LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers prospects Zach Lee and Scott Schebler were on hand Sunday at Dodger Stadium, both honored on the field before the regular season finale for winning the Branch Rickey minor league pitcher and player of the year, respectively, in the organization. They provided an interesting contrast in expectations versus performance.
Both 22-year-olds were drafted in 2010 but Lee was a first round pick, 28th overall, while the outfielder Schebler was picked in the 26th round, the 802nd pick. Getting drafted so late was a motivating tool for Schebler.
"Just knowing my opportunities aren't as high as someone like [Lee], you really have to make sure you do everything, do the small things right," Schebler said. "I knew I could always do it so it wasn't a breakout for myself, but in the eyes of people that saw me it was a breakout."
That breakout campaign for Schebler included 27 home runs and 69 extra-base hits in 125 games with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, with 95 runs scored, 91 runs batted in and a spot on the California League postseason All-Star team. He hit .296/.360/.581 in 2013 after hitting just .260/.312/.388 in Class-A Great Lakes in 2012.
The improvement for Schebler came with the help and work of Quakes hitting coach Johnny Washington, who had worked with Schebler in 2012 as well.
"This year I kind of figured out what kind of hitter I am," Schebler said. "I always saw myself as a gap-to-gap hitter with power ability, but he said I wouldn't be able to do that with one healthy hack per at-bat. You have to get three healthy hacks up there."
Those three healthy swings also resulted in an increase in strikeouts, from 99 in 2012 to 140 this season. But it also saw Schebler hit .362/.411/.745 with 18 of his 27 home runs in a 47-game stretch from June 13 to Aug. 3.
"I came into spring training stubborn and stuck in my ways. Washington came up to me with stuff to work on and I didn't do it, and didn't have success in spring training," Schebler said. "I started the process in the beginning of the year, so you saw the early struggles then when June and July came I started getting hot because all of the stuff was coming together."
Schebler's signing bonus as the 802nd pick in the draft in 2010 was $300,000, a tad less than Lee, who parlayed the leverage of potentially playing quarterback at LSU into a Dodgers record $5.25 million bonus spread over five seasons.
"We both feel like we have to prove ourselves every day, go out and work as hard as we can to get where we want to be," Lee said. "Obviously from a living standpoint, my life is probably easier than his at this point. But on field there are a lot of similarities between us."
Lee in his third professional season was 10-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 28 games with Double-A Chattanooga, including 25 starts, with 141 strikeouts and just 35 walks in 142⅔ innings. He was a Southern League All-Star.
"It was pretty unbelievable. This was the year I kind of put it all together," Lee said. "I was able to put my command and control together on a consistent basis.
Lee's goal is to make the majors in 2014, and given all the injuries suffered by the Dodgers in 2013 he thought the call might have come even sooner.
"That's the target for me. The target originally was this year, but nothing really took place," Lee said. "I was trying to put myself in that position to get myself in that door, to force my way up here."
But Lee doesn't just want to make the majors next year. He wants to start the year in the Dodgers rotation, which currently has Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley under contract for 2014, though both Beckett and Billingsley are coming off surgery. Lee, who isn't on the 40-man roster and hasn't heard whether or not he'll be invited to big league camp in spring training, said he isn't worried about things out of his control.
"I feel like if I go in with that mentality it will heighten my mental and physical preparation going into spring training and better my chances at winning a job," he said.
After a career high in innings pitched, Lee will spend the winter at home in Texas. Schebler, who heard of winning the organization's minor league player of the year award while in instructional league in Arizona, will play winter ball in Mexico during the offseason.