Dodger Thoughts: Farm system

Prospect pantheon

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
8:25
AM PT
If you want to dive into some serious Dodger prospect details, you could do worse than Kevin Goldstein's new report at Baseball Prospectus or Brandon Lennox's ongoing countdown at True Blue L.A.
Today, I happened across a list that Baseball America put out a few weeks ago of the top 100 college players for the 2012 draft. Four of the top 15, it turns out, were previously drafted by the Dodgers:

5) Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State — 2010 round six
6) Brian Johnson, LHP/1B, Florida — 2009 round 27
13) Richie Shaffer, 1B, Clemson — 2009 round 25
14) Stephen Piscotty, 3B, Stanford — 2009 round 45

Gausman, the highest-rated of the four, was taken five rounds after the Dodgers picked Zach Lee, whom they stole away from the same school, LSU. (Third-round draft pick Leon Landry was also an LSU player.)

From Gausman's LSU bio:
Regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in the country ... has a tall, slender build and is very athletic for his size ... smooth and easy delivery with a fastball that usually sits in the low to mid 90s range; his fastball has been clocked up to 100 mph ...

Freshman season (2011)
Started 14 games, posting a 5-6 mark and a 3.51 ERA in 89.2 innings with 23 walks and 86 strikeouts ... 3-1 record with a 1.17 ERA in his final four starts of the year, recording five walks and 32 strikeouts in 30.2 innings ...

As for the others in 2011, Johnson struck out 72 in 79 2/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA and had an .845 OPS at the plate, Shaffer had a 1.015 OPS and Piscotty had an .894 OPS.

Not aiming for anything profound with this post — I have no idea whether these guys turned down the Dodgers because of money or because they had no intention of skipping college, nor do I have any idea how they will do as pros. All I can say is that it would be fun to have them in the Dodger farm system now.

Lee, Baseball America notes in the same issue, remains the Dodgers' top prospect. He could get a first callup before the 2012 season ends, and with Rubby De La Rosa and Clayton Kershaw could give the Dodgers three exciting starting pitchers age 25-or-under in 2013.
Funny one-line intro ...
  • Here's video of John Candelaria no-hitting the Dodgers in 1976. Check out how excited color commentator Bob Gibson is alongside play-by-play man Al Michaels for the final out.
  • Manny Ramirez talked at length with ESPN's Pedro Gomez about events of the past year and his desire to play again. It's self-serving but take it for what you will.
  • Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner looks at how different this year's Triple-A Isotopes will be. An excerpt:
    A total of 19 additional players who spent time in Albuquerque in 2011 became free agents after the season.

    Left-handed starter Alberto Bastardo (4-3, 5.38 ERA) has signed with the Marlins organization, which puts him in contention for a rotation spot with New Orleans.

    Closer Jon Link (2-2, 4.24, 11 saves) inked a deal with the Orioles, enabling him to potentially pitch closer to his Virginia home with Norfolk, another Triple-A team run by Isotopes owner Ken Young.

    Right-handed reliever Travis Schlichting (5-3, 7.10, four saves) will join the wide-open competition for a roster spot in cash-strapped Oakland.

    Corner infielder Corey Smith (.239, 7 HR) joined the White Sox, while utility player Eugenio Velez (.339, 31 RBI) will take his 0-for-37 skid in the Majors to the Cardinals organization.

    The free agents still looking for work include pitchers Roman Colon, Roy Corcoran and Randy Keisler, plus catcher Damaso Espino, first baseman John Lindsey and outfielders Brad Coon and Jay Gibbons.
  • For Variety, I took a look at the state of NFL, MLB and NBA sports broadcasts on mobile and digital platforms.
  • World Series MVP David Freese will risk killing all his postseason good vibes with a guest appearance on maligned ABC sitcom "Work It" on January 24, if the show isn't canceled first.
  • Vin Scully talked to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News about his upcoming bobblehead night. "Since I won't be here for the 100th anniversary (of Dodger Stadium), I agreed to do the 50th," Scully said. "Otherwise, I would be open to questions as to why I didn't do it. It's far easier this way."
  • Ted Williams, 1940: "If I were a free agent and each major league club offered me identical contracts, I'd sign with the Dodgers. ... I know I'd be a hero in Brooklyn." (Link via Larry Granillo and Baseball Prospectus.)
While I was parked at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, many of my online colleagues were out at Dodger Stadium for media day at the Dodgers' Winter Development Camp. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles was one. Some excerpts:
... Instead of making a splash now, the Dodgers will likely do what they have done the last few seasons. Try to stay competitive in the first few months of the season in order to convince ownership to expand the payroll at the trading deadline.

"I think we're in a decent spot right now to be competitive and to make more decisions in July," (Ned) Colletti said. "There's rarely a postseason team that doesn't change along the road." ...

... Elsewhere, (Don) Mattingly said that RHP Rubby De La Rosa has looked good in limited action after undergoing Tommy John surgery this summer. The Dodgers hope he can return to throwing bullpen sessions sometime in March and pitching in games by the end of July.

