Saturday, January 9, 2010

TEAM #17 – Los Angeles Dodgers

In 2009 Withrow reminded everyone why he was a first round pick

Barely edging out their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers come in at #17 on our list. The Dodgers used to annually be among the top teams in baseball in these rankings, but a series of poor trades and key injuries have left them in the second half for two years running now. Things aren’t all bleak though, as the Dodgers still identify and develop live arms as well as anyone, and this list is no exception, as pitchers make up eight of the first twelve slots. Another weakness of the system lies in the lack of ready or near ready players, as only five of the Top 22 players have played above A-ball, and only Scott Elbert, Xavier Paul and Ivan DeJesus have any real chance of making a difference in Los Angeles at any point this year. There is however a fair number of high ceiling prospects at the lower levels of the system, and we expect a higher ranking come 2010.

Grade A-

1) Chris Withrow ,RHP (2009 Performance Scores – Dominance 70; Stamina 62; HRrate 49; Control 34)

A first round pick in 2007, Withrow suffered through some minor injuries in 2008, which made this past season his debut for all practical purposes. Still relatively raw, Withrow has good projectabilty, sound mechanics and great ‘stuff’. His main pitch is a mid-90s fastball that he can dial up even higher when called for. To complement the fastball, he has a Major League caliber Curve. On the downside, his Change is still very much a work in process and he has a tendency to get wild. Withrow possesses an excellent approach to thinking through the game. We can forsee another 1-2 MPH being added to his fastball capability, but it will likely get negated by him dialing it back a notch to gain increased command. He is an average Change away from having front of the rotation potential. Already in AA, as a 20yo in his first season, he is likely to return their for the first half, before moving up to AAA. Expect to find him in a Dodger uniform sometime in 2011.

2) Dee Gordon, SS (2009– Power 32; First Base Rate 72; Discipline 69; Speed 80)

If you have been reading this space regularly, then you can likely guess that we aren’t the hugest supporters of Gordon. His extremely ‘toolsy’ approach though, has at least been backed by some on field performance though, hence the #2 ranking here. Blazing speed is his number one tool, as he swiped 73 bases in 2009. He compliments the speed with an aggressive approach at the plate, that not only produces solid contact, but still allows him to take a fair amount of walks. If there is a negative, it is that Gordon isn’t very big, and while some are projecting average power, we just don’t see it—as he played in the MWL as a 21yo, yet produced only 3 HRs and 17 doubles in nearly 600 PAs. Double digits in HRs for him will be a stretch. Expect Gordon to refine some of his skills over the next two seasons, before putting on a Dodger uniform some time in 2010. The upside is enormous, but if we were betting, .285/.345/.405 seems like a reasonable line for him through most of his career, and for us, that just doesn’t warrant ranking him any higher.

Grade B+

3) Scott Elbert, LHP (2009 – Dominance 79; Stamina 64; HRrate 48; Control 41)

At one time, Elbert looked to be on his way to stardom as a front of the rotation Major League starter. Then in 2007 he had shoulder surgery, it has taken until the later part of 2009 for him to come all the way back. Finally healthy, but turning 25yo this season, his prospect light has dimmed a bit. Yes Elbert still is able to fire that fastball in the low-90s, and can even turn it a notch higher if necessary. And yes, he still has 3 average or better pitches that would allow him to start. But with a history of injury problems, a walk rate north of 4 per 9IP, and right handed batters hitting .264 against him one has to wonder if he isn’t going to end up as a left-handed set-up guy. The ceiling is that of a #2/#3 Big League starter and the certainty quotient is very high given that he should see considerable time in Los Angeles this season. There just isn’t a lot of confidence here that he reaches his full potential.

4) Ethan Martin, RHP (2009 – Dominance 69; Stamina 56; HRrate 49; Control 24)

When evaluating Martin, one must remember that he is extremely raw, as more teams considered him as a third basemen than they did as a pitcher coming out of high school. Martin has a strong arm that allows him to throw a mid-90s fastball. With its late break, this is already a plus pitch. The problems lie with his secondary offerings that, while showing potential, are significant works in process. Until he is able to control the secondary offerings, Martin will continue to struggle. Expect Martin to begin 2010 at Hi-A, where he could remain the entire season. His ceiling is extremely high, and the Dodgers will take their time with him.

