Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dodgers' prospects with the most to lose and gain in 2012

The 2012 season is one of uncertainty for the Dodgers. A lot of things will come into focus following the ownership transition, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to be gained or lost -- especially for prospects.

Here's my three guys who stand have the most to lose and most to gain in 2012.

Most to lose

Ethan Martin RHP
- Martin, while not as talented as Withrow, has even more to lose than Withrow this season. His control was an issue after his debut season (5.5 BB/9, 1.97 K/BB), but he's just gotten worse as he's moved up. He posted a 7.36 ERA at Ranch Cucamonga last season before getting promoted to Double-A (sounds counter-intuitive, I know). He actually pitched a lot better in Chattanooga, but still has no control. His saving grace is his stuff -- a mid-90s fastball and a power curveball. With that combination, he could be a reliever in the majors, but I think his days as a legit starting prospect are over. This season will determine whether he even has a future in the majors.

Alfredo Silverio OF
- Some could put him on the "most to gain" list, but Silverio stands to lose a lot with a poor 2012 performance. He had his best season in the minors seven years after his debut. Guys who do that don't tend to work out long-term. The concerns with him include lack of power (despite 66 extra base hits in 2011), defensive ability (best suited in a corner) and his lack of plate discipline (3:1 K:BB ratio). If he bombs in Albquerque, his chances of being a regular in the majors are likely over.

Chris Withrow RHP
- People are still really high on Withrow, but he's about to begin his fourth stint in Double-A and has yet to get over the hump. He is the best prospect talent-wise in the system, but he hasn't put it all together -- and he might not ever put it all together. If he wants to remain a top starting pitching prospect, the 2012 season will make or break him. Otherwise, he'll end up in the bullpen or not ever end up in the majors.

Most to gain

Steve Ames RHP
- Curiously left off Baseball America's Top 30 list, Ames had a fantastic 2011 season and could take another leap forward in 2012. Scouts say his stuff don't match his numbers, but all he's done is produce in the minors. His 13.5 K/9 in his career is awfully impressive and his 1.8 BB/9 and 7.45 K/BB are even more impressive. With another solid showing in 2012, he could throw his hat into the bullpen ring for 2013.

O'Koyea Dickson 1B
- I just posted about Dickson, but he has a chance to establish himself as a legitimate prospect in the Dodgers' organization. He's going to have to do it all with his bat, though, as his defense is average at best. Dickson has good power potential and as an older selection from the 2011 draft, he'll need to move quickly to be more than roster fodder.

Leon Landry OF
- Landry had a fantastic debut season in 2010 -- well enough for me to rank him in my Top 10 last year. However, he had a rough go at it with the Loons and has fallen off a lot of prospect radars. But I foresee a breakout season for Landry, and not just because he's going to play in the hitter-friendly California League. Landry has a chance to re-establish himself as one of the organization's best position prospects. His defense in center field is among the best and his ability to get on base could help him bounce back in 2012.

Photo credit: SD Dirk on Flickr

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Things are not going to end well in the Andre Ethier-Dodgers' relationship

So, Andre Ethier is in camp and he made sure everyone knows it.

He gave, what Tony Jackson of ESPN LA called a "curiously contentious" interview, to reporters at Dodgers' camp today.

This segment from Jackson's blog post really stood out:
"Ethier eventually got around to saying he feels fine now, but not before responding to a friendly greeting of, 'Did you have a good winter?'' with a curt, 'We're not here to talk about that.'"
Now, I wasn't there to hear the tone of the question or the inflection that might have been used, but it seems really innocent on the surface. But come on, Andre, quit being so whiny and just answer some damn questions.

This is another quote from the blog post:
"'I'm not your buddy. You're not my buddy. We're not going to sit here and have a bar-type conversation.''"
He's right, but he didn't have to be a jerk about it. Ethier has probably interacted with these reporters his entire career -- Jackson, Ken Gurnick and Dylan Hernandez. To be so shortsighted in his comments just shows he doesn't want to be in Los Angeles anymore.

If one hasn't followed the Ethier saga since the end of Spring Training last year, one could say, "Ethier's just focused and ready to produce this season." Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case.

He's been pissy ever since Chad Billingsley got his contract extension last spring and Ethier didn't. At this point, I'm not even sure I'd want the Dodgers to give him an extension -- or he'd even agree to it.

It just seems things are not going to end well in this relationship. There seems to be resentment on Ethier's side and it doesn't appear it anything is going to fix it.

I said in June the Dodgers needed to trade him and I stand by that declaration. It's probably the only thing that will keep this from becoming anymore of an episode than it already is. I know it's not wise to trade a team's second-best hitter on an offensively starved team, but this is something the Dodgers don't need to deal with.

Photo credit: LWY on Flickr

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Dodgers' potential success starts at the top with Dee Gordon

Every team has a pivotal player -- a guy who is of vital importance to a team's success.

It's easy to choose the good players -- Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp. We know how important they are to the Dodgers' success in 2012.

I could choose Chad Billingsley or James Loney because they've been underachievers in the last couple years, but that would be too easy.

So, I'm going with Dee Gordon.

The 23-year-old got a taste of the Majors last year, hitting .304/.325/.362 with 24 stolen bases in 31 attempts. He performed considerably better after returning from injury, hitting .372/.398/.451 with 21 runs scored in 26 games.

He is expected to be the Dodgers' lead-off man and with the severe lack of offense, him being a table-setter is going to be important.

Now, Gordon hasn't been known for taking a lot of walks or working the count in his professional career -- things a good lead-off man should do. However, he puts the bat on the ball and uses his speed to make things happen. He's going to have to do a lot of that in 2012 if the Dodgers want to be successful.

