Los Angeles Dodgers July Minor League Update
So maybe it’s time to write off the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers season. It does not look like there is going to be a pretty ending to this campaign, so the best Dodger fans can do is look to the farm system and hope for production from the young guys.
Prospects like Dee Gordon, (pictured here) Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa and Javy Guerra have shown a lot of potential at the major league level, but the Dodgers still lack some of the major league ready depth they will need if they continue to wade through this ownership debacle.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the players who will be making their Chavez Ravine debuts before the end of the season and some of the players who are struggling to stay afloat at their respective levels.
An Update on Minor League Injuries: Thin Pitching Depth Gets Thinner
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The major league Dodgers have suffered through their rash of debilitating injuries.
With both Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla out for the season, Ted Lilly nursing a sore elbow and Jonathan Broxton struggling to return to game-ready form, numerous prospects have been rushed up to the big league club and tossed on to the mound.
Now, Rubby De La Rosa has been placed in a major league starting rotation perhaps a season too early. At the beginning of this season, Javy Guerra was barely becoming the Double-A closer and now he is being called upon as the Dodgers go-to guy in the ninth inning.
Finally, and most incredibly mind-blowing, Scott Elbert was considering retirement only months ago, never thinking that he would have a .217 batting average against as a valuable member of the Dodgers bullpen.
As for the minor leagues, there have been numerous injuries to pitchers throughout the organization.
Carlos Monasterios (pictured here) remains on the shelf, probably for the rest of the season. Fellow Triple-A starting pitcher lefty Alberto Bastardo, a 27-year old finesse pitcher, has been out for over a month and is not scheduled to return any time soon.
This has left the Albuquerque Isotope pitching staff thin, resting a lot on familiar faces like John Ely, Jon Link, Ramon Troncoso and Travis Schlichting. Left-hander David Pfeiffer, 26, has been promoted from Double-A Chattanooga to fill out the staff and provide depth.
At Double-A Chattanooga, the only two major injuries are the ones to closer Steven Ames, who at 23 was climbing his way through the system quick rapidly, and third baseman Pedro Baez, who truthfully was really starting to disappoint many believers who thought he would be the guy to take over the hot corner for the Dodgers come 2012 or 2013.
Baez has not played since May but was only batting .210 at the time. Ames began the year at High-A Rancho Cucamonga and excelled during his time, forcing the Dodgers to promote the 23-year-old flame thrower to Double-A after only two months.
He possessed a 1.65 ERA before going down with an injury in late June. Ames’ Rancho teammate Aaron Miller, a top 10 organizational prospect and a hard throwing left-hander, has also been out of commission since June, albeit earlier June, and the Dodgers wish to see this 24-year-old return healthy and quick, because at 24, his time to progress is decreasing.
Fresh Faces: Taking a Look at the New Players in the Organization
Santana is so new to the Dodgers, there is not even a picture of him in a Dodger uniform.
Although it is only July, some of the 2011 Amateur draft selections are already signed and getting their feet wet in the minors.
2011 second-round selection Alex Santana, son of major league shortstop Rafael Santana, is currently batting .286 with an impressive .500 slugging percentage. Not bad considering the 6'4" third baseman does not turn 18 years old until August.
Alex is struggling with his strikeouts, posting 20 strikeouts compared to only two walks, but there is no reason to worry for this potential slugger.
Alex’s teammate on the Arizona Rookie Dodgers is 38th-round selection Devin Shines, who is defying all odds by leading the bonus-baby stacked team in hitting. The 5'9" outfielder from Oklahoma St. University is tearing up the league, being amongst the leaders in all hitting categories.
Devin’s .419 on-base percentage and .615 slugging shows that this guy can produce offensively.
Other 2011 selections of note are third-round pick Pratt Maynard, a catcher out of North Carolina St. University, who just signed and debuted with the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League.
Also at Ogden are four very young and very talented outfielders, James Baldwin, Noel Cuevas, Joc Pederson and Scott Schebler. All except Schebler have yet to celebrate their 20th birthdays, so the fact they have combined for 10 home runs and 40 RBI in only the first couple weeks of the young season is something to hang your hat on.
Pederson, as a 19-year-old from the Bay Area, actually started the year with the Low-A Great Lakes Loons but struggled putting the ball in play and has found his groove, bombing a grand slam last night and recording seven RBI just this week.
The Dodgers have yet to sign first-round draft pick Chris Reed, from Stanford University who graduated from local Cleveland High School in the Los Angeles-area.
Reed is a big, strong left-hander who suddenly became Stanford's standout closer. Also in contract negotiations are other top picks such as right-handed pitchers Ryan O’Sullivan and Scott Barlow.
Top Pitchers Update: Heating Up for the Dog Days of Summer
Garrett Gould, at 9-3 with a 1.86 ERA, is patiently sitting at Low-A waiting for the call to move up to join High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Rancho’s pitching staff is holding their own in the offensive California league, but guys like Matt Magill, who at 7-2 with a 3.82 is the ace of the staff, would surely appreciate another horse on the mound.
Gould and Magill, two tall right-handers, have thoroughly impressed with their velocity and command. Gould’s strikeout numbers at up dramatically, averaging about one strikeout per inning, and his walks are down as well.
