Dodgers Top 20 Prospects: A Midseason Update

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Four days without Dodger baseball! For a blogger, this is both a welcome respite and a terrifying gap. With the big league team off the radar right now, let’s dip into the farm system and get a quick update on the progress the top prospects in the organization have made in the first half of the season. There’s a million different pre-season rankings, so let’s keep it simple and go with MLB.com’s top 20 from last winter, along with my non-scientific informal up/neutral/down grade.

1) Zach Lee, P, Double-A Chattanooga (up!)

In Lee’s first attempt at the Southern League last year, he was fine but not great, with a 4.25 ERA and 3.89 FIP in 12 late starts. Still among the youngest players in the league at just 21, Lee’s made a huge step forward this year, increasing his whiffs (6.99 per nine to 8.21), reducing his walks (3.02 per nine to 2.37), and cutting down on homers as well. The end result is a 3.01 ERA / 3.15 FIP and increased chatter that we could be seeing him in the big leagues at any time, though we’ll probably not see him before September. Lee still isn’t likely to be the “ace” we’d hoped he could be when he was drafted, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with a solid #3 starter.

2) Joc Pederson, OF, Double-A Chattanooga (way up!)

Pederson is one of the very few players in Double-A younger than Lee, and he’s also one of the few who has increased his stock more than his pitching teammate as well. Pederson’s .407 wOBA is the top mark in the entire league, and he’s made believers out of prospect hounds who had previously been uncertain of his ceiling. One of those was ESPN’s Keith Law, who offered a very positive takeaway from seeing Pederson in the Futures Game. Baseball America‘s Ben Badler had a similar impression:

Best U.S. Batting Practice: Joc Pederson

Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson has mature approach for his age and a knack for barreling the baseball. He has no problem backspinning a ball, which helped him hit 18 home runs last year in the hitter-friendly California League, but the power—and really everything about Pederson’s game—has taken a step forward this year. The 21-year-old lefthander already has 14 home runs in the Double-A Southern League, where he’s hitting .296/.386/.516.

His batting practice display was as dazzling as anyone’s, with rainbow home runs that repeatedly cleared the right field fence. He may have been trying too much to put on a show by getting underneath the ball too often, but he also hit some of the furthest home runs of the day, including one that nearly cleared the second deck in right field.

But will we see him in Los Angeles? Though there was some thought to calling him up instead of Yasiel Puig, I’ve already called him “the best prospect you’re never going to see,” and the stuffed outfield situation makes him an ongoing subject of trade discussion. Even if he never plays a game for the Dodgers, he’s greatly increased his trade value.

3. Corey Seager, SS, Single-A Great Lakes (up!)

Three-for-three as far as good performances, because Seager has been outstanding in his age-19 season, hitting .299/.380/.488 for Great Lakes as one of the youngest players in the Midwest League. Perhaps more impressive, DeJon Watson insists that he’s staying at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Remember, he still doesn’t even turn 20 until next April, and he has the talent to be a star, ranking at #35 on Baseball Prospectus’ mid-season prospect list. Just don’t hold your breath on seeing him before 2015 or likely 2016.

4. Julio Urias, P, Single-A Great Lakes (way up!)

Urias is 16. Urias is 16. Urias is 16. Urias is 16. Sorry, I got stuck there for a second. Speaking of massively talented young players who aren’t close to Dodger Stadium, there’s Julio Urias, who is easily the youngest player in full season minor league ball. (Did you know he’s just 16?) If Urias had merely managed to avoid getting embarrassed with the Loons, that would have been an achievement, but he’s done more than that — he’s excelled, striking out 39 in 33.1 innings while holding down a 2.70 ERA, good for a #41 ranking on on Baseball Prospectus’ mid-season prospect list. Urias is obviously more than a few years away from the bigs… but then, no one’s really ever seen a pitcher this young succeed like this before.

5. Chris Reed, P, Double-A Chattanooga (neutral)

Reed’s had a nice season, but he’s the first prospect on the list to not have very obviously increased his standing. I’ll admit here that I’ve never been a huge fan, and I still think he’s a reliever in the long term, though he’s managed to stay in the rotation this year with 16 starts for the Lookouts. A 3.42 ERA (matched by a 3.44 FIP) is nice and is an improvement on last year, largely because he’s improved his control, but he’s just not missing that many bats — 6.93 K/9, down from 7.39 in his first crack at Double-A last year. There’s still a major league future here, just not a high-ceiling one. Of course, maybe that’s just me.

