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Dodgers Prospect Primer: Urias acing tests

Teenage southpaw cruising along 'on ideal track' in development
March 29, 2015

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2015 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.

Shining star: Julio Urias, LHP

The more action Urias sees, the better he looks. The southpaw has aced every test he's faced so far, including posting a 2.36 ERA in the Class A Advanced California League over 87 2/3 innings -- the bulk of which came before his 18th birthday -- and he worked out in big league camp for a second consecutive Spring Training.

Since turning pro in 2013, Urias has amassed 176 strikeouts to only 53 walks in 142 innings.

"For me, he's on an ideal track in terms of development on the mound, so I'd like to see him continue to sharpen his ability to contribute as a teammate," said Los Angeles director of player development Gabe Kapler. "He has the best makeup among guys I've seen in recent memory. He lights up a room. He's incredibly charismatic, and his character is of the highest level.

"The work he has to do is the work any mature human being has to do. He's beyond mature. His maturity is beyond any reasonable expectations of where an 18-year-old should be."

Major-League ready: Corey Seager, SS

Sure, outfielder Joc Pederson figures to spend much more of the season in the big leagues than the youngest of the three pro-ball playing Seager brothers, and in fact, the shortstop isn't a lock to crack the roster in 2015 at all. But Seager, who turns 21 on April 27, went 4-for-14 (.286) with two doubles over 13 Cactus League games before being sent to Minor League camp, and the pace of his growth the past two seasons suggests he'll be capable of competing in the Majors sooner than later. After a July jump to Double-A last year, he batted .345.

Although questions pop up about his ability to stay at shortstop (he's 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds), the Dodgers have not voiced any such doubts.

"He is a tremendous athlete," Kapler said. "He has sensational hands and a perfectly low-stressed motor. His brain works very well for the shortstop position."

In mid-March, Don Mattingly told ESPN he's been impressed with Seager's defense.

"Everything I ever read about him, someone always mentions that he'll probably have to move to third. I'm wondering where that comes from," the manager said. "I'm like, 'Is anybody watching this kid play short?' Because I'm watching him play short and I'm thinking, 'It looks like he can play short to me,' but what do I know?"

Breakout prospect: Scott Schebler, OF

In a system that didn't also feature Pederson, Seager and Urias, Schebler would likely have already garnered a lot more attention. The 24-year-old outfielder swatted 28 home runs to lead the Double-A Southern League last season, proving the 27 he hit for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga were no California League-induced fluke.

"I consider him to be as exciting a player as exists in Minor League Baseball," Kapler said.

Schebler's upside goes beyond his power stroke too. His 14 triples in 2014 also led the league and he added 23 doubles.

"What Scheb does is make incredible turns," said Kapler. "He turns doubles into triples and does a great job using the inside part of the base and hitting all of the right angles."

Full-season debutant: Alex Verdugo, OF

Verdugo, a 2014 second-rounder out of high school, has the bat to handle the Class A Midwest League, even before he turns 19 on May 18. While many teams liked the Arizona native better as a pitcher, former Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting Logan White (who left the team for the Padres in late October) was happy to oblige Verdugo's wishes and give him a chance as an everyday player.

He batted .351 with an .421 on-base percentage over his first 54 pro games and continued to impress the Dodgers during September instructs.

"I believe you'll see him in the Midwest League right out the shoot," White said that month. "He can drive the ball the other way or hit the ball up the middle. In high school, he might have seen a kid throwing 90, maybe, but it was more likely 85 or so. You go to Rookie ball, guys run it up to 93 or 94. I'm impressed he made the adjustment. As much as I like his bat, I didn't know if he was going to hit .220 or .320."

Prospect Primer

At the crossroads: Zach Lee, RHP

Lee was a 2010 first-round pick out of a Texas high school, and he wowed during his debut season of 2011. After going 6-6 with a 4.39 ERA between the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels the next year, he rebounded by putting up a 3.22 ERA over 142 2/3 Double-A innings in 2013.

Last year, though, Lee was 7-13 with a 5.38 ERA in the Pacific Coast League. While MLB.com's Dodgers prospect rankings suggest he needs to "clean up his mechanics," for a solid 2015, reports from Arizona have him looking sharp during Spring Training.

"With Zach Lee, we've watched him pretty consistently this spring. His cutter looks phenomenal. His fastball is coming off beautifully. He has that smooth delivery that lulls hitters to sleep," Kapler said. "We're very excited about the year he's going to have."

More to keep an eye on: Second baseman Darnell Sweeney had something of a breakout year in 2014 and continued his tear in the Arizona Fall League and the Cactus League. ... Right-hander Grant Holmes, the Dodgers' first-round pick from last year's Draft, has hit 100 mph with his fastball and also boasts a breaking ball that's advanced for his age. He should give Midwest League hitters some headaches before long. ... Teenage catcher Julian Leon showed better strike-zone knowledge in 2014 than he did his first pro season and mashed. This year, the Dodgers will be looking for his defensive skills to continue to catch up to his bat and his laser arm. ... Catcher Austin Barnes and righty Joe Wieland were big gets in the offseason trades involving Dee Gordon and Matt Kemp, and they should be considerable factors for the Dodgers' new Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. ... First baseman Justin Chigbogu has hit 40 home runs over 183 Minor League games since 2012, but he's also struck out 280 times. If this is the year he learns to battle back from 0-2 counts, he's going to turn an awful lot of heads.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com.