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: Relieved to be at the End

Well, this is it, the final chapter of the Dodgers Depth Chart Analysis. Relief pitching, ah, that fickle beast. Some of the guys listed below may very well see Los Angeles someday, but most probably will not. Rather than break them all down, I’ve lumped a lot of guys together, largely due to the “meh factor” and/or the lack of available info beyond their basic stats.

Lefty Eadington is one of several promising relief pitchers in the upper levels of the Dodgers' farm system. (Courtesy of Dustin Nosler)

Lefty Eric Eadington is one of several promising relief pitchers in the upper levels of the Dodgers’ farm system. (Courtesy of Dustin Nosler)

Once upon a time the minor-league reliever was going nowhere. Times have certainly changed with the specialization of bullpen roles. Now pitchers are thrown into relief straight off the bat following the draft and can sometimes rocket to the big leagues that way (see Rodriguez, Paco). So who could be next to help the Dodgers’ relief corps? I split it up between the handful of lefties first and the long list of right-handers below.

Left-handers

Paco Rodriguez: The Dodgers’ second-round pick in last year’s draft, Rodriguez rocketed from the University of Florida bullpen to Los Angeles in the span of four months. He skipped the two hitter-friendly teams (Rancho and Albuquerque), going a combined 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA and five saves in 21 games between Great Lakes and Chattanooga. Utilizing what Baseball America described as “deception” in his delivery and “funky arm action,” Rodriguez utilizes a high-80s cutter to get right-handers out. His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph, which he also complements with a “sweepy” slider and occasionally a changeup. Rodriguez will fight for a bullpen spot with the Dodgers this spring, but if he gets squeezed out, he could end up with the Isotopes or the Lookouts.

Michael Antonini: 2012 was a tough year for Antonini, whom the Dodgers acquired from the Mets for Chin-Lung Hu back in 2011. He got called up to the Majors twice but never threw a pitch, then he lost his rotation spot in Albuquerque and finished the year in the bullpen. He also had some sort of offseason surgery, so the timetable for his return in 2013 is unknown. Antonini went 2-7 with a 5.71 ERA in 30 games (13 starts) for the Isotopes. He seems likely to remain a reliever, but based on the paucity of available starters for Albuquerque, he could still start from time-to-time this season if he is healthy.

Kelvin de la Cruz, Thomas Melgarejo, Wilmin Rodriguez: The trio of southpaws signed as minor-league free agents this offseason. De la Cruz is more of a long reliever who went 5-8 with a 4.92 ERA in 30 games (18 starts) at Double-A Erie (Tigers) last season. He seems likely to hold that swingman role at Chattanooga to start this season. Rodriguez struggled with Fresno (Giants), going 5-5 with a 5.92 ERA in 37 games (three starts). He gave up four unearned runs on three hits and a hit batter in one-third of an inning against the Isotopes back on May 24; he will fight for a bullpen spot with Albuquerque. Melgarejo was originally signed by the Dodgers out of Mexico in 2005. He has spent most of his pro career on loan to Mexican League teams. He will be a longshot for a bullpen spot with Chattanooga or Rancho this year.

Cole St. Clair: The veteran lefty, now 26, put up so-so numbers with the Isotopes (3-3, 4.24 ERA in 41 games). A former seventh-round pick out of Rice in 2008, St. Clair did make three starts last year and could get stretched out this spring. The odds are he will be back in Albuquerque for a second season.

Geison Aguasviva: A 25-year-old Dominican, he had a fairly good year with Chattanooga (2-5, 2.53, one save in 50 games). In most years, that would be enough to earn him a promotion, but he will likely have to beat out some veterans in spring training.

Eric Eadington: The Dodgers signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of Harvard in 2011 and so far all Eadington has done is get outs. The 25-year-old sports a fastball that sits 89-93 mph and touches 95. He has a mid-to-upper-70s slider as well. He went 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA and 26 saves last season, striking out 77 in 67 innings. Eadington projects this season as the closer, or possibly co-closer, at Chattanooga, where he finished 2012.

