Nov 18

Dodgers remove Ely, Monasterios from 40-man roster

Ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, the Dodgers outrighted pitchers John Ely and Carlos Monasterios to Triple-A Albuquerque in order to make room for five first-timers on the 40-man roster.

Two came at the trading deadline: outfielder Alex Castellanos and pitcher Steven Fife.

  • Alex Castellanos, the 25-year-old outfielder who came from the Cardinals in exchange for Rafael Furcal and had a combined .958 OPS in 534 plate appearances at Double-A.
  • Stephen Fife, a 25-year-old righty who came from the Red Sox in the Trayvon Robinson trade and had a combined 3.74 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 137 innings at Double-A.
  • Chris Withrow, a 2007 first-round draft choice who had a 4.20 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings as a starter at Double-A Chattanooga.
  • Michael Antonini, a 26-year-old who came from the Mets organization last winter in exchange for Chin-Lung Hu and had a 4.01 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 148 innings as a starter at Chattanooga.
  • Josh Wall, a 2005 second-round draft choice who had a 3.93 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings as a reliever at Double-A Chattanooga.

After spending all of 2010 with the Dodgers, Monasterios was injured most of 2011, pitching only four innings with the Isotopes. Ely never recovered his Elymania form of 2010, though he was mostly effective in very short spurts with the Dodgers in 2011.

Both players could easily remain in the organization for 2012, depending on the interest they receive elsewhere.

For more on the state of the 40-man roster,  as well as some names that were left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft, check out this post and this post from True Blue L.A.

Aug 03

Despite De La Rosa’s injury, hope for the Dodger rotation

What, the Dodgers still have a future?

Despite the callup of John Ely when Rubby De La Rosa went on the disabled list, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Nathan “What, no ‘U’?” Eovaldi might be the Dodgers’ next No. 5 starter when the rotation wheel turns that way on Tuesday. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness provides a detailed introduction to Eovaldi, who has a 2.62 ERA for Chattanooga with 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

There are two things I want to add to Petriello’s post this morning. The first is to compare Eovaldi’s performance at Chattanooga this year to De La Rosa’s work there (spread over the 2010-11 seasons).

Eovaldi (born February 13, 1990): 103 innings, 6.6 hits per nine IP, 4.0 walks per nine IP, 8.7 strikeouts per nine IP, 2.62 ERA in 2011.
De La Rosa (born March 4, 1989): 91 innings, 6.7 hits per nine IP, 4.3 walks per nine IP, 11.7 strikeouts per nine IP, 2.08 ERA in 2010-11.

There are similarities, with the most noteworthy difference being De La Rosa’s dominant strikeout rate, which makes Eovaldi’s strong numbers smaller in stature. Given that Eovaldi is almost a year younger than De La Rosa but would be making his major-league debut fewer than three months later, I think we can be quite excited about him in the long term, but should certainly temper our expectations in the short run.

Is Eovaldi being rushed? Well, I think his potential callup should be looked at the same way that earlier stints for Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon were.  It’s not a permanent or do-or-die situation. It’s an opportunity, given injuries at the major-league level, to provide a first look at the majors for a potentially important 2012 player. The pressure should be lower on Eovaldi, who unlike De La Rosa would not be making his debut while the Dodgers could still be considered in playoff contention.

The second thing I want to do is check in on ballyhooed 2010 first-round pick Zach Lee, who was drafted with the potential of being a top counterpart to Clayton Kershaw in the Dodger starting rotation.

Kershaw reached the majors on May 25, 2008 – just shy of two years after he was drafted. If Lee matched the same exact path, he would be introduced to the Dodger rotation next May. The first hitch in that plan, however, was that Lee signed so late in 2010 that he didn’t play in the minors that year, while Kershaw pitched 37 innings (striking out 54 with a 1.95 ERA).

Still, let’s take a look at how each performed at age 19 for Single-A Great Lakes:

Lee (born September 13, 1991): 81 innings, 8.0 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 3.22 ERA in 2011.
Kershaw (born March 19, 1988): 97 1/3 innings, 6.7 H/9, 4.6 BB/9, 12.4 K/9, 2.77 ERA in 2007.

Kershaw was promoted before the end of the 2007 season to Double-A Jacksonville, where he had a 3.65 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 24 2/3 innings. Lee, who was slowed briefly this year by elbow soreness, might remain a step behind Kershaw’s development path, given that aside from better control, he also hasn’t been as dominant.

Nevertheless, we could very well see Lee in the majors by a year from now. And if you can wait a bit longer – just 21 months from now –  the Dodgers’ 2013 starting rotation could offer Kershaw, De La Rosa, Eovaldi, Lee and Chad Billingsley, not to mention Ted Lilly and other contenders from the farm system. Something to look forward to …

Jul 31

More reviews of Dodgers’ new prospects

Alex Castellanos

“… A 25-year-old right-handed hitter, he has mediocre tools but has put up big numbers this year. His plate discipline needs work, and despite the line at Springfield I’d rate him a Grade C prospect at this point, with a chance to be a bench asset.”
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

Tim Federowicz

“… Federowicz is a catch-and-throw specialist who isn’t likely to produce enough at the plate to be an average regular, but is plus across the board behind the plate (including a career 34 percent caught-stealing rate) and is no worse than a good backup in the majors.”
– Keith Law, ESPN.com

