MSTI Special Feature: Mondays With Torgy (Season 2, Episode 1)

Welcome to Episode 1 of Season 2 of Mondays With Torgy! 
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For those unfamiliar with the feature, what it is essentially is that every Monday we will have weekly updates on the Dodgers’ farm system, brought to you
by our very own farm authority, Torgy, also known as Grabarkewitz at The Big Blue Wrecking Crew
With all the talk that we spend on the major league club, we felt it
might be a good idea to give you a nice weekly briefing on what goes
down on the farm and how these kids play a part, especially when their
names might come up in trade rumors. 

So may I introduce to you, the one and only Torgmeister! 

It is 2009 and again Logan White has a fine looking group of
prospects ready to be harvested…..in 2011. We are loaded at the lower
levels with some serious talent, but the Youth Movement in LA has taken
some of the shine off our upper level franchises. Albuquerque is so
bereft of prospects than Blake DeWitt or the recently called up Jamie
Hoffman, it looks like a casting call for Cocoon 3, The Geezers.

It is down in San Bernardino and Midland, MI where the real fruits
of Logan White’s wise labors are very apparent. But, because
Albuquerque is our AAA franchise, it gets the top billing. The ‘topes
(which is one cool nickname, much better than the Dukes, IMO) are
basically Ned Colletti’s Halfway House for mid-thirties scrubs and
other hacks. Such illustrious names as Shawn Estes, Luis Maza, Danny
Ardoin and Val Pascucci (the Godfather) made up most of the roster.
Other than ranting about the bad components of the roster, let’s look
at what is working for a first place team. First off, Hector Luna is
putting up scary numbers for a middle infielder. His ops is
1.089….yeah, this is Albquerque and that should explain some of that,
but the ‘topes have played most of their division games at or near sea
level in places like New Orleans, Omaha, Iowa, etc…

We also have to give some kudos to the starting pitching. Eric
Milton (before he got the call), Shawn Estes, Giancarlo Alvarado and
Jeff Weaver (also called up) were putting up scary good WHIPs. All of
them are/were under 1.25. Given that a goodly portion of the games were
played in or about sea level, that stat does lose some shine, but not
much. Unfortunately, we have also had to put up with trash like Tanyon
Sturtze (since released), Scott Strickland (although he had converted
three straight saves and lowered his ERA to below six) and Stephen
Randolph, who may be the worst pitcher in professional baseball. Yeah,
he is striking out nearly two batters an inning, but his ERA is over
eleven and he has walked nearly as many as he has struck out, this
season. Other than Blake DeWitt and the newly called-up Jamie Hoffman,
there isn’t much there to get a prospect hound excited. I am sure some
will say that Jason Repko and his ops of .982 is a prospect, but he has
done this before and it never really translates into his big league
numbers.

Now, off to Chattanooga and the Lookouts (another great nickname).
The Lookouts got off to a terrible start. They were in last place a
couple weeks ago and only recently have played good baseball. Talent
they have, but I have to question why better talent is burning daylight
at the A level. For the longest time, Jamie Hoffman was the best thing
about the Lookouts. Hoffman was putting up the best numbers on the team
with obp of .452 and ops of 950, but like the rest of his team, power
is not there. Aside from Gaby Martinez’ five homers, not another player
has more than three bombs. Andrew Lambo, likely our best prospect, is
struggling through a funk that dropped his average from the .330′s to
.278. Of course, the pitching has been stellar, led by one of the great
minor league bullpens and some very good starting pitching by Josh
Lindblom, Scott Elbert and Travis Chick. Victor Garate, Jesus Rodriguez
and the recently healthy Travis Schichting have been phenomenal. Of the
Lookouts’ top five relief pitcher, the one with worst WHIP among
Garate, Rodriguez, Schichting, Brent Leach and Paul Koss was the one
called up to Los Angeles. Other good things about the Lookouts – Josh
Bell has stayed healthy and produced and Tony Abreu looks to be at
nearly 100%. There are some worries, though. Lucas May is still one
terrible catcher, Jovanny Rosario can’t stay healthy and Ivan DeJesus
is losing development time with his broken leg.

