2012 in brief: Raw talent dominated minors and showed flashes of excellence in up-and-down major league debut.
2013 status: Having options left always makes roster games possible, but should spend most or all of the season in Dodger bullpen.
You know, since Rubby de la Rosa missed most of the season and then was traded immediately after returning, and Jerry Sands & Alex Castellanos never really got full chances to perform, I think Shawn Tolleson is the Dodger prospect I was most excited to see who actually spent a decent amount of time with the team.
That was made clear early on in the season, since we’d barely made it into the first week of May before I started gushing over how much I wanted to see him. Four days later, he at least got promoted to Triple-A, and in early June he got the call to the bigs. We were, frankly, thrilled:
But it’s the second, completely-out-of-nowhere move which is far more interesting. Javy Guerra has been placed on the DL right knee inflammation, and that means we’ll get our long-awaited first look at Shawn Tolleson. (Matt Guerrier was pushed to the 60-day DL to make room for Tolleson on the 40-man roster.) Guerra struggled in his most recent outing on Saturday against Colorado, allowing two hits & a walk in just 0.1 inning, but we had seen no indication that he might be injured. Tolleson, meanwhile, joins the club with an absolutely ridiculous track record, having struck out 34 against just 5 walks for Chattanooga & Albuquerque this year, and with a 178/28 K/BB across 120 minor league innings over parts of three seasons. He got off to a briefly rough start upon his promotion to ABQ, but has an amazing 15/1 K/BB in eight AAA games. Frankly, I’ve been dying to see him for some time, and the thought of him along with Kenley Jansen & Josh Lindblom in the bullpen – and yes, Guerra belongs in that group as well, when healthy, as does Scott Elbert, who has been very good – really makes you salivate at the future of the young bullpen arms in this organization.
Tolleson had a rough debut in Philadelphia — he threw ten pitches, eight for balls — and was only okay over his next four outings before getting blown up against the Mets on June 29. A few days later, he became the answer to the trivia question of “who got sent down when Luis Cruz was recalled?,” but his bizarre season had only just begun. The next day, Todd Coffey‘s Dodger career ended when his elbow exploded, and Tolleson’s option was canceled before he even got out of Los Angeles.
Tolleson took advantage of his second chance and was a much better pitcher in July, striking out 10 in 10.2 innings while allowing only two walks and four hits. Two of those hits came in New York on July 22, which was the game otherwise remembered for being Nathan Eovaldi‘s final Dodger start and Josh Wall‘s debut. I bring it up here because the story of Tolleson’s afternoon was a little more complicated than the box score would indicate:
But the main story of the day, as it always seems to be, was the umpiring, where there were at least five calls that were either clearly incorrect or very questionable, and that’s not even counting balls and strikes. In the fourth, Murphy doubled down the right field line, a ball that clearly seemed to land foul. That didn’t hurt the Dodgers, but a call by home plate umpire Jim Joyce in the seventh loomed large. Tolleson had seemingly struck out Ike Davis to complete a 1-2-3 inning, but home plate umpire Jim Joyce argued that Davis had tipped the ball as the Dodgers ran off the field.
Uh, you tell me:
Given a second chance, Davis doubled to right and came home on a Murphy single, and I think we’ve all seen enough baseball to know that given a gift like that, the chances of Davis turning it into something were approximately 10000%. Someone really ought to set up a real-time sports book that allows me to bet on things like that happening.
After leaving New York, Tolleson ran off a streak of 13 consecutive scoreless outings into late August, but not without another aborted transaction: he was briefly optioned to Albuquerque in late July to make room for Randy Choate, yet was again quickly recalled when Scott Elbert landed on the DL. That scoreless streak ended against Miami on August 26 when Jose Reyes & Carlos Lee went back-to-back. After having thrown 52 pitches in three days, Tolleson was once again optioned to the minors, this time to make room for the return of Wall to reinforce a tired bullpen.
Yet for the third time in less than three months, Tolleson’s demotion was short-lived, because he was gone for only three days before returning once again to replace Elbert, who once again was shelved because of his elbow. Despite all the roster shenanigans, Tolleson didn’t actually burn up an option year since he was always recalled before ten days to cover for other injured players.
With expanded rosters in September, Tolleson had no worries about being sent down and struck out 13 in 12 innings, giving him 39 whiffs in 37.2 innings on the season. While he had some control issues — 4.8 walks per 9 isn’t great — and occasionally ran into the big inning, it was a pretty impressive debut for Clayton Kershaw‘s schoolboy pal. As I said above, further offseason moves may crowd the bullpen enough that Tolleson may not be assured of an Opening Day spot, but we should be seeing plenty of him in 2013.
Next up! So long, Josh Lindblom!