Exclusive Footage of Justin Sellers’ Motorcyle Chase

Nice moves, Justin.

Seriously though, this isn’t great:

Police said Justin Sellers was doing “wheelies” on his motorcycle in a neighborhood near Riva Drive. When officers tried to pull him over, police said Sellers took off.

After a short chase, Sellers turned himself in, authorities said.

West Sacramento police said they have had repeated reports of a motorcyclist driving recklessly in the same neighborhood for the past month

On the other hand, I guess that means his recovery from the back surgery that cost him most of last year is going pretty well, right?

Unsurprisingly, people are already speculating about whether this is going to cost Sellers his spot on the 40-man roster. While this certainly won’t help, I don’t know that it really matters — he was probably already going to lose his spot, because guys who are about to be 27, coming off major surgery, and have a .204/.283/.323 big league line generally don’t have a solid hold on a job in the first place. That’s especially so on a Dodger team that already has a full 40-man roster, too many infielders, and is likely to make at least one or two more moves.

You might remember that I was surprised when it was Scott Van Slyke and not Sellers who got axed earlier this winter, so it was probably just a matter of time anyway. Incidents like this certainly don’t help… but nor does not really being great at baseball.

Dodgers Depth Chart Analysis: Coming up Short at Shortstop

Egads, shortstop. The one position I have been dreading writing on since I conceived of this multi-part project earlier this month. It is one of the toughest positions to fill at the minor-league level, chock full of athletes with a variety of issues that will probably keep them from ever attaining the status of everyday player at the big-league level. Many shortstops in the minors end up playing second, or becoming utility guys, or just disappearing into the netherworld of the Quad-A player who bounces from team to team, city to city.

Will Dee ever translate his speed and other tools into being a solid, stable, big-league shortstop? (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

Will Dee Gordon ever translate his speed and other tools into being a solid, stable, big-league shortstop? (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

Even going to Asia is usually not an option for these guys, as Japanese and Korean teams almost universally keep domestic players at all the up-the-middle positions. The life of a vagabond minor-league shortstop is a lonely one, usually without much pay and even less stability. Still, teams have to fill out their full-season rosters, so someone has to play there.

For that, teams usually prize defense at an average level when seeking out shortstops for their Single-A through Triple-A teams. Guys who can swing a bat, too, usually do not stay in the minors long. A total of 13 MLB teams last season employed a foreign-born player at shortstop for the majority of the season. The American-born shortstop is often referred to as an endangered species, but in truth they still constituted the majority last season.

Nonetheless, the elite shortstop is a prize possession. Just ask anybody who plays fantasy baseball, the good ones go fast in the draft, even though there might be outfielders, first basemen, and pitchers who offer up more statistical value.

The Dodgers, with their lack of international spending, are not surprisingly quite short at shortstop down on the farm. Things are so thin that right now there is no obvious starter at Double-A Chattanooga after Jake Lemmerman was traded to the Cardinals for Skip Schumaker.

So read on for what little there is down on the Dodgers’ farm at the upper levels, while taking note of some talent forming up in the lower levels.

Dee Gordon: Pretty much everybody knows Gordon’s pluses and minuses. He can make the spectacular play with his tremendous range and cannon arm … but he often botches the routine play. He has game-changing speed … but does not hit much at all and he can’t take a walk to get on base. Plenty has been written about his transition from basketball to baseball as a teenager, his raw tools, his baseball bloodlines, etc. The Dodgers have had the opportunity to trade him, but for now it looks like he’s staying put, though it seems almost certain he opens with the Isotopes barring an injury to Hanley Ramirez or the complete implosion of Luis Cruz.

Justin Sellers: In a perfect world, Sellers would be the Dodgers’ late-inning defensive replacement, a slick fielder with a good, accurate arm but not much of a bat. The Dodgers, though, under Ned Colletti, have shied away from handing such responsibilities to young players, instead acquiring the Nick Puntos of the world. Sellers is clinging to a 40-man roster spot by the skin of his teeth, and he could get bumped off should someone else get signed to a big-league deal or one of the non-roster invitees forces his way to Los Angeles. For now, Sellers projects to serve as a utility player at Albuquerque, on tap for a call-up in the event of an injury to someone on the bench or a short-term injury to someone like Ramirez, Cruz or Mark Ellis.

