Think Blue

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

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Finally, a Top 10 List

So I've finally convinced myself to release a preliminary Top 10 Dodgers Prospects list. These rankings are subject to change and more in-depth scouting reports will probably come out next month.

10. Justin Miller, RHP (Age: 21)

Something of a sleeper pick, his 2008 performance definitely doesn't elicit the hype of most Top 10 prospects, but I just have a good feeling about him. Justin's going to be tested this summer, be it in the hitter friendly California League, or playing against much older and more experienced competition in Double A.

Even though he's the age of a college junior, Miller is new to pitching full time and still adjusting to the pro game. His slider and change-up are still works in progress, but a dominant low 90s sinker led to an astounding 2.77:1 groundball ratio last season. He's durable and has a light amateur workload which bodes well for his future as a middle of the rotation innings eater.

9. Austin Gallagher, 3B/1B (Age: 20)

The surprise 2007 third rounder started the '08 season in extended spring training before an ambitious assignment to High A. All the 19 year old Gallagher did was hit .293 while playing against much older competition.

Gallagher's bat will have to carry him. He's not a great athlete and is already being questioned as an everyday third baseman. But in his 6'4 217 lbs frame, there's a lot to project. While he hit just 5 HR in 78 games last season, he also clubbed 33 doubles. It's not hard to imagine a good portion of the 2 baggers becoming 4 baggers in the future.

8. Ramon Troncoso, RHP (Age: 25)

Signed as a 22 year old out of the Dominican, Troncoso got a late start as a prospect and finally made his MLB debut last season. The results were very positive, as he struck out a batter an inning and kept his walks/HR allowed very low.

The reason I'm ranking him this highly is because of rumors swirling about that the Dodgers are considering using him as a starter. It remains to be seen if these rumors are anything more than that, though I'm sure Dodger fans would love to have another incarnation of Derek Lowe.

7. Josh Bell, 3B/1B (Age: 22)

Remember him? Once referred to as Matt Kemp lite? Well he's hoping to make a big noise in 2009 to let everyone know he can still swing it. Let's just hope he's spent more time this offseason doing wind sprints instead of midnight Jack in the Box runs.

As you may have gathered from the hilarious joke above, Bell is a little thick through the hips. His weight has precluded him from establishing himself as anything more than a mediocre defender at third base and scouts question his ability to stay there in the future. However, even a move to first won't cripple his offensive value. He's the system's best power hitter in the system and profiles as a middle of the order masher.

6. Josh Lindblom, RHP (Age: 21)

I'll be honest: I wasn't happy when the Dodgers took Lindblom in the second round last year. I really dislike drafting college closers. But then I saw that he was starting, and dominating, and I was happy.

Lindblom's stuff took a slight dip as he moved back to the rotation, but it's still pretty good. His low 90s fastball is lauded for its life, he can throw his curve for strikes and his change-up isn't too bad. He shows excellent command, has a quick arm and a durable build. Whether it's in the rotation or the pen, it looks like Josh will be helping out in the bigs sooner rather than later.

5. Scott Elbert, LHP (Age: 23)

Scotty took a little vacation from Baseball, which coincided with shoulder surgery, and finally made it back to the field last year, Before long, he found himself in the majors, and I'm sure he was trying to forget it as soon as possible.

Elbert's always had great stuff: a low 90s fastball and a knockout curve. His problem is finding the strike zone, which bit him in the ass in the show and was exploited by major league hitters. He'll get another chance to prove himself as a back of the pen reliever, though I'm not sure he'll start the season in the majors.

4. Ethan Martin, RHP (Age: 19)

Entering last June, Martin was seen as a sure-fire first a third baseman. Then, during a tournament that included 3rd overall pick Eric Hosmer, Martin showed that his future is on the mound. The Dodgers took him with the 15th overall pick last June, though he has yet to make his pro debut.

Ethan's power has always been his calling card, whether it's as a hitter or a pitcher. He pitches in the low to mid 90s with a nice curveball and a surprisingly advanced change-up. He only needs to stay healthy and get experience in order to unlock his enormous potential.

3. Ivan De Jesus Jr, SS/2B (Age: 21)

IDJ2 showed what he was capable of in 2007, hitting .287 with a .371 OBP for Inland Empire. Despire moving up to a tougher league, he broke out and had a spectacular season while playing with guys who were, on average, 3 years older than him.

