Brewers @ Dodgers April 27, 2013: Stay Safe, Matt Magill

dodger_stadium_2013_150x150Ah, 2013. You’re just the season that keeps on giving, aren’t you? Today’s spin of the giant wheel of injury lands on Stephen Fife, who came down with shoulder bursitis and finds himself joining Chris Capuano, Zack Greinke, and practically everyone else on the disabled list rather than starting tonight.

That means that just 23 games into the season, the Dodgers are forced to call on their ninth starting pitcher, 23-year-old righty Matt Magill. I’m not sure whether to laugh or to cry at this point, honestly. It’s like one of those jokes that gets killed through repetition, then keeps happening so long that it comes back around to being funny again. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself while wondering how long it’ll be until Rick Honeycutt just heads on out to the mound himself.


Magill, who will wear #36 tonight, has all of four starts above Double-A after leading the Southern League with 168 strikeouts last year, and had his latest start cut short after 3.2 innings after the Dodgers learned Fife was hurting. In a two-part piece for the Albuquerque Examiner a few days ago, our friend Chris Jackson spoke to the former 31st rounder pick about acclimating to Triple-A:

Magill has moved methodically through the Dodgers’ system, spending one full year apiece in the rookie Gulf Coast League (2008), rookie Ogden (2009), Low-A Great Lakes (2010), High-A Rancho Cucamonga (2011), Chattanooga and now Albuquerque. At the very least, it has taught him patience and also how to survive as a pitcher in the various environments in those leagues.

“I think that’s huge for a young guy learning how to pitch,” Magill said. “Like in Midland (Mich.), the cold weather, it was tough. Being from California, the first games were snowing on us, I’m like, ‘This isn’t baseball weather, we don’t do this here.’

For more on Magill, check out Chris Blessing’s scouting report at Bullpen Banter from last summer, noting that Magill doesn’t have a “plus pitch” but gets by on solid command of a full arsenal. If he doesn’t have that command tonight, or nibbles around the zone, he could be in trouble. Either way, we need to remember that this is a kid who has been put in a tough situation by an insane amount of injuries, so expectations should be measured. That said, with a day off coming up next week, Capuano working his way back, and a tattered Albuquerque rotation — seriously, Javy Guerra is their #1 starter right now — it’s probably more likely than not that Magill is up for tonight only no matter how he does.

Not exactly helping Magill is the fact that he’s worked with A.J. Ellis for only a single bullpen session in the spring, but at least there’s good news there: for the first time since July 3 of last year, and for just the sixth time in his career, Ellis is batting second. That’s something we’ve long wanted around here, and I’m truly hoping it’s for more than just a night. (Get your “Don Mattingly had just pre-printed lineup cards with Ellis second before Mark Ellis got hurt” jokes out of the way now, please.)

Mark Ellis, however, has not been placed on the disabled list yet, so it looks like the club will be a man short tonight. With Skip Schumaker playing second base and Luis Cruz & Juan Uribe manning the left side, that means the bench is only Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston, Justin Sellers, & Ramon Hernandez. Uninspiring at best, to be sure, and I’m honestly not sure why no move has been made yet. At least help is on the way — Hanley Ramirez is leading off and playing shortstop for the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes tonight.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

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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: All is Right Among the Right-Handers

Editor’s note: Chris Jackson moves on to the righty pitching in the organization, which is probably the deepest group the Dodgers have. No, I definitely don’t miss seeing Allen Webster here. No, not at all. Not even a little. 

Right-handed starting pitching is the backbone of every organization’s depth on the mound. For all the future stars, however, there are also plenty of guys working merely as filler. The Dodgers have plenty of organizational arms who throw right-handed, along with a few legitimate stars inching closer to the big leagues and some sleepers scattered about from Double-A to rookie ball.

This is Fife. He is probably not going to be the Isotopes' right-hander that will get Dodgers' fans excited this season. (Photo courtesy of the Isotopes)

This is Stephen Fife. He is probably not going to be the Isotopes’ right-hander that will get Dodgers’ fans excited this season. (Photo courtesy of the Isotopes)

If there is a surprise this season it is in the lack of random veterans, the kind of guys used to fill out Albuquerque’s staff. So far the Dodgers have only brought into two right-handed vets and one lefty (see the entry on the not-so-fabulous Fabio Castro). It is perhaps a reflection of Triple-A vets shying away from both Albuquerque’s altitude and, even more likely, the lack of a perceived opportunity to move up to Los Angeles. The Dodgers have eight legit starters in the mix this spring, which does not make them very attractive to job-hunting journeymen.

