Sunday, September 30, 2012

My IBWAA voting just about done, join now to have your vote count

I'm hoping to be a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America someday. But until that time, I'm a member of Internet Baseball Writers Association of America -- and you should be, too.

It gives baseball writers out there a chance to do like the pros and vote on awards and possible Hall of Fame inductees. The professionals have made many mistakes in the past. However, I will applaud their forward-thinking in recent years.

I'm putting the finishing touches on my ballot before I send it off to Howard Cole. Cole is a former blogger at the Orange County Register, editor of Baseball Savvy and the founder of Cole on LA.

A big thanks goes out to him and everyone else involved in putting the IBWAA together and getting the new website up and running.

If you're a baseball writer and haven't joined yet, you should.

And to answer your question, I'm going with Mike Trout over Miguel Cabrera. It was the hardest decision on the ballot for me.

I'll post my full ballot after the voting results are tabulated.

Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

Friday, September 28, 2012

Two Dodgers' draftees make Pioneer League's best prospects list

Dodgers' 2012 first-round pick Corey Seager on Thursday was named the fourth-best prospect in the Pioneer League by Baseball America.

Seager had a nice showing in the league after a somewhat slow start. He posted a .304/.383/.520 triple slash with eight home runs, nine doubles, a surprising eight stolen bases and a 10.4 percent walk rate.

The 18-year-old played shortstop in 44 of his 46 games (two games as the designated hitter), but struggled defensively, as he committed 17 errors. The Dodgers could give him one more shot at shortstop, but he's the team's future at third base.

Joining him in the Top 20 was fifth-round pick Ross Stripling. Because he pitched a lot of innings for Texas A&M prior to being drafted, his innings were limited in his debit. He made 14 appearances (12 starts) and threw just 36 1/3 innings.

But Stripling showed the ability to get strikeouts (9.5 K/9) while not walking hitters (1.5 BB/9). That's always good to see, especially in a hitters' league.

He doesn't have elite stuff, but Stripling has a good feel for pitching early in his career.

I was a little surprised to see the 22-year-old on the list, but I was even more surprised not to see another 22-year-old on the list.

Jeremy Rathjen, the Dodgers' 11th-round pick, posted better numbers than Seager (despite being four years older), but didn't make it.

Rathjen had a .323/443/.500 triple slash with nine home runs, 17 doubles, 16 stolen bases and a 14.8 percent walk rate.

The Corey Hart clone fell to the 11th round because of a knee injury. Otherwise, he easily would have been a Top-10 round selection. He's definitely a sleeper in the organization and it will be interesting to see him in full-season ball.

I also thought shortstop Darnell Sweeney was possibly an omission. The 13th-rounder wasn't expected to hit much when he was drafted, but he's adjusted quite well to professional ball. He could be a big mover next season, as he's already reached Low-A and could conceivably reach Double-A with a fantastic 2013.

There's a reason Assistant General Manager Logan White is excited about the Dodgers' 2012 draft class. I'm not as excited, but its definitely growing on me. I need to see the prospects at the higher levels of the minors, but so far, so good.

Pederson and Ely earn top honors

Outfield prospect Joc Pederson and pitcher John Ely were named the Dodgers' Minor League Players of the Year on Thursday.

As you'll recall, I also named Pederson my player of the year last week. But I think I overlooked Ely, who had a fantastic year with Albuquerque. I focused on prospects, which is why I went with Matt Magill as the pitcher of the year. Despite the oversight, I stand by my selection.

But congratulations to Pederson and Ely. They both had amazing years.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Perfect Game

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Angels might let Dan Haren walk; should the Dodgers pursue him?

As the Dodgers attempt to hold onto their less than 1 percent chance at making the playoffs after exploding for eight runs on Wednesday, I'm looking at a potential starting pitcher they could look at this winter.

I wrote last week the Dodgers were a lock to sign Zack Greinke this offseason. I still think they'll go after him, but an intriguing name could be available this winter.

The Angels are reportedly contemplating to ditch Dan Haren (and Ervin Santana, but who cares about that) and his $15.5 million club option ($3.5 million buyout) this winter in order to re-sign Greinke.

I've always been a Haren fan, even when he was hitting home runs against the Dodgers as a member of the Cardinals and when he shut down the Dodgers often as a member of the Diamonbacks.

Haren, 32, isn't as dominant as he used to be, but he could be the No. 2 starter the Dodgers are sorely lacking. However, there are some causes for concern.

First, he's having arguably the worst season of his career. A vast majority of his number are trending in the wrong direction.

Here are some of his 2011 numbers next to his 2012 numbers:

ERA: 3.17 to 4.35
WHIP: 1.02 to 1.30
FIP: 2.98 to 4.29
HR/9: 0.8 to 1.4
K/9: 7.25 to 7.13
BB/9: 1.25 to 2.07 (still good, though)
K/BB: 5.82 to 3.45
fWAR: 6.2 to 1.6

His workload could be the reason for his regression. Since 2005, when he became a full-time starter, he hasn't throw fewer than 216 innings in a season, averaging 226 per season since that time. He threw a career-high 238 1/3 innings in 2011, which was one of his best to date.

But the biggest cause for concern could be his decreasing velocity.

