Thoughts From The Last Day Without Dodger Baseball Until April

brian_barden_springReal life has become extremely busy over the last few days, so we’re going to lightning round this business. Lists! The last resort of the lazy or overworked blogger.

*** Brian Barden, Jeremy Moore, & Hector Luna have all been reassigned to minor league camp, which just goes to show, there’s more to life than hitting .478/.538/.565 in 26 spring training appearances when you’ve washed out of the Japanese minor leagues. Moore actually showed a lot in camp, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in everyday play in Albuquerque. That’s assuming that he is in fact a starter there, but he’s far more appealing that Matt Angle or Scott Van Slyke, so I’d think he’ll get his chance (assuming again that Yasiel Puig is in Chattanooga).

*** Zack Greinke & Carl Crawford are each working their way back from injury, and the news sounds optimistic from Crawford. He took live batting practice off of J.P. Howell & Kenley Jansen, but he still hasn’t resumed throwing. Greinke didn’t offer many details about how he’s feeling, but he also hasn’t pitched since March 1. While everyone keeps saying he’ll be ready for Opening Day, it’s getting more difficult to see that happening, especially since he doesn’t have a firm date to get back on the mound. That being the case, I have to think it’s more likely than not that Ned Colletti takes advantage of the disabled list to both protect Greinke from overextending himself and to buy some time for the starting pitching problem.

So spit-balling the 25-man roster to start the year, I get this:

C — A.Ellis
IF — Gonzalez, M.Ellis, Ramirez, Cruz
OF — Schumaker/Hairston, Kemp, Ethier
Bench — Federowicz, Schumaker/Hairston, Punto, Uribe, Castellanos

Rotation — Kershaw, Billingsley, Beckett, Ryu, Lilly
Bullpen — League, Jansen, Howell, Belisario, Capuano, Guerrier, NRI/Guerra

Disabled list — Crawford, Elbert, Greinke
Somewhere that isn’t here — Harang

We do tend to make too much of the roster on April 1, just because it’s obviously not like it’s set in stone for the remainder of the year. Greinke could take two weeks and hardly miss much time at all, which gives Colletti time to see if Chad Billingsley‘s arm blows up or if other trade possibilities are out there. The problem there is how brutal that bench is, but that seems to be a yearly concern.

** Everyone loves Allen Webster, because it seems like a day doesn’t go by without more Red Sox people talking about how excited they are about Webster. Today, it’s the Boston Globe — featuring manager John Farrell saying “he’s pretty damn good” — and Over the Monster, where pal Marc Normandin investigates a change in Webster’s mechanics and how it might improve his control.

I know some of you think Webster is only getting so much hype now because he’s with the Red Sox and part of the Boston hype machine, and there’s probably some amount of truth in that. I think there’s also a bit of “shiny new toy” at play, just because so many new eyes are on him, but it’s also that he’s just a really good prospect who is close to being ready. Like you, I’m disappointed that the Dodgers had to give up Webster & Rubby De La Rosa while taking on all of that money, but if Adrian Gonzalez & Josh Beckett — who is looking great so far — lead the Dodgers to the promised land, none of the rest of it will matter. Even if we regret the deal and watch the duo star in Boston for years, it’ll at least reflect well on the Dodger scouting staff.

** If you had a press pass to Dodger camp, what would you ask? Mike Bates pondered this thought at FanGraphs. Among them:

3) (To Juan Uribe) Why are you?

Yep. You’ll notice I didn’t even caveat his inclusion in the prospective roster. Sigh.

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: Cornering the Outfield

Editor’s note: Chris Jackson returns with a look at the organizational depth in the corner outfield; consider this your well-deserved reward for making it through the endless slog of the infield.

Oh, corner outfield, that giant mixed bag of big and small, short and tall, fast and slow. Home to plodders and sluggers, a speedster here and there, and a whole slew of random types. As it is with most of the other positions already covered in this series, corner outfield has some legitimate prospects, a few sleepers, and a bunch of guys who will likely never see Albuquerque, much less Los Angeles.

Hey, Alex Castellanos, do you know what position you're going to play next season? Because at this point, we have no clue.

