Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Year in Review - Great Lakes

Low A - Great Lakes (Overall record 57-82)

The other new Class A affiliate for the Dodgers' didn't fare as well as the Inland Empire club. The Loons finished second-to-last in the first half and dead last in the second half. While the offense put up average numbers for the league, the pitching staff accumulated the worst ERA and the team allowed 5.38 runs per game. And while the team as a whole floundered, a few players broke out and established themselves as potential stars.

Breakout - Clayton Kershaw, LHP

Following a dismal 2005 campaign, the Dodgers found themselves picking in the Top 10 (7th) for the first time since 1993. Kershaw, who came into the year as a relatively unheralded prospect, established himself as the premier player in the high school class. I became a fan of his immediately, but just as quickly had my hopes dashed when it became apparent that the Tigers, who were picking 6th, had their sights set on him. So come draft day, I was listening to the broadcast on my computer and prepared myself for missing out on such a rare pitcher. Oddly enough, the Royals seemingly changed course at the last minute and chose former Dodger draftee turned a-hole Luke Hochevar. Four more picks were recorded and Andrew Miller, who many believed was the best player in the draft going into the year, was still avaialble. And up came the Tigers' pick. I began mouthing the words along with the announcer..."with the 6th pick in the MLB draft, the Tigers select...Andrew Miller???" I was shocked. Mouth agape, I thought to myself "Kershaw's still available..." And once the Dodgers delayed their pick, I knew taking Clayton was a serious possibility. So once the voice came back over the radio and announced that he was the pick, I threw my hands in the air and yelled "YES!!!" That was a great day.

Kershaw had one of the more impressive debuts in recent memory, striking out 54 batters while walking just 5 in 37 innings. This year he came down to earth a bit, but still established himself as one of the best prospects in the minors. He was among Midwest League leaders in strikeouts, with 134 in 97.1 innings, on the way to becoming the best prospect in the league according to Feeling bold, Dodgers' brass decided to send the teenage phenom to Double A, skipping a stop in California. He held his own against much older competition, though struggled with his control while posting a 3.65 ERA. He even made an appearance in the All Star Futures Game, though he allowed a HR and a walk while striking out a batter in two-thirds of an inning. Kershaw uses a 93-95mph fastball that has late, cutting action and a sharp mid 70s curveball to dominate his competition. He's still refining his changeup, which should end up being an average pitch for him.

After starting the season in Low A, it seemed as though the Dodgers would bring Kershaw along slowly. But with his promotion to Double A, it looks like he's going to reach the majors much earlier than expected. He should begin next season back in Jacksonville, with the possibility of a callup as soon as midseason. Kershaw is a rare lefty with a power arsenal and outstanding makeup. All he needs right now is to throw strikes consistently. If he cuts down on the strikeouts, he'll be unstoppable.

Breakdown - Preston Mattingly, 2B

I wasn't the only person who was shocked to hear his name called in the 2006 draft, much less in the supplemental first round. You can recognize his name instantly, as he is the son of former All Star and MVP Don Mattingly. Preston was a three sport star in High School, who also averaged 20 points per game in Basketball and starred at wide receiver in Football. Unlike his father, Preston has a big frame (6'3 200 lbs) and lots of speed. However, his approach at the plate and defense need lots of work. And while he seemed to hold his own in rookie ball, Preston looked lost in his first full season.

Drafted as a shortstop, Mattingly was never projected to stay there and forced his way off the position by committing 15 errors in 18 games. A move to second base yielded 15 errors in 71 games, an improvement but nothing to write home about. Given his below average arm strength, some scouts have said he'll eventually wind up in LF. But I would let him use his speed in CF. And then there's the bat. After hitting .290 in his debut, Preston hit just .210 with the Loons while posting a .548 OPS - nearly .150 points below the league average. His BABIP was low for the level, but a 10% line drive percentage is well below average. And his sub .200 average on groundballs, which accounted for more than half of his batted balls in play, didn't help either. Nor did his 119 strikeouts, tied for the team lead with Trayvon Robinson. Nor did his 22 walks in 437 plate appearances.

It looks like Mattingly was completely lost playing full season ball when he probably should have been held back in extended spring training and gotten his feet wet in the Pioneer League. He has some raw skills, including his power/speed combination. But given his production, it seems he's far away from realizing his potential. P Mat could repeat the level, as I seriously doubt he'd be able to handle High A pitching. He's probably wishing he played in some summer leagues during high school right about now.

Others of Note

Josh Bell, 3B -
Bell ranked 9th in's Midwest League Top 20 mostly due to his immense power. He ranked 12th in the league in SLG with a .470 mark and tied for 10th with 15 HR. And despite his 35 errors in 90 games, scouts believe he'll be able to stick at 3B. Bell struggled after a promotion to High A Inland Empire, hitting just .173/.203/.307 with a pair of homers in 20 games. He'll almost definitely return there next season and bat in the heart of the lineup.

Josh Wall, RHP - Another 2005 draftee, Wall made the 2007 Top 30 list at #29 though his stuff isn't what it was when he was drafted. A projectible right-hander who used to touch the low 90s with a plus curve, Wall now resides in the upper 80s with an average breaking ball. But Josh had a surprisingly successful season in 2007. He posted a modest 4.18 ERA with 103 strikeouts and 48 walks in 129.1 innings. He'll join Bell in the Inland Empire next year.