Osvaldo Martinez: The Dodgers acquired him from the White Sox last summer for depth purposes. He is not on the 40-man but opted to stay with Los Angeles this off-season. Martinez hit .255/.296/.275 in 102 at-bats with the Isotopes and just .203/.246/.244 overall last year. He was once a high-average hitter with some speed but little pop, earning him the lofty status of being Baseball America’s No. 5 Marlins prospect after the 2010 season. Now he just seems to be a good glove off the bench, searching for the swing that left him. With plenty of other middle infield types in the mix for an Isotopes roster spot, Martinez is not guaranteed to still be with the organization come April.

Alfredo Amezaga: The ex-Marlin has returned to the Dodgers organization after playing in one game with Chattanooga in 2010 before missing the rest of the season due to problems with his surgically-repaired knee. A super utility player, Amezaga can play second, short, third, and the outfield. He will compete for a bench spot with Albuquerque after hitting .274/.336/.372 with six home runs, 42 RBI, and 12 stolen bases at Iowa (Cubs) last year.

Miguel Rojas: Another free-agent signee, the soon-to-be 24-year-old comes over from the Reds organization where he hit just .199/.263/.224 between Triple-A Louisville and Double-A Pensacola last season. He has played the vast majority of his career (460 games) at shortstop with a reputation as a decent defender who simply cannot hit (.234/.301/.282 career). Yet with so few options, the Dodgers might not have much choice but start him at Chattanooga. One would have to hope that the organization takes a long look at Cuban defector Aledmys Diaz, who is a free agent, and could slot in nicely with the Lookouts.

Alexis Aguilar: One of the Three Shortstops of the Apocalypse at Rancho Cucamonga last year, the 21-year-old Venezuelan hit an unimpressive .255/.301/.313 with one home run and 15 RBI for the Quakes. With Charlie Mirabal (.191/.240/.245) having been released, Aguilar figures to get a shot at moving up to Chattanooga by default and competing with Rojas for the Lookouts’ starting gig. Fans in Southeastern Tennessee might want to close their eyes for the season. Aguilar has played 126 games at shortstop, 50 at second base and 24 at third base in his career, so at worst he is a utility player with average defensive skills.

Casio Grider: The final member of the aforementioned TSA at RC, Grider hit a dismal .217/.286/.329 with two home runs and 11 RBI. At 25, he is getting awfully old for what he is, basically a utility player who spent more time at shortstop last year than second base, his previous position. Grider was a 14th-round pick out of Newberry College in 2009, marking him as purely an organizational player who hopes to move up to Double-A and keep his career going at least one more season.

Darnell Sweeney: Caution, this young man might actually have a future beyond the minors. A nice sleeper pick, the Dodgers selected him in the 13th round of last year’s draft out of Central Florida. Sweeney responded by hitting .294/.374/.430 with five home runs, 33 RBI and 27 stolen bases between Great Lakes and Ogden. John Sickels ranked him No. 18 among Dodgers’ prospects over at Minor League Ball. Dustin Nosler had him one spot higher at No. 17 on his list at Feelin’ Kinda Blue. Keep a close eye on Sweeney’s development, which will likely continue this year at Rancho Cucamonga. He lived up to expectations defensively, but keeping up his lofty debut hitting stats will be the challenge as he faces more advanced pitching.

Pedro Guerrero, Justin Boudreaux, Delvis Morales: Meet the trio of utility guys who actually appeared in more games at shortstop than other positions in 2012. Guerrero, no relation to the former Dodger, hit .220/.265/.387 with 10 home runs. He is a 24-year-old Dominican with no previous showing of any power (career .361 slugging). Boudreaux was the Dodgers’ 14th-round pick out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2011; he hit .201/.304/.312 with three homers and 36 RBI last year. Morales is a 22-year-old Dominican who hit .261/.341/.328 with zero homers, 23 RBI and 12 stolen bases. They will battle for bench spots at Rancho and Great Lakes.

