Sunday, August 26, 2012

Looking at who the Red Sox acquired in the big trade with the Dodgers

I've been accused of being a prospect hoarder. It's a fair accusation. But when I heard about this deal, my first thought was, "The Dodgers are giving up too much." I still believe that.

But at least the Dodgers acquired a hitter who paid immediate dividends in Adrian Gonzalez. He blasted a 3-run home run on his first swing as a Dodger Saturday night. It was a thing of beauty.

But considering the circumstances, the Red Sox made out quite well in Saturday's nine-player deal with the Dodgers. Boston acquired major salary relief (in the neighborhood of $260 million), James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus.

I gave my thoughts on the Dodgers' return yesterday, so now I'll look at who the Dodgers gave up and what it means for the Red Sox.

James Loney

Loney, a once top prospect, is going to be fighting for a job come the winter. His offensive production is just offensive and not even his Gold Glove defense can land him a starting gig.

And Loney did what he does best in his first at-bat as a member of the Red Sox: he grounded into a double play.

He'll likely be Boston's starting first baseman the rest of the season, but I'd be shocked if he was there beyond this season.

Rubby De La Rosa

Because he was on the 40-man roster, De La Rosa is a player to be named later in this trade. He was reportedly claimed by the Blue Jays, which means the entire National League and a few American League teams passed on claiming him. That doesn't make sense, but I'm not a baseball executive.

De La Rosa was optioned to Double-A Chattanooga and I'm admittedly unsure what the plan is with him. I assume he'll pitch because for the Lookouts until the season ends. Chattanooga is three games up for the second-half division title with eight games to play. So, there's at least eight games remaining plus any potential playoff games.

Or, the Dodgers could be under strict orders from Boston to not pitch De La Rosa in game action and just continue to have him work on the side, potentially avoiding injury. We'll see what happens.

But Boston acquired a potential No. 2 starter in De La Rosa. His fastball, clocked as high as 101 MPH, is his best pitch. He throws it in the mid-90s with movement. It's a filthy pitch. He also owns a devastating changeup, when he's consistent with it.

The only thing holding De La Rosa back from achieving his potential in the rotation is a third pitch. He has a slider that's loose and loopy more than it's tight and sharp. His makeup is that of a top-of-the-rotation starter or a dominant closer, so no concern there.

He has a much better shot of ending up in the bullpen, but I could definitely see De La Rosa figuring it out and him being a pitcher in the mold of Pedro Martinez.

Now, some have said the Dodgers just traded "the next Pedro Martinez," but I think that's a bit far-fetched. Yes, they have similar repertoires and are both from the Dominican Republic. But that's where the similarities end.

De La Rosa isn't the most physically imposing figure, but he also isn't 5'10, 175 pounds like Martinez was. It's far more likely De La Rosa is an average MLB pitcher than a Hall of Famer.

Boston did quite well to get De La Rosa from the Dodgers in this deal, as they did with the only true "prospect" they received in the deal.

Allen Webster

Webster, the Dodgers' consensus No. 2 or No. 3 prospect heading into the season, started off the season about as poorly as one could. On May 9, he owned a 7.49 ERA in the Southern League, a league in which he struggled during the second half of last season.

Things weren't looking good for him until a demotion to the bullpen changed his season. He had a five-game bullpen stint, starting May 15, and he gave up just one run in that time. His work out of the 'pen allowed him to get his control and command figured out because his stuff has never been a question.

Since returning to the rotation on May 31, he hadn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start and reduced his ERA down to a manageable 3.83.

Webster boasts a low-to-mid-90s fastball with movement, an advanced changeup, a solid curveball and a decent slider. He has a classic starter's arsenal. Aside from his changeup, he's also known for having good control. His 3.7 BB/9 is solid, but he has the potential to be a sub-3 BB/9 guy when he's at his peak.

He has a ceiling of a No. 2 starter, but it's more likely he'll be a No. 3 or No. 4 guy, which is nothing to scoff at. Webster should challenge for a rotation slot in Boston come 2013.

Jerry Sands

Like De La Rosa, Sands is officially a PTBNL in this deal because he did not clear waivers. And that's just fine with Isotope fans as Sands smacked a 2-run home run Saturday night to continue his torrid second half.

Yes, his numbers are somewhat inflated because he plays in one of the best hitting environments in professional baseball, but there is potential in this kid. I mean, he had a 1.078 OPS in the Midwest League as a 22-year-old (69 games). That's hard to do.

I ranked him as my No. 1 prospect heading into last season and he's gotten limited opportunity with the Dodgers thus far. In fact, I'm not sure he was ever going to get a fair shot. I mean, when a team will play the likes of Juan Rivera and Loney instead of giving a 24-year-old power-hitting prospect a shot, it says something about the player or the organization. It's probably a little of both.

