If You’re a Veteran And You’re In the First Round of Spring Cuts, Things May Not Be Going Well

dallas_mcpherson_springSee that dapper fellow above? That’s Dallas McPherson, and that’s evidence that he ever wore a Dodger uniform.

nick_evans_2013_spring_vertical

Wait, this is fun, let’s continue. Here’s Nick Evans, over at the right, also proving he was once a Dodger. Why are we playing this game? Because they — along with pitcher Kelvin De La Cruz and infielder Osvaldo Martinez, but I’m guessing no one really cares about them — represent the first four players cut from big league camp, the team announced after today’s game against Cleveland.

None was expected to make the team barring total disaster, of course, but considering they both have a decent amount of big league experience and are on a team that has no obvious backup for Adrian Gonzalez, getting sent down this early is not exactly what they call a “good thing,” you know, career-wise. Yet Omar Luna remains!

With Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, & Luis Cruz off at the WBC and Evans, Martinez, & McPherson cut, the Dodgers are suddenly down six infielders for the next two weeks or so. Mark Ellis is the only remaining starter, along with big league backups Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, & Juan Uribe. Non-roster guys Alfredo Amezaga, Brian Barden, & Luna, along with likely minor leaguers Dee Gordon, Elian Herrera, & Justin Sellers, should also see increased time with the big club, at least until the Dominican & Mexican teams have been bounced from the tournament. Get ready for some tasty lineups, especially on split-squad days.

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: Can Anyone Play Third?

Editor’s note: Chris Jackson continues his look at the Dodger organizational depth with third base. Lord, I can’t wait until we get to the outfield and actually find some talent.

Recently, the good folks over at ESPN.com have noted how many good third basemen are playing throughout the Majors. While it is true that the Chase Headleys of the world are shining elsewhere, there are just as many teams rolling the dice at the hot corner from Chicago (Jeff Keppinger, Ian Stewart) to Minnesota (Trevor Plouffe) to Oakland (Josh Donaldson) to Atlanta (Juan Francisco) to Miami (the corpse of Placido Polanco) to Colorado (check back in a while on that mess).

For the Dodgers, third base is also a problem, in both present tense (Luis Cruz) and future tense. I won’t get into the whole “Hanley Ramirez should be at third” debate, because that’s been going for a while now and obviously Ned and co. are not going to change their minds until Ramirez is at 25 errors on Memorial Day. And even that might not get him shifted over to his right.

Going into the Dodgers’ stable of minor-league corner infielders, I found a logjam building up at first base between Double-A Chattanooga and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga (see the previous post in this series), while the organization remains pressed to find enough warm bodies to man third base throughout the system.

At third base, the lack of depth at the upper levels was clearly seen when the Dodgers signed two free agents with big-league experience and re-signed one of their own who had become a free agent. The wild card here, and elsewhere on the diamond, is Alex Castellanos, who finished last year at third for the Isotopes. For the purposes of these analyses, I am leaving him in the outfield, but if the Dodgers decide he should be a third baseman again, then throw out most everything you read below.

Barden with Round Rock in 2011. Hope he likes the PCL. (a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/madmiked/5760622536/">via)

Barden with Round Rock in 2011. Hope he likes the PCL. (via)

Dallas McPhersonBrian Barden: The two veterans, the former of whom played for the Isotopes in 2008 when they were a Marlins affiliate, will compete for playing time this spring. Both were signed as free agents; either could end up the starter in Albuquerque.

Elevys GonzalezOmar Luna: Gonzalez was acquired in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft while Luna was signed as a free agent out of the Rays organization. Both Gonzalez and Luna are more utility players than everyday guys. Gonzalez will compete for a reserve spot with the Isotopes, while Luna will do the same with Chattanooga.

C.J. Retherford: The 27-year-old was originally signed by the White Sox as a non-drafted free agent out of Arizona State back in 2007. He tore through the system until 2010, when he hit a wall at Triple-A and was eventually released. After playing at Double-A for the Braves, Tigers and an independent team, Retherford signed with the Dodgers for 2012. He promptly hit .311/.366/.546 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI, mostly at Rancho and finishing at Chattanooga. Retherford should return to the Lookouts to start the upcoming season.

