Think Blue

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dodgers' Minor League Awards

The regular minor league season is over for the Dodgers, with just the fall and winter leagues still to come. And while no titles were conquered, it was an overwhelming success for a good amount of prospects. So without further adeiu, I present my Dodgers' Minor League Awards.

Hitting Prospect of the Year: Dee Gordon

Background: Son of Tom Gordon, the 4th round pick from a year ago surprised me, as I hadn't seen him on any publications' radar screens. I was initially skeptical of the selection when I found out he didn't even play in 2008 prior to signing. But any doubts were left behind when he stepped foot on the field. In his debut, Dee batted .331 for the Ogden Raptors with 13 doubles and 18 stolen bases.

2009 Performance: A full season assignment was somewhat precarious for the 21 year old but he handled it better than anyone could have expected. Overall, Gordon batted .301 during the regular season with a league-leading 73 stolen bases. Impressively, not only did he hit .281 against lefties, but he also walked 17 times in 146 at bats against them to post a strong .376 OBP vs southpaws. Power isn't really a part of his game, though he did club 17 doubles and legged out 12 triples. He also improved his plate discipline during the year, walking more in the second half than the first, despite playing in fewer games. Add to that his .357 batting average in the playoffs, and you have quite a season. Dee was named co-MVP (along with teammate Kyle Russell) and Prospect of the Year for the Midwest league and was also given the Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year award by the Dodgers.

Scouting Report: The word most commonly associated with Gordon is "raw." He's still learning how to play the game, instead of relying primarily on his remarkable athleticism. His speed easily rates as an 80 on the (20-80) scouting scale. It not only helps him on the basepaths, but also in the field. He has exceptional range at shortstop with a quick first step and natural actions. His arm is strong enough to stay at the position, but he tends to lower his elbow leading to throwing errors. Dee makes a good amount of contact and is already an adept bunter; he collected 27 bunt hits during the regular season. His plate discipline is improving and should continue to get better. Dee has an rail-thin frame but doesn't project to hit for much power in the future.

2010 and Beyond: Gordon will continue his development at the Dodgers' High A affiliate in the Inland Empire. I wouldn't be surprised to see him reach Double A by the middle of next year. His development path coincides nicely with Rafael Furcal's contract and he should be ready to take over the Dodgers' starting shortstop job in 2012.

Pitching Prospect of the Year: Chris Withrow

Withrow was a late-riser in the 2007 draft, creeping into the first round of mock drafts just weeks before the June event. The Dodgers fell in love with his picture-perfect delivery and projectable frame and decided to nab him with the 20th overall pick. He showed flashes early in his career, touching 98mph in a playoff game during his time in the Gulf Coast League. 2008, on the other hand, was a disaster. After slicing his hand open on a snorkel during the offseason, Chris battled a tender elbow and ended the year with just 4 innings pitched.

2009 Performance: I really wasn't expecting much out of Chris this year, outside of staying healthy enough to pitch a full season. Coupled with his return to the California League, things very well could have turned out ugly. But Withrow persevered and exceeded expectations by reaching Double A at the ripe old age of 20. Beneath his unimpressive 4.51 ERA, you'll find that Withrow had a very successful year with one major problem: walking lefties. His command isn't completely flawed, as he walked less than 2.5 right-handed hitters per 9 innings. It was his 6.67 BB/9 against lefties that caused most of his struggles. Chris' 1.33 ground:fly ratio helped him allow just 3 home runs in the hitter-haven that is the Cal league and he struck out an astounding 10.9 batters per 9 innings for the 66ers. I was surprised by his late season promotion to Chattanooga, but after a disastrous first start (6 ER in 3.1 IP), he posted an ERA of 2.25 in his last 5 appearances of the season.

Scouting Report: As mentioned earlier, Withrow has great mechanics and a very easy arm action that allows him to generate mid 90s heat with minimal effort. His curveball is still inconsistent but shows flashes of being a plus pitch. He needs to work most on his changeup, and as he gains confidence in it, he should be able to pitch more aggressively to lefties. I don't see health being a major obstacle in his future, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris taking on a relatively light offseason workload after pitching over 100 innings this season.

2010 and Beyond: Withrow won't turn 21 until next April, but it seems the Dodgers feel he's ready for Double A. The last 21 year old to begin the season for the Dodgers' Double A affiliate was Clayton Kershaw. Chris isn't the prospect Clayton was, but it shows that the Dodgers' are just as confident in his ability. I'd be surprised if he doesn't spend the entire season in Chattanooga next year, but if he's good enough, you could see in Chavez Ravine before long.