Hey, Alex Castellanos, do you know what position you’re going to play next season? Because at this point, we have no clue. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

This group features a prospect without a defined position, a certain Cuban defector who has merited a vast amount of attention, and a number of other players who are a bit mysterious in terms of “will they or won’t they break through?” It is, in some ways, the opposite of shortstop, where the talent is at the lower levels and there are only suspects up top. Instead, similar to first base, there is a logjam of players between Albuquerque and Chattanooga, one that the Dodgers will have to sort out in spring training.

Onward with this long list of names …

Alex Castellanos: The 26-year-old Florida native only played four games, two each in left and right, in the outfield last season, but I am listing him here if for no other reason than there does not seem to be another obvious place to put him. Castellanos hit a robust .328/.420/.590 with 17 home runs with the Isotopes last seas, but finding the right position for him was the main focus. He played 50 games at second base early in the year and seemed, from this reporter’s perspective, to slowly get comfortable there. He has the range and reaction skills to play second, and once he settled in his throwing yips went away. Then he got called up to the Dodgers and only played outfield. After being sent back down he was moved to third base, where he struggled, particularly with his throws. Castellanos played solely in the outfield in the Venezuelan Winter League. Until he pops up somewhere else, it is assumed that the Dodgers have accepted his future role is primarily as an outfielder. Stay tuned as this narrative could easily change again multiple times in 2013.

Brian Cavazos-Galvez: The 25-year-old got a rare opportunity in 2012 and ran with it — playing in his hometown. The first native Burqueno to play for the Isotopes (there were a few over the years to pop up with the Dukes), Cavazos-Galvez capped an up-and-down year with a strong finish, though he did miss the end of the season with an ankle injury. Between three levels he hit .310/.340/.534 with 15 home runs. As usual, he was allergic to walks (13 total), but he offsets that somewhat with low strikeout totals (48). The problem Cavazos-Galvez now faces is in the scrum for playing time. There are other players considered to be ahead of him in the pecking order. He will have to fight for the right to return home to play for the Isotopes in 2013, but the odds may be against him.

Jeremy Moore: The Dodgers quietly signed Moore in the middle of the off-season. A former Angel, for all of eight at-bats in 2011, Moore was coming off hip surgery that cost him the entire 2012 season. He was surprisingly invited to the Dodgers’ annual prospect minicamp, suggesting his standing within the organization is already high, something that could spell trouble for other players like Cavazos-Galvez and a few listed below in terms of their chances to fend off Moore for an Albuquerque roster spot. A former football player in high school, Moore is still just 25 and has a reputation for athleticism instead of polish. In his last healthy season at Salt Lake in 2011 he hit .298/.331/.545 with 18 triples, 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases. On the downside, he drew just 21 walks while striking out 114 times in 426 at-bats. Moore has over 140 games of experience at each outfield position. If he is healthy, he will likely be the Isotopes’ version of a utility outfielder.

Scott Van Slyke: Andy’s son put together a perfectly nice Triple-A season (.327/.404/.578, 18 HR, 67 RBI), but flopped in the big leagues, save for one pinch-hit home run. Somewhat like Castellanos, the Dodgers could never seem to settle on what is Van Slyke’s best position in the field. One minute he was an outfielder only, then a first baseman, then an outfielder only again by season’s end. He was not called up in September when rosters expanded and he was dropped from the 40-man this off-season. The Isotopes would welcome Van Slyke’s power bat back into their lineup, but at this point it seems fairly clear that the Dodgers have all but given up on him, so a change of scenery could happen some time this spring.

Bobby Coyle: Injuries have taken a big bite out of the Fresno State alum so far in his career, limiting him to just 221 games since he was drafted in the 10th round in 2010. When he has played, Coyle has hit, including an eye-popping .370/.403/.580 line between Chattanooga and Rancho Cucamonga last season. If Coyle could ever stay healthy he might at least establish himself as a future lefty bat off the bench for Los Angeles. Depending on how the rosters shake out, he could return to the Lookouts or get sent back down to the Quakes.