Haren has never been a fireballer (91.9 MPH is his career-best), but he's not even averaging 90 MPH on his fastball this season. It's down to 88.5 MPH. In fact, he's throwing all his pitches at a lower velocity this season.

So, that's something to take into consideration if Haren reaches the open market.

A 3-year deal would have to be mandatory (I assume) with a starting point of $12 million a season. I'm thinking a 3-year, $39 million deal with a fourth-year club option. It sounds like a lot of money, but it'd be a hell of a lot cheaper than spending more than $100 million on Greinke -- as long as Haren's very best days aren't behind him.

The free agent market will work itself out. There will be more players available than there are right now. Haren might not even be one of the top pitchers available come November (good chance he will be, though), so the Dodgers should rush (unless they're going after Greinke).

With the potential issues with the rotation, a starting pitcher is going to be atop the Dodgers' winter shopping list. And Clayton Kershaw desperately needs a legitimate No. 2 starter backing him up.

If only Chad Billingsley was that guy all the time.

Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Eric Gagne throws former teammates under the PED bus in his biography

Man, remember when Eric Gagne was a thing? It was great. Seeing him trot in from the bullpen with "Welcome to the Jungle" blaring on the speakers was a sight to behold. I'm saddened I never got to see it in person.

But when he came in, the game was almost literally over.

Now, he's busy throwing former teammates under the proverbial bus -- kinda.

In Gagne's biography, aptly titled, "Game Over: The Eric Gagne Story," Gagne said roughly 80 percent of his Dodger teammates used some type of performance-enhancing drug. From his book:
"I was intimately aware of the clubhouse in which I lived. I would say that 80 percent of the Dodgers players were consuming them."
Thankfully(?), he didn't name names.

Gagne admitted to human growth hormone use in 2010 -- two years after his last Major League game. He pitched for Quebec in the Independent League in 2009.

Whatever happened to no snitchin'? Disclosing this information doesn't help anyone -- it didn't really help the Dodgers in those days. At least, it didn't help the hitters.

Gagne was a member of the Dodgers from 1999 through 2006. He pitched for one of the most inept offensive teams to grace the game -- the 2003 Dodgers, which averaged a paltry 3.54 runs per game. That team nearly gave up more runs per game than they scored (3.43). In the eight years, the team averaged 4.55 runs per game. Not bad, but not exactly the '27 Yankees.

The Dodgers had a few players who were either linked to PEDs or were suspected (rightly or wrongly) of PED use, such as Adrian Beltre, Kevin Brown, Luis Gonzalez, Guillermo Mota, Paul Lo Duca and Gary Sheffield, just to name a few.

I suppose it sheds some light on a situation most already knew -- players in the late-90s and early-2000s abused the hell out of PEDs. Thanks, Eric. Perhaps a book about the sun rising every day or water being wet should be your next endeavor?

And to think, I bought an authentic jersey of this guy -- the only one I've ever purchased. Makes me feel a little dirty.

I'll admit, I absolutely loved watching Gagne pitch. He was the most dominant reliever I've seen in my life -- enhanced or otherwise. It's a shame it wasn't legitimate.

Photo credit: Octopushat, Flickr

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dodgers' prospect Zachary Bird among Arizona League's best, says BA

The Dodgers might have really found a gem from the 2012 MLB Draft in the person of Zachary Bird.

Bird, the Dodgers' ninth-round pick, today was named the 19th-best prospect in the Arizona League by Baseball America. He was the only Dodger prospect to make the list.

Yasiel Puig would have been a lock for the list, but he didn't have enough playing time to qualify. He should make the California League list when it is published early next month.

The tall righty had a nice debut season, considering he pitched it as a 17- and 18-year-old.

His 4.54 ERA and 1.33 WHIP could use some improvement, but his 2.90 FIP and 10.4 K/9 were fantastic. He also showed decent control for a teen with a 3.9 BB/9 and a 2.71 K/BB.There isn't a lot to analyze about his 39 2/3 debut innings, but those were the things that stood out.

Bird boasts a fastball that has touched 92 MPH in the past. With his 6'4, 190 pound frame, there is defintely projection there. He also has a low-70s curveball and a changeup. He'll need to improve upon his secondary offerings going forward, but things are looking well for him thus far.

Here's a video of him from the Perfect Game showcase in 2011.

Some have compared him to Edwin Jackson. Race notwithstanding, it seems to be a good comp. As prospects, they both have projectable frames and the ability to add velocity to the fastball. The key difference in their stuff is Bird's slow curveball and Jackson's hard slider. I'm betting Bird adds another pitch -- either a slider or cutter -- to his arsenal before it's all said and done.

Side note: So many times comparisons in sports are race-based. Some are apt, some are ridiculous. Case and point: the No. 17 pick, D.J. Davis, was compared to Juan Pierre during MLB Network's draft coverage. Thing is, he is absolutely nothing like Pierre as a baseball player. They're both black, both lefty all the way and both speedy. That's really it. Davis hit as many home runs in his first 266 plate appearances as Pierre has in his last 3,430 PAs. But I digress (a lot). It's lazy and flat-out wrong.