"I feel good. It feels strong," De La Rosa said. "It feels like six months have passed since the operation and it's only been three."

But wait, there's more ...
  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has video of Tommy Lasorda during batting practice telling prospect Matt Wallach to "pull the goddamned ball."
  • Baly adds a bunch of photos in this post.
  • Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. has a long list of notes from the camp.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times leads his notebook with a Dee Gordon update, while also noting that if and when De La Rosa pitches for the Dodgers this season, it will probably be in relief, before he returns to starting in 2013.
  • Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has a full recap. Here's a portion:
    ... Also rehabbing is infielder Justin Sellers, who suffered a serious groin pull while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Sellers said he's still not 100 percent, but he was turning double plays with expected starting shortstop Dee Gordon on Monday.

    Working in the infield was Alex Castellanos, a natural power-hitting outfielder acquired from the Cardinals in the Rafael Furcal trade. Castellanos is still primarily an outfielder, but the Dodgers are trying him at second base, which they had to fill with the signing of free agent Mark Ellis because they weren't willing to turn the position over to Sellers or Ivan DeJesus Jr.

    Also at the camp is catcher Tim Federowicz, who was a September callup, but Colletti said he's likely to open the season in the Minor Leagues as the Dodgers plan to start the season with A.J. Ellis starting and Matt Treanor backing up. Federowicz was the key player acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade.

    Colletti said he met in the Dominican with third baseman Juan Uribe. Colletti said Uribe knows he underperformed last year and understands the expectations for this year. Utilityman Jerry Hairston might share time at the position. Hairston also could see time in the outfield, especially when the Dodgers face left-handed pitching. When that happens, James Loney might be replaced at first base by left fielder Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier might give way to Jerry Sands. Mattingly said he wouldn't call it a platoon, but one of the winter priorities was to add right-handed bats to give him more options against left-handed pitching. ...
From the Dodgers:
The Dodgers’ fifth annual Winter Development Program, which helps prepare minor league players for the Major Leagues both on and off the field, kicks off this weekend and will include workouts, community visits, informational seminars and visits to different areas of Los Angeles. Fifteen of the Dodgers’ top minor league prospects will be in town for the week-long event and workouts will focus on fundamentals, strength training and conditioning.

Dodger Manager Don Mattingly will be on hand to work with the prospects along with Third Base Coach Tim Wallach, Hitting Coach Dave Hansen, minor league roving instructors and Specials Assistants, Baseball Operations & Player Development.

Prospects attending include the Dodgers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Shawn Tolleson and Minor League Player of the Year Scott Van Slyke. Other position players include Alex Castellanos, Griff Erickson, Tim Federowicz, Tyler Henson, Alfredo Silverio and Matt Wallach. Pitchers Steven Ames, Michael Antonini, Stephen Fife, Josh Wall, Allen Webster and Chris Withrow will be in attendance along with the Dodgers’ 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Rubby De La Rosa.

Throughout the week, these Dodger prospects will familiarize themselves with the greater Los Angeles area through community service with a visit to A Place Called Home, a youth center in South Los Angeles, and social events, including attending an L.A. Clippers game. They will also meet with Dodger legends including Tommy Lasorda and Don Newcombe and learn from Dodger staffers about topics including media relations, diet and Major League travel. Prominent Los Angeles sports figures who have spoken to the program in the past include John Wooden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Phil Jackson.

Since the Winter Development Program’s inception in 2008, 30 participating players have reached the Major Leagues, including 2011 participants Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Dee Gordon, Nathan Eovaldi and Javy Guerra. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso, A.J. Ellis, and Scott Elbert are among other past participants.


Ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, the Dodgers outrighted pitchers John Ely and Carlos Monasterios to Triple-A Albuquerque in order to make room for five first-timers on the 40-man roster.

Two came at the trading deadline: outfielder Alex Castellanos and pitcher Steven Fife.
  • Alex Castellanos, the 25-year-old outfielder who came from the Cardinals in exchange for Rafael Furcal and had a combined .958 OPS in 534 plate appearances at Double-A.
  • Stephen Fife, a 25-year-old righty who came from the Red Sox in the Trayvon Robinson trade and had a combined 3.74 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 137 innings at Double-A.
  • Chris Withrow, a 2007 first-round draft choice who had a 4.20 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings as a starter at Double-A Chattanooga.
  • Michael Antonini, a 26-year-old who came from the Mets organization last winter in exchange for Chin-Lung Hu and had a 4.01 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 148 innings as a starter at Chattanooga.
  • Josh Wall, a 2005 second-round draft choice who had a 3.93 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings as a reliever at Double-A Chattanooga.

After spending all of 2010 with the Dodgers, Monasterios was injured most of 2011, pitching only four innings with the Isotopes. Ely never recovered his Elymania form of 2010, though he was mostly effective in very short spurts with the Dodgers in 2011.

Both players could easily remain in the organization for 2012, depending on the interest they receive elsewhere.

