|Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig is raw, but could have a bright future. (USATSI)|
Prior to the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
The Dodgers have developed young talent under vice president of baseball operations Logan White. Strong drafts contributed heavily to the team's core in the mid- to late-2000s, with Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Russell Martin and Clayton Kershaw among the players drafted earlier that decade. The team has continued to bring in talent in the later years of the decade, but saw many of their prospects dealt away for more immediate help. That's what happened last season after the team's mega-deal with the Red Sox. Although that has left the team without many top-100 players, there are some promising youngsters in the system.
2013 Impact Player
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
There's always debate as to whether players coming overseas should be considered for prospect lists. Often, they are much older than the typical prospect. At age 26, Ryu fits in that category. Between his contract and his posting fee, the Dodgers spent about $60 million on Ryu, so they do have expectations. Ryu has a mix of four pitches, but only his change-up rates as above-average. He also has a large body-type, often drawing comparisons to David Wells. Ryu has shown strong skills in Korea, but he'll have to prove that his stuff is good enough to fool U.S. hitters this season.
OF Yasiel Puig
The Dodgers also paid a hefty fee for 22-year-old Cuban outfielder Puig, signing him to a seven-year, $42 million deal in June. Although many analysts were puzzled by the size of the deal, there's plenty of promise about Puig's bat. There was initially some concern about Puig's conditioning, but ESPN's Keith Law recently noted that Puig has lost a little weight since then. He remains incredibly raw but is a player Dodgers' fans will undoubtedly keep an eye on over the next couple of seasons.
IF Corey Seager
The 18th pick in last season's draft, Seager showed a lot of promise in his first taste of professional baseball. In 202 plate appearances with the Dodgers' Rookie league club, Seager hit .309/.383/.520. Entering his age-19 season, Seager is far from reaching the majors. There's some concern whether he can stick at short, with some analysts thinking he'll eventually end up at third. Like Puig, the talent is there, but it will take time before Seager is ready to contribute.
RHP Zach Lee
The 21-year-old Lee is a great athlete, which is why scouts love him despite average stats. The Dodgers actually convinced Lee to walk away from an offer to play both baseball and football (he was a quarterback) at LSU. Lee made it to Double-A last year but had some struggles with his control. He managed to work things out at the end of the season and will likely repeat the level in 2013. Given his status as one of the better athletes, there's always going to be some hope that he'll figure things out and start pitching like a top-of-the-line prospect. His ceiling hinges on whether he can realize that potential.
Though the system doesn't rate that strong entering the season, there is significant young talent. Those players may not rate highly on many prospect lists, but they should move up as they become more familiar with pro ball. It's not a bad system, just a young one. Considering the Dodgers' new-found ability to bolster the major-league club with their payroll, there's no need to rush any of the youngsters just yet.