With Kemp the only sure thing in the lineup, Gordon's ability at the plate is that much more important.

Gordon drew comparisons to a young Jose Reyes. Admittedly, Reyes is, was and probably will always be a better player than Gordon and to expect Gordon to be Reyes this early in his career is unreasonable.

Reyes had played parts of two full seasons and parts of two others before his age-24 season. In that time, Reyes hit .285/.321/.427 and stole an average of 39 bases. If the Dodgers could get anything close to that triple slash (maybe a higher batting average and lower slugging percentage), they'd take it and not think twice about it.

Gordon has all of 233 plate appearances in the Majors. In Reyes' first 231 plate appearances, he hit .311/.328/.429 with 11 stolen bases. Gordon actually stole significantly more bases than Reyes, which is surprising for a guy who would go onto lead the National League in stolen bases three years in a row.

Gordon isn't going to hit for Reyes' power, probably ever. But Gordon is going to be a key for the Dodgers in 2012. He'll need to be the catalyst for the offense if they're going to make a playoff push. The pitching will be there and, as usual, the offense is the question mark.

It's a lot of pressure to put on a soon-to-be 24-year-old, but as a former highly regarded prospect and all-around likable guy, I think he can handle it.

Photo credit: UCinternational (Wikimedia Commons), bridgetds (Flickr)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lee, Webster, Eovaldi all make Baseball America's Top 100 prospects

Dodger farmhands Zach Lee, Allen Webster and Nathan Eovaldi all made Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list, released today.

Lee checked in at No. 62, Webster at No. 95 and Eovaldi at No. 96.

Both Lee and Webster made BA's midseason Top 50 list, checking in at No. 39 and 47, respectively.

This seems to be about in line with most thinking, even though Lee ranked higher in MLB.com's Top 100 list (45). In fact, all three ranked higher on that list.

It's hard to argue with the rankings. Lee's fall had more to do with new players being added (i.e. 2011 draft class) while Webster's fall had to do with a poor showing the last month of the season in Chattanooga.


Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times reported Peter O'Malley has withdrawn his bid to purchase the Dodgers.

O'Malley was backed by a South Korean conglomerate, did not comment to the L.A. Times.

O'Malley was definitely at the top or near the top of most people's wishlist when it came to the new owner of the Dodgers, but he obviously will not be the next owner of the team.


File this under news to no one: Clayton Kershaw will be the Dodgers' Opening Day starter.

Matt Kemp will begin the season as the team's No. 3 hitter -- which is just fine with me.

Blake Hawksworth will begin the season on the disabled list. This makes the Todd Coffey signing make a lot more sense, but I still don't have to like it all that much.

Dodger Spring Training opened today, so expect the news to pick up significantly from now until the end of March.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blake Smith's chance to cement future begins now

When the Dodgers drafted Blake Smith in the second round of the 2009 draft, they were going against the grain.

Many teams saw Smith as a better pitching prospect than hitting prospect, but the Dodgers thought otherwise. It wasn't the first time in the Logan White era the Dodgers have done something this: James Loney was drafted as a first baseman when teams viewed him as a pitcher in 2002 and Ethan Martin was drafted as a pitcher when teams viewed him as a third baseman in 2008.

But after three seasons and nearly 1,000 plate appearances, it's clear the Dodgers made the right decision in drafting Smith as an outfielder.

Smith said he's happy to do whatever is necessary to be a member of a Major League team.

"I had, and still do have one goal, and that's to be a long-term contributor to a big league team," Smith said. "To me, it doesn't matter how I reach that goal. I am willing to do whatever it takes."

Smith said he misses pitching but playing the field more than makes up for it.

"It's an amazing feeling to get up there and challenge a guy with a good fastball when everyone in the park knows its coming and blow it by him; I do miss that," Smith said. "At the same time, I love playing everyday. I love hitting and I love playing the field."

Unfortunately for Smith, two of the deepest positions in the Dodgers' system are corner outfielder and right-handed reliever. But Smith's talents could help him gain the upper hand in his quest to be a contributor.

His defense, arm and raw power are among the best in the system. And despite playing in the hitter-friendly California League in 2011, there are a lot of things to be impressed with, including his smooth stroke and ability to drive the ball to the opposite field.

As a 22-year-old for the Great Lakes Loons in 2010, Smith posted a .281/.363/.488 line with 19 home runs in 430 at-bats. Smith improved those numbers to .304/.369/.948 and 20 home runs in 2011, but it wasn't without adversity.

Smith suffered a double hernia in the first half of last season and played through it until the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes clinched a playoff spot in the Cal League Playoffs.

"Although I got an injury early in the season, which was disappointing, I really wanted to stick it out until we at least clinched playoffs," Smith said, "which is why I waited until the first half was over to have surgery."

Like all athletes, Smith just wants to win. However, he said the one thing he really wants to do in 2012 has nothing to do with hitting the ball well or throwing the ball hard.

"I want to stay healthy," Smith said. "The last two seasons, I have missed significant time with freak accidents (four weeks for a concussion in 2010 and nine weeks with a double hernia in 2011) and it was extremely frustrating. You can't contribute to the team being hurt."

He said he also wants to increase his run production in 2012.

"I love my RBIs. It's what I live for during the season and I put a lot of pressure on myself to get them," Smith said. "To me, that's how you win games -- you score more than your opponent. I don't think you can ever knock in enough runs, so that being said, I'd like to improve on hitting with runners in scoring position."

Smith didn't do anything differently in 2011 than he did in 2010, but said he learned a little more about his swing helped him improve.

"Baseball is such a repetitious sport, figuring out a good routine to get yourself mentally and physically ready for your given task is key," Smith said, "and I think I'm starting to put together what works for me."

