Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Chattanooga Lookouts will be stacked in 2012

The 2012 Chattanooga Lookouts, the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate, looks like it will begin the season as one of the most stacked teams in the organization and maybe in the entire Southern League.

As is often the case in baseball, it starts and ends with the starting rotation, which should be the Lookouts' strength.

The Dodgers tend to avoid sending top-flight pitching prospects to the hitter's haven known as the Pacific Coast League, so the Lookouts will benefit greatly.

RHP Allen Webster
Total: 11-5, 4.03 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 9.1 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, 8.4 K/9, 2.37 K/BB
High-A: 5-2, 2.33 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.7 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, 10.3 K/9, 2.95 K/BB
Double-A: 6-3, 5.04 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.0 H/9, 3.6 BB/9, 7.2 K/9
- One of the Dodgers' best prospects, Webster spent nearly twice as much time with the Lookouts than he did with the Quakes, and he should be back to head the rotation. He was having a solid showing in Double-A before three consecutive terrible starts inflated his numbers. Despite the troubles, his future as a middle-of-the-rotation starter is not jeopardized. It'll be interesting to see how he does with his second go-around in the Southern League.

RHP Red Patterson
Total: 12-5, 3.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.7 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 8.9 K/9, 3.82 K/BB
Low-A: 5-4, 3.43 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.7 H/9, 2.2 BB/9, 8.7 K/9, 3.95 K/BB
High-A: 7-1, 3.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 7.6 H/9, 2.4 BB/9, 9.1 K/9, 3.72 K/BB
- Patterson was surprisingly consistent in 2011 and could be one of the Lookouts' better starters in 2012. There's no guarantee he'll start with the Lookouts, but with 92 innings in High-A, there's no reason not to push him (other than overcrowding, I suppose). If he starts in Chattanooga, it'll be interesting to see how he does against advanced competition.

RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Total: 12-5, 3.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.7 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 8.9 K/9, 3.82 K/B
Double-A: 6-5, 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 6.6 H/9, 4.0 BB/9, 8.7 K/9, 2.15 K/BB
Majors: 1-2, 3.63 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.3 H/9, 5.2 BB/9, 6.0 K/9, 1.15 K/BB
- Eovaldi's call-up last season was a surprise -- almost as surprising as his return to Double-A would be in 2012. Alas, the Dodgers signed Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang to effectively fill out the rotation. With Ned Collett's desire to add a veteran reliever, there appears to be no room in Los Angeles for Eovaldi. He put up great numbers in Chattanooga and should return there as a starter until his services are needed with the Dodgers.

RHP Chris Withrow
Double-A (total): 6-6, 4.20 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7.8 H/9, 5.2 BB/9, 9.1 K/9, 1.73 K/BB
- Withrow showed flashes of his former self last season, but also showed flashes of his 2010 self, leading to a decent 2011 season. His stuff is as good as any in the system, but he must learn to throw strikes consistently. He should be a middle-of-the-rotation guy for the Lookouts in his fourth stint with the club.

RHP Matt Magill
High-A (total): 11-5, 4.33 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 10.1 H/9, 3.4 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 2.42 K/BB
- Magill spent all his time with the Quakes last season and is age-appropriate for Double-A. He has fringy stuff, so he'll have to locate all his pitches well if he wants to be successful. But hey, the Lookouts could do a lot worse for a No. 5 starter.

RHP Jon Michael Redding
High-A (total): 11-7, 3.66 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.6 H/9, 3.4 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, 2.50 K/BB
- Redding spent his entire age-23 season with the Quakes, so he's a prime candidate to be promoted to Double-A. I like Patterson more as a prospect, but Redding had better success than him at Rancho. Both are junkballers with fringy fastballs, so there might only be room for one of them to start the season.

As you can see, there are six pitchers here for five rotation spots. Unless the Lookouts go with a six-man rotation (not likely), these are some of the options they have:
  • Eovaldi begins with the Dodgers, Isotopes or works out of the bullpen
  • Withrow or Webster are pushed to Albuquerque
  • Patterson is left to start at Rancho
  • Redding skips Double-A for Triple-A
Of those four, I'd say Patterson starting in High-A is most likely to happen.

The Lookouts will also have some bullpen talent, including Logan Bawcom, Cole St. Clair, Javier Solano and possibly guys like Shawn Tolleson, Steve Ames and Josh Wall. That's quite the formidable bunch.

Someone who could go either way is former first-round pick Aaron Miller. He's already spent 135 2/3 innings with the High-A affiliate and it's time for him to put up or shut up. With the Dodgers' reluctance to send guys to the PCL, Double-A is going to be jam-packed. Miller could work out of the bullpen or force his way into a rotation spot. With his injury history, though, he could ease his way into Double-A by starting with the Quakes (a team that will also be stacked).

For all the talk about the pitching, the offense doesn't look to be half-bad, either.

Angelo Songco and Blake Smith should both be middle-of-the-order hitters for the Lookouts. Both had fantastic seasons with the Quakes in 2011 and this will be a telling season for both. If they perform well, their prospect stars rise. If they don't, they might be nothing more than bench players in the Majors.

Songco and Smith are joining former Quakes' teammates Gorman Erickson and Jake Lemmerman, both of whom were promoted midseason. I really like Erickson and Lemmerman. While both didn't perform as well with the Lookouts as they did with the Quakes, they both have the potential to do some damage in their second go-around in Double-A.

Some other Quakes primed to make the jump are Travis Denker, Nick Buss, Austin Gallagher and Tony Delmonico.

There could be a few hold overs from the 2011 Lookouts, starting with OF/1B Brian Cavazos-Galvez. He made a name for himself in 2010 with a solid showing with the Quakes. Limited playing time and poor performance dimmed his status significantly in 2011. He should return in 2012 because he could use the seasoning and the Triple-A outfield situation looks as packed as the Double-A rotation.

Pedro Baez could be another hold over, but he can't hit a lick. Jaime Pedroza regressed in 2011, which included a demotion to High-A. And Matt Wallach should be Erickson's backup behind the dish.

My projected batting order (with DH)
Buss CF
Lemmerman SS
Songco 1B
Smith RF
Erickson C
Cavazos-Galvez LF
Gallagher DH
Delmonico 3B
Pedroza 2B

Overall, the Lookouts should be just as competitive in 2012 as they were in 2011. The pitching staff should be just as strong, if not stronger (depending on promotions). The offense might not be as great, as the team is losing Scott Van Slyke and Alfredo Silverio. A lot will depend on the trio of Songco, Smith and Erickson.

The team should also benefit from midseason callups in the form of Zach Lee, Garrett Gould and possibly Angel Sanchez.

Much like 2011, the 2012 minor-league teams could be exciting and fun to watch. It's a make-or-break year for a lot of prospects and it'll be interesting to see how they handle it.

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