For more on the state of the 40-man roster, as well as some names that were left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft, check out this post and this post from True Blue L.A.
What, the Dodgers still have a future?

Despite the callup of John Ely when Rubby De La Rosa went on the disabled list, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Nathan "What, no 'U'?" Eovaldi might be the Dodgers' next No. 5 starter when the rotation wheel turns that way on Tuesday. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness provides a detailed introduction to Eovaldi, who has a 2.62 ERA for Chattanooga with 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

There are two things I want to add to Petriello's post this morning. The first is to compare Eovaldi's performance at Chattanooga this year to De La Rosa's work there (spread over the 2010-11 seasons).

Eovaldi (born February 13, 1990): 103 innings, 6.6 hits per nine IP, 4.0 walks per nine IP, 8.7 strikeouts per nine IP, 2.62 ERA in 2011.
De La Rosa (born March 4, 1989): 91 innings, 6.7 hits per nine IP, 4.3 walks per nine IP, 11.7 strikeouts per nine IP, 2.08 ERA in 2010-11.

There are similarities, with the most noteworthy difference being De La Rosa's dominant strikeout rate, which makes Eovaldi's strong numbers smaller in stature. Given that Eovaldi is almost a year younger than De La Rosa but would be making his major-league debut fewer than three months later, I think we can be quite excited about him in the long term, but should certainly temper our expectations in the short run.

Is Eovaldi being rushed? Well, I think his potential callup should be looked at the same way that earlier stints for Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon were. It's not a permanent or do-or-die situation. It's an opportunity, given injuries at the major-league level, to provide a first look at the majors for a potentially important 2012 player. The pressure should be lower on Eovaldi, who unlike De La Rosa would not be making his debut while the Dodgers could still be considered in playoff contention.

The second thing I want to do is check in on ballyhooed 2010 first-round pick Zach Lee, who was drafted with the potential of being a top counterpart to Clayton Kershaw in the Dodger starting rotation.

Kershaw reached the majors on May 25, 2008 – just shy of two years after he was drafted. If Lee matched the same exact path, he would be introduced to the Dodger rotation next May. The first hitch in that plan, however, was that Lee signed so late in 2010 that he didn't play in the minors that year, while Kershaw pitched 37 innings (striking out 54 with a 1.95 ERA).

Still, let's take a look at how each performed at age 19 for Single-A Great Lakes:

Lee (born September 13, 1991): 81 innings, 8.0 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 3.22 ERA in 2011.
Kershaw (born March 19, 1988): 97 1/3 innings, 6.7 H/9, 4.6 BB/9, 12.4 K/9, 2.77 ERA in 2007.

Kershaw was promoted before the end of the 2007 season to Double-A Jacksonville, where he had a 3.65 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 24 2/3 innings. Lee, who was slowed briefly this year by elbow soreness, might remain a step behind Kershaw's development path, given that aside from better control, he also hasn't been as dominant.

Nevertheless, we could very well see Lee in the majors by a year from now. And if you can wait a bit longer – just 21 months from now – the Dodgers' 2013 starting rotation could offer Kershaw, De La Rosa, Eovaldi, Lee and Chad Billingsley, not to mention Ted Lilly and other contenders from the farm system. Something to look forward to ...
Alex Castellanos

"... A 25-year-old right-handed hitter, he has mediocre tools but has put up big numbers this year. His plate discipline needs work, and despite the line at Springfield I'd rate him a Grade C prospect at this point, with a chance to be a bench asset."
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

Tim Federowicz

"... Federowicz is a catch-and-throw specialist who isn't likely to produce enough at the plate to be an average regular, but is plus across the board behind the plate (including a career 34 percent caught-stealing rate) and is no worse than a good backup in the majors."
– Keith Law, ESPN.com

"... The best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system, with the catch-and-throw skills to be a big league regular. His pure arm strength is average, but it plays up because he has smooth footwork and a quick release. He has thrown out 36 percent of basestealers this year in Double-A, and also has shown off his receiving ability by committing just one passed ball. Federowicz's bat will determine how much he plays when he gets to the majors. He ability to hit for average and control the strike zone is decent, and he has some gap power. He runs well for a catcher and has more athleticism than most backstops."
Baseball America

"... A top-flight defensive catcher, he has a strong throwing arm, plenty of mobility, and excellent leadership skills behind the plate. A weak stick has kept him off prospect lists. ... He probably won't hit enough to be a major league regular, but he could last a long time as a defense-oriented reserve. He turns 24 this week. Grade C."
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

"... He's a very good catch-and-throw guy, with a quick release and strong arm. He's also worked very hard to improve his blocking. At the plate, he uses a middle-of-the-field approach and has average pull power. Most see him as a defensive-oriented backup at the big league level, but he could become an everyday guy if he hits a bit more than expected."
– Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

Stephen Fife

"... Fife probably profiles as a right-handed reliever rather than a starter because he lacks the out pitch to start; he'll touch 95 as a starter with a fringe-average curveball."
– Law

