Feb 08

Interview: De Jon Watson looks at Dodger prospects

Though the Dodger farm system certainly has its less fallow spots, it also certainly has its fertile areas, which were enough for ESPN.com’s Keith Law to rank it 12th in the majors, higher than I’ve seen elsewhere.

For a closer look at some of the Dodger developing prospects, I interviewed Dodger assistant general manager in charge of player development De Jon Watson recently for a piece that is running in full at ESPNLosAngeles.com. Here’s how it begins …

The patchwork roster surrounding established Los Angeles Dodgers stars like Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw this year would hint at a dearth of minor league chips to play with, but De Jon Watson would encourage you to ante up.

The Dodgers’ assistant general manager in charge of player development has more than a poker hand’s worth of serious starting pitcher candidates rising through the system, and would even argue for a few wild cards among the position players.

“It’s been good stuff, man,” Watson said of the franchise’s depth at starting pitcher. “Our kids are coming. It’s great to have that type of competition. … If you have a hiccup or someone goes down for a little bit, you have a legitimate option waiting in the wings. The key is being as sharp as they can possibly be when that opportunity arises so you really don’t miss a beat.”

That doesn’t change the Dodgers’ pattern of leaning toward veterans at the start of the season. With Hiroki Kuroda leaving as a free agent and the team’s 2010 minor league pitcher of the year, Rubby De La Rosa, recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers signed Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano rather than hand a starting rotation slot to Nathan Eovaldi, who had a 3.09 ERA in six starts at age 21 late last summer.

Shortstop Dee Gordon is the only 2011 Dodgers rookie who has the inside track on a starting spot with the team this season. Gordon, who had 24 stolen bases in 56 games and a .325 on-base percentage (.398 in September), will look to capitalize on his hot finish.

“The biggest thing to look for from him is going to be his on-base percentage,” Watson said, “because his speed is going to change how they pitch to the guy that’s behind him. He’s going to apply pressure both from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint for the opponent. So he has to get on base. For us, his key is understanding what type of hitter he is, understanding the strike zone.” …

In addition to Eovaldi, De La Rosa and Gordon, Watson also provides a status report on Jerry Sands, Zach Lee, Garret Gould, Allen Webster, Chris Withrow, Shawn Tolleson, Steven Ames, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos, Chris Reed and Pedro Baez.

Hope you enjoy reading the full story

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Feb 07

Infielder roulette

Monday was a day of past Dodger infielders making news, and present Dodger infielders become past ones.

  • Russell Mitchell was designated for assignment to make room on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster for Todd Coffey. He could return to the organization if he clears waivers. (Remembering 2011: Russell Mitchell)
  • Blake DeWitt, once upon a time known as “The Solution,” was designated for assignment by the Cubs, who acquired him in the Ted Lilly trade a couple years back. DeWitt, 26, had a 95 OPS+ (.305 on-base percentage, .413 slugging) with Chicago in 2011, compared with Adam Kennedy’s 79 OPS+ for Seattle – but don’t expect the Dodgers to give someone up to acquire DeWitt, who more likely would end up back in the minors for the Cubs.
  • Alex Cora is still at it, signing a minor-league deal with St. Louis.
  • Edwin Jackson reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million deal with Pittsburgh to sign with Washington for one year and $11 million, banking on doing better in next season’s free-agent market (or just determined to set a record for organizations in a career).
  • Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White talked about some of his prize picks – Zach Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Reed – with David Laurila for Fangraphs.
  • Up-and-coming reliever Shawn Tolleson was profiled by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The late Jose Lima is the subject of a recent SABR biography by Rory Costello.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. is taking a day-by-day look at the Dodgers’ divisional rivals, starting with Arizona on Monday and continuing with San Francisco today.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Blake Griffin and Matt Kemp.
  • Mark Prior is trying one more time to salvage his pitching career, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Drew Silva of Hardball Talk). Prior last pitched in the majors in 2006 and won only two games after his 25th birthday.
  • Also aspiring to come back: Brandon Webb, out since Opening Day 2009.
  • Tim Lincecum talks about Clayton Kershaw, among other topics, in this video passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Here’s a simple dice baseball game designed for kids ages 3-6, via Baseball Think Factory.
  • One last baseball-oriented remark about “Smash” that I tweeted: “Hilty is the proven veteran talent. McPhee is green but higher-ceiling. It’s Juan Rivera vs. Jerry Sands. Harang vs. Eovaldi.”  Except this wasn’t quite right. It’s more like A.J. Ellis vs. Tim Federowicz.
  • Ten years ago, while on detail for MLB.com in Venezuela, former Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch wrote about an up-and-coming Rivera.
  • In this terrific podcast interview, ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Kamenetzky brothers talk to Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman about, among many other things in a 45-minute chat, his great admiration and love for baseball.
  • This seemed to fascinate some folks on Twitter late Monday: Take a look at these NPR contributor bios, and see if their pictures match with your images of them.
Aug 11

