2013 Dodgers in Review #38: Shawn Tolleson

90topps_shawntolleson0.00 ERA / 9.05 FIP 0.0 IP 0.00 K/9 18.00 BB/9 (inc.)

2013 in brief: Threw 11 pitches in one April game, then missed the rest of the year due to injury.

2014 status: Shockingly lost to Texas on waivers in November.

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I’m still on vacation, so forgive the fact that I’m skipping over Jamey Wright. I wrote about him a few weeks ago, anyway.

Every year when I do these season in review pieces, there’s always one or two guys who had about ten seconds of big league exposure and then force me to try to come up with something interesting to say about them. Along with Drew Butera and Onelki Garcia, that honor goes this year to Shawn Tolleson, who walked each of the two batters he faced on April 12 in Arizona and was never heard from again.

Tolleson didn’t make the team out of spring training after dealing with some minor knee pain and a comebacker off his elbow, so he was in Omaha with the rest of the Isotopes on April 11 when Carlos Quentin assaulted Zack Greinke. He flew to Arizona in time to relieve Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning the next night, where he entered with the bases loaded… and promptly walked both Martin Prado and Paul Goldschmidt, scoring two. (Both of which went against Kershaw’s ledger, of course.)

The next day, he went on the disabled list with what was thought to be a lower back strain, but two weeks later we learned he’d need to undergo surgery, and it turned out that the back had been sore before he entered the game:

“It was kind of tight all day, and tight when I was warming up. I wasn’t worried about it when I was pitching, I was just trying to throw strikes,” Tolleson said when he was placed on the DL. “But when I came out of the game it just really tightened up on me.”

Tolleson couldn’t sleep that night because of pain in his back, and told trainers the next morning.

He started playing catch in June and got into single games for the rookie league Arizona Dodgers on August 11 and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on August 14, but injured his left hip during rehab and was shut down for the season.

It’s unfortunate, really, because Tolleson has shown a real ability to miss bats in the minors, but a near equal inability to stay healthy. Maybe that’s why the Dodgers attempted to sneak him through waivers in November, and when it didn’t work, well, none of us quite understood why:

I don’t get it. I really don’t. And since I’m in a coffee shop far from home, perhaps there’s been some good explanation I’ve missed. I sure hope so, because otherwise, the Dodgers just allowed a talented young reliever who piled up strikeouts and grounders get claimed on waivers by Texas for what seems to be no good reason.

With 8 empty roster spots, space isn’t an issue. Yes, they need to add a few minor leaguers today. No, it won’t be 8, and even if it was, Justin Sellers & Javy Guerra exist.

A month later, the 40-man roster is only now about to be full, and we haven’t yet heard a valid explanation. Maybe he really is more seriously injured than we know, but still: Odd.

******

Next! J.P. Howell finds a home!

So Long, Shawn Tolleson, For Reasons Unknown

tolleson_2013-04-12I don’t get it. I really don’t. And since I’m in a coffee shop far from home, perhaps there’s been some good explanation I’ve missed. I sure hope so, because otherwise, the Dodgers just allowed a talented young reliever who piled up strikeouts and grounders get claimed on waivers by Texas for what seems to be no good reason.

With 8 empty roster spots, space isn’t an issue. Yes, they need to add a few minor leaguers today. No, it won’t be 8, and even if it was, Justin Sellers & Javy Guerra exist.

Oh, and Shawn Tolleson is known to be one of Clayton Kershaw‘s best friends – you know, the guy you are attempting to convince to stay with you long term.

Maybe he’s hopelessly injured. Maybe it’s something else. For now.. confounding.

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.

2012 Dodgers in Review #45: RP Shawn Tolleson

4.30 ERA 4.08 FIP 37.2 IP 9.32 K/9 4.78 BB/9 0.0 fWAR C+

2012 in brief: Raw talent dominated minors and showed flashes of excellence in up-and-down major league debut.

2013 status: Having options left always makes roster games possible, but should spend most or all of the season in Dodger bullpen.

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You know, since Rubby de la Rosa missed most of the season and then was traded immediately after returning, and Jerry Sands & Alex Castellanos never really got full chances to perform, I think Shawn Tolleson is the Dodger prospect I was most excited to see who actually spent a decent amount of time with the team.

That was made clear early on in the season, since we’d barely made it into the first week of May before I started gushing over how much I wanted to see him. Four days later, he at least got promoted to Triple-A, and in early June he got the call to the bigs. We were, frankly, thrilled:

But it’s the second, completely-out-of-nowhere move which is far more interesting. Javy Guerra has been placed on the DL right knee inflammation, and that means we’ll get our long-awaited first look at Shawn Tolleson. (Matt Guerrier was pushed to the 60-day DL to make room for Tolleson on the 40-man roster.) Guerra struggled in his most recent outing on Saturday against Colorado, allowing two hits & a walk in just 0.1 inning, but we had seen no indication that he might be injured. Tolleson, meanwhile, joins the club with an absolutely ridiculous track record, having struck out 34 against just 5 walks for Chattanooga & Albuquerque this year, and with a 178/28 K/BB across 120 minor league innings over parts of three seasons. He got off to a briefly rough start upon his promotion to ABQ, but has an amazing 15/1 K/BB in eight AAA games. Frankly, I’ve been dying to see him for some time, and the thought of him along with Kenley Jansen & Josh Lindblom in the bullpen – and yes, Guerra belongs in that group as well, when healthy, as does Scott Elbert, who has been very good – really makes you salivate at the future of the young bullpen arms in this organization.

