Last year, Yasiel Puig almost single-handedly turned the season around for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With a 23-32 record, the Dodgers called up the 22-year old outfielder and he made his impact immediately, turning the Dodgers from an expensive disappointment to a legitimate World Series threat.
The Dodgers have plenty of highly rated prospects. Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias are the three most highly touted prospects in the Dodgers organization. However, neither of them will likely make any sort of impact in 2014.
As far as major-league ready talent goes, the Dodgers don’t have an abundance at the minor league level. Their most major-league ready guy is Joc, and he is competing with four highly paid outfielders already on the Dodgers roster.
The first prospect that can make an impact this year is Erisbel Arruebarrena. Arruebarrena has already made a bit of an impact on the major league level, as he was called up when Juan Uribe hit the DL. Hanley Ramirez’s calf problem gave Arruebarrena some playing time, and he was essentially who the Dodgers thought he was. A wizard with the glove, Erisbel has yet to make a highlight reel play at short. However, he has made the routine plays look foolishly easy, a nice change from Hanley at short. Arruebarrena’s big knock has been at the plate, and he has a deceiving .308 batting average in 13 at bats. Arruebarrena has four hits and an RBI in his five games this season, but has also struck out five times.
Arruebarrena doesn’t need a big bat to make an impact on these Dodgers. The Dodgers offense has been just fine this season, despite struggles from Ramirez and Matt Kemp. However, the Dodgers are 24th in the majors with a .980 fielding percentage, so Arruebarrena could be extremely valuable as a late-inning defensive replacement as the season moves along.
Another Cuban minor league infielder can make an impact this season: Alexander Guerrero. It’s weird to call a 27-year old a prospect, but Guerrero joined the Dodgers organization this year and was killing the ball at AAA. If Guerrero didn’t get Holyfield-ed by Miguel Olivo, Guerrero may have gotten the call up rather than Arruebarrena. When Guerrero returns from his ear injury, it shouldn’t be long before he makes an impact on the major league squad.
I realize I just wrote that Dee Gordon was arguably the best Dodger this season, but Gordon has been slumping in May. After hitting .344 in March/April, Gordon has hit .243 in May. His walks are up so his stolen base numbers are still up, but if Gordon doesn’t snap out of his slump, Guerrero might play his way into the Dodgers lineup. In 33 games in AAA, Guerrero is hitting .376 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs. He has also played solid enough defense, so unless Gordon bounces back from a tough May, Guerrero could have an impact at second base.
The final possible impact player is Pedro Baez. Dodger fans have heard this story before: a position player with a cannon for an arm, but he couldn’t hit well enough in the minors so they converted him to a pitcher. It worked pretty well for catcher-turned-closer Kenley Jansen, and the Dodgers are trying their luck again with Baez.
Baez was a young third baseman with a career .247 batting average in the minors. He was converted to pitcher and has showed some promise on the hill. The Dodgers bullpen has been a surprising disaster early on in the season, and Baez could provide a shot in the arm. He had one outing with the Dodgers this season which went about as poorly as it could have, but Baez could have another chance to lower his 18.00 ERA. Baez is already on the 40-man roster which gives him an upper hand, and could have an impact as the season enters the long, strenuous summer.
Overall, the Dodgers aren’t stacked with major-league ready talent that can make an impact this season. The Dodgers have plenty of prospects that will be household names in the near future, but none of them will impact the 2014 campaign. However, the Dodgers do possess some promising minor leaguers that could make a slight impact at the major league level this season.