Oh, and Bird has one of the most unique Twitter handles around. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Dodgers should shut down Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp

Look, I'm not one for giving up on a season -- and that's in no way what I'm doing here -- but the Dodgers need to make a couple decisions and stick with them.

The Dodgers need to shut down Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp for the remainder of the season.

I know this isn't going to be a popular opinion, well, anywhere, but I truly believe it's the right move.

First, Kershaw. News came down today that he has a him impingement and would be allowed to pitch again this season and avoid surgery if he pitches with no pain.

That prompted a great response from the Sons of Steve Garvey Twitter account.
"So, while the wording is confusing, doctor says Kershaw CAN pitch through pain, but Dodgers won't LET him pitch if he has pain. Right? -N"
That's basically what it boils down to.

Surprisingly, Kershaw's performance in the last nine games has been masterful: 1.76 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, .189 BAA and a 9.5 K/9. Remember when people were freaking out about Kershaw's poor performance? Me either. But I digress.

The doctors said Kershaw couldn't injure his hip further, which is accurate. However, Chad Moriyama has a different take:
"The Dodgers ace, who throws in the mid-90s, trying to take his hips and core out of his throwing motion and put more stress on his arm? That sounds like an awesome workaround!

No wait, it sounds like the worst idea ever.

Not injuring his hip further is one thing, but anybody who throws or hits knows that a significant part in velocity and power stems from the trunk of the body and, specifically, hip rotation. Therefore, the risk wouldn’t be to his hip but to his golden arm, and that’s where the problem lies for me."
Hammer, meet nail head.

As Moriyama said, it's his arm, not his hip, that's in danger of injury. Let's hope the Dodgers make the correct decision.

But Kershaw could have developed the hip injury while compensating for the plantar fasciitis he's had since early June. Jon Weisman wonders if that's the case -- and it's a fair question to ask. There's no sense in him compensating for yet another injury and injuring another part of his body.

Then we have Kemp. The unquestioned best player in the game five months ago, Kemp has struggled through the season with injuries. First it was his hamstring, then it was his hamstring again, then it was his shoulder. The third injury has impacted him the most.

And unlike Kershaw, Kemp has not been able to perform at a high level with his injury (not a knock on him at all).

Since Kemp collided with the center field wall in Colorado on Aug. 28, Kemp has struggled on a level that Juan Uribe can't even comprehend. His triple slash is .113/.175/.208 with one home run, two runs batted in, three walks and 17 strikeouts. He's just 6-for-53 in that 14-game span. He's obviously not well, physically and, unfortunately, isn't helping the team score runs.

We all know the Dodgers are a flawed team. With Chad Billingsley done for the season and the offense sputtering, they won't be long for the playoffs.

The long-term health of both the team's best players FAR outweighs the benefits of a probable failed playoff run. I know anything can happen in the postseason, but with an injured ace and No. 3 hitter, a World Series run this season is highly unlikely.

Kershaw has a much better chance of being shut down, but I'm sure Kemp will play every day until the end of the season. Luckily, his injury isn't serious or should cause long-term concern.

Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CanPredictBall: Dodgers will sign Zack Greinke to mega contract this winter

Figure I should get this out there now because it's all but a sure thing. The Dodgers, which tried to acquire Zack Greinke before the July 31 trade deadline, will undoubtedly back up the Brinks truck to get the former Cy Young award winner.

With Clayton Kershaw likely heading for hip surgery that would keep him out until mid-May next season and Chad Billingsley's status uncertain (but looking better), the Dodgers are going to be short on impact starting pitchers going into the 2013 season.

That brings us to Greinke. He will be -- by far -- the best free agent starting pitcher available. With Cole Hamels signing a long-term extension with the Phillies and Matt Cain doing the same earlier this year with 'Frisco, the market is wafer-thin.

The Dodgers don't exactly have the blue chip prospects necessary to acquire an impact starter on the trade market, so I'm fully expecting the Dodgers to flex their financial muscles.

Greinke, since winning the American League Cy Young in 2009, hasn't been nearly that dominant:
  • 2010 through 2012: 40-25, 3.87 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.6 K/9
Good numbers (really, who cares about the win-loss record?), but not $20-million-per-year good, which is what Greinke will likely earn with his next contract.

It might not be the most sound financial decision, but it's a chance I'm sure the Dodgers willing to take. The only way I see that is if another talented pitcher becomes available and the Dodgers land him.

With Kershaw not lost of the season and Billingsley's status uncertain, the Dodgers would still have a logjam at starting pitcher if they landed Greinke.

Ted Lilly is having shoulder surgery, so there's no guarantee he'll be able to help in the final year of his contract. Chris Capuano is having arguably the best season of his career, but he's struggled in the second half after a superb first half. Aaron Harang is, well, Aaron Harang. The jury is still out on Josh Beckett, but he's definitely a wild card. Still, he's not getting any younger.

If the Dodgers sign Greinke, they'd have to move at least one of these guys. Capuano would probably be easiest to move, but I'd expect the Dodgers to try to move Harang first. Lilly's no-trade clause expires after the 2012 season, but no team is going to take a chance on him after shoulder surgery. And Beckett's contract is too much to move.

