Pirates 3, Dodgers 0: Locked Down

fife_2013-06-14

You know, we just destroyed Ned Colletti on the Trayvon Robinson deal a few years ago. I mean, completely crushed him, and not just me, either. Every other Dodger blogger I respect and most mainstream writers too took glee in punishing the Dodger general manager for what seemed to be an out-of-nowhere and beyond foolish deal.

Now here we are almost two years later and Robinson has washed out with Seattle and is hitting .235/.321/.355 for Baltimore’s Triple-A team in his age-25 season, Tim Federowicz has beaten out Ramon Hernandez once and for all, and Stephen Fife… well, the Dodgers lost tonight, but he was once again pretty decent. I still don’t see much more than “fifth starter” out of him, but I will take “two earned runs in five innings” most nights out of a fifth starter, and Fife has been on a pretty consistent streak of keeping runs off the board, even somehow managing to miss some bats along the way.

Of course, none of that really matters when your offense gets shut out again, and while this isn’t the first time that’s happened this season — and it sure as hell won’t be the last — this one was a little harder to take. Jeff Locke has been decent this year, but he’s hardly elite, and despite the injuries the Dodgers have suffered this is still a lineup that had Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, A.J. Ellis, & Andre Ethier in it.

That’s most of a major-league lineup, in theory, yet the Dodgers could do no more than five singles, a walk, and a Jerry Hairston double. (At least two of the hits came off the bat of Puig, pushing his line to an absurd .487/.512/.846.) We can blame injuries all we like — and we do — but sooner or later the guys who are playing are going to need to contribute too. It’s not April any longer, or even May, and June is now half over. If this team plans to turn the season around… well, the time is now.

Braves 2, Dodgers 1: No One Will Remember That Stephen Fife Pitched Pretty Well

fife_2013-06-08Stephen Fife & Kris Medlen each went 6.2 innings today, except it took Medlen 116 pitches — 20 more than Fife — to get through them. That’s the good news for the Dodgers righty, who put up the longest outing of his young career. The bad news is that two of the 86 pitches he delivered, each in the fifth inning, ended up over the fence. That includes one to Medlen himself, the first of his career, and that sadly provided the margin in a 2-1 Atlanta win.

The problem, really, is that no one other than Yasiel Puig is doing much on offense. Andre Ethier has been decent enough covering in center, but he’s down to .229/.316/.348 after another oh-fer. Even Scott Van Slyke isn’t contributing anything when he isn’t hitting homers — his OBP is now at .300 — and don’t get me started on the continued existence of Luis Cruz. Hanley Ramirez drove in the only run pinch-hitting for Ethier, but Clayton Kershaw — of all people! — came in to run for him, which doesn’t really give me a lot of confidence in Don Mattingly‘s assertion that Ramirez is starting tomorrow. (Skip Schumaker did at least have three hits, all singles.)

Speaking of Mattingly, we once again ran into some bunting trouble down one in the ninth against Craig Kimbrel. Schumaker reached on a single, but then Tim Federowicz was asked to lay down the bunt, despite having Cruz and Mark Ellis (on an 0-16 skid) behind him. Federowicz failed the first time, failed the second time, and nearly failed a third time on a ball in the dirt; with the at-bat taken away from him, he was blown away by Kimbrel. Nevermind that Federowicz isn’t exactly the greatest hitter on the planet himself, what you’ve done is taken one of your three precious outs and said, “here, take one.”

To Mattingly’s credit, he did replace Cruz after Federowicz whiffed, but brought in Ramon Hernandez rather than Juan Uribe, sacrificing both some small amounts of OBP and speed. (The fact that we’re talking about Juan Uribe here is not lost on me.) Hernandez grounded out, Ellis struck out (make that 0-17) and Puig was left standing on deck, depriving Dodger Stadium — and the entire baseball world, really — of what would have been just a fantastic showdown.

As for everyone’s favorite superstar, Puig didn’t hit another homer, but he did contribute two hits. Let it never be said that the man is boring, because we saw the highs and lows of his game tonight.

In the fifth inning, Fife allowed an infield single to Andrelton Simmons after the Medlen homer. Jason Heyward singled, and when Simmons attempted to go to third… oh good lord, that is just not right. (Via SBN)

That is just… everything. It should replace the Mona Lisa. The best part is, Cruz didn’t even have to move his glove. The throw was right here, dead on, right on a line.

