Los Angeles Dodgers: 10 Prospects Who Could Surprise in Spring Training
During this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers made only minor improvements. The cause of the inactivity on the free-agent market can be traced back to the unsettled ownership situation. As Frank McCourt attempts to sell the team, GM Ned Colletti will attempt to build a competitive team with the minor assets that he has been given.
During 2011, the Dodgers finished with 82 wins. Despite finishing third in the National League West, they managed to earn some major achievements and many of their players, such as Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, emerged as some the game's top young players.
Heading into 2012, their team will look very similar to the team they had in 2011. With another year of development, the team will look to improve on their win total and will hopefully have their ownership situation resolved by mid-July. This would allow them to trade for some reinforcements should they still be within contention.
Until that time however, the Dodgers will have to look within the organization for most improvements. Because of this, much of the attention this spring will be on the many prospects who will get a chance to show their skills during spring training.
Listed here are some of the prospects who could surprise this spring training. Good performances could earn any of these players a shot on the Dodgers' major-league roster or even on the team's shortlist of potential call-ups.
At the age of 23, Gorman Erickson has been fairly impressive throughout his minor-league career. His 2011 season with both High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga, turned out to be his best season yet.
In 368 combined at-bats, Erickson was able to put up a .293/.379/.486 line with 13 home runs and 66 runs batted in. Most of these categories are very impressive for a player at the catching position.
As it stands, the Dodgers look to head into Opening Day with the combination of A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor. This does not mean that Erickson will not get an opportunity to earn a roster spot. He will enter spring training as a non-roster invitee which shows that the Dodgers are at least interested in the skills that he brings to the table. Should an injury or trade occur, Erickson could be in line to earn a roster spot, especially if he performs well during spring training.
A new addition to the Dodgers this year will be right-hander Shane Lindsay. At the age of 27, Lindsay had spent most of his minor-league career with the Colorado Rockies. He would also spend time with the Cleveland Indians before joining the Chicago White Sox in 2011. There, he spent the entire 2011 season in the minor leagues, splitting time between the Double-A Birmingham Barons and the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. The entire season turned out to be a success, with Lindsay ending the season with a 2.18 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 70.1 innings pitched in relief.
The 2012 season could very well be the season that Lindsay earns himself a spot on a 25-man roster. Should he continue to impress during spring training, he could very well find himself pitching for the Dodgers at the major-league level. If he were to make the roster, Lindsay and his mid-to-high 90s fastball could potentially become a solid middle reliever for the Dodgers.
In July of 2011, the Dodgers parted with prospect Trayvon Robinson in a three-team deal. In return, they received 24-year-old catcher Tim Federowicz as part of a package of prospects.
Prior to the 2011 season, Federowicz had his fair share of ups and down with the Boston Red Sox organization. In 2011 however, Federowicz emerged as a very good prospect which prompted the Dodgers to pursue him in the deal.
With the Red Sox, Federowicz spent 2011 with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, but once acquired by the Dodgers, was promoted to the Triple-A level where he continued to thrive. In total, Federowicz batted .287/.357/.450 with 14 home runs and 69 RBI.
Heading into spring training, it is likely that A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor will receive most of the playing time. If he can produce at a high enough rate however, Federowicz could turn some heads and could find himself on the fast track to the major leagues. He will have plenty of competition though, as the Dodgers will seemingly have six catchers on the early spring training roster.
At the age of 29, one has to wonder when Jeff Baisley will get a realistic shot at making a major-league roster. He was given a limited opportunity back in 2008, but nothing truly came of it. The Dodgers will give him an opportunity to earn a contract this spring following a very good season with the Los Angeles Angels' Triple-A team.
In 538 at-bats with the Salt Lake Bees, Baisley smashed 20 home runs and drove in 100 RBI while hitting for a line of .303/.355/.483. While the favorable hitting conditions of the Bees' home stadium may have helped Baisley, it is reasonable to envision Baisley earning at least a bench spot with the Dodgers in 2012. All of this will of course depend on his ability to perform during spring training.
One of the players the Dodgers acquired in the trade that sent Trayvon Robinson to the Red Sox, was right-handed starter Stephen Fife. The third-round draft pick has spent his minor-league career making adjustments and working his way up the minor-league rankings. In 2010, Fife struggled mightily with the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate, but made the proper adjustments and became a much better pitcher in 2011. At season's end, Fife would have a 3.74 ERA with a record of 11-4.
Fife will head into spring training on the Dodgers' 40-man roster and will look to make a big impression on the organization. His struggles in the Arizona Fall League will allow him to make more adjustments and could prepare him to at least compete for a position as a long-relief pitcher. If he does not earn himself a spot on the major-league roster, Fife will likely end up with the Triple-A Isotopes.