Corey Seager: The crown jewel of Dodgers minor-league infielders, Seager may seem destined for third base but I will list him as a shortstop until the day he stops playing there. The 2012 first-round draft pick is one of the organization’s top prospects, ranking as high as No. 2 (Minor League Ball) on the preseason lists. Seager hit an impressive .309/.383/.520 with eight homers and 33 RBI at Ogden, going up against mostly older competition. The younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, Corey should move up to Great Lakes. At 6-3, 195, he is built like a third baseman, but there is always the chance he sticks at shortstop, with a big-league ETA of 2015 or 2016, at which point he could fill a major hole for the Dodgers.

Jesmuel Valentin: The son of former Dodger Jose Valentin, Jesmuel was drafted in the supplemental first round last summer. He showed decent, if not great, defensive skills in the Arizona League, while batting .211/.352/.316 with two homers and 18 RBI. Valentin’s bat has a ways to go, though the fact he drew 35 walks versus 24 strikeouts is encouraging. FanGraphs ranked him as the Dodgers’ No. 5 prospect, though most other lists put him in the 12-13 range. He could end up at second base or in a utility role down the line, but the Dodgers will try to keep him at shortstop as long as possible, hoping his bat develops and defense solidifies at shortstop. Valentin should hang back in extended spring training until Ogden’s season starts in late June.

So that wraps up shortstop, which is bleak at the top and somewhat promising down below. There are no guarantees for the Dodgers, much less any other team, but in Seager, Sweeney, and Valentin, at least there are some options coming along. The key to the present will likely be in whether or not Gordon can ever refine his tools, while one of the three of Seager/Sweeney/Valentin develops into a long-range replacement.

Next up, third base, where the hot corner is barely even spitting out a wisp of smoke.

2012 Dodgers in Review #11: SS Justin Sellers

.205/.286/.386 50pa 1hr 0.3 fWAR (inc.)

2012 in brief: Contributed little in sparing early play before back injury ended his season in May.

2013 status: Has a very tenuous hold on a 40-man roster spot and is likely headed back for the minors thanks to injury, poor performance, and roster crunch.

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See the picture of Justin Sellers in his card over there? He’s on top of the world in that May moment, having just made an absolutely spectacular tumbling catch into the stands behind third base. (Must-watch video of the play can be found here.) Fans are going crazy. The joy in his face is apparent. And Dee Gordon is hidden in the back, trying to figure out if he should just keep on going into the seats.

It was a great moment for Sellers, but unfortunately for him it was the beginning of the end of his season. Sellers injured his back on the play and tried to play through pain for the next week before being placed on the disabled list. He was originally supposed to be out for only a few weeks, but never did make it back and eventually underwent surgery in August, officially ending his year.

Now for a guy who was never really seen as a prospect and had only 50 plate appearances for the Dodgers this year before getting hurt, I feel like we talked & thought about Sellers far more than he ever deserved. I suppose it’s because we were so desperate to improve on Juan Uribe & Adam Kennedy in any way possible, and at one point, things were bad enough that after Mark Ellis was hurt on May 20, I actually had to write this:

With Jerry Hairston sidelined at least through Wednesday, Juan Uribe scheduled to see a wrist specialist with no return date planned, and Dee Gordon benched due to ineffectiveness, the Dodgers now have a 2B/SS/3B rotation of Elian HerreraJustin SellersIvan De Jesus, & Adam Kennedy.

That was the dark time before Hanley Ramirez & Luis Cruz, and it’s just unspeakably awful beyond words. As for Sellers, he beat out Josh Fields & Jerry Sands (or, rather, was the beneficiary of Sands torpedoing his chances with a horrible spring) for the final spot out of camp, and played sparingly until being optioned out when Bobby Abreu arrived in early May. He was only down briefly, because Jerry Hairston injured his hamstring in Chicago soon after, and when he returned he made several starts at shortstop as Gordon struggled terribly.