So from the guys expected to be Isotopes to those who will stay behind in extended spring training, here are the Dodgers’ right-handed starters. Take note, to be listed here, a pitcher would need to have made over half his appearances last season as a starter. Not all are still guaranteed to start this season, and some relievers (who will be in the next post on this series) from last year might be stretched out as starters this year.

Stephen Fife: A perfectly average starter, with average stuff and average velocity, every team seems to have a few Fifes lying around. The key is that they are usually at Triple-A, only called upon for a few spot starts per season. That figures to be Fife’s role again after he went 11-7 with a 4.66 ERA with the Isotopes and 0-2 with a 2.70 in five starts with the Dodgers. He’s not a big strikeout guy — 93 in 135 1/3 innings at Albuquerque; 20 in 26 2/3 in L.A. — and he joined the short list of pitchers with a better ERA at Isotopes Park (3.68) than on the road (5.58). Barring a rash of injuries to the guys in front of him, or an injury of his own, he should be the Isotopes’ opening-day starter against the Iowa Cubs on April 4.

Matt Palmer: A 34-year-old journeyman, Palmer is the type of guy the Dodgers sign to pitch at Albuquerque just about every off-season. He has 672 2/3 career innings in the Pacific Coast League with Fresno, Salt Lake and Tucson, posting a 4.86 ERA and going 41-46 since 2008. He suffered through a fairly lousy campaign with the T-Padres last year (6-9, 5.66) and only made three relief outings in San Diego. Palmer once went 11-2 with the Angels back in 2009, but that seems eons ago. He will eat innings at Albuquerque, nothing more, nothing less.

Mario Santiago: The 28-year-old returns to the U.S. after spending 2012 with the SK Wyverns in South Korea. Santiago went 6-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 18 starts for the Wyverns, who were the runners-up to the Samsung Lions for the second year in a row in the Korea Series. Santiago has never been overpowering in his career, which stretches back to 2005 when he was a 16th-round pick by the Royals out of Baton Rouge JC. Santiago has just 458 strikeouts in 714 2/3 career minor-league innings. He only struck out 49 in 95 1/3 innings with the Wyverns last year. His only Triple-A experience came in 2011 with Omaha (Royals), when he was 3-3 with a 5.70 ERA and two saves in 19 games (four starts). He seems more likely to start than relieve for the Isotopes, barring any additional pitching signings.

Zach Lee: A little bit of the shine came off the former first-round pick after a so-so campaign between Chattanooga and Rancho. Lee went 6-6 with a 4.39 ERA, throwing 121 innings in 25 starts. He struck out 103 and walked 32. His biggest issue, according to just about every prospect report, is that he lacks a signature out pitch. This will consign him to the dust bin of … No. 3 starters. Oh, darn. Look, Lee is 21, his fastball sits between 90-95 mph and can sink and cut, he has a good slider and a potentially plus changeup. There is still plenty of time for him to develop. He will return to the Lookouts, and with a legit No. 1 (Kershaw) and No. 2 (Greinke) already on the roster, if Lee only turns out to be a No. 3, well, the Dodgers will not complain, especially when his $5.25 million signing bonus comes out to about one-fifth of Kershaw’s inevitable mega-salary.

Matt Magill: While Lee lost some luster, Magill was on helium in 2012, shooting up the prospect lists. The 23-year-old right-hander was a 31st-round pick out of Royal High School in Simi Valley back in 2008, but he sure didn’t pitch like one with the Lookouts. Magill went 11-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 26 starts, striking out a Southern League-leading 168 batters in 146 1/3 innings. Magill’s out pitch is his slider, a sharp, late-breaking pitch that sits in the low 80s. His fastball sits 91-92 with movement and has touched 95. Now comes the tough part for the guy ranked No. 9 in the Dodgers’ farm system by Baseball America — pitching at Albuquerque. There are too many guys lined up behind him to pitch in Chattanooga this year (Lee, Santiago, Chris Reed, Aaron Miller, Onelki Garcia, Rob Rasmussen) and not enough guys for the Isotopes. Magill was added to the 40-man roster, but now comes the tough part. Hopefully he can get a hold of John Ely‘s phone number.