Smith has played baseball since he was a child, as well as other sports. But he said baseball was always No. 1 in his heart.

Smith said his favorite part about playing baseball is the inherent challenge the game presents.

"Hitting a baseball is the most challenging thing to do in sports, it's a fact," Smith said. "The sweet feeling of barreling up a pitch, the feeling you get as you release the ball from the outfield and see the guy running home has no chance of scoring. The smell of the grass and feeling of your cleats sinking into the dirt. It's truly a beautiful game and nothing else give me the feelings that baseball does."

His future in the Majors hinges a lot on his 2012 performance. Andre Ethier is a free agent after this season and there are a few prospects/young players ahead of him in the pecking order, including Alfredo Silverio, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Castellanos and Jerry Sands -- all of whom should begin with the Albuquerque Isotopes.

He also has teammate Angelo Songco to compete against. Van Slyke, Castellanos and Songco are all capable of playing elsewhere, but none of them have Smith's defensive ability in the outfield (especially right field), so that's a plus in his column. However, Van Slyke and Castellanos, albeit older prospects, have already experienced Double-A while Smith is going to get his first taste of the Southern League.

Still, Smith has the most upside of any Dodger outfield prospect. His power potential and defensive ability put him ahead of the rest. He'll need a strong showing in Chattanooga to convince others, though.

Smith has been pretty successful thus far in his career, but he said one of his best accomplishments came before he was even a pro.

"One I will always remember was the summer I played for Team USA," Smith said. "It was the most unbelievable collection of athletes I have ever been on the field with. We went 24-0, which is going to be a tough record to break."

He was a member of the 2008 USA Baseball National (Collegiate) Team. As a two-way player on the squad, Smith led the team in hitting, going 18-for-55 (.327) with three home runs, five doubles and 13 RBI in 20 games. He also threw nine innings, picking up two saves and 11 strikeouts without allowing an earned run. The team won the gold medal at the IV FISU World Collegiate Baseball Championship in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2008.

But he owes a lot of his success -- and potential future success -- to his family.

"My family, without a doubt, is my biggest influence," Smith said. "I can't even begin to explain what they have done for me. Without them and all their support, I wouldn't be half the man I am today."

Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The 'hitterish' prospect: O'Koyea Dickson of the Dodgers

The Dodgers drafted first baseman O'Koyea Dickson in the 12th round of the 2011 draft. He was drafted from a small school northwest of San Francisco -- and they might have found themselves a gem.

He's not your prototypical first baseman, checking in at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, but he made himself known while playing in the Pioneer League in his debut.

Dickson, who just turned 22 on Feb. 9, posted a .333/.402/.603 triple slash with the Ogden Raptors. His 1.005 OPS was good for fourth in the league and his 13 home runs tied for sixth-best in the league.

His strikeout percentage was a tad high for my liking (23.3 percent), but his walk rate was encouraging (10 percent).

I found a scouting video of him on YouTube. It was posted Sept. 4, 2010, and is courtesy of 49th State Hardball, a website devoted to the Alaska Baseball League. In this league, Dickson played third base. It's too bad he couldn't stick there as the Dodgers system is barren at that position -- and has been for too many years.

As you'll see in the video, Dickson isn't an imposing figure, but he does put a few nice swings on the ball. His stance is wide, his stride is short and he's "quiet" before the pitch. Those are all good things.

Perfect Game, a high school scouting organization and host of showcases around the country, wrote favorably about Dickson in its 2007 analysis.
"The term 'hitterish' comes to mind with Dickson, meaning that he has that certain something that says HITTER."
Perfect Game rated him an '8,' which meant Dickson was a potential mid-round selection. It was also all over the place with figuring out where he'd play -- first base, left field, catcher -- but he ultimately ended up at first base.

I ranked Dickson at No. 20 in my Top 50 while Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. ranked him at No. 40. He should begin the season in Great Lakes with the Loons.

He's going to have to continue to hit as he progresses if he wants a chance at big league stardom, but I just have a good feeling about this kid -- from everything I've read and seen. Then there's the thing I can't explain -- I can't give you something tangible about his future success, but something just tells me he's going to make it. The proverbial "gut feeling," I suppose.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Dodgers should enter the Jorge Soler sweepstakes

While some thought Frank McCourt's final present to Dodger fans could have been to sign Prince Fielder to a mega deal (and the Dodgers were close), there's something a little more practical that could be done; something that would hopefully spur the next Dodger owner to invest in: international scouting.

Who am I referring to? None other than Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler.

Mike Petriello had a great post in December about the Dodgers' lack of international spending in recent years. He said it a lot better than I can, but I'm going to give it a shot.

The Dodgers were once known as one of the most active teams in the international market -- signing players like Fernando Valenzuela, Ramon Martinez, Pedro Martinez Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park, Adrian Beltre and so on. Now, the international signings include Rubby De La Rosa and Kenley Jansen, which isn't bad, but the quantity of international signings has been unimpressive.

The Dodgers spent about $314,000 in international signing bonuses in 2010. Gone are the days of finding the next Pedro or Fernando if the Dodgers refuse to spend on international scouting and spending.

Even with the changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement -- basically eliminating the bidding wars involving international amateur prospects -- the Dodgers should make one final splash before the new rules take effect.

If the Dodgers invest more in international scouting, they could have the upper hand when it comes to acquiring international players.

Now, I'm not saying every guy the Dodgers acquire on the international market will be a great player, nor am I saying the Dodgers need to be in on everyone. But right now, the Dodgers need to be in on Soler.

