If Josh Beckett is the next Roger Clemens, this six-foot-three-inch lefty with the 96-mile-per-hour fastball could be the next Josh Beckett. After going 13-0 with a 0.77 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 64 innings as a senior at Highland Park High School, in Dallas—including a perfect-game mercy-rule victory in which he struck out all 15 batters he faced—Kershaw was named one of Baseball America’s top high school prospects in the nation for 2006 (also Gatorade’s National Baseball Player of the Year, USA Today’s High School Player of the Year, etc.). That same year he was tapped by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the seventh overall pick in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. And he hasn’t disappointed. As a minor leaguer these past two seasons, he’s averaged 12-plus strikeouts per 9 innings—an astounding stat that suggests he’ll be able to control his own destiny more than those mere mortals who rely on ground balls and fly balls to get outs—and made both the Midwest League All-Star Game and the All-Star Futures Game. Hey, kid, don’t wreck your arm!

A Web Exclusive Interview

You’ve made a quick rise to AA (Minor Leagues). Did you feel any pressure because of your early success?

I didn’t really feel a whole lot of pressure. I knew there were added expectations and I definitely wanted to prove myself. Struggling a little at the beginning was a reminder that I hadn’t made it yet.

Where do you expect to start the season this year?

I don’t really know. I would assume Jacksonville, but wherever I go, it doesn’t really matter because I’m just going to pitch and see where they put me.

Who’s your favorite major league player? What pitcher do you model your game after?

I’d say Johan Santana. He’s probably my favorite pitcher to watch, definitely. I’m trying to get my change up to that point.

Would you like to come back to Texas and pitch in the majors someday?

I love LA. I love being out here. But if the opportunity comes, then that’s great.