But Sands has ability. If he reaches his potential, he could be a 20-plus home run a season corner outfielder who hits in around .270 to .300 with an on-base percentage .350 or better. He isn't afraid to talk a walk, as his minor-league walk rate is an impressive 11.6 percent. He's done nothing but hit in the minors (.290/.377/.566), yet the Dodgers never gave him a legitimate chance at being a regular.

Sands profiles better as a corner outfielder than a first baseman. He has a strong arm and has a little more range than folks give him credit for. With the Red Sox trading their left fielder and first baseman, Sands could get a shot at either position come 2013.

Sands might be Boston's wild card in this deal, as the Dodgers clearly (and unfairly) lost faith in him too soon.

Ivan De Jesus

De Jesus is kind of in the same boat as Sands, but he got there first: a once highly rated prospect who fell out of favor in the organization.

Now, De Jesus is never going to be Dustin Pedroia at second base, but he has on-base ability and a solid glove.

He's more of a utility player at this point in his career, which has value to a team. He has a little doubles pop and a good eye at the plate, posting a 9.7 percent walk rate in the minors.

He hasn't done much in the majors, but he hasn't been given much of a chance either. We'll always have that pinch-hit double in Arizona earlier this season that won the game for the Dodgers.


The Dodgers still gave up a bit too much in this deal for my liking. If they had given up De La Rosa or Webster, along with the other two, and a lesser prospect, I'd feel a little better about this. I just don't like giving up two potential frontline starting pitchers while taking on more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary. But at least the Dodgers got the big bat they needed.

I'll look at what impact this trade, and all the trades Ned Colletti and Co. have made in the last couple months, has on the Dodgers' farm system tomorrow.

Photo credits
Loney and Sands: LWY, Flickr
De Jesus:  wisely, Flickr

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Looking at the Dodgers' return in the potential trade with the Red Sox

With the blockbuster Dodger-Red Sox trade expected to be announced today, I'm going to look at just what the Dodgers are getting themselves into with this deal.

The Dodgers and Red Sox are about to complete one of the biggest deals in baseball history, but the Dodgers are the team taking almost all the risk.

Here are the details:

To Boston: Rubby De La Rosa (as PTBNL), Allen Webster, James Loney, Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus
To Los Angeles: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and roughly $12 million

Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers finally get a legitimate slugger to slot in behind Matt Kemp. Gonzalez, 30, is one of the best first basemen in baseball, but he's admittedly having a down season -- down being .300/.343/.469. The Dodgers haven't received that production from first base since the days of Eric Karros... or when Loney was just a young pup in 2007, when he played in 96 games.

Gonzalez, like Loney, plays Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base, so there will be virtually no drop-off there. Coupled with the enormous offensive boost, this is a no-brainer.

Gonzalez, a former No. 1 overall pick by the Florida Marlins (2000), is somewhat local. He's from the San Diego area and spent the vast majority of his professional career with the Padres.

But something that is greatly needed is the fact he can hit against left-handed pitching. This season, he owns a .302/.335/.488 triple slash. His average and slugging percentage are better against lefties than righties this season. He hit .321 against lefties last season, a season in which he led the American League in hits while hitting 27 home runs and 45 doubles. In 2010, he hit a whopping .337/.424/.513 against lefties. It shows marked improvement as his career numbers against lefties are not as good (.276/.345/.443), meaning he struggled earlier in his career against southpaws.

But the best part about acquiring Gonzalez is the fact he has elite-level talent (and he has the contract to prove it). He's a top-five first baseman (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Paul Konerko) and one of the best with the glove.

Gonzalez signed a 7-year, $154 million deal with Boston in April 2011. Here's the breakdown:
  • 2013 through 2016: $21 million annually
  • 2017 and 2018: $21.5 million annually
Pretty straight forward.

Now, some of Gonzalez's numbers have been trending downward, such as his walk rate and isolated power.

Year BB% ISO
2009 17.5 .274
2010 13.4 .231
2011 10.3 .210
2012 5.9 .169

Gonzalez was walked like crazy in the Padres' lineup, as he was about the only hitter to fear during his time. That accounts for the 17.5 percent walk rate. But his rate dropping all the way to 5.9 this season is a bit concerning. He's never walked fewer than 52 times in a full season, which he did in 2006.

He started off the 2012 season poorly, hitting just .283/.329/.416 in the first half. But he's really turned it on in the second half: .338/.378/.593. It's nice to see the power is still there, but I'd also love to see that walk rate get back in the neighborhood of 10 percent. With Ramirez and Andre Ethier hitting behind him, I could see that happening.

It's always a good idea to take a risk on elite talent. Gonzalez is elite. The other two Red Sox coming over, well, aren't in that class anymore.