Soler, 19, is a a big kid (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) who some view quite highly, including Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.
"Protypical RF package with plenty of athleticism and raw power. If he was an American high school kid entering the 2012 draft, he'd be a single-digit pick."
So, he'd be a Top 10 pick -- something the Dodgers haven't had since they drafted Clayton Kershaw at No. 7 overall in the 2006 draft.

Scoutingbook.com had this to say about Soler:

"He's already showing the signs of that very-likely plus power, and his very strong arm is certainly real. His contact skills and lack of patience at the plate, though, are equally clear indicators that he's still a very rough gem."
Like with any athlete, there's give-and-take. Despite the concerns about discipline, this is clearly a risk worth taking.

Now, he's going to cost more than your prototypical Top-10 draft pick,

Fellow Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes just signed a 4-year, $36 million deal with the Oakland Athletics (of all teams). The difference -- Cespedes is 26 years old while Soler is just 19. Soler won't cost that much, but I could see a team putting down $20 million to sign the youngster.

For a reference point, the Cubs signed Cuban left-hander Gerrado Concepcion to a $7 million deal (plus another $1 million in incentives). Soler is a much better prospect than Concepcion, hence the higher price tag.

As C. Trent Rosecrans of CBS Sports points out, Soler isn't yet eligible for free agency.

"...Soler has yet to establish residency in the Dominican Republic, but has applied. After establishing residency, Soler will need to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and be cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assts Control before he can sign a contract. Cespedes was declared a resident of the Dominican Republic on Jan. 24 and 19 days later he was cleared by the OFAC..."
So, this might be a bit premature, but it seems Soler gaining residency in the Dominican Republic is just a formality at this point.

Rosecrans also had this to say:

"Unlike Cespedes, whoever signs Soler won't expect him to contribute to the major league team anytime soon, but in the end, he could be even better than the 26-year-old Cespedes."
This is exactly what the Dodgers need right now. I know they have a ton of outfield prospects, but none are on the level of this prospect. And by the time Soler would be ready, the Dodgers would probably have a vacancy in their outfield.

The Blue Jays, Cubs, Orioles, Phillies Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees have all expressed some level of interest in the right fielder. How fitting would it be for the Dodgers to reassert their dominance in the international market -- smacking down some of the "big boys" before the rules change?

For me, this is a no-brainer. Will it happen? Absolutely not, but it's more practical than giving Fielder $160 million.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dodger blogger profile: Jon Weisman (Dodger Thoughts)

In the eighth part of my Dodger Blogger Profile series, I catch up with Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts. I posted a piece on Feb. 3 I wrote about him a couple years ago.

Weisman was the first Dodger blog (or any blog, for that matter) I ever started reading and it's been a treat. He's really the most rational Dodger blogger out there -- he doesn't get too high or too low on the Dodgers. I think that's what I like most about him and his blog.

1. How did you become a Dodgers' fan?
- I have no conscious memory of becoming one. I just was. I actually have earlier memories of being a Lakers and Rams fan – we had Rams season tickets growing up, and the Lakers being on their 33-game winning streak in the 1971-72 season is my earliest sports memory. We just rooted for the local teams in those days and there was no reason for the Dodgers to be an exception. My earliest Dodger memory is watching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974 off Al Downing on TV – I was 6 1/2, and I know I was a fan of the team by then.

2. What got you into blogging?
- A combination of being bored at one point at work and having a friend who had started her own personal blog, back when blog was an almost completely unfamiliar term. One day it clicked for me that a blog would help with my boredom and provide an outlet for my thoughts about the Dodgers, even if at the time only my brother would be reading. I had no idea when I started that it would be a long-term thing.

3. What are some of goals for your blog?
- Originally, it was just to articulate some analysis and information about the Dodgers that the mainstream outlets weren’t providing. You have to understand that when I started this, you could hardly find any Dodger coverage that wasn’t more or less by the book. Nothing along the lines of what you see today. That being said, I still find angles that others don’t seem to see.

Then, over time, I have come to value Dodger Thoughts as an outlet to offer some more personal reflections. No matter how many people write about the Dodgers, I’m the only one who’s going to write about me.

But I also take pride in linking regularly to good work by others. There’s so much good stuff out there, and I always feel a strong itch to get people to read it. I could be wrong, but I’d venture that no one in the Dodger blogging world has been as dedicated to this as I am.

4. What is the best experience you've had since blogging?
- I’d have to say the way the Dodger Thoughts commenting community came together a few years ago will always stick with me. There are some pieces I’ve written that I’m particularly proud of, but as far as experiences go, that community forming was once-in-a-lifetime. Even though it has mostly moved on to and grown in other places, I’ll always remember how it was.

5. What is your most memorable in-person Dodgers' experience?
- For games I actually attended, possibly Fernando’s no-hitter and Dennis Martinez’s perfect game. I’ve seen lots of dramatic moments – so many that if I tried I could list dozens - but those are the first that come to mind.

6. How many Dodger games have you attended? At Dodger Stadium?
- I’ve been keeping count of this since 1991, and the tally is at 585 – all but probably about 10 of those at Dodger Stadium. My high for one season is 70. I’d guess that if you include the pre-1991 years, I’m approaching 1,000.

7. Who is your all-time favorite Dodger player and pitcher?
- Somehow I keep coming back to the two Pedros, Guerrero and Astacio. I just loved Guerrero as a hitter and was in awe of him, and, outside of Bill James calling him "the best hitter God has made in a long time” never felt he got enough credit. Astacio won me over for his childlike celebration when he pitched a shutout in his first major-league game. R.J. Reynolds is in similar company for me because of his squeeze bunt to win the 9/11/83 game that I always celebrate at Dodger Thoughts.

It’s not that there aren’t players from other eras that I don’t love, including Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw today, but I feel connected to Guerrero and Astacio the same way I feel connected to “Hill Street Blues” as my favorite TV show.