"... Didn't start pitching regularly until he was a high school senior, but after three years of college ball at Utah he worked himself into the third round of the 2008 draft. His best pitch is an 88-93 mph fastball that features good sink. He lacks an above-average secondary pitch, with his changeup (which has some splitter action) ranking ahead of his curveball. His control and command are average, and it's more likely that he develops into a middle reliever than a starter."
– Baseball America

"... His stuff is average across the board: 88-92 MPH sinking fastball, average changeup and curveball, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball low in the zone. ... In the majors, he projects as a fifth starter or more probably a long/middle reliever. I've see him as a sleeper in the past but he's never quite woken up. Grade C.
– Sickels

"... Fife is a solid right-handed starter with a three-pitch mix. An Eastern League All-Star this season, Fife can run his fastball up to 93 mph with some sink. His curveball can be an out pitch, and he's also got a pretty good feel for a changeup. He mixes his pitches well and can change speeds, but he also has enough velocity to put hitters away at times."
– Mayo

Juan Rodriguez

"... Rodriguez has a plus fastball, no average second pitch and below-average command and control – a nice arm to add to your system but a reliever at best and not a high-probability guy, either. Unless Robinson was somehow burning a hole in the Dodgers' pockets, this (trade) doesn't make a ton of sense to me, as they didn't get any prospect as good as he is in the exchange."
– Law

"... He still has room for projection in his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame, and he already throws 93-95 mph coming out of the bullpen, enabling him to rank second among South Atlantic League relievers with 13.42 strikeouts per nine innings. There's a good deal of effort in Rodriguez's delivery, which hampers his control and command. His slider and changeup are fringy pitches, so his ceiling is as a late-inning reliever rather than as a starter."
– Baseball America

"... His command is spotty and his slider is mediocre, but his 92-95 MPH fastball has movement and his K/IP ratio is excellent. He needs to sharpen up his command and add polish, but he's an interesting arm at least. Grade C, but has some upside."
– Sickels

"... Rodriguez is a raw, tall and lanky right-hander with plenty of arm strength. Pitching out of the bullpen for Greenville in the South Atlantic League, he's shown plus velocity, up to 98-99 mph at times. He's got a slider that's below average, and he's working to develop a better feel for an offspeed pitch. He generally throws strikes, but he needs to find more consistency with his fastball command. That, and development of his offspeed stuff, will be key. But the power and arm strength that many teams covet are definitely there."
– Mayo

Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesGarrett Gould
This is a pretty quick-and-dirty post and doesn't incorporate any scouting reports. It's, like, kind of a top prospect watch, but from Mars.

Catcher
Gorman Erickson, 23
.408 OBP/.491 slugging/.899 OPS in 273 plate appearances at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga
.222/.400/.622 in 35 PA at Double-A Chattanooga

Backup: Steve Domecus, 24
.424/.490/.914 in 118 PA at Single-A Great Lakes

First base
Scott Van Slyke, 25 on July 24
.408/.528/.936 in 331 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Chris Jacobs, 23 in November
.403/.482/.885 in 134 PA at Great Lakes

Second base
Jaime Pedroza, 25 in September
.373/.412/.784 in 268 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Alexis Aguilar, 20
.327/.510/.837 in 52 PA at Rookie-level Ogden

Shortstop
Dee Gordon, 23
.371/.410/.781 in 249 PA at Triple-A Albuquerque with 24 steals in 27 attempts
.250/.280/.530 in 85 PA at Los Angeles with nine steals in 12 attempts

Backup: Jake Lemmerman, 22
.383/.446/.829 in 362 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

Third base
Travis Denker, 26 in August
.352/.548/.900 in 230 PA at Rancho Cucamonga
.380/.557/.937 in 79 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Tony Delmonico, 24
.389/.448/.837 in 289 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

Outfield
Jerry Sands, 24 in September
.392/.650/1.042 in 189 PA at Albuquerque
.294/.328/.622 in 144 PA at Los Angeles

Trayvon Robinson, 24 in September
.377/.561/.937 in 353 PA at Albuquerque

James Baldwin, 20 in October
.383/.574/.957 in 60 PA at Ogden, nine steals in 10 attempts

Backup: Alfredo Silverio, 24
.338/.566/.905 in 346 PA at Chattanooga

Backup: Angelo Songco, 23 in September
.343/.501/.844 in 382 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

Backup: Scott Schebler, 21 in October
.377/.647/1.024 in 109 PA at Ogden

Starting pitcher
Nathan Eovaldi, 21
2.62 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 1.105 WHIP in 82 1/3 IP at Chattanooga

Garrett Gould, 20 on July 19
2.17 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 1.084 WHIP in 91 1/3 IP at Great Lakes

Zach Lee, 20 in September
3.32 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.231 WHIP in 65 IP at Great Lakes

Allen Webster, 21
2.33 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 1.241 WHIP in 54 IP at Rancho Cucamonga
3.69 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 1.165 WHIP in 46 1/3 IP at Chattanooga

