Dugout Mailbox - February 8

Deric McKamey, who furnished his Top 10 Dodgers Prospects last week, answers questions subscribers have asked about his ratings.

1] How do you rank a rookie like Chris Withrow #8 after he only threw 11 innings last season? --William S., Yankton, SD

Withrow, the Dodgers' first round pick in 2007 out of a Texas high school, signed late and didn't pitch much in the GCL. I based my ranking on his scouting video, in which he displayed excellent arm action and a projectable frame. From the scouting reports, he has excellent velocity (89-94, topping-out at 96 MPH) and pitch movement, but what makes him really stand-out is his command and pitchability, which belies his age and experience level. Pitchers with little or no track record are very hard to rank, but if you pour over all of the available information, it makes it a little easier. When I'm choosing between players to rank, I ask myself, "If I'm a GM or scouting director, which player do I want?" I'm very comfortable where I have Withrow ranked.

2] What is your opinion of Cody White and Xavier Paul? -- Jenny R., Jackson, MS

White projects as a fifth starter/middle reliever for me. He has average velocity for a LH pitcher (87-92 MPH) and has an average curveball. His change-up is below average, throws too many pitches to get hitters out, and doesn't miss many bats, which means he'll likely struggle at the upper levels of the minors. He does keep the ball down, which is the basis of his limited success, and though he had a reverse platoon differential in 2007, his stuff should be effective to LH batters.

Paul is a solid athlete with above average speed and moderate power. I don't think he'll hit for a high batting average due to his marginal contact rate and pitch recognition, but does have some secondary skills (power, speed, and ability to draw walks). Defensively, he can play all three outfield positions with his strong arm and average range. I don't think he'll have the bat to be a Major League starter, but enough ability to be a fourth outfielder.

3] How does Jaime Pedroza compare with shortstops Hu and De Jesus?
--Tom D., Austin, TX

Like Hu and DeJesus, Pedroza's defense is ahead of his offense, despite his outstanding hitting debut for Ogden. His arm strength, hands, and range all rate above average. Offensively, he possesses moderate bat speed and has some pop, and though he hit .360 in his debut, his marginal plate discipline may suppress his batting average in a full-season league. Being a polished college player, the Pioneer League was probably slightly beneath his skill level. I do like his bat better than DeJesus' and has more power than Hu, but I don't think he'll have much offensive value due to a low batting average, low walk rate, and the fact that he doesn't use his above average speed to steal bases.

4] Can Greg Miller correct his inexplicable wildness and regain his top prospect rating? --Jim R., Huntsville, AL

Miller had as much potential as any pitcher in the minors prior to his shoulder surgery, but has had a tough time staying healthy and hasn't performed with any consistency. I got to see Miller pitch twice this year, and at times, he could be dominating with plus fastball movement and a deceptive low 3/4 delivery. His success really hinged on the quality/command of his curveball, which ranged from being a plus pitch to one that was very mediocre. There is still plenty of effort associated with his delivery and still throws across his body. I know the Dodgers had him working on subtracting from his fastball with his slider/cutter hybrid and circle-change, so I wouldn't hold his poor performance against him. I'm not very optimistic that he'll gain consistent command and think he will always be the model of inconsistency.

5] Realizing that he is a work in progress, please give me your read on catcher Lucas May. --Jerry T., Morino Valley, CA

May had a solid season offensively and defensively at Inland Empire in 2007. He has good bat speed with an uppercut swing which gives him above average power. His plate discipline (7% BB% and 0.34 BB/K) and contact ability are lacking, so I would project a low batting average, and he did only hit .256 in the hitter-friendly California League. Defensively, he was a pleasant surprise. He worked really hard on his throwing mechanics, and was able to hold his own against the running game with his arm strength and an improved (quicker) release. His receiving and blocking skills need a ton of work, and that will be a point of emphasis in 2008. I don't know if I would project him as an everyday catcher in the Majors, but with his power bat and prior infield experience, I could see him as a valuable reserve playing C/1B/3B.
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