5) Aaron Miller, LHP (2009 – Dominance 77; Stamina 64; HRrate 48; Control 57)

One thing that we have learned over the years is to never question the Dodger organization on identifying and developing pitchers. Entering the 2009 draft, we had Miller as a late-second/early-third round pick. The Dodgers instead grabbed him in the supplemental first round, and Miller was lights out in his MWL debut. Credit has to go to the Dodger organization, as Miller walked 5 batter per 9IP with Baylor this Spring, but cut that down to just over 3 batter per 9IP in his MWL debut. Miller’s best pitch is a first rate slider, but his low-90s fastball is also an above average offering. Where/how far Miller eventually goes, will depend upon the development of his, currently, below average change. Miller is a potential solid mid-rotation starter. Look for him to begin 2010 at Hi-A, with the potential to move rapidly this season. He has a shot at being in Los Angeles in 2011.

6) Ivan DeJesus, SS

DeJesus was hoping to join the Dodgers at some point in 2009, and be their opening day SS to begin 2010. That was before a broken leg in Spring Training effectively put an end to his 2009 season. Consider DeJesus to be a player that is extremely similar to Gordon, with more consistency and less flash. His plate discipline is as good as just about anybody’s in the game. While his speed is only average for a SS, his ability to make contact and reach base should lead to many high OBP seasons. His glove is plenty solid enough to be an everyday Major League SS. Like Gordon, power is his biggest weakness, but he may produce slightly more power than Gordon. The difference between the first and sixth players in the Dodger organization is as small as in any organization. Given that DeJesus will open 2010 in AAA, 2 levels higher and less than a year older than Gordon, he would have likely appeared in front of him on this list—if it weren’t for the injury. If he proves healthy in 2010, he will likely join the Big League club sometime during the season. After that it’s a toss-up to determine the Dodger’s future SS.

7) Josh Lindbloom, RP (2009 – Dominance 62; Stamina 43; HRrate 48; Control 66)

2009 was a mixed bag for Lindbloom, whom the Dodgers selected in the second round in 2008. The 22yo began the year in AA where he flashed moments of brilliance, but generally didn’t produce results to match his stuff, finishing with the #14 Performance Score. Then after a July promotion to AAA, he was nearly untouchable, and once again posted a Top 15 score. Lindbloom possesses a mid-90s fastball and solid curve. His Change is a work in process, but shows promise. At 6’5”, 240lbs, there is every reason to believe that if the Dodgers wanted, they could develop Lindbloom into a mid-rotation workhorse. But it looks as though the envision him as a back of the bullpen stud. He will have a shot to earn a roster spot this Spring. Even if he does return to AAA, expect to see him in the Dodger pen by mid-season. There is affair amount of upside here, and the certainty factor is quite high…but the upside takes a knock if, as expected, he ends up in the bullpen.

Grade B

8) Andrew Lambo, LF (2009– Power 61; First Base Rate 61; Discipline 53; Speed 43)

Lambo posted a breakout season in 2008 as a 20yo in full season A-ball. The Dodgers thought enough of his performance to skip him over Hi-A, sending him to the Southern League (SOL) in 2009, where he posted a Top 20 Performance score. Lambo has a first rate bat. He makes solid contact, and shows all the signs of possessing plus power skills. While he strikes out fairly often, given his short wing length, his 2009 rate was only 18%. The downside is his speed/defense combination that will limit Lambo to 1B or LF. At any other position, this would be an everyday Major League bat. While he still has the upside to become that in LF, there is a strong chance that he ends up only as part-time/platoon player. After a solid performance in the AZFL, expect the Dodgers to send Lambo to AAA as a 22yo, with the chance that he sees a September call-up.

9) Garrett Gould, RHP -

We had Gould at #45 entering draft day and would not have been surprised to have seen him go in the first round. There is not a lot of difference in talent level between him and Matt Hobgood, whom the Orioles took at #5. Instead, the Dodgers were able to get Gould at #65 and signed him for $900,000. He has a solid frame, and a fastball that is a low-90s offering. It could be a mid-90s offering by the time he is done. More impressive though is his curve, that was considered one of the best in this year’s draft. On the downside, Gould, like many prep pitchers hasn’t had to use his change-up much, so it isn’t a very developed pitch. Gould has considerable upside. Our expectation is that they will keep him back in extended Spring Training and then possibly moving him to the MWL once the weather warms up.

