Finally, a Roster Move: So Long, Alfredo Silverio

Raise your hand if you thought the only real roster movement for the Dodgers at the Winter Meetings would be in the Rule 5 draft. Me too, right?

As expected, the Dodgers selected no one to add to a crowded roster, but they did lose
OF Alfredo Silverio to the Marlins. We all know this story by now – Silverio was seen as a rising star after hitting .305/.340/.542 in Double-A in 2011, but missed all of 2012 after a nasty car accident and ensuing Tommy John surgery. He spent the year on the 40-man roster before briefly being promoted so he could be added to the 60-day DL near the end of the season to alleviate a roster crunch, but was removed from the 40-man last month. He also had Tommy John surgery in May, so by the time he’s ready to return to the field he’s going to be 26 years old without a day above Double-A and only one real good season under his belt.

He makes sense for the Marlins, who are desperate for young talent and have the roster space to accommodate a gamble on his comeback, especially since they can stash him on the disabled list for the start of the year. To remind you of the rules, Rule 5 picks cannot be optioned to the minors; they must be on the active roster or the disabled list for the entire season, and even then it can’t be on the DL all year long – a player must be active for at least 90 days. For our part, it’s sad to see his Dodger career (potentially) end with the accident, though he’s clearly fallen behind Joc Pederson & Yasiel Puig  on the outfield organizational depth chart.

Due to the fact that he’s Miami gets a few months of disabled list time before needing to make a decision on promoting him, my guess is we’ve seen the last of him – unless he’s not healthy enough to even be active for the final three months of the season, in which case we may not care about getting him back anyway.

Update: in the minor league phase, the Dodgers took Elevys Gonzalez from Pittsburgh. Gonzalez turned 23 in October and hit just .206/.306/.331 in High-A and Double-A for the Pirates last year, playing four positions (though he’s primarily been a third baseman.) He’s not much of a prospect, but then again, the Dodger infield depth in the minors is pretty sparse at the moment, so… he’s a guy.

Update #2: another minor league pick: 26-year-old righty Hector Nelo, who made it to Double-A for the first time last year after five years in the minors. He has some strikeout stuff – 63 in 52.2 IP last year – but unsurprisingly, a lot of control problems. Enjoy Albuquerque, Hector.

Dodger Camp Beginning to Get Interesting With Three Injuries

We’ve been bemoaning the lack of news from camp thus far, so I suppose this falls under the category of “be careful what you wish for”, because we have news about three separate injuries to young players of varying severity and importance.

Most troubling has to be Alfredo Silverio, who was in a one-car accident in the Dominican Republic on January 23. Tony Jackson provides terrifying details:

In short, the kid is lucky. From talking to various people (still haven’t been able to talk to Silverio), this is what I have been able to cull: the accident happened on a stretch of road called Curva de la Muerte, which translates to Curve of Death. Apparently, he was going about 60 mph and lost control, the car going off the road and flipping several times. He temporarily lost consciousness, and the car was demolished.

Jackson adds that in addition to a concussion, Silverio sustained injuries to his back, shoulder, elbow and neck; he’ll be sent to a concussion specialist next week and will almost certainly see the start to his season delayed. We’ve seen concussions ruin careers before – see Corey Koskie & Mike Matheny, among others – and Don Mattingly says there “there isn’t even a timeline right now,” which is clearly concerning. That said, I’m trying to stay cautiously optimistic if only because Silverio was able to fly from the Dominican to Arizona, and one of the last things concussion victims are supposed to do is fly. If the Dodgers were comfortable allowing him to do so, that should be seen as a good sign. Silverio, Baseball Prospectus‘ #7 Dodger prospect, was expected to start in the Triple-A Albuquerque outfield, so the potential for missed time does help explain a bit more why the Dodgers felt the need to supplement outfield depth by claiming Matt Angle from Baltimore recently.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, because 23-year-old 1B/OF Angelo Songco (unranked by BP) is going to have a tough season as well, per Jackson:

Anyway, another highly regarded prospect, outfielder-first baseman Angelo Songco, is expected to miss the next two to three months after having a rod inserted into his lower right leg. Songco was hit by a pitch late last season at high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, where he hit .313 with 48 doubles, 29 homers, 114 RBI and a .367 on-base percentage, causing a stress fracture he was able to play through for the rest of the season. But when he started feeling intensified pain in the leg a few weeks ago, he was sent for an X-ray that showed it had turned into a full-blown fracture.

