With Spring Training around the corner, plenty of attention is being given to the 2015 season and expectations that are set in place. For as much as winning this upcoming season is on the minds of MLB front offices, so too is their respective Minor League systems.
Several publications have released their lists of top prospects by team, including Baseball America, Baseball Prospects and MLBPipeline.com, who ranked prospects by position. On Friday, MLB.com revealed their top-100 prospects, which included four Dodgers; three of whom were ranked in the top-13.
By now, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias are recognizable names. So too is Clayton Kershaw. However, before the Dodger ace became a household name with several personal awards to reflect his talent and dominance, Kershaw was a young prospect hailing from Texas.
Written at the time by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo is this assessment of Kershaw, who was ranked the No. 4 prospect heading into 2008 — the season of his MLB debut:
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers, No. 4 on 2008 Top 50.
Kershaw is so good that he’d likely still be the highest-ranked pitcher on this list even if he were right-handed. His combination of size, mound presence and stuff was the best the Minors had to offer. The fact that he does it all from the left side is icing on a pretty good cake.
Kershaw, at age 19, was the best pitcher in the Midwest League and then seamlessly handled the jump to Double-A. His fastball-curve combination completely befuddled hitters in the lower levels of the Minors. Upon reaching the Southern league, he started to mix in a changeup, allowing him to finish second in the Minor Leagues in strikeouts per nine innings.
He can throw his pitches for strikes at any point in the count and aggressively goes after hitters. The jump to Jacksonville officially put Kershaw on the fast track in the Dodgers system and while they’ve had some cautionary tales with young arms getting hurt, it’s not hard to envision Kershaw reaching Los Angeles before his listed ETA.
Ranked ahead of Kershaw were Jay Bruce (No. 1), Evan Longoria and Cameron Maybin. Kershaw would of course go on to become the first pitcher to win NL MVP since Bob Gibson did so in 1968. He also won his third Cy Young Award in four years, and became the first pitcher in MLB history to win four-consecutive ERA titles.