Jordan Roberts: More than a standard LOOGY, the 27-year-old Roberts held his own in the hitter-friendly California League last season. Roberts threw 88 1/3 innings in his 38 appearances, going 8-0 with a 3.67 ERA. He is a former 28th-round pick out of Embry-Riddle back in 2008, so while that might scream “organizational arm,” he should push forward to Chattanooga this year and could eventually present himself as a cheap relief option for the big-league team.

Daniel Coulombe, Michael Thomas: The two southpaws spent most of last season at Great Lakes with different results. Thomas, 23, finished the year at Rancho and was a combined 4-2 with a 1.59 ERA and five saves, striking out 73 batters in 62 1/3 innings. Not bad for a former 35th-round pick out of Rider back in 2011. Coulombe was the Dodgers’ 25th-round pick last summer out of Texas Tech. He started at Ogden and finished with the Loons, going 0-1 with a 3.20 ERA and one save in 23 games. He struck out 37 in 25 1/3 innings. Both figure to open 2013 with Rancho.

Gregg Downing, Kazuki Nishijima: The primary lefties at Ogden, along with the since-released Michael Drowne, both should move up to Great Lakes despite so-so numbers. Downing, 22, went 3-0 with a 5.33 ERA and two saves in 54 innings over 21 appearances, including three starts. Nishijimi, who signed as an amateur out of Japan in 2010, was 8-1 with a 4.67 ERA. He threw 47 1/3 innings in just 16 games, so he is not a traditional LOOGY.

Right-handers

Josh Wall: The 26-year-old made his Major League debut in 2012 after racking up 28 saves for the Isotopes. He struck out 52 in 53 2/3 innings, largely thanks to his big, mid-80s slider. Wall seemed reluctant to utilize his 93-94 mph fastball, which tended to get a bit too straight in the Albuquerque air. A former second-round pick back in 2005, he was a starter until the Dodgers moved him to the bullpen full-time at Chattanooga in 2011. He may not project as a closer in the Majors, but he should return to close for the Isotopes this season.

Blake Johnson, Luis Vasquez: A couple of organizational arms, Johnson seems far more likely to pitch again for Albuquerque this season. Johnson, 27, was a second-round pick by Los Angeles back in 2004, but he was later dealt to Kansas City. He returned to the Dodgers organization last spring and started the season in Chattanooga before moving up. Overall, Johnson went 5-4 with a 4.77 ERA and one save in 42 games (five starts). He pitched well for Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League, going 2-0 with 0.69 ERA, allowing one earned run in 13 innings. Vasquez, 26, was savaged for a 7.47 ERA in 53 innings between Albuquerque and Chattanooga last summer. He may not make it out of spring training.

Juan Abreu, Hector Correa, Gregory Infante, Hector Nelo: Three veterans picked up during the offseason, the first three via free agency and the latter by the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Abreu, 27, ranked as high as the Astros’ No. 19 prospect after 2011, according to Baseball America, but he fell on hard times in 2012 and finished the year in the Blue Jays’ system. Between Oklahoma City and Las Vegas, Abreu posted an ugly 6.80 ERA. Correa, 25 in March, was the Marlins’ fourth-round pick out of Puerto Rico back in 2006. He was traded to the Giants for Ronny Paulino prior to the 2009 season, but never got past Double-A, and appeared in just eight games (three starts) at Single-A San Jose last year. Infante, 25, appeared with the White Sox in five games in 2010, showcasing a 96 mph fastball, but he has yet to make it back to the Majors. He appeared in just 20 games at Charlotte last season, going 4-1 with a 3.55 ERA and one save. Nelo, 26, was rated as having the best fastball in the High-A Carolina League in 2011 when he pitched for Potomac (Nationals). He put up good numbers (1-6, 2.73 ERA, 16 saves) with Double-A Harrisburg last season, but as colleague Clint Hulsey told me, his high-velocity fastball is awfully straight and tends to play up, not a good recipe for a potential Isotopes reliever. All four will likely vie for one or two spots in the Albuquerque bullpen this spring, though Correa might end up at Chattanooga or even Rancho.

