The Chattanooga Lookouts will not be lacking for star power to start the 2013 season.
Five of Baseball America's top seven prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization are breaking camp with Chattanooga. Heading this week's Double-A arrivals at AT&T Field are starting pitcher Zach Lee and outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson.
Lee, the No. 5 organizational prospect, returns after going 4-3 with a 4.25 earned run average in 13 starts with the Lookouts last year.
"We're really just looking for him to continue evolving as a pitcher and understanding his mix," Dodgers player development director DeJon Watson said this past weekend. "He just needs to continue to grow and log innings and understand the pace of the game."
Lookouts players will be making their way today from Arizona to Chattanooga. They will practice at AT&T for the first time Tuesday and will play an exhibition that night against Chattanooga State.
Lee was Rivals.com's No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the 2010 class (former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was No. 7) and signed with LSU. He chose baseball and received a $5.25 million signing bonus with the Dodgers.
Puig signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Dodgers last June and tore up big-league camp last month by hitting .526 in 26 spring training games. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Cuban is the No. 2 prospect in the Dodgers organization, behind only Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is going straight from the Korean League to a spot in the Dodgers rotation.
Pederson, the No. 4 organizational prospect, was the Dodgers' minor league player of the year in 2012 after hitting .313 with 26 doubles, 18 home runs and 70 RBIs in 110 games with Rancho Cucamonga in the high Single-A California League. He is expected to play mostly center field, with Puig and Blake Smith occupying the corners.
Smith hit .267 with 29 doubles, 13 homers and 65 RBIs in 133 games last season with the Lookouts and was a Southern League all-star.
Also scheduled to start out in Chattanooga are starting pitchers Chris Reed and Onelki Garcia, the No. 6 and No. 7 organizational prospects. Reed is back after going 0-4 with a 4.84 in 12 games (11 starts) a year ago, while Garcia was a third-round pick of the Dodgers last June.
"I think it will be another extremely competitive club with some young power, young guys with the ability to pitch and a really sound defensive club behind the pitching," Watson said.
Other Lookouts back from last year are catcher Griff Erickson, pitchers Matt Magill, Aaron Miller and Eric Eadington, infielders C.J. Retherford, Rafael Ynoa and J.T. Wise, and outfielder Bobby Coyle. Magill is the No. 9 organizational prospect.
Chattanooga's middle infield could be comprised by a pair of sixth-year free agents, Miguel Rojas and Omar Luna, who signed with the Dodgers during the offseason. Rojas came up with the Cincinnati Reds and has played in the Southern League the past three seasons, two with Carolina and last year with Pensacola.
Luna came up with the Tampa Bay Rays and played last season in Montgomery, where he hit .315 with 20 doubles and 57 RBIs in 122 games.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...