Welcome to the debut edition of my third weekly Dodger column, “Dodgers Down on the Farm.” Once a week, I will profile one high-level, ultra-elite prospect, along with one high-upside talent from lower down on the farm.
I will also try to balance the reports with one pitcher and one position player per week.
As a prospect makes more noise, he will be profiled more frequently; however, we will focus on getting to know as many of the prospects as we can before we begin duplicating entries.
If a prospect is making so much noise that he is on the verge of getting called up, well, that’s a special case.
Periodically, I will attempt to do a comprehensive statistical round-up.
The Dodger farm system has cycled through amazing periods of proficiency—witness four consecutive Rookie of the Year awards from 1979-’82, and five more in a row from 1992-’96—and more recent times (in the late ‘90s) when the minor league system was barren.
In all, not only did the then-Brooklyn Dodgers have the first NL Rookie of the Year in 1947, Jackie Robinson, but the franchise’s total of 14 ROY winners is easily the standard by which all other clubs are judged.
At the moment, the system has been thinned out by the presence in the majors of the youngsters who are already the core of the team: Billingsley, Broxton, Ethier, Kemp, Kershaw, Loney, Martin, McDonald, and Troncoso.
Additionally, the Dodgers traded away high-level prospects in the acquisitions of Casey Blake, Greg Maddux, and Manny Ramirez. There is an impressive collection of pitching prospects still on the farm, but a dearth of premium position players.
So on to the profiles for today: pitcher Josh Lindblom, and right fielder Kyle Russell.
Lindblom, 21, is a big (6’5”, 240 pounds) righthander currently toiling at AAA Albuquerque, N.M. He was plucked in the second round of the amateur draft, No. 61 overall, in 2008 out of Purdue University.
He is expected to be a September call-up and assigned to the Dodger bullpen, though the club ultimately wants him to be a starter. He was actually a closer at Purdue, but with his frame and array of pitches, the Dodgers project him as a starter at the back end of the rotation as soon as 2011.
Lindblom has a plus fastball, heralded by Baseball America as the Best Fastball in the Dodger system, touching 95 mph with excellent late movement. His sneaky heater hops to the plate and appears to be faster than it actually is.
He also features a solid (but inconsistent) curve, a standard change-up that is still developing and a surprisingly effective splitter that acts like a change.
Joshua William Lindblom was born June 15, 1987, in Lafayette, Ind. He was first drafted by the Houston Astros in 2005 after becoming the top-rated prep prospect in the state of Indiana at Harrison High School.
He instead went to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, but transferred back to his home state to play for Purdue in 2007. The Boilermakers moved him to the ‘pen as their closer.
He was on the Golden Spikes watch list as a senior.
The Dodgers came calling in 2008, and he made an immediate impression upon the front office by dominating for Low-A Great Lakes in the Midwest League, finishing with no decisions but a 1.86 ERA in 29 innings, punching out 33 with just four walks.
He made one late season start for Jacksonville on the AA level, and was given an invitation to spring training with the Dodgers for 2009.
His performances at Vero Beach had fans and management abuzz, with speculation centering on the possibility of him beginning the regular season in the Dodger bullpen. However, he was farmed out to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the AA Southern League, L.A.’s new Double A affiliate.
Though his numbers were not overwhelming—14 appearances, 11 starts, and a 3-5 record, with a 4.71 ERA—he was promoted to the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes with an eye on being in Los Angeles by September.
If the move to the bigs does occur, he will almost certainly return to the bullpen for a time, as Ned Colletti attempts to mask the injury losses of Jonathan Broxton and Ronald Belisario.
Josh Lindblom 2009 Statistics
Minor League Totals
Russell, 23, is generally regarded as one of the better position players in the Dodger system.
He was a star at Tomball High School (TX), graduating in 2005 after hitting .470 as a senior, with 15 homers and 52 RBI. He was named second team All-America by Baseball America.
He played for the U.S. in the 2004 World Junior Championships, finishing third on the team in BA (.368, behind only Brandon Snyder and Justin Upton) and pacing the team with eight RBI.
He went on to become a star at the renowned Texas Longhorn baseball program. As a sophomore, he led the country and set a school record for homers in a single season (28), while batting .336 with a .807 slugging percentage, and driving in 71 and scoring 68.
After a junior season that saw him take a step backwards by all major statistical standards, he was selected in the third round of last year’s amateur draft, No. 93 overall.
He performed well with the Rookie League Ogden Raptors in 2008 and was assigned to the low Class A Great Lakes Loon for 2009.
He is an above-average outfielder with a decent arm. He is one of the brightest power-hitting prospects (arguably the best) in the Dodger system.
With his long swing, Dodger brass were concerned about his strikeout rate, which he has promptly decreased from his rookie league season (31 percent) to 2009 (22 percent).
He currently leads the Midwest League in home runs (21) and RBI (68).
Though the Dodgers have a glut of major league veterans in the outfield already, and one premium prospect (Andrew Lambo) who ranks ahead of him as an outfielder, Kyle Russell is a name to remember.
If nothing else, he could be a key piece to a trade for a major league starter like Roy Halladay, should the Dodgers decide to pursue an ace for the front of the rotation. Or, he could easily end up at Chavez Ravine someday.
Kyle Russell 2009 Statistics
2009 Batting Statistics
All current season statistics courtesy of baseballamerica.com