Steve Ames: A promising arm, Ames was an afterthought in the 2009 draft as a 17th-round pick out of Gonzaga. Since signing, however, all he has done is get outs. John Sickels rated him as the Dodgers’ No. 15 prospect entering this season after he went 3-3 with a 1.56 ERA and 18 saves, striking out 72 batters in 63 1/3 innings at Chattanooga last year. Ames, 25 in March, was added to the 40-man roster this offseason and could make the jump to Albuquerque or return to Chattanooga if the Dodgers fear the effect altitude might have on his low-90s fastball. He also sports a good slider that sits in the mid-80s. For his career, Ames now has 236 strikeouts and just 35 walks in 172 2/3 innings of work.

Red Patterson: In an unusual move, the Dodgers took Patterson, 25, and moved him to the bullpen full-time in 2012. While he responded well, going 7-1 with a 3.07 ERA and striking out 71 batters in 70 1/3 innings at Chattanooga, it was odd because he had put up good numbers (12-5, 3.69) the year before as a starter between Rancho and Great Lakes. Patterson threw for the Isotopes in the playoffs last year and seems like a good bet to remain in Albuquerque this season.

Javier Solano: The Mexican native has shown promise in his career, but has yet to advance past Chattanooga. He threw 62 2/3 innings over his 38 appearances with the Lookouts last year, going 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA. Solano’s fastball sits 88-91 mph and can touch 93. He also has a mid-70s curveball and a fringy changeup. He will battle for a spot in Albuquerque’s bullpen this spring.

Chris Withrow: A former first-round pick, Withrow was taken with the 20th selection in 2007 out of Midland (Texas) High School. He has good stuff, with a fastball he can run up to 98 mph, but he has always lacked the command. The Dodgers gave up on him as a starter last year and he will now be a full-time reliever. FanGraphs still rates him as the Dodgers’ No. 8 prospect, with Keith Law and John Sickels both pegging him at No. 9. Withrow went 3-3 with a 4.65 ERA and two saves last season, striking out 64 in 60 innings. Though he is on the 40-man, he seems more likely to return to Chattanooga than move up to Albuquerque, at least at the start of the season.

Ryan Acosta, Freddie Cabrera, Steve Smith: The trio of mediocre middle relievers at Rancho last season, they are pretty much all organizational filler. Cabrera, 23, at least has youth on his side, but he also posted a 6.34 ERA in 66 2/3 innings for the Quakes. He figures to return to Rancho this year. Smith, 26, is a former non-drafted free agent out of New Mexico. He finished last year at Chattanooga and should open there if he can battle his way into a spot. Smith went 4-2 with a 3.79 ERA and three saves in 61 2/3 innings overall. Acosta, 24, joined the Dodgers organization as a free agent in 2011, got released on April 5 last year, then ended up re-signing on April 21. He went 4-2 with a 4.30 ERA, striking out 79 in 67 innings for the Quakes. He will also vie for a Lookouts roster spot.

Jose Dominguez: A promising arm if he can keep himself out of trouble, Dominguez finished last year at Chattanooga but will have to earn his way back there. The 22-year-old Dominican was ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 20 prospect by MLB.com. He struck out 87 in 79 innings between the Lookouts and Loons, but he finished just 4-4 with a 4.90 ERA and five saves. He has a plus-plus fastball that sits 96-98 mph and hits 100, but unless he develops his fringy curveball into an out pitch he will remain a velocity-only guy and likely never advance to the Majors.

Yimi Garcia: The de facto closer at Great Lakes last year, Garcia finished the year with Rancho and was 6-5 with a 2.92 ERA and 16 saves overall. He struck out 82 in just 52 1/3 innings, using a delivery described as “unorthodox” by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, who ranked him as the Dodgers’ No. 14 prospect. He has a live fastball and a slurvy slider with average command. Garcia figures to be the Quakes’ closer to open 2013.

