Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eovaldi, Russell enjoying nice seasons for Chattanooga

Dodgers' RHP Nathan Eovaldi is enjoying a great season at Double-A Chattanooga after having just a mediocre season in 2010 in three levels of the minors.

Eovaldi, who ranked No. 8 on my 2010 Dodger prospect list and No. 28 in my 2011 list, has proven me wrong. As a 21-year-old in the Southern League, he is mostly facing competition who is older than him, but he's been dominant at times. This is quite encouraging for his progress and could even see some time in L.A. later this season (I mean, who woulda thunk Javy Guerra would be in the Dodger bullpen right now?).

Through 11 games (10 starts, one relief appearance), Eovaldi is 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 6.8 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 10.3 K/9 and a 2.81 K/BB ratio. In his lone relief appearance on Tuesday, he fired one relief inning, striking out one and reportedly hitting 101 MPH on the radar gun.

Eovaldi sits in the low-to-mid-90s as a starter with a decent curveball. He's made a little progress with his changeup, but it's probably what will keep him from being a successful starter in the majors.

However, his two-pitch combination -- especially with an upper-90s fastball -- could play very well out of the bullpen.

Kyle Russell, 24, is also enjoying a nice season at Double-A. The former third-round choice from Texas, Russell has 12 home runs, 20 2B and 38 RBI in 59 games this season -- good enough for a .909 OPS. Last season in 76 Southern League games, he was able to OPS .781 with 10 home runs and 23 2B.

The problem with him -- always has been, always will be -- is his K-rate. Last season, he struck out 37.5 percent of his at-bats. This season, he's actually improved to 35.4 percent. But that's still way too high for a Major League regular. That's actually between the career K-rate of Adam Dunn (33.1 percent) and Mark Reynolds (38 percent). Russell does play excellent defense in right field, so his power/defense combo could be enough for him to be a bench player at worst in the bigs.

One thing that concerns me is he's 24 (25 on June 27) and still in Double-A. It's not the worst thing in the world, but I'd like to see the Dodgers push him to Triple-A (despite the high K-rate) to see if there's any hope for him as a regular. It might be a little hasty on my part, but if he goes to Albuquerque and succeeds, he could be in the mix next season or used as a trade piece.

In all likelihood, though, he'll reach the majors as a part-time player.

The Lookouts' roster has improved with Allen Webster and Shawn Tolleson being promoted and Kenley Jansen returning on a rehab assignment. Some would say Jansen could benefit from some time in the minors to work on his secondary offerings. That isn't the worst idea, especially with Guerra, Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom (in limited time) holding their own in the Dodgers' bullpen.


Dee Gordon made his Major League debut this week and so far, so good. He's 3-for-8 with two runs scored and a stolen base. Despite looking like a bat boy, he is the most exciting prospect the Dodgers have and manager Don Mattingly said he's going to play every day (I wish he'd make the same commitment to Jerry Sands). Update 2:37 p.m.: Well, it looks as if Sands will be playing every day... but in Albuquerque. He was optioned to Triple-A with the Dodgers recalling Trent Oeltjen. Sands will be back.

Pure speculation here, but perhaps the Dodgers are not sold on Rafael Furcal's health for the rest of the season. It's nice to see a lot of prospects on the team, though. Six players have made their debut this season: Ivan DeJesus, Rubby De La Rosa, Gordon, Guerra, Lindbolm and Sands. It's entirely possible for guys like Eovaldi, Trayvon Robinson and Russell to make their debuts later this season.


The Dodgers begin a four-game series in Colorado tonight. Expect a lot of frustration, even with Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Rubby De La Rosa pitching three of the four games.

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