Yasiel Puig: The man, the myth, the legend. That pretty much sums up Puig, a physical specimen who defected from Cuba and then received a stunning, seven-year, $42 million contract from the Dodgers. Puig looked like a man among boys in 82 at-bats between the rookie Arizona League and Rancho, batting .354/.442/.634 with five home runs. Since the regular season ended, however, nothing has seemingly gone right for the 22-year-old. He missed the Arizona Fall League with a wrist injury and instead went to Puerto Rico, where he mysteriously hurt his knee “at home” (often code for “you really don’t want to know”). Puig hit just .232/.308/.333 with one home run for Mayaguez, striking out 19 times in 69 at-bats. He fared a bit better in the extended Puerto Rican playoffs, but there still seem to be more questions than answers about Puig at this time. The Dodgers have said they expect him to start in Chattanooga, but if he struggles in spring training, he might be back in Rancho. Either way, a conservative big-league ETA is probably 2015, but at this point, there is really no way to know what is going to happen with Puig until we all see a full season out of him.

Kyle Russell: Once upon a time Russell was looked up as a future super-slugger who could come off the bench and blast mammoth home runs with his smooth left-handed swing. Then again, he was also looked at as someone who might enter into the Adam Dunn/Mark Reynolds/Rob Deer realm with his surging strikeout totals. At this point, however, Russell may simply be running out of time. Now 26, he was limited to just 229 at-bats last season at Chattanooga and a cup of coffee in Albuquerque. Russell hit .262/.379/.493 with 11 home runs and 69 strikeouts, somewhat on par with his career numbers (.271/.365/.523, 94 HR, 666 Ks in 1850 AB). Barring trades or injuries, there does not seem to be room with the Isotopes, meaning it could come down to him and Coyle for one of the bench spots in Chattanooga.

Blake Smith: Very quietly, Smith was Chattanooga’s most consistent hitter on a team that seemed to suffer through a season-long batting slump. The Cal-Berkeley alum hit .267/.358/.432 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI for the Lookouts, while often showing off his cannon-like arm in right field. Now 25, Smith is another player for whom time is running short. While he seemingly did everything possible to earn a promotion to Albuquerque for this upcoming season, with Castellanos, Cavazos-Galvez, Moore and Van Slyke ahead of him, he will need the Dodgers to make some room. Otherwise he might have to return to Chattanooga, a move that could push him to left field if Puig opens there. Smith’s ceiling might just be as a backup lefty-hitting outfielder, but if the path ahead does not clear up soon, he might end up another journeyman.

Jonathan Garcia: If anyone on this list needs a mulligan for 2012, it’s Garcia, who went from being ranked No. 13 on Baseball America‘s top 30 Dodgers prospect list to suffering through a fairly dismal year at Rancho. Garcia’s plate discipline, never a strong suit, disappeared almost completely with the Quakes as he hit just .233/.266/.386 with 12 home runs. He drew just 15 walks while striking out 134 times in 378 at-bats. Garcia seems destined to repeat Rancho, but if he cannot pull himself together at the plate, then he will never advance further up the ladder.

Nick Akins: An organizational player, Akins bounced around the system last year, batting .241/.328/.399 with 10 home runs. A 19th-round draft pick out of Vanguard in 2009, Akins is already 25 and figures to be a backup at Rancho or Great Lakes again.

Scott Schebler: A borderline prospect and potential sleeper, the 22-year-old Schebler was drafted in 2010 in the 26th round out of an Iowa junior college. He put up a semi-respectable .260/.312/.388 line with Great Lakes last year. He can play all three outfield positions and, at the very least, figures to stick around for a few years, at least as a backup. He will move up to Rancho this year.

Devin Shines: The son of former Expo Razor Shines, Devin was picked in the 38th round out of Oklahoma State in 2011. He has exceeded expectations so far, batting .267/.328/.469 with 11 home runs overall last season, finishing at Great Lakes. Much like Schebler, he could end up developing into a fringe prospect, but he is just as likely to serve as a backup in the low-to-mid minors and nothing more.

Joseph Winker: Another organizational player, Winker was drafted in the 28th round out of Mercer in 2011. He hit just .225/.289/.385 with 11 home runs and 64 RBI with Great Lakes last year, spending time in right field and at first base. He figures to move up to Rancho this year, but is doubtful the 23-year-old, lefty hitter will ever be seen as anything but depth.