Joel Lima, Juan Noriega, Juan Rodriguez, Matt Shelton: A quartet of organizational arms who spent the bulk of their 2012 seasons with Great Lakes. Lima, 23, had a 4.52 ERA in 77 2/3 innings with the Loons. Noriega, 22, was signed away from Monclova of the Mexican League in 2011. He went 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA and one save in 68 innings. Rodriguez, 24, was the third player acquired from Boston in the three-way trade that sent Trayvon Robinson to Seattle in 2011. It seems safe to say that he will not follow Tim Federowicz and Stephen Fife to Los Angeles after Rodriguez posted a 6.34 ERA in 38 1/3 innings last year. Shelton, 24, has pitched well for a former 24th-round pick out of Sam Houston State. He went 3-5 with a 2.81 ERA and two saves while striking out 70 in 67 1/3 innings last year.

Jharel Cotton, Carlos De Aza, Alan Garcia, Sawil Gonzalez, Scott Griggs, Owen Jones, Craig Stem: The right-handers who made up the bulk of the bullpen for Ogden last summer, they are a mixed bunch. Cotton, 21, is the most promising of the bunch, though he threw just 15 innings with the Raptors, posting a 1.20 ERA and striking out 20 batters versus three walks. A 20th-round pick out of East Carolina, he sports a low-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup with plus potential. He could get stretched out as a starter this year. Griggs, 21, was an eighth-round pick out of UCLA, where he was the Bruins’ closer. He could hold that role in Great Lakes this year. The rest seem like organizational arms and will compete for spots with the Loons in front of Griggs.

Aris Angeles, Jordan Hershiser, Travis Jones, Jackson Mateo, Sean O’Connell, Ricky Perez, Samuel Taveras: The primary relievers in the Arizona League last summer, this group is also a mixed bunch. Hershiser, 24, is the son of the former Dodgers great who battled injuries throughout his college career at USC. He had a 2.55 ERA and struck out 20 in 17 2/3 innings. Jones, 23, is a converted catcher who used to play in the Royals’ system. Perez was solid in July, racking up nine saves, but got slammed in August and finished with an 8.46 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. The rest are organizational arms only.

Scott Barlow: The Dodgers’ promising sixth-round pick in 2012, Barlow succumbed to Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2012. Barlow, 20, will likely open in extended spring, but if he can rediscover his big-breaking curveball again, he can move back into the prospect picture.

* * *

Well, that’s all for the depth chart series. For pure fun (or possibly as a sign of insanity), I will throw out my projected rosters for Albuquerque, Chattanooga, Rancho Cucamonga, and Great Lakes while Mike is wrapping up his vacation. It should be fun to speculate on who ends up where, and then have the Dodgers do their usual thing and make me look like a fool for ever trying to project things before a single exhibition game has even been played.

Brewers @ Dodgers May 28, 2012: Marcum Vs Harang

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Ted Lilly was officially placed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation earlier this afternoon. Yet it wasn’t Nathan Eovaldi who came up to replace him, as previously thought; it was lefty Michael Antonini, who had been on the active roster for a few days in April without getting into a game.

Eovaldi is still expected to come up tomorrow to take Lilly’s start, so it’s very possible that Antonini is here just for today, around to convert Lilly’s otherwise-useless roster spot into an additional arm for the bullpen in the midst of nearly three weeks without a day off. While that’s the the most likely course of action, I’ll toss out this idea, too: with Matt Kemp coming back tomorrow and Juan Rivera just a few days after that, it’s not completely out of the question that they send back both Scott Van Slyke and Jerry Sands tomorrow, making room for Kemp & Eovaldi, and hanging on to Antonini as a 13th pitcher until Rivera does return. It’s not ideal, but it’s a possibility.

Speaking of Kemp, I think it’s safe to say that he’s ready. He hit his second homer in two days for the Isotopes today, but to merely say he “hit a homer” is underselling it; Christopher Jackson, writing on Twitter, noted that it left the yard “in less than a second.” Kemp doubled and singled in his next times up, giving him five hits in seven ABQ at-bats, and there was a part of me that wasn’t kidding at all when I asked if he could get to Dodger Stadium by game time tonight. It’s good to know, as the Dodgers kick off a four game set against Milwaukee, that the true and rightful 2011 NL MVP will be in the park for at least three of them.