6. Onelki Garcia, P, Double-A Chattanooga (up)

I’m giving Garcia an “up” simply because he’s pitching after getting into just one game for the Quakes last year. Like Yasiel Puig, he’s a Cuban defector with some mystery in his past, and he’s missing a ton of bats — 40 whiffs in 38 innings. He’s also walking far too many (26), and while there’s obvious talent here, there’s definitely some rough edges to be smoothed out for the soon-to-be 24-year-old. If he can harness the wildness, he could move quickly, though his future could be as a reliever as well.

7. Matt Magill, P, Triple-A Albuquerque (down, probably)

It’s hard to give Magill a realistic grade, because he reached the bigs and had some early success (that’s good) before melting down in a flurry of walks and homers after that (that’s bad). His ridiculous schedule of constantly going up and down from Albuquerque to the Dodgers surely didn’t help, and he’s also recently missed a few weeks with arm trouble. Magill almost certainly has pitched himself out of consideration for further starts with the Dodgers this year, though he likely still has a future as a back-end starter — if not in Los Angeles, then likely elsewhere as he gets passed on the depth chart.

8. Chris Withrow, P, Dodgers (up)

After endless years of trying and failing to be a starter in Double-A, the Dodgers finally pushed Withrow to Triple-A this season, if for no other reason than to spare him the ignominy of a fifth year in Chattanooga. Now strictly a reliever, Withrow has been able to let loose his high-90s heat more often, though he didn’t leave his control issues behind, and he made his big league debut in June. Withrow is still walking too many with the Dodgers, but he’s been missing bats and should be a nice low-cost setup man for years to come — or trade bait in the next two weeks.

9. Zachary Bird, P, Rookie League Ogden (way down)

One of my favorite prospects entering the season, Bird has had an extremely tough go of it, walking 35 in 36 innings for Great Lakes before getting demoted back to Ogden. With the Raptors, he’s still been unable to find the strike zone, walking 11 in his first 13.2 innings. He only turned 19 yesterday, so obviously he’s still extremely young, but I doubt we’ll be seeing him in the top ten list next winter.

10. Alex Santana, 3B, Rookie League Ogden (down)

The 2011 second round pick still hasn’t made it out of the short-season rookie leagues, so that’s not great. He’s off to a good start with Ogden (.308/.384/.523) though it’s just been 84 plate appearances. Santana turns 20 next month, but he’s really going to need to show something and get himself out of rookie ball if he’s going to keep appearing on these prospect lists.

Let’s lightning round the second half…

11. Yimi Garcia, P, Double-A Chattanooga (way up!)

You can’t simply scout a stat line, but it’s hard to not be impressed by Garcia’s 52/8 K/BB as the closer for the Lookouts. Garcia has moved on a one-level-per-year pace, but we know how the Dodgers like to skip Albuquerque with pitching prospects, so it’s not out of the question we see him in September.

12. Jonathan Martinez, P, Rookie League Ogden (down)

Martinez turned 19 on June 27, so let’s not get too negative about any teenager, but it’s not been an impressive season at all for the Venezuelan righty. Since being sent from Great Lakes to Ogden, Martinez has thrown 26 innings… and struck out eight. Eight!

13. Jesmuel Valentin, IF, Rookie League Ogden (down)

Another teenager, so again, perspective must be kept, but even for a glove-first guy you’re going to need to do better than .207/.323/.287 for Great Lakes & Ogden. A lot better, especially for a first-round pick.

14. James Baldwin, OF, Single-A Great Lakes (down)

Baldwin wasn’t great in his first crack at Great Lakes last year (.209/.293/.334). He’s not doing much better this time around (.226/.325/.356) and despite great speed (121 steals in parts of four seasons) a career .314 OBP isn’t going to get you far.