Signing of first-round pick Reed imminent

Chris Reed is expected to make his first official appearance at Dodger Stadium before Friday’s game, coinciding with the announcement that the first-round pick has signed with the Dodgers. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Reed accepted a signing bonus of a little less than $1.6 million just four days before Monday’s deadline for signing this year’s draft picks.

The deal is expected to be announced on Friday. The agreement became official after Reed passed a physical examination on Thursday.

The Dodgers now have signed nine of their first 10 picks, the exception being fourth-rounder Ryan O’Sullivan, a right-hander out of Oklahoma City University.

Reed will attend Friday night’s game at Dodger Stadium between the Dodgers and Houston Astros and is expected to be made available to the media either before or during that game. Shortly thereafter, he will report to the team’s advanced Class A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga, two levels higher than where collegiate draft picks usually begin their careers. …

Reed won’t attend the Dodgers’ Instructional League camp in Arizona after the season because, as part of the agreement, he will be allowed to return to Stanford in the fall to continue working toward his college degree. …

Jun 23

Chris-cross: Comparing top draft picks for the Dodgers and Angels

As the Dodgers and Angels prepare to battle on the field for the first time this season, we can revisit an earlier pseudo-faceoff between the two clubs – the MLB draft.

Los Angeles and Los Angeles* drafted in succession, with the Dodgers using the 16th pick overall and the Angels the 17th. Both teams picked college juniors: Stanford pitcher Chris Reed to Chavez Ravine, Utah first baseman C.J. Cron to Anaheim.

The question of the day is this: Why did the Dodgers, an organization that needs offensive help, take the pitcher – a reliever at that – instead of the hitter. Cron certainly has his bona fides.

“A 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-handed slugger who can drive the ball but also sprays it to all fields and makes consistent contact, Cron from the beginning was in the bull’s-eye of Los Angeles scouting director Rik Wilson,” wrote Tom Singer and Jordan Garretson of MLB.com.

In 49 games, the first-team All-American had a .517 on-base percentage and .803 slugging percentage, with 15 walks and 31 walks compared to 21 strikeouts in 198 at-bats. The twist with Cron: Do the words “torn right labrum” scare you off?

“I played through it, because the doctor said I couldn’t do any more damage,” Cron told MLB.com. “It’s pretty painful when I throw, so something will have to be done eventually.”

Said Jason A. Churchill of ESPN.com: “Cron possesses perhaps the best power tool among college bats in the entire class. A natural catcher, Cron played first base this season due to a shoulder injury, but that is likely where he ends up as a pro. He makes a lot of contact, too, but doesn’t generally work the count all that much. He generates leverage and loft consistently and is believed to have a strong enough ability to hit for average that he’ll skate through the minors in a couple of seasons. The Halos need bats, and Cron gives them one.”

And this from Baseball America: “He doesn’t move well at first base and is a bottom-of-the-scale runner, but that’s all right because he’s the best all-around hitter in the country and should have no problem producing the numbers teams expect from a first baseman. Cron has the unique combination of pure hitting ability and power. He projects to be an above-average hitter and has legitimate 80 raw power on the 20-80 scale that translates into at least above-average usable power. He has great hand-eye coordination and the strength in his hands to drive good pitches for singles and doubles. He uses a good approach at the plate and makes adjustments well, so he should move quickly through a team’s system.”

However much they might or might not have been tempted by Cron, the Dodgers went with Reed, the reliever whom they project as a starting pitcher.