Of course, Sellers wouldn’t be a 2012 Dodger if he hadn’t been injured himself. So will we ever see him again? If I’m being honest, the answer is, “probably not, and who cares.” The Dodgers already have something like 21 different infielders under contract for 2013, and 40-man spots are at a premium, so it’s hard to think a 27-year-old who has shown no ability to hit in the bigs coming off a major surgery is going to get much of a shot. I am totally okay with that, though I’d certainly like him to remain in the organization as Triple-A depth if it works out that way. We’ll always have that three-run homer you hit in front of the hometown fans last year, though, right?

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Next up! Luis Cruz, Hall of Famer!

Dodgers Set Opening Day Roster

Following Tuesday’s game against the Angels, the Dodgers announced their 25-man roster for Opening Day, and let’s be honest: there’s not a whole lot of surprises here.

Catchers (2): A.J. Ellis, Matt Treanor

Infielders (7): James Loney, Mark Ellis, Dee Gordon, Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston, Justin Sellers

Outfielders (4): Juan Rivera, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Tony Gwynn

Rotation (4): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang

Bullpen (8): Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert, Todd Coffey, Jamey Wright, Josh Lindblom

Sellers beat out Josh Fields & Luis Cruz for the final spot, which was without question the right move. He’s clearly a better choice to sub for Gordon at shortstop than Hairston is, and having him around frees up Hairston to play all over, which is nice to have since they’re carrying just four outfielders. Fields got off to a hot start that lasted for about two weeks, which should be in no way surprising for a guy who had a brief moment of glory five years ago and has done nothing since then. As for Cruz, well, I never quite got that infatuation. Besides for being the right baseball call, Sellers was the only one of the three on the 40-man roster and neither Fields nor Cruz had out clauses in their contracts, meaning they’ll be sent to Triple-A Albuquerque to start the season. (Assuming it ever stops snowing there, which, wow.) Fields may get more playing time than expected, since Chris Jackson of the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner reports that Russ Mitchell was somewhat surprisingly released a few days ago.

On the pitching side, Ted Lilly, Blake Hawksworth, and Rubby De La Rosa will start on the disabled list, along with Ronald Belisario on the suspended list. Lilly is expected to return to start on April 14 against the Padres, which means the Dodgers can get by until then without needing a fifth starter, thanks to off-days.

With the roster coming together, including most of the minor league groups coming out, our fancy new depth charts have been updated.

The Dodgers May Need to Rework That Bench Group

Similar to the pitching staff, we’ve long known the identity of the bench to start the season, save for a tepid battle for the final spot. Matt Treanor will be the backup catcher, Adam Kennedy will see time at three of the four infield positions, Tony Gwynn is your main backup outfielder, and Jerry Hairston will play all over. That last spot is probably going to go to Jerry Sands, but there’s some possibility that he’ll start the year in the minors with Justin Sellers, Josh Fields, or someone else sneaking in the door. (It won’t, we can all agree, be a 13th pitcher.)

We haven’t exactly been thrilled with that prospect so far, because despite Gwynn’s excellent glove and Hairston’s positional flexibility, it’s a bench that offers little in the way of offensive punch – especially if Sands doesn’t make the club. Remember how the game always seemed to find Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the 9th last year? If you thought that was fun, just wait until we’re watching Treanor & Kennedy meekly ending games in big spots.

Lackluster though that may seem, it’s how the roster has been set up, so we haven’t really spent a whole lot of time discussing it, other than whether Sands would really hold on to that final spot. Steve Dilbeck writes today that Sands hasn’t been impressive so far, and while it’s early, it’s true. But whether or not Sands should make the team or not isn’t the most immediate issue; it’s the apparent lack of depth the Dodgers are facing at shortstop.

You see, Hairston made two errors playing shortstop today, as the Dodgers fell to Colorado 6-2. Now, I hardly need to remind you of the usual caveats about how one game – or even one week – in spring training usually doesn’t mean that much, and that’s still true. But with Juan Uribe expected to play third base exclusively, that leaves only Hairston, a soon-to-be 36-year-old who played in exactly one game at shortstop last year, for depth. While Dee Gordon (who made an error of his own today) is expected to play every day, questions about his durability remain, so it’s pretty easy to make the case that Sellers should make the club and Sands should head to ABQ, especially with the possibility that Scott Van Slyke & Alex Castellanos could be shifting around down there, as Christopher Jackson writes today.

