gap guy. He has a very high baseball IQ that we're excited about."