Josh Beckett

Many remember Beckett for his 2003 World Series performance -- an MVP performance -- but Beckett has never been that good over the long haul.

However, Beckett, 32, is coming off one of the better seasons of his career in 2011, a season in which he went 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3.57 FIP, 6.8 H/9, 2.4 BB/9, 8.2 K/9 and a 3.37 K/BB.

This season, Beckett has struggled: 5-11, 5.23 ERA, 4.27 FIP. He hasn't endeared himself to the Boston media after golfing on his day off after missing a start earlier this season -- something that was blown out of proportion by the Boston media, but is worth noting.

His contract status pales in comparison to Gonzalez's and Crawford's, but here are the details anyway: 
  • 2013-14: $15.75M
That's it. His contract is the least of the Dodgers' concern in this deal.

If Beckett can regain his 2011 form, this could be huge for the Dodgers. Chad Billingsley left Friday night's game with elbow inflammation -- the same injury that shelved him for 15 days earlier this season. I'd be surprised if he doesn't end up there again.

But there's more to Beckett than hoping he can regain his form. His velocity has dropped -- dramatically. He averaged 93.1 MPH on his fastball just last season. This season, it's down to 91.6 MPH. That's a significant drop. He's also throwing his fastball less frequently this season: 47.6 percent (a career-low). Why? Only he knows, but looking at the numbers, it could be because it's just not an effective pitch for him this season.

FanGraphs rates its value at -1.6, compared to 15.6 last season (but strangely, -16.5 the year before). In fact, only one of his four pitches rates out positively -- his curveball at 0.9.

He's been infected by the cutter disease in recent years, going from 5.1 percent in 2009 to 15.3 percent in 2010, 18.1 percent in 2011 and 21.1 percent in 2012.

This data doesn't bode well for his future. He's going to need to find that lost velocity (if it's even possible) for him to be more than a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

But, with Joe Blanton not pitching well since being acquired, Chris Capuano regressing a tad and Billingsley's injury, Beckett has an opportunity to grab this situation by the proverbial horns (he's from Texas).

Fun fact: Beckett was traded to Boston in a deal that sent Hanley Ramirez to Florida in November 2005.

Beckett is somewhat of a wild card in this trade, but not as wild as the $100 million outfielder the Dodgers are also acquiring.

Carl Crawford

Crawford signed a mega deal last winter (7 years, $142 million) with Boston and has yet to sniff the level of production he had in Tampa Bay for the first nine years of his career.

His contract details:
  • 2013: $20M, 2014: $20.25M, 2015: $20.5M, 2016: $20.75M, 2017: $21M
Look, Crawford is not and was not ever a $20 million/year player. The Red Sox overpaid for him, which is an understatement. But this is the risk the Dodgers are willing to take on him just to acquire Gonzalez.

Crawford just had Tommy John surgery and will be out for the foreseeable future. Some reports said he could be ready for Opening Day, some said by May. I'd be surprised if either were the case. Recovering from Tommy John is a big deal for pitchers, but it's also a significant deal for position players. Crawford's arm strength doesn't have to be great in left field, but I'm more concerned with how the injury impacts his ability at the plate.

He hit .306/.360/.473 in his last two seasons with Tampa but has hit just .260/.292/.419 with Boston in 161 games. That kind of production isn't going to fly anywhere, let alone Boston.

Oh, and it'd be nice to see him be the threat on the basepaths he was back in Tampa. He played 130 games in 2011 and stole just 18 base (only 24 attempts). This man once led the American League in stolen bases four out of five years (2003-07). I know speed diminishes with age, but it isn't his leg he hurt. If I'm the Dodgers, I'd expect at least 40 stolen bases out of Crawford. 

If Crawford can come back sometime in 2013 and perform anywhere close to the way he performed in Tampa, he could make this trade a clear win for the Dodgers, despite the massive amount of money involved.

Nick Punto and the money

Punto is such a throw-away in this deal, it's laughable. But if it means Juan Uribe isn't long for Los Angeles, then I'm all for it. There's no indication that's the case, it's more just wishful thinking on my part.

But this is where I think the Dodgers fell a little short in this deal.

These four players are making roughly $270 million for the life of their respective contracts. The Dodgers have agreed to pay more than 95 percent of the remaining money, helping Boston to get out of luxury tax territory. This means the Red Sox are sending about $12 million to the Dodgers in this deal.

For who the Dodgers are giving up -- De La Rosa and Webster -- I'd have thought they wouldn't have to pay as much. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

And, this means the Dodgers will be less financially flexible in the future... unless the team wants to have a $200 million payroll and have to pay luxury taxes. For the Guggenheim group, that may not be a concern.

But for kicks, take a look at what Chad Moriyama wrote about the new television deal and why the Dodgers can't just throw money around carelessly.