8. What season of Dodgers' baseball do you remember most? Why?
- At the risk of taking this too literally, the way you phrased the question (instead of asking which season is “most memorable”) rules out some more obvious choices. Not that I don’t have clear memories, but I wouldn’t necessarily say 1988 because I was away from Los Angeles most of that season, for college and summer jobs. And I kind of don’t want to say 1981, despite the World Series title, because the strike made a big chunk of that year vanish. I’m actually finding it hard not to say 2009, because it was a crazy year that came so close to a title – and because it was recent so I’m not struggling to remember as much…

9. Who is the Dodger you liked that no one else seemed to like?
- Well, certainly Reynolds and Astacio didn’t inspire a ton of dedicated fans, but I don’t think anyone disliked them. Then there are guys like Hee Seop Choi and Jonathan Broxton, polarizing players who had plenty of diehard supporters. I wish I could think of someone that I was truly out on a limb for. Maybe Jose Offerman? I was defending him well past the point that anyone I knew was listening.

10. What do you the Dodgers need to do to win another World Series in your lifetime (save axing McCourt and Colletti)?
- Well, it’s not rocket science – make intelligent decisions and get a little lucky. It’s hardly unachievable, which is what makes the current drought so frustrating. It’s much more likely to happen than not. But then again, my dad was raised a Cubs fan, so I know how it can go…

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grading the 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers off-season

Now that pitchers and catchers are reporting soon and any major transactions will likely wait until the trade deadline, I'll take a brief look at the Dodgers' off-season moves.


To Baltimore: LHP Dana Eveland
To Los Angeles: LHP Jarret Martin, OF/IF Tyler Henson

- This was a surprising move, as Eveland was arbitration-eligible and the Dodgers had other plans for the starting rotation. Eveland was nothing more than roster fodder, so for the Dodgers to get anything for him -- especially young players -- was rather amazing.
Grade: B


Andre Ethier - 1 year, $10.95M (avoided arbitration)
- Ethier signed a contract to avoid arbitration -- a contract some thought was a little cheaper than expected. I thought he'd get $12-plus million contract, but coming off knee surgery, he got a little less than that. It's a good number (a tradeable number if necessary) who seems poised to have a comeback season.
Grade: B+

Tony Gwynn - 2 years, $2 million (avoided arbitration)
- I actually really like this deal, as Gwynn is a defensive specialist and good base-stealer. He's the perfect guy for the Dodgers to have coming off the bench. To get him for a million bucks a year, despite the limited resources, is a great deal.
Grade: A

Matt Kemp - 8 years, $160 million
- Yes.
Grade: A+

Clayton Kershaw - 2 years, $19 million (avoided arbitration)
- Yes, part deux.
Grade: A+

James Loney - 1 year, $6.375 million (avoided arbitration)
- This deal is in line with what a lot of people thought he'd get, but it's a bit much for a guy who didn't do much until the last two months of the season. The Dodgers took too long to get into the Prince Fielder bidding that they had to tender Loney a contract. Unless he breaks out in a big way, this could be his last season as a Dodger.
Grade: C-

Mike MacDougal - 1 year, $650,000 ($350,000 buyout)
- I understood MacDougal on minor-league deal last year, but to give a guy with a shiny ERA a million bucks guaranteed is suspect. I don't think there's any way he matches last season's performance.
Grade: D+

Juan Rivera - 1 year, $4.5 million
- When I was drafting my off-season plan, I actually had the Dodgers re-signing Rivera on a 1-year, $4 million deal. At the time, it didn't look so bad. Now, it's terrible, especially since he'll be taking valuable playing time away from Jerry Sands. He was solid for the Dodgers after they acquired him in July, but the re-signing wasn't necessary. At least it's just a 1-year contract.
Grade: C-

Free agent signings

Chris Capuano - 2 years, $10 million
- For the price, this is actually not a horrible signing. The fact that it prevented the Dodgers from re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, however, makes this a poor signing.
Grade: C-

Todd Coffey - 1 year, $1.3 million
- Coffey is a solid reliever and isn't making a lot, but it was a totally unnecessary signing. If there's any one position the Dodgers have quality and surplus at, it's right-handed relief pitchers. This also came after re-signing MacDougal. If I had to choose between the two, I'd choose Coffey easily.
Grade: D

Mark Ellis - 2 years, $8.75 million
- I'm actually not opposed to this deal, as middle infielders -- for whatever reason -- got paid this off-season. Ellis is a great defender at second base -- something the Dodgers haven't had since Alex Cora in 2004. His bat has taken a dive, though. Despite that, he could be the team's No. 2 hitter. Hitting in front of Kemp could benefit him greatly.
Grade: C+

Jerry Hairston - 2 years, $6 million
- The Dodgers needed a utility player, but did they really need to $2.25 million on one this off-season? This was a luxury signing for a team that doesn't have a lot of money to blow on utility players (at least, not right now).
Grade: C

Aaron Harang - 2 years, $12 million
- Like the Capuano deal, this isn't a bad deal. The fact that the Dodgers chose these two instead of Kuroda doesn't sit well with me. If Harang can pitch like he did last season or like he did for a few years with the Reds, this could actually be a decent deal.
Grade: C

Adam Kennedy - 1 year, $800,000
- This is the Dodgers' worst signing of the off-season. There are a hundred different players who could do what Kennedy will do -- and probably do it for cheaper (and possibly better).
Grade: F

Matt Treanor - 1 year, $1 million
- We know Ned Colletti likes his veteran catchers and giving a guy $1 million to be the team's backup catcher is questionable. Treanor has no stick whatsoever, so don't expect anything from him at the plate.
Grade: D


The Dodgers' off-season started off great, inking Kemp to a long-term deal was priority No. 1. The off-season could have been bookend by nabbing Fielder, but Victor Martinez and his torn ACL prevented that. The Dodgers made a bunch of mediocre signings that could have been made later in the off-season for cheaper. Hopefully off-seasons for the foreseeable future will be a lot more interesting and productive than this.
: C-

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dodgers cut Russ Mitchell, sign Jamey Wright

In a couple of really minor moves, the Dodgers designated Russ Mitchell for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for the newly signed Todd Coffey.