10) Trayvon Robinson, CF (2009– Power 63; First Base Rate 65; Discipline 38; Speed 79)

There is a big drop off between #8 and #9 on the Dodger list, as Robinson, finally put a complete season together in 2009, but still is a player with more questions than answers. Robinson’s speed is his best attribute. He shows plus contact skills, and potentially average or slightly above power. Defensively he is an above average CF. At 22yo, he will likely return to AA to open the season, so he is slightly precocious. The downside is that his improved power in 2009 came at the expense of strike zone management, as Robinson whiffed in 24% of his plate appearances. At 5’10”, we don’t expect much more in the way of power development from Robinson—fortunately he has plenty for CF. His upside is that of an everyday Major League CF, but he will have to improve his plate discipline if he is to reach it.

11) Nate Eovaldi, RHP (2009 – Dominance 34; Stamina 56; HRrate 49; Control 43)

Eovaldi possesses a live arm and an attacking approach on the mound, centered around a plus fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s. In 2009, he held his own as a 19yo in the MWL, finishing the year with one of the League’s Top 20 Performance Scores. His ceiling is extremely high…however—there is a tremendous amount of work left to be done to move him from thrower to pitcher. His curveball remains a below average pitch and his change is even further away. He has difficulty harnessing his power, walking nearly 4 batters per 9IP, and he doesn’t miss nearly as many bats as one would expect for someone with his raw ‘stuff’. The Dodgers are likely to start him at Hi-A in 2010, where he will have to continue to develop his secondary offerings. His success with this will depend whether he remains a potential front of the rotation threat or purely bullpen material.

12) Allen Webster, RHP (2009 – Dominance 71; Stamina 68; HRrate 50; Control 65)

Consider Webster to be Nate Eovaldi—only a year behind him. Like Eovaldi, Webster attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball. Like Eovaldi, his upside is considerable. Like Eovaldi, his Curve and Change remain under developed pitches that will need much improvement. And like Eovaldi, Webster experiences occasional bouts of wildness. They are separated in age by a mere 3 days, but Webster had significantly more success (#3 Performance Score in the AZL), albeit against much easier competition, in 2009. Eovaldi gets the nod for us, for holding his own against a higher level of competition, but it is truly a flip of a coin between these two. Webster will start the 2010 season in full season A-ball. If he can evolve his secondary offerings, he could move rapidly in 2010.

13) Brian Cavazos-Galvez, OF (2009– Power 80; First Base Rate 24; Discipline 73; Speed 72)

One of the bigger surprise performers from the 2009 draft, Cavazos-Galvez was a 4th year college player that wasn’t expected to go in the first ten rounds of the draft, and didn’t—going to the Dodgers in round 12 and signing without a bonus. He then went out and obliterated Pioneer League pitching to the tune of .322/.353/.618, posting the #5 Performance score along the way. Cavazos-Galvez has above average power and an aggressive approach at the plate that is remarkably consistent. He takes few pitches, which leads to very few walks, but he makes enough contact so that he only fanned 14% of the time in his debut. He has average or above speed for a corner OF, and a cannon of an arm. The downside is that the Pioneer League was of little challenge to him as a 22yo, and he will play most of 2010 at age 23yo. Unless the Dodgers challenge him with a Hi-A assignment, his performance will once again have limited meaning. While not possessing an exceptionally high upside, Cavazos-Galvez is an intriguing prospect that we will be watching closely in 2010.

14) Kenley Jansen, RP -

A converted catcher, Jansen showed enough, with a mid-90s fastball that he can dial up a couple of notches beyond that, to the Dodgers for them to actually move him to a pitching role in 2009, getting in 17 appearances between the CAL and AZFL. There is little else at this point, and he is extremely raw, but in 16 innings of work, he fanned 28. The downside is that he often times has no idea where the pitch will end up. Very much thrower rather than pitcher at this point, but the upside is intriguing. Look for him to start 2010 in AA.

15) Kyle Russell, RF (2009– Power 80; First Base Rate 46; Discipline 21; Speed 80)

As a general trend, the Dodgers are not aggressive enough with their college draft picks and Russell is just another example, as he played most of 2009 as a 23yo in the MWL. With plus power potential, and the ability to swipe a base or two, there are some skills to work with here, and the upside is that of a solid average Major League corner OF. But there will have to be considerable changes to his plate approach if he is going to reach that ceiling, as Russell fanned in more than 32% of his plate appearances—against significantly younger competition. If the Dodgers really want to see what they have in Russell, they will skip him over Hi-A, sending him to AA for the 2010 season. Until we see what he can do against age appropriate competition, the certainty factor remains low.

