Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars. Each week, a handful of FanSided’s MLB sites send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as we cover the teams in a regular, recurring cycle.
In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Los Angeles Dodgers site Lasorda’s Lair:
Who do you think has the highest ceiling among Dodgers batting prospects between Brian Cavazos-Galvez, Jonathan Garcia, Alfredo Silverio, Jake Lemmerman, Joc Pederson, O’Koyea Dickson, and James Baldwin? Is there someone you think I left out, and does any of this group project as an MLB regular?
Nathaniel says: I’ll go through these guys one by one, to start.
Cavazos-Galvez had 12 walks in 2011, and that’s a huge problem. His natural hitting ability is good, but he’s doesn’t bring much defensive value, and left fielders with sub-.300 OBPs aren’t particularly useful, even if they can hit .260 with some pop. His problems with the strike zone are likely to get more and more exposed as he moves up, and I don’t see him as more than a bench player.
Garcia is a guy I was really high on entering the season, but he then went out and put up a .290 OBP in the Midwest League. Still, he was 19 for the whole season, which gives him an edge over Cavazos-Galvez, Silverio, and their ilk—he’s got plenty of time to learn plate discipline. He’s also got excellent raw power.
Silverio strikes me as a better version of Cavazos-Galvez—he walks a little more, and he hits for more power. Still, he was a 24-year-old left fielder in Double-A who struck out three times as often as he walked. I’d say he’d make for a nice platoon guy, but he didn’t show much of a platoon split this year, so I’m not sure where he fits on a roster other than pinch-hitting and occasionally spot-starting against pitchers who pound the zone.
I like Lemmerman’s bat at shortstop, but he becomes considerably less interesting if you move him to a more demanding offensive position, and most scouts seem to think he’s not going to be able to handle short in the major leagues. He should make for a nice switch-hitting utility guy, though, and that’s nothing to scoff at in the NL, when defensive replacements, matchups, and overall roster depth matter a lot.
Pederson is a really intriguing player, because he actually knows how to take ball four. He also poses much more of a threat on the bases than the other outfielders and even Lemmerman. At just 19, those are great signs—the only thing to be wary of is that Ogden and the Pioneer League are very hitter-friendly and can distort numbers.
That applies to Dickson much more than Pederson, as Dickson didn’t do that much beyond hitting the ball over the fence, which could be park-induced. Yes, he hit .333, but he also struck out nearly once a game, and friendly environments can mask those problems. At age 21 and with mediocre speed and average plate discipline, Dickson doesn’t project nearly as well as Pederson.
As for Baldwin, anyone who strikes out 74 times in 50 games in Rookie ball doesn’t project anywhere near the big leagues. He’s raw, so perhaps he can tighten that up, but for every player who fixes that big of a strikeout issue, there are tons of Cody Johnsons who don’t.
So I’d say Pederson projects as a regular, and it’s not too hard to see Garcia getting there as well. If Lemmerman defies the odds and stays at short or at least second base, he could end up as a starter too.
I do think there are some other batters that merit a mention here, and leading the pack is Alex Castellanos, who the Dodgers acquired from St. Louis at midseason. He’s another corner outfielder with an iffy K/BB ratio, but he hit .320/.386/.573 in Double-A as a 24-year-old this season, and I think he could turn into a quality MLB right fielder. I’d say he’s a better prospect than any of the aforementioned group expect for Pederson.
There also has to be some discussion of Kyle Russell. The Dodgers sure seem to stock up on high-strikeout outfield prospects, and Russell is perhaps the most notorious of them all with regards to his whiffing. Still, he also has the most power in the system, and he made some progress in cutting his strikeouts this year. Russell’s also an athletic defender who plays a plus right field, and he takes his share of walks. He’s the sort of guy who could utterly collapse in the big leagues, but he might end up making just enough contact to turn into a starter.
Angelo Songco is another outfielder with bigtime power and a K/BB rate that’s nothing to write home about. We’ll see how he does outside of the Cal League next year, but if he can transition well to Double-A, he would project as a big leaguer of some kind.
Finally, catcher Gorman Erickson has a lot of work to do defensively, but he should certainly be able to hit better than many MLB catchers, so he has a future if he can stay behind the plate.
