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 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.
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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.