15. Alex Castellanos, OF, Triple-A Albuquerque (down)

The great infield experiment is over, and so he gets a “down” just because he’s another year older, turning 27 next month, and with less positional flexibility. He’s still hitting well with the Isotopes and I still believe there’s some hope of a big league career for him, though it looks less and less likely it’ll ever be with the Dodgers.

16. Ross Stripling, P, Double-A Chattanooga (way up!)

Perhaps the biggest mover in the system this year is the 23-year-old Stripling, a 5th round pick out of Texas A&M in 2012. Stripling was promoted out of Rancho Cucamonga within a month and has been dominating the Southern League since arriving, putting up an outstanding 55/7 K/BB in 55 innings.

Last week, Minor League Ball named him the “prospect of the day”, offering this scouting report:

He threw 87-91 in college but some minor mechanical adjustments have boosted his fastball slightly, which now works at 89-94. His control of the pitch is excellent and he does a good job of working the lower part of the zone, inducing grounders and avoiding home runs.

He has three secondary pitches: curveball, changeup, slider. The curveball is his go-to pitch and is quite good, but the changeup has impressive moments as well. The slider is a new pitch that he’s gradually incorporating. His delivery is clean and consistent, he is a good athlete, and has stayed healthy under both college and pro workloads. Stripling also has impressive makeup, with high levels of general intelligence, baseball smarts, competitive instinct, and mound presence.

As a college pitcher without a ton of projection left, his ceiling might only be of a 4th starter, but there’s still a lot of value in that.

17. Blake Smith, P, Single-A Rancho Cucamonga (n/a)

Less than two years off a great .304/.369/.578 half-season in 2011, Smith recently was converted from the outfield to the mound. He hasn’t yet appeared as a pitcher, and his future is incredibly uncertain.

18. Rob Rasmussen, P, Triple-A Albuquerque (neutral)

Acquired for John Ely over the winter, the 24-year-old UCLA lefty was effective for the Lookouts but has had a really tough go of it in Triple-A. Albuquerque’s a tough place to pitch, of course, but Rasmussen’s ceiling is probably best explained by the fact that the cost of acquisition was, well, John Ely.

19. Garrett Gould, P, Double-A Chattanooga (down)

It’s usually not a great sign when you get promoted from Single-A to Double-A and the general consensus is “why”? Obviously, the California League is a tough place to pitch, but that alone can’t explain away a 7.04 ERA. Gould’s off to a better start with the Lookouts, though over only 7.2 innings. I remember last year when the Dodgers tried to get Carlos Lee and Gould was going to be the return, I hated the deal… but only because I didn’t like Lee, not because I would have been crushed to lose Gould.

20. Jose Dominguez, P, Dodgers (up!)

We end on a very high note, as Dominguez and his rocket arm have already made a splash in the big leagues, touching triple-digits with the Dodgers. Dominguez might have been ranked higher if not for the suspension hanging over his head that cost him the first part of the season, but has overcome that to get his big league career started.

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Overall, this is good news. The four big-time prospects in the system — Lee, Pederson, Seager, & Urias — have all had very good half-seasons, and the two top picks in the 2013 draft (Chris Anderson & Tom Windle) have shown promise at Great Lakes as well. Considering how torn apart the system was during the McCourt years when international spending was at just about zero (note here that Puig & Hyun-jin Ryu are not included), this is a massive step up.

Also, apparently, if you want to see some talent, stay away from Rancho Cucamonga. Smith is the only prospect listed here to be listed on the Quakes roster, and he’s only there because his conversion to pitching required he move down from Double-A. Pitcher Lindsey Caughel is probably the most interesting prospect there and could make the top twenty in the winter, and there’s some mildly interesting offensive talent in shortstop Darnell Sweeney and outfielders Noel Cuevas & Scott Schebler; otherwise, the star power here is concentrated in Chattanooga, which has seven of the top twenty.

Projecting the Dodgers’ Minor-League Rosters: Double-A & Triple-A

Editor’s note: Chris Jackson rounds off the minor league roster projections with Chattanooga & Albuquerque. Also, don’t forget to enter the Opening Day roster contest — open through 9pm PT tonight!

