Think Blue

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

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another name to watch: Javier Solano

Left-hander Javier Solano, considered the best pitching prospect in Mexico when the Dodgers signed him for $250,000 earlier in the year, is living up to expectations. Watson said he's thrown "exceptionally well" and is "very advanced" for a 17-year-old, with an above-average fastball and curveball.

This is a larger bonus than Pedro Baez, who was considered the Dodgers' best 2007 international signing, received. Considering how aggressively the Dodgers moved Baez, I wouldn't be surprised to see Solano make his pro debut with the GCL Dodgers this summer.

Another Bryan Morris update

They're No. 1: Bryan Morris, a first-round pick in 2006, is back on the mound and throwing effectively after missing the entire 2007 season recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Morris threw four innings in a Minor League game this week and was clocked at 93-94 mph with an effective breaking ball, according to Watson.

A healthy season from Morris would be a boon for a system that is now lacking a legitimate power righty. I don't expect his command to be anything special, but the fact that his velocity is back is very encouraging.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Is this good news or bad news?

I can't decide.

Kyle Blair Named WCC Pitcher of the Week

Freshman right-hander Kyle Blair of the 19th-ranked University of San Diego baseball team has been named the West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week, the conference office announced this morning. Blair, a 6-3 freshman from Monte Serno, Calif., helped lead USD to a 15-0 rout over the University of Hawaii - Hilo this past Sunday as he set a new school single-game record with 16 strikeouts. He allowed no runs on only two hits in 8.0 innings of work to pick up his first collegiate win. Blair is now 1-3 overall, has a 2.49 ERA and leads the team with 41 strikeouts.

Oh, what could have been...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?

Every time I think the last Pierre debate has come and gone, something else springs up. Now, Bill Plaschke gone on a pro-Pierre campaign.

Maestro Plaschke:

Dodgers' Juan Pierre is right where he belongs

To be fair, this was written while Pierre was in Florida.

He's been booed by fans and brutalized by bloggers, but his old-school play and speed will benefit the team as he becomes a complement and not the cornerstone of the lineup.

How exactly does his "old-school play" help the team? My guess is Plaschke's simply referring to the good old days when it wasn't important that a player get on base or hit for power or have a good throwing arm.

"If people really think the reason we lost last year was because my arm wasn't strong enough, or because I didn't get on base enough, hey, that's cool, I'll be the man, I'll take it," says Pierre.

Again, this seems to be a running theme in defending Pierre. No one's blaming him for the team's demise. We're blaming you for not being worthy of a starting role.

"I'm coming into this season with a chip on my shoulder . . . just like every season," says Pierre.

For his sake, I'd hope the chip is just a little bit bigger than last year's.

Fans don't appreciate him. Statisticians can't calculate him. Bloggers downright brutalize him.

I like him.

Actually, some fans like him. Just like fans liked Dave Roberts. There's a difference between liking a player and thinking he's a good player (See: Hatcher, Mickey).

Statisticians can "calculate" him. That's the problem. They look at his OBP and OPS and WARP and VORP and, much more importantly, his contract and playing time and their computers explode.

Ah, the bloggers. Mortal enemies of beat writers everywhere. God knows they can't be right.

And why am I not surprised that the player so few like is liked by the writer no one likes?

Now that the Dodgers have added Rafael Furcal's health and Andruw Jones' pop, I think Juan Pierre's presence at the top of the lineup will be as oversized as his cap.


Now that the Dodgers have moved him to left field, I think Juan Pierre will fit as easily there as his bat fits on a bunt.

Yeah, because we all know the primary role a left fielder plays is "bunter."

Now that Joe Torre is installing an aggressive running game, I think Pierre's ability on the basepaths will be as evident as the dirt streaks on his jersey.

No one doubts Pierre's ability on the basepaths, but it's not like he wasn't running last year.

Now that it can be a complement instead of a cornerstone, I think the idea of Juan Pierre will work.

When the hell was Pierre EVER the cornerstone of ANY offense?

"My game is not pretty, it's just not pretty," Pierre says. "You have to be an old-school guy to appreciate it."

Truer nine words have never before been spoken. But again, harkening back to the days of unimportant stats being overvalued to "appreciate" Pierre's game.