Red Patterson, 24
3.43 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 1.107 WHIP in 81 1/3 IP at Great Lakes
3.60 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 1.100 WHIP in 20 IP at Rancho Cucamonga

Relief pitcher
Shawn Tolleson, 23
0.00 ERA, 19.8 K/9, 0.800 WHIP in 15 IP at Great Lakes
0.93 ERA, 15.8 K/9, 0.517 WHIP in 9 2/3 IP at Rancho Cucamonga
1.29 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 1.143 WHIP in 21 IP at Chattanooga

Steven Ames, 23
1.17 ERA, 16.4 K/9, 0.783 WHIP in 15 1/3 IP at Rancho Cucamonga
1.65 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 1.163 WHIP in 16 1/3 IP at Chattanooga

Josh Lindblom, 24
2.43 ERA, 11.3 K/9, 1.170 WHIP in 33 1/3 IP at Albuquerque
1.69 ERA, 4.2 K/9, 1.031 WHIP in 10 2/3 IP at Los Angeles

Cole St. Clair, 25 on July 30
0.79 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 0.735 WHIP in 34 IP at Chatanooga

Logan Bawcom, 23 in November
2.78 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 1.081 WHIP in 45 1/3 IP at Great Lakes

Others of note
SS: Delvis Morales, 21 in August
.400/.453/.853 in 74 PA at Arizona Rookie League

3B: Jeffrey Hunt, 20
.393/.529/.922 in 56 PA at Rookie-level Ogden

OF: Joseph Winker, 22 in August
.463/.552/1.014 in 68 PA at Arizona Rookie League

OF: Blake Smith, 24 in December
.342/.516/.858 in 278 PA at Rancho Cucamonga

OF: Kyle Russell, 25
.343/.522/.865 in 338 PA at Chattanooga, with 105 strikeouts

OF: Devin Shines, 22
.405/.563/.968 in 81 PA at Arizona Rookie League

SP: Jon Michael Redding, 24 in November
3.42 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 1.468 WHIP in 79 IP at Rancho Cucamonga

SP: Dana Eveland, 28 in October
3.77 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 1.362 WHIP in 105 IP at Albuquerque

SP: Victor Araujo, 22 in November
2.64 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 1.141 WHIP in 30 2/3 IP at Rookie Dominican Summer League

RP: Steven Matre, 23
1.50 ERA, 15.0 K/9, 1.083 WHIP in 12 IP at Ogden, one walk

Harry How/Getty ImagesTrayvon Robinson
Any notion that the Dodgers were going to hold back on pushing young players to the big leagues this season was left sittin' on the dock of the bay once Los Angeles promoted Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa and Dee Gordon ahead of schedule.

So it's natural to ask if outfielder Trayvon Robinson will also get an early wakeup call. We know the Dodgers originally intended for Robinson to spend the season in the minors, but that was then. What about now?

Playing center field for Albuquerque, Robinson has a .341 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage this season, with 12 homers and seven steals in nine attempts. Outside of the baserunning, those numbers are considerably better than what Gordon had to offer when he took over major-league shortstop duties (for the time being), but they sit pretty far below what recently promoted Trent Oeltjen (.429/.583) was producing.

Few will argue that Oeltjen has a brighter future than Robinson, but in terms of the present, there wouldn't appear to be an imperative to rush Robinson to the majors. The 23-year-old Robinson also has had some pretty significant plate discipline issues this season, with 17 walks against 64 strikeouts for the Isotopes.

Still, there are questions. We're told that Tony Gwynn Jr. and Marcus Thames will now platoon in left field, with Oeltjen mixing in as well, but it's anything but clear that it's a long-term arrangement. If none of them show anything with the bat, it's going to be harder and harder to understand why Jamey Carroll (or even Aaron Miles, for all his weaknesses) should be sitting. That's why I think you could ultimately see an infielder get some time in the outfield, whether it's Casey Blake, Carroll or Miles.

And then again, maybe we'll still see Robinson this summer. The Dodgers could have stuck with Carroll and Miles rather than turning to Gordon, whose abilities are still developing. There may be the sentiment that in the absence of thrilling alternatives, another kid will get his taste, even if it's only for a few weeks.

Julie Jacobson/APRubby De La Rosa
So, let's say, just hypothetically ...

... just hypothetically, mind you ...

... that the Dodgers don't reverse their ugly 2011 start and reach the playoffs.

I mean, I know it's crazy, but what if an injury-riddled team with almost no offense keeps losing?

What might happen with this roster?

For starters, there's always the possibility that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti will try to make a midseason deal to strengthen a playoff bid, as he has done every year of his tenure, with everyone but Zach Lee and Rubby De La Rosa serving as potential trade chips. But under Colletti, the Dodgers have never entered July with a double-digit deficit in the playoff races, and that obviously seems like a much more distinct possibility in 2011. That could dissuade Colletti from his typically go-for-it mentality.