Andres Santiago: The 23-year-old Puerto Rican has been around for a while, but he finally seemed to put things together in 2012. A 16th-round pick in 2007, Santiago broke through between Chattanooga and Rancho (6-5, 3.69, 122 Ks in 112 1/3 innings). It might not be enough to guarantee him a rotation spot to open 2013 back in Chattanooga with all the guys I listed above, but he figures to at least be a spot starter/long reliever at the outset of the season. Santiago has an 89-92 mph fastball that touches 94, a low-to-mid-80s slider and a plus changeup. He has the stuff to start, but for now I expect him to open as a reliever with the Lookouts.

Garrett Gould: The 21-year-old’s name popped up in the spotlight back in July when the Dodgers were rumored to be sending him to Houston for the corpse of Carlos Lee. This created a small furor on the internet among Dodgers fans, who mostly wanted no part of Lee but were also loathing the thought of trading an actual prospect for the aging ex-slugger. Thankfully, Lee invoked his no-trade clause, and Gould stayed put. Well, Gould probably could have used a break from Rancho Cucamonga, where he took it on the chin most of the year. Gould was 5-10 with a 5.75 ERA, allowing 140 hits and 54 walks in 130 innings. Still, the former second-round draft pick is young enough, and the Cal League is challenging enough, that no one is about to give up on him. Gould’s fastball usually sits 87-89 mph, but it’s his sinker and a plus 12-to-6 curveball that are his bread and butter. Due to the logjam ahead of him, Gould will likely open back with the Quakes and get another shot at taming the Cal League.

Brandon Martinez: A former seventh-round pick out of Fowler High School, Martinez had a season to forget. The 22-year-old finished with a 7.19 ERA at Rancho last season. He gave up 140 hits and 55 walks in just 106 1/3 innings. Martinez has some decent stuff, including a 90-94 mph fastball, a good slider and a changeup, but his command evaporated in the desert air of the Cal League. At this point, a move to the bullpen might seem more likely than subjecting him to another season of getting savaged by High-A hitters. Martinez is certainly an interesting story — he suffers from Tourette syndrome and OCD — but if he pitches again like he did in 2012, he won’t be around much longer.

Jon Michael Redding: Essentially a poor man’s Fife, Redding put together an average season at Rancho in 2012. He was 9-7 with a 4.42 ERA, striking out 102 and walking 48 in 130 1/3 innings. A former fifth-round pick out of Florida College in 2008, Redding has been around for a while without really wowing anybody. He just seems to stick on the basis of his so-so pitchability. He has a low-90s fastball, an inconsistent slider and a hard curveball. In most years, he would move up to Chattanooga, but there are far better pitchers who need to start ahead of him, and with Santiago already (likely) in the long relief/spot starter role with the Lookouts, Redding seems likely to return to Rancho for another go-around at the not-so-young age of 25.

Angel Sanchez: The 23-year-old Dominican had a rough year with the Quakes in 2012. He went 6-12 with a 6.58 ERA, allowing 157 his and 51 walks in 130 innings of work. His fastball sits in the low-90s, but it is too straight and lacks movement. He has an average changeup and a below-average curveball. The Dodgers haven’t give up on him yet, but he could easily be moved to the bullpen in 2013, where he might function better as a two-pitch guy anyway. He will return to Rancho regardless of his role this season.

Ralston Cash: The 21-year-old was the Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2010, but little has gone well since then. He injured his hip in spring training in 2011 and never threw an inning that year. Cash ended up throwing just 40 2/3 innings with Great Lakes in 2012, going 1-6 with a 6.42 ERA. He gave up 45 hits, walked 24 and struck out just 29 batters. Back when he was drafted Cash threw a 91-92 mph sinking fastball that could touch 94. He had a good curveball, an average slider and needed to work on his changeup. Now he just needs to work on getting healthy and staying healthy. He will likely do so back with the Loons to start 2013.