Steven Johnson, RHP - Last year, Johnson became the first 18 year old to pitch for the Suns since Greg Miller back in 2003, though it was only 2 games. Johnson then went to Ogden and posted solid peripherals despite his relatively average stuff. This year, Johnson seemed to lose his control of the strike zone and issued 40 walks in just over 80 innings. However, he did strike out over 7 batters per 9 innings and allowed just 2 HR. He debuted in the Hawaii Winter League tonight with 4 shutout innings and 5 strikeouts.

Up Next - Rookie Leagues

A silver lining

Now, don't get me wrong, losing the final game of the season to the Giants is never an ideal ending. But the Dodgers' loss coupled with the Brewers' win has allowed the Dodgers to keep their first round pick this year. How, you ask? I'll explain.

As you may know, the draft order is the reverse of the final standings, with the team with the worst record picking first. Coming into the day, the Dodgers and Brewers had identical 82-79 records, tied for the 15th overall pick. Now, in the event of a tie, the team with the worse record in the previous season picks first. So the Brewers would have gotten the 15th overall pick, with the Dodgers getting the 16th overall pick. It seems insignificant, but it couldn't be more important to draft geeks like myself. Because due to the free agent compensation system, teams who pick in the second half of the first round (Picks 16-30) forfeit their first round pick when they sign a Type A free agent who has been offered arbitration. Teams who pick in the first half of the first round (Picks 1-15) forfeit their second round pick when they sign a Type A free agent who has been offered arbitration.

That may be a lot to absorb if you aren't familiar with the draft / free agency compensation system, but essentially what happened is today's loss allows the Dodgers to sign anyone they want and keep their first round pick. And with Logan White in charge, that's invaluable.

Later tonight, I'll be posting my review of the Great Lakes' Loons season. Sometime in the middle of next week, I'll post my review of the Rookie Leagues. And next Sunday, I'll review the major league club. So stay tuned.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Year in Review - Inland Empire

High A - Inland Empire (Overall record 72-67)

A new year brought a new High Class A affiliate for the Dodgers. After 6 years in Vero Beach, the Dodgers finally brought a club back to California. The 66ers made the playoffs, though were bounced in the first round. Moving from the pitcher friendly Florida State League to the hitter friendly California League wasnt too drastic a change given the 66ers' home park plays almost neutral. And now, onto the prospects.

Breakout - James McDonald, RHP

James McDonald has one of the more fascinating backgrounds of any Dodgers' farmhand. Originally drafted out of Poly (Long Beach) HS in the 11th round in 2002, McDonald elected not to sign right away and attend junior college. The Dodgers signed him in 2003 as a draft and follow and he went to GCL where he pitched 48.2 innings while posting a 3.33 ERA. However, in 2004 he accumulated 125 at bats in the GCL while playing the outfield and DHing. And in 2005, after moving up to Ogden, he did both. But the Dodgers realized his future was on the mound and made him a full-time pitcher in 2006, as he posted a 3.97 ERA for the Low A Columbus Catfish.

This season, given the difficult task of pitching in the California League, McDonald responded by establishing himself as one of the elite arms in the minors. He led the Cal League in strikeouts before his promotion to Jacksonville, where he posted a 1.71 ERA. While McDonald doesnt have overpowering stuff, his ability to locate his high 80s to low 90s fastball, as well as his secondary offerings, keeps batters off balance. James throws both a changeup and a curveball, both garnering praise from the scouting community. He gets good deception from a high 3/4 delivery, generating a downhill plane on his pitches. And given his ultra-thin 6'5 190 lbs frame, there could still be some more velocity to come.

My only real beef with "J Mac" is his flyball tendency. It didnt lead to a high HR total this year (13 in 134.2 innings) but could leave him vulnerable to allowing homers in the future. James posted impressive K/9 (11.23) and BB/9 (2.47) rates this year. He's the best right-hander the Dodgers have in their minor league system and could see time in the majors as soon as next year. However, he'll likely return to Jacksonville's rotation and headline the staff along with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Scott Elbert.

Breakdown - Javy Guerra, RHP

Drafted out of a Texas HS in the 4th round in 2004, Guerra needed immediate work once he signed. Guerra's main flaw was a crow-hop move in his delivery that was illegal in pro ball. Dodger coaches fixed the problem and Guerra retained his low to mid 90s fastball. His secondary pitches lag behind the fastball but power arms are always a commodity.

However, Guerra hit a major bump in the road during the 2005 season. After experiencing discomfort in his elbow, it was determined that Guerra required Tommy John surgery. He didnt pitch again until 2006, when he logged 28 innings for rookie level Ogden. Skipped to High A this season, Guerra struggled mightily with his control. His 80 walks led the California League and his 6.27 ERA was worst among regular 66ers' starters.

It's been 4 years since he became a pro and he's made little progress. Given his strikeout rate (Just over 9) it seems his fastball velocity is still there. But unless he can develop his curveball and changeup, he's a career minor leaguer.