But in the eighth inning, we saw the … shall we say, “less refined” side of Puig. He topped an infield grounder to short, and had it easily beat out thanks to his outstanding speed. Unfortunately, he didn’t just do the easy thing and continue running, instead opting for this ugly mess:

Puig was seen clenching his right fist while in right field in the top of the ninth, and let’s all pray to whatever deity you support that this is nothing, because I am not sure this fanbase can handle it being something.

Also, Yasiel: NEVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN. Nunca vuelvas a hacer eso! You stay away from Nick Punto no matter what you do.

******

Of note in Albuquerque tonight, Dee Gordon played second base for the first time as a professional. It’s unclear if that’s a long-term move or not, though Ken Gurnick noted earlier today that the team is concerned about infield depth since Mark Ellis & Hanley Ramirez are both aching. Gurnick also said that for the first time, the club is “considering getting Gordon some outfield time,” which is mildly interesting to think about but probably not all that relevant. As I’ve long said, if Gordon can’t hit, then it doesn’t matter where he plays, and the last thing this organization needs is more outfielders right now anyway.

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.

2012 Dodgers in Review #34: SP Stephen Fife

I can’t stand to think about the winter meetings for one second longer, and anyway, everyone’s traveling home from Nashville right now anyway. Let’s get another season in review piece out of the way.

2.70 ERA 4.14 FIP 26.2 IP 6.75 K/9 4.05 BB/9 0.2 fWAR A-

2012 in brief: Managed to survive five starts that rarely quite looked as good as the end result seemed to indicate.

2013 status: Hope you like Albuquerque, Stephen. If he’s starting for the Dodgers next year, things have gone terribly wrong.

******

Near the end of April, pal Chris Jackson stepped in here to provide an early report about the first few weeks of the Triple-A season. Here’s what he said about Stephen Fife:

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.

So to see that Fife went from that early report in the minors to an A- in the bigs, well, that’s not bad at all, is it? By June, Fife had turned around his season enough to warrant being recalled over John Ely when Chad Billingsley made his initial trip to the disabled list. Despite being unfortunate enough to have to face Roy Halladay in his debut, Fife performed well, tossing six innings of one-run ball at the Phillies, despite striking out merely a single batter.

He was sent back down the next day to make room for Javy Guerra‘s return, but he was back in less than two weeks when the Dodgers suddenly needed to fill Nathan Eovaldi‘s turn after he was traded to Miami. His second start was nearly identical, with 6.1 more innings allowing only one run, yet striking out only two. In 12.1 innings, Fife’s ERA was 1.46, but his FIP was something like 124.98. (Probably.) He made a third start in Shane Victorino‘s debut on August 1, and that was the last we saw of him for six weeks as Joe Blanton and then Josh Beckett arrived to reinforce the rotation.

Once the Triple-A season ended, Fife returned to the big club, but his expected role as “emergency depth” changed quickly when he was forced into service on September 16 in a big game against St. Louis when Clayton Kershaw‘s hip acted up. Remember, at the time, overtaking the Cardinals was the only path to the playoffs:

Yet with all that, the Dodgers can still come out of this weekend with control of a playoff spot if Fife and friends can take one more from the Cardinals. (Yes, there’s an argument to be made for John Ely instead, but it’s really not a big enough difference to care that much.) For me, this is win/win. If Fife pitches well and the Dodgers win, then they’ve taken three of four and head into tomorrow’s off-day with momentum. If he gets lit up, as we’re all sure he will soon enough? Then we can hopefully stop hearing things like “herp derp 2.16 ERA”.

Fife actually responded with an excellent outing, striking out nine Cards over five innings, though the Dodgers lost in a game that went 12. Fife made one more start in Cincinnati a week later, and he was left with this season line:

26.2 innings. 20/12 K/BB. 8 earned runs. 2.70 ERA. 4.14 FIP.

That’s after a Triple-A season in which he put up a 4.27 FIP, and I think I know which of his MLB ERA/FIP numbers I put more stock in going forward. Still, Fife didn’t allow more than three earned runs in any of his starts, and he showed that as a depth option, he’s a decent guy to have around. I don’t know that that shouts anything more than “fifth starter”, but even still, the world needs those guys too. That said, with a stuffed Dodger rotation still looking to add more arms, it’s going to take a lot of injuries to see Fife again next year.

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Next up! I’m going to miss you, Rubby de la Rosa!