Songco was to move up to Double-A Chattanooga this year and was likely to play more first than outfield, so his absence may open up more time for sorta-prospect Austin Gallagher.

Finally, Dee Gordon took a bad hop grounder to the mouth during batting practice and had to leave the complex for stitches (which you can see here). Gordon returned afterwards and took some swings, so it doesn’t appear to be that serious, and we see players take pops in the mouth from bad hops all the time. Still, we’re constantly worried about Gordon’s ability to hold up over the course of the season, and this serves to remind us that the depth behind him is less than optimal. Mattingly has already said that he prefers to keep Juan Uribe at third base this year rather than shifting him around, and while Jerry Hairston is an adequate fill-in on Gordon’s days off, a 36-year-old who played nine innings at the position last year isn’t really an ideal long-term replacement. Stay limber, Justin Sellers.

Checking Into the 2012 Albuquerque Isotopes

Last year at this time, I look a look at how the roster was shaping up for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. Considering how set the MLB roster seems to be at this point, it’s a whole lot more interesting to look at the minors, so let’s do it again. A year ago, we were excited at the prospect of seeing Dee Gordon, Trayvon Robinson, and Jerry Sands all playing together at the highest minor-league level. This year, there’s a different crop of interesting offensive prospects to keep tabs on, though not likely a whole lot of interest on the mound.

C: After parts of four seasons in Triple-A, dating back to 2008 with Las Vegas, A.J. Ellis is out of options and finally set to get a shot in the bigs. There’s little question here that Tim Federowicz will be the regular Isotopes backstop, since the 102 plate appearances he received with Albuquerque last season were his first above Double-A. Last year’s primary backup, Damaso Espino, is an unsigned free agent, so it’s likely that recently-signed veteran Josh Bard joins Federowicz in New Mexico, with a decent chance we’ll see either prospect Gorman Erickson or recently-signed and well-traveled Salomon Manriquez making appearances at points as well.

1B: Scott Van Slyke, 2011′s Dodger minor league hitter of the year, moves up from Double-A Chattanooga; he could still see some time in the outfield corners, but is mainly seen as a first baseman. Fun stories John Lindsey and Corey Smith are each unsigned and probably won’t be back; Jerry Sands could see some time here as well as in the outfield if he ends up not breaking camp with the big club.

2B: I’m still not convinced that he won’t be traded this winter, but the Mark Ellis signing eliminated any chance that Ivan DeJesus was going to make the Dodgers, so he’ll likely return to Triple-A for a third consecutive season. You have to wonder when Jaime Pedroza, owner of a .370 OBP in parts of two Double-A seasons, could get a shot; in addition, Justin Sellers might be the primary shortstop but should still see time at second and third as he attempts to keep his positional flexibility fresh for his future career as a utilityman.

3B: Russ Mitchell has no shot of making the Dodgers barring a string of injuries, and Pedro Baez & Travis Denker are hardly pushing him from behind, so he’ll return for his third Triple-A year at the age of 27. We’ll see him in the bigs again, as we always do, and he’ll be underwhelming as usual. Did you know the ‘Topes had thirteen third basemen last year? Okay, seven played in fewer than five games, but still.

SS: Sellers probably gets the initial look, though I’ll guess he won’t play the majority of games at shortstop since he’ll both be at second and third for Albquerque and probably spend a decent amount of time in the bigs once the elderly begin to break down. Recent minor-league invites Luis Cruz and Lance Zawadzki should collect plenty of time filling space until Jake Lemmerman is ready, perhaps in 2013.

LF: This largely depends on Sands, because if he’s in the minors, he’s playing every day. Primary 2011 left fielder Trayvon Robinson is of course gone, so there should be an opening for what could be a hilarious season out of Kyle Russell. Russell has been known for his massive power and nearly-as-impressive difficulties in making contact, so that package in ABQ should present some Triple-A fueled numbers that’ll have us all pretending like he’s the next big thing by June.