Others of Note

Lucas May, C -
The former SS who was converted to an OF was converted to catcher last year in instructional league. His premium athleticism allowed him to move behind the plate, but he still has a lot of work to do defensively. While he committed just 4 errors, May allowed 31 passed balls. The bright spot of his season was his 25 HR, which was tied for second in the Cally League. He's still young enough to develop, but he's likely a super utility guy in the bigs.

Jamie Hoffman, OF - Originally an undrafted free agent, Hoffman had a nice debut when he hit .310/.375/.459 for the GCL Dodgers in 2004. After struggling in both his prior stints in High A, Hoffman was the team's most consistent hitter with a .309/.378/.455 line. Despite his large frame (6'3, 205 lbs), Hoffman projects more as a table-setter in the pros. He should begin next year patrolling CF for the Jacksonville Suns.

Blake DeWitt, 3B - A mediocre season in High A and an unsuccessful late season promotion to Double A sent DeWitt back to A ball to begin the season. DeWitt struggled in the beginning of the season, hitting just .210 in April, before raising his average to .290 in May and .390 in June. In July, he was hitting .323 with the 66ers before a promotion to Jacksonville. He was blazing hot when he joined the Suns and hit .359 with them through July. But he regressed, hitting .245 in August and .167 in 12 at bats in September. Being stuck behind Andy LaRoche on the organizational depth chart doesnt help DeWitt, and neither does his inability to stick at 2B. I see next year being his make or break season.

Up Next - Great Lakes

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I usually don't do this....

but with the Dodgers' playoff hopes officially crushed, maybe I just need to vent some frustration. Michael Ventre, who contributes to, wrote an article yesterday that blasts the Dodgers for their use of young players. I won't post the whole thing, but I'll provide quotes and respond to them ala FireJoeMorgan. So here goes:

First, we have a quote from Derek Lowe:

“To go with a total youth movement is not fair to the veterans, and not fair to the city. I am a firm believer that you use the minor league system to help the major league team now. You try to win today, and four years from now, you will probably have a kid just as good as the one you got rid of.”

I don't think anyone's asking for a "total youth movement," in the sense that there would be no veterans on the team. I think the problem some people have is signing a veteran (Nomar, Gonzo, Pierre) when a kid's available who could do the job just as well, if not better. And as for having a kid just as good as the one you got rid of, trying telling Dodger fans that about the Pedro Martinez deal.

And of course there's Kent's opinion:

“I don’t know what it is, especially when you have a lot (of young players). It’s hard to influence a big group. We’ve got some good kids on the team. Don’t get me wrong … It’s hard to translate experience. I don’t know why they don’t get it. … I think experience can help more than inexperience. And it’s hard to give a young kid experience.”

It's hard to influence a big group when you're sitting off in a corner of the clubhouse reading a motorcycle magazine, isn't it?

And now, Mr. Ventre's drivel:

This “geezer-punk” assemblage has lost five in a row at a time when the San Diego Padres, making a run at the division title, have won seven straight. The Dodgers just suffered their first-ever four-game sweep by the Rockets at Coors Field. So naturally, the already cranky tricenarians and quadragenarians who creak around the clubhouse in search of their lost youth are becoming more cantankerous by the minute.

Of course he forgets to mention the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks, whose lineup is filled with "kids." As a matter of fact, the only regular starter on their team who is over 30 is Eric Byrnes. And his justification of Kent and Lowe's comments are on par with Colletti's "players are bound to speak out" BS. The only players who've been complaining are the veterans.

You might think that this is a diatribe directed against jocks in their sunset years who can’t accept that at some point the amusement park will close and they’ll have to go and find real jobs. But it isn’t.

Actually, these geezers have the sharpest minds of anybody in the Dodgers organization.

What they detect, but can’t come right out and say – so I’ll say it for them -- is that the owners of the club, Frank and Jamie McCourt, have decided they would rather populate the roster with low-priced youngsters and make gobs of profit in the process rather than put the absolute best team possible on the field given their revenue stream.

Oh the old "McCheap will ruin the Dodgers" argument. Yeah, if McCourt was simply looking to turn a buck, spending $100 million on players probably wasn't Plan A. Again, look at the D Backs. They sprinkled some veterans into their core group along with a ton of youngsters and it worked. Look at the Marlins last year; sure, they didn't make the playoffs, but they came incredibly close for a team with a $15 million payroll.

But even more disturbing is the intimation that playing kids doesn't give the team the best chance to win. Apparently, Mr. Ventre believes the Dodgers should spend like the Yankees or Red Sox and buy themselves a string of championships. How's that worked out again?

When you have guys like Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and James Loney, you play them because you aren't going to have a better player fall into your lap. It's important to have these cheap players so you can supplement them with the revenue saved from paying them the league minimum. So no, it isn't a better idea or even a possible scenario to pay top dollar to veteran players at every position.

The Dodgers don’t make the kind of money the Yankees make, but they rake it in nonetheless. Yet they like to garnish the roster with token veterans like Juan Pierre and Luis Gonzalez to cover up the fact that the main course consists of minor league hopefuls like James Loney, Andre Ethier and Andy LaRoche.