Van Slyke is one of nine outfielders who will vie for an Isotopes roster spot this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Isotopes)

Scott Van Slyke is one of nine outfielders who will vie for an Isotopes roster spot this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Isotopes)

Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A Southern League)

Starting rotation: Onelki Garcia, Zach Lee, Aaron Miller, Rob Rasmussen, Chris Reed

All prospects, all the time, in east Tennessee this year! Garcia has the most pure stuff, but the least experience. Lee and Reed will hope their potential matches the results this season. Miller will have to fight to keep his starting spot after a middling season. Rasmussen will get some attention as the new guy in the organization.

Bulllpen: Geison Aguasviva, Steve Ames, Kelvin De La Cruz, Eric Eadington, Jordan Roberts, Andres Santiago, Chris Withrow

That is a lot of lefties, but it is hard to figure out where else to put them. De la Cruz is not a LOOGY and will give them a second long reliever to go with Santiago, who could start if Miller struggles. Aguasviva could fight his way to Albuquerque. Roberts is 27, so if he can’t stick here, his time with the Dodgers may be done. Ames and Eadington figure to share the closing job, though Withrow could see saves, too, now that the Dodgers have committed to him as a reliever. Just missed: Javier Solano

Catchers: Gorman Erickson, Christopher O’Brien

Erickson will be looking for some redemption after a lousy 2012. O’Brien was decent enough at Rancho to merit the promotion.

Infielders: 1B–J.T. Wise, 2B–Rafael Ynoa, SS–Alexis Aguilar, 3B–C.J. Retherford, UTIL–Joe Becker, Omar Luna

Wise and Ynoa have played well enough to earn promotions, but they are blocked at Albuquerque barring some trades. Aguilar is the pick I am least confident in; it could be a half-dozen other guys. In other words, please, Dodgers, sign some random Cuban defector shortstop to spare the poor fans in Chattanooga watching a guy with a career .662 OPS. Retherford had a big year at Rancho, but struggled with the Lookouts, so he will return here. Luna and Becker didn’t play a lot of shortstop last year, but they sure could this year. Just missed: Chris Jacobs 1B, Elevys Gonzalez 3B/2B, Miguel Rojas 2B/SS

Outfielders: LF–Yasiel Puig, CF–Joc Pederson, RF–Blake Smith, OF–Nick Buss, Bobby Coyle

Puig and Pederson are premium prospects. They both figure to play all three outfield spots here. Smith deserves to move up, and he certainly could, but for now I have him starting with the Lookouts. Buss and the talented but oft-injured Coyle return. Just missed: Kyle Russell

Final analysis: If some of the pitchers can translate their potential into results, then this team could be the favorite to win the Southern League. The rotation is six-deep and strong, while the bullpen is strong from both sides of the mound. The outfield should carry the offense, with shortstop being the only real concern on the infield. The Lookouts should be fun to watch this season.

Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)

Starting rotation: Fabio Castro, Stephen Fife, Matt Magill, Matt Palmer, Mario Santiago

Magill is the legit prospect here. Fife returns and will be the first called up in the event of an injury to a starter in L.A. Palmer can chew up innings, but that is it. Castro was terrible last year with the A’s organization and might not last long in Albuquerque. Santiago is a gamble, with the Dodgers/Isotopes hoping he can carry over the success he found in Korea last year with the SK Wyverns.

Bullpen: Michael Antonini, Blake Johnson, Hector Nelo, Red Patterson, Paco Rodriguez, Cole St. Clair, Shawn Tolleson, Josh Wall

Antonini’s health is in question, so he might not crack this group. Rodriguez and Tolleson both deserve to pitch in the Majors, but I have Javy Guerra and Ted Lilly taking the last two spots. Johnson and St. Clair return in the long relief roles. Wall should close again. Patterson moves up, but it could easily be Ames instead. Nelo, a minor-league Rule 5 pick, gets the nod over the plethora of Triple-A vets signed this off-season. I am also betting that the veteran trio of Kevin Gregg, Mark Lowe, and Peter Moylan will opt out at the end of the spring. Just missed: Juan Abreu, Victor Garate, Gregory Infante, Wilmin Rodriguez, Luis Vasquez