Wally says: Of the players Nathaniel touched on in his response, I am in lock-step agreement with him on most of them.
On Garcia, however, I am not as optimistic about his chances, and that stems from the fact that I’m not going to dismiss his significant struggles in A-ball because he was young for the league. His bat speed helped him overcome his plate discipline issues in the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues the last 2 years, but it wasn’t enough to get the best of Midwest League pitching. If/when he gets to AA, that asset is not going to be enough to carry his offensive numbers without some major adjustments.
The other problem I have with Garcia is that, coming into 2011, he had clearly outperformed what was expected of him, and I think that had a lot of people dreaming that he could become something greater that what he realistically can be. I look at this past year in the Midwest League as more of a “market correction” with regard to his prospect status.
As is the case with most young, raw and talented players, making progress in the plate discipline arena is going to be the key, but Garcia has not shown that progress to me. So far in his career he’s put up a 229-to-63 SO-to-BB rate in 232 games played. That’s a problem. This year, outside of August (when he drew 13 BB in 30 G) there was no absolutely no indication that he was making inroads in that regard, and that progress is all relative. It was an improvement considering he didn’t walk more than 6 times in any other month, but he hit just 0.198/.304/.292 as he was accumulating those extra free passes and he still struck out 27 times. If he was focusing on being more selective at the plate during that span, it may have taken away something from his aggressiveness and overall approach at the plate and I’m skeptical he will ever be able to find that balance.
On top of his plate discipline problem, looking at his monthly splits, he never had a real good stretch to hang his hat on. His best BA in any month was 0.274 in April. In that same month he also had his best OBP, with an 0.326 mark. I generally like to see guys get better as the season wears on as it shows they are adapting and adjusting to their competition. Instead, Garcia started off decently then struggled a great deal in May. He rebounded to have a decent June and then completely wilted the rest of the season.
He’s still just 19, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that things click and he figures it out. He might, but I’m not optimistic. His bat speed will not be able to mask his other problems as he continues to face more advanced pitching.
To me, Joc Pederson is the player to watch for and the one that has a chance to become a solid major league regular. In his first full-season as a pro, he tore apart the Pioneer League, hitting 0.353/.429/.568 with 20 2B, 11 HR, and 24 SB in 68 G. As Nathaniel mentioned, the league is one of the more offense-inflating out there, but still, his performance was significantly better than that of a guy like Garcia, who hit 0.305/.365/.527 at the level in 2010. Garcia was 18 when he did that, while Pederson was 19 this year and still young for the level himself.
But what separates Joc from his fellow Dodger prospects is that he is already showing signs that he has an idea of what he’s doing at the plate in terms of approach and discipline. These things are semi-rare traits in teenage prospects, and we should take note of them. Pederson doesn’t have a “standout” tool, but he could become solid-average to slightly above average across the board in all of them. Unlike his peers, he does not appear to have an aspect of his game that needs a to be addressed with a potentially massive overhaul. In Joc’s case, he merely needs to refine his skills, and that gives him a much better chance to be an legitimate asset in the major leagues down the road.
Pederson’s 16-game stint in the Midwest League to start the season was definitely a case of being overzealous on the part of the Dodgers. Prior to 2011, he had just 3 games of professional experience in the Arizona League, so it’s not surprising that he hit just 0.160/.288/.160 in 60 PA with the Great Lakes Loons. He clearly wasn’t ready for that time of jump, but even still he managed 7 walks and only struck out 9 times.
Joc is also helped by the fact that he has major league bloodlines, as his father had a 12-year minor league career and a brief 8 game run with the Dodgers in 1985. Stu Pederson, like Joc, was a left-handed outfielder, and both share similarities in their builds as well. The elder Pederson was 6’0″, 185 and Joc is listed at 6’1″, 185.
I’m so pro-Joc Pederson I may have to go out and get some buttons made…
For more on the Dodgers, check out Lasorda’s Lair.
Topics: Alex Castellanos, Alfredo Silverio, Angelo Songco, Brian Cavazos-Galvez, Gorman Erickson, Jake Lemmerman, James Baldwin, Joc Pederson, Jonathan Garcia, Kyle Russell, Los Angeles Dodgers, O'Koyea Dickson