CF: Alfredo Silverio was added to the 40-man roster earlier this offseason after a solid season in Chattanooga, and with both regular center fielders gone from 2011 – Robinson to Seattle, and Jamie Hoffmann to Colorado – there’s a big hole here for Silverio to fill. Non-roster invite Cory Sullivan probably also fits into the mix here.

RF: Well, I don’t think Jay Gibbons is coming back. Alex Castellanos, impressive in a short look with Chattanooga after being acquired for Rafael Furcal, is likely to start the season as the primary Isotope right fielder; Russell and Sullivan could see time here as well.

Bench: Other than the guys I’ve already mentioned – Bard, Cruz, Zawadzki, & Sullivan – corner infielder Jeff Baisley will probably be an Isotope, plus perhaps 2B/3B Joe Becker, who got into 70 games with the club last season. In the outfield, expect to see Trent Oeltjen or someone else like him, and at some point, Albuquerque native Brian Cavazos-Galvez should make his hometown debut.

Starting Pitching

It helps, somewhat, that the Dodger starting rotation and bullpen are all but set, so there’s no worry about ten guys fighting for that fifth rotation spot. On the other hand, the Dodgers have shown a pattern of trying to keep their top pitching prospects away from the high-offense PCL, preferring to promote them directly from Double-A instead, so these are informed guesses and little more.

SP1: Being the #1 starter on this list doesn’t mean “ace” as it would in the bigs; rather, it’s just the order in which I consider them most likely. John Ely, owner of 25 starts for the Isotopes last year and a few stints with the Dodgers, is almost certainly headed back for another year of Triple-A. He’s roster depth at best – great to have around, never someone you want to count on.

SP2: Will Savage had a reasonably successful season for the Lookouts last year, striking out few but showing excellent control. Hardly a top prospect – 28 next year, and has been a minor-league free agent more than once – he’ll likely turn his invite to big-league camp into a season spent in New Mexico.

SP3: Like Savage, Michael Antonini is hardly a name to know – he was acquired for Chin-lung Hu for chrissake – but he’ll be 27 next year, was invited to the offseason developmental camp, and has a few games of Triple-A experience under his belt from his time with the Mets.  He’s been a bit homer-prone in the lower levels, which is somewhat terrifying to think about in Albuquerque.

SP4: I went back and forth on this one, which is why he’s SP4, but I’ll guess that Nathan Eovaldi does head to Triple-A rather than Double-A. That’s partly because the Chattanooga rotation looks like it could be getting full, but also because Eovaldi was decent in his time in the bigs, and sending him back down two levels could look like an insult. Besides, if you’re going to succeed in the NL West, you have to learn how to win in Colorado and Arizona.

Others: Alberto Bastardo and Randy Keisler combined to make 34 starts last year; each is currently a free agent and might not be back. Tim Sexton was awful last year, largely as an injury fill-in, and don’t forget that Carlos Monasterios should be back from elbow surgery at some point. There’s probably also going to be another Dana Eveland-like veteran that we don’t know about yet, and it’s possible that younger arms like Allen Webster, Chris Withrow, and Stephen Fife could push their way up if the organization doesn’t try to keep them away from Albuquerque.

Relief Pitching

Take your pick. It’s possible that none of the top three Isotope leaders in games pitched from 2011 – Jon Link (already signed with Baltimore), Travis Schlichting, Merkin Valdez – returns. The fourth was Ramon Troncoso, who might make the Dodgers but is far more likely to be DFA’d since he’s out of options. Josh Lindblom could appear if he doesn’t make the big team, but the entire collection of recently signed fungible veterans – Angel Guzman, Fernando Nieve, Jose Ascanio, Ryan Tucker, Shane Lindsay, Alberto Castillo, Matt Chico, Scott Rice, John Grabow, Wil Ledezma – are candidates to make up the bullpen, as again, the Dodgers try not to put their better prospects like Shawn Tolleson, Steve Ames, and Josh Wall here.

Remember, the Isotopes have used 49, 56, and 52 players going back to 2009, so this is an extremely high-level look; needs change as the big club makes their own moves.