It's going to take a little doing, but the way things are going in Dodgertown right now, I'd be surprised if Greinke ended up anywhere else.

Photo credit: Jninja, Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 17, 2012

My 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers' all-prospect team

There are lots of familiar names on this list, but also a lot of new names on this year's all-prospect team.

To be eligible for this team, the player must have been a prospect at the beginning of the season and is still with the organization. So, guys like Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and Leon Landry will not be included on this list.

Without further adieu, here's my 2012 Dodgers' all-prospect team:

Catcher: Tim Federowicz, 24, Triple-A
.294/.371/.461, 11 HR, 76 RBI, 34 2B, 10.9% BB rate
- Federowicz established himself as the clear-cut best catching prospect in the Dodgers' system with a solid season for Triple-A Albuquerque. Federowicz was definitely helped by the Isotopes' home environment (.350/.415/.569 at home, .245/.331/.370 on the road), but he did show an improved walk rate from 2011 to 2012. He was selected to the Triple-A All-Star team and should be A.J. Ellis' backup starting next season.
Second team: Eric Smith, 21, Rookie-Ogden

First Base: O'Koyea Dickson, 22, Low-A
.272/.366/.479, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 27 2B, 10.2% BB rate
- Dickson is a favorite of mine and it looked like he was going to establish himself as truly a legitimate prospect in the system after a torrid first half. However, a poor second half brought his numbers down to a pedestrian level. Still, he had a .207 ISO and .845 OPS in a pitcher's league. He should begin next season with in Rancho Cucamonga with the Quakes.
Second team: Jesus Valdez, 20, Rookie-Ogden

Second Base: Rafael Ynoa, 25, Double-A
.278/.364/.352, 37 RBI, 23 2B, 23 SB, 11.8% BB rate
- Ynoa, while having no power potential, showed some nice on-base skills in Double-A. While I nearly gave this to Scott Wingo, I gave Ynoa the edge for playing against advanced competition, despite being 25 years old. Ynoa doesn't have much more than utility player upside (at best), so I wouldn't get too excited over him.
Second team: Scott Wingo, 23, High-A

Third base: Alex Castellanos, 26, Triple-A/Majors
.328/.420/.590, 17 HR, 52 RBI, 25 2B, 11.3% BB rate
- Castellanos played more games at second base (50) than he did third base (34) for the Isotopes this season, but he finished as the team's third baseman and might have a shot there going forward. He probably still ends up as an outfielder, but it's just nice to see production from a semi-prospect at a position of great need for the Dodgers. Most impressive was Castellanos' improved walk rate from 2011 (7.3 percent).
Second team: C.J. Retherford, 27, High-A/Double-A

Shortstop: Darnell Sweeney, 21, Rookie-Ogden/Low-A
.294/.374/.430, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 27 SB, 10.7% BB rate
- Sweeney, the Dodgers' 13th-round pick, wasn't expected to hit this well, but he was quite the surprise in his limited playing time. He showed a little pop, some speed and, most impressive, a good eye at the plate. He could surprise some folks and be a legitimate prospect this time next season.
Second team: Corey Seager, 18, Rookie-Ogden

Left Field: Scott Schebler, 21, Low-A
.260/.312/.388, 6 HR, 67 RBI, 32 2B, 5.4% BB rate
- Schebler led the Loons in hits, runs batted in, doubles and runs scored. Yet, he didn't play all that well this season. His inability to draw walks at a high rate could eventually be his undoing. At 21, he still has a chance to realize his potential. However, the former 25th-round pick is going to have to get it going quickly in Rancho next season.
Second team: Austin Gallagher, 23, High-A

Center Field: Joc Pederson, 20, High-A
.313/.396/.516, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 96 R, 10.2% BB rate
- This one should come as no surprise as Pederson was my Dodgers' minor league Player of the Year. He had a fantastic season in High-A as a 20-year-old and it'll be interesting to see how he handles himself next season in Double-A.
Second team: Jeremy Rathjen, 22, Rookie-Ogden

Right Field: Scott Van Slyke, 26, Triple-A/Majors
.327/.404/.578, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 34 2B, 11.2% BB rate
- Van Slyke performed well for the Isotopes this season. He even got a cup of coffee in the majors and hit a game-winning three-run home run against the Cardinals -- a game that was more important than anyone thought. Van Slyke benefited from the friendly hitter's environment in the Pacific Coast League, but he didn't slump when the team took to the road.
Second team: Blake Smith, 24, Double-A

Starting Pitcher 1: Matt Magill, 22, Double-A
11-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 10.5 K/9
- Like Pederson, this one should come as no surprise as Magill was my Dodgers' minor league Pitcher of the Year. He did well against older competition and led the Southern League in strikeouts. That's saying something. He still profiles as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but there's always a need for those guys.

Starting Pitcher 2: Zach Lee, 21, High-A/Double-A
6-6, 4.39 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 7.7 K/9
- Lee had good peripherals in Rancho Cucamonga, so he was promoted to Double-A. Despite a rough start, Lee finished his season on fire and established himself as the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in the organization. He'll get a full season at Chattanooga in 2013.