Gustavo Gomez: There is not much information out there on Gomez, a 21-year-old who was signed out of Panama back in 2008. He struggled at Great Lakes last year — 8-8, 5.63, 122 hits, 55 walks, 77 Ks in 110 1/3 innings — which was his first full year in a full-season league. For his career, Gomez has a 4.77 ERA and 303 strikeouts in 322 2/3 innings. He did not find the Midwest League very agreeable compared to rookie ball. His fate for 2013 is a mystery.

Arismendy Ozoria: Another Latin American who struggled in Great Lakes’ rotation, Ozoria is a 22-year-old who signed out of the Dominican in 2008. He went 8-8 with a 4.51 ERA for the Loons, with his other numbers looking an awful lot like Gomez’s numbers (115 2/3 innings, 124 hits, 50 walks, 77 Ks). Much like Gomez, he could move up to Rancho, repeat Great Lakes, or move to the bullpen with either team.

Raydel Sanchez: The 23-year-old filled the spot starter/long reliever role with Great Lakes, making 14 starts and 13 relief outings in 2012. He went 3-8 with a 4.64 ERA. He struck out 61 and walked 33 in 95 innings of work. Born in Cuba, Sanchez signed with the Dodgers as a non-drafted free agent out of Miami-Dade JC in April 2011. He could repeat his Loons role with the Quakes this season.

Duke von Schamann: The Dodgers’ 15th-round pick out of Texas Tech in last year’s draft, Von Schamann shot all the way up to Chattanooga to finish his first pro season, though it seems more likely that he will settle at Rancho in 2013. Using his sinker, slider and changeup, the 21-year-old went 6-4 with an ERA of 3.00 in 75 innings of work. He only struck out 44 batters, but he only gave up 14 walks as well. With that type of control he might just survive pitching for the Quakes.

Lindsey Caughel: Another later-round draft pick who may have overachieved a bit last summer, Caughel shined at Ogden and should move up to Great Lakes this year. The 22-year-old was a 23rd-round pick out of Stetson. He went 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 42 2/3 innings at Ogden, holding his own in a hitter-friendly environment. Caughel only gave up 33 hits and eight walks while striking out 29 batters. In college his fastball sat 88-91 mph and he had an average curveball. He will need more than that to succeed and keep moving up the ladder.

Carlos Frias: Signed out of the Dominican back in 2007, Frias bounced around the system in 2012. He finished the year 7-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 83 2/3 innings of work. There is not much more info out there on the 23-year-old, who just looks like roster filler in the low minors. He might move up to Great Lakes full-time this year, or he may be back with Ogden.

Luis Meza: The 22-year-old Venezuelan had a 2012 to forget, posting a 7.39 ERA in 28 innings of work. He made six starts and five relief appearances and could end up in the bullpen full-time this year, though he will almost certainly open in extended spring training.

Ross Stripling: The Dodgers’ fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M last summer, Stripling has caught the eye of scouts and prospectors alike. Baseball America pegged him as the Dodgers’ No. 10, while Keith Law had him at No. 8. A senior sign, Stripling is already 23 and could jump all the way to Rancho to open 2013, though Great Lakes might be a better place to stretch him out. He only threw 36 1/3 innings after a heavy college workload. Even in that short span he posted a 1.24 ERA, allowing just 26 hits and six walks while striking out 37 batters. He has a 92-93 mph fastball with run and sink that touches 96. He also has a plus 12-to-6 curveball, but he will need to improve his average changeup as he moves up the ladder.

Victor Araujo: A 23-year-old Dominican, he posted a 6.88 ERA in the Arizona League last summer. That’s not the type of thing that keeps one employed. Nine of his 64 hits allowed in 53 2/3 innings were home runs, which won’t play much better as he moves up the ladder, assuming he moves up at all. He will open in extended spring.

Zachary Bird: The Dodgers’ ninth-round pick last summer out of a Mississippi high school, Bird was more impressive than his numbers might indicate. Keith Law named him the Dodgers’ No. 10 prospect for 2013, as did FanGraphs. Bird had a 4.54 ERA in the Arizona League, but he did strike out 46 in 39 2/3 innings. Bird’s fastball sits 89-92 mph and touches 94. He has a good curveball, average changeup and a fringy slider that might get tossed aside as he moves up the ladder. With a strong spring the 18-year-old could force his way to Great Lakes, but Ogden seems more likely.