Mitchell, 27 in a week, was a surprising cut. It was a little curious the Dodgers decided to cut him instead of Trent Oeltjen, as the Dodgers have a glut of outfielders and not a lot of third basemen.

Having said that, Mitchell's Major Leauge career has been less-than impressive thus far.

Mitchell's career numbers (101 plate appearances):

4 HR
1 2B
7:18 BB:K ratio

So, the Dodgers aren't missing much. Besides, he's probably not going to get picked up by a team. He's nothing more than Triple-A roster fodder.

The Dodgers also signed journeyman pitcher Jamey Wright to a minor-league deal. Tony Jackson of ESPN LA reported he has an out-clause that allows him to be a free agent at the end of March if he's not added to the 25-man roster.

Much to my surprise, Wright actually pitched well for the Mariners in the last season and a half. He posted a 3.41 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 2010 and a 3.16 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 2011.

Maybe this is the guy who comes out of nowhere to make the Dodgers' bullpen -- it happens every damn year.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him earn a spot in the bullpen by the end of Spring Training. We all know the Dodgers' bullpen was too young to possibly do any good this season. The last three additions have been Mike MacDougal, Coffey and Wright -- all guys in their 30s who will, in all likelihood, not be any better (or worse) than some of the youngsters.

We'll see what happens.


The Chicago Cubs designated former Dodger Blake DeWitt for assignment on Tuesday in somewhat surprising move.

Man, Ned Colletti just had to have Adam Kennedy, didn't he? DeWitt would have been a much, much better signing than the over-the-hill Kennedy. I'm sure he'll get a look with another team.


Apparently, Josh Macciello's bid for the Dodgers (the team, the stadium and the land) is $2.2 billion.
"$2.2 is for everything guys. Team, stadium, media rights deal and ALL THE LAND!!!"
Well, there's that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Audio recording of the 911 call from James Loney's November incident

TMZ acquired the 911 recording and released it today from the day James Loney allegedly collided with several cars on Nov. 14.

The recording, 4:43 long, has the woman caller describing what happened. It's also a little chilling in the middle when Loney allegedly wakes up and tries to drive away.

Word broke on Wednesday that Loney wouldn't be charged for the actions of that day.
"Loney declined to comment through his agency, CAA Sports. His attorney, Dmitry Gorin, said his erratic behavior that day was the result of a head injury.

"'Independent lab analysis re-confirmed that Mr. Loney did not have any unlawful substances or alcohol in his blood,' Gorin wrote in a statement. 'The traffic accident reports described that Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics quickly responded to the scene and determined that Mr. Loney displayed symptoms consistent with head trauma, including disorientation.'"

The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office said there was "insufficient evidence" to proceed, according to the Times' article.

So, that's that, I suppose. Still, it's a blemish on Loney's resume, but thankfully no one was seriously injured in the incident. Here's hoping he's learned from this incident.

Photo credit: LWY on Flickr

Dodgers avoid arbitration with Clayton Kershaw, sign him to 2-year deal

The Dodgers signed reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to a 2-year, $19 million deal today, according to the Dodgers' official Twitter account.

He asked for $10 million in arbitration while the Dodgers offered him $6.5 million. Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweeted he'll earn $7.5 million this season (plus a $500,000 signing bonus) and $11 million in 2013.

Update (Feb. 7, 2:21 p.m.): ESPN LA's Tony Jackson is reporting $2 million of Kershaw's 2012 salary will be deferred until January.

The contract buys out one year of arbitration (2013), leaving him one more year before reaching unrestricted free agency. Of course, the Dodgers would be foolish for not extending him long-term after the season.

Well-deserved, Mr. Kershaw. I can't wait to write the blog post when he signs an 8-year deal with the Dodgers.

Photo credit: SD Dirk on Flickr

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hong-Chih Kuo expected to sign with the Mariners

So, instead of watching the halftime show at Super Bowl XLVI, I'm blogging about Hong-Chih Kuo possibly heading to the Seattle Mariners

Earlier today, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweeted Kuo's agent said the left-hander was close to signing with a team.

Jayson Stark of ESPN confirmed this afternoon Kuo is close to signing with M's. No terms are known yet. Considering Kuo is coming off a horrific season, it'd be surprising if he got more than a minor-league deal.

It was just one winter ago Kuo was coming off an All-Star season and one of the best by a left-handed pitcher in Dodgers' history: 1.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 4.4 H/9 and a 11.0 K/9 rate.

Injuries and an anxiety disorder led to a miserable 2011: 9.00 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 7.7 BB/9 and a 12.0 K/9 rate. While the K-rate is impressive the rest of this numbers are not.

It's unfortunate because he looked like he was going be dominant for a long time, despite being a constant injury risk (more than the average pitcher).

Here's hoping he can overcome his issues and injuries (five surgeries on his left elbow) and return to his pre-2011 form.

For everything he did on the mound, he'll always be remembered for this.

Photo credit: SD Dirk on Flickr

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dodgers sign Todd Coffey, but why?

The Dodgers signed Todd Coffey today to a 1-year, $1.3 million deal with a club option for the 2013 season.