Starting Pitcher 3: Andres Santiago, 22, High-A/Double-A
6-5, 3.69 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 9.8 K/9
- Santiago is quickly becoming a favorite of mine and at 22, he has some upside. He repeated High-A to start the season before getting promoted to Double-A. Santiago was able to handle both levels and could be a sleeper in the organization. His 9.8 K/9 trailed only Magill among Dodger starting pitchers.

Starting Pitcher 4: Aaron Miller, 24, Double-A
6-6, 4.45 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 5.3 BB/8, 8.7 K/9
- Miller gets this spot due to trades and a nice strikeout rate. As you can tell, the walks are an issue for him. He had a decent 2012 season and, more importantly, he stayed healthy for it. If he can, somehow, harness his stuff and have better control, he could still be something. However, I see him ending up in the bullpen.

Starting Pitcher 5: Duke von Schamann, 21, Rookie-Ogden/Low-A/Double-A
6-4, 3.00 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9, 5.3 K/9
- Duke is the second 2012 Dodger draftee to make the first team and he made it through three levels of the minors in his debut season. He isn't a big strikeout guy and obviously relies on his control. His WHIP and walk rate are mighty impressive. Double-A might have a stacked rotation in 2013, so he could begin the season in Rancho Cucamonga.

Second five: Stephen Fife, Chris Reed, Jon Michael Redding, Arismendy Ozoria, Jarret Martin

Relief Pitcher 1Steve Ames, 24, Double-A
3-3, 18 SV, 1.56 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9, 10.2 K/9
- Ames really had a great season for the Lookouts. Ames took over for Shawn Tolleson after he was promoted to Triple-A and eventually the majors. He doesn't get the acclaim guys like Tolleson and Kenley Jansen got, but he could be every bit as good as them (well, maybe not Jansen). He throws strikes, keeps the ball in the yard and misses bats -- hard to ask for much more than that from a reliever.

Relief Pitcher 2: Shawn Tolleson, 24, Double-A/Triple-A/Majors
0-1, 5 SV, 2.82 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 13.7 K/9
- Tolleson's accumulated numbers are low because he's thrown 33 games in Los Angeles. That doesn't take away from his performance in the minors before being recalled. He should be a fixture in the Dodgers' bullpen for many years, hopefully dissuading Ned Colletti to acquire a reliever next July.

Relief Pitcher 3: Yimi Garcia, 22, Low-A/High-A
6-5, 16 SV, 2.92 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 14.1 K/9
- Garcia established himself as one of the system's best fireballing relievers this season, as evidenced by his ridiculous strikeout rate. He threw nearly 11 innings with Rancho Cucamonga and I wouldn't be surprised to see him begin next season there with a midseason call-up to Chattanooga.

Relief Pitcher 4: Javier Solano, 22, Double-A
3-0, 0 SV, 2,73 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 8.6 K/9
- Solano is one of the more underrated relievers in the system and he just keep plugging away. He doesn't overpower hitters, but he does enough to get the job done. I could see him starting next season in Triple-A just as easily as I could see him repeating Double-A.

Relief Pitcher 5: Eric Eadington, 24, Low-A/High-A/Double-A
4-3, 26 SV, 3.63 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 10.3 K/9
- Eadington was a quick riser this season after dominating the Midwest League (13.8 K/9, 27.0 K/BB). He was less successful going up the ladder, but not to the point that hurt his prospect status too much. He misses bats, throws in the low-90s (touches 95 MPH) and is left-handed -- pretty much all one needs to be a Major League relief pitcher.

Second five: Steven Rodriguez, Red Patterson, Josh Wall, Jordan Roberts, Michael Thomas

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Report: Dodgers, unfortunately, sign Ned Colletti to long-term extension

When Mark Walter, Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and Co. bought the Dodgers in May, many assumed (hoped?) it would spell the end of Ned Colletti's tenure as general manager. But here we are, four-plus months later and the much maligned Dodgers' GM was given a contract extension.

Certainly not what I wanted or expected, up until last week when scuttlebutt began about the Dodgers possibly giving Colletti a new contract.

Don't get me wrong, the guy is nice. I asked him a few questions at Blogger Night and, in his way, was coy and nice when answering. It takes more than just a nice guy to put together a competitive baseball team.

But that doesn't excuse some of the moves he's made in the past. While he was able to land Hanley Ramirez for for a nice price and got the Dodgers another impact bat in Adrian Gonzalez, he was still able to make a couple trades that were either unnecessary or ill-advised.

And that's just this season. We all know of the horrible deals from the past.

Colletti isn't exactly a hot GM when it comes to the open market. No team would be on his tail to get him signed, so I just don't understand why the Dodgers felt the need to get this deal done now -- especially if the August blockbuster with Boston turns out to be a dud (for the record, I don't think it will).

So, I guess we'll have another three years of trading prospects for relief pitchers at the trade deadline. At least Colletti has few financial restrictions, so his potential poor moves can be covered up with money.

Kershaw to miss start, rest of season?

Clayton Kershaw, who's struggled with a hip injury, will miss his next start and possibly need season-ending surgery.

Really, can it get any worse for the Dodgers? Matt Kemp was down for an extended period of time, Kenley Jansen is having heart issues again, Chad Billingsley might need Tommy John surgery and now this.

