Dodger Prospect #13 - RHP Chris Withrow

Latest in a series on top Dodger prospects as we count down to the very best. While Bill Shelley is on medical leave, take a look at Prospect #13, RHP Chris Withrow.

For the second year in a row that the Dodgers raided a Texas high school for a pitcher as their No. 1 selection. Last year, they took lefthander Clayton Kershaw from Highland Park and in 2007 they went for RHP Chris Withrow from Midland, Texas, Christian High.

Withrow had been rising up on the draft boards all spring and the Dodgers made him the 20th overall selection, using the slot they gained from the Red Sox when that club signed Type "A" free agent Julio Lugo.

Their choice was 6-3, 200 with a projectable body, just the kind of player the team has traditionally selected since Logan White took over as director of scouting in 2002. He throws a 94 mph fast ball and has a smooth delivery, a lot of that thanks to his father Mike, a former big league pitcher who is his pitching coach at Midland Christian.

Withrow's curve ball needs refinement but shows considerable promise. He has accepted a scholarship to Baylor but was considered signable and the Dodgers got him for $1,350,000.

He didn't pitch much all that much for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, pitching six games, four of them starts, but really had only one shaky outing, thus his record of 0-0, 5.00 for the GCL Dodgers isn't a true indicator. But the fact that he was clocked at 98 with a great curve in the playoffs could be.

He dropped out of the rotation for awhile to do some adjusting and when he came back he was just fine. He only worked two innings in the playoffs against the Yankees but in those he threw 98 and was unhittable as the Dodgers won their only game in the three-game set.

At his best he threw easily but with authority, looking every inch how a first-rounder should. He's not as refined as Kershaw was at this stage but he reminds one of how Billingsley threw early in his career. "Maybe even better," commented one scout.

One expert said, "Athletic pitcher with plus velocity, command and ability to dominate. Advanced for his age, pitching like a veteran by mixing his pitched and working to hitter's weaknesses. May not project more velocity, but getting stronger could allow him to maintain it longer."

He has an above average fastball and an average curve and changeup.

His expertise as such a young age began with father Mike, who was a standout pitcher for the University of Texas whose teams have produced, among so many others, the legendary Roger Clemens and stars like Burt Hooton. Mike certainly seemed on his way to the big leagues, too, but after reaching Double A, he blew out his shoulder and that was it as far as his playing the game was concerned.

He went back to Odessa, a job and family, but as soon son Chris was old enough to toddle, he was out tossing a ball around with his dad. And Mike has remained his mentor as well as to countless other kids in the area.

Not that Chris was always a pitcher. For a time he was a catcher among other positions. He's always been able to swing a bat quite well- well enough that more than one scout talked about drafting him as a position player because they thought he could hit his way to the big leagues.

Chris even abandoned pitching for one summer about his sophomore year in high school but as his arm strength increased, he got back to the mound earnest with Dad coaching. Not that Mike was benign Santa Claus of a coach. Chris admits he was stern and demanding- and successful.

Chris was playing on a summer team when the head coach was offered the job at Midland Christian in the nearby town. He asked Mike, who had been helping out, to join him as his pitching coach. In turn they asked Chris to consider transferring there.

"It was a very tough decision to make, "Chris recalls, "because it meant leaving all my friends. I finally decided to do it and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made."

So, began a ritual of rising around five each morning for the 20-minute drive across the plains of West Texas to Midland. (and if you want to know what the area looks like, catch the movie not the TV version, of "Friday Night Lights." It was filmed in Odessa. And, no, Chris isn't in it although some of his friends are in the crowd scenes at football games and the Odessa cheerleaders were used.)

On the diamond, he rose to become the best pitcher in the area, then one of the best in the state and finally one of the best in the nation. The scouts were out in force but he had no idea, he told Bill Shelley, that the Dodgers would be the team that would ultimately select him. "I talked to a number of team but don't recall talking to the Dodgers before the draft. Maybe they talked to my agent but not to me."

Before the draft he had accepted a scholarship to Baylor, which he said was no ploy. "It was a very real option. We set our sights high. I value the college experience and I'm sorry I'll miss it."

But first-round money lured him away from that to the Gulf Coast League. "Pro ball was just about what I expected. It's very demanding.

"I think learning to pitch every five days is one of the toughest parts because we didn't do that. And you learn in a hurry that you just can't throw your fast ball up there because everybody here can hit a fast ball. You have to keep it low and learn to hit spots."

In other words, the basic experience that all go through when they move from the high school ranks to the pros.

It was, he says, an overall great experience. "It';s an organization full of good people and my teammates have been great. I didn't enjoy the Florida humidity and that I didn't pitch more but I only have myself to blame for that."

He was chosen for the Instructional League in Arizona. "Another experience I liked," he says. "Meeting a new set of teammates, playing in a different part of the country."

And working to move to the next level. For that I'd like to thank all my coaches." And, of course, there's always Dad for advice. You never get too old for that.

It is unclear just where he will pitch in 2008 but the Dodgers won't rush him. He could be back in the GCL or might move up to Ogden.

His record:
Chris Withrow   br  tr  6-3  195
Born- April 1, 1989
Obtained- First selection (20th overall) in the 2007 draft

year	team   w-l   era   gm  gs   in   h  bb   so
2007	GCL    0-0   5.00   6   4    9   5   5   13