16) Pedro Baez, 3B (2009– Power 60; First Base Rate 44; Discipline 36; Speed 56)

Baez has flirted with becoming a significant prospect ever since the Dodgers signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. He is a 21yo with plus power potential, and a true ability to play third base at the Major League level. That is currently a rare combination around the Minor Leagues. Unfortunately, Baez has made little progress in his strike zone management issues during his three seasons and therefore remains just on the ‘fringe’. A capable defensive player, the Dodgers will likely move Baez up to AA in 2010. We’d be tempted to begin the season repeating Hi-A, and work on his strike zone issues.

Grade B-

17) Jonathan Garcia, OF (2009– Power 76; First Base Rate 33; Discipline 48; Speed 50)

A personal favorite, because of his har-nosed approach to the game, Garcia was a 17yo, that posted an .862 OPS in the AZL. We had him rated as a 6th round pick entering draft day, and the Dodgers got a bargain when they took him in the 9th round. He is athletically gifted, with significant raw tools. His overall strength—including a cannon of an arm and his power were impressive in 2009, as he doubled or homered in 14% of his ABs. With an aggressive approach at the plate, he will have to show more patience at the plate to have continued success as he moves up. His ceiling is among the highest in the system, and we could see him as an everyday RF in a few years. Look for the Dodgers to keep him in extended Spring Training before ultimately deciding his assignment, but given his age, it is likely to be at Ogden.

18) Jerry Sands, RF (2009– Power 80; First Base Rate 53; Discipline 41; Speed 32)

Another in the long list of Dodger conservatism with college players, Sands split time in 2009 between the PIO and MWL as a 21yo. Sands possesses plus power, but little else in the way of skills. He fanned 20% of the time in 2009—against inferior competition. Sands isn’t a high-upside guy, likely a 4th OF/platoon type player, but the power skill is strong enough to bear watching. We’d love to see the Dodgers challenge him with a Hi-A assignment to begin the season, but we aren’t holding our breath.

19) Xavier Paul, OF (2009– Power 46; First Base Rate 46; Discipline 52; Speed 61)

A series of injuries limited the diminutive outfielder’s production in 2009, but he will begin 2010 competing for a roster spot with the Big League club. We don’t see much of an upside beyond that of a reserve OF, but with average tools across the board, he could have a reasonable career in that role.

20) Blake Smith, RF (2009– Power 42; First Base Rate 37; Discipline 22; Speed 29)

An interesting prospect for us, as we saw him more like a 3rd round pick—as a pitcher. Nonetheless, the Dodgers believed that he can become a power hitting RF, and took him in the second round. His PIO debut showed little offensively from Smith, but we are willing to give him a mulligan as he adjusts to a full time offensive role. Expect the Dodgers to keep him back in extended Spring Training before deciding on his 2010 assignment—quite possibly back in the PIO.

21) Angelo Songco, LF (2009– Power 65; First Base Rate 23; Discipline 42; Speed 32)

Another intriguing prospect for us, as Songco had a phenomenal junior season at Loyola-Marymount, that ended with him posting the #17 Performance score among draft eligible collegians, and a second round grade by us entering draft day. The Dodgers tabbed him in the 4th round, signed him quickly and, in a rare move by the organization, challenged him with a full season A-ball assignment—where he struggled mightily. They let him finish the season in the Pioneer League, where the 20yo posted the #17 Performance Score in the League. Songco gets down-graded for his aggressive, unorthodox, hitting approach. However, he uses it to generate plus power. A mistake-hitter, Songco will need to significantly improve his plate discipline. He has the upside of a solid hitting, everyday, Major League LF. Expect the Dodgers to return him to full-season A-ball to begin the 2010 season.

Grade C+ Prospects –

22) Scott Van Slyke, OF; 23) Jaime Ortiz, 1B; 24) John Ely, RHP; 25) Lucas May, C; 26) Tony Delmonico, C; 27) Austin Gallagher, 1B; 28) Bladimir Franco, 3B; 29) Steven Caseres, 1B; 30) Carlos Frias, RHP; 31) Jon Link, RHP; 32) Brett Wallach, RHP; 33) Tony Abreu, 2B.

Grade C Prospects

James Adkins; Geison Aguasviva; Steven Ames; Travis Chick; Danny Danielson; Gorman Erickson; Gustavo Gomez; Javy Guerra; Ching-lung Hu; Russell Mitchell; Jaime Pedroza; Jon Michael Redding; Daigoro Rondon; Brian Ruggiano; Travis Schlicting; Alfredo Silverio; Andy Suiter; Josh Wall; Greg Wilborn; Jeremy Wise.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.

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