Dodger Prospect # 1 Clayton Kershaw

Logan White, Dodger Assistant General Manager, Scouting, had his heart set on Clayton Kershaw as the Major League clubs settled down to make their 2007 selections in the free agent draft. But it looked as if Detroit (who picked sixth) would call his name before the Dodgers had a chance to make a pick, but the Tigers went with Andrew Miller instead and White had his man.

Many feel that drafting high school pitchers is like attempting to fill an inside straight, great rewards when it works and great disappointment when it mostly doesn't. White, however, doesn't feel that way at all.

Kershaw's numbers at Highland Park High in Dallas were so incredible as to be almost unbelievable: 139 strikeouts in 64 innings, including one game in which he struck out everyone in a game shortened to five innings because of the mercy rule.

For the season, Kershaw went 13-0 with an 0.77 ERA, allowing only 52 baserunners all season long. He finished his high school career with 39 career wins. And for good measure, he compiled a 3.7 grade average in the classroom. He had a scholarship offer to Texas A & M but the Dodgers coaxed him out of that.

Kershaw, who was taken as the seventh player (and the first high schooler) chosen, was yet to throw a pitch as a professional and the honors continued to pile up.

Going into his senior year he had been considered as, perhaps, a second-round choice. But he very quickly showed that he had the ability to go well beyond that. Before he graduated he was named the High School Player of the Year by both Gatorade and USA Today. He was the first schoolboy taken.

He kept on nearly the same pace as a pro. His debut was in the Gulf Coast League rather than the more demanding Pioneer because of tax purposes. Florida doesn't have a state income tax; Utah does would have taken a big chunk out of his $2.3 million bonus had he pitched for Ogden.

In a league laced with top draft choices, he was simply the best. He was 2-0 and could have won many more except his innings were limited, particularly at the beginning.

He struck out 54 in only 37 innings while walking only five. Batters managed just a .201 mark against him. Most of the hits were early in the count when hitters were sitting dead-red and were bouncers through the infield. There was only one for extra bases- a triple that was well-hit but probably should have been caught.

He did it with a fast ball that was usually in the 93-94 mph range. He reached 96 while still in school and later in the Instructional League. His curve seemed lazy at the beginning but sharpened considerably as the season wore on and became a formidable weapon as well down the stretch. He also started using a circle change.

He was able to throw his pitches where he wants them, an unusual accomplishment for a lefthander so young. He's a competitor, toughest when men get on. He's intelligent so learns quickly. His love for the game is considerable. His body is the perfect frame for pitching.

Following his rookie season he was awarded Topps Gulf Coast League Player of the Year and the Guy Wellman Award as the Outstanding Rookie in the franchise by Dodgers Dugout and LADugout.com.

In 2007 he jumped past Rookie-level Ogden to Low-A Great Lakes and took up where he left off the year before.

Still only 19, he recorded a 7-5 won-lost record with a 2.77 earned run average. He set a Great Lakes record for most strikeouts in a game with 12 on April 24 vs. Cedar Rapids. He pitched in the Midwest League All-Star Game and picked up the victory. On July 8, Clayton took part in the 2007 MLB Futures Game as part of the pitching staff of the United States team. The southpaw was the youngest player on the U.S. team and fourth youngest in the game.  

In 97.1 innings with Great Lakes, Kershaw allowed only 72 hits and held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average. All this without getting the greatest run or fielding support.

Then he got a call to pack his bags and head to AA Jacksonville.

"Obviously the Dodgers' goal was to give him a taste of Double-A and I think he's ready for that," Loons manager Lance Parrish said. "Is he completely ready? I don't know, but he certainly has the stuff to be successful at the next level."

"I've heard Low-A to Double-A is a big jump," Kershaw said. "I'm really excited to see how everything compares to here and there and see how I stack up."

"I keep telling people that if I ever had a kid, I would want him to be like Clayton. He's been a consummate professional," Loons pitching coach Glenn Dishman said. "I think he'll rise to the challenge at Double-A."

"It's a big jump, but I think the Dodgers' plan all along was to put him on the fast track," Parrish said. "He's got one of those special arms."

The moved didn't seem to bother him and over his five starts with the Suns he was 1-2 with a 3.65 earned run average, striking out 29 in 24.2 innings. Over two starts, August 20-26, he allowed four hits and struck out 18 in 13 innings, earning Southern League Pitcher of the Week honors.

Following the season, the Midwest League named him to the All-Star team. What's more, they also named him their Best Prospect in 2007.

His combined effort between Great Lakes and Jacksonville, put him at the top of the franchise list in earned run average (2.95), hits per nine innings (6.57) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.74). In addition he was second in strikeouts (163), ninth in innings (122) and 10th in wins (8).

There were some who thought he could have stretched all the way to Los Angeles late in the season to lend some help, and although that was not the case, he could get his first shot at The Show in 2008, starting in Jacksonville and finishing (at least the minor league portion of the schedule) in Las Vegas.

His record:
Clayton Edward Kershaw   bl  tl  6-3  210
Born- Mar. 19, 1988 
Obtained- Selected in first round 2006

year	team    w-l   era  gm  gs    in   h  bb   so   ave 
2006	GCL     2-0  1.95  10   8  37.0  28   5   54  .201  
2007	GLakes  7-5  2.77  20  20  97.1  72  50  134  .203
	Jacksn  1-2  3.65   5   5  24.2  17  17   29  .193

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