Dodgers Prospect Watch: Keeping an Eye on Edwin Uceta

Uceta
(Photo Credit: Steve Saenz)

As a follower of the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the most exciting aspects of Cactus League play has always been watching the system’s top prospects compete, particularly the pitchers. The 2021 opener was especially interesting because we saw three of the organization’s most talented young arms in Michael Grove, Andre Jackson, and Edwin Uceta.

Grove, 24, is certainly the headliner of the trio, as he was a prized blue-chipper who was selected by Los Angeles in the second round of the 2018 MLB draft out of West Virginia. Jackson, also 24, lasted a bit longer in the 2017 draft, having been chosen by the Dodgers in the 12th round. The 23-year-old Uceta, on the other hand, was signed as an international free agent back in 2016 and has flown somewhat under the radar ever since.

Uceta was signed 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, 155-lb., 6-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 Top 30 Prospect List of several different major outlets.

He posted superb numbers in 2019, going 11-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 141 strikeouts over 24 starts and 123-1/3 innings of work (including two key playoff starts for Double-A Tulsa), 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 eventually 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 encouraged him to pick up a baseball and pitch during his mid-teen years.

Now, he’s set to begin his 2021 campaign as one of the Dodgers’ most talented pitching prospects.

“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.”

Uceta possesses a more 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.”

Before the pandemic restrictions went into effect last year, Uceta threw three scoreless innings over two Cactus League appearances.

Uceta will certainly get his fair share of looks this spring. Obviously, his size is a huge concern, but his performance during 2021 Cactus League play should be a big indicator of what the Dodgers have in him moving forward.

16 thoughts on “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Keeping an Eye on Edwin Uceta

  1. I remember a time we thought one of our pitchers was too small so we traded him. His plaque at the HOF reads “Pedro Martinez”.

    Marcus Stroman is listed at 5’8″ although he has a few more pounds on his frame than Uceta does. Not everyone can be as big as Nick Robertson, who if he continues to pitch like he did yesterday may very well wind up in an L.A. uni before the year is up.

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  2. Uceta, Grove, Jackson, White, Santana, Gray are all blocked by the addition of Price and Bauer. Not even mentioning May and Gonsolin! That is why I thought it was counter-productive to sign Bauer with the Huge contract as the Dodgers have Kershaw and Buehler’s contracts coming up not to mention Seager.
    I know they know what they are doing but it seems odd how Kasten is talking about losing north of 100 Million and laying off workers then spending 40 million-plus on Bauer.
    In a nutshell that is why I believe there will be a very long strike.

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    1. So maybe the thinking was we throw everything we have in this year to win another one and then we don’t care what Bauer’s contract calls for next year because there won’t be a next year.

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      1. I doubt they will play much if at all in 2022. I hope I am wrong! Baseball Labor and Management do not trust each other. I know everyone is happy with having the strongest team possible to repeat. I get it and appreciate the Dodgers willingness to do that. The Dodgers laid off workers. Kasten stated they lost North of 100 Million then signed Bauer. So the Dodgers management lost a lot of credibility in the eyes of many people including me. I do understand all those pitchers listed are prospects! Alvarez had personal issue his problems were mental. The Dodgers the last few years have been incredibly accurate in the players they promote. Lux was the only dud and he is a work in progress. I believe with my experience, but I understand I am just a fan, that May & Gonsolin are true can’t miss guys. I think Gray is another.

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      2. Well, there is the AZL League here. When we lived in LA we used to drive to Cucamonga and watch the Quakes. Saw some of the guys now playing for the Dodgers there. Quakes are a great organization and it was a lot of fun. I truly believe there will be a long strike, unless the dynamic changes. The Players are not going to agree to the Luxury cap or the draft choice compensation anywhere near where they are now. As Kershaw says many of the teams just take their revenue and do not attempt to compete. The Dodgers are rare in that they have built a first-class organization to develop and funnel players to the MLB Club. The Dodgers have one of the highest percentages of “Home-Grown” teams in the MLB every year and one of the youngest. Look at the Angels who never worked at developing a minor league system, the differences are stark.
        The Large market teams have the obvious advantage with their revenue. Artificially attempting to level the playing field when the MLB does not have any penalties for Teams not attempting to compete are doomed to fail. The Dodgers have Uber Money flow and a top management team dedicated to developing players. The Dodgers will be a top contending club as long as that philosophy is in place.

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  3. Question: I don’t remember from the last major strike but does minor league ball continue even with a strike or do all leagues shut down when that happens?

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      1. I hope they would be able to have the minor leaguers play in case of a strike. Missing two out of three years would be deadly.

        By the way, I just dropped a line to JP Hoornstra to see if he has any info on Yadi. I know they dfa’d him last year and he passed through waivers. Then they sent him to minor league camp and he had a shoulder problem. Could very well be that he’s out of baseball altogether. Lots of his problems were just too much money at too young an age. He’s still young so maybe he’ll wake up one day and really put some effort into getting back on track. He certainly never has to work again with all the money they paid him.

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    1. Thanks for the update Bear. Maybe 2021 will be the year he finally gets it. I read that he actually got some therapy last year to get his head on straight (before he hurt his shoulder). Hope it did him some good.

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      1. Yaisel Sierra is on the roster at Tulsa. Until now, I did not see him listed anywhere for almost three years. I wonder if the folks at OKC are making room for Yadi’s big truck.

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