Theo Alexander, Joey Curletta: Two possible sleepers who were drafted back-to-back last summer. Curletta, 19 in March, was a sixth-round pick out of Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix. He waited until the deadline to sign and hit just .149/.235/.176 in the Arizona League. Curletta could end up at first base down the line, or he has a strong enough arm to potentially move to the mound. As for Alexander, he was a seventh-round pick out of Lake Washington High (Kirkland, Wash.). He hit just .237/.283/.247. Both players figure to be held back in extended spring training, but both have some potential for the future if the Dodgers can refine their raw tools.

Pat Stover, Cory Embree, Devon Ethier, Gregory Pena: The various organizational players who saw a fair amount of playing time at Ogden or in the Arizona League last season. Stover, 22, was a 40th-round pick out of Santa Clara last summer. He hit .270/.351/.331 with Ogden. Embree, 20, was a 38th-round pick out of Maple Woods JC (Kansas City, Mo.) and hit a solid .320/.409/.493 in the Arizona League against younger competition. Ethier is the younger brother of Andre, which is probably the only reason he is still in the organization. The younger Ethier’s batting line in 2012: .169/.244/.234. Ouch. Pena is a 21-year-old who was born in New York but grew up in the Dominican Republic. He signed in 2010, but has hit just .260/.362/.333 with 44 stolen bases to date.

* * *

Puig might be the only potential star out of this group, but there a few others who might at least make up some of the Dodgers’ future bench, or they could be traded and start or platoon for the second-division teams out there.

This caps the Dodgers’ position players. Overall it is a thin group, with only a few players who rate as above-average. This does not mean the Dodgers should focus solely on position players in this year’s draft (they should always draft the most talented player available regardless of position), but it might not hurt to bring some more bats into the organization in the top rounds. The Dodgers have also become more aggressive in signing players out of Latin America in recent months, another way to improve the depth and talent in the positional ranks.

Next up, the small but intriguing group of left-handed starting pitchers in the organization.

Dodgers Invite 13 Prospects to Developmental Camp

Per Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com, the club has announced the 13 players who will attend the annual Winter Development camp, to be held this year in Arizona since Dodger Stadium is undergoing renovations.

Pitchers Steve Ames, Onelki Garcia, Zach Lee, Matt Magill, Rob Rasmussen, Chris Reed, Paco Rodriguez & Chris Withrow will be joined by catchers Tim Federowicz & Matt Wallach and outfielders Jeremy Moore, Joc Pederson,& Yasiel Puig.

angels_jeremy_mooreI did a bit of a double take at Moore’s name, because we’d heard nothing about the former Angel signing with the Dodgers and his baseball-reference page still doesn’t even note the transaction. The outfielder, 26 next June, got into 8 games for the 2011 Angels and was ranked as Baseball Prospectus’ #9 Anaheim prospect headed into 2012:

The Good: Moore can do a little bit of everything. He’s an impressive athlete with plenty of bat speed and nearly average power; he has reached double digits in triples in each of the last four seasons. He’s an above-average runner who can steal bases, and a very good defensive outfielder in all three positions.
The Bad: Moore has always been an impatient hitter who gets into trouble when fed breaking balls early in the count. His arm is his lone below-average tool, but none of his tools are star-level, either.

Moore never did play in 2012 thanks to hip surgery, and he was outrighted off the roster in October. He’s likely headed for what looks to be a crowded Albuquerque outfield.

Otherwise, this is a good look at the prospects the team considers worth their effort to bring to Arizona in January to spend additional time with. As Gurnick notes, 8 of the 15 participants last year – Michael Antonini, Rubby De La Rosa, Stephen Fife, Shawn Tolleson, Josh Wall, Alex Castellanos, Federowicz & Scott Van Slyke — saw time with the big club later in the season (well, sort of, for Antonini). I’d say it’s not a promising sign that catcher Gorman Erickson, a past participant, was not invited back, which should tell you a lot about his falling prospect stock after a very disappointing 2012, and you can probably say the same for hopefuls Aaron Miller & Kyle Russell.