“… The best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system, with the catch-and-throw skills to be a big league regular. His pure arm strength is average, but it plays up because he has smooth footwork and a quick release. He has thrown out 36 percent of basestealers this year in Double-A, and also has shown off his receiving ability by committing just one passed ball. Federowicz’s bat will determine how much he plays when he gets to the majors. He ability to hit for average and control the strike zone is decent, and he has some gap power. He runs well for a catcher and has more athleticism than most backstops.”
Baseball America

“… A top-flight defensive catcher, he has a strong throwing arm, plenty of mobility, and excellent leadership skills behind the plate. A weak stick has kept him off prospect lists. … He probably won’t hit enough to be a major league regular, but he could last a long time as a defense-oriented reserve. He turns 24 this week. Grade C.”
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

“… He’s a very good catch-and-throw guy, with a quick release and strong arm. He’s also worked very hard to improve his blocking. At the plate, he uses a middle-of-the-field approach and has average pull power. Most see him as a defensive-oriented backup at the big league level, but he could become an everyday guy if he hits a bit more than expected.”
– Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

Stephen Fife

“… Fife probably profiles as a right-handed reliever rather than a starter because he lacks the out pitch to start; he’ll touch 95 as a starter with a fringe-average curveball.”
– Law

“… Didn’t start pitching regularly until he was a high school senior, but after three years of college ball at Utah he worked himself into the third round of the 2008 draft. His best pitch is an 88-93 mph fastball that features good sink. He lacks an above-average secondary pitch, with his changeup (which has some splitter action) ranking ahead of his curveball. His control and command are average, and it’s more likely that he develops into a middle reliever than a starter.”
– Baseball America

“… His stuff is average across the board: 88-92 MPH sinking fastball, average changeup and curveball, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball low in the zone. … In the majors, he projects as a fifth starter or more probably a long/middle reliever. I’ve see him as a sleeper in the past but he’s never quite woken up. Grade C.
– Sickels

“… Fife is a solid right-handed starter with a three-pitch mix. An Eastern League All-Star this season, Fife can run his fastball up to 93 mph with some sink. His curveball can be an out pitch, and he’s also got a pretty good feel for a changeup. He mixes his pitches well and can change speeds, but he also has enough velocity to put hitters away at times.”
– Mayo

Juan Rodriguez

“… Rodriguez has a plus fastball, no average second pitch and below-average command and control – a nice arm to add to your system but a reliever at best and not a high-probability guy, either. Unless Robinson was somehow burning a hole in the Dodgers’ pockets, this (trade) doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, as they didn’t get any prospect as good as he is in the exchange.”
– Law

“… He still has room for projection in his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame, and he already throws 93-95 mph coming out of the bullpen, enabling him to rank second among South Atlantic League relievers with 13.42 strikeouts per nine innings. There’s a good deal of effort in Rodriguez’s delivery, which hampers his control and command. His slider and changeup are fringy pitches, so his ceiling is as a late-inning reliever rather than as a starter.”
– Baseball America

… His command is spotty and his slider is mediocre, but his 92-95 MPH fastball has movement and his K/IP ratio is excellent. He needs to sharpen up his command and add polish, but he’s an interesting arm at least. Grade C, but has some upside.”
– Sickels

“… Rodriguez is a raw, tall and lanky right-hander with plenty of arm strength. Pitching out of the bullpen for Greenville in the South Atlantic League, he’s shown plus velocity, up to 98-99 mph at times. He’s got a slider that’s below average, and he’s working to develop a better feel for an offspeed pitch. He generally throws strikes, but he needs to find more consistency with his fastball command. That, and development of his offspeed stuff, will be key. But the power and arm strength that many teams covet are definitely there.”
– Mayo

Jul 13

The Dodger Thoughts Grain of Salt Midseason Minor-League All-Stars


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesGarrett Gould

This is a pretty quick-and-dirty post and doesn’t incorporate any scouting reports. It’s, like, kind of a top prospect watch, but from Mars.

Catcher
Gorman Erickson, 23
.408 OBP/.491 slugging/.899 OPS in 273 plate appearances at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga
.222/.400/.622 in 35 PA at Double-A Chattanooga

Backup: Steve Domecus, 24
.424/.490/.914 in 118 PA at Single-A Great Lakes

First base
Scott Van Slyke, 25 on July 24
.408/.528/.936 in 331 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Chris Jacobs, 23 in November
.403/.482/.885 in 134 PA at Great Lakes

Second base
Jaime Pedroza, 25 in September
.373/.412/.784 in 268 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Alexis Aguilar, 20
.327/.510/.837 in 52 PA at Rookie-level Ogden

Shortstop
Dee Gordon, 23
.371/.410/.781 in 249 PA at Triple-A Albuquerque with 24 steals in 27 attempts
.250/.280/.530 in 85 PA at Los Angeles with nine steals in 12 attempts

Backup: Jake Lemmerman, 22
.383/.446/.829 in 362 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

Third base
Travis Denker, 26 in August
.352/.548/.900 in 230 PA at Rancho Cucamonga
.380/.557/.937 in 79 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Tony Delmonico, 24
.389/.448/.837 in 289 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

Outfield
Jerry Sands, 24 in September
.392/.650/1.042 in 189 PA at Albuquerque
.294/.328/.622 in 144 PA at Los Angeles

Trayvon Robinson, 24 in September
.377/.561/.937 in 353 PA at Albuquerque

James Baldwin, 20 in October
.383/.574/.957 in 60 PA at Ogden, nine steals in 10 attempts