The Dodgers are just one game out of the final Wild Card spot, but it really seems like they're out of the playoff race completely.

Kershaw's long-term health is more important than a depleted team making the playoffs in 2012. I want the Dodgers to make the playoffs, but I'm not going to be surprised at this point if they don't.

Photo credit: SD Dirk, Flickr

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers' minor league Players of the Year

It was an interesting year in the Dodgers' farm system. The team made a bunch of trades that hurt the system's depth. In fact, they traded away the likely winner of this award, Leon Landry, in the Brandon League deal.

Hitter of the Year
OF Joc Pederson, Rancho Cucamonga
.313/.396/.516, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 96 R, 26 SB

- Pederson started off the season slowly, hitting just three home runs through the month of June. Then, he took off. The toolsy outfielder would go onto hit 15 home runs the rest of the season while helping to pace the Quakes' offense.

His OPS was .739 through June. He finished with a .913 OPS and, despite playing in the California League, is an impressive feat for a 20-year-old.

Pederson's best day came on July 1, when he smacked a franchise-tying three home runs against the High Desert Mavericks.

Pederson's 26 stolen bases were second-best in the system, but he was also caught 14 times. He'll need to improve that percentage going forward.

Despite the addition of Yasiel Puig, Pederson might be the team's best position prospect. He got a taste of Double-A last week in the Southern League Playoffs. He went 3-for-11 with a triple. He should start the season with the Chattanooga Lookouts next season as a 21-year-old.

Runners up: Jerry Sands, Alex Castellanos

Pitcher of the Year
RHP Matt Magill, Chattanooga Lookouts
11-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.91 FIP, 10.3 K/9

- Not often will a 3.75 ERA get much praise or acclaim, but Magill's season was quite impressive. Like Pederson, Magill was playing against slightly advanced competition and actually improved from his age-21 to age-22 season.

The most impressive stat was his 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Magill's stuff isn't overpowering by any means. His fastball has been described as fringy, but it must be good enough to amass a league-leading 168 strikeouts.

He also allowed significantly fewer baserunners this season. He reduced his hits per nine innings from 10.1 last season to 7.8 this season. His walks per nine innings was up by 0.4, but he cut his WHIP by nearly 0.21 (from 1.49 to 1.28).

Finally, in 146 1/3 innings this season, he gave up just eight home runs. That's outstanding.

The Dodgers tend to keep top pitching prospects away from Triple-A. While Magill doesn't have the upside top-of-the-rotation upside, he does profile as a back-end starter in the majors, provided his stuff translates to the bigs and he refines his command.

I could see him beginning next season in Double-A and wouldn't be overly shocked to see him in Albuquerque. He'll have to be added to the 40-man roster this winter, but that's a formality at this point.

Runners up: Zach Lee, Steve Ames

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Injuries mounting at the wrong time for Dodgers, hurting playoff chances

Everything was supposed to be OK after the big trade. Adrian Gonzalez was supposed to magically be the Gonzalez of 2011 and before. Josh Beckett would revert to 2011 Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford would, well, still be hurt.

But now with Matt Kemp slumping and hurting and Clayton Kershaw having his start pushed back, things are not going well in Dodgertown right now.

And despite that, the Dodgers, if they lose tonight, will be just 1.5 games out of a playoff spot. It doesn't seem like it should be that way, but it is.

Still, the atmosphere in the fanbase is that of doom and gloom. It's hard to blame it. Potentially losing two of three to the Giants will always make Dodger fans pissy (myself included). But the Dodgers host the Cardinals this week and have a chance to make up ground.

Still, with Kemp out for an undisclosed amount of time, Kershaw having a balky hip (that should be OK by Tuesday) and Hanley Ramirez and Co. struggling against Barry Zito tonight, things just have a decidedly defeated feel.

There are 21 games left in the season after tonight. The Dodgers have 74 wins. I'm thinking it's going to take a 14-7 stretch for the Dodgers to make the playoffs. The way they've played in recent weeks, that seems like a pipe dream.

I could honestly care less football season started today (as a Rams' fan, I'm sure you'll understand that statement). I want the Dodgers to be playing this time next month. At this rate, my hope is dwindling ever so slightly. We'll see how I'm feeling a week from today.

Photo credit: Eephus Blue, Paint the Corners

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chad Billingsley out for season, Dodgers recall Steven Rodriguez

Chad Billingsley's season was cut short on Wednesday as the Dodgers placed the right-hander on the 60-day disabled list. He was placed on the 15-day DL on Aug. 25 after suffering a right elbow injury.

Billingsley, who had been amazing since the All-Star break, had two platelet-rich plasma injections to try to save his season. It didn't work.

Now, he and the Dodgers are hoping the injections save him from Tommy John surgery.
"(Billingsley) has been officially shut down for the season with a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament ... If the injection doesn't heal the 'slight tearing,' then there is a chance he would need offseason surgery, likely Tommy John, which would keep him out for 2013. Having not picked up a baseball in two weeks, Billingsley had no idea what percent of a chance there is for surgery and he didn't want to speculate."
So, there's that.