I don't think that's the case. I think Stan Kasten and Co. know what they're doing.

The fact that this trade Xbox-esque trade is nearing completion shows the Dodgers' new ownership isn't messing around. It wants to win this season. It'd help if the team didn't get swept at home by the Giants, but here we are. The Dodgers are three games behind the Giants with just a little more than a month remaining in the season.

I'll look at the impact on the Dodgers' farm system and who the Red Sox are getting in return tomorrow. I like the aggressive nature of this deal, but the risk lies all in Los Angeles and depends greatly on Crawford's ability to return to prominence.

Photo credits
Gonzalez: Keith Allison, Flickr
Beckett: eviltomthai, Flickr
Crawford: Red3biggs, Wikimedia Commons

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dodgers about to do something crazy to get Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers are on the verge of acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto from the Red Sox.

Holy. Balls.

I'm on the road, but I'm going to give a quick analysis:

The Dodgers need a guy like Gonzalez. They could do without Beckett and Crawford and no one in their right mind "needs" Punto.

Some rumored players heading to Boston include Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus and James Loney.

I'm somewhat OK with them sending one really good young player, but not two. I'll go more in depth later tonight.

Oh, and this doesn't even include the massive amounts of money involved. That has yet to be determined.

Stay tuned because this thing is getting all kinds of crazy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dodgers activate Rubby De La Rosa, option Javy Guerra

The Dodgers, in a surprise move, activated Rubby De La Rosa from the 60-day disabled list today.

It's surprising because there had been zero chatter of the Dodgers activating him this soon. But I couldn't be happier to see him back.

Javy Guerra, who has been pretty good in his last nine outings (11 1/3 IP, 13 K, 0 runs allowed), was optioned to Triple-A. That part is also a bit of a surprise as Shawn Tolleson is staying on the active roster instead. Hopefully he pitches a little more now.

Guerra will be back on Sept. 1 (if not sooner) when the rosters expand.

The Dodgers need to be careful with De La Rosa. The temptation will be there to use him frequently, but he's coming off Tommy John surgery and will need to be in the rotation come the start of 2013.

I'm looking forward to seeing De La Rosa on the hill again, but it should be strictly as a reliever. There's no reason for him to be in the rotation (or room, for that matter).

By activating him before Sept. 1, De La Rosa is eligible for the postseason roster, should the Dodgers make it.

Welcome back, Rubby. You were definitely missed.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chattanooga Lookouts boast a nasty bullpen, future Los Angeles Dodgers

The Chattanooga Lookouts are contending for a playoff spot in the Southern League and if they make it, they might be able to thank a filthy bullpen.

Some Major League teams would kill to have the Lookout bullpen. (*cough* Philadephia *cough*)

But this Chattanooga bullpen could be one of the best in recent Dodger minor league memory. includes Steve Ames, Eric Eadington, Red Patterson, Steven Rodriguez and Javier Solano. All five of these guys have solid numbers in Double-A, with Ames and Solano repeating the level.

Any of these five guys could close out a game if necessary, but Ames is the team's closer right now. It isn't far-fetched to say all these guys could eventually see time in a major league bullpen before they hang up their spikes.

Ames, a 17th-round pick in 2009, has a 1.75 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9 and a 9.7 K/9. His stuff isn't overpowering, but those numbers are absolutely nothing to scoff at. He's stepped into the closer's role after Logan Bawcom was traded to the Mariners on July 31. The 24-year-old could be in Los Angeles before too long.

Eadington, a pitcher Baseball America ranked just outside its Dodger top 30 prospect list, has played at three different levels this season and the 24-year-old is having no problem adjusting to advanced hitting. He only has 9 1/3 Double-A innings, but his workload should increase in the coming weeks.

Patterson, 25, is turning into a personal favorite of mine. He's not the most talented or physically gifted guy around, but he gets the job done. He has a 3.22 ERA, 1.41 WHIP (not great) and a nice 9.1 K/9 out of the Lookout 'pen. After posting a 2.08 ERA in the first half, he's struggled in the second half (5.57), but he's still a viable option as a long reliever/sixth- or seventh-inning guy. One thing he does do well is keep the ball in the yard. He's allowed just two home runs in 64 1/3 innings this season.

Rodriguez, the Dodgers' 2012 second-round pick, began his professional career with Great Lakes. He dominated in six innings there (four hits allowed, 10 strikeouts), so the Dodgers promoted him to Chattanooga. He's been nearly as dominant as a Lookout: 6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 10 K. When he was drafted, many said he could be the player from the entire 2012 draft class to reach the majors first. He's effectively one step away from that.