The inevitable Yankees comparison. I wouldn't call signing a guy to a 5 year, $44 million deal a "token" acquisition. But let's look at these "minor league hopefuls." First, including Andy LaRoche on this list is just stupid, given the fact that he's started 8 games since June 1st. Onto Andre Ethier: he got off to a bad start, OPSing less than .750 in the first 2 months of the season. But he's turned it around by posting a .298/.360/.492 line since the All Star break. And James Loney. Is this moron really trying to bolster his argument by including Loney? All J Lo has done this year is rake. He's OPS'ing .905, best number on the team of anyone with 300+ PA's. He's shown that ever popular "clutchiness," batting .435 with runners in scoring position. And he'd played Gold Glove defense at first base. But I suppose Mr. Ventre is going to criticize the Dodgers for not trading the farm for Mark Teixiera, who'd either leave next year in free agency or cost the Dodgers more than 50 times what Loney is making annually while likely outproducing him by a less than significant amount.

Most of the responsibility for winning has been entrusted to kids who haven’t yet learned how to win. In the context of a competitive division that includes the likes of the Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies, that’s almost like conceding defeat in spring training.

Ah, the ever popular argument that kids need to learn how to win. Apparently, it isn't as cut and dry as playing well. And how was "most" of the responsibility entrusted to the kids? 5 of the 8 projected starters coming into the year were veterans: Nomar, Kent, Furcal, Gonzo and Pierre. The rotation consisted of 5 veterans: Penny, Lowe, Schmidt, Tomko and Wolf. So either the veterans have gotten hurt or they just couldn't cut it. So much for "knowing how to win."

The Dodgers received some early love from pundits as division winners on the basis of their starters. But they’ve been spotty, the bullpen has faltered, and the sticks have been wildly erratic. It isn’t one statistical category that has caused the team’s downfall, but rather those “things you don’t see in the box scores,” especially team chemistry. More often than not, these have been dead men walking.

So this d-bag admits that the reason the pundits believed the Dodgers would win was because of their veteran pitching staff, but it's still the kids' fault that they didn't? The bullpen, consisting mostly of veterans, has faltered and I'm sure that's all Broxton's fault. And the "sticks" have been wildly erratic, even though Martin, Kemp, Ethier and Loney have all OPS'd over .800 since the All Star break. So what does it all come down to? Chemistry! Of course! And if anyone's known for his great clubhouse presence, it's Jeff Kent!

The McCourts have gone the cheapie route, and in doing so, they’ve created a team with no real identity and a hazy future.

Remember folks, the cheapie route costs over $100 million. I'll admit, the current team really doesn't have an identity, given Colletti's unnecessary reliance on veterans and Little's near refusal to play the younger, more deserving players regularly. But a hazy future? With guys like Martin, Ethier, Loney and Kemp, along with Chad Billingsley and Jon Broxton already major league regulars, and more talented prospects on the way, how is the future "hazy?"

Whenever a superstar name is floated as being available, the Dodgers are almost never mentioned as players in that card game. The suggestion of Alex Rodriguez coming to the Dodgers is usually met with a glass of water and a couple of aspirin. The Dodgers might be the smallest-minded big-market team in the majors.

Although I would like to see A Rod with his rightful ballclub (Damn you, arbitrary alternating first pick draft rule), it's not like he'd come in and solve all the team's problems. But anyone remember how the Dodgers were set to sign Vlad Guerrero, only to have Selig intervene and nix the deal? So no, it's not like the Dodgers never get mentioned as being in the running for big-named free agents. And with the Dodgers officially out of the playoffs, McCourt could feel the need to make a huge splash in hopes of avoiding criticism by the LA media.

It wouldn’t be so bad if such an approach bore fruit, but it hasn’t. The Angels have worked kids like Howie Kendrick, Reggie Willits, Casey Kotchman and Maicer Izturis into their plans, but they’ve managed to amass a giant lead over second-place Seattle in the AL West. They did that by building a superior pitching staff, and by making sure that the veterans who are at the heart of the lineup – Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson,
Gary Matthews, Jr. – are all at or near their primes. The Dodgers, conversely, populate their roster with fantasy league scraps.

The Dodgers and Angels have very similar rosters. Of course, the Dodgers don't have Vlad (Again, thanks Selig) but they did at least try to surround young players with veterans in the lineup and in the rotation. But of course Mr Ventre makes the mistake of saying guys like Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews are at or near their primes. Anderson's health problems have all but negated his value to the team, while Matthews' one good season (In a great hitters' park, no less) earned him about 10 times what he's actually worth. And another cheap shot to boot.

The coming weeks will tell a lot about the direction of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Right now they’re going down. That’s clear. But will Kent stick around next year (he has that option)? If he does, will the Dodgers get him some experienced help so he can realistically go after that elusive World Series ring? Or will it be more of “Daddy Day Care”?

Yeah, because the Dodgers are all about winning for Jeff Kent, right? I'm going to assume that Mr. Ventre believes every player on evey roster can be had at a very reasonable price this offseason, because looking at the free agent class doesn't paint a rosy picture as far as filling out the team with productive veterans. And the Dodgers were just 2.5 games out of the Wild Card on Monday, so I wouldn't say their chances this year weren't realistic. And again, taking a cheap shot at the kids.

Watching kids is hell.