Catchers: Jesus Flores, Matt Wallach

Flores could easily be subbed out for Federowicz if the Dodgers opt to have the prospect play every day and the veteran back up A.J. Ellis. Consider them interchangeable. Wallach has never hit, but he plays good defense and seems like a safe bet to the backup. Just missed: Eliezer Alfonzo, Wilkin Castillo, Ramon Castro

Infielders: 1B–Nick Evans, 2B–Elian Herrera, SS–Dee Gordon, 3B–Dallas McPherson, UTIL–Rusty Ryal, Justin Sellers

Evans always earned rave reviews for his defense, which could be a big help for Gordon’s wild throws (remember how Mark Teixeira made Derek Jeter look better back in 2009?). While it can be speculated that Gordon could or should be in the Majors, until he proves otherwise, I have him here. Sellers is another guy most people are counting out, but the Dodgers have not dumped him yet, even after his arrest in Sacramento. Herrera can, and likely will, play everywhere, but he should play almost every day. McPherson will DH against AL teams, since his back is unlikely to hold up for 144 games. Ryal gets the nod because the Isotopes need the left-handed bat. Just missed: Alfredo Amezaga UTIL, Brian Barden 3B, Ozzie Martinez SS

Outfielders: LF–Scott Van Slyke, CF–Tony Gwynn Jr., RF–Alex Castellanos, OF–Jeremy Moore

Unless Castellanos returns to the infield, this outfield is tough to figure out. Both he, Moore and Van Slyke are all right-handed hitters, so it would make a lot of sense for someone like Smith (who hits left-handed) to move up from Chattanooga. Unless the Isotopes only carry seven relievers (which, fat chance), it won’t happen unless the Dodgers move Van Slyke in a trade. Moore gets that backup spot because he can play all three positions and because the Dodgers obviously think very highly of him as he was the only free agent to participate in their prospect minicamp last month. Just missed: Matt Angle, Brian Cavazos-Galvez

Final analysis: This team does not look as talented as last year’s playoff squad, at least on paper. The rotation looks awfully suspect behind Fife and Magill. The bullpen could be good, at least. The lineup lacks left-handed bats, but should be able to score enough runs to keep games interesting. If the Dodgers can’t find any additional starting pitchers, however, it could be a long summer of 12-10 scores in Albuquerque, which this reporter is not very interested in watching anymore.

Dodgers Depth Chart Analysis: The Few, the Proud, the Southpaws

Editor’s note: Chris Jackson checks in with a look at the lefty starting pitching in the Dodger organization. Not only are there several intriguing names in here, there’s the ongoing return from perhaps my favorite under-the-radar Ned Colletti deal ever: actually getting something back for the clearly about-to-be-DFA’d Dana Eveland.  

Left-handed pitchers who can get outs are prized possessions. They are often given far more leeway than their right-handed counterparts in terms of development and staying in rotations. Command is prized over stuff, for the most part, if only due to the fact that lefties with great stuff are few and far between. Yet command is never something that one can come by easily, which is why far too many southpaws end up pitching in relief instead of remaining as starters.

Reed is one of the promising, but still unrefined, lefty pitching prospects in the Dodgers' system. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Chris Reed is one of the promising, but still unrefined, lefty pitching prospects in the Dodgers’ system. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Like most teams, the Dodgers have far, far more right-handed starting pitchers in their farm system. The dearth of lefties here should not come as a shock, but merely as a stark reminder of the reality of the rarity of an effective enough lefty being able to start. Though their numbers are small, there is at least some talent in this group. There may not be another Clayton Kershaw on the farm, but few teams have any lefties of that caliber developing in the minors.

This small group is highlighted by a couple of talented but vexing former high draft picks, a promising arm who has yet to pitch much, and a few overachievers hoping to sneak into the picture. Despite a lack of numbers, there is talent in this collective.

Fabio Castro: One of the few veterans signed to a minor-league deal this offseason, Castro seems destined for the Isotopes’ rotation despite a 2012 campaign he would like to forget. The 28-year-old Dominican started last season at Sacramento for the A’s, only to get raked over the coals (6.92 ERA in 51 1/3 IP) and then get sent down to Double-A Midland. In the end, he gave up 145 hits and 68 walks in 125 1/3 innings combined, racking up 14 losses. Plenty of minor-league vets have signed with the Dodgers, gone to Albuquerque, gotten blown to smithereens, and earned their release before the All-Star break. Castro is the early favorite for that auspicious status in 2013.