Tommy John or not, I expect the Dodgers to do basically whatever it takes to land Zack Greinke in the offseason. I'll go deeper into that in the coming months, suffice it to say the Dodgers need a clear-cut No. 2 behind Clayton Kershaw. While Billingsley has shown flashes of it, Greinke is that guy.

He was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room for Dodgers' 2012 second-round draft pick Steven Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, the 82nd player chosen in June's MLB Draft, will be the first player from the draft class to make his Major League debut.

The 21-year-old has a low-90s fastball and a cutter. He's been as adept at getting right-handed hitters out as he is left-handers in his debut season.

vs. RHH
6-for-42 (.143), 5 BB, 19 K
vs. LHH
5-for-27 (.185), 1 BB, 13 K

Overall, he posted a 0.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 0.86 FIP and an amazing 14.6 K/9 in 19 2/3 innings. Despite being three months out of college, the Dodgers think he's ready to help the team now. He's not eligible for the postseason roster and manager Don Mattingly said he'd be used primarily as a left-handed specialist. With Scott Elbert down, it'd be nice to see him get some significant innings.

The Dodgers' bullpen is losing quality pitchers -- fast. Kenley Jansen's status for the rest of the season is unknown with the same irregular heartbeat he experienced last season, Javy Guerra strained his oblique after his first game since returning and the aforementioned Elbert is likely done for the season.

That leaves Brandon League, who's been on absolute fire of late (great breakdown, Chad), Ronald Belisario and Jamey Wright as the most reliable pitchers left. That last part is frightening.

It's too bad the Dodgers just can't throw Kershaw all the time.

There are a few weeks left and the Dodgers are middling. Let's hope they can figure things out. But even if they do, their chances of making a legitimate run at the pennant are diminished.

Photo credits
Billingsley: SD Dirk, Flickr
Rodriguez: Courtesy of Eric Stephen, True Blue LA

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A brief look at the Dodgers' farm system following trading season

The Dodgers were as active as they've been in years on the trade market this year. They acquired some big-name talent (Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez), but they also gave up quite a few young players.

Here's a scorecard of Dodger prospects and young players traded since July 25 (Ramirez trade):

Position players
Ivan De Jesus
Leon Landry
Jerry Sands (player to be named later)

Logan Bawcom
Rubby De La Rosa (PTBNL)
Nathan Eovaldi
Josh Lindblom
Ethan Martin
Scott McGough
Ryan O'Sullivan
Allen Webster

As you can see, the Dodgers certainly dealt from their strength. For the last few seasons, the Dodgers' biggest strength has been their young pitching. That's what the farm system was known for.

Of the three position players the Dodgers traded, two of them have every day potential. Sands, who curiously wasn't given a legitimate shot in Los Angeles, was sent to Boston in the August blockbuster. Landry, a player I'm higher on than most, just won the California League batting title (.341). He was traded with Bawcom to get Brandon League. He also led the league in triples (18) while finishing in second in total bases (262) and doubles (34).

The Dodgers traded eight young pitchers. Not many teams can do that and still have solid pitching depth. Don't get me wrong, it isn't as good as it was a couple months ago, but there are still some quality arms remaining. But the system, even more so now, lacks front-end starters.

Zach Lee and Chris Reed are the organization's top two pitching prospects by far -- and Lee is in a class my himself. Then there are starting pitching prospects like Garrett Gould, Matt Magill, Onelki Garcia and Andres Santiago. Definitely not the same potential star power as before with De La Rosa, Webster and Eovaldi paired with Lee and Reed.

The 2012 draft and International signings didn't really help strengthen the pitching side of things. Garcia was drafted in the third round and Zachary Bird, pegged as a sleeper by many, was a ninth-round pick. And we won't know much about a guy like Bryan Munoz, a 16-year-old, for a few years.

For the first time in a long time, it seems the Dodgers have more high-end (for this system, at least) hitting prospects than pitching prospects. Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Corey Seager all have potential to be above-average everyday players.

So, Logan White has some work to do rebuild the pitching side of the system. Relief pitching is still strong (Shawn Tolleson, Steve Ames, Steven Rodriguez, Javier Solano), but the Dodgers will need some high-end starters down on the farm going forward.

Speaking of Andres Santiago...

This is my latest at Chad Moriyama's blog about the 22-year-old pitching prospect who's making a name for himself this season.
"There are a couple things that impress me most about Santiago. First, his increased strikeout rate. While he was able to get solid rates in the past (8.0, 7.4, 8.4 K/9 the last three seasons), he’s stepped up to another level this year. His 9.8 K/9 is second only to Matt Magill for best among starting pitchers in the system."
Looking forward to see how he handles a full season in Double-A.
Photo credits 
Reed: Courtesy of Brandon Lennox, True Blue LA
Landry: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pederson, Puig, Rodriguez among Dodgers' prospects to play in AFL

The Dodgers are sending four position players and four pitchers to this year's Arizona Fall League following the season.

Teams tend to have legitimate prospects participate in the AFL, and the Dodgers are no exception this year.

Position players
Gorman Erickson
Joc Pederson
Yasiel Puig
Rafael Ynoa

Eric Eadington
Red Patterson
Steven Rodriguez
To be determined

Baseball America has the full rosters on its site. It lists the Dodgers' final pitcher as "TBD," so we'll see who it might be. I'd be shocked if it was a guy like Zach Lee or Chris Reed. It'll likely be another reliever.