You know, there's a lot to criticize about this team: Colletti's roster moves, Little's lineup moves, even giving McCourt partial blame for the Vlad deal not getting done. But the fact that Mr. Ventre is criticizing the one thing that the Dodgers did right is just incomprehensible. Saying it's the kids' fault when they've produced better than most of the veterans on the team makes absolutely no sense. Loney and Kemp have the two highest OPS's of any Dodger with more than 250 PA's. Chad Billingsley's ERA is over a run lower than Brad Penny's since the All Star break.

Think back to the mid 70s: Yeager, Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey. Shouldn't the Dodgers try to follow that model? Building around guys like Fernando and Orel, even the run of RoY's in the early to mid 90s was on the right path. After years of having to deal with a barren farm system, the Dodgers finally have the chance to develop some serious talent from within and now they're getting flack for it. This is what the Dodgers should be doing. It's the smart thing to do. It's the right thing to do.

And to you, Mr. Ventre, I ask that you please refrain from ever talking about the Dodgers again. You need not embarrass yourself any further.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Year in Review - Jacksonville

Double A - Jacksonville (Overall record 80-60)

It was a tough year for the Suns, not because of constant struggles, but because the team came so close to making the playoffs and just missed out. Jacksonville finished the year with the second best overall record in the Southern League, but missed the first half title by one game and the second half crown by seven. Like Vegas, Jacksonville's roster had a fair share of turnover and the rotation looked especially different at season's end.

Breakout - Chin Lung Hu, SS

The miniature infielder had the worst offensive season of his career in 2006, hitting a meager .254/.326/.334. And while he had never been a big offensive threat, Hu had put up respectable numbers at the plate prior to last year. But in 2007, Hu may have turned a corner by batting .325/.364/.507, all career highs. Hu also collected 40 doubles, 6 triples and 14 HR (Not including his first major league hit, a HR, in his second career at bat). Add to that his 15 stolen bases, all-world defense and an MVP award in the Futures Game and you have quite a season.

But again, looking closer at the numbers, it seems as though luck played a big part in Hu's resurgent offensive output. In Jacksonville, Hu's BABIP was an astounding .360, about .045 points higher than average. And this was in spite of a pedestrian line drive rate of just under 15%. This means that more of his flyballs and groundballs were becoming hits, something that will likely regress. Another thing Hu needs to work on is his walk rate: he walked just 32 times in over 500 plate appearances. And while he stole 15 bases, he was caught 8 times.

So what will happen next? My guess is Hu will start next year in Triple A and only see the big leagues if Rafael Furcal is injured. He's been seeing time at 2B but Tony Abreu figures to be the heir apparent to Jeff Kent, and Hu doesnt provide enough offense for the hot corner. So Hu will have to wait one more year before replacing Furcal as the team's starting SS.

Breakdown - Cory Dunlap, 1B

Cory Dunlap was drafted out of Contra Costa JC in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft after hitting over .500 during the spring and looked like a prototypical 1B/DH type. He showed off his offensive prowess by hitting .351/.492/.518 in rookie ball. But he's done little since. He's had to work hard to become fringy defensively at first and is likely a DH down the road, but will he hit?

This season was lost offensively for Dunlap, as his final line was a disappointing .226/.337/.323 in 121 games with Jacksonville. Dunlap had just 25 extra basehits (18 doubles and 7 HR) and struckout (76) more than he walked (68) for the first time in his career. His BABIP was the antithesis of Hu's: .265, .050 points below average. He also had a better line drive percentage. So it seems that bad luck played a role in Dunlap's down year. And, as usual, he did walk a lot.

Dunlap desperately needs to keep his weight in check to be successful. He's listed at a generous 230 lbs, when he's actually closer to 300. While the BABIP Gods didnt help him this season, he still needs to improve his ability to make contact and muscle the ball over the wall. With Loney entrenched at 1B in LA, Dunlap is likely an afterthought within the organization and will likely be traded if his numbers improve.

Others of Note

Xavier Paul, OF -
A 3rd round pick way back in 2003, Paul finally broke out last year in his second tour with Vero Beach. He took to Double A particularly well for a 22 year old, as his .795 OPS was the highest he's posted in full season ball. He also reached double digits in HR (11) for the second straight year. And he even got experience in CF. However, looking forward, LA's OF situation is very crowded and Paul is more likely to be trade bait than a candidate for a starting job in the near future.

Justin Orenduff, RHP - The supplemental first rounder from 2004 bounced back from his shoulder ailment and put up a decent season. He struck out more than a batter per inning (113 K's in 109 IP), but allowed too many walks (45) and too many HR (16). His ceiling was never high to begin with and this season shows that he's likely a back-of-the-rotation guy or middle reliever down the road.

Anthony Raglani, OF - After struggling with the Suns in '06, Raglani came out of the gates with a bang, slugging 6 doubles, 4 triples and 6 HR in April. But he quickly fell back to Earth, collecting just 4 HR over the next 2 months and never again OPS'd 1.000 in a month. Anthony's low batting average and high strikeout total will not endear him to Dodgers' brass, though his high walk rate and good power would be highly valued by a more sabermetrically inclined administration. Like Xavier Paul, he's unlikely to find a spot in the Dodgers' OF anytime soon, so he'll likely be traded before he finds a starting job in the bigs.