And finally a guy who I don't think gets enough credit. Solano, a 22-year-old whose career arc has been somewhat puzzling. In 2008 and 2009, he pitched in Ogden as most teenagers do. In 2010, he pitched at Indland Empire (High-A) and Double-A. So, logic would dictate he'd begin 2011 in Double-A. Well, that didn't happen. He began 2011 with Rancho Cucamonga before earning a promotion to Chattanooga. The funny thing is, his Double-A numbers are the best of any level he's pitched -- and definitely the most challenging level of any level he's pitched. This season, he has a 2.73 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9 and an 8.6 K/9. He's allowing fewer baserunners than last season and is throwing more strikes. That's always a nice combination.

The aforementioned Logan Bawcom once resided in the Lookout bullpen, but so did Shawn Tolleson, who was promoted to Triple-A then the majors earlier this season. Oh, and I didn't even mention Chris Withrow, who has been relegated to relief duty after struggling with his command -- again -- and battling through injuries. If he ever figures it out, that's just one more feather in the proverbial cap of manager Carlos Subero.

The Lookouts have a three-game lead over the Jackson Generals. If guys like Zach Lee, Matt Magill, Aaron Miller, Andres Santiago, Allen Webster and, to a lesser extent, Chris Reed, can get through five or six innings, it will make it a lot easier on the team and keep the starters fresh for a playoff run.

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dodgers complete Blanton trade by sending O'Sullivan to Philly

The Dodgers sent right-handed pitcher Ryan O'Sullivan to Philadelphia today to complete the Joe Blanton trade.

I was a little surprised when I saw this news, but I guess it's not the worst trade. I was on board with the Blanton acquisition, but I thought it might take a little less than O'Sullivan to land.

O'Sullivan ranked as the Dodgers' 18th-best prospect in my midseason update. Baseball America had him ranked as the 23rd-best prospect in the organization.

O'Sullivan began the season with the Loons and pitched relatively well: 2.92 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 0.4 HR/9, 2.9 BB/9, 5.5 K/9. Since being promoted to the Quakes, he's pitched exclusively out of the bullpen: 3.57 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9 and a 6.6 K/9. The only statistic he improve upon was his strikeout rate. He's an extreme groundball pitcher but will need to start missing more bats going forward.

The Phillies did well by landing a pitcher who at least has some talent for Blanton. Here's hoping he starts pitching better for the Dodgers down the stretch. His 8.23 ERA isn't going to get it done.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Despite Melky Cabrera suspension, the Dodgers still have plenty of work to do

I know the team won't get ahead of itself, but fans certainly will. Just because Melky Cabrera tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball doesn't automatically mean the Dodgers will win the National League West.

Now, it definitely doesn't hurt their chances, but to say the division is locked up is a bit presumptuous.

The Dodgers moved back into first place on Wednesday after a 9-3 win against the Pirates. The Nationals helped out the Dodgers by downing 'Frisco 6-4 earlier in the day.

The new lineup seems to be getting the hang of things. New additions Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino are already paying dividends. Ramirez is hitting .308/.382/.436 in 20 games. He also has 21 RBI and 13 runs scored in that time. Victorino, as the leadoff hitter, is hitting .298/.344/.439 with 11 runs scored in 13 games.

Ramirez and Victorino are picking up for Andre Ethier, who's hitting just .257/.304/.311 since Ramirez was acquired on July 25. He has just four extra base hits -- all doubles -- in that time and has just two home runs since June 10.

The Dodgers also have one of the best No. 8 hitters in all of baseball in A.J. Ellis. Far be it from me to figure out why a guy who has a .392 on-base percentage bats that low in the lineup. If anything, it gives the Dodgers a legitimate threat at the bottom of the lineup, even if he does strike out a bit much for my liking (23 percent).

Oh, and there's always that Matt Kemp fella.

Losing Cabrera is a big blow for the Giants. He was hitting .346 while leading the majors in hits. He had been a Godsend for the Giants, which acquired him in the winter for Jonathan Sanchez. However, it's a quite difficult to overcome the loss of a No. 3 hitter, even if he isn't a traditional No. 3 hitter.

The Giants still have Buster Posey, the struggling Hunter Pence and the hobbling Pablo Sandoval. There are a few legitimate hitters remaining. And trio of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong is going to keep the Giants close. But it's going to be awfully tough for the Giants to make the playoffs.

Despite all that, the Dodgers simply cannot sit back and not take advantage of the situation. Frankly, Wednesday should be the last day this season they are not in sole possession of first place. With their additions and the Giants' loss, the Dodgers should use the opportunity to build their lead in the division. That's what playoff-bound teams do. That's what budding elite teams do. That's what the Dodgers are right now. They need to prove it to themselves and the rest of baseball.

