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

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