Zach Hammes, RHP - The 2002 second round pick found his niche last winter, coming out of the pen in the Hawaii Winter League. But inexplicably, the Dodgers moved him back to the rotation for most of this year and he struggled. Hammes allowed 23 walks and 9 HR in 71.1 innings as a starter while striking out only 53 batters. But in relief, Hammes' peripherals were much better (23.1 IP, 2 HR, 7 BB, 23 K's). Hopefully the Dodgers will let him go back into the pen and maximize his abilities.

What's to Come

Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald will likely return to the Sun's rotation, potentially being joined by Scott Elbert, who's returning from a shoulder procedure, and Jesus Castillo, who pitched in the Inland Empire. Blake DeWitt should be back for another go at Double A and could be joined by infielders Ivan De Jesus Jr and Russell Mitchell. With Paul and Raglani likely headed to Vegas, their vacancies will likely be filled by High A outfielders Jamie Hoffman and Ryan Rogowski. And behind the plate, look for Lucas May to see some time in Jacksonville next year.

Up Next - Inland Empire

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Year in Review - Las Vegas

Triple A - Las Vegas (Overall Record 67-77)

It was a tough year for the 51's, finishing the season 17 games out in their division and missing the playoffs. That said, the roster changed shape over the course of the year and looked completely different at beginning and end. As always, the hitters fared well while the pitchers struggled. It would be nice to play in a park (league) that's just a tad more neutral, but beggars cant be choosers.

Breakout - Delwyn Young, OF

The 51's offensive star, Young was among the league leaders in several offensive categories. He ranked 4th in batting average (.337), 6th in OPS (.955), 6th in SLG (.571) and first in doubles (54), which also led the Dodgers' farm system. To that, Young added 5 triples and 17 HR. The switch-hitter batted well from both sides of the plate (RHOPS of .945, LHOPS of 1.014) as well as in different parks (HomeOPS of .975, AwayOPS of .957).

However, looking closer at his numbers shows that much of this strong season may have been the result of good luck. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play, according to was an astounding .404. He hit a ton of line drives (22% of his total balls in play) and had a very good BABIP on fly balls (.379). Also, given the park/league he played in and the fact that it was his second time through, his stats were greatly inflated.

So what bearing does this have on Delwyn's real prospect value? Well, while 25 is a bit old to breakout as a prospect, it's not unheard of. And he has always been known for his bat. But a modest walk rate and even more modest size (5'8) suggest that he's likely a 4th outfielder down the road. He could be a 40 doubles / 20 HR guy one day in the bigs, but as he's limited to a corner OF spot, his value would only be average at best. Still, here's hoping Young can translate this year's success into a long MLB career.

Breakdown - Greg Miller, LHP

It's remarkable how a star can shine so brightly and fade so quickly. Such is the case with young Greg Miller. It was 4 long years ago that he was dominating High A and jumped to Jacksonville as an 18 year old while establishing himself as the best southpaw hurler in the minors. But the Greg Miller of 2003 is long gone, and what's left is a pitcher with all the potential in the world but a painfully long journey to realize it.

Miller started the season surprisingly well, even tossing 6 no-hit innings on April 19th. But everything changed after a relief appearance on April 23rd, in which Miller issued 4 walks without recording an out and was removed from the game. After that, Miller's control abandoned him and he was banished to the bullpen. By the time he was demoted to Jacksonville, he'd walked 46 batters in under 30 innings while seeing his ERA rise to 7.85. Greg found little success in Double A, still having difficulty throwing strikes (43 walks in 48 innings) and posting a mediocre 4.69 ERA.

So what does this all mean? Well, unlike Delwyn Young, age is still on Miller's side. He wont turn 23 until November 3rd. He still has the mid 90s fastball and a 6'5 frame and he's been healthy since mid 2005. But it all comes down to control. If he can start throwing strikes again, the sky's the limit. If not, he's another Rick Ankiel (Minus the hitting and HGH). I'm not ready to give up on him yet, but the leash is getting shorter.

Others of note

Andy LaRoche, 3B - For the Roche, this issue is health. After injuring both of his shoulders last year, Andy has developed a chronic back issue that could affect his career if it gets any worse. He's confident, however, that exercise will allow him to play through it. His future is very bright and he should be the Dodgers' everyday 3B starting next year or in 2009.

Tony Abreu, IF -
Abreu's biggest concern is also health. A soft tissue injury in his midsection cost him playing time in the majors and kept him out of action after being sent back to Vegas until late in the year, when he went on a tear to end the season in the PCL and return to the big club. Rumor has it that Colletti refused to part with him in a potential deadline deal for Joe Blanton, so he definitely figures into the Dodgers' future plans. Abreu would be best suited as the heir apparent to Jeff Kent (Minus the HR, plus a ton of defense) but he could have a shot at the 3B job next spring if Nomar and/or LaRoche falter(s).

Jon Meloan, RP - It looks as though the Dodgers have another hard-throwing reliever available in the pen. Meloan seems to have embraced his role by dominating hitters in both Jacksonville and Las Vegas this season. Combined, he posted an ERA of 2.03 with 91 strikeouts and 27 walks in 66.2 innings. My biggest question is why wasnt he called up sooner? While he's struggled with control in 2 outings with the Dodgers, it shouldnt be a long term problem.