“Reed is listed at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds,” said Baseball America, “but scouts say he has grown and gained strength from last year to this year. His fastball varies from 89-91 mph some nights to 92-94 on others, and he has touched 96. He’ll show a power slider and above-average changeup, but all of his stuff needs more consistency. That should come with experience. Reed has totaled just 68 innings at Stanford and has started only one game. His size, athleticism and three-pitch mix will tempt teams to give him a shot as a starter in pro ball.”

The Cleveland High grad finished his season with 52 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings, while allowing 39 hits (one home run) and walking 17.

“There’s big league ability here and his changeup and slider are his two best pitches,” Churchill said, “but this was a pick to make sure they landed a player with probability and signability, rather than upside.”

However, the final judge was Dodger assistant general manager of scouting Logan White, and don’t try telling White that Reed doesn’t have upside.

“I think this guy definitely can start,” White told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I think we got fortunate that the kid was pitched out of the bullpen. We were on him a long time. He hasn’t been seen a lot (by other clubs). He throws 92-95 (mph). … He is big and strong, 6-feet-5 and 215 (pounds). He has a hard slider, 86-88, and a sharp changeup as well.”

If anything, the signability issue might loom larger in White’s mind, with Reed being a Scott Boras client, but the man who lassoed Zach Lee a year ago isn’t lacking confidence.

“I would never say it’s a slam dunk, but I’m fairly confident about it,” White told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. “I think the kid really wants to play; he’s given us every indication that he wants to go play. He wants to start.

“Scott and I get along fine. I’ve had fine dialogue with the Boras Corp. I don’t have resentment from that standpoint. There’s always some concern. Like last year, I felt we would sign (Lee), but I couldn’t say 100 percent. This is the same way.”

White’s bias toward drafting pitchers in the first round is hard to ignore – this is the ninth time in the past 10 Dodger drafts that a pitcher has been the team’s first pick. It hasn’t always been successful, but Cron did not persuade White to break from the formula. Best-case scenario: Reed is competing with Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Rubby De La Rosa, Zach Lee, Garrett Gould, Nathan Eovaldi, Allen Webster and more for a spot in the Dodger rotation.

Jun 07

Rubby, Dee, meet Ruby Dee


APRuby Dee on stage with Sidney Poitier on March 26, 1959 during the Broadway run of “A Raisin in the Sun”

In honor of the simultaneous first major-league starts of Rubby De La Rosa and Dee Gordon, here’s a portion of “A Raisin in the Sun” with Ruby Dee.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has a great chart of how pitchers have done making their first major-league starts with the Dodgers in the past 10 years.

* * *

Here are not one but two updates on 2011 No. 1 draft choice Chris Reed from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Jun 06

Dodgers choose Stanford lefty Reed with No. 1 pick

The Dodgers have gone to my alma mater for their first pick in the 2011 amateur draft, taking 6-foot-4 left-handed pitcher Chris Reed from Stanford. Reports say that Reed was something of an unknown quantity entering the year — a reliever who will get a look as a starter, but might end up staying in the bullpen. It’s a surprising enough selection that it definitely asks you to put your faith in Dodger assistant general manager Logan White (or at least understand the financial constraints he’s probably working under).

Reed has 48 strikeouts against 54 baserunners in 49 2/3 innings this season for Stanford, which advanced to the Super Regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament this past weekend. Here’s the ESPN.com scouting report:

The genius of college coaches: Chris Reed, a 6-foot-4 left-hander who sits 92-94 as a reliever with two off-speed pitches that will at least flash above-average, has made exactly one start this year for Stanford, instead working out of the pen where he’s been successful but wasted.

Reed adds a sharp, short slider in the 82-84 mph range to that fastball and will show a very hard-fading changeup in the upper 70s, throwing strikes with all three pitches but not yet showing the fastball command he’ll need to start in the big leagues. He comes from a slot just under three-quarters and repeats his delivery well enough to start, although he could stay upright longer and get more downhill plane on the fastball.

Many scouts like Reed as a potential starter, and we know he can pitch in the bullpen if that doesn’t work out, but I like his chances to end up a No. 2 or 3 starter once he’s stretched out.

Reed was born in London but went to Cleveland HS in the San Fernando Valley.