Conversely, if the Dodgers' fade-out continues unabated, Colletti could take the opportunity to do what is never done in Los Angeles and jump start a rebuilding program with the trade of any number of veterans to serious postseason contenders for prospects. The conventional wisdom is that the bulk of Dodgers fans won't tolerate a rebuild, but given what they're already putting up with and how attendance is already in decline, it's not as if much more damage can be done. And really, you have to be pretty myopic not to see the potential benefits of this path.

It wouldn't surprise me, though, if Colletti gets caught in between the fork in the road and ends up largely standing still. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, it's as good a launching point as any for our "what next" speculation.

Brian Mount/Icon SMITed Lilly
Starting rotation
In the short term: The most stable part of the team this year has needed only one substitute, John Ely in the first week of the year. Ely is around if a spot start is needed, while De La Rosa would also be a candidate to be a replacement. Keep in mind, however, that De La Rosa only threw 110 1/3 professional innings last year and has already thrown 41 this year, counting his major-league debut Tuesday -- they should be looking to protect him.

In the long term: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly will return next year, with De La Rosa poised to join them. Hiroki Kuroda will be a free agent, and Jon Garland has an $8 million vesting option that the Dodgers will probably be able to buy out, since he doesn't figure to reach the required 190 innings. As was the case last year, the return of Kuroda (37 in February) will probably depend on his willingness to do a one-year deal in the U.S., while Garland would probably also have to agree to a similar contract as he had this year, which calls for a lower base salary plus performance incentives.

The imminent arrival of De La Rosa could allow the Dodgers to pit Kuroda against Garland in a negotiating stance -- they make offers to both, and whichever one agrees first would get the deal. If neither one bites, the Dodgers would seek out a veteran starter, to give De La Rosa a cushion and provide depth in a place where Colletti most values it. (It would be encouraging if Lilly, 36 in January, showed some improvement between now and next year.)

Also, if injuries don't hold him back, Lee could be in Double-A by the start of 2012 and in the majors by the end, if Clayton Kershaw's path is any model. We'll see.

Bullpen
In the short term: Expect the revolving door to continue, not just as players like Blake Hawksworth, Vicente Padilla, Jonathan Broxton and hopefully Hong-Chih Kuo return from the disabled list, but as the team decides whether Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert or Ramon Troncoso need to spend more time in the minors. Josh Lindblom, who had 30 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings for Double-A Chattanooga through Saturday, could get his long-awaited first shot in the majors, while other non-roster players like lefty Cole St. Clair (1.02 ERA, 16 strikeouts, 12 baserunners in 17 2/3 innings) wait in the wings. And there are always names like Jon Link ...

Rob Grabowski/US PresswireJavy Guerra
In the long term: Even if he returns this season at peak performance, Broxton will be a free agent at the end of the year. If he's great, the Dodgers won't be able to pay for him, if he's not great, the Dodgers won't want to pay for him. Padilla will also be a free agent, and the Dodgers will probably be out of patience with his inconsistent health. Mike MacDougal qualifies as a pleasant surprise, but if he asks for seven figures in salary for 2012, the Dodgers might balk.

Kuo will be arbitration eligible and stand to earn a big raise – his mental and physical condition makes him a non-tender candidate, although if there's any sign he's conquered his anxiety disorder, he might be the reliever they decide to reinvest in.

Most likely to return are Hawksworth, Matt Guerrier and the rookies including Jansen, Elbert and Guerra, with the Dodgers patrolling the major- and minor-league free agent market for their usual host of candidates.

Further down the line, the Dodgers will keep their eyes on Steven Ames and Shawn Tolleson – the latter continuing his strikeout-mad ways with 13 in 7 2/3 innings since his promotion to Rancho Cucamonga.

Though the bullpen has been a lightning rod for discussion this year, this is not the place for the Dodgers to spend a high portion of their resources. They have bigger fish to fry.

Catching
In the short term: A.J. Ellis stands by, waiting for the next disabled list trip for Rod Barajas or Dioner Navarro.

In the long term: Navarro has done little to indicate he was worth his 2011 contract, let alone that he'd be worth a 2012 deal. Ellis, who will finally be out of options just before his 31st birthday, figures to settle in at last on the major-league roster. Barajas, 36 in September, will be a free agent, and though he is currently second in the team in home runs, it's anyone's guess whether the Dodgers will bring him back. You can't rule it out, but the Dodgers will consider alternatives.

In the real long term, the Dodgers might finally have a new catching prospect in 23-year-old Gorman Erickson, who had a .991 OPS for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, relying (as Ellis does) on plate discipline rather than power. But Erickson's numbers will diminish once he leaves the friendlier confines of the California League for Double-A. Maybe he, too, will become a full-time backup in about five years.

Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCasey Blake
Infield
In the short term: Injuries will likely dictate playing time for the remainder of spring and on into the summer. But should Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Juan Uribe actually end up on the active roster at the same time next month, it doesn't mean the end of Jamey Carroll's playing time. The indispensable, no-longer-a-reserve Carroll has been too productive to sit. Carroll can give those other three players rest, and if that also means Blake moves around to play some first base, so be it.