The biggest surprise on the farm has to be Scott Van Slyke and the
play of the Inland Empire Sixty-sixers. For the past three years, I
would think that most of us wondered why Scott Van Slyke generated so
much positive publicity when we signed him. Last year, at both of our A
level teams, Van Slyke combined for a .663 ops. That is Slappy-like.
For a kid who is 6’5″ and over 200lbs, one would think he would have
some pop. So, when he started to hit like his daddy, I was shocked.
But, when he didn’t slow down a bit after April, I had to take notice.
Sure, he strikes out too much and he is playing in one of the best
hitting leagues in all of baseball, but still an ops over .990 and
among the league leaders in batting average, rbis and doubles were not
something that I ever expected from the kid. But, he is not the only
hitter feasting on Cal League pitching. Eduardo Perez is putting up
even better numbers, as did Tommy Giles (since moved to Chattanooga).

On the pitching side, there have been some fine moments. Tim Sexton
and Alberto Bastardo have been very good, while Chris Withrow shows an
electric arm, but the pitcher who looks the best is Steve Johnson and
it would not shock me to see him jumped up to Chattanooga shortly.
Johnson is likely the closest match I can see to Greg Maddux in minor
league baseball. He doesn’t have electric stuff (his fastball can hit
93, but he works around 87-89) and his off-speed stuff is good, but not
something to write home about, but he is averaging nearly a strikeout
and a half an inning and his WHIP is around 1.2, which is unheard of in
the Cal League. There are other pleasant surprises. Greg Miller (aside
from one very long and bad outing) has been a rock and Justin Orenduff
(although I wish he would walk a few less hitters) is taking to closing
very well. Lastly, let’s not forget Trayvon Robinson and Preston
Mattingly. Both were likely afterthoughts or considered flops, like Van
Slyke, but both have put up good numbers (I wish both would walk more)
and could be inching back to prospect status.

Now, to the crown jewel of the Dodgers farm – the Loons. I knew, at
the beginning of the season, this team would be loaded and it appears
that I was right. Aside from a middle infield who could end up with
over sixty errors, this team has met and surpassed my expectations. No,
they are not dominating the Midwest League, but for individual talent,
I would put them up there with just about any other minor league squad.
The lineup is strong 1-6, the pen is frightening and while the
starters, save for Jon-Michael Redding and Ethan Martin, have been less
than spectacular, they all show signs of better things down the road.
The biggest shock on this team has been the improved bat work of Kyle
Russell. Yes, he still strikes out too much, but when he does make
contact it is more often a hit than an out. He is among the league
leaders, in the Midwest League, in home runs, rbis, slugging and total
bases. Add to that, he has been playing a significant amount of his
game in centerfield. The other shock has been the pen. Javy Guerra was
just a guy with a funny wind-up and a history of not staying healthy.
Now, he is unhittable and is second among all Dodger pitchers in saves.
His setup men have been just as good. Robert Boothe, Luis Garcia and
Josh Walter have been equally stingy against opposing hitters.

To the offensive side, Jaime Pedroza leads the Loons is just about
every offensive category that Kyle Russell doesn’t and Devaris Gordon
is fast becoming the heir apparent to Rafael Furcal as he lead the
Dodgers in stolen bases and has shown some pop with the bat. Then there
is Tony Delmonico. He is making it a bit easier to get over losing
Carlos Santana. Yes, he needs to improve his flexibility behind the
plate and learn to block pitches better, but he has shown a strong arm
and an improving understanding of the mental aspect of the game from
behind the plate. I would not be surprised if, in three or four years,
we will have five or six big league players from this roster.

Next week, I hope to start getting together more information on the
draft and if the Dodgers are going to be players in the International
market.

Thanks, Torgy!  Stay tuned for another edition of “Mondays With Torgy,” brought to you by MSTI.  

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