Comeback Hitter of the Year: Jerry Sands, OF

Background: The 2008 25th round pick out of Catawba College showed some tools in the GCL, clubbing 10 home runs and drawing 29 walks in 46 games. On the flip side, he batted just .205 with 43 strikeouts. Generally there's no much in the way of expectations out of players picked that late in the draft, but Sands showed there was something there.

2009 Performance: It seems that Sands was destined for another (half) year of rookie ball, so I was surprised to see him debut in Great Lakes in late April. Unfortunately, Jerry lasted just 5 games while batting .118 with 7 strikeouts in 5 games. It seems as though he had a lot of work to do. And between early May and mid June, it appears he made the most of that work. He came out blazing hot in the Pioneer league, batting over .400 in June. He ended up posting a staggering 1.114 OPS in 41 games with the Raptors, slugging 14 home runs (which led the league for a while after he was promoted). He then returned to the Loons and was a different hitter. There was a period in late August when he fell back into some bad habits, striking out a lot, but he ended his return with a line of .287/.394/.586.

Scouting Report: Loons commentators said there's a special sound when the ball comes off Sands' bat. Maybe that's the reason he hit a combined 19 HR between Ogden and Great Lakes in just 73 games. He's shown the ability to draw walks since his debut, having been issued 66 in his 119 pro games. Jerry needs to concentrate on making contact, as he struck out 27 times in 25 games after his return to the Loons. He's also not much of a runner, so he profiles best in an outfield corner.

2010 and Beyond: Sands showed that he's ready for a full season assignment and it'll likely be back in Great Lakes. Inland Empire's outfield looks like it'll be crowded, so unless the Dodgers plan on keeping him at 1B, he should be the Loons' starting RF on opening day.

Comeback Pitcher of the Year: Allen Webster

Like Sands, Webster was drafted in 2008 (18th round) and had a rough go in his debut. While his ERA was low (3.44), he had nearly as many walks (17) as innings pitched (18.1). The high school righty looked like he'd need a few seasons of rookie ball just to get his command under control.

2009 Performance: Allen began the season with the new Arizona league affiliate and looked like a different player. He displayed excellent command of the strike zone, issuing just 14 walks in 47.2 innings compared to 56 strikeouts. A surprise callup was followed by his best outing of the year, a 7.2 inning, 4 hit shutout performance with no walks and 9 strikeouts. Allen ended the season on a sour note, getting blasted for 5 earned runs in just 2.1 innings in his last regular season appearance and then giving up another 5 spot in 3.1 innings in his sole playoff start. However, 2 bad outings can't take away how far he's come as a prospect.

Scouting Report: Allen has a very projectable frame, listed at 6'2 and weighing just 165 pounds. He throws from a high arm slot and gets good downhill plane on his pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches the mid 90s, while his curveball and changeup are both above average at this stage of his development. His command, once his achilles heel, has become a strength.

2010 and Beyond: Webster will turn 20 next February, so he'll still be young for the Midwest league. After pitching just over 18 innings in his debut and about 70 this year, the Dodgers will be sure to protect Allen's arm over the offseason and will likely limit his innings in 2010.

Hitting Rookie of the Year: Brian Cavazos-Galvez

Brian says he was destined to be a Dodger. He grew up near the Dodgers' Albuquerque Dukes affiliate and his father briefly pitched for the Dodgers in the 80's. After batting .392 this spring with 15 home runs and 63 RBI, the senior out of the University of New Mexico was drafted by LA in the 12th round and quickly signed. The Dodgers actually considered signing him in 2008, but a problem with his draft paperwork led the Dodgers to believe he intended on staying in school.

2009 Performance: BCG began his pro career with little bang, just .233 in 6 June games. But he turned it on quickly in July, hitting .342 with 9 home runs and continued to rake through July by posting a .350/.376/.530 line in the month. That led to him leading the Pioneer league in hits, total bases, doubles and home runs. He also finished 2nd in RBI and 5th in OPS. Shortly after the season, Brian was named the Pioneer league Most Valuable Player.

Scouting Report: Cavazos-Galvez' main tool is his bat. He has strength and bat speed to hit for power now and down the road. He's an aggressive hitter, as evidenced by his 10 walks in his first 71 games. His swing can get long and, while he didn't strike out much in his debut, he'll need to work to make more contact as he moves up the ladder. He has a strong arm but not much range, so he fits best in an outfield corner. He has enough speed to steal a some bases, but he's not a huge threat.

