Think Blue

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

Monday, June 15, 2009

State of the System

I figured I'd look back at my pre-season Top 10 prospect list and evaluate how the elite in the Dodgers' system have fared over the first few months of the season.

1. Andrew Lambo, OF

Lambo started '09 as he left off '08: hot. In April, Andrew batted .321/.383/.548 and seemed like he was a sure bet to make the big club sooner rather than later. However, May brought no flowers for him, as the month yielded some of his worst production as a pro (.223/.270/.320). While Lambo did club 7 doubles, he homered only once and struck out 26 times in 27 games.

I'm not sure if he's pressing or if pitchers have found a weakness or if he's just getting unlucky, though the latter seems to be true. Andrew's line drive percentage has been over 20% each month, yet his BABIP for May and June is .289 and .265, well below what it should be. He's also batting just .131 on groundballs, nearly .100 points lower than average. His groundball rate in May skyrocketed to 52.6% from 38.4% in April, which could mean he's trying to hit everything in the air and getting on top of the ball. Whatever it is, he still has plenty of time to figure things out. And since Lambo won't turn 21 until August, he's still young enough to overcome this type of under-performance.

2. James McDonald, RHP

As I predicted, J Mac broke camp with the big club and began the season as the Dodgers' #5 starter. However, his time in LA was short-lived as his usually reliable command evaded him and resulted in a 6.75 ERA with 16 walks in 18.2 innings. A trip to the bullpen preceded a plane ticket to Albuquerque and a return to Triple A.

Overall, McDonald's time as an Isotope has been well spent, as he's posted a 3.26 ERA in 6 starts with 40 K's, 14 walks and 2 HR in 30.1 innings. He's been especially hot over his last 2 appearances, surrendering just 1 earned run in 14 innings while striking out 23. Still just 24, James has plenty of time to make it back to LA and I expect him back with the club by September at the latest.

3. Ivan De Jesus, SS/2B

Ivan's season ended before it began, as a broken leg in spring training has sidelined the Puerto Rican infielder since March. He's expected to return after the all star break.

4. Ethan Martin, RHP

The 2008 first rounder's debut was delayed due to a knee injury, though it was worth the wait. The big righty has displayed an impressive fastball and promising secondary pitches, though he's still understandibly raw. Ethan is holding opposing batters to a .239 average and has 60 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. However, his problem is control, as evidenced by his 32 walks. He needs desparately to reduce the free passes, especially to left-handers.

5. Scott Elbert, LHP

It's hard to believe that Elbert has been a Dodger for 5 years, but he's still struggling to hang on with the big league club and doing his best to force his way back up. The 23 year old southpaw was far too hittable in his major league stint, allowing 10 hits (including 3 HR) in just 6.1 innings. Back in Double A, he's having more success, but Scott still needs to work on throwing more strikes. While he's starting in the minors, he's viewed as more of a relief type of pitcher in the majors.

6. Josh Lindblom, RHP

The biggest surprise from the 2008 draft, Josh was actually being considered for the 5th starter job in spring training. The Dodgers' prudence in returning him to the minors was the right choice, and though his numbers may not impress on the surface (3-4, 4.28), a deeper look reveals more production. Lindblom has struck out 40 batters in 48.1 innings, compared to just 8 walks and he's given up just 3 home runs. The Dodgers could use him on the big team this season, as a starter or a reliever and I'm under the impression that he'll reach the show by September at the latest.

7. Josh Bell, 3B

There seems to be an epidemic of bad luck in the Chattanooga locker room, as both Bell and Andrew Lambo should be putting up better numbers. In 50 June at bats, Bell is sporting a nifty 20% line drive rate, but his BABIP is only .216 for the month. Overall, his line of .271/.366/.453 is solid in spite of his ball-in-play numbers. He's tied for the team lead in home runs (7) and leads the team with 32 walks. If Josh's BABIP normalizes, he could be a valuable trading chip as the deadline nears.

8. Ramon Troncoso, RHP

A somewhat ambitious ranking on my part, there was talk of Troncoso being transitioned to a starting role coming into the year. However, he's turned into the Dodgers' best reliever not named Broxton. Ramon is no longer a prospect, but he's a very valuable setup man.