What's to Come

The 51's will likely have plenty of talent next year, as Miller works his way back to Triple A and hitters like LaRoche, Abreu and Hu return. From Jacksonville, expect Anthony Raglani and Xavier Paul to roam the OF while pitchers Justin Orenduff, Mike Megrew and Zach Hammes take the plunge into the PCL. The prospects will definitely be worth watching.

Up Next - Jacksonville

Friday, September 07, 2007

Minor League Recap - 9/07/07

High A - Inland Empire lost 8-2

Russell Mitchell - 0 for 4, 2 K's (.231 BA)
Lucas May - 1 for 4 (.286 BA)
Jamie Hoffman - 0 for 4, K (.400 BA)
Josh Bell - 1 for 4, K, E (.357 BA)
Jaime Pedroza - 3 for 4, 2 2B's, R, K (.429 BA)

Rookie Ball - Ogden lost 11-2

Jovanny Rosario - 0 for 4, 2 K's (.331 BA)
Alex Garabedian - 0 for 3, BB, K (.252 BA)
Jaime Ortiz - 0 for 4, 2 K's (.274 BA)
Austin Gallagher - 1 for 3 (.284 BA)

Unfortunately, I was unaware of the 66ers making the playoffs and today's loss ends their season. The Raptors' season also comes to an end, meaning there will be no more recaps until next April. However, I will begin reviewing each team's season, as well as evaluating top prospects in the coming days. So sorry for the lack of updates and stay tuned.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Minor League Recap - 9/06/07

Rookie Ball - Ogden won 5-4

Jaime Ortiz - 0 for 3, R, BB (.279 BA)
Kenley Jansen - 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K's (.240 BA)
Austin Gallagher - 2 for 4, K, E (.284 BA)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Minor League Recap - 9/05/07

Rookie Ball - Ogden won 10-3

Jovanny Rosario - 5 for 6, 2B, 3B, RBI, 3 R, SB, E (.336 BA)
Alex Garabedian - 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI, R, BB, HBP (.257 BA)
Jaime Ortiz - 1 for 3, BB, HBP (.283 BA)
Kenley Jansen - 0 for 3, RBI, 2 BB, K (.240 BA)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Minor League Recap - 9/04/07

Rookie Ball - Ogden won 11-7

Jovanny Rosario - 4 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB (.325 BA)
Alex Garabedian - 0 for 6, 2 K's (.257 BA)
Jaime Ortiz - 4 for 6, 2B, HR (11), 3 RBI, 3 R (.282 BA)
Kenley Jansen - 3 for 5, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB (.244 BA)
Austin Gallagher - 2 for 6, 2B, R (.279 BA)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Minor League Recap - 9/03/07

Triple A - Las Vegas won 12-5

Tony Abreu - 1 for 6, 3 K's (.355 BA)
Delwyn Young - 2 for 6, 2B, 2 RBI, R (.337 BA)

Miguel Pinango - 5 IP, 8 Hits, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K's (4.12 ERA)

Double A - Jacksonville lost 7-3

Cory Dunlap - 2 for 6, 2B, 2 K's (.226 BA)
Blake DeWitt - 0 for 3, 2 K's (.281 BA)
Anthony Raglani - 0 for 3, 2 K's (.248 BA)

Greg Miller - 4 IP, 6 Hits, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K's (4.69 ERA)
Mike Megrew - 2 IP, 2 Hits, 0 R, 0 BB, K (5.30 ERA)

High A - Inland Empire was scheduled to play a doubleheader

Game 1 - Inland Empire lost 7-2

Lucas May - 1 for 2, BB, K (.256 BA)
Russell Mitchell - 1 for 3, HR (22), 2 RBI, R, K (.270 BA)
Jamie Hoffman - 0 for 3, K (.309 BA)
Jaime Pedroza - 0 for 2, BB (.250 BA)

Game 2 - Inland Empire's game was canceled for unspecified reasons

Low A - Great Lakes lost 6-2

Trayvon Robinson - 1 for 4, 2B, RBI, K (.253 BA)
Juan Rivera - 0 for 4 (.252 BA)
Brian Mathews - 1 for 4, 2 K's, CS, E (.319 BA)
Carlos Santana - 1 for 4, 2B, R, PO (.223 BA)
Scott Van Slyke - 3 for 4 (.254 BA)

Rookie Ball - Ogden won 5-2

Jovanny Rosario - 0 for 4, K (.316 BA)
Alex Garabedian - 1 for 4, R, 2 K's (.266 BA)
Jaime Ortiz - 2 for 4, 2 K's (.271 BA)
Austin Gallagher - 0 for 4, K (.277 BA)

Wilfredo Diaz - 6 IP, 3 Hits, 2 ER, 3 BB, 10 K's (4.58 ERA)

Sunday, September 02, 2007


With the year being close to over, I'm going to start going over stats and scouting reports and will be releasing articles on a semi-weekly basis. I will also release a Top 50 Dodger Prospects list near the end of the month, and it will be updated over the course of the offseason. So stay tuned.