Update (Feb. 3, 5:22 p.m.): Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times has the contract details:

2012: $1 million
2013: $2.5 million option with a $300,000 buyout

This one came out of left field. But why the need? Seriously, this signing makes no sense.

The Dodgers' bullpen was already crowded, and now there's another veteran to take time away from a youngster.

Classic Ned Colletti.

If the Mike MacDougal signing didn't mean Nathan Eovaldi would begin the season in the minors, this move certainly does. It also means Josh Lindblom, he of the 2.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 6.4 H/9 and 8.5 K/9 will also likely begin the season in the minors.

The only legitimate justification for this signing is the Dodgers are worried about Blake Hawksworth's injury, but he's projected to return for Spring Training.

The only way this signing would have made sense is if MacDougal wasn't re-signed (and would have been a much, much better option).

Coffey's career numbers aren't great, but he's been solid for the last three seasons (his 2010 wasn't great, though). His career ground ball percentage is 51, but that number has trended down in four consecutive seasons (43.6 in 2011). He also gets lit up by left-handed hitters (.317/.388/.470 for his career), so I guess he's a ROOGY.

The only saving grace is the contract isn't pricey and is for one guaranteed year.

You may have heard about Coffey's world famous sprint to the mound. Well, Mike Petriello has a post on it, if you'd care to have a look at it.

Petriello also points out the Dodgers' 40-man roster is full, so someone is going to get Das Boot.
"The Dodgers already had a full 40-man, so someone's got to go. The bell tolls for thee, Trent Oeltjen?"
Here's hoping. Oeltjen has zero reason to be on the 40-man roster.

Photo credit: isabellamckinney (Elizabeth McKinney) on Flickr.

The 'Godfather' of Dodger bloggers

This is not one of my standard Dodger Blogger Profiles (though, it's on the way), but this is a profile I wrote about Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts.

This is actually a piece I wrote for my column writing class in November 2009. I've been wanting to share it with the readers for awhile.

So anyway, here it is. Weisman has agreed to answer my questions for the profile series, so that should be up in the next couple weeks.



Every true Los Angeles Dodger fan's dream is to some how, some way meet or have a chance to meet a living legend -- Vincent Edward Scully. Lord knows it's my dream.

Not only did Jon Weisman meet the man affectionately known as "Vin," he had the privilege of writing a column about Scully on Sports Illustrated's Web site just over two years ago.

Weisman, 41, was kind enough to reply to some e-mail questions.

When asked about his favorite piece, he recalls the afore mentioned Scully column.

"I do enjoy thinking about a column I wrote about Vin Scully for SI.com, when I compared his call of a game in the late 1960s to his call of a game 40 years later," Weisman said.

Weisman writes a blog, Dodger Thoughts, for the Los Angeles Times. However, it did not start as a Times' blog.

"I was just doing my own thing," Weisman said. "After a few years, when the site showed some real growth, it didn't seem quite so unlikely. But it wasn't my be-all, end-all ambition."

Dodger Thoughts, started by Weisman in July 2002, was picked up by the Times in February.

Weisman is no rookie when it comes to journalism, though.

"I sold my first story to the Los Angeles Times in 1986, while in college," Weisman said. "I did a detour into screenwriting for much of the 1990s, but I've done a lot of journalism work this decade."

Weisman, who attended Stanford University and Georgetown University, earned his bachelor's degree in American Studies in 1989 and master's degree in 1993, respectively.

Despite his passion for Dodger baseball, Weisman has been an associate features editor with Variety since September 2006 after doing freelance work for the publication for the previous three years.

However, he said he plans to stay in journalism for awhile, especially a paying job.

"My day job is as a features editor with Variety. I figure to remain in the business for some time; I haven't planned any major career shifts of anything."

Like many journalists, Weisman got started early.

"The very, very first thing, I believe, was I was asked to write an article for my high school newspaper on a production of a live Doonesbury show I was attending," he said. "I enjoyed doing that and looked for more assignments, and was committed to the newspaper for the rest of my high school and college life. I decided fairly early on in college that I wanted to be a sportswriter after graduation."

Weisman is the father of three children -- a daughter and two sons -- and is married.

As a life-long Dodger fan, like Jon, I am jealous and envious of his accomplishments. I hope to be able to lay claim to some similar accomplishments in my journalism career.

His most memorable moment, meeting Vin, was "unforgettable."

"It wasn't my best interview, but it was the one that had the most meaning for me."

I'm sure Weisman isn't the first, nor will he be the last journalist to utter a such a phrase.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Breaking down FanGraphs' Top 15 Dodgers' prospect list

Marc Hulet of FanGraphs today published his Top 15 Dodgers' prospects list, and the first eight are pretty standard, but there are a few inclusions I don't agree with.

Here's this list:
  1. Zach Lee
  2. Nathan Eovaldi
  3. Chris Reed
  4. Allen Webster
  5. Garrett Gould
  6. Chris Withrow
  7. Alfredo Silverio
  8. Joc Pederson
  9. Tim Federowicz
  10. Josh Lindblom
  11. Alex Santana
  12. Shawn Tolleson
  13. James Baldwin
  14. Ivan De Jesus
  15. Aaron Miller
The top two are good in my book, but I have a hard time seeing Reed ranked ahead of Webster -- but to each his own. And admittedly, I may have ranked Reed a tad low in my Top 50 (No. 19), but there's no going back on it now.

Gould, Withrow, Silverio and Pederson are all solid in the 5-8 slots, but then we get to Federowicz at No. 9.

I still don't get the appeal of this guy. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the Dodgers' 13th-best prospect earlier this week, but Baseball America has Federowicz ranked No. 10. Everything I've read and seen doesn't lead me to believe Federowicz is a Top-15 prospect in the Dodgers' system. Yes, the system is weak (ranked No. 23 by BA and No. 27 by Top Prospect Alert), but an all-glove, no-bat catcher doesn't exactly scream "top prospect" to me.