Minor League notes
  • Yasiel Puig is 3-for-7 with three stolen bases in his first two California League games.
  • Joc Pederson hit a walk-off RBI single on Wednesday. He finished 2-for-5 and is hitting a robust .350/.448/.650 line with 12 home runs since July 1.
  • Rubby De La Rosa had a nice outing with the Arizona League Dodgers on Tuesday: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. He's far too advanced for the league, but it's nice to see him throwing. In fact, Ken Rosenthal tweeted and said he averaged 97 MPH on his fastball during his 42-pitch outing.
  • The Lookouts are three games ahead of the Jackson Generals (Mariners) for the second-half division title. If they make the playoffs, it'll be partly due to a filthy bullpen of Steve Ames, Eric Eadington, Red Patterson, Steven Rodriguez and Javier Solano. That's about as good as it gets.
Photo credit: X Wad, Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chad Billingsley picks right time to pitch well for the Dodgers

Chad Billingsley's resurgence is quite refreshing and encouraging. The 28-year-old is throwing the way we all know he can.

The Dodgers didn't land the starting pitcher they coveted at the trade deadline (though, they later acquires Joe Blanton), but it's almost like they acquired a No. 2 in Billingsley.

He's posted some great numbers since returning from the disabled list: 34 2/3 IP, 27 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 6 BB, 23 K. Those numbers are good for a 1.56 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and a .209 batting average against. That's elite-level production.

Billingsley has shown flashes like this in the past and it's unrealistic to expect he'll be able to sustain this type of success. However, it's exactly what the Dodgers needed in the rotation at this point.

Chris Capuano, despite his fantastic outing last week, has struggled and Aaron Harang has been expectedly mediocre.

So, here's to Billingsley (and his fancy new beard) pitching well enough to help the Dodgers get to the postseason.

Photo credit: SD Dirk, Flickr

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dodgers promote Yasiel Puig to Rancho Cucamonga

The Dodgers just might have promoted Yasiel Puig to Rancho Cucamonga. Here's a tweet from sp11ke (former minor-leaguer):
"#Dodgers Yasiel Puig is in the stands here at Rancho Cucamonga. I guess his 1.500 OPS in 9 AZL games was enough."
It makes sense. The Dodgers wouldn't just randomly have Puig attend a game in Rancho from Arizona, so it's a safe assumption.

Update (Aug. 13, 10:07 a.m.): Now it's official, per Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times.

With the addition, the Quakes are going to be absolutely stacked. Even after trading Leon Landry, the lineup could have the likes of Puig, Joc Pederson, Bobby Coyle, Angelo Songco, Jonathan Garcia, Austin Gallagher and Christopher O'Brien in it.

It's obvious Puig hasn't faced much of a challenge in the Arizona League, so I like the aggressive promotion. Remember, he's 21 years old and played at the highest level of ball in Cuba as a teenager. It's an appropriate level for him.

A 2-3-4 of Pederson-Coyle-Puig is going to look awfully nice. I just wish the Dodgers had made this move (if it's actually happening) a week earlier. The Quakes were just in Modesto and that's only about a 90-minute drive from my place. I would have been nice to see Puig in person this earlier in his professional career. But I digress.

This also means someone could soon be on his way to Chattanooga to join the Lookouts. While Songco hasn't fared particularly well at either level of A-ball this season, I'd be on him going to Double-A. He was supposed to begin 2012 there anyway. This season has almost been a lost one for him. I'm hoping he can bounce back in 2013.

Photo credits
Puig: YouTube screen cap
Songco: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dodgers troll Jerry Sands by recalling him for one start

My fondness of Tony Gwynn is no secret. When the Dodgers signed him to a 2-year deal this winter, I was all in favor of it.

But when the Dodgers acquired Shane Victorino from the Phillies, Gwynn's designation was inevitable.

Gwynn still has value to a team. His defense in center field is elite, his speed off the bench is something that's coveted late in games and he's adept at pinch-hitting, as he boasts a career .305/.372/.405 triple slash in the role.

I'm a little surprised he wasn't picked up off waivers by a team in need of a pinch-hitter and defensive stud in center with speed, but he'll play with Albuquerque for the time being.

So, the Dodgers recalled Jerry Sands to take Gwynn's place on the roster. Sands was on fire before being recalled: .476/.500/.952 with six home runs and 21 RBI. Almost everyone thought Sands was being recalled to take the place of James Loney and Juan Rivera at first base -- at least, that's what would have made since.

Instead, Sands started one game and was demoted when Adam Kennedy was activated from the disabled list.

I'm not sure what exactly Sands has done to the Dodgers or the front office, but they aren't giving him a fair shake. He had an eight-game stint earlier this season in which he didn't do much, but he closed last season hitting the ball well. I can accept the fact the roster was too full for him at the start of the season, but what do the Dodgers have to lose in playing Sands in first base everyday?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He's an adequate defender at first (Loney is better in that department), but Sands can be as effective -- if not more effective -- than Rivera.