Minor League Recap - 9/02/07

Triple A - Las Vegas won 7-3

Tony Abreu - 3 for 5, 2B, R (.360 BA)
Delwyn Young - 1 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI, R, BB (.337 BA)

Double A - Jacksonville lost 6-4

Blake DeWitt - 0 for 5, 2 K's (.286 BA)
Cory Dunlap - 0 for 2, 2 BB (.224 BA)
Xavier Paul - 0 for 1, R (.291 BA)
Anthony Raglani - 1 for 3, RBI, BB, 2 K's (.249 BA)

High A - Inland Empire won 10-1

Lucas May - 3 for 5, 2 2B's, RBI, 3 R, 2 K's, PB (.255 BA)
Russell Mitchell - 4 for 5, HR (21), 2 RBI, 2 R, K (.270 BA)
Jamie Hoffman - 1 for 3, 2 RBI, R, BB, K (.312 BA)
Josh Bell - 1 for 5, 2B, RBI, K (.173 BA)
Jaime Pedroza - 0 for 0, BB (.300 BA)

Low A - Great Lakes lost 8-3

Preston Mattingly - 0 for 4, 2 K's (.210 BA)
Brian Mathews - 0 for 4, E (.322 BA)
Carlos Santana - 2 for 4, R (.232 BA)
Scott Van Slyke - 2 for 4, 2 2B's, 2 RBI (.248 BA)
Juan Rivera - 1 for 4, SB (.259 BA)
Trayvon Robinson - 0 for 3 (.253 BA)

James Adkins - 3 IP, 0 Hits, 0 R, BB, 2 K's (2.42 ERA)
Tim Sexton - 3.2 IP, 7 Hits, 7 R (5 ER), 2 BB, 4 K's (3.57 ERA)
Jon Figueroa - 2.1 IP, 2 Hits, ER, 4 BB, 6 K's (0.90 ERA)

Rookie Ball - Ogden won 4-3

Jovanny Rosario - 2 for 5, R, K (.321 BA)
Alex Garabedian - 1 for 5, 2B, RBI, R, K (.266 BA)
Jaime Ortiz - 1 for 4, RBI (.267 BA)
Kenley Jansen - 2 for 4, K (.234 BA)
Austin Gallagher - 1 for 4, K (.283 BA)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Minor League Recap - 9/01/07

Triple A - Las Vegas lost 11-7

Tony Abreu - 3 for 5, RBI, R (.354 BA)
Delwyn Young - 3 for 5, 2 2B's, 3 RBI, R (.337 BA)
Andy LaRoche - 1 for 4, R, BB, K (.309 BA)

Double A - Jacksonville played a doubleheader

Game 1 - Jacksonville won 9-2

Cory Dunlap - 0 for 3, 2 RBI, BB, K (.227 BA)
Blake DeWitt - 2 for 4, 2B, GS (6), 4 RBI, 2 R, 2 K's (.294 BA)
Anthony Raglani - 1 for 4, K (.250 BA)

James McDonald - 3 IP, 3 Hits, 0 R, BB, 5 K's (1.71 ERA)
Mike Megrew - 1 IP, 0 Hits, 0 R, BB, K (5.42 ERA)

Game 2 - Jacksonville lost 10-3

Xavier Paul -1 for 4, R, 2 K's (.292 BA)
Anthony Raglani - 0 for 2, R, 2 BB (.249 BA)
Cory Dunlap - 0 for 3, BB, K, E (.225 BA)

Justin Orenduff - 4 IP, 5 Hits, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K's (4.21 ERA)
Zach Hammes - 3 IP, 6 Hits, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K's (5.23 ERA)

High A - Inland Empire lost 12-1

Jaime Pedroza - 2 for 4, RBI, 3 E's (.300 BA)
Lucas May - 2 for 4, 2B, K (.252 BA)
Russell Mitchell - 0 for 3, BB (.265 BA)
Josh Bell - 0 for 4 (.171 BA)

Low A - Great Lakes played a doubleheader

Game 1 - Great Lakes won 6-4 (This game was a continuation of a suspended game from June 28)

Trayvon Robinson - 1 for 4, 2 R, 2 K's, HBP (.242 BA)
Josh Bell - 0 for 2, K (.281 BA)
Brian Mathews - 3 for 3, 2B, RBI, CS (.374 BA)
Preston Mattingly - 0 for 4, K (.212 BA)
Scott Van Slyke - 1 for 4, 2B (.244 BA)

Game 2 - Great Lakes lost 11-2

Preston Mattingly - 0 for 3, 2 K's, E (.212 BA)
Brian Mathews - 0 for 3, 2 K's (.337 BA)
Carlos Santana - 0 for 3 (.218 BA)
Scott Van Slyke - 1 for 3, 2B, RBI (.245 BA)
Juan Rivera - 2 for 2 (.259 BA)
Trayvon Robinson - 0 for 3 (.240 BA)

Rookie Ball - Ogden won 3-1

Jovanny Rosario - 0 for 4 (.319 BA)
Jaime Ortiz - 1 for 3, HBP (.267 BA)
Alex Garabedian - 1 for 4, R (.268 BA)
Kenley Jansen - 1 for 3, BB, K (.228 BA)
Austin Gallagher - 1 for 3, BB (.284 BA)