6/11/2013 7:45 P.M. ET
Dodgers prospects making impact; more on the way
By Austin Laymance / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers added to their farm system with 40 selections last week in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, but many of the club's top prospects are already making an impact in the Major Leagues.
Yasiel Puig, the organization's No. 1 prospect, made his highly anticipated debut last Monday and has already shown off each of the five tools that convinced the Dodgers to sign the outfielder to a seven-year, $42 million contract last June.
Puig displayed his cannon of an arm with a pair of outfield assists, and flexed his muscle with four home runs in his first week in the Majors. The Cuban defector has also shown blazing speed on the bases and a flair for the dramatic.
"We're definitely watching something special with him," said rookie right-hander Stephen Fife, who earned a role in the Dodgers' rotation this month with two of the best outings of his young career.
Outfielder Scott Van Slyke, who began the season with Triple-A Albuquerque, has provided the Dodgers with some much-needed power since his promotion on May 10. So too has rookie catcher Tim Federowicz, the club's No. 9 prospect.
From June 1-9, the only home runs hit by the Dodgers came courtesy of Puig (four), Van Slyke (two), and Federowicz (one). That's the longest run for Dodger rookies since 2007.
Paco Rodriguez, picked in the second round of last year's Draft, has carved a niche in the bullpen as a left-hander who can get out hitters from both sides of the plate. Rodriguez is among the club leaders in appearances and has earned the trust of manager Don Mattingly, who hasn't hesitated to use the rookie in high-leverage situations.
"We just try to help out and show that we can hang around," said Rodriguez, the first player from the 2012 Draft to reach the Majors. "We're setting a standard for all the young guys."
So which prospects will be the next to make an impact for the Dodgers?
Zach Lee has shown improvement this year at Double-A Chattanooga, with a 5-3 record and a 2.62 ERA in 13 games, including 12 starts. The club's No. 2 prospect, Lee has 57 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 65 1/3 innings.
Lee, 21, was the Dodgers' first round pick (28th overall) in the 2010 Draft and has been rising quickly through the system ever since. The right-hander has four pitches that he can throw for strikes and has good movement on a fastball that sits at 92-93 mph. Still, Lee is not expected to arrive in the Majors until next season.
"I think it's just a matter of him staying as consistent as possible. He has the makeup to perform under pressure," said Rodriguez, a teammate of Lee's in Double-A last summer. "He's going to work his butt off to get up here."
Outfielder Joc Pederson is also in Double A, where he's still refining his game. Pederson's father, Stu, was an outfielder with the Dodgers in 1985. The club drafted his older brother, Tyger, as an infielder in the 33rd round this year.
While Pederson is still developing, the 21-year-old made an impression on Mattingly during Spring Training this year, with a natural swing that reminds the manager of Yankees star Robinson Cano and Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez.
"I like his swing: it's smooth and it stays in the strike zone," Mattingly said. "He's got great baseball instincts. I like his makeup, the whole thing."
But there's more to like about Pederson, the club's No. 3 prospect, than just his bat and his baseball bloodlines.
"He gets good jumps in the outfield," Mattingly said. "Our guys down [in Chattanooga] think he probably tracks the ball better than anybody we've got."
Of course, Pederson still has a few hurdles to cross before he's ready for the Majors.
"He's struggled a little bit with lefties, and those are areas he needs to continue to get better at down there," Mattingly said. "His swing is good, but he's still chasing and gets a little wound up and a little fast. You see the swing and the baseline for what it could be, but you see the other stuff too that just comes with games and seeing more pitches and different styles. He's just going to keep getting better."
The Dodgers' No. 5 and No. 6 prospects, left-handers Chris Reed and Onelki Garcia, are also in Chattanooga.
Reed was a college reliever, but the Dodgers fancied him as a starter when they drafted him with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2011 Draft. The lanky hurler has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a nasty slider that serves as his out pitch. Reed is still being groomed, though, so he likely won't be in the big leagues for another year.
As for Garcia, he's struggled with command in the Minors, but is only in his second professional season in America since defecting from Cuba and being drafted in the third round of last year's Draft. Garcia still has a ways to go, but the Dodgers are intrigued by his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame.
Chris Withrow, the club's No. 10 prospect, has done well since moving to the bullpen in Triple-A. He's a power pitcher who can reach 100 mph with his fastball. Withrow is on the 40-man roster and could help the Dodgers as a reliever this year.
"I think it's better for him, because he gets to go and throw as hard as he can," said Federowicz, who caught Withrow with the Isotopes this season. "He's overpowering guys with his fastball and using his slider and curveball, with a decent changeup. When you have that mix with a late-inning guy, it's good to have. He's impressive."
With a crew of impressive rookies and some talented prospects in the Minors, the future is looking brighter for the Dodgers.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.