Aaron Miles, on the other hand, could go back to sixth-infielder status, which suits him, and Russ Mitchell would go back to the minors. Juan Castro can go and clear waivers.

On the other hand, if the injuries continue, we'll just see more of what we've seen, with Ivan De Jesus no doubt making a return appearance at some point.

In the long term: Overhaul. Loney, due for one more arbitration-eligible raise despite his most disappointing season, will be jettisoned unless he shows some hint of power. Even his mainstream reputation as a clutch hitter has been scarred. Blake has a $6 million club option, too rich for a 38-year-old who will be a part-timer. Same story with Furcal's $12 million club option. That leaves only Uribe among the nominal starters.

Carroll will be a free agent – and he'll also be 38. This has been a happy marriage, and I actually like the odds of his returning, but he will get other offers. In any event, as great as he has been in 2010-11, it'd be risky to count on him as a starter in 2012 – though perhaps you could use him as a stopgap until minor-leaguer Dee Gordon is considered ready.

But will Gordon be ready next year? With a .735 OPS and 10 errors so far in his first 40 Triple-A games, there's no way you can pencil him into the 2012 Dodger starting lineup. De Jesus also seems like a longshot to do much of note in the majors next year, if ever.

Although Jerry Sands could hold down left field, one option for the Dodgers would be to move him to the infield, where the team is much thinner. Uribe would take a second position, while the Dodgers look outside the organization for help at the two other spots. Gordon, though some might not want to hear it, could be a trade chip.

A late-breaking candidate is Scott Van Slyke, who has been playing first base for Chattanooga after starting his pro career as an outfielder. Van Slyke, 25 in July, had a .954 OPS (fifth in the Southern League) with 16 doubles in his first 42 games this year.

Outfield
In the short term: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Sands, who is platooning with Jay Gibbons. Sands looked ripe to go back to Albuquerque just a week or two ago, but that notion has changed dramatically. A healthy Marcus Thames could still knock Sands down to Triple-A temporarily, but there's going to be much more resistance to that happening now. Sands could also enter the infield mix even before 2012.

In the long term: Kemp for sure. Ethier, probably. The outfielder certainly won't be non-tendered, and he is as likely to get a multiyear deal as any other fate. That doesn't mean Ethier, 30 in April, couldn't be a trade candidate in 2012, the year he becomes eligible for free agency, but as noted recently, that's not the type of trade the Dodgers have been making.

So there's Sands, or if he moves to the infield, Trayvon Robinson could get a shot. Roster expansion in September should provide an early peek at Robinson.

Summary
The Dodgers will need at least one front-line starting pitcher next season, whether it's Kuroda, Garland or someone else, with an eye on possibly two. No walk in the park, but simple enough.

The starting lineup is another story. You have Kemp, Ethier and (grumble) Uribe. You probably have Sands. Maybe Carroll. Then your next two in-house options to start are Ellis at catcher and either Robinson or Van Slyke. If desperate, the Dodgers could resurrect the Sands-to-third idea.

The point is, the Dodgers are going to make some big moves in the offseason, otherwise their 2012 starting lineup could look like this:

Carroll, SS
Robinson, LF
Ethier, RF
Kemp, CF
Sands, 3B
Uribe, 2B
Ellis, C
Van Slyke, 1B

It's gonna be an interesting offseason ... five months from now.

Mark J. Terrill/APMatt Kemp executes "The Crane" to topple Kenley Jansen at the All-Valley Karate Tournament.
It says something about Clayton Kershaw that he allowed back-to-back doubles leading off the first inning and loaded the bases in the third inning and still ended up pitching shutout ball. And by the end of his seven-inning outing, when he struck out 11 and retired his last 14 batters, he had gone from backpedaling to dominating.

It was the second-straight seven-inning shutout by a Dodger starter. Meanwhile, Los Angeles scored four runs, one unearned, and that was just enough to withstand the latest bullpen meltdown for a 4-3 victory.

Matt Guerrier allowed a run in the eighth inning, and Vicente Padilla allowed two in a 32-pitch ninth before Kenley Jansen came in and struck out Melvin Mora for the final out – the 15th strikeout of the game for the Dodgers.

By holding on, the Dodgers had their second three-game winning streak of the season and moved within 2 1/2 games of first place in the National League West despite an 19-20 record.

* * *

As if we hadn't gotten enough scary medical news lately, Zach Lee entered the picture. From Jim Peltz and Kevin Baxter of the Times:
... Lee, the Dodgers' first-round pick in last June's draft, was sent to the team's minor league complex near Phoenix for an MRI test on the right-hander's pitching elbow.

Lee complained of tightness in the elbow after his last start May 5, when he went a season-long six innings, giving up one run on five hits. But he lacked his usual sharpness, striking out just one, a career low.

DeJon Watson, the Dodgers' assistant general manager for player development, characterized the test as a standard procedure for young pitchers. He said the test showed no damage and that Lee, 19, would return to Great Lakes of the single-A Midwest League, though Watson said he did not expect Lee to pitch for 10 to 15 days.

