At the Very Least, ABQ Should Have Some Pitching Talent

Yesterday, I shared several pitching news and notes, both good (Monasterios) and bad (Kuo, McDonald). The constant flux in the pitching staff seems to be the news du jour right now, since not only did we see Chad Billingsley toss three scoreless innings yesterday while working on adding a changeup, we get to read about Eric Gagne’s struggles and we may have gained some insight into who’s really in competition for the last few spots on the staff. Ramona Shelburne tweets:

Torre said he’s very interested in how Josh Towers, Josh Lindblom and Jon Link throw today. All are candidates to make the team this year.

Towers was signed as a non-roster invite in December, Lindblom nearly made the team last year, and Link was part of the return for Juan Pierre from the White Sox. All three pitched well in yesterday’s finale in Tawain (Towers: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, Lindblom: 3 IP, 3 K, 0 ER, Link: 1 IP, 2 H, 2K, 0 ER), though if you can’t do well against that level of competition you shouldn’t even be in camp.

With the uncertainty at the back of the staff, one should expect that the leaders of the competition will still change about 20 times in the next 3 weeks, but don’t sleep on Jon Link in this race. He’s the only one of the three on the 40-man roster (though of course this is hardly limited to just these three), so he’s got that in his favor, and even though he’s a newcomer to the organization who most people know nothing about, he’s not without his merits. Here’s the quick scouting report we linked to from SoxProspects.com when he was acquired:

Accolades

  • 2009 White Sox Best Slider (Baseball America)

Scouting report
Link has struck out a lot of batters in the minors because he has a very good slider, but his fastball and change are solid offerings as well. His fastball usually sits 93-94 m.p.h. and has some sink on it. His changeup has gotten better, helping him get lefties out, but he walked almost a batter an inning against lefties in 2009 for Charlotte. He has the stuff to pitch in the bigs, but he needs to make strides with his control. Link should contend for a spot in the 2010 bullpen if he proves he can throw more strikes.

Major League Outlook: Average middle reliever

As I noted at the time, he’s struck out 10.5/9 in each of his last two minor league seasons, so clearly the ‘stuff’ is there. It’s obviously early, but he’s yet to walk a batter in camp – and he’s just turned 26, so he’s not a young kid who needs protecting. If someone unexpected is going to sneak onto the roster, why not someone like Link rather than the 33-year-old Towers, who has 5.1 MLB innings in the last two years and hasn’t even been league-average since 2005?

Elsewhere: Garret Anderson’s going to make his Dodgers debut today, but only at DH, so the chances that he blows out a hamstring today probably drop to just 75% or so. Baseball Prospectus has a nice interview with farm director DeJon Watson, mostly focusing on Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Dee Gordon. UniWatch has a story full of pictures from the very first Dodger spring training in Vero Beach from 1948, including the one below. They also note that despite all of the hand-wringing over the club leaving Vero last year, they’d trained in more than their share of locales prior to 1948:

For the first half of the 20th Century, the Brooklyn Dodgers were a somewhat nomadic bunch when it came to their spring training home. In fact, prior to 1947, they trained in the following locations: Charlotte, N.C. (1901); Columbia, S.C. (1902-1906); Jacksonville (1907-1909); Hot Springs, Ark. (1910-1912); Augusta, Ga. (1913-1914); Daytona Beach (1915-1916); Hot Springs, Ark. (1917-1918); Jacksonville (1919-1920); New Orleans (1921); Jacksonville (1922); Clearwater (1923-1932); Miami (1933); Orlando (1934-1935); Clearwater (1936-1940); Havana (1941-1942); Bear Mountain, N.Y. (1943-1945); Daytona Beach (1946); and while they remained in Florida in 1947, they would also hold spring training in Havana (1947); and Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic (1948), due to the racist atmosphere pervasive in the American South at the time, since 1947 would be the year Jack Roosevelt Robinson would break baseball’s color barrier.

