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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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.

Jan 16

Stopping by the Internet on a Snowy Evening

And miles to link before I sleep …

  • The state of Don Mattingly is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Evan Bladh Sr. of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance continues to knock ‘em out of the park – here’s a great story about the Dodgers and Mister Marty.
  • The frustrating thing with Russell Martin is that he keeps telling us in April that he’s training like he’s never trained before, and then the following winter he inevitably tells us, “No, not really.” Anyway, Martin tells the Canadian Press that he had some personal “distractions” and “frustrations” during his last two years with the Dodgers, but this year, he’ll be back.
  • Dodger pitching prospects Javy Guerra and Chris Withrow were continuing their rehab from injuries at the team’s recent minicamp in Los Angeles, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Delino DeShields Jr., the 18-year-old reigning first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, was charged with a DUI, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Danny’s Farm, the Altadena animal farm tailored for special-needs children that was founded by former Dodger pitcher Jim Gott and his wife Cathy, has been closed because of zoning restrictions, reports Corina Knoll of the Times.
  • Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye gets praise from Rob McMillin at 6-4-2.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times has a praiseworthy recap of Dennis Gilbert’s annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner Saturday.

Update:

Apr 14

Goodness gracious, forsaken alive: Billingsley, Dodgers drag fans into 7-7 marathon

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Chad Billingsley retired nine of his first 10 batters, but only got eight more outs from his next 18.

Chad Billingsley, who was looking ever-so-close like that guy who could always be counted on to get the job done, is now the guy getting the Job done.

Close to scintillating in the first three innings Wednesday against Arizona – he threw 45 pitches and faced one over the minimum while striking out four, lowering his season ERA at that point to 1.08 – the be-plagued Billingsley staggered through 61 pitches over the next 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits in all while walking three. And what looked like a breeze for Los Angeles became an even longer endurance test than Tuesday’s 3:42 game, with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks headed into extra innings, 7-7, exactly four hours after the game’s 7:10 p.m. start time.

It took some doing for Billingsley to not outpitch Arizona’s Rodrigo Lopez, who allowed five runs and 11 hits to the first 22 Dodgers he faced, but Billingsley did it, and he is now facing his latest calamity.

In the fourth, trailing 3-0, Arizona surrounded a Justin Upton infield hit with four big fly balls off Billingsley – a homer by Stephen Drew, a double by Adam LaRoche and sacrifice flies by Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. Billingsley then issued a walk before he got out of the inning, after which Matt Kemp put the Dodgers back in front with a two-run homer.

In the fifth, Billingsley came very close to making his previous inning look like an aberration, retiring the first two hitters before making a great 1-1 pitch to Drew that was called a ball. Drew eventually drew a 3-2 walk, and then Upton doubled and LaRoche singled to tie the game again.

And in the sixth, Billingsley again came within one strike of making it through, but Conor Jackson doubled right down the third-base line on an 0-2 pitch to give Arizona a 6-5 lead and cast Billingsley adrift. He finished the night with 116 pitches to get 17 outs, and his ERA leaped to 5.73.

Mark J. Terrill/AP
Rodrigo Lopez looked like a sure-fire losing pitcher in the early going, but it didn’t turn out that way.

Starting in the top of the fourth, of the nine baserunners Billingsley allowed (leaving out an intentional walk), six did their damage with two strikes. Last year, opponents had a .245 on-base percentage against Billingsley with two strikes, though it’s safe to assume that figure was higher in the second half of the season. Tonight, Billingsley couldn’t shut the door, on the Diamondbacks or his doubters.

The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Kemp sacrifice fly but didn’t get any more runs despite loading the bases with one out. Then, Carlos Monasterios was called upon for the first time in his career in a close situation and gave up a dead-center leadoff homer to Upton in the seventh. Ramon Ortiz bailed Monasterios out of a two-walk, one-out jam that pushed the game past the 3:00 mark with nearly three innings to go by inducing a double play. George Sherrill, trying to recover from his bad start to 2010, also got a double play and then a strikeout to handle the eighth, while Charlie Haeger made himself useful in relief with a shutout ninth. (For the record, yes, that’s a Jonathan Broxton situation too if he’s available.)

