Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 Potential Breakout Candidates to Watch in Spring Training
The Los Angeles Dodgers have all made their way to Camelback Ranch in Arizona as spring training games are right around the corner.
The team is heading into the 2014 season with high expectations as most of last year's National League West-winning roster has returned. There are only a few question marks surrounding the star-studded squad heading into spring training.
Who is going to be the starting second baseman? When will Matt Kemp be ready? Can the bullpen be trusted?
Answers to these questions and more should become clear over the next six weeks leading up to Opening Day, as February and March can be a very important time for the less-publicized players who are attempting to earn a roster spot with the Boys in Blue.
The following slideshow takes a look at five players with the potential to break out in spring training and make the final 25-man roster in time for the Dodgers' opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia.
5. Joc Pederson
Joc Pederson is considered the Dodgers' top prospect heading into 2014, but as an outfielder it will be tough for him to crack the 25-man roster.
With Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier already stationed at the major-league level, Los Angeles' outfield appears loaded on paper.
But it must be noted that Kemp still has a considerable amount of rehab to undergo coming off shoulder surgery and may not be ready for Opening Day. Puig batted .214 during the final two months of last season and has to get back on track if he wants to hold onto the starting job in 2014. Crawford hasn't played a full season in years.
Upon this closer inspection, there may be a glimmer of hope for Pederson if he impresses in spring training. After all, the Dodgers were deciding between Pederson and Puig before ultimately going with the latter last June when the team was in need of a spark.
The center fielder most recently tore up fall ball in Venezuela and should be major league ready at some point in 2014, even if he does not make the trip to Australia.
4. Seth Rosin
A Rule 5 acquisition from the New York Mets in December, Seth Rosin is a 6'6'' right-hander that has never pitched above Double-A but provides some intrigue.
Last season, Rosin put together a mediocre 4.33 ERA in 23 starts, but Los Angeles has plans to convert him back to a reliever.
One of the Dodgers' best relievers last season, J.P. Howell, caught a glimpse of Rosin during the team's "Young Guns" minicamp during the offseason.
The 25-year-old Rosin possesses a low-90s fastball that he can ramp up to 94, and his velocity shouldn't be a concern at the major-league level. Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti told True Blue LA's Eric Stephen that he is "very interested in seeing what (Rosin) can bring."
Quotes like that make it clear that the organization is high on Rosin. It will be up to him to prove himself over the next few weeks. If he does well, Rosin could carve himself a role as a seventh-inning stopgap.
3. Miguel Rojas
The biggest hole that the Dodgers must plug is at second base.
Los Angeles decided not to pick up Mark Ellis' player option and signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero to a lucrative contract.
The issue is that Guerrero is unproven and suffered a hamstring injury in winter ball that kept the natural shortstop from learning how to play second base.
In the meantime, a name that keeps surfacing is Miguel Rojas.
A career .234 hitter over eight seasons in the minors, Rojas is known more for his slick glove and was invited to the team's winter development program. Last week, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly doled out high praise about Rojas.
“You watch him take ground balls,” Mattingly told Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider, “it’s like watching (Omar) Vizquel and some guys like that take ‘em. It’s just another level.”
Vizquel won 11 Gold Gloves as a shortstop, which also happens to be Rojas' natural position.
But Los Angeles seems seriously interested in the career minor-leaguer. The team brought Rojas to Camelback Ranch to work out at second base before spring training even started.
As long as the 25-year old maintains his fielding prowess, the Dodgers might not have a problem sticking him eighth in the batting order where he will be hidden behind the powerful middle of the lineup.
2. Yimi Garcia
The Dodgers added wiry righty Yimi Garcia to their 40-man roster over the winter and also invited the Dominican native to their Winter Development Program at Dodger Stadium.
Originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in five years ago, Garcia made it to Double-A Chattanooga in 2013 where he went 4-6 with 19 saves and a 2.54 ERA in 49 games. The numbers earned him a spot on the Southern League midseason All-Star team.
His best pitch is a sharp slider that he utilized while striking out 85 batters in 60 innings most recently during the Arizona Fall League. Garcia also held opposing hitters to a .164 average last season with Chattanooga.
The 23-year-old is projected to be a setup man in the majors, and with Chris Perez and Brandon League coming off shaky 2013 campaigns, the door may be open sooner, rather than later, if Garcia keeps trending up during spring training.
The only concern is his sore right knee, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. By all accounts, the injury doesn't appear to be serious.
1. Alexander Guerrero
The Dodgers signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero over the winter to a four-year, $28-million contract, first reported by the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez.
Los Angeles is banking on Guerrero stepping in as the everyday starter at second base after the team declined to pick up Mark Ellis' player option for 2014.
Guerrero, 27, has never played an inning of major or minor league baseball and only appeared in 12 games with the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League before suffering two hamstring injuries.
The plan was to have Guerrero, a natural shortstop, use winter ball to learn how to play second base. The process has been pushed back because of the injuries, which have allowed other players like Miguel Rojas and Chone Figgins to step into the running.
Guerrero was a two-time All-Star in Cuba's Serie Nacional, the top league on the island, and is still the front-runner to open the season as the starting second baseman.
The Dodgers are hoping to strike gold a second time after countryman Yasiel Puig proved to be worth the investment in 2013.
Although he was given a lucrative contract, Guerrero knows he'll still have to earn the starting job in spring training.
"I’m working hard for it," he told ESPN's Mark Saxson. "Ultimately, it’s up to the team."
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.
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