Jonathan Martinez: An 18-year-old who signed out of Venezuela in 2011, Martinez was impressive in the Arizona League. He went 3-0 with a 3.05 ERA, striking out 59 and walking just 16 in 59 innings of work. There isn’t much other info out there on Martinez, but if he pitches like that again this year at Ogden, there will be some buzz.

* * *

Well, that’s it for the right-handed starters. The relievers are up next (and no, I’m not gonna review every single guy who made at least one appearance out of the bullpen in all the Dodgers’ U.S.-based affiliates). Then that should be it, but that’s OK, because Mike is on vacation (and we usually know what that means) and pretty soon there will be real baseball to talk about.

Who Will the Dodgers Protect From the Rule 5 Draft?

Welcome to the roster, Matt Magill?

I’m not sure if you’ve been following along with the offseason calendar at the top of the site that’s taking the place of the upcoming schedule for now, but if you have, you’ll notice that Tuesday’s an important date. That’s when the Dodgers (and every other team, of course) have to set their 40-man roster in advance of the December 6 Rule 5 draft. You can still make changes and additions after tomorrow, of course, and they will, it’s just when decisions need to be made about what eligible minor leaguers will be added to the roster, and, potentially, what current placeholders will lose their spots if space becomes an issue.

Last year, that meant that Michael Antonini, Alex Castellanos, Stephen Fife, Josh Wall, & Chris Withrow were added, with John Ely & Carlos Monasterios outrighted off the roster to make room. Ely has since returned to take Antonini’s spot, and the current roster stands at 36. So what the Dodgers need to do is figure out who to protect and who to expose for tomorrow, while also keeping in mind that space is going to be needed for any other additions, like Hiroki Kuroda or Zack Greinke or Hyun-jin Ryu.

This gets complicated for a few reasons. First, there’s almost never an official list of eligible players, so we have to do our best to cobble together lists using the rule of “high schoolers drafted four years ago (i.e. 2008) & college players drafted three years ago (i.e. 2009).” Even then it’s rarely that cut-and-dry, as there’s always some guys who end up being eligible or not eligible for some reason or another. With some assistance from Chris Jackson of the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner and research of my own, this is the completely-not-official-and-maybe-missing-some-guys list of Dodger prospects I believe to be Rule 5 eligible this year.

Steve Ames
Michael Antonini
Jose Dominguez
Blake Johnson
Matt Magill
Aaron Miller
Jon Michael Redding
Jordan Roberts
Cole St. Clair
Andres Santiago
Steve Smith
Javier Solano

Gorman Erickson
Matt Wallach

Pedro Baez
Joe Becker
Austin Gallagher
Pedro Guerrero
Chris Jacobs

Oswaldo Martinez
Charlie Mirabal

Angelo Songco
J.T. Wise
Rafael Ynoa

Nick Akins
Nick Buss
Brian Cavazos-Galvez
Tony Gwynn
Kyle Russell

Alfredo Silverio
Blake Smith

The second part of this is that there’s some gamesmanship involved here. Remember, this draft isn’t simply to stock the minor league systems of other clubs, it requires that they keep the selected player in the bigs all season (like the Dodgers did with Monasterios in 2010.) So you have to ask yourself questions on how likely some team will take a chance on doing that with a few of these guys. Sure, you’d like to keep Baez in the system and see if his reported conversion to pitching takes. Are you going to hand him a 40-man spot to do so? Absolutely not, but it’s also very unlikely that any other team would put him in the bigs right now. So you keep him off and move on.

For many of these guys, it’s a no-brainer. No other team is taking, say, J.T. Wise, and putting him in the bigs, and if they do for some reason, you note the loss without a thought. You can say the same for Silverio (who missed all of 2012 after a car accident and will probably be limited in 2013 as well), Dominguez (who seemed intriguing after striking out 87 in 79 innings this year before getting popped with a drug suspension earlier this month), Erickson (who was eligible in 2011 and didn’t get picked after a good year, then was a huge disappointment in 2012), Songco (who had a very good 2011 before being hurt for most of 2012 and disappointing when available) and non-prospects like Guerrero, Johnson, St. Clair, Wallach, Becker, Gallagher, Martinez, and others.

