Along with the 21-player NRI list the Dodgers released on Thursday came a lot of confusion among fans about where many of these players stand in the organization. Indeed, there were a few headliners like Josiah Gray, Jeter Downs and Jordan Sheffield, but the list contained plenty of names that some fans have never even heard mentioned in the past.
On the slow news days between now and the beginning of spring training, I thought it would be a good idea to take a peek at some of these players and where they might fit into the system in the grand scheme of things.
The first player among this group is 22-year-old pitcher Edwin Uceta, a player who I’ve been wanting to write about for quite some time.
The Dodgers signed Uceta as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic when he was just 16 years old in 2016, at which point he was quickly assigned to the Dominican Summer League. He finally arrived stateside for the first time in 2017, starting 14 games for Low-A Ogden in the Pioneer League while posting a 6.59 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 14 walks over an even 56 innings.
2018 saw much better results for the lanky, six-foot righty. Over 25 combined starts between Low-A Great Lakes and High-A Rancho, he tallied a 5-6 record with a 3.89 ERA and 131 punchouts over 120-1/3 innings. Despite the mediocre numbers, scouts liked what they saw in the youngster so much that he made the Dodgers’ Top 30 prospect list at MLB Pipeline.
He posted superb numbers last season, going 11-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 141 strikeouts over 26 appearances—24 which were starts—and 123-1/3 innings of work, opening the eyes of farm directors and garnering an invite to the big league side of 2020 spring training.
According to Evan Petzold of milb.com, Uceta worked at a gas station in Villa Los Almacigos during his early teen years. The young Uceta made a deal with the owner of the gas station—in exchange for his work, the owner paid for Uceta to go to school.
As a boy who often did not have food on this kitchen table, Uceta accepted the seven-hour-per-day job. He went to school like a normal child, until his uncle Mario Alberto made him pick up a ball and pitch during his mid-teen years.
Now, he’s set to begin his 2020 campaign as a member of Double-A Tulsa’s starting rotation.
“I just feel so proud,” Uceta told Petzold during his time at Great Lakes. “I’ve been working really hard and making adjustments. It’s a new opportunity and I have to keep getting better every day. Everybody can’t always stay on the prospect list, I have to keep doing it.”
He possesses a traditional repertoire, utilizing a fastball, a curve, a changeup and a slider. His fastball sits in the low nineties, sometimes topping out as high as 95 MPH. His curve and slider are average offerings, but most scouts feel his change is definitely his out pitch.
According to MLB Pipeline, “Uceta began to take off once the Dodgers got him to stop throwing across his body and take a more direct path to the plate. His improved delivery has allowed him to command his pitches better, a necessity because he’s not overpowering. With a slender 6-foot frame, he’ll have to prove he’s capable of handling a starter’s workload over a full season.”
Uceta will certainly get his fair share of looks this spring. Obviously, his size is a huge concern moving forward, but his performance during 2020 Cactus League play should be a big indicator of what the Dodgers have in him moving forward.