Brewers
Dodgers
1B
Hart
CF
Gwynn
RF
Aoki
2B
Herrera
CF
Braun
LF
Abreu
3B
Ramirez
RF
Ethier
C
Kottaras
3B
Hairston
2B
Weeks
1B
Loney
SS
Ransom
C
Ellis
CF
Morgan
SS
Gordon
P
Marcum
P
Harang

 

Taking early stock of the Isotopes

While Mike is on vacation, he asked me to offer up some thoughts about the Albuquerque Isotopes and how what amounts to the Dodgers’ reserve team is shaping up as the season begins. The ‘Topes have only been home for a total of eight days so far this season — they begin their fourth road series of the year tonight at New Orleans (Marlins) — so this is all a very, very preliminary analysis of the 25 players I have observed.

Catchers Tim Federowicz and Josh Bard

FedEx is the man on the spot, the lone Isotope ranked by Baseball America in the Dodgers’ top 10 prospects. While plenty of fans are still smarting about last year’s trade that sent Trayvon Robinson packing and brought Fed and two pitchers to the organization, so far the young backstop is showing promise. “He’s been a lot better this year, he’s a lot more patient,” manager Lorenzo Bundy said of Fed’s hitting (.292/.365/.477). The swing-first, pull-everything mentality from last season is all but gone. Defensively he has looked sharp, making strong throws to second, blocking the plate well and doing a good job of working with the pitching staff. As for Bard, as the Isotopes’ oldest player (34, which makes him the only player on the team older than me … yikes), he has not played much, but he has played well, batting .385 (10-for-26). “Obviously, Josh with his experience … it’s like having an extra coach floating around here,” Bundy said. “He takes the leadership role. He knows his role on this club and he’s ready at any time.”

First baseman Jeff Baisley

Jeff Baisley has been a good presence in the lineup. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes.)

The veteran slugger has played well so far, batting .313/.390/.531 with three homers and a team-leading 16 RBI. Though primarily a third baseman with Salt Lake (Angels) last season, he has handled first base well defensively and it clearly has not had an impact on his hitting. Personality-wise, he keeps it serious on the field and keeps it loose during batting practice and in the clubhouse. Though he is viewed as a leader, Baisley said he has not had to overly assert himself so far. He certainly continues the recent tradition of high-character veterans the Dodgers like to have in Albuquerque.

Second baseman Alex Castellanos

Though currently on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring (return date unknown), the converted outfielder has been solid so far at the plate (.366/.477/.746), while overcoming the defensive obstacles that come with returning to his old position. The big issue for Castellanos offensively lies with his ability to overcome his aggressive, swing-first mentality. In the field, throwing has been the biggest challenge, but after a week spent with Dodgers special instructors Juan Castro and Jody Reed (laugh about their hitting, but both were good in the field), Castellanos seems to be adapting quickly. Just calm down on the early promotion possibilities; Castellanos himself said he needs close to a full season playing every day at second base before he is ready for MLB.

Shortstop Luis Cruz

The wily veteran has been on “Cruz Control” since he arrived, smacking the ball around (.328/.343/.500) while making some sharp plays in the field. He is another veteran who keeps it loose; his imitation of teammate Trent Oeltjen‘s Australian accent is a sight to behold.

Third baseman Josh Fields

Nicknamed “QB” for obvious reasons, the former Oklahoma State football standout has gotten off to a quiet start (.289/.375/.526) when compared to his teammates. Nonetheless, he has been a solid contributor. This is no sign of the dreaded “jaded ex-big-leaguer stuck at Triple-A” disease that sometimes afflicts players. Much like Cruz, he seemed to be riding high off his strong spring that nearly saw him make the big-league roster. He has been a positive influence, playing good defense with (no surprise here) a very strong arm.