That leaves, for me, only one clear slam-dunk to be added and several “maybes”. All of a sudden, four open roster spots seem like it might not be nearly enough, especially when free agent acquisitions are considered. (Though as we looked into last month, it’s not too hard to find room if you need. Justin Sellers,  Ely, Elian Herrera, & even Juan Uribe are still on the roster and can easily be lost if space becomes a problem.)

The only real obvious choice here is the 22-year-old righty Magill, who led the organization with 168 strikeouts (in just 146 innings) while making the Southern League All-Star team. He’ll probably be somewhere around the #6 Dodger prospect – I’m spitballing here and saying that the top five are some combination of Zach Lee, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, & Chris Reed – and while his ceiling is certainly not that of an ace, he’s potentially just a year or less away from being ready for the bigs and is all but certain to get plucked in the draft if available. So, he stays for sure.

Quickly going down the list of maybes…

Steve Ames: It’s hard to ignore the numbers that Ames has put up in four seasons in the organization, compiling a 236/35 K/BB in 172.2 innings. That’s admittedly outstanding, but there’s a lot here that suggests we shouldn’t go overboard in looking at the stats. After all, he’s someone you never hear about, and if he were really that good, we’d all be talking him up more, wouldn’t we?

Ames was only a 17th-round pick in 2009, and as a college graduate he was older than his competition for most of his first two years; despite doing very well in half a season at Chattanooga in 2011, he remained there for all of 2012 despite constant roster turnover in the levels above. He was ranked just 20th on Baseball Prospectus‘ Dodger prospect list headed into 2012, where Kevin Goldstein noted that the “scouting reports are not as impressive as the numbers, but evaluators see a big league future as middle reliever.” Still, it’s easier to stash a Rule 5 pick in the bullpen than anywhere else, and with numbers like that, some talent-starved team would take a chance. Yes.

Tony Gwynn. It’s been difficult to find confirmation on this, but I believe that as a member of the organization who is not on the 40-man roster (and obviously isn’t a recent draftee), Gwynn is eligible to be selected. He’s kind of intriguing, because he’s a lot easier for some team to keep on their roster than some Double-A prospect. Then again, he’s still not very good. Nah.

Aaron Miller. Miller was a supplemental first round pick out of Baylor in 2009 and was expected to move quickly, but injury problems (he pitched only 36 innings in 2011 due to a groin injury) and increasing control issues (a career-worst 5.3 BB/9 in 2012) have slowed his ascent. He at least managed to stay healthy, starting 25 games, and showed a decent ability to miss bats, but it was far from the breakout season he needed. Still, he’s got just 318 innings under his belt, and lefties who aren’t Clayton Kershaw often need a little longer to develop. Not a guarantee, but probably.

Blake Smith. Smith was a second round pick in 2009 out of UC Berkeley and had a breakout 2011, hitting .294/.359/.539 in half a season for Rancho Cucamonga. Goldstein listed him as a sleeper “with plenty of tools”, but his .267/.358/.432 line for the Lookouts didn’t do much to keep the excitement going. I still like him, but it’s tough to hide a corner outfielder in the bigs who isn’t ready to be there. It’s probably worth the risk that he’s not going to get selected in the Rule 5 draft to not have to use a spot on him. Doubtful.

Rafael Ynoa: The 25-year-old has been in the system for seven years and only managed to reach Double-A this season, hitting .278/.364/.352 while splitting time between second & short for the Lookouts. He didn’t make the top 20 on the BP list, and normally a guy like this wouldn’t even merit a mention. That said, Ynoa found himself as part of the Dodger contingent headed to the Arizona Fall League and has been a surprising star there, even gathering some mention from Baseball America as a potential Rule 5 pick. That might just be enough to gain him a spot. Could go either way, but leaning no.

So let’s say Magill, Ames, & Miller all get added, along with one other name that I’m wrong about being against here. That’d put the roster at an even 40, and assuming that at least three free agents – at a minimum – are still on their way, the Dodgers would need to make some moves to clear out space. Justin Sellers, the bell tolls for thee…