Think Blue

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

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


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