Backup: Alfredo Silverio, 24
.338/.566/.905 in 346 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Angelo Songco, 23 in September
.343/.501/.844 in 382 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

Backup: Scott Schebler, 21 in October
.377/.647/1.024 in 109 PA at Ogden

Starting pitcher
Nathan Eovaldi, 21
2.62 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 1.105 WHIP in 82 1/3 IP at Chattanooga

Garrett Gould, 20 on July 19
2.17 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 1.084 WHIP in 91 1/3 IP at Great Lakes

Zach Lee, 20 in September
3.32 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.231 WHIP in 65 IP at Great Lakes

Allen Webster, 21
2.33 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 1.241 WHIP in 54 IP at Rancho Cucamonga
3.69 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 1.165 WHIP in 46 1/3 IP at Chattanooga

Red Patterson, 24
3.43 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 1.107 WHIP in 81 1/3 IP at Great Lakes
3.60 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 1.100 WHIP in 20 IP at Rancho Cucamonga

Relief pitcher
Shawn Tolleson, 23
0.00 ERA, 19.8 K/9, 0.800 WHIP in 15 IP at Great Lakes
0.93 ERA, 15.8 K/9, 0.517 WHIP in 9 2/3 IP at Rancho Cucamonga
1.29 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 1.143 WHIP in 21 IP at Chattanooga

Steven Ames, 23
1.17 ERA, 16.4 K/9, 0.783 WHIP in 15 1/3 IP at Rancho Cucamonga
1.65 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 1.163 WHIP in 16 1/3 IP at Chattanooga

Josh Lindblom, 24
2.43 ERA, 11.3 K/9, 1.170 WHIP in 33 1/3 IP at Albuquerque
1.69 ERA, 4.2 K/9, 1.031 WHIP in 10 2/3 IP at Los Angeles

Cole St. Clair, 25 on July 30
0.79 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 0.735 WHIP in 34 IP at Chatanooga

Logan Bawcom, 23 in November
2.78 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 1.081 WHIP in 45 1/3 IP at Great Lakes

Others of note
SS: Delvis Morales, 21 in August
.400/.453/.853 in 74 PA at Arizona Rookie League

3B: Jeffrey Hunt, 20
.393/.529/.922 in 56 PA at Rookie-level Ogden

OF: Joseph Winker, 22 in August
.463/.552/1.014 in 68 PA at Arizona Rookie League

OF: Blake Smith, 24 in December
.342/.516/.858 in 278 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

OF: Kyle Russell, 25
.343/.522/.865 in 338 PA at Chattanooga, with 105 strikeouts

OF: Devin Shines, 22
.405/.563/.968 in 81 PA at Arizona Rookie League

SP: Jon Michael Redding, 24 in November
3.42 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 1.468 WHIP in 79 IP at Rancho Cucamonga

SP: Dana Eveland, 28 in October
3.77 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 1.362 WHIP in 105 IP at Albuquerque

SP: Victor Araujo, 22 in November
2.64 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 1.141 WHIP in 30 2/3 IP at Rookie Dominican Summer League

RP: Steven Matre, 23
1.50 ERA, 15.0 K/9, 1.083 WHIP in 12 IP at Ogden, one walk

Jun 10

Trayvon Robinson awaits chance to rush the Dodger fraternity


Harry How/Getty ImagesTrayvon Robinson

Any notion that the Dodgers were going to hold back on pushing young players to the big leagues this season was left sittin’ on the dock of the bay once Los Angeles promoted Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa and Dee Gordon ahead of schedule.

So it’s natural to ask if outfielder Trayvon Robinson will also get an early wakeup call. We know the Dodgers originally intended for Robinson to spend the season in the minors, but that was then. What about now?

Playing center field for Albuquerque, Robinson has a .341 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage this season, with 12 homers and seven steals in nine attempts. Outside of the baserunning, those numbers are considerably better than what Gordon had to offer when he took over major-league shortstop duties (for the time being), but they sit pretty far below what recently promoted Trent Oeltjen (.429/.583) was producing.

Few will argue that Oeltjen has a brighter future than Robinson, but in terms of the present, there wouldn’t appear to be an imperative to rush Robinson to the majors. The 23-year-old Robinson also has had some pretty significant plate discipline issues this season, with 17 walks against 64 strikeouts for the Isotopes.

Still, there are questions. We’re told that Tony Gwynn Jr. and Marcus Thames will now platoon in left field, with Oeltjen mixing in as well, but it’s anything but clear that it’s a long-term arrangement. If none of them show anything with the bat, it’s going to be harder and harder to understand why Jamey Carroll (or even Aaron Miles, for all his weaknesses) should be sitting. That’s why I think you could ultimately see an infielder get some time in the outfield, whether it’s Casey Blake, Carroll or Miles.

And then again, maybe we’ll still see Robinson this summer. The Dodgers could have stuck with Carroll and Miles rather than turning to Gordon, whose abilities are still developing. There may be the sentiment that in the absence of thrilling alternatives, another kid will get his taste, even if it’s only for a few weeks.

May 25

So, have you started wondering about 2012 yet?


Julie Jacobson/APRubby De La Rosa

So, let’s say, just hypothetically …

just hypothetically, mind you …

… that the Dodgers don’t reverse their ugly 2011 start and reach the playoffs.

I mean, I know it’s crazy, but what if an injury-riddled team with almost no offense keeps losing?

What might happen with this roster?

