L.A. has stars in Pederson, hurlers

Youngsters provide Dodgers with depth at lower levels

Joc Pederson totaled 22 homers and 31 steals at Double-A Chattanooga. (Ken Inness/MiLB.com)

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | November 11, 2013 5:00 AM

This offseason, MiLB.com is honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

The Dodgers' 2013 season has to be considered at least a qualified success. Anyone who followed the National League was aware of the worst-to-first story: Los Angeles was 38-43 and last in its division on July 1 before going on a 42-8 run and ulimately falling two games short of the World Series.

Less publicized is the success the Dodgers had on the lowest rungs of the Minor League ladder. The Rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers made it to the Finals, while Rookie-level Ogden boasted the Pioneer League home run leader (Jacob Scavuzzo, 14) as well as the four players with the top batting averages in the organization. This year's first- and second-round Draft picks, Chris Anderson and Tom Windle, had strong debut seasons with Class A Great Lakes.

The Dodgers hope Anderson and Windle will carry on to the franchise's tradition of outstanding starting pitchers.

"We're pitching strong," said vice president of player development De Jon Watson. "I've been here seven years and we've been pitching strong. Chris Withrow pitched his tail off and pretty much forces his way into the big leagues and then keeps pitching his tail off all the way through the playoffs."

Watson can fire off a long list of pitchers-- Onelki Garcia, Matt Magill, Jose Dominguez, Ross Stripling, Carlos Frias, Julio Urias -- who rank among the team's Top 20 Prospects and all looked like they belonged, and still other young arms won out as starters and reliever of the year.

Aside from the AZL club, the Dodgers saw Great Lakes and Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga make the playoffs, while Triple-A Albuquerque finished second in its division at 76-68 (.528).

Dodgers Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Kyle Farmer, Ogden (41 games): Farmer only caught 305 innings across 35 games, but his outstanding production and the offensive shortcomings of other backstops in the system make him a shoo-in for this spot.

The 23-year-old University of Georgia product batted .347 with 19 doubles, four homers, 36 RBIs and 89 total bases in 41 games.

"He's a conversion guy. He was a shortstop in college, but his game-calling is a lot more advanced than we thought," Watson said. "He has some work to do as far as flexibility and getting set behind the plate, on blocking, but we're pleased with where he is. And he has some leadership about him. He's getting comfortable and starting to get a good understanding of what he needs to do, how to talk to pitchers."

First baseman -- Justin Chigbogu, AZL Dodgers (11 games), Ogden (49 games): Like Farmer, Chigbogu's offensive numbers are too huge to ignore. Winner of the Joe Bauman Short-Season Home Run Award, he hit 14 long balls. (Scavuzzo also slugged 14 homers, but Chigbogu totaled eight more RBIs to win via tiebreaker.)

"He has unbelievable raw power. He can hit the ball to the opposite field, and he's been seeing the ball better and making some better adjustments to his approach," Watson said. "His defense is really improving, too. Where's he going to be in three years, there's no telling. There's no telling what he's going to do when he starts to understand how to control the strike zone."

Chigbogu ranked third in the system in homers, despite playing only 60 games.

Second baseman -- Rafael Ynoa, Chattanooga (128 games): Ynoa was a bedrock of Double-A Chattanooga's infield, committing seven errors in 535 chances in 122 games. He also had a .338 on-base percentage and smacked 30 doubles and six homers.

"Raffy is ... a steady baseball player," Watson said. "He has great hands on both offense and defense."

Honorable mention: Elian Herrera, Albuquerque (108 games), Los Angeles (four games): Herrera had similar offensive numbers and a tad more power at Triple-A, where he played 76 games at second base.

Shortstop -- Corey Seager, Great Lakes (74 games), Rancho Cucamonga (27 games): The 2012 first-round pick finished his first full season as the organization's No. 2 prospect. He hit .309 in the Midwest League before struggling in the California League at the end of the season. He also got off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 21 times through his first 15 games. Still, he had 16 homers, 72 RBIs and a .351 on-base percentage in the regular season, and Watson and Co. are not concerned by the challenges he faced adjusting to tougher pitching.

