Kershaw eyes improved changeup, Chavez Ravine

Lansing, MI-- In 2006, the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system was rated as the top organization in the Major Leagues. Prospects Chad Billingsley and Andy LaRoche were the top two names in that year's class, and have both reached the bigs. This year another name has vaulted the Dodgers back to the premier level.

Texas native Clayton Kershaw has taken the Midwest League by storm by carrying a 4-2 record with a 2.79 ERA entering this week's games.

Kershaw is a tall (6-foot-3) left-handed phenom that boasts a power fastball that sits between 93-95, and touches 97 MPH. His curveball has a sharp break that starts at the letters, and sweeps down and away from left-handed batters. Currently at Low-A Great Lakes, Kershaw is learning how to put batters away — he averages 1.45 strikeouts per inning. In his first full-season in the Dodgers organization, Kershaw is learning how to use his second and third pitches to get outs.

"You can't throw a fastball every pitch and get outs, you've got to throw your other stuff for strikes. It's been a transition, but I'm doing alright," says Kershaw.

The biggest transition for a high school pitcher coming into professional baseball is the ability to throw a changeup as an out pitch. Star high school pitchers do not have the need to throw a changeup, because they can overpower them with a hard fastball and sharp curveball. In professional baseball, the changeup is the third pitch, which can determine a prospect's future.

"With my changeup I'm trying to use it early in counts to get people out on their front foot," said Kershaw.

Kershaw was the seventh pick in the first round of the 2006 Draft, and has seen fellow first rounders Andrew Miller (Detroit) and Tim Lincecum (San Francisco) already reach the major leagues. Miller and Lincecum were both college players, and have three more years of experience pitching at a high level, but Kershaw is in the same talent crop, and can't help but feel the anticipation of pitching in Chavez Ravine.

"The Dodgers are good with young kids — they draft a lot of high school guys and they know what they're doing, so I'm not expecting anything like that. Obviously those guys have been pitching for three years in college, so they know what they're doing, and by the time I'm their age, I might be there too."

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