Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dodgers' full-season minor league team preview: Albuquerque Isotopes

This is the final post in a four-part series projecting the Dodgers' full-season minor league teams. To close out the series, the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The Isotopes finished as the Pacific Coast League American Southern division with an 80-64 record. The 'Topes faced off against the Oklahoma Storm Chasers (Royals' affiliate).

One of the better teams in the minors, the Storm Chasers and Isotopes traded the first three games of the series. In Game 4, the 'Topes were down 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning. At the time, it looked like their season was done. However, a nine-run seventh, including a game-deciding three-run home run from Tony Gwynn, propelled the Isotopes to a deciding Game 5, which Oklahoma won handily.

Van Slyke
The 2012 Isotopes were led on offense by young players Alex Castellanos, Jerry Sands and Scott Van Slyke. Josh Fields, a veteran, had a late-season hot streak that led to a .322/.392/.488 line in 133 games. There is usually no shortage of offensive firepower for the 'Topes.

Castellanos, despite playing just 94 games, posted a great .328/.420/.590 triple slash with 17 home runs. The Dodgers don't seem to keen on letting him be the team's right-handed hitting platoon outfielder, so expect him back at Triple-A. Sands was traded to Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. He was traded to Pittsburgh this winter and may or may not get real playing time with the Bucs. Van Slyke seems like the prototypical Four-A player and should be the team's left fielder.

The pitching staff was led by John Ely, who had one of the best seasons for a PCL pitcher, going 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA and a league-leading 165 strikeouts (in 168 2/3 innings). He also had a sparkling WHIP (1.10) and a great walks per nine innings rate (1.9). For his efforts, he was traded to Houston. Stephen Fife was decent, but unspectacular, for Albuquerque. He provided 135 1/3 innings of adequate innings. Other than those two, the Isotopes' rotation left a lot to be desired.

Projected roster

Catchers (2)
Tim Federowicz
Matt Wallach

Infielders (5)
Nick Evans
Elian Herrera
Osvaldo Martinez
Dallas McPherson
Rafael Ynoa

Outfielders (5)
Nick Buss
Alex Castellanos
Jeremy Moore
Blake Smith
Scott Van Slyke

Starting pitchers (5)
Michael Antonini
Stephen Fife
Matt Magill
Matt Palmer
Jon Michael Redding

Relievers (8)
Geison Aguasviva
Steve Ames
Cole St. Clair
Kevin Gregg
Mark Lowe
Shawn Tolleson
Josh Wall
Chris Withrow

A name missing from my projection is Gwynn. I suspect he'll be traded or released prior to the season. If he isn't, Buss should be that fall guy. Also missing is Dee Gordon. I'm betting (hoping?) he breaks camp with the Dodgers, or he's moved toward the end of Spring Training.

The starting pitching, as usual, will be a little weak. Magill should head the rotation and is a legitimate prospect. The bullpen should have some intriguing characters, including Ames, Tolleson Wall and Withrow (if he can throw strikes). This also means I'm projecting Paco Rodriguez to break camp with the big league club.

My lineup
Buss/Moore CF
Herrera 2B
Castellanos LF/DH
McPherson 3B
Van Slyke DH/LF
Smith RF
Evans 1B
Federowicz C
Ynoa SS

This lineup could score a ton of runs. Castellanos, McPherson and Van Slyke are PCL veterans and should be a formidable 3-4-5. The last time McPherson was in the PCL, he hit 22 home runs with the Sacramento River Cats. The last time he was with Albuquerque (as a member of the Marlins' organization), he blasted 42 home runs.

Smith and Ynoa should make their Triple-A debuts and could benefit from the extreme hitter-friendly environments.

Much like any year, the offense will determine the Isotopes' success. But I'm interested to see how Magill handles the rarefied air and if those fireballers out of the 'pen can keep the PCL hitters at bay.

Photo credits
Van Slyke: EephusBlue, Twitter
Smith: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue


  1. What about BCG? And what do you mean Buss would be the fall guy if Gwynn isn't moved? Think there's any chance they release Van Slyke?

  2. BCG was the lasy cut. I'm thinking they'd ditch Buss to keep Gwynn. Don't really see Van Slyke getting released, but stranger things have happened.