Dodgers Prospect Watch: Edwin Uceta
Name: Edwin Daniel Uceta.
Vitals: Pitcher. 6' 0", 155, age 22, bats right, throws right. From Villa Los Alamacigos, Dominican Republic.
How Acquired: Signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2016.
Highest level of play: 2019 Tulsa Drillers.
Spring Training 2020 stats: 2 G, 3 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00.
Potential date for major league debut: 2021.
Baseball America scouting report (subscription required): “Uceta is a slight-bodied righthander with an advanced feel to pitch and keeps adding velocity. His fastball ranges from 90-94 mph...with a plus mid-80s changeup that mirrors his fastball out of his hand before fading and dropping suddenly. His sweepy upper-70s breaking ball is highly effective against righties and gets nearly as many whiffs as his changeup...Uceta's plus-plus makeup and work ethic lead the Dodgers to believe he'll keep adding weight and velocity. If he does, he has a chance to became [sic] a back-of-the-rotation starter.”
Comment: Baseball America views Edwin Uceta as a “steal” for the Dodgers and I tend to agree. Once the organization was able to change his delivery to prevent his arm from finishing across his body and take a more direct path to the plate, everything changed, according to MLB Pipeline. However, before we can talk about Uceta's major league aspirations, let's note that growing up, baseball wasn’t always his top priority.
As the story goes, Uceta worked as a gas station attendant from ages 12 to 14 in the Dominican Republic to help provide for his family. Thanks to his uncle, who encouraged him to play baseball, Uceta first picked up a ball at age 11. Fast forward to 2016, at age 18, Uceta was on the path to becoming a Los Angeles Dodger when the club signed him for $10,000. Heading into the 2020 season, Uceta is the 17th-ranked Dodgers prospect.
While his 2017 stats were nothing to write home about (6.59, 1.375, 62 Ks in 56 IP), he helped Rookie-level Ogden win the Pioneer League Championship that year. The next season he did the same for the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (6.97, 1.403, 28 in 20 2/3), who won the 2018 California League Championship. Uceta was considerably more effective at the Great Lakes Loons for the better part of the season (3.25, 1.184, 103 in 99 2/3).
Uceta’s 2019 campaign was especially impressive. He began the year at Rancho, making 10 starts, with a 4-0 record, a 2.15 ERA, 1.252 WHIP, 16 BB and 65 Ks in 50 1/3 IP. Promoted to the Double-Tulsa Drillers, Uceta pitched in 16 games (14 starts), going 7-2, with 3.21, 1.301, with 33 BB and 76 in 73. All told, we’re talking an 11-2 record and a second-in-the-Dodgers’ system a 2.77 ERA and 141 strikeouts.
My question about Uceta is: can he go deep in games? While he averaged an impressive 10.3 K/9, he only pitched seven innings once and six or more innings seven times in 24 starts last year. I believe we’ll get our best look at the Dominican-born righty with a full season at Double-A and/or Triple-A in 2020, or more likely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021. And then we’ll see if he has the stamina to be a big league starter. If not, with his effective changeup and his mid-90s fastball, he might be a good option jogging in from the bullpen, perhaps as a setup man or closer down the road.
Jake Reiner is a native-Angeleno and is currently a sports and news reporter for KCBS/KCAL, Channels 2&9, where he has covered the Dodgers, Lakers, Chargers, and most recently traveled with the Rams for the entire season as the beat reporter for KCBS. Follow him on Twitter.