Pedro Baez: The biggest mystery among third basemen, Baez has underachieved throughout his career and was listed as a pitcher during instructional league this past fall. Always praised for his arm, Baez could move to the mound after batting just .247/.308/.391 for his career. Baez hit just .221/.306/.374 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI combined with Chattanooga and Rancho last season. If he is staying at third base, expect him to start for the Quakes.

Jesse Bosnik: A 13th-round pick back in 2010, the 24-year-old has done little with the bat, while playing two-thirds of his games at third base, the rest at first. Bosnick hit .239/.290/.360 with eight home runs, 44 RBI and 21 stolen bases at Great Lakes last year. He projects, at best, as a utility man, but is more likely just an organizational player who should move up to Rancho as a backup, or a starter if Baez’s days at third base are over.

Jeffrey Hunt: Purely a backup, the 22-year-old hit just .237/.295/.422 with six home runs for Great Lakes last season. He will either repeat the level or see his walking papers in March.

Alex Santana: The Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2011, Santana has yet to live up to expectations. The 19-year-old hit .254/.306/.365 with two home runs and 31 RBI between Ogden and the Arizona League last year. The son of former big-leaguer Rafael, this Santana was just 17 when he signed and very raw, both in terms of hitting and fielding. He should still push his way up the ladder and start for Great Lakes.

Bladimir Franco: He was signed out of the Dominican back in 2007. Now 22, Franco has hit just .233/.321/.381 with 27 home runs in 253 games, none above rookie level. While he put up decent numbers between the AZL and Ogden last summer — .269/.335/.448, 8 HR, 31 RBI — he is low on the depth chart and could return to the Raptors to start this upcoming season.

As anyone can see, the Dodgers are cursed by the same lack of viable third basemen as most teams. While folks tend to focus on catcher and shortstop as being too thin, the Dodgers’ lack of help at the hot corner stands out. It is not a problem unique to the organization, nor one that can be totally attributed to the McCourt era’s financial woes.

So in other words, if you want your kid to have a shot at the pros someday, put the tyke at third base and cross your fingers.

Dallas McPherson Is Just Going to Love Albuquerque, Isn’t He

Look, we already know what he'll look like in black and red.

Look, we already know what he’ll look like in black and red.

Per Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Dodgers have signed third baseman Dallas McPherson to a minor-league contract, and while there’s no official word on an invite to major-league camp, it’s safe to assume.

McPherson was Brandon Wood before we knew who Brandon Wood was, coming up through the Anaheim system as a highly touted power prospect who many expected to be the successor to Troy Glaus. Despite being BA‘s #12 prospect headed into the 2005 season, he has just a .241/.292/.446 line in 446 plate appearances over parts of five MLB seasons for the Angels, Marlins, & White Sox — in no small part due to injuries, which cost him most or all of 2005 (hip), 2006-07 (back), and 2009 (back again).

Now 32, McPherson’s time as a prospect is long past — he was actually released by the Charlotte Knights in August and finished the season in Indianapolis — and despite my long-held soft spot for a third baseman who can hit from the left side, no, he’s not being signed to challenge Luis Cruz. To be honest, the uncertainty around Alex Castellanos‘ position makes the depth chart a challenging pursuit, though for now I expect McPherson will see most of the time at the hot corner in New Mexico.

That said, McPherson has built a career as a prodigious minor-league slugger — as Eddy notes, he “has bashed 144 HR at Triple-A for Pirates, White Sox, Athletics, Marlins & Angels” — and he’s actually played in Albuquerque before, hitting .275/.379/.618 with 42 homers for the 2008 Isotopes, back when they were a Marlins affiliate. So following in the footsteps of Josh Fields, John Lindsey, Mitch Jones, Terry Tiffee, and every other Quad-A type we’ve watched put up massive numbers at ABQ or Las Vegas in recent years, expect to hear from far, far too many people who want to promote him immediately after he’s destroying the ball in the PCL in May. Good times. I can’t wait.