For starters, there’s always the possibility that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti will try to make a midseason deal to strengthen a playoff bid, as he has done every year of his tenure, with everyone but Zach Lee and Rubby De La Rosa serving as potential trade chips. But under Colletti, the Dodgers have never entered July with a double-digit deficit in the playoff races, and that obviously seems like a much more distinct possibility in 2011. That could dissuade Colletti from his typically go-for-it mentality.

Conversely, if the Dodgers’ fade-out continues unabated, Colletti could take the opportunity to do what is never done in Los Angeles and jump start a rebuilding program with the trade of any number of veterans to serious postseason contenders for prospects.  The conventional wisdom is that the bulk of Dodgers fans won’t tolerate a rebuild, but given what they’re already putting up with and how attendance is already in decline, it’s not as if much more damage can be done. And really, you have to be pretty myopic not to see the potential benefits of this path.

It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if Colletti gets caught in between the fork in the road and ends up largely standing still. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, it’s as good a launching point as any for our “what next” speculation.

Brian Mount/Icon SMITed Lilly

Starting rotation
In the short term: The most stable part of the team this year has needed only one substitute, John Ely in the first week of the year. Ely is around if a spot start is needed, while De La Rosa would also be a candidate to be a replacement. Keep in mind, however, that De La Rosa only threw 110 1/3 professional innings last year and has already thrown 41 this year, counting his major-league debut Tuesday — they should be looking to protect him.

In the long term: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly will return next year, with De La Rosa poised to join them. Hiroki Kuroda will be a free agent, and Jon Garland has an $8 million vesting option that the Dodgers will probably be able to buy out, since he doesn’t figure to reach the required 190 innings. As was the case last year, the return of Kuroda (37 in February) will probably depend on his willingness to do a one-year deal in the U.S., while Garland would probably also have to agree to a similar contract as he had this year, which calls for a lower base salary plus performance incentives.

The imminent arrival of De La Rosa could allow the Dodgers to pit Kuroda against Garland in a negotiating stance — they make offers to both, and whichever one agrees first would get the deal. If neither one bites, the Dodgers would seek out a veteran starter, to give De La Rosa a cushion and provide depth in a place where Colletti most values it. (It would be encouraging if Lilly, 36 in January, showed some improvement between now and next year.)

Also, if injuries don’t hold him back, Lee could be in Double-A by the start of 2012 and in the majors by the end, if Clayton Kershaw’s path is any model. We’ll see.

Bullpen
In the short term: Expect the revolving door to continue, not just as players like Blake Hawksworth, Vicente Padilla, Jonathan Broxton and hopefully Hong-Chih Kuo return from the disabled list, but as the team decides whether Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert or Ramon Troncoso need to spend more time in the minors. Josh Lindblom, who had 30 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings for Double-A Chattanooga through Saturday, could get his long-awaited first shot in the majors, while other non-roster players like lefty Cole St. Clair (1.02 ERA, 16 strikeouts, 12 baserunners in 17 2/3 innings) wait in the wings. And there are always names like Jon Link …

Rob Grabowski/US PresswireJavy Guerra

In the long term: Even if he returns this season at peak performance, Broxton will be a free agent at the end of the year. If he’s great, the Dodgers won’t be able to pay for him, if he’s not great, the Dodgers won’t want to pay for him. Padilla will also be a free agent, and the Dodgers will probably be out of patience with his inconsistent health. Mike MacDougal qualifies as a pleasant surprise, but if he asks for seven figures in salary for 2012, the Dodgers might balk.

Kuo will be arbitration eligible and stand to earn a big raise – his mental and physical condition makes him a non-tender candidate, although if there’s any sign he’s conquered his anxiety disorder, he might be the reliever they decide to reinvest in.

Most likely to return are Hawksworth, Matt Guerrier and the rookies including Jansen, Elbert and Guerra, with the Dodgers patrolling the major- and minor-league free agent market for their usual host of candidates.

Further down the line, the Dodgers will keep their eyes on Steven Ames and Shawn Tolleson – the latter continuing his strikeout-mad ways with 13 in 7 2/3 innings since his promotion to Rancho Cucamonga.

Though the bullpen has been a lightning rod for discussion this year, this is not the place for the Dodgers to spend a high portion of their resources. They have bigger fish to fry.

Catching
In the short term: A.J. Ellis stands by, waiting for the next disabled list trip for Rod Barajas or Dioner Navarro.

In the long term: Navarro has done little to indicate he was worth his 2011 contract, let alone that he’d be worth a 2012 deal. Ellis, who will finally be out of options just before his 31st birthday, figures to settle in at last on the major-league roster. Barajas, 36 in September, will be a free agent, and though he is currently second in the team in home runs, it’s anyone’s guess whether the Dodgers will bring him back. You can’t rule it out, but the Dodgers will consider alternatives.

In the real long term, the Dodgers might finally have a new catching prospect in 23-year-old Gorman Erickson, who had a .991 OPS for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, relying (as Ellis does) on plate discipline rather than power. But Erickson’s numbers will diminish once he leaves the friendlier confines of the California League for Double-A. Maybe he, too, will become a full-time backup in about five years.

Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCasey Blake

Infield
In the short term: Injuries will likely dictate playing time for the remainder of spring and on into the summer. But should Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Juan Uribe actually end up on the active roster at the same time next month, it doesn’t mean the end of Jamey Carroll’s playing time. The indispensable, no-longer-a-reserve Carroll has been too productive to sit. Carroll can give those other three players rest, and if that also means Blake moves around to play some first base, so be it.

