Prospect Watch: Pederson thriving, but held back by L.A. outfield

Wednesday May 7th, 2014

Joc Pederson would likely be promoted on any other team, but the Dodgers' outfield is plenty crowded.
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With the Super Two deadline fast approaching, we're likely to see a handful of prospects called up sometime in the not-too-distant future. Some prospects, however, have other hurdles to clear, like the most logjammed outfield in the majors, for one.

The Dodgers' Joc Pederson would potentially be one of the first players called up if he were in most any other organization. The 22-year-old is tearing up the Pacific Coast League, hitting .373/.479/.619 with seven homers and 16 RBI in 142 plate appearances at Triple-A Albuquerque, impressive even by the hitter-friendly standards of the PCL. Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the No. 50 prospect in baseball heading into the season, and he hasn't done anything unbefitting of such praise.

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Unfortunately for Pederson and his prospective owners, the Dodgers aren't going to promote him just so he can sit in a fancier dugout and get dressed in a swankier clubhouse than he gets to see in the minors. The Dodgers already have a playing-time crunch in their outfield with Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. The chances of them adding Pederson to that mix without shedding at least one of the four already there appear slim. What's more, short of an injury, it's hard to see any of those guys departing Los Angeles this season. The Dodgers are obviously in no rush to move Puig or Kemp, and Crawford and Ethier have prohibitively expensive contracts. They could conceivably trade Ethier if they ate a sizable portion of his contract, no problem for a team that spends like Wes Welker at the Kentucky Derby. Even in that scenario, though, Pederson would be the fourth outfielder at the major league level.

Pederson is universally owned in dynasty leagues. Keep an eye on his progress in the minors in redraft and standard keeper leagues, and get ready to pounce on him should someone in Los Angeles go down with an injury. Without that, he'll likely spend most of, if not the whole, season at Albuquerque.

Robbie Ray impressed in his major-league season debut on May 6, allowing one run on five hits.
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Robbie Ray made his major league debut on Tuesday night, allowing one run on five hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings against the Astros, while striking out five. According to Pitch F/X, the 20-year-old's four-seam fastball sat in the 90-91-mph range. He uses a two-seamer, cutter, and sinker, as well, but the four-seamer is his primary fastball. As a lefty, it's not surprising that his top secondary pitch is a changeup. He used it frequently on Tuesday, but it was the fastball that got him most of his strikeouts. You can see them all here, including his second strikeout of Chris Carter, which did come on the change.

The Tigers acquired Ray in the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Nationals. He racked up gaudy strikeout totals all the way through Double-A, but that did not quite translate to his short time at Triple-A Toledo before his promotion. While he put up a 1.53 ERA, 2.94 FIP and 1.13 WHIP in 29 1/3 innings, he fanned just 21 batters. The changeup is good, not great, and both of his breaking balls -- he'll throw a slider and a curve -- could use some work. Given that his strikeout ceiling is low and he has thrown just 87 1/3 innings above High-A ball before getting the call from the Tigers, he's not a must-add prospect. I'd consider him in deeper mixed leagues, think 16 teams and AL-only formats.

The Rockies have been among the brightest surprises in all of baseball this season, riding a dominant offense to a 21-14 record, just one game behind the Giants in the NL West. Their +48 run differential through Tuesday is the best in the majors, but that owes little, if anything at all, to their pitching. The Rockies have scored a league-leading 206 runs, with Troy Tulowitzki putting up Barry Bonds numbers. They've also allowed 158 runs, fifth-most in the league ahead of just the Diamondbacks, Astros, White Sox and Rangers. They have a team ERA and FIP of 4.15 and 4.27 respectively, both of which rank in the bottom-third. Of their starting pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings, only Jordan Lyles has an ERA below 3.00 or a FIP below 4.00. Clearly, if they are going to hang with the Giants and Dodgers, they could use some help in the rotation.

That's where Jon Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft, comes in. Gray has himself on the fast track to the majors, posting a 3.64 ERA with a 2.31 FIP, 1.08 WHIP and 32 strikeouts against four walks in 29 2/3 innings at Double-A Tulsa this year. Gray has projected as a frontline starter since his days at Oklahoma, and was in the mix to be the first pick in last year's draft before the Astros settled on Mark Appel.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Gray the No. 16 prospect in baseball heading into this season, and some prospect services had him even higher. Before you go all in on adding him, there are a few things to consider. First, the Rockies are not going to promote him before the Super Two deadline. This is a potential high earner in the future, and the Rockies will do what they can to keep those costs controlled. Second, Gray has thrown all of 67 innings as a professional, and this is the first season the 22-year-old has played above the High-A level. It will take a lot of good from him and bad from the starters currently in the Colorado rotation to get Gray to the majors with enough time to contribute to fantasy teams this year. It is not impossible, but it is improbable. Still, make sure Gray is on your radar.

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