Sands is still just 24 and the Dodgers are unfairly jerking him around. I know I tend to gravitate toward prospects and young players, but to not give a guy who won the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2010 is just dumb.

I'm not saying Sands is sure to be the answer at first base, but how are the Dodgers ever going to know if they don't give him a chance to succeed?

If I'm this frustrated, I can only imagine how Sands feels. He goes from top prospect to afterthought in less than two years.

When the alternatives are Loney and Rivera, something like this just doesn't make sense.

Ned Colletti to Sands:

Abreu to Albuquerque

Bobby Abreu, who was designated for assignment after the Victorino trade, accepted an assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Suddenly, the Isotopes' lineup looks like it could be even more stacked with the additions of Abreu, Gwynn and Sands to go with Alex Castellanos, Tim Federowicz and Scott Van Slyke.

Both Abreu and Gwynn will be eligible for the postseason roster, if they're needed.

Photo credit: LWY, Flickr

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yasiel Puig comfortable in the AZL, plus notes on Seager and Pederson

OK, it's only been four games, but Yasiel Puig is having no problem adjusting to professional baseball -- even if it's in one of the lowest levels of the minors.

The 21-year-old smacked two home runs on Saturday and has a .313/.313/.938 triple slash so far. He's struck out four times in 16 plate appearances without drawing a walk. His plate discipline was reported to be good, so we'll see where he is in, say, 100 plate appearances.

Puig played at the highest level of baseball in Cuba, which is equivalent to Class-A ball in professional baseball. It would be nice to see him get the call to Low-A Great Lakes or (for selfish reasons) High-A Rancho Cucamonga, but I'd be surprised if he is promoted this season. Hell, there were questions just last week if Puig would even play this season.

I'm expecting Puig to dominate the Arizona League and go into next season as one of the Dodger top prospects while being assigned to either Low-A or High-A. For his development, I'm hoping the Dodgers push him a little. While many believe they overpaid for him ($42 million), I don't think there's any harm in starting him at Rancho before promoting him to Chattanooga midseason (or sooner).

The Dodgers and the rest of baseball need to see what Puig is made of. Him toiling in the low minors isn't going to accomplish that.

Seager hits first home run

On the same the Dodgers' biggest international signing hit two home runs, the Dodgers' 2012 first-round draft pick Corey Seager hit his first career home run.

It took him 25 games, but he finally was able to drive one out of the park. Seager's power was the biggest question mark surrounding him during the pre-draft process. So far, he has just five extra base hits (four doubles and the aforementioned home run) in 109 plate appearances.

Power is usually the last thing to develop in a hitting prospect, but Seager has struggled a little bit in his debut: .253/.333/.326. I like the on-base ability (10 walks) and the decent strikeout rate (15 in 109 PAs).

Seager is just 18 years old, so I'm not too concerned about his lack of power thus far. If we're still talking about this in few years, then it might be something to be concerned about. He's still the Dodgers' future at third base and shall be until he proves he's not able to handle it.

Pederson showing his ability

It took awhile, but Joc Pederson is showing what makes him one of the Dodgers' best hitting prospects. His OPS was .739 on June 30. His OPS is now .846. In just more than a month, he's improved it almost 100 points. That's a great sign.

He had a three-home run game on July 1, but he's also been walking a lot more. He's drawn 21 walks since June 30. Before that, he had just 19 on the season. He also has 16 extra base hits in that time (including the three homers).

With Leon Landry being traded (he hit for the cycle earlier this week), Pederson should finish the season with the Quakes and begin 2013 with the Lookouts. Plus, he's still just 20 years old. There's no need to rush him to Double-A (and there isn't much room for him there anyway).

It's nice to see him improving his play as the season progresses. I'm expecting big things from him next season.

Photo credits
Puig: YouTube screen cap
Seager: Courtesy of Perfect Game
Pederson: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Friday, August 3, 2012

Dodgers acquire Joe Blanton from the Phillies

Not exactly the Phillies' pitcher I wanted the Dodgers to acquire, but the they finally grabbed a starting pitcher in Joe Blanton.

The Phillies will receive cash and/or a player to be named later. The Dodgers are also responsible for the $2.9 million left on Blanton's contract.

As long as the possible player going to Philadelphia is of no significance, this deal is OK. While Cliff Lee was claimed on waivers, I don't think it was the Dodgers (my guess is Texas) and the likelihood of them landing him weren't exactly great.

This must mean the Dodgers are concerned about Ted Lilly's ability to return this season. Plus, we all know Stephen Fife (God bless him and his specs) wasn't going to finish the season as the Dodgers' fifth starter.

