The 2014 Chattanooga Lookouts are low on Baseball America top-10 prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, but Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson believes the Lookouts will not be low on talent.
Starting pitcher Chris Reed, who is the publication's No. 8 prospect in the Dodgers organization, is the lone top-10 prospect breaking camp with Chattanooga. The Dodgers sent three top-five prospects last spring -- outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson and pitcher Zach Lee -- and two top-five prospects in 2012 with pitchers Allen Webster and Nate Eovaldi.
"I think we all see our own organizations differently from the guys who write about us," Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson said Sunday afternoon. "It's very subjective, and sometimes that stuff is based on dollars. If these guys are not high-dollar players, does that not make them good players? There are guys in the big leagues who signed for $1,000.
"It's more about where they are in the overall time frame of their development, their skills and how they match up and play. I like the players that we're sending there. I think they're going to be competitive, and the bottom line is getting them ready for the big leagues, no matter where they're ranked."
Reed had a tough-luck season with the Lookouts a year ago, with his 4-11 record not reflecting his 3.86 earned run average in 29 games (25 starts). He will head an opening rotation that is filled with returning Lookouts -- Carlos Frias (1-1, 3.94 ERA), Garrett Gould (3-5, 5.88), Duke von Schamann (3-5, 5.00) and Andres Santiago (5-12, 4.97).
Among those returning to Chattanooga's bullpen are Pedro Baez, who went 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA in 16 appearances, and Jarret Martin, who went 0-0 with a 1.69 in 11 games.
The 2014 Lookouts are scheduled to make their way to Chattanooga today. They will practice at AT&T Field for the first time Tuesday afternoon before playing Chattanooga State in an exhibition Tuesday night.
Chattanooga opens its league season Thursday night against visiting Jackson.
The Lookouts also will open with outfielder Scott Schebler, who was the minor league player of the year for the Dodgers last season. The left-handed hitter batted .296 with 27 home runs and 91 RBIs at high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in the California League, and he also stole 16 bases.
Schebler will be joined in Chattanooga by former high-A teammates Darnell Sweeney and Noel Cuevas. Sweeney, a middle infielder, hit .275 with 34 doubles and 11 homers, while Cuevas, an outfielder, hit .284 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs.
Outfielder Jon Garcia, who hit just .168 with a homer and nine RBIs in 56 games with the Lookouts last season, is returning to Chattanooga.
"It's going to be a good, competitive team that will go out and play quality baseball on a day-in, day-out basis," Watson said. "They will play hard every day, and once we get our shortstop up and running, it will add a premium defender to go along with Darnell Sweeney up the middle and really impact the ballclub immensely."
That premium defender is Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Dodgers last month. Watson expects Arruebarruena in Chattanooga in three to four weeks.
"I'm not saying those rankings are right or wrong," Watson said. "Ultimately, it's our goal as an organization to get these guys ready to play at the highest level. I like the overall mix of the club. I think they're balanced enough, and I think there is enough team speed there to create some things offensively."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.