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.

Gas Is Down, and So Is Manny

Holy crap, is there a lot going on today. I hardly even know where to begin! Trust me on this, you’re going to want to read to the end – we’re saving the best for last.

* I am crushed for Scott Boras right now. Buster Olney, hit me.

Executives around baseball wonder if that will change in the next few days, because they are having a difficult time envisioning how Ramirez would make more in salary in 2009 than if he accepted arbitration. He made $20 million last season — although the present-day value was just a little more than $17 million — and following a historic performance in which Ramirez hit .396 for the Dodgers in two months, driving in 53 runs in 53 games, his arbitration award would be breathtaking. Boras would be in position to set a new and stunning standard through that process, and could ask for A-Rod money.

But accepting arbitration would represent a staggering surrender for Ramirez, who had hoped for a nine-figure contract, and for Boras, who has been talking a deal for as long as six years for the 36-year-old outfielder. One year for $28 million is a long way from four years for $100 million, or six years for $150 million. Some friends of Ramirez do not believe that he will allow Boras to take arbitration, as tempting as it may be. “This is not going to be an easy time for Scott,” a friend of Ramirez said.

Admit it. The thought of Scott Boras getting embarrassed warms your heart just a little, doesn’t it? You know, Buster Olney makes a lot of good points here about how with the economy in such a tailspin, that there’s no way Manny’s getting the huge deal that Boras wants – not that we haven’t been saying that since day one. The question now is… what’s the best possible outcome for the Dodgers here? If Manny accepts arbitration, the Dodgers get him on a one-year deal and motivated for another trip through free agency… but they’d also be paying him a completely ridiculous salary for 2009 that would dwarf anything he could get anywhere else, and if Frank McCourt is forced to shoehorn $28 million into the payroll, we might be looking at nothing but AAAA players making the minimum.

On the other hand, if he’s forced to settle for a two- or three- year deal at a significantly lower salary than he’d hoped, he might be Unhappy Manny Being Manny, and that’s just not going to be good for anyone. So I suppose I’m rooting for him to accept arbitration… but it doesn’t matter since we all know that there’s absolutely no way that’s going to happen.

Moving on to better news about players we never wanted to see in LA in the first place:

* Thanks for staying away, Andy! Joe Torre apparently called Pettitte to gauge his interest in coming to Los Angeles, and it sounds like it’s not really going to happen. Now I said a few weeks ago that I wasn’t all that interested in Pettitte coming out, so this is good news. But here’s the quote from the Newsday story that makes this all the more hilarious:

Pettitte, nevertheless, has refused to agree to a $10 million salary for 2009, after making $16 million each of the last two seasons.

Really, Andy? You’re going to be 37 years old. You were awful most of last year. And the economy is driving down prices for everyone. Yet ten million dollars isn’t enough money for you? Especially when at this point, you should consider yourself lucky to even claim a roster spot somewhere. Sixteen million dollars for the rotting corpse of Andy Pettitte. Unbelievable.

* Everything you know is wrong. I usually have a good deal of respect for Tony Jackson of the LA Daily News, although I suppose when you’re going up against Plaschke and Simers every day it’s hard not to look good. But I have got to wonder about this update from his blog today:

Just found out there is nothing to the Wilson story, that the Dodgers haven’t talked to the Pirates about him in months.

Months? How is that even possible – we’ve been hearing “Wilson-to-the-Dodgers” stories every day for weeks, even so far as to hear possible names going back to Pittsburgh (Hu and D.Young). Now all of a sudden, there’s been no contact for months? There has to be more going on here than we know. That said, I could care less whether they communicate through carrier pigeons or smoke signals, as long as it doesn’t end up with Wilson in LA.

* You did not see this coming. Baseball Prospectus just put out their yearly top ten list of Dodger prospects, and before you click, just think to yourself, who would you think would be number one? It’s a little different now that guys like Loney, Kershaw, Billingsley, and LaRoche are no longer eligible, of course. So maybe you think James McDonald. Maybe Ivan DeJesus, Jr. Hell, why not Joel Guzman? That was a fun couple of years. Prepare to be shocked:

ethanmartin.jpgFour-Star Prospects
1. Ethan Martin, RHP
2. Ivan De Jesus Jr., SS/2B
3. James McDonald, RHP
4. Scott Elbert, LHP
5. Andrew Lambo, LF
Three-Star Prospects
6. Josh Lindblom, RHP
7. Devaris Gordon, SS
8. Josh Bell, 3B
Two-Star Prospects
9. Pedro Baez, 3B
10. Kyle Russell, RF
11. Xavier Paul, CF

You’d think a guy who really stepped up in the playoffs like McDonald would get some love over the kid who’s yet to throw his first professional pitch, but hell, whatever. If that list doesn’t get you too jazzed, this one will:

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Chad Billingsley, RHP
2. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
3. Matt Kemp, OF
4. James Loney, 1B
5. Jonathan Broxton, RHP
6. Ethan Martin, RHP
7. Blake DeWitt, 2B/3B
8. Ivan De Jesus Jr., SS/2B
9. James McDonald, RHP
10. Scott Elbert, LHP

Now that’s a list of talent.

Got that right. After all that talent, we need to even it out by checking in with the worst player in baseball, non-Andruw Jones division. Dear god… could it be….

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick talked to Mark Sweeney‘s agent Barry Axelrod, who says his client will probably only play next year if a Major League deal is offered.  Sweeney, 39, hit .130/.250/.163 in 108 plate appearances for the Dodgers while earning $600K plus incentives.