My favorite statistic regarding Blanton: he's walked just 18 batters (two intentionally) in 133 1/3 innings pitched (1.2 BB/9). He's also striking out batters at a career-high rate (7.8 per nine innings).

He's giving up way too many home runs (22, 1.5 per nine), so that's something he'll need to work on.

Blanton's home/road splits this season are eerily similar, but I'd still expect him to pitch better for the Dodgers than he did with the Phillies.

He's a free agent after the season, so this is likely a rental pickup. But I think I like this acquisition more than if the Dodgers somehow began the season with Blanton.

Photo credit: keithreifsnyder, Flickr

The Dodgers should absolutely claim Cliff Lee off waivers

As soon as the non-waiver trade deadline passed on Tuesday, people immediately speculated whether Cliff Lee would be claimed off waivers.

Lee was promptly placed on waivers Thursday and the Dodgers should claim him with little hesitation.

Lee, who makes $21.5 million this season (roughly less than $10 million remaining) and $25 million annually through 2015, would make sense for the Dodgers. He also has a $27.5 million vesting option for the 2016 season ($12.5 million buyout).

All told, it'd be nearly a $100 million commitment (with the buyout). But look at it this way: It'd be like signing a major free agent with less than half the season remaining. Plus, they were set to go after Cole Hamels this offseason before his contract was extended. Lee would be a mighty fine consolation prize.

The Dodgers failed to land a starting pitcher before Tuesday and after trading Nathan Eovaldi, there is a hole in the rotation. Now, Ted Lilly is on his way back (no definite timetable), but Cliff Lee is an elite pitcher in this game. If money is truly no matter for ownership, this claim is a no-brainer.

If the Dodgers claim him, they'd be the only team that could trade for him. That means Lee wouldn't go to the Rangers or Yankees (the only two teams who could realistically claim him and his contract).

Now, claiming him comes with a few other notes:
  1. The Phillies could just let him go and the Dodgers could assume all the money in the contract.
  2. The Phillies and Dodgers could attempt to work a trade for Lee, but all players involved on the 40-man roster would have to clear waivers. This means the Dodgers would likely be sending players in the lower minors, which is good for them because it shouldn't take much to acquire Lee.
  3. The Phillies could pull him back and explore trading him in the winter.
So, this is actually a somewhat convoluted situation.

Worse-case scenario: the Dodgers are the same team in a few days without Lee. Best-case scenario: the Dodgers have pitcher 1A to Clayton Kershaw. This would give the Dodgers a formidable rotation for the postseason.

The Dodgers took on nearly $39 million in the Hanley Ramirez deal. Ownership has shown the desire to do whatever it takes to acquire talent for a playoff run right now. I'd be somewhat surprised if the Dodgers don't claim Lee from the Phillies.

Photo credit: Matthew Straubmuller, Flickr 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dodgers drop disappointing series against Diamondbacks

It's hard to fathom the Dodgers going into 'Frisco, flat-out dominate only to come home and get equally dominated by the Diamondbacks.

Now, Arizona has played well of late, but the Dodgers failing to use the momentum from the Giants' series is somewhat disappointing.

The biggest problem was the home runs allowed by Dodger pitching. Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Stephen Fife combined to allow six home runs in the three-game series. That is not a formula for winning. Hopefully it was just an aberration, but Harang and Capuano are regressing to the mean as we speak.

But all isn't lost. There are still two months to go and the Dodgers are in a good position to win the division. But like the past when the Dodgers and Giants are battling for the division, it will likely come down to the final week of the season. Until then, the Dodgers need to take care of business ... and hope the hitters remember how to hit.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dodgers fail to land starting pitcher at trade deadline

So, the Dodgers' farm system is weaker now than it was just two weeks ago. That was expected. What wasn't expected is the Dodgers would still need a starting pitcher after July 31.

The Dodgers went down to the wire for Ryan Dempster before the Rangers jumped in and snagged him. There were rumors of the Dodgers looking at Jason Vargas as a backup option, but that never came to be.

The Cubs were determined to get Allen Webster, but Ned Colletti stood strong, even if he gave into the Phillies' by giving up Ethan Martin in the Shane Victorino deal.

So, the Dodgers head into August needing a pitcher because Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano aren't pitching as well as they were earlier this season -- especially Capuano.

Cliff Lee's name is being bandied about because there are just two or three teams that could take on his massive contract.

If the Dodgers somehow land Lee in August, that'd be awesome. If they don't, they'd bank on Ted Lilly being healthy and maybe a guy like Webster to fill in. It's not the worst plan, but it certainly isn't ideal.

Rubby De La Rosa could also be an option, but I'd be surprised if he was anything but a reliever coming off Tommy John surgery.

I'll have a full trade deadline recap tonight or tomorrow.