Aaron Miles, on the other hand, could go back to sixth-infielder status, which suits him, and Russ Mitchell would go back to the minors. Juan Castro can go and clear waivers.

On the other hand, if the injuries continue, we’ll just see more of what we’ve seen, with Ivan De Jesus no doubt making a return appearance at some point.

In the long term: Overhaul. Loney, due for one more arbitration-eligible raise despite his most disappointing season, will be jettisoned unless he shows some hint of power. Even his mainstream reputation as a clutch hitter has been scarred. Blake has a $6 million club option, too rich for a 38-year-old who will be a part-timer. Same story with Furcal’s $12 million club option. That leaves only Uribe among the nominal starters.

Carroll will be a free agent – and he’ll also be 38. This has been a happy marriage, and I actually like the odds of his returning, but he will get other offers. In any event, as great as he has been in 2010-11, it’d be risky to count on him as a starter in 2012 – though perhaps you could use him as a stopgap until minor-leaguer Dee Gordon is considered ready.

But will Gordon be ready next year? With a .735 OPS and 10 errors so far in his first 40 Triple-A games, there’s no way you can pencil him into the 2012 Dodger starting lineup. De Jesus also seems like a longshot to do much of note in the majors next year, if ever.

Although Jerry Sands could hold down left field, one option for the Dodgers would be to move him to the infield, where the team is much thinner. Uribe would take a second position, while the Dodgers look outside the organization for help at the two other spots. Gordon, though some might not want to hear it, could be a trade chip.

A late-breaking candidate is Scott Van Slyke, who has been playing first base for Chattanooga after starting his pro career as an outfielder. Van Slyke, 25 in July, had a .954 OPS (fifth in the Southern League) with 16 doubles in his first 42 games this year.

Outfield
In the short term: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Sands, who is platooning with Jay Gibbons. Sands looked ripe to go back to Albuquerque just a week or two ago, but that notion has changed dramatically. A healthy Marcus Thames could still knock Sands down to Triple-A temporarily, but there’s going to be much more resistance to that happening now. Sands could also enter the infield mix even before 2012.

In the long term: Kemp for sure. Ethier, probably. The outfielder certainly won’t be non-tendered, and he is as likely to get a multiyear deal as any other fate. That doesn’t mean Ethier, 30 in April, couldn’t be a trade candidate in 2012, the year he becomes eligible for free agency, but as noted recently, that’s not the type of trade the Dodgers have been making.

So there’s Sands, or if he moves to the infield, Trayvon Robinson could get a shot. Roster expansion in September should provide an early peek at Robinson.

Summary
The Dodgers will need at least one front-line starting pitcher next season, whether it’s Kuroda, Garland or someone else, with an eye on possibly two. No walk in the park, but simple enough.

The starting lineup is another story. You have Kemp, Ethier and (grumble) Uribe. You probably have Sands. Maybe Carroll. Then your next two in-house options to start are Ellis at catcher and either Robinson or Van Slyke. If desperate, the Dodgers could resurrect the Sands-to-third idea.

The point is, the Dodgers are going to make some big moves in the offseason, otherwise their 2012 starting lineup could look like this:

Carroll, SS
Robinson, LF
Ethier, RF
Kemp, CF
Sands, 3B
Uribe, 2B
Ellis, C
Van Slyke, 1B

It’s gonna be an interesting offseason … five months from now.

May 14

Unearned run provides margin for 4-3 Dodger victory

Mark J. Terrill/APMatt Kemp executes “The Crane” to topple Kenley Jansen at the All-Valley Karate Tournament.

It says something about Clayton Kershaw that he allowed back-to-back doubles leading off the first inning and loaded the bases in the third inning and still ended up pitching shutout ball. And by the end of his seven-inning outing, when he struck out 11 and retired his last 14 batters, he had gone from backpedaling to dominating.

It was the second-straight seven-inning shutout by a Dodger starter. Meanwhile, Los Angeles scored four runs, one unearned, and that was just enough to withstand the latest bullpen meltdown for a 4-3 victory.

Matt Guerrier allowed a run in the eighth inning, and Vicente Padilla allowed two in a 32-pitch ninth before Kenley Jansen came in and struck out Melvin Mora for the final out – the 15th strikeout of the game for the Dodgers.

By holding on, the Dodgers had their second three-game winning streak of the season and moved within 2 1/2 games of first place in the National League West despite an 19-20 record.

* * *

As if we hadn’t gotten enough scary medical news lately, Zach Lee entered the picture. From Jim Peltz and Kevin Baxter of the Times:

… Lee, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in last June’s draft, was sent to the team’s minor league complex near Phoenix for an MRI test on the right-hander’s pitching elbow.

Lee complained of tightness in the elbow after his last start May 5, when he went a season-long six innings, giving up one run on five hits. But he lacked his usual sharpness, striking out just one, a career low.

DeJon Watson, the Dodgers’ assistant general manager for player development, characterized the test as a standard procedure for young pitchers. He said the test showed no damage and that Lee, 19, would return to Great Lakes of the single-A Midwest League, though Watson said he did not expect Lee to pitch for 10 to 15 days.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Watson said. “We just want to make sure he’s 100%.”

Some happier tidings: Shawn Tolleson, who struck out 33 of the 56 batters he faced at Single-A Great Lakes while allowing only 12 baserunners and a 0.00 ERA in 15 innings, has been promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. (Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Mike–Tink for the link.) In addition, Rancho Cucamonga reliever Steven Ames (60 batters, 28 strikeouts, 12 baserunners, 1.17 ERA) has moved up to Double-A Chattanooga.