Also standing out is Double-A Chattanooga starting pitcher Nate Eovaldi and reliever Cole St. Clair.
They have been the two best pitchers in the organization not to get the call to the big leagues this season. Following Rubby De La Rosa and Javy Guerra’s promotion to Los Angeles, Eovaldi has taken control of the role of being the ace, posting a 2.21 ERA over the last six weeks and has 89 strikeouts compared to 28 walks.
St.Clair has an ERA under 1.00 and a WHIP of 0.70, leading the team and being a great stopper out of the bullpen.
Finally, for the Pioneer League Ogden Raptors, Raydel Sanchez has been absolutely dominant on the mound. The right-hander posts a 3-0 record in only four starts with a staggering 29 strikeouts already, compared a meager four walks.
Swinging Sticks of Dynamite: Top Offensive Producers Update
In Chattanooga, the Double-A affiliate of the Dodgers, left-fielder Alfredo Silverio (pictured here) was named Southern League player of the month for June.
Also, Silverio has been honored by being named to represent the Dodgers by playing for the International team in the MLB Futures Game during the MLB All-Star Weekend.
Silverio, 24 years old and originally from the Dominican Republic, is batting .316 with 10 home runs and 57 RBI. Silverio is amongst the league leaders in almost all offensive categories, including total bases and slugging percentage.
With Trayvon Robinson also batting .300 with 21 home runs and 56 RBI at Triple-A Albuquerque, Silverio has to continue his rampage if he wants to find himself in a competition for a roster spot in 2012 and a spot in the outfield along side Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier any time soon.
Also at Double-A now is Gorman Erickson, the 23-year-old switch-hitting catcher who was recently promoted. Erickson was batting .305 with High-A Rancho and has shown a lot of poise at the plate, which I am sure he hopes to continue at Chattanooga.
His 41 walks gives him an added boost to his outstanding on-base percentage which hovers around .400 for the whole season. His seven total home runs show promise of some power, but the Dodgers are sure glad to see his bat improving.
It was only months ago that Erickson was batting only around .200 at Great Lakes in 2010 and the Dodgers were wondering if he was going to be a bust. Now it wouldn’t be out of reach to see Erickson get a chance to show what he’s got in September or in spring training of 2012.
One final story, the saga of Jonathan Garcia. A tale that is entrancing in it of itself, but especially for player development coaches in the Dodgers organization.
Garcia, the 19-year-old Puerto Rican native has tremendous raw powe but try as he might, has not found the ability to put the ball in play consistently. At Low-A Great Lakes, his 16 home runs are second best in the league and his 140 total bases is good enough for the top five in the Midwest League.
However, Garcia possesses only a .245 average and around a .300 on-base percentage. His 79 strikeouts, compared to only 16 walks, is the main thing preventing the Dodgers from promoting him and planning his arrival to the big leagues in 2013, but Garcia has time and hopefully will figure it out.
Until then, we will just watch his power numbers ride high at Low-A and wait to see what he can do at tougher levels.
Turning the Page: 3 Guys Who Need to Figure It Out Quick
Our “Not So Hot List” consist of players who have struggled this season. No matter if they have been called up or sent down, they just have not been able to live up to potential this season.
Now at Double-A Chattanooga, Martin’s over 7.00 ERA for the season has been a set back for this top 10 organizational prospect. Aside from walking too many hitters, the 22-year-old Georgia native has yet to rekindle the fire that made him dominant in 2009.
Currently coming out of the bullpen at Double-A might give Ethan a chance to catch his breath and figure out a way to get hitters out.
The Great Lakes (Low-A) first baseman out of Louisiana State University has already drawn comparisons to current Dodgers first baseman James Loney.
Now, that is not meant as a complement to Dean’s defensive ability but rather as a knock on his lack of offensive production. Dean is currently floundering, batting .221 with little power.
The entire Loon offense has been lack luster so far this season, but watching Dean struggle is tough considering the demand for offense from his position.
After getting multiple cups of coffee (extended visits) with the big league club in Los Angeles, Travis (pictured here) is lost in the desert. Now with the Triple-A squad, his 9.26 ERA is a large step backwards for the hard throwing righty.
Travis just went through a horrendous stretch where he allowed 15 runs in only four innings but has gotten back on board since the calendar has turned to July.
The Dodgers could always use another reliable reliever, so between him and Jon Link, who has also seen his share of struggles this year, they could still be receiving good news soon.
Conclusion: Overall Organizational Depth Lacking, But Not Lost
I end now with a picture of Logan White, scouting director and director of the minor league aspect of the Dodgers for some years now.
White has been successful with many of his endeavors, such as with Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley among others.
However, with the chaos consuming the Dodgers organization, White is probably fighting for his job just like scores of other Dodgers employees.
The crop of Dodger youngsters is talented but not as deep as it needs to be to hold back the troubles that loom over the club for the next couple seasons. It would be great if the Dodgers could rely on the production of some young arms that were major league ready, but they are not yet.
It would be great if the Dodgers could find the offensive production and power they lack from a guy within their own farm system, but right now, there is no one in a position to take the reins.
Fortunately, the Dodgers' minor league system is not riddled and plagued with busts, and they have a solid core to improve upon. Now it's just about turning it into success on the diamond at Dodger Stadium.