Friday, March 29, 2013

Gold Glovers: Examining the best defenders in the Dodgers' farm system

In what is probably the least-sexy tool among baseball players, I examine the best defensive players in the Dodgers' farm system.

There are no Cesar Izturis' or Alex Cora's in this bunch, but there are some players who are quality defenders.

Postseason hardware is not indicative of defensive prowess, as Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have Gold Glove awards, but the Dodgers could have a few guys who contend for the award in the future.

While the tool is not sexy, it is necessary and an underrated facet of the game.

Previous entries in this series
This list is reserved for Dodger position player prospects who feature 60 or better (future) defense.

James Baldwin
- Baldwin is the Dodgers' best defensive outfielder, as he handles center field with relative ease. His speed helps him range for fly balls not many other Dodger prospects. His arm is just average in center field, but his other defensive tools are unquestioned. Provided he hits enough, he could be a starting center fielder in the majors.

Gorman Erickson
- Erickson made big strides behind the plate last season, challenging fellow farm hand Tim Federowicz for best defensive catcher. The only thing really holding him back defensively is a below-average caught stealing rate. His arm is at least average, but it's a little difficult to get his lanky 6-foot-4 body to be compact when he throws.

Tim Federowicz
- Voted the best defensive catcher in the Pacific Coast League in 2012, Federowicz boasts a quality glove that is major-league ready. He is pretty good at throwing out runners, snagging 39 percent of basestealers in Triple-A last year. He's caught 50 percent of attempted basestealers in the majors, even if it is just 3-of-6. He should have a long career based on the strength of his glove. If he hits, then he's a surefire starter.

Blake Smith
- Smith took to right field in college and, despite logging some time on the mound at Cal, has stuck at the position. He uses his above-average instincts and average speed to track down fly balls with ease in right field. He has the best outfield throwing arm in the system, but Yasiel Puig is giving him a run for his money. Smith has even dabbled in center field, but he'll likely stay in right field going forward.

Jesmuel Valentin
- Valentin earned rave reviews for his defense in his debut season, earning best defensive infielder and best infield arm honors from Baseball America. Despite playing mostly second base in deference to 2012 No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa, Valentin still projects as at least an average shortstop (probably better) and above-average at second base. He has enough arm for shortstop, making it a plus arm for second base. He could carve out a niche as a utility infielder at worst, but the Dodgers hope he's much better than that.

Rafael Ynoa
- Smith sung Ynoa's defensive praise when he was a guest on "Dugout Blues." Ynoa is a lot like Valentin (or is it the other way around?), as he can play both middle infield positions well. Ynoa is better at second base than he is at shortstop, but he split time between the positions evenly in 2012. The Dodgers don't have much in the way of middle infield prospects in the upper minors, but Dee Gordon starting the season in Albuquerque eliminates Ynoa from being the Isotopes' opening day shortstop.

Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue


  1. Not disputing that Federowicz is a good defensive catcher but I found it kind of funny that the first throw they show in the clip was actually kinda shitty. Federowicz saw the steal attempt and actually adjusted/prepared himself for the throw and it was still a one hopper to second base.

    1. To be fair, that was early in his MiLB career and the only video I could find of him throwing.

  2. James Baldwin was not great in Low A Loons. He had a lot of errors in centerfield.

    1. Errors aren't the best indicator of defensive prowess. He has the range and instincts to clearly be the best defensive outfielder in the system.