This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.
In a Nutshell: Despite a veteran-heavy roster, the Dodgers may receive the biggest impact from freshman players in 2015 than any other club thanks to a solid mix of ceiling and polish.
1. Joc Pederson, OF: I’ve been cautious with my expectations for Pederson over the past few years but I’ve finally jumped in with both feet. The trade of Matt Kemp also helps clear some of the roadblock in front of him. He spent all of 2014 at the Triple-A level at the age of 22 and was a 30-30 player (homers-steals) while hitting more than .300. The only thing that might slow him down in the early stages of his big league career is his struggles with southpaws, but he made huge strides in that area last season. Pederson should open the year as the Dodgers’ starting center-fielder.
2. Corey Seager, 3B/SS: Juan Uribe has admirably filled in at third base for the Dodgers over the past few seasons but he’s entering his 15th season and will turn 36 in March. An offensive drop is due any time now and that could open up an opportunity for Seager. Just 20, he produced a 1.004 OPS season in 2014 while splitting the year between High-A and Double-A. He showed immense power potential with 20 homers and 50 doubles — while also producing a batting average near .350. A natural shortstop, it’s possible that some versatility on the left side of the infield will give him even more value.
3. Julio Urias, LHP: Like Corey Seager above, Urias is far more developed than one would expect from just about anyone else at the same age. He’ll pitch almost the entire 2015 season at the age of 18 — and he’ll most likely open the season in Double-A. The big test for him in the coming year will be to break the 100-inning barrier for the first time, as the organization has been understandably cautious with him. Because he’s under an innings watch, Urias isn’t likely to see a ton of innings at the big league level in 2015 but he could still make his presence known. He has a huge ceiling, if he can stay healthy.
4. Austin Barnes, 2B/C: I’m a huge Barnes fan — I ranked him among the 15 best prospects in the Marlins system last year and then he went out and showed more power while continuing to be a well-rounded player in just about every other aspect of his game. He may never be a big league starter per say, but his versatility — and ability to play a competent catcher — should allow him to still appear in 80-100 games per season in the right situation. He’s excellent injury insurance for Howie Kendricks at second base, as well as both Yasmani Grandal and A.J. Ellis behind the dish.
5. Joe Wieland, RHP: Acquired from the Padres during the offseason, injuries have held Wieland back from realizing his full potential as a back-end starter. If his surgically-repaired elbow holds up, Wieland has the frame to develop into an innings-eating contributor and he’ll serve as injury insurance for the Dodgers rotation in 2015, which is always good news when Brett Anderson is around.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.