Utility man Elian Herrera

The versatile Elian Herrera has been a sparkplug atop the lineup. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

Bundy said the Isotopes’ turnaround, from a 2-6 road trip to their current record of 11-9, has been thanks in part to the ultra-versatile Herrera. A pure contact hitter (.340/.357/.566), he is Albuquerque’s fastest player and has done well out of the leadoff spot. Defensively, he has looked especially sharp at second base and third base, while also seeing time at shortstop and the outfield. He would strictly be a bench player at the next level, but with Jerry Hairston and Adam Kennedy not getting any younger, the Dodgers could do worse.

Reserve infielders Joe Becker and Lance Zawadzki

Becker is a favorite of Bundy’s especially with his ability to deliver big hits in the clutch, often as a pinch hitter. He is also a capable defender at second, though he lacks the arm for third and has not played much shortstop. Zawadzki joined the team from extended spring on the last day of the homestand. While I have yet to see him play for the Isotopes, he was a solid defender and a streaky hitter last season with Omaha (Royals).

Outfielders Scott Van Slyke, Jerry Sands, Trent Oeltjen, Matt Angle

Van Slyke, the Dodgers’ No. 21 prospect, has been the hitting star out of this group (.364/.437/.610). He has fared well defensively in both outfield corners, with a strong arm and more mobility than you would expect from someone who is listed at 6-5, 250. He made one start at first base during the homestand, looking a little out of practice there, so hold off on the “he can replace Loney” talk. Oh, and I will sit him down to talk about his life growing up around baseball with his father. His stories are hilarious. Sands’ struggles at the plate (.192/.310/.315) have been well-documented so far. Oeltjen has played all three outfield spots, serving more as a fourth outfielder than anything else. As such, his hitting (.250/.328/.350) has yet to get into a groove with such sporadic playing time. Angle has been the lost one of the bunch, looking all out of sorts at the plate (.146/.255/.268) and now finding himself on the DL with a strained hamstring.

Starting pitchers Michael Antonini, John Ely, Stephen Fife, Fernando Nieve, Mike Parisi

John Ely has pitched well at home, not so well on the road. (Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Isotopes)

Before his call-up to the big leagues, Antonini made one start in Albuquerque he would like to forget (3.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 HR allowed). Like many young pitchers, the 26-year-old lefty learned the hard way you have to keep the ball down in Albuquerque if you want to have a prayer of succeeding here. He certainly throws a lot of strikes, but he left too many up in that game. Despite being back for his third season with the Isotopes, Ely has remained upbeat and continues to work hard. He has been a completely different pitcher at home (13 IP, 4 ER) than on the road (7.1 IP, 11 ER). Fife has just plain struggled wherever he has pitched this year (1-2, 9.92 ERA). The big righty is a finesse pitcher and so far the PCL is chewing him up. Nieve went from horrible at Omaha (1.2 IP, 11 H, 9 ER) to solid at home (6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER) to then getting ejected in the third inning of his third start for hitting a batter. It has been a very bizarre season for the former Astro and Met, who throws hard but does not strike a lot of people out (8 total in 10.1 IP). Parisi has been the most consistent and effective starter to date. It should come as no surprise, since there always seems to be one veteran who puts together a solid campaign in ABQ (e.g. Dana Eveland last year).

Right-handed relievers Josh Wall, Ramon Troncoso, Will Savage, Francisco Felix

Wall has looked sharp while sharing closing duties. He throws in the mid-90s and looks like another potentially solid addition to LA’s young bullpen down the line. There is still some wildness (4 walks in 8.1 IP) that needs to be smoothed out. Troncoso has looked like a man determined to get back to the big leagues (1.08 ERA in 8.1 IP), while Savage has been lights out (4-0, 2.41) in the long relief/spot starter role, keeping the ball down and utilizing his cutter, fastball and curveball to their fullest extent. Felix, well, somebody has to take it on the chin, and so far he is doing just that (10.13 ERA in 13.1 IP). As the Dodger bullpen fluctuates, his head would seem to be the first on the chopping block down here.