2010 and Beyond: Brian's development will hinge on his ability to continue making contact and start drawing more walks. His performance almost certainly earned him a spot in Great Lakes' outfield, though I wouldn't rule out him skipping the Loons and heading straight for the Empire.

Pitching Rookie of the Year: Aaron Miller

Background: What a long, strange trip it's been. Miller was considered a top prospect in an outfielder, but he was dead-set on attending Baylor and ended up as their star hitter for the following few seasons. But this spring, the Bears' rotation was ravaged by injuries and, desperate for arms, Baylor's head coach asked Aaron if he'd be willing to pitch. Aaron obliged and established himself as a top pitching prospect. The Dodgers selected him with the 36th overall pick, in the supplemental first round.

2009 Performance: The Dodgers started out by giving Miller a modest assignment in the rookie level Arizona league. After a few outings where he figured things out, Aaron got on a roll and ended his assignment early as he started mowing down inferior hitters and was ready for A ball. Miller became the Loons' ace, posting an outstanding 2.08 ERA in 7 starts with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And as if that wasn't enough, he was phenomenal in the playoffs, allowing just a single earned run over 12 innings.

Scouting Report: This spring, Miller was pegged as a raw arm with spotty command but 2 plus pitches in his low 90s fastball and nasty slider. As a pro, however, he looked like a different pitcher. His fastball velocity was more in the high 80s, but his command of the pitch was far better, as he walked just 12 batters in 36 regular season innings. His slider was as good as advertised and he's throwing a changeup. He's very athletic and has a pretty good delivery, so his focus moving forward will be refining his secondary offerings and maintaining his velocity through a full season.

2010 and Beyond: Even though he threw 99 innings between college and the pros, the Dodgers feel Miller is ready for more as he'll head to the Arizona Fall league in the next few weeks. Depending on how that pans out, Miller could find himself anymore from back in Great Lakes to down in Chattanooga to start next season. Either way, he's proving to be a great investment and looks like he could contribute to the Dodgers' staff within the next few years.

Dodgers' 2009 Minor League All Star Team

Catcher: JT Wise (Ogden)
First Base: Jerry Sands (Ogden/Great Lakes)
Second Base: Jaime Pedroza (Great Lakes)
Shortstop: Dee Gordon (Great Lakes)
Third Base: Brian Ruggiano (Ogden)
Left Field: Scott Van Slyke (Inland Empire/Albuquerque)
Center Field: Trayvon Robinson (Inland Empire/Chattanooga)
Right Field: Kyle Russell (Great Lakes)
Designated Hitter: Brian Cavazos-Galvez (Ogden)

Starting Pitcher: Chris Withrow (Inland Empire/Chattanooga)
Starting Pitcher: Ethan Martin (Great Lakes)
Starting Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi (Great Lakes)
Starting Pitcher: Aaron Miller (AZL/Great Lakes)
Starting Pitcher: Allen Webster (AZL/Ogden)
Setup Man: Steven Ames (Ogden)
Closer: Josh Lindblom (Chattanooga/Albuquerque)


  • At 10:20 AM , Blogger Emperor361 said...

    Nice recap, and sayonara for now, I'll be back on the site in the Spring.

    It's a little scary how much we have in A ball, and how little at AA and AAA, but fortunately, the core of the big club is very young, and we might have a whole crop of big league ready players just when we need them.

    If you could slot in Santana and Bell at C and 3B in your all-organization team, it would be stellar top to bottom. Having said that, George Sherrill may help us win a World Series this year, and we need every chance at that we can take.

    Maybe Casey Blake will play until he's 45.

  • At 3:20 PM , Blogger Jared said...

    Don't stay away for long. The Arizona Fall League begins in about 3 weeks and I'll be working on top prospect lists throughout the offseason.

    The system certainly is bottom heavy. I'm really looking forward to (hopefully) attending some 66ers games next season to try and see guys like Dee Gordon, Kyle Russell, Ethan Martin, Nate Eovaldi, etc. And the top of the system is depleted for the best possible reason: the best players are already in the majors.

    I was actually thinking about what the ML team would look like with Bell and Santana. Also, if Colletti had made the deal to bring Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers. The roster would be far better than it is now, in my opinion.

    Well, there's always DeWitt to come in and provide Gold Glove caliber defense at 3rd. I was hoping he'd keep the spot warm for Bell, but that didn't pan out.


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