Aaron Miller: As mentioned earlier, Miller fits the role of “vexing ex-high draft pick” quite well. The 36th overall selection out of Baylor in 2009, Miller cost the Dodgers $889,200 and has yet to put it all together. An undiagnosed sports hernia hampered him throughout 2011. In turn, he was kept on a fairly strict pitch count at Chattanooga in 2012. He made 25 starts, but only threw 121 1/3 innings while going 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA. Though FanGraphs ranked him as the Dodgers’ No. 11 prospect, most other sites were pretty down on Miller. His once promising fastball now sits in the 89-92 mph range, though that was an improvement on the 86-90 range it sat in during most of his injury-plagued 2011 campaign. Miller has an average slider and a fringy changeup, which has led plenty to suggest the bullpen lies in his future. He figures to return to Chattanooga as a starter to open 2013, but that staff is getting crowded, so he will have to continue to earn the right to start.

Rob Rasmussen: Undersized lefties are not as rare of a commodity as undersized righties, but Rasmussen still faces an uphill battle to remain a starter. At 5-foot-9, he looks more like a middle infielder. Rasmussen was drafted in the second round in 2010 out of UCLA, where he was the No. 3 starter behind current uber prospects Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. The Marlins traded him to the Astros in the ill-fated Carlos Lee swap last summer. Houston, in turn, sent him to the Dodgers in the deal for John Ely. Rassmussen ranked as high as No. 13 on FanGraphs’ list for the Dodgers. His fastball sits in the 89-92 mph range and can touch 94. He has a plus slider, but his curveball and changeup are just average at best. He went 8-11 with a 4.25 ERA between Single-A Jupiter (Marlins) and Double-A Corpus Christi (Astros) last season, so he figures to open at Chattanooga. The Dodgers will keep him as a starter as long as possible.

Chris Reed: The Dodgers’ first-round pick, No. 16 overall, in 2011 was selected as much for his signability as his talent. A closer at Stanford, the Dodgers moved him to the rotation, but the results have been mixed at best so far. With blister problems and arm soreness, coupled with a strict pitch count, Reed struggled through 70 1/3 innings with Chattanooga and Rancho Cucamonga last season. He was just 1-8 with a 3.97 ERA and 67 strikeouts. Baseball America still tabbed him as the Dodgers’ No. 6 prospect, while FanGraphs had him at No. 2. Reed’s fastball sits in the low 90s, topping out at 95 mph. His spike slider is his out pitch, but overuse is the likely culprit behind his blister problem. Reed needs to work on his changeup and/or cutter if he hopes to remain a starter. Much like Miller and Rasmussen, Reed figures to start as long as he is able to. He also figures to join those two, plus right-handers Zach Lee and Andres Santiago, in an all-prospect rotation at Chattanooga.

Onelki Garcia: The wild card among the pitchers, Garcia is as much as an international man of mystery as his Cuban position player counterpart, Yasiel Puig. Despite throwing all of two innings with Rancho Cucamonga, three playoff innings with Chattanooga, four innings in the Arizona Fall League and 10 1/3 innings in the Puerto Rican Winter League, scouts are very high on Garcia. Unable to circumvent the draft and aim for free agency like most Cuban defectors, the 23-year-old was taken in the third round of the draft last summer. His fastball runs 90-95 mph with good sink. He has a plus 12-to-6 curveball that could play out of a big-league bullpen now, but if he hopes to remain a starter, he needs to refine his changeup and slider. With a strong spring he could force his way into the crowded Chattanooga rotation, or he could end up the ace at Rancho.

Jarret Martin: The more promising of the two minor-league players the Dodgers acquired from Baltimore for Dana Eveland last year, Martin endured some ups and downs while pitching mainly for Great Lakes. Martin went 4-6 with a 4.65 ERA in 18 starts overall, including two rough outings with Rancho. He was limited to 81 1/3 innings by injuries. While he struck out 80, he also walked 51, so refining his command will be a major issue in 2013. An 18th-round pick out of Bakersfield JC in 2009, Martin has exceeded expectations so far. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 95. It has some sink, which will help him in the thin, dry air at Rancho this season. He has an average curveball and a below-average changeup.