Left-handed relievers Brent Leach, Wil Ledezma, Derrick Loop, Scott Rice, Cole St. Clair

Rice has been the star of the southpaw collective, sharing the team lead with four saves. He is at his most effective not when he is getting strikeouts, but rather when is able to get hitters to try and pounce on strikes, causing them to ground out and pop up early in the count. Leach (0-1, 6.57) has alternated between looking good and taking it on the chin; personality-wise he has not changed from his year in Japan, remaining the same funny, witty southerner who graced the clubhouse in 2009-10. St. Clair has been similar to Leach in terms of pitching, looking good one outing and struggling to throw strikes the next. Poor Ledezma was walloped in his first two home appearances (10 runs total), but has since settled down and regained his confidence. Loop has yet to appear in a game in Albuquerque.

Overall

This is a better team than it looked after losing six of eight on the opening road trip. The Isotopes pulled off their first four-game sweep since 2009 when they took Iowa apart. As long as the pitching stays at least somewhat consistent, the lineup is more than capable of scoring enough runs. What looked like a pack of spot starters, middle relievers and bench players actually has some players with enough talent (Van Slyke, Castellanos, Federowicz, in particular) to help the Dodgers out in the future. Rice and Wall can be both be part of a big-league bullpen, as well. This team may lack the star power when Gordon, Sands (the good version) and Robinson were here last year, but it is still a fun bunch to watch.

As always, you can find all the ‘Topes news and notes you can handle here and you can now follow me on Twitter as @TopesWriter for quick updates, anecdotes, breaking news and even some play-by-play during home games.

— Chris Jackson

Dodgers Add Five, Remove Ely & Monasterios

Today – by which I mean, about an hour from now – is the deadline to add eligible players to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, which takes place on December 8. I saw a lot of teams announce who they’d be adding this morning, but clearly the Dodgers took just about every minute available to them. As a reminder, eligible players who were not added to the 40-man roster are exposed to the draft, and if they’re selected they must stay on their new team’s 25-man roster (or disabled list) for the entire season – like Carlos Monasterios did in 2010.

Minor leaguers Scott Van Slyke and Alfredo Silverio were added a few weeks ago, and they’ll be joined by outfielder Alex Castellanos and pitchers Michael Antonini, Josh Wall, Chris Withrow, and Stephen Fife. Only Wall and Withrow were Dodger draftees; Castellanos came from the Cardinals in the Rafael Furcal deal, Antonini came from the Mets for Chin-lung Hu, and Fife came from Boston as a part of the Trayvon Robinson trade. Monasterios and John Ely were removed from the 40-man and outrighted to Triple-A, though that doesn’t necessarily mean their time with the Dodgers is over. That puts the 40-man roster at 38, at least until Hong-Chih Kuo is inevitably non-tendered, and Dana Eveland, Ramon Troncoso, Trent Oeltjen, and Jamie Hoffmann could all easily be removed if space becomes an issue.

Brandon Lennox at TrueBlueLA has a list of interesting eligible names who weren’t added, most of which will mean absolutely nothing to you:

Ethan Martin, Kyle Russell, Tony Delmonico, Jon Michael Redding, Cole St. Clair, Nick Buss, Jordan Roberts, Austin Gallagher, Andres Santiago, Chris Jacobs, Griff Erickson, Justin Miller, Tim Sexton, Jaime Pedroza, Matt Wallach, Pedro Baez, Geison Aguasviva, Rafael Ynoa, Carlos Frias, Bladimir Franco, Ramon Jean, Jose Dominguez, Daniel Tamares, Charlie Mirabal, Pedro Guerrero, Elian Herrera, Josh Walter, Steve Smith, Joseph Becker, Robert Booth

Not 100% sure on E Martin, but I do think he is eligible

While it may seem surprising to see interesting names like Erickson and Russell unprotected, remember, a team would have to carry such a player on their big-league roster all season, making them unlikely to take such a risk. To be honest, the name that stands out there to me is lefty Cole St. Clair, who has struck out 187 in 176.1 minor-league innings, with a 46/13 K/BB in Double-A last year. He’s occasionally been mentioned as someone who might be a depth piece for the Dodger bullpen last year, so it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if a pitching-needy team snaps him up. (That goes for Martin as well, though as Lennox mentions, I’m unsure of his eligibility.)