Maybe it really is that simple, to keep Sellers & let Sands mash for a while in Triple-A. It probably will be. But that doesn’t mean it should be, because that would create something of a ripple effect. If you keep Sellers, he immediately becomes your top backup at shortstop and a more than capable defender behind Mark Ellis at second. Hairston becomes your primary backup at third base behind Uribe, where he played nearly everyday for Milwaukee last year, is a third option at second base, and can help Gwynn spot for Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier in the corners.

Considering that Rivera can shift to first on the few days that James Loney will get off, your defensive flexibility is pretty much spoken for, and the last spot should really be about offense. Maybe that’s Sands. Maybe that’s Fields, who has been impressive early in camp, and at least has a history of crushing Triple-A pitching aside from the 23 homers he put up for the White Sox in 2007. But really, it makes me wonder yet again, what exactly is Adam Kennedy‘s role here? It’s not for his bat, as I detailed in this ridiculous timeline that I’m all too eager to break out yet again:

Feb. 5, 2010: Coming off a decent 2009 with Oakland, signs a $1.25m guaranteed contract for 2010 with Washington.

2010: Hits just .249/.327/.327 for Washington, one of the worst years of his career.

Nov. 3, 2010: Nationals decline Kennedy’s $2m 2011 option.

Jan. 10, 2011: Mariners sign Kennedy to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training; he makes the roster when the Mariners decide Dustin Ackley needs more seasoning.

Jan 27, 2011: Arrested in Newport Beach for suspicion of DUI.

2011: Hits .234/.277/.355 for Seattle, a wOBA 25 points lower than his underwhelming 2010.

Nov. 30, 2011: After not being able to find a guaranteed contract in 2011 and having a horrible season… receives a guaranteed deal from the Dodgers.

It’s not for his glove, because as outlined in the scenario above, second and third base would be more than covered without him. I imagine the argument would be “because he’s lefty”, but who cares what side a guy swings from when he can’t hit at all? I’d much rather take my chances with Fields (or Sands, or Trent Oeltjen, or whomever) along with Sellers while simultaneously improving the defensive depth and offensive potential. Now I know that Kennedy has a guaranteed contract, so this scenario is never going to happen. Still, what’s more important – the $850k already wasted on him, or building the best bench you can?

******

Ownership update, from Mike Ozanian of Forbes: Alan Casden is out, and Magic Johnson’s group has the current high bid at $1.6b. While that’s the highest bid thus far, it’s not that simple for two reasons. First, Steven Cohen’s bid, while only $1.4b, apparently has the highest percentage of straight cash involved, and the bidders have until Friday to rework their bids and submit final numbers. Expect the numbers to increase; sadly, all of the bids include provisions to lease the parking lots from Frank McCourt.

By the way: I’m not at all convinced this is going to go as smoothly as we hope. From Bill Shaikin’s piece on Casden:

McCourt has told people familiar with the sale process that he might introduce new bidders in the coming week. MLB has completed an expedited investigation of the current bidders and would probably ask the mediator to reject any new bidders at this late date, the people said.

McCourt has the ability to appeal any perceived wrongdoing on MLB’s part to a court-appointed mediator. Since when he has passed up the opportunity to litigate?

Update: Per Shaikin, MLB has also cut the Gold/Disney group and the Barrack/Hindery group. That makes your final four bidders Magic/Kasten, Cohen, Kroenke… and the Heisley/Ressler group, which I suppose we’re going to have to start paying more attention to.

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Big week for Dodger literature, it seems. A few days ago we learned about a new Dodger coffee table book, “Dodgers: From Coast to Coast”, and now Paul Haddad is publishing “A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years (1977-1981)”. The book contains transcripts of classic calls from Vin Scully, Jerry Doggett, and Ross Porter – sounds like it’s worth checking out.