Ivan De Jesus
Despite struggling in his stint with the Dodgers in April and May of 2011, Ivan De Jesus is a player who could surprise some during this year's spring training.
In 2011, De Jesus put together a very good season and finished the year with a .310/.389/.432 line. While he is not known for his power, De Jesus also hit eight home runs and drove in a total of 59 RBI in his second full season with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate.
During his 2011 season, De Jesus continued to develop as illustrated by his high on-base percentage. Should he show that he can hit for average and continues to get on base throughout the entirety of spring training, De Jesus could find himself on the Dodgers' radar as a replacement player or even as an extra piece off the bench.
During spring training, 21-year-old Nathan Eovaldi will attempt to continue the same success that he showed with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts in 2011. In 19 starts with the Lookouts, Eovaldi was able to earn six wins while also posting a low 2.62 ERA. These numbers showed great improvement over his 2010 season, in which he split time with the Dodgers' Rookie and High-A teams. During that year, he posted a 4.30 ERA in 18 starts.
After the success he had at the Double-A level, Eovaldi was given some at the major-league level in August and September of 2011. During that time he managed to put up decent numbers, posting a 3.63 ERA and earning a win in 34.2 innings pitched.
Following his strong showing at the major-league level and Double-A level, one has to wonder if Eovaldi can make some more adjustments and quickly adapt to tougher competition once again. If he does, Eovaldi could very well earn himself a spot on the Dodgers' starting rotation at some point in the 2012 season. If he has a strong spring, he could very well make the starting rotation right out of spring training. Unfortunately for Eovaldi, he will have to out-pitch veterans Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano for such a position.
By trading veteran Rafael Furcal to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers were able to reel in prospect Alex Castellanos. While Castellanos managed to show a big weakness in his strikeout-to-walk ratio, he also managed to show his ability to hit for power and get on base.
During his time at the Double-A level with both the Cardinals and the Dodgers, Castellanos was able to hit 23 home runs, drive in 85 RBI and hit for a .320/.386/.573 line. At the same time however, Castellanos struck out 118 times while walking only 39 times.
Heading into spring, Castellanos will look to improve on his strikeout-to-walk ratio while maintaining his ability to hit for power and average. Many do not believe that Castellanos can be successful with such a high strikeout-to-walk ratio, but I would beg to differ.
In his first year in the majors, rookie-of-the-year runner-up Mark Trumbo saw plenty of success in the majors with 120 strikeouts and only 25 walks.
His ability to make it to the majors may be linked more with his competition than with his ability to take more walks. As it stands, Castellanos looks to be behind guys like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Juan Rivera, Jerry Sands and Tony Gwynn.
One of the Dodgers' top minor-league players has to be outfielder Alfredo Silverio. In his six seasons in the Dodgers' minor-league system, the 24-year-old Silverio has shown that he has all five tools at an average level. In 2011, Silverio was no different and even managed to make the 2011 Futures game.
While playing 132 games with the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate, Silverio managed to hit 16 home runs while driving in 85 RBI. In addition, he managed to steal 11 bases and hit for a line of .306/.340/.542. Although many project Silverio to become a right fielder, he managed to also play all three outfield positions in 2011.
Heading into spring training, Silverio will have a lot of competition. He is just one of nine outfielders on the 40-man roster with Cory Sullivan also competing as a non-roster invitee. If the projections prove correct and Silverio is indeed a right fielder, he will have to compete with the likes of Andre Ethier for a staring position, which will more than likely cause him to end up starting at the Triple-A level in 2012. It is very possible that Silverio could see a mid-season call-up at some point during the 2012 season, however.
Scott Van Slyke
After having one of the biggest seasons of his seven-year minor-league career, 24-year-old Scott Van Slyke managed to turn many heads within the Dodgers organization and within the Southern League.
In 130 games with the Chattanooga Isotopes, Van Slyke was able to hit for a league-best .348 average. He did not stop there, either. Van Slyke also managed to finish near the top of the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. In addition, he also led his team in home runs, RBI, doubles and walks.
During the 2010 season, Van Slyke played the majority of his games in right field and the remaining games in left. This changed, however, in 2011 where he played the majority of his games at first base with most of the remaining games being played in left field.
With current first baseman James Loney entering his final season before he can become a free agent, one has to wonder if the Dodgers will give Van Slyke a real opportunity to earn a job at that position.
As he enters spring training, Van Slyke will look to gain a spot on the Dodgers bench. If not granted a spot as a reserve, it is likely that Van Slyke will get a chance to play every day at the Triple-A level. Either way, expect to see Van Slyke called up at some point during the 2012 season.