Knapp gives notes on Dodgers' young arms
LOS ANGELES -- As if consensus top prospect Corey Seager isn't proof enough, the excellence of the Dodgers' farm system is further illustrated by the treasure trove of young pitchers who will report to Major League Spring Training this week.
Of the 31 pitchers in the Major League clubhouse (excluding the injured Brandon McCarthy and Frankie Montas), eight have never thrown a Major League pitch. Zach Lee has pitched once in the big leagues.
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Julio Urias is the marquee name and Jose De Leon has earned plenty of acclaim, but there's quality throughout the pipeline, with the organization's Draft focus always overwhelmingly on arms.
"I can't be more excited, and not just with the pitchers in Major League camp, but the state of our Minor League pitching as well," said organization pitching coordinator Rick Knapp. "It's an exciting time to be me."
Knapp has been involved in the progress of each. Here's how he sizes them up:
Urias: "He got a wake-up call struggling at Triple-A last year and learned he has to pitch on the plate more. He's always been ahead of the curve. Now, if we have any concern, it's to build up the innings cautiously. It's a balancing act. I was [Major League pitching coach] with Rick Porcello when he was with the Tigers at age 20. It might mean five-inning starts. We will manage Julio accordingly."
De Leon: "It seems he's come out of nowhere because he made a big change in his delivery, not throwing across his body, and he lost a lot of weight. Now he's on a mission. He has the makeup, intensity, competitiveness and he's figuring out the strike zone. Nothing he does will surprise me."
Lee: "His command has improved immensely. He uses his cutter on both sides of the plate. I think he's on the cusp of a breakthrough. He's a reliable option right now, and I think he will pitch big innings for us."
Chris Anderson: "I worked with him during the Arizona Fall League and I believe he's going to shine. The fact that he got beat up in Triple-A opened his mind. He understands he's not a finished product, he's back to using his changeup, and I really feel he's back to his best."
Jharel Cotton: "He reminds a lot of people of Flash Gordon. He's not physical, but he's athletic. He can be valuable in the Major Leagues in a lot of roles. He can do a lot of things the way Carlos Frias can."
Ross Stripling: "He was on the verge of doing something when he got hurt two years ago. He's worked hard and he's excited that he has no pain. Stripling is a reminder that with the depth we have, we don't need to rush anybody."
Chase De Jong: "He came to us from Toronto and he was at Rancho Cucamonga last year when Zach Lee was there. Zach helped him with his mechanics and he's not throwing across his body, he's on a straighter line. He has a four-pitch mix and innings projectability."
Caleb Dirks: "He has high velocity and hides the ball well. The secondary pitch is a sharp slider that acts more like a hard curveball. He's a good competitor that has finishing makeup."
Jacob Rhame: "He used to have the worst arm action I've ever seen, but he cleaned it up in instructional league, and his high velocity is more consistent. It's a double-plus fastball. He needs to command the slider better."