Ivan's insane stats do need to be put in context, as his absurd .381 BABIP is unsustainable. However, his short stroke and great eye do bode well for his future average and OBP. His arm is erratic at short, leading some scouts to project him at second base. Either way, he should be a fine player in a few years, wherever he may be.

2. James McDonald, RHP (Age: 24)

After establishing himself as a legit pitching prospect in 2007, J Mac's rise continued as he had more success in Double A before a short stint in Triple A and a brief, successful major league debut.

James doesn't have the best fastball in the system, but his curveball and change-up rival anyone's. There's been talk about keeping him in the pen, since he had some success there last season and his fastball plays up a bit in shorter stints. I prefer he remain a starter and hope his fastball is in the low 90s instead of the high 80s.

1. Andrew Lambo, OF (Age: 20)

I'm probably in the minority by ranking Lambo #1, but like with Miller, it's just a gut feeling. Even though his overall numbers took a dive from his debut, I still believe in his power potential and ability to be a #3/#4 hitter in the majors.

Lambo doesn't have a whole lot going for him; he's barely average in LF, he's heavy-footed and makeup questions still linger. But his bat has a chance to be special. He's got a great swing, knows how to use the opposite field and he has room to add strength over the next few years. While he may not be an all star, he could be a perennial .300 average, 30 homer guy in the bigs.

And that's that. BA's Dodgers Top 10 list comes out Friday, so I could revise the list after going over that. And hey, Spring Training is only about a month away. It's almost time for Dodger baseball!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Last Year's Top 10 in Review

Well it's been a while since I wrote anything, so I figured I'd start by looking back at my top prospects for '08 and see how things went.

10. Jon Meloan, RHP

Struggled with his control in Vegas, walking 60 in 105 innings. Other peripherals looked good (8.49 K/9, 0.60 HR/9). Was traded to Cleveland along with Carlos Santana for Casey Blake. Control problems continued with the Indians. Saw 2 games worth of MLB time and figures to fight for a spot in their pen this spring.

9. Delwyn Young, OF

Made the big club as a bench player and struggled, hititng just .246/.321/.341 while being used mainly as a pinch hitter. Doesn't really figure into the Dodgers' long-term plans, but he'll have to see some time in order to raise his trade value.

8. Ivan De Jesus, 2B/SS

Had a breakout year with the Suns. Struggled in the AFL and was called out by Keith Law for showing a lack of hustle and effort. With the re-signings of Furcal and Blake, he's most likely trade-bait now.

7. Andrew Lambo, LF/1B

Put up solid, if unspectacular numbers in the Midwest League before a late-season promotion to Double A in order to gain eligibility for the AFL. Had 6 extra base hits in 8 games with the Suns. Ended the year with 35 doubles and 18 HR, not bad for a kid who spent most of the season as a 19 year old and played in two pitcher's parks/leagues. Hit .313 in the AFL with a lowered strikeout rate but didn't hit for much power. Could start the '09 season with Jacksonville as a 20 year old.

6. Josh Bell, 3B/1B

Started the year with Inland Empire, batting .273/.373/.455 in 51 games. Had season-ending knee surgery in June and should be ready for spring training. A repeat of High A ball is likely.

5. Scott Elbert, LHP

Was dominant in the pen for Jacksonville (48 K's, 22 Hits in 41.1 IP). Made his big league debut in September, struggling mightily with his control. Walked 4 batters and allowed 2 HR in 6 innings. Needs a little more seasoning.

4. Chin Lung Hu, SS

Came back to Earth after his breakout '07 campaign. Vision problems, combined with blurred vision in one of his eyes, led to a disastrous .181/.252/.233 line in the majors. Went back to Vegas and hit .295, but didn't show much patience or power. In the same boat as De Jesus, as his future is likely with another club.

3. James McDonald, RHP

Put up strong numbers in Jacksonville, though his walk rate rose and his strikeout rate fell. Made his MLB debut in September, coming out of the pen, and didn't allow a run in 4 appearances. There's a chance he'll compete for a rotation spot in ST but I've read that he could be used as a reliever.

2. Andy LaRoche, 3B

Walked more than twice as much as he struck out in Triple A before being called up. Struggled in LA before being dealt, with Bryan Morris, to the Pirates. Didn't fare any better playing opposite his brother. I'm still a believer, though he's already 25 and his time is running out.

1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP

Competely dominated Double A as a 20 year old and was called up in late May. Held his own as the youngest player in the league and figures to be the Dodgers' #4 starter in 2009.

Up next: a VERY preliminary Top 10 List for 2009.