But that's not even the most curious inclusion on this list. Santana -- toolsy and young as he may be -- is not anywhere near the Top 20, let alone the Top 10, Dodger prospects. The kid is raw and needs a couple years to get to this level.

I like DeJesus, but he's no longer a Top 20-25 prospect in this system. He's likely going to start in Triple-A and doesn't have much of a chance with the Dodgers.

Hulet wrote this, which is a head-scratcher:
"De Jesus hit .328 recently in the Puerto Rico Winter League and has nothing left to prove in the minors. He should be a solid big league starter at second base."
If that was truly the case, methinks Hulet would have ranked DeJesus ahead of guys like Santana, Lindblom and Federowicz. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening.

Miller at No. 15 is pushing it, but he's been held back by injuries. Still, I don't see him as more than a reliever at this point. His 2012 will be telling for his future.

Other news and notes:

Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. is down to the Top 70 Dodger prospects in his countdown. His 80-71 rankings include Matt Kirkland, Jeffrey Hunt and Greg Wilborn.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. writes about the possibility of former Dodger executive Derrick Hall, Diamondbacks' president and CEO, returning to the Dodgers after the team is sold.

Stephen quoted Yahoo Sports' Steve Henson's article on Hall:

"It’s why several of the groups seeking to purchase the Dodgers have contacted Hall to become the CEO should their bid win."

However, John Gambadoro of 620 KTAR-AM in Phoenix, tweeted otherwise.
"Derrick Hall would not be interested in President job of the Dodgers. Yahoo sports speculated he would be a candidate for potential owners"
Stephen points out the Dodgers haven't had an "official" team president since Dennis Mannion was relieved of his duties in October 2010.

Jim Bowden of ESPN LA speculates that Stan Kroenke is the front-runner to win the bidding for the Dodgers, citing the ability to move the Rams back to Los Angeles. However, it'd mean Frank McCourt would still be in the picture, which immediately turns me off.

Don't count out Dodgers' prospect Scott Van Slyke because of his age

It's easy to overlook prospects because of their age. If a guy hasn't done anything by his age-21 or 22 season, he gets pushed down on prospect lists.

While that's not uncommon or unjustified, sometimes guys don't "get it" until later in their Minor League careers. The Dodgers might have one of those guys.

Ken Gurnick at Dodgers.com wrote a profile on Dodgers' outfield/first base prospect Scott Van Slyke on Tuesday. It's a good read and sheds some light on a couple of interesting facts.

First of all, Scott is the son of former Phillie and Pirate Andy Van Slyke, who was a three-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove award winner. Baseball is definitely in his genes.

While Andy wasn't the Hall-of-Fame good (.792 career OPS), he was a solid player. He posted an .815 OPS from his age-24 through age-32 seasons and was a good defender in center field.

Scott's development took some time, and this quote from Gurnick's article really stood out:
"'I didn't take baseball seriously enough,' said Van Slyke. 'In high school, I didn't hit extra after practice. I went to a private school (John Burroughs College Prep in St. Louis). I was seeing 75 (mph) on a daily basis. I signed, went to the Gulf Coast League and the first pitch I see is 95. I stepped out of the box and said to myself, 'I've got no chance.' It took me a while.'"
Now, the fact Van Slyke wasn't giving baseball his full attention and/or effort isn't exactly a good thing -- and not totally unexpected from an 18-year-old, but it's interesting -- and refreshing -- to see Van Slyke be so candid about the early part of his professional career.

Van Slyke crushed the Southern League in his second go-round in 2011, posting a .348/.427/.595 triple slash with 20 home runs, 92 RBI and 45 doubles. Another impressive number was his increased walk-rate -- it rose from 7.9 percent in 2010 to 12.3 percent last season.

Surprisingly, Van Slyke didn't exactly embrace his baseball lineage as a young player.

From Gurnick's article:
"'My first three or four years, my Dad tried to help me, but I was a little stubborn and didn't listen to him,' said Scott. 'I had always been a success in high school and thought I knew what I was doing. I listen to him more lately.'"
If Van Slyke didn't change his ways, he probably wasn't going to be long for professional baseball. He didn't break out until his age-22 season (925 plate appearances). His 2009 season (.293/.373/.530) first put the former 25th-rounder on the prospect radar. He regressed in 2010 (.270/.329/.439) before blowing up in 2011. And he has a former Dodger to thank for his success thus far.

Last quote that stood out from Gurnick's article:
"'I guess I didn't realize how hard it was to maintain my swing,' said Van Slyke. 'The last couple of years, I've gotten into a routing, I work better in batting practice. Early on, I just went up and swung and played the game. Getting with Stubbs, I realize how important it is to have a game plan. He just gets my swing and can communicate with me. Next year, I need to be able to change on my own and not rely on a hitting coach. That's one of my goals.'"
So, he's gone from a guy who didn't give full effort and didn't listen to his father to a guy who embraced the coaching staffs and is realizing his potential. That's why I'm not giving up on Van Slyke. He likely isn't the second coming of Dale Murphy, but he could be a solid baseball player with value to a Major League team.

He'll probably begin the season in Albuquerque, but he could make his Major League debut later this season. In fact, I'd be willing to bet he does.

The tall right-hander (6-foot-5) is limited to a corner outfield spot (preferably left field) or first base. With the Dodgers missing out on Prince Fielder, James Loney on his last leg and Andre Ethier (trade bait) and Juan Rivera (not good), there could be room for Van Slyke in Los Angeles sooner, rather than later.