Steve Ames went last season and because he's been dominant in 2012, I don't think he needs the extra work. I could see it being Juan Rodriguez. He was suspended earlier this season in Rancho Cucamonga for "conduct detrimental to the team," so he doesn't have a lot of mileage on his arm this season. However, his 9.6 walks per nine innings rate (no, that isn't a typo) is quite alarming. He could probably use the extra work.

There's also the possibility of the Dodgers not filling that spot. We'll see what happens.

I'm really excited to see how Pederson and Puig handle the league. Since a lot of good prospects play in the AFL, it's a solid determiner of potential success. It isn't the be all, end all, but it helps when evaluating players.

Pederson has been fantastic this season and is opening up eyes. Puig, as we all know, got a late start to the season after signing his record-breaking contract. He can definitely use the extra baseball.

Erickson was in the AFL last season and has been massively disappointing in 2012. We'll see if it helps him at all going forward.

Ynoa, who's finishing up his age-24 season (turned 25 one day after my birthday), has virtually zero pop, but he has decent on-base skills. My guess is the Dodgers want to see how he handles advanced competition. He's been decent in Chattanooga.

The same could be said about Eadington and Patterson. Both are a little old for their level, but both could be serviceable bullpen arms down the road. Patterson is a bit underrated and has handled Double-A well. Eadington was able to strike hitters out in his 11 Double-A innings, but he gave up too many hits (13). The Dodgers probably want to see if he's a viable option sometime next season or in 2014.

Rodriguez could be the first player from the 2012 draft class to get the call to the majors after Marcus Stroman's suspension. He'll get a little more work in Arizona and could conceivably make the Dodgers' bullpen out of 2013 Spring Training -- but I wouldn't put money on it.

So, if you live in Arizona and want to see some Dodger prospects, this might be your best chance to do so. Some of them will probably get Spring Training invites, but they won't play a whole lot.

Lee rolling in Chattanooga

Remember when people were freaking out over Zach Lee's poor Double-A performance? Well, he's done quite a bit to shut those people up.

Lee's last eight starts: 4-1, 1.97 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 7.3 H/9, 0.6 HR/9 (three home runs allowed), 2.0 BB/9, 6.9 K/9 and a 3.5 K/BB.

That's damn good for a 20-year-old in the Southern League. His strikeout numbers are down from Rancho, but that's to be expected going forward. He's more of a control/location pitcher than a strikeout guy. However, he has shown the ability to get the strikeout when needed.

Perhaps that worry should be focused on Chris Reed, who's had a lackluster year while adjusting to the rotation.

Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Dodgers sure aren't performing like they want to play ball next month

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I've been feeling as uninspired as the Dodgers' performance this week.

To be frank, I'm pissed with this team. There is absolutely no excuse for the performance its had this week.

I'm not one to normally go off and rant, but it seemed a little appropriate here. The Dodgers made this huge blockbuster deal (in August, no less) and they can't even beat the likes of the Rockies or Diamondbacks.

I get it, playing in Colorado sucks. I piss and moan about it all the time when the Dodgers go there. But this was not only a last-place Rockies' team, but one of the worst, most depleted teams in baseball.

If you need further proof of that, Jeff Francis shut the Dodgers out for five innings on Monday.

Yes, that Jeff Francis.

That was the beginning of this (so far) horrific week. They were never in the game on Tuesday before barely escaping with a win on Wednesday -- a game that was 10-1 at one time (final was 10-8).

Let me just get the scoreboard watching out of the way: the Giants got the Astros this week and swept that series. Houston probably should have won at least one of the games, but had a chance to win two. Then, miraculously, the Cubs took the first game of the three-game series on Friday. However, they lost today's affair 5-2.

Point being, the Dodgers weren't going to get help from other teams, so taking down teams like the Rockies and Diamondbacks were of the utmost importance. The Dodgers have games remaining against Cinicnnati, Washington and St. Louis -- all playoff-contending squads. The Giants don't.

The Dodgers have lost nine straight games to Arizona and trail the season series 10-4. That is completely unacceptable. I know Arizona won the division last year, but they aren't the same team (even though they are). This is even more depressing knowing Justin Upton owns a .759 OPS this season.

The Dodgers have been hit by injuries. Matt Kemp missed a couple games this week and Chad Billingsley went back on the disabled list. But that's no excuse to lose games to mediocre-to-bad teams.

Believe it or not, the Dodgers are closer to Atlanta in the wild card race (1.5 games) than they are San Francisco in the division race (4.5 games). It always seemed like it was division or bust. So, I guess that's the silver lining in the whole situation.

There is just far too much talent on this roster (injuries notwithstanding) for them to be this far behind the Giants and playing like absolute crap.

Manager Don Mattingly held a closed-door meeting earlier this week because of the team's piss-poor performance. It didn't help.

Let's just hope the Dodgers make the playoffs and, preferably, don't have to play in the one-game wild card affair. Otherwise, this could be a long winter.

The future is bright, but the present is rather dim at this point.

Photo credit: Mad Peruvian Media, Flickr