Think Blue

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

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


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