Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dodger pitching prospects looking to bounce back

Many highly-ranked Dodger prospects had poor 2010 seasons. The 2011 season is a chance for them to either prove they're still legitimate, high-ceiling prospects or if they're going to be middling, mediocre players.

Nathan Eovaldi (my 2009 prospect rank: 8), Josh Lindblom (4), Ethan Martin (2) and Chris Withrow (3) all come to mind. It's just a coincidence that they're all hard-throwing right-handed pitchers, but they all had poor 2010 seasons.

Eovaldi had the "best" season of the bunch, posting a 4.30 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 9/9 H/9 and 1.95 K/BB ratio last year. He seems to be ticketed for the bullpen. One bright spot is he pitched against the White Sox on Monday and just went right through the hitters. Of course, this was in the ninth inning against minor leaguers and guys who likely won't make the team, so take it for what it's worth.

Eovaldi needs to be in the bullpen from now on. He has yet to develop a third pitch and his strikeout rate is low for a guy who throws in the mid-90s. If he focuses on being a power reliever, his stock could improve dramatically this season.

Lindblom is in a similar situation to Eovaldi, except for the fact many prognosticated that he'd end up being a reliever when the Dodgers drafted him in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft. He has a heavy low-to-mid-90s fastball and a potential out pitch with his slider. He pitched better out of the 'pen at Albuquerque last year and the Dodgers have finally come to grips with him being a reliever. That could be the best thing for his development.

Martin is one of the most athletic players in the system and looked promising after his 2009 debut. However, he fell flat on his face in 2010. He failed to throw strikes which led to his poor performance. If Martin has another bad season on the bump, the Dodgers could -- and should -- seriously consider moving him to third base. A lot of teams saw him as a power-hitting third baseman out of high school, but the Dodgers were intrigued with mid-90s fastball and power curveball that they couldn't pass up a chance at another prep, right-handed flamethrower.

And then there's Withrow, who many people are still high on despite a bad season at Double-A. Withrow has the most talent and potential of any starter not named Zach Lee, but he, like Martin, failed to throw strikes last season. If he can get back on track, the system would improve greatly.

The Dodgers don't necessarily need all four of these guys to regain their previous form (but it wouldn't hurt). The Dodgers have a lot of pitching depth in the minors, but if just one of the future starters or relievers come through, the system's strength improves.

The two most likely guys to bounce back are Lindblom and Withrow. Lindblom has 225+ innings under his belt and seems to finally be settled as a reliever. Withrow, despite the poor showing, still had an 8.3 K/9, which isn't terrible. He still has strikeout stuff. If he throws strikes, he's more likely to get back to his 2009 Double-A form than Martin is getting back on track.

The bottom line is, the Dodger system has improved in Baseball America's organizational ranking to No. 12 this season -- a season after the above four had bad seasons. If these guys bounce back, it will on spell good things for the Dodgers. They are future pieces to the team or pieces in a future trade.

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