"We think his overall game is good -- he's still growing and learning. He's facing some advanced pitching in the Fall League," Watson said. "I know he's not overly excited about the strikeouts. They're teasing him with strike-to-ball breaking balls and changeups, but his approach is still more advanced than is traditionally found with a guy his age. We're very pleased overall."

Miguel Rojas hit just .233 in 130 games with Chattanooga but is worthy of mention, Watson said.

"Miguel Rojas is probably the best defensive shortstop in all of the Minor Leagues," he added. "He can play both sides of the bag. He's incredible at finding outs on the field. He's a headsy player with tremendous energy and passion that he plays with every day."

Third baseman -- Adam Law, AZL Dodgers (33 games), Ogden (25 games): Law led qualifying Dodgers players with a .343 batting average and ranked fourth in the organization with 40 stolen bases (he was caught only four times in 58 games).

"This is a kid who went on a [Mormon] mission. He played his tail off," Watson said. "This was his first time out in pro ball and he faces this type of competition and stole bases, played steady defense, hit .340 overall. He's an interesting player and he understands how to play the game."


Scott Schebler, Rancho Cucamonga, (125 games): The Dodgers named Schebler their Minor League Player of the Year, and it wasn't a surprising choice. He ranked in the top 10 in the California League in five offensive categories, including homers (second, 27 -- most in the system, including Major Leaguers) and slugging percentage (second, .581).

"He's another young kid," Watson said. "He has speed and he hits well. We're trying to finish up the overall package, and when he's really utilizing his skill set he's a very good player."

Nick Buss, Albuquerque (131 games), Los Angeles (eight games): Buss' .303 average led all full-season Minor Leaguers in the system and he collected 17 homers, 29 doubles, 11 triples and 100 RBIs. He also stole 21 bases in 23 attempts.

"The biggest thing was in Spring Training, he played in a B-game against the White Sox, and watching his approach vs. Jake Peavy," Watson said. "He had a different approach than we had seen before and it put him on a lot of maps."

Joc Pederson, Chattanooga (123 games): The 21-year-old California native finished the season as the top-ranked prospect in the system after hitting .278 with 22 homers, 24 doubles and 31 steals. Pederson also recorded 10 outfield assists.

"Yasiel [Puig] and Pederson were going gangbusters in Double-A in the first half. They were really pushing each other. I think they were in the top five in every offensive category," Watson said. "After Yasiel got called up, {Pederson] slowed down a little bit, but he bounced right back."

Utility -- Darnell Sweeney, Rancho Cucamonga (134 games): Sweeney moved from shortstop to second base when Corey Seager came up to the Cal League, and his offensive contributions to the Quakes can't be overlooked. He had 48 stolen bases (second-most in the system), scored 79 runs and drove in 77.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Zach Lee, Chattanooga (28 games): Lee was 10-10 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP that tied for third in the Southern League. Perhaps most impressively, he recorded 131 strikeouts against only 35 walks. The 28th overall pick in the 2010 Draft is coming along about as well as the organization could have expected.

"His pitch selection and the quality of his pitches kept improving throughout the year as he figured out how to use what he has," Watson said. "He was gathering information, seeing from swings what his pitches were doing. I'm proud of his growth and development, and he's still only 21. His command continues to improve and a lot of people tend to forget how young he is."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Chris Reed, Chattanooga (29 games, 25 starts):  Despite a 4-11 record, Reed was highly effective. He had a 3.86 ERA in 29 games, including 25 starts, and threw a seven-inning shutout on Aug. 19.

"Early on, he scuffled for us a little bit," Watson noted. "But he throws 95-96 [mph] and his changeup really improved. His swing-and-miss ratio with his change is phenomenal. The improvement he made on his slider really enhances his overall value, too."

Reliever -- Yimi Garcia, Chattanooga (49 games): Garcia led all Dodgers Minor Leaguers with 19 saves and recorded 85 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. He kept his WHIP below 1.00, allowing 35 hits and 14 walks.

"Yimi Garcia had a very solid year. And down in the Fall League, he's still been solid," Watson said.

Indeed, through eight AFL appearances with Glendale, the 23-year-old right-hander had a 2.79 ERA and an impressive .182 opponents' batting average.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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