That's one more reason this will be a good year for Juan Pierre.

Torre is one of those old-school guys who appreciates him.

Right, because we all know that Grady Little hated Pierre with a passion...

"He does things the right way," Torre says.

Except throw. Or walk. Or hit for power. But hey, he's old-school!

Contrary to the winter hopes of many Dodgers fans, Torre's lineups have indicated that Pierre will be the starting left fielder ahead of Andre Ethier.

And hopefully Ethier can change Torre's mind. However, right now, Pierre has one more hit in two more at bats. So he's obviously the front-runner.

Pierre adds an irreplaceable speed component to the top of the Dodgers order. And, in left field, what Pierre lacks in arm, he can overcome with that speed.

His speed at the top won't mean crap when he's only getting on base at a league average clip. He should be a good fielder in left, but his arm is still going to hurt him and the team.

"Johnny Damon never had much of an arm, we moved him to left field, it worked out fine," says Torre. "You can offset that kind of arm with your aggressive play. You can get good jumps, get to balls that other guys can't."

Now, in terms of defense, this is probably a good comparison. Damon wasn't a great CF and had a terrible arm. But as bad as Pierre's offense was in CF, can the Dodgers really afford to put a sub-.700 OPS in left?

Pierre also brings something that, during last season's doldrums, everyone seemed to forget.

You can find it in a locked box in his Fort Lauderdale home.

He's one of only three Dodgers with a World Series ring.

There it is! I was waiting for that. Bear in mind, Pierre's OBP in 2003 was .361, .030 points higher than his 2007 total. But what relevance does the World Series ring have in any argument? If you said "absolutely none," then you're correct!

"The young guys know about it, they ask about it sometimes," Pierre says. "But I don't like wearing it. I'd rather lead with my actions."

Juan, I've seen your actions. Wear the ring.

Those actions were uninspiring early last year, the first of a five-year, $44-million contract that was questioned before the ink was dry.

Wow, Plaschke actually offering an intelligent and accurate assessment?

Trying too hard, he spent much of the early season surrounded by boos for a mediocre batting average, an awful on-base percentage and general ineffectiveness.

That might be a good nickname for Pierre: General Ineffectiveness.

"Yeah, I heard everybody," Pierre says. "It was like, 'Pierre, you stink' . . . 'Pierre, go away' . . . I heard it all."

To be fair, everyone who's met Juan has liked him. And I'd never tell him to his face that he stinks.

Funny, but the most active guy on the team never made a move.

He never even turned his head.

You mean the professional athlete acted like a...professional?

"To say anything would have been the worst thing in the world," he says. "Hey, I signed the big contract. I'll take the heat."

Thank God Pierre could take comfort in the fact that he's filthy rich while he wasn't helping the team.

By the end of the season, the team was in such turmoil that nobody seemed to notice the only player who had calmed down was Pierre.

Is Plaschke really trying to say that Pierre was the only player last year who did well after the All Star Break?

He batted .308 after the All-Star break, three points higher than his average during Florida's 2003 world championship year. He finished with 41 runs batted in, the same as in the championship year.

That .729 OPS was pretty elite. It was only lower than Delwyn Young, Wilson Betemit, Jeff Kent, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Nomar Garciaparra, Russell Martin, Eric Stults and Chin Lung Hu!

He scored four fewer runs (96), stole one fewer base (64), and, with the exception of a lack of plate discipline amid a lousy offense, he performed just as he did in Florida.

Pierre in 2003 = .305/.361/.373
Pierre in 2007 = .293/.331/.353

Yeah, if you ignore the fact that he was worse in 2007, he was exactly the same as in 2003!

In the end, Juan Pierre did exactly what Juan Pierre does.

While unfairly taking the fall for a team that crumbled around him.

What did Juan Pierre do? Play great defense? No, but he was above average. Walk a lot? No, his OBP was league average. Hit for power? Yeah right.

He ran well. That's basically it. He didn't help his team on offense, his arm marginalized his contributions on defense. And we're supposed to blow it off in some "he is what he is" fashion? We're talking about Juan Pierre, not Popeye.

"In Florida, when we won, it was like, 'Oh, Pierre and Luis Castillo are the table-setters, they're the keys,' " Pierre says. "Here, when we struggled, it's like, 'What is that?' "

Nothing is better for chemistry than winning. But what should be measured is what Pierre actually does for his team, regardless of how the other 24 guys contribute.