9. Austin Gallagher, 1B

My biggest miss, Gallagher actually moved down a level after last season's surprising assignment to High A. Now with Great Lakes, the 2007 3rd rounder is batting .267/.335/.361 with 3 home runs in 47 games. In spite of his massive frame, Austin's power hasn't yet developed. It seems as though he could have been suffering from an injury, as Gallagher missed about 2 weeks and returned to the lineup just 4 days ago. Still just 20, he has time to turn things around, but he'll need to start showing that he's capable of hitting for power sooner rather than later.

10.Justin Miller, RHP

I was very surprised to see Miller back in Great Lakes rotation to start 2009, though it's understandable given his excessive walk rate. The walks are down this year, though the strikeouts are as well and he's already given up 5 HR after yielding just 6 in 140 innings last season. Justin's still getting a ridiculous amount of groundballs (2.71 per flyout), and he's still just 21 in his second full season of pro ball.

Others of Note

-SS Dee Gordon earned rave reviews from scouts last year and is still flashing plus-plus speed (his 33 SB lead the league) along with promising defense. However, his offense is still developing and he needs to hone his on-base skills so he can fully exploit his baserunning ability.

-OF Kyle Russell is leading the Midwest League with 16 HR as well as 81 strikeouts. This doesn't bode well for Russell, who turns 23 in less than 2 weeks, as he will face better pitching as he moves up the latter.

-RHP Nathan Eovaldi made a name for himself late last year by hitting 96mph 20 times in his final start of the season. After struggling with his command and posting an ERA of over 6 through the first 2 months of 2009, Nate seems to have hit his stride as he's in the midst of a 17 inning scoreless streak.

-1B Steven Caseres has also come on of late, increasing his OPS from .837 in May to 1.314 in June. Caseres destroys righties, hitting .315/.399/.569 against them, but he really needs to show he can hit lefties (he's hitting just .136 against them) if he wants to be seen as more than a platoon player.

-OF Scott Van Slyke was one of the highest risers through the first 2 months of the season, though he's cooled off considerably in June. Hopefully Scott will show that April and May weren't flukes and he'll find his power stroke again.

-OF Trayvon Robinson was merely a speedster entering the year, a good athlete who was just learning to switch hit. He's now hitting over .300 as a lefty and he's nearly doubled his career home run total through the first 2 and a half months of the year. Tray is actually doing better in June than he did previously, increasing his walks, decreasing his strikeouts and hitting for even more power than before. He could find himself in Double A before long.

-RHP Tim Sexton has been another huge surprise, nearly halving his ERA in his second go round in the Cally League. While his strikeouts are merely acceptable (6.15 per 9), he's showing impeccable command and the ability to keep the ball in the stadium and on the ground. Sexton celebrated his 22nd birthday earlier this week and should celebrate a promotion to Double A in the near future.

-RHP Chris Withrow seemed like a forgotten man last year, as his 2008 debut was delayed because he sliced his hand open on a snorkel before suffering a sore shoulder. This year, he's healthy and throwing smoke. Chris' biggest problem is his lack of command against lefties; he's walked 22 of them this year. Improving his changeup will be integral in his ability to get lefties out. Like Nate Eovaldi, Withrow is riding a bit of a hot streak: over his last 5 starts, he's allowed just 5 earned runs while striking out 28 over 26.1 innings.

-RHP Steven Johnson has been a pleasant surprise this season, posting a 4.21 ERA (down nearly 3 runs from last year) with strikeout totals flirting with league-leading status. Steven's biggest problem is the longball, having given up 10 homers in 12 starts. Keeping the ball in the yard might actually be easier for Johnson once he moves up to Double A.

-LHP Victor Garate may be the answer to the Dodgers' LOOGY woes. Brent Leach is struggling to retire southpaws and Will Ohman had even less success. Garate's delivery is nearly identical to that of Brian Fuentes, though his stuff is a tick below that level.

That's all for now. If I left anyone out, please leave a comment and I'll do my best to respond as soon as I can.


  • At 1:47 PM , Blogger Rob said...

    How has Chin Lung Hu fared this year?

  • At 1:48 PM , Blogger Rob said...

    Is Chin Lung Hu still alive?

  • At 10:19 PM , Blogger Jared said...

    That depends on your definition of "alive." Hu is still in Triple A, though he's not been hitting too well (.249/.296/.313). He's already 25 and his bat isn't as sure a thing as it was a few years ago. At this point, the Dodgers are probably hoping his average rises so he can build some trade value.


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