* * *

Gathering dust: Scott Elbert has not pitched since May 9 and has thrown only one inning since May 6.

* * *

Today’s game has an unusual 4:10 p.m. start. The shadows could be timely for the pitchers …

Apr 24

Trayvon Robinson making his own case

Eric Risberg/APTrayvon Robinson

Hot starts from Dodger minor leaguers:

Trayvon Robinson, 23, OF, Albuquerque
63 plate appearances, .429 on-base percentage, .661 slugging percentage, four homers, six walks, 19 strikeouts

Jon Link, 27, RP, Albuquerque
12 1/3 innings, 16 baserunners, 10 strikeouts, 2.19 ERA

Bryan Cranston, 55, UT, Albuquerque
No stats, only video.

Corey Smith, 29, 3B, Chattanooga-Albuquerque
63 plate appearances, .397 on-base percentage, .483 slugging percentage, one homer, five walks, 10 strikeouts

Scott Van Slyke, 24, OF, Chattanooga
54 plate appearances, .463 on-base percentage, .830 slugging percentage, three homers, six walks, 10 strikeouts

Michael Antonini, 25, SP, Chattanooga
17 2/3 innings, 20 baserunners, 12 strikeouts, 1.53 ERA

Rubby De La Rosa, 22, SP, Chattanooga
15 1/3 innings, 20 baserunners, 19 strikeouts, 1.76 ERA

Nathan Eovaldi, 21, SP, Chattanooga
15 innings, 18 baserunners, 16 strikeouts, 1.20 ERA

Austin Gallagher, 22, 1B, Rancho Cucamonga
62 plate appearances, .468 on-base percentage, .632 slugging percentage, two homers, five walks, seven strikeouts

Gorman Erickson, 23, C, Rancho Cucamonga
49 plate appearances, .490 on-base percentage, .575 slugging percentage, no homers, nine walks, seven strikeouts

Steven Ames, 23, RP, Rancho Cucamonga
8 1/3 innings, seven baserunners, 15 strikeouts, 1.08 ERA

Jonathan Garcia, 19, OF, Great Lakes
65 plate appearances, .354 on-base percentage, .712 slugging percentage, six homers, five walks, 17 strikeouts

Garrett Gould, 19, SP, Great Lakes
17 innings, 14 baserunners, 12 strikeouts, 1.59 ERA

Zach Lee, 19, SP, Great Lakes
14 innings, 21 baserunners, 21 strikeouts, 1.29 ERA

Shawn Tolleson, 23, RP, Great Lakes
6 1/3 innings, seven baserunners, 16 strikeouts (out of 19 total outs), 0.00 ERA

Apr 14

Injuries hammer Isotopes

That wasn’t the injury bug in Albuquerque on Wednesday – those were injury locusts.  From Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner:

The Albuquerque Isotopes’ 10-7 victory over the Iowa Cubs on Wednesday night may go down as the costliest win in team history.

In the span of four innings, three Isotopes were injured, suddenly leaving the club down to only seven healthy position players.

“I’ve been in this game a long time and we talked about there’s not too many ‘nevers’ in baseball,” manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “To have guys get hurt and have to come out of the game the way it happened tonight, to end up with a pitcher in right field … it was a strange night.”

Second baseman Justin Sellers was hit by a pitch on his right hand in the fourth inning, forcing him to leave the game.

Three batters later, Juan Castro fouled off the first pitch from Austin Bibens-Dirkx, only to suddenly double over in pain, clutching his left side. He had to leave the game as well.

In the seventh inning, J.D. Closser, who had moved from catcher to third base to replace Castro, stumbled while trying to field a grounder. The ball bounced up and struck Closser under his left eye, leaving him with a visible bruise and forcing him out.

At that point, Jerry Sands had to move from right field to third, and with no position players available on the bench, pitcher Tim Redding trotted out to right field. …

Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Mike Tink for the head’s up …

Feb 21

You get a line, I’ll get a pole, my honey …


Morry Gash/APXavier Paul takes his swings at Camelback Ranch today.

Maury Wills sings “Crawdad Hole.” Thank you, Blue Heaven.

Elsewhere …

  • One of the lesser-known but valuable defensive statistical tools is PMR (Probabilistic Model of Range), by David Pinto of Baseball Musings. Today, he published shortstop data for the period 2006-10. The Dodgers are No. 6 out of 30 teams at the position, thanks mostly to Rafael Furcal, who is seventh-best in baseball over that stretch – fourth among those who have seen at least 10,000 balls in play in their zone.
  • Andre Ethier wants to be a more uplifting leader for the Dodgers this year, he tells Dylan Hernandez of the Times. Don Mattingly suggested a role model for Ethier: Derek Jeter.
  • It just keeps getting worse for Scott Podsednik. Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star reports that “Podsednik suffered a re-aggravation of foot injury he first came down with in 2010, and will not be immediately available to open spring training with the team.” Jays manager John Farrell said the ex-Dodger, whose unguaranteed contract gives him $1 million for making the team, is battling plantar fasciitis again.
  • I’ve been meaning to highlight this for a long time but kept forgetting: Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. went to the trouble of ranking and providing detailed capsules of the Dodgers’ top 200 minor-league prospects. Here’s your path to the trove.
  • A 7-foot-1 pitching prospect? You be the judge: Bill Plunkett of the Register has a fun feature on the Angels’ 85-inch minor leaguer, Loek Van Mil.
  • Dee Gordon, interviewed by Josh Jackson for MLB.com, says he isn’t expecting Stephen King to write “The Girl Who Loved Dee Gordon.”
  • ESPN.com has an entire page dedicated to 6-foot-2 high school basketball player Diamond DeShields, daugher of Delino and class of 2013.
Jan 27

Should we envy the Kansas City Royals?