Tolleson had a rough debut in Philadelphia — he threw ten pitches, eight for balls — and was only okay over his next four outings before getting blown up against the Mets on June 29. A few days later, he became the answer to the trivia question of “who got sent down when Luis Cruz was recalled?,” but his bizarre season had only just begun. The next day, Todd Coffey‘s Dodger career ended when his elbow exploded, and Tolleson’s option was canceled before he even got out of Los Angeles.

Tolleson took advantage of his second chance and was a much better pitcher in July, striking out 10 in 10.2 innings while allowing only two walks and four hits. Two of those hits came in New York on July 22, which was the game otherwise remembered for being Nathan Eovaldi‘s final Dodger start and Josh Wall‘s debut. I bring it up here because the story of Tolleson’s afternoon was a little more complicated than the box score would indicate:

But the main story of the day, as it always seems to be, was the umpiring, where there were at least five calls that were either clearly incorrect or very questionable, and that’s not even counting balls and strikes. In the fourth, Murphy doubled down the right field line, a ball that clearly seemed to land foul. That didn’t hurt the Dodgers, but a call by home plate umpire Jim Joyce in the seventh loomed large. Tolleson had seemingly struck out Ike Davis to complete a 1-2-3 inning, but home plate umpire Jim Joyce argued that Davis had tipped the ball as the Dodgers ran off the field.

Uh, you tell me:

Given a second chance, Davis doubled to right and came home on a Murphy single, and I think we’ve all seen enough baseball to know that given a gift like that, the chances of Davis turning it into something were approximately 10000%. Someone really ought to set up a real-time sports book that allows me to bet on things like that happening.

After leaving New York, Tolleson ran off a streak of 13 consecutive scoreless outings into late August, but not without another aborted transaction: he was briefly optioned to Albuquerque in late July to make room for Randy Choate, yet was again quickly recalled when Scott Elbert landed on the DL. That scoreless streak ended against Miami on August 26 when Jose Reyes & Carlos Lee went back-to-back. After having thrown 52 pitches in three days, Tolleson was once again optioned to the minors, this time to make room for the return of Wall to reinforce a tired bullpen.

Yet for the third time in less than three months, Tolleson’s demotion was short-lived, because he was gone for only three days before returning once again to replace Elbert, who once again was shelved because of his elbow. Despite all the roster shenanigans, Tolleson didn’t actually burn up an option year since he was always recalled before ten days to cover for other injured players.

With expanded rosters in September, Tolleson had no worries about being sent down and struck out 13 in 12 innings, giving him 39 whiffs in 37.2 innings on the season. While he had some control issues — 4.8 walks per 9 isn’t great — and occasionally ran into the big inning, it was a pretty impressive debut for Clayton Kershaw‘s schoolboy pal. As I said above, further offseason moves may crowd the bullpen enough that Tolleson may not be assured of an Opening Day spot, but we should be seeing plenty of him in 2013.

******

Next up! So long, Josh Lindblom!

Dodgers Recall Juan Rivera (meh), Shawn Tolleson (yay!)

Photo from Jon SooHoo at http://dodgersphotog.mlblogs.com/2012/03/30/33012-something-current-lad-photo-gallery-vs-milwaukee-brewers-photography-by-jon-soohoolos-angeles-dodgers/

So much for waiting for the game thread, because the Dodgers have made two roster moves this afternoon, one very much foreseen, one not at all so.

As expected, Juan Rivera was activated off the disabled list this afternoon, with Scott Van Slyke sent down to Albuquerque. I have absolutely no problem with seeing Van Slyke go, because despite a great moment or two, he was clearly not ready to be in the bigs and would be best served by more regular play in the minors. As for Rivera… well, I’d like to say that I’m excited to see him back in the mix, but it’s hard to see how it’s helpful. My feelings on the “#RBImachine” narrative are well-known – he was lousy for five of six months in 2011, and he was pretty bad in the first month of 2012 – and my main worry here is that as another righty corner outfielder, he’s just going to take away at-bats that Alex Castellanos needs to be getting. My hope is that Rivera’s role is mainly that of James Loney‘s caddy against lefty pitching and occasional pinch-hitter; otherwise, I’m not sure how he helps. He’s replacing Loney in the lineup today at first base, though against a righty pitcher, which shows just how far Loney has fallen in Don Mattingly’s eyes – it’s the second time in a week this has happened.

But it’s the second, completely-out-of-nowhere move which is far more interesting. Javy Guerra has been placed on the DL right knee inflammation, and that means we’ll get our long-awaited first look at Shawn Tolleson. (Matt Guerrier was pushed to the 60-day DL to make room for Tolleson on the 40-man roster.) Guerra struggled in his most recent outing on Saturday against Colorado, allowing two hits & a walk in just 0.1 inning, but we had seen no indication that he might be injured. Tolleson, meanwhile, joins the club with an absolutely ridiculous track record, having struck out 34 against just 5 walks for Chattanooga & Albuquerque this year, and with a 178/28 K/BB across 120 minor league innings over parts of three seasons. He got off to a briefly rough start upon his promotion to ABQ, but has an amazing 15/1 K/BB in eight AAA games. Frankly, I’ve been dying to see him for some time, and the thought of him along with Kenley Jansen & Josh Lindblom in the bullpen – and yes, Guerra belongs in that group as well, when healthy, as does Scott Elbert, who has been very good – really makes you salivate at the future of the young bullpen arms in this organization.

Chris Jackson of the Examiner notes that it’s probably not likely for Tolleson to reach Philadelphia for the game tonight, noting the Isotopes are in Texas (there’s also terrible weather in the east right now), though I suppose we don’t know exactly when Tolleson received the news; it’s very possible that he found out last night and has been traveling today. Either way, this is fantastic news, especially on a day in which Clayton Kershaw – a friend and teammate of Tolleson since their Texas childhood – starts against the Phillies.