Farewell to Juan Pierre: Part Two

As promised, we had to break down the Juan Pierre reaction into two parts. Part one was about his time as a Dodger and our happiness to see him headed to greener pastures, regardless of the return. Part two is about the specifics and who we’ll see coming back.

Or as Kensai put it, before the names came out:

Whatever, they could be dead for all I care.

Indeed, because despite how much some of us may have wanted to get Ned Colletti’s promised “back of the rotation” starter, this deal is not about the players who the Dodgers get. This deal would be a win even if no one came back.

Think about the gift the White Sox have bestowed upon the Dodgers, even without the players. They’ve basically paid LA $8m to have less controversy and better defense off the bench. Who cares if the pitchers coming back are even breathing?

So while these guys are hardly top prospects, the fact that it looks like both might actually be able to contribute in 2010 takes this from a “win” to a “huge win” in my book. Let’s learn a little about them, thanks to SoxProspects.com and their writeups on each. (blog idea: how is there not a DodgersProspects.com yet?)

John Ely:

Accolades

  • 2009 White Sox Best Changeup (Baseball America)
  • 2009 Southern League All-Star Game
  • 2009 Southern League Post-Season All-Star
  • 2009 All-FutureSox Team Starting Pitcher

Scouting report
The quick-working former Homewood-Floosmoor hurler has all the intangibles you want. He is aggressive and seemingly fearless. His arsenal is highlighted by a great changeup that Baseball America has called plus-plus. His low 90s fastball has good movement combines with the change to give him a good groundball rate. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball that can be good, but is inconsistent. He has stayed healthy as a pro despite concerns out of college about his delivery. His delivery is considered “max-effort” but is somewhat deceptive. Ely has had good control, but has had mediocre peripherals the past two seasons. He has moved through the minors quickly, skipping Low-A, which could be contributing to lesser stats. Either way, those stats don’t make him look like a good Major League prospect. Still, Ely has a good ERA for the Barons this year and has shown gradual improvement each of the last two seasons. Don’t pencil Ely into any future rotations, but don’t be shocked if he gets a shot somewhere down the line.

Major League Outlook: 5th starter

As much as I’ve harped on the uselessness of wins, even I can’t overlook a 14-2, 2.82 ERA campaign from a 23-year-old in AA ball. Clearly, there’s questions here, but remember that there was never a question about whether you’d be seeing a top prospect in return. This guy is young, has had minor league success, has at least one great pitch (love that “plus-plus changeup”), and that’ll be enough to at least get him a shot in the rotation. Hey, there’s the “back of the rotation” starter we all wanted for Pierre!

Jon Link:  

Accolades

  • 2009 White Sox Best Slider (Baseball America)

Scouting report
Link has struck out a lot of batters in the minors because he has a very good slider, but his fastball and change are solid offerings as well. His fastball usually sits 93-94 m.p.h. and has some sink on it. His changeup has gotten better, helping him get lefties out, but he walked almost a batter an inning against lefties in 2009 for Charlotte. He has the stuff to pitch in the bigs, but he needs to make strides with his control. Link should contend for a spot in the 2010 bullpen if he proves he can throw more strikes.

Major League Outlook: Average middle reliever

When I look at Link’s minor league stats, one thing jumps out at me immediately, and that’s the fact that he’s struck out 10.5 per 9 in each of the last two seasons. That, in addition to the scouting report that reads “has the stuff to pitch in the bigs”, makes me think he’s worth a look in the spring – assuming he can harness the walks of course.

Look, Ely and Link aren’t going to be All-Stars, but each look like they could be somewhat useful to the team in 2010. Considering that trading Pierre for nothing but cash savings and the roster spot would be a victory and that when I first heard “players to be named later” my thoughts were along the lines of the joke of a prospect the Dodgers traded for Jim Thome (what if it was actually Justin Fuller coming back?!), getting two guys with even a little bit of hope is a great deal.

Now, I’ve already seen in several places comments along the lines that this is a good deal only if the savings is spent on pitching. I find that to be a completely separate topic, because simply not spending an additional $8m on a 4th outfielder is a win. Getting decent two pitchers back as well is just icing on the cake.