Jake Hermsen: An organizational pitcher at best, Hermsen battled his way through 12 starts at Ogden last summer. The 23-year-old was taken in the 28th round out of Northern Illinois and was thrown into the fire with the Raptors. He finished 1-6 with a 4.24 ERA, allowing 64 hits in 51 innings. Hermsen struck out 37 and walked 16. He will fight for a rotation spot with Great Lakes this spring and should have a leg up on his right-handed competition.

Miguel Sulbaran: The Venezuelan, who turns 19 in March, proved to be a pleasant surprise last summer. He went 6-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 11 starts in the Arizona League, only to find things a little rougher in one start at Ogden and two at Great Lakes. Sulbaran finished the year with a 3.82 ERA in 68 1/3 innings. He struck out 69 and only walked 14. His fastball usually sits in the 88-91 range, touching 92. He features a curveball and a slider, though odds are he’ll drop one as time goes on, and a potentially plus changeup. Despite his age, he should compete for a rotation spot with the Loons.

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That wraps up the lefty starters. Lefty relievers will be bunched in with their right-handed counterparts, but the jumbo-sized right-handed starters story will come first.

Dodgers Lacking in Prime Prospect Trade Bait

Editor’s note: Hooray, four days without Dodger baseball! It’s a much-needed break. Today, we welcome back Christopher Jackson of the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner, who did such a good job providing us with an early Isotope status check in April. We talk so much about how the Dodgers have “a lot of starting pitching prospects” without actually looking into how they’re doing, so Christopher reviews how the young arms are coming along through the break. -Mike

The All-Star break is upon us. It is boring. Talking about the impending trade deadline is a lot more interesting. For better or worse, most of that trade talk deals with who the Dodgers are going to get, not how they are going to acquire those players. It takes two to tango, after all, and while some in the comments section might pop off with “just trade Jerry Sands for Justin Upton!” it is time to take a more realistic look at what the Dodgers have on the farm at midseason.

Mike did a solid analysis on the plus and minuses of trading No. 1 prospect Zach Lee already. The problem is that after Lee, things drop off fairly quickly within the organization. There is a reason that Stan Kasten and company have been said to be seeking to take on salary relief instead of giving up a lot of prospects that the organization simply does not have.

The Dodgers have a fair amount of depth in pitching, though in most cases potential will have to outweigh current performance. Most of the pitchers have at least been decent, but there are no real breakout performers. The starters at Double-A Chattanooga are heating up enough to potentially generate more interest. The position players have, by and large, struggled and few if any would bring back anything in return.

So let us break down the pitching prospects in the Dodgers system besides Lee and those prospects up with the Dodgers (e.g. Eovaldi, Van Slyke). All the rankings come from Baseball America.

No. 2 Allen Webster: This season has been a mixed bag for Webster, whose record (3-8) with Chattanooga is not really indicative of how he has pitched. His ERA (4.30) is decent and he has 73 strikeouts to 33 walks in 81 2/3 innings. The Dodgers did move him to the bullpen for five games earlier in the season, but it was temporary and he has posted a 2.25 ERA in seven starts since returning.

No. 5 Chris Reed: Last year’s first-round draft pick has gone 1-4 with a 2.52 ERA between Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Chattanooga. He has struck out 51 in 50 innings spread over 11 starts and one relief appearance. The Dodgers have kept him on a tight pitch count as they stretch him out from college closer to future big-league starter.

No. 6 Garrett Gould: Well, we know the Astros were interested in the 20-year-old in the failed trade for Carlos Lee and the Dodgers are willing to move him. He has the usual Cal League blemishes (2-6 record, 4.96 ERA), but much like Webster, his record is deceiving. He has 77 strikeouts to 28 walks in 78 innings. Gould has arguably the best pure stuff in the system, something certain teams tend to cherish over actual results.