Matt Meyers of ESPN Insider notes that while the Royals may have the No. 1 farm system in baseball, they might not even win 60 games this season. That’s in part because of trading players like Zack Greinke to boost their future.

As Dodger fans, would you be willing to live through a 100-loss campaign if you had these kinds of hopes for the talent coming up from the system?

On the one hand, it was not long ago that the Dodgers had this kind of talent coming up, when names like Billingsley, Kershaw, Martin and Kemp were all new, and you can see that’s no guarantee of a World Series title. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for having another crack at it.

I’d vote for keeping things the way they are, not because I’m afraid of one 100-loss season, but because I don’t think the potential of the current Blue Crew is tapped out.

Jan 26

Mid-day dabblings


The clip above is brought to you by Celebuzz via Franklin Avenue.

  • The Dodgers rank 22nd among organizations in minor-league propsects, according to Keith Law of ESPN.com.
  • Tom Hawthorn of the Toronto Globe & Mail writes about Allan Simpson and the story of how Baseball America was founded.
  • True Blue L.A. offers a guide to visiting Camelback Ranch.
  • Teenage Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the top minor-league prospect in baseball by MLB.com.
  • John Sickels looks back at the top 50 hitting prospects of 2006 at Minor League Ball. Shed a tear for Joel Guzman.
  • Pitcher and used-car salesman Brandon Webb will take that old clunker off your hands, he tells the Dallas Morning News (link via Baseball Musings).
  • Webb’s former Arizona teammate, Micah Owings, has returned to the Diamondbacks, who might use him as a true two-way player, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
  • Rob Neyer of ESPN.com questions whether, after decades, he is still a Royals fan.
Jan 25

Ivan DeJesus, Jr.: How close is he?


The fifth in a series of at least five, on how close selected Dodger prospects are to the majors …

Ivan DeJesus, Jr.
Vitals:
SS-2B, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, turns 24 on May Day.

Summary: For the first time in this series, we’re talking about a prospect who is trying to bounce back instead of one who is ascending. Two years ago, the son of 1970s Dodger Ivan DeJesus was coming off a year in which he delivered an impressive .419 on-base percentage to go with a .423 slugging percentage in the Double-A Southern League while still 21. To compare, Dee Gordon had an inferior .332/.355 in the same league at age 22.

But a broken leg suffered on an ill-fated slide in Spring Training wiped out DeJesus’ 2009 season. Then the Dodgers bumped him up to Triple-A as he started his comeback in 2010, and DeJesus only managed to go .335/.405 while in hitter-friendly Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League. DeJesus still is on the young side, but his future is unclear.

For comparison’s sake: Chin-Lung Hu comes to mind, because Hu is the most recent Dodger middle infield prospect to excite with a strong Double-A season (.380/.508 in 2007), then disappoint in subsequent years. Spending the next three seasons in Triple-A, Hu couldn’t break .800 in OPS. (In 191 scattered major-league appearances, Hu’s OPS is .524.) Long after they had given up on him, the Dodgers finally dumped Hu this offseason for Mets minor-league journeyman pitcher Michael Antonini. So yes, Hu got promoted, but it didn’t mean a lot.

For a more off-the-wall comparison, how about James Loney?  Different position, but same track record of having but one minor-league season with an OPS over .800. In his final minor-league action, Loney was reduced to a .345 on-base percentage and .382 slugging percentage with Albuquerque in 261 plate appearances over the first half of the 2007 season. But then Loney was promoted to the majors anyway and produced at a .381/.538 clip the rest of 2007. Say what you will about Loney as a first baseman, but if DeJesus came in at those numbers as a second baseman, people would be quite satisfied.

But as you can gather, the comparisons don’t help much.

X factor: Tales of bad vibes emerged in early September when Ken Gurnick of MLB.com wrote a short piece about DeJesus failing to earn a callup when rosters expanded. “DeJesus was drafted in the second round in 2005 as a shortstop, but he played second base this year, and scouts say his range and footwork around the bag need improvement, perhaps the after-effects of the injury,” Gurnick said. “Sources also claim that DeJesus … is in the doghouse because he has yet to grasp some of the subtleties of teamwork and game approach.”

Gurnick found more positive words about DeJesus earlier this month from Don Mattingly, who managed DeJesus in the Arizona Fall League: “He swung the bat well,” Mattingly told Gurnick. “I know since the injury, they say he’s a step slower here or there, but he’s prepared to hit at the major-league level. He has a good feel for how pitchers try to handle him. I thought he was really good offensively. Defensively, I didn’t see him as much as I’d like to because of the restrictions on who plays where. Offensively, the kid is ready to hit and produce. Where he fits, who knows?”

How close is he? Keeping in mind the usual caveat that the Ned Colletti Dodgers almost never hand a rookie a starting job in April, there’s a job in Spring Training that can be won. The team has a roster opening for an infielder, and if DeJesus came out like gangbusters, the Dodgers might consider pushing Juan Uribe to third base and Casey Blake to the left field squad.  DeJesus could also contend for a backup infield role.