Manny Ramirez doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers’ 18th baserunner, but after James Loney struck out, Casey Blake doubled home pinch-runner Jamey Carroll to tie the game at 11:06 p.m. A Blake DeWitt grounder moved Blake to third. Russell Martin was intentionally walked, but pinch-hitter Reed Johnson grounded out to send the game into the 10th.

Despite my stating the obvious, the offense and the pitching stayed at their weird extremes. Kemp, Ramirez, Martin and Andre Ethier each reached base at least three times. But regardless of what was to come in extra innings, Los Angeles will be practically desperate for Hiroki Kuroda to deliver another sharp performance Thursday against Dan Haren.

* * *

Hong-Chih Kuo is scheduled to make a 20-pitch rehab appearance in the first inning Thursday for Inland Empire. Elsewhere in the minors for the Dodgers:

  • Scott Elbert struggled in the unfriendly confines of Albuquerque, allowing five runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four in four innings. Jay Gibbons (4 for 5) won the game for the Isotopes with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth after reliever Jon Link (8.10 ERA) blew his second save in as many nights.
  • Great Lakes righty Brett Wallach, who pitched five no-hit innings with eight strikeouts in his first start of the season, came back with another five innings tonight and allowed one unearned run while striking out six. Opponents are 5 for 34 (.147) against him this season. Brian Cavalos-Galvez went 3 for 4 with two doubles and has a .394 on-base percentage on the season.
  • Chris Withrow of Chattanooga got hammered tonight: six runs (five earned) in 2 2/3 innings with one strikeout. The Lookouts made five errors and lost, 15-2.
  • Aaron Miller went six innings for Inland Empire tonight and allowed six baserunners and one run (on a sixth-inning squeeze). That was a 1-0 game until Pedro Baez singled in the tying run with two out in the bottom of the ninth, and then the 66ers won in the 10th.
Mar 14

Age is just a number … that tells you how old you are

It wasn’t just Garret Anderson making his 2010 debut today.

This morning, I played my first game of softball in more than a year, and had a great time despite the realization that my Strat-o-Matic card has gone from a CF 1e2 (+2) to a CF 3e6 (+3). And don’t even ask about my baserunning rating.

I could really feel the passage of time, both in the physical limitations and the instinctive ones. Things normally intuitive – the way I’d close in on a ball, for example – I had to think about. And considering that almost all my exercise is fingers on a keyboard, it was inevitable that I would tweak something. Sure enough, the first time I raced for a ball to my left, I got a twinge in my right rear bumper, so I was towing that leg the rest of the game.

With more frequent play, I’d get a second wind, but infrequency is my sandlot in life.

Nevertheless, I went 2-for-6 with three hard-hit outs and made a few solid plays. And it was a great day to be out on the grass again.

* * *

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming …

  • In the past 10 innings of Dodger baseball, I’ve had the unexpected TV pleasure of seeing prospects Trayvon Robinson and Brian Cavazos-Galvez hit towering homers. Oh, and Matt Kemp too.
  • Perhaps the top rising pitching prospect in the Dodger minor-league system, Chris Withrow, played his first Spring Training game with the big club today and struck out all three batters he faced. Details from Eric Stephen at True Blue L.A.
  • An error in the field and a pickoff on the bases today might have slowed the Blake DeWitt Starting Lineup Express just a tad, but even if it arrives, Dodger manager Joe Torre indicated he’s still inclined to give both Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll some starts, according to this Ken Gurinck story at MLB.com. “Again, if it happens to be DeWitt, we’ll certainly make sure that Carroll and Belliard have to be part of the equation somewhat,” Torre said.
  • Dodger assistant general manager and director of player development De Jon Watson talked about Ivan DeJesus, Jr. and Dee Gordon with David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus.
  • To his credit, Dodger postgame radio host Ken Levine talked openly about a TV broadcast gone awry last week.
  • Don’t forget to join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness pool. Password is “Kershaw.”