This was also the first time Pierre had been criticized for his arm.

"I've had the same arm my whole life and I'd never been criticized like this," he says. "I couldn't understand it. It's never been an issue before."

Please. The only people who didn't know Pierre had a bad arm were the people who didn't want to know. It was common knowledge, which is why runners ran wild on him.

Placing Pierre's weak arm under the spotlight -- and, in fact, putting his whole game at risk -- was the injury to Furcal.

This is a tricky argument. Had Furcal been healthy and replicated his 2006 performance, would Pierre have received so much criticism even if he'd posted the same numbers? Probably not. But that wouldn't make Pierre's contributions to the team any better.

The Dodgers shortstop couldn't reach many shallow center-field balls that shortstops usually reach. He also couldn't move Pierre along the bases as a good No. 2 hitter should do.

By all accounts, Furcal played excellent defense last year. But I'm sure Plaschke is basing this assertion on no one being able to prove him wrong. However, Pierre's defense wasn't that bad in center field.

Pierre played just 31 games while batting leadoff and he posted a pathetic .307 OBP. I'm sure that's Furcal's fault. And Furcal batted 2nd in 8 games! Even with his terrible line (.167/.265/.233) that's wouldn't affect Pierre.

Without a rangy shortstop, Pierre was playing a center field that was twice as big. Without a productive No. 2 hitter, Pierre was a sports car stuck on a pot-holed road.

That's simply not true. Furcal's range was fine. And no one's blaming Pierre for not getting to balls Furcal should have gotten to. And blaming the #2 hitters for those 31 games Pierre hit leadoff? Come on.

By the end of the season, he was listed as a Ned Colletti mistake the size of Jason Schmidt.

And rightfully so.

By the end the season, he was also gone. He flew home to Fort Lauderdale, and was the only regular not to spend one winter moment in Los Angeles.

Who cares where he spends his offseason?

He said he wasn't avoiding the fans, he was staying away from the uncertainty.

"I just didn't know the situation out here, I didn't know where I fit in, it was easier to get my work done and stay out of it," he says.

That's exactly what he should have done: stay out of it. Good for him.

The situation is, he's nothing like the Jason Schmidt mistake.

That's true. Schmidt was a mistake because he's barely played. Pierre's a mistake because he's played too much.

The truth is, the idea of Juan Pierre was a good one, and still is.

Maybe I'm not old-school enough to understand the idea of Juan Pierre. Maybe I'm just too distracted by the reality.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Draft Update

One of my favorite prospects in the draft and, in my mind, a likely pick of the Dodgers come June had a horrendous start to the season. LHP Jarret Martin lasted just an inning and two-thirds, walking 8 batters and allowing 3 ER while striking out just 2.

Wilson HS CF Aaron Hicks has played only two games, but has walked 3 times in 2 games. It should be a good test of his patience this spring.

RHP Gerrit Cole was a little wild in his first start, walking 4 batters in 5 innings. However, he did strike out 5 and allowed just 1 earned run.

1B Eric Hosmer has collected 7 hits in his first 11 at bats, including a triple and 2 HR. He has also walked 8 times and stolen 4 bases. Regardless of his affiliation with Scott Boras, Hosmer looks like a sure-fire Top 10 pick.

All stats available on

A few notes

Good news from Vero Beach (via

RHP Bryan Morris is apparently doing well in Spring Training. The Dodgers have refined his delivery, hopefully keeping him from throwing across his body, and his velocity seems to be back to where it was prior to his Tommy John surgery. Also seems like his breaking ball is coming back. The plan seems to be to build up some arm strength and send him to either Low A Great Lakes or High A Inland Empire some time after the season starts.

LHP Scott Elbert hasn't yet begun to throw off the mound, but he's throwing off flat ground and is reportedly pain free. The Dodgers don't have a timetable for him, but so far all the news has been good.

3B Josh Bell came to camp about 30 lbs lighter than where he was last year. The fourth rounder from 2005 has had problems keeping his weight in check, but the slimmer physique has improved his agility on defense. A better body, combined with playing in the California League, could mean a big year for Mr Bell.