But much more likely is DeJesus returns to Albuquerque to play the keystone opposite Gordon and work on his game, with an eye toward a midseason promotion if he shows progress. With a year of Triple-A already behind him, DeJesus’ destiny is largely in his hands at this point. Whether he can become more than Hu is up to him.

Did you know? DeJesus’ dad led the National League in runs in 1978 with 104, one more than Pete Rose.

* * *

Some links:

  • The Dodgers are staging a minicamp for pitchers in Arizona, from Clayton Kershaw to Luis Vasquez, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Jerry Sands is interviewed by John Parker for MLB.com.
  • Scott Podsednik’s decision to decline his 2011 option with the Dodgers looks worse and worse, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Former Dodger Andy LaRoche signed a minor-league contract with Oakland.
  • A list of remaining free agents is provided by Hardball Talk.
  • Update: Joe Posnanski has a column on Dodger national crosschecker John Green for SI.com, then discusses the column here. And Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has a rich feature on the fate of the man who invented defense-independent pitching statistics, Voros McCracken.
Jan 21

More Dodger prospect ponderings

I’m growing increasingly numb to the various lists ranking Dodger prospects. My interest in the prospects themselves hasn’t waned, but more and more, the ordering of them seems to have been generated like letter-number combinations from a Bingo tumbler.

Here are two more lists, from Baseball America and from Fangraphs. As if to thumb their nose at my state of mind, both rank Dee Gordon and Zach Lee first and second, but for example, BA has Trayvon Robinson 10th, while Fangraphs has him third.

I think I just enjoy getting information about the players rather than worrying about what order they should be in. In that spirit, here’s one excerpt: BA’s Best Tools in the Dodger farm system. You can see why BA likes Gordon – errors aside, they rank him as the team’s best defensive infielder.

Best Hitter for Average: Dee Gordon
Best Power Hitter: Jerry Sands
Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Justin Sellers
Fastest Baserunner: Dee Gordon
Best Athlete: Dee Gordon
Best Fastball: Kenley Jansen
Best Curveball: Chris Withrow
Best Slider: Scott Elbert
Best Changeup: Allen Webster
Best Control: Zach Lee
Best Defensive Catcher: Gorman Erickson
Best Defensive Infielder: Dee Gordon
Best Infield Arm: Pedro Baez
Best Defensive Outfielder: James Baldwin
Best Outfield Arm: Blake Smith

* * *

I’m finding the transformation of Dodger Stadium into a supercross arena fascinating, if not a little frightening. I really would be curious to see it for myself. In any case, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News gives us a look and talks to Dodger Stadium head groundskeeper Eric Hansen about his fears.

Jan 10

Dee Gordon: How close is he?

The third in a series of at least three, on how close selected Dodger prospects are to the majors …

Dee Gordon
Vitals:
SS, bats left, throws right, 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, turns 23 on April 22.

Summary: In 2010, Gordon’s numbers suffered as he moved into Double-A – something that isn’t uncommon among Dodger prospects, as the Southern League represses offense relative to its Single-A counterparts. Gordon’s .332 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage were career lows, as was his 72.6 stolen-base percentage (53 of 73). He was also charged with a career-high 37 errors, albeit in a career-high 133 games.

For comparison’s sake: Good luck finding one in recent times.  The last homegrown product considered to be a blue-chip prospect at shortstop for the Dodgers was … Jose Offerman. And Offerman made his major-league debut at age 21, despite concerns about his fielding, thanks to an OBP at Double-A and Triple-A of nearly .400. Alex Cora, a fringier prospect, reached Double-A in 1997 at age 21, OPSed .596, and reached the majors a year later in 1998, staying for good in 2000.

Mystery train: Gordon invites divided opinion, because his strengths and his flaws are so glaring. The guy can flat out run, as evidenced by his stolen base and triples totals, and there’s batting potential in the Juan Pierre sense. And though his 95 minor-league errors in 319 games are shocking, scouting reports indicate that they are the kinds of miscues can be ironed out over time; meanwhile, his range and arm are highly praised. Although his father Tom played 21 seasons in the majors, Gordon came to the game relatively late in school, encouraging some to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Others don’t see how he’ll grow into a front-line player.

How close is he? In different circumstances, 2012 might seem to be the earliest Gordon would reach the majors, with a starting job not in sight for at least another year after that. However, 2011 likely marks the end of the six-year Rafael Furcal era, and by now it’s safe to expect that that era will include at least one more trip to the disabled list for the otherwise talented Dodger shortstop. While Jamey Carroll has shown he can fill in for Furcal, a prolonged absence conceivably could compel the Dodgers to accelerate Gordon’s timetable, allowing him to reach the majors this summer.

But barring a massive developmental leap, Gordon has at least a solid year in the minors left, save a potential September callup. The Dodgers could be faced with an interesting decision a year from now. Gordon strikes me as someone whose maturation date could be July 2012 – if so, what do the Dodgers do for the first three months of next year? Rush him or find a stopgap?

There’s been some talk that Gordon might eventually move to center field because of his error-filled ways, but with his good buddy Trayvon Robinson looking like a contender, I don’t really see it happening. You just kind of have to hope that Gordon irons out his fielding woes – and if he can, the Dodgers could have their first homegrown shortstop in ages.

Did you know? The Dodgers haven’t had a homegrown five-year starter in the middle infield since Steve Sax.