No. 7 Chris Withrow: The most frustrating arm in the organization is scuffling again in his fourth season with Chattanooga. He still walks too many (28 in 45 2/3 innings) and this year has had trouble staying healthy. At this point his future might lie in relief, so clubs that like to have lots of projectable relievers (looking at you, Padres) should have an interest.

No. 12 Angel Sanchez: The 22-year-old Dominican popped up out of nowhere last year and threw well at Low-A Great Lakes (8-4, 2.82, 84 Ks in 99 IP). Much like Gould, he has found the Cal League a tougher go, already allowing more hits (96) and home runs (12) than last season in 16 fewer innings. He could be ticketed for relief if his curveball does not improve.

No. 14 Scott Barlow: Last year’s sixth-round draft pick has yet to throw a pitch this season, making evaluating him fairly tough. He reportedly had Tommy John surgery recently, and may not be back at full strength until late next year or 2014, ruining any trade value he may have had.

No. 16 Aaron Miller: A sports hernia limited the southpaw to just 36 innings last season. Healthy this year, walks have been his nemesis (45 in 79 1/3 innings) with Chattanooga. His fastball velocity has dropped since he was drafted in 2009, a warning sign to most teams to stay away.

No. 17 Ethan Martin: Withrow’s rival for most perplexing has bounced back, somewhat, from a dismal 2011 campaign. He leads Chattanooga in ERA (2.99), but like Miller has been held back by walks (49 in 93 1/3 innings). Command has always been Martin’s biggest issue and despite the shiny ERA this year, it is clear he has still not turned the corner.

No. 23 Ryan O’Sullivan: The younger brother of former Royal Sean O’Sullivan, Ryan has already jumped from Great Lakes to Rancho Cucamonga this season. He has now made 15 relief appearances to nine starts, but the Dodgers view him as a potential starter down the line. O’Sullivan has a history of injuries at the college level.

No. 24 Josh Wall: The Isotopes closer has an above-average slider and a fastball he seems almost afraid to command. He coughed up three home runs in one inning in his final appearance of the first half on Sunday. If Wall could regain his confidence in his fastball he could at least be another cheap bullpen option, though he is likely a middle reliever/set-up man at the next level.

Dodgers Fill Slow News Day With Signing of Chris Reed


Here’s some good placeholder news for a night off: per Tony Jackson, the Dodgers have come to terms with their first round pick, Stanford lefty Chris Reed.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have finalized an agreement with former Stanford University left-hander Chris Reed, their first-round selection in the June amateur draft, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed on Thursday.

Reed accepted a signing bonus of a little less than $1.6 million just four days before Monday’s deadline for signing this year’s draft picks.

The deal is expected to be announced on Friday. The agreement became official after Reed passed a physical examination on Thursday.

The Dodgers now have signed nine of their first 10 picks, the exception being fourth-rounder Ryan O’Sullivan, a right-hander out of Oklahoma City University.

Unlike last year’s fun with Zach Lee, there was never much doubt that Reed would sign, since many saw him as something of an overdraft, and there’s little chance that he would have gone back to school for his senior season and gone higher in 2012. Reed will report to Hi-A Rancho Cucamonga, which is a somewhat advanced placement for college draftees.

As Jackson notes, the Dodgers haven’t failed to sign a first round pick since Luke Hochevar in 2005; unfortunately, as you can see from the list below, they haven’t seen much from that group with the notable exception of Clayton Kershaw. It should be noted, of course, that Bryan Morris was used to acquire Manny Ramirez, so he certainly paid some dividends.

Year Rnd DT OvPck Pos WAR G W L ERA WHIP
2011 1 16 Chris Reed (minors) LHP
2010 1 28 Zach Lee (minors) RHP
2009 1s 36 *Aaron Miller (minors) LHP
2008 1 15 Ethan Martin (minors) RHP
2007 1 20 *Chris Withrow (minors) RHP
2007 1s 39 *James Adkins (minors) LHP
2006 1 7 Clayton Kershaw (minors) LHP 13.7 109 39 28 3.07 1.21
2006 1 26 *BRyan Morris (minors) RHP
2006 1s 31 *Preston Mattingly (minors) SS
2005 1s 40 *Luke Hochevar (minors) RHP 0.5 93 27 40 5.37 1.41
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/11/2011.