"There's nothing wrong," Watson said. "We just want to make sure he's 100%."

Some happier tidings: Shawn Tolleson, who struck out 33 of the 56 batters he faced at Single-A Great Lakes while allowing only 12 baserunners and a 0.00 ERA in 15 innings, has been promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. (Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Mike–Tink for the link.) In addition, Rancho Cucamonga reliever Steven Ames (60 batters, 28 strikeouts, 12 baserunners, 1.17 ERA) has moved up to Double-A Chattanooga.

* * *

Gathering dust: Scott Elbert has not pitched since May 9 and has thrown only one inning since May 6.

* * *

Today's game has an unusual 4:10 p.m. start. The shadows could be timely for the pitchers ...
Eric Risberg/APTrayvon Robinson
Hot starts from Dodger minor leaguers:

Trayvon Robinson, 23, OF, Albuquerque
63 plate appearances, .429 on-base percentage, .661 slugging percentage, four homers, six walks, 19 strikeouts

Jon Link, 27, RP, Albuquerque
12 1/3 innings, 16 baserunners, 10 strikeouts, 2.19 ERA

Bryan Cranston, 55, UT, Albuquerque
No stats, only video.

Corey Smith, 29, 3B, Chattanooga-Albuquerque
63 plate appearances, .397 on-base percentage, .483 slugging percentage, one homer, five walks, 10 strikeouts

Scott Van Slyke, 24, OF, Chattanooga
54 plate appearances, .463 on-base percentage, .830 slugging percentage, three homers, six walks, 10 strikeouts

Michael Antonini, 25, SP, Chattanooga
17 2/3 innings, 20 baserunners, 12 strikeouts, 1.53 ERA

Rubby De La Rosa, 22, SP, Chattanooga
15 1/3 innings, 20 baserunners, 19 strikeouts, 1.76 ERA

Nathan Eovaldi, 21, SP, Chattanooga
15 innings, 18 baserunners, 16 strikeouts, 1.20 ERA

Austin Gallagher, 22, 1B, Rancho Cucamonga
62 plate appearances, .468 on-base percentage, .632 slugging percentage, two homers, five walks, seven strikeouts

Gorman Erickson, 23, C, Rancho Cucamonga
49 plate appearances, .490 on-base percentage, .575 slugging percentage, no homers, nine walks, seven strikeouts

Steven Ames, 23, RP, Rancho Cucamonga
8 1/3 innings, seven baserunners, 15 strikeouts, 1.08 ERA

Jonathan Garcia, 19, OF, Great Lakes
65 plate appearances, .354 on-base percentage, .712 slugging percentage, six homers, five walks, 17 strikeouts

Garrett Gould, 19, SP, Great Lakes
17 innings, 14 baserunners, 12 strikeouts, 1.59 ERA

Zach Lee, 19, SP, Great Lakes
14 innings, 21 baserunners, 21 strikeouts, 1.29 ERA

Shawn Tolleson, 23, RP, Great Lakes
6 1/3 innings, seven baserunners, 16 strikeouts (out of 19 total outs), 0.00 ERA

Injuries hammer Isotopes

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
7:12
AM PT
That wasn't the injury bug in Albuquerque on Wednesday – those were injury locusts. From Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner:
The Albuquerque Isotopes' 10-7 victory over the Iowa Cubs on Wednesday night may go down as the costliest win in team history.

In the span of four innings, three Isotopes were injured, suddenly leaving the club down to only seven healthy position players.

"I've been in this game a long time and we talked about there's not too many 'nevers' in baseball," manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "To have guys get hurt and have to come out of the game the way it happened tonight, to end up with a pitcher in right field ... it was a strange night."

Second baseman Justin Sellers was hit by a pitch on his right hand in the fourth inning, forcing him to leave the game.

Three batters later, Juan Castro fouled off the first pitch from Austin Bibens-Dirkx, only to suddenly double over in pain, clutching his left side. He had to leave the game as well.

In the seventh inning, J.D. Closser, who had moved from catcher to third base to replace Castro, stumbled while trying to field a grounder. The ball bounced up and struck Closser under his left eye, leaving him with a visible bruise and forcing him out.

At that point, Jerry Sands had to move from right field to third, and with no position players available on the bench, pitcher Tim Redding trotted out to right field. ...

Thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Mike Tink for the head's up ...

Morry Gash/APXavier Paul takes his swings at Camelback Ranch today.
Maury Wills sings "Crawdad Hole." Thank you, Blue Heaven.

Elsewhere ...
  • One of the lesser-known but valuable defensive statistical tools is PMR (Probabilistic Model of Range), by David Pinto of Baseball Musings. Today, he published shortstop data for the period 2006-10. The Dodgers are No. 6 out of 30 teams at the position, thanks mostly to Rafael Furcal, who is seventh-best in baseball over that stretch – fourth among those who have seen at least 10,000 balls in play in their zone.
  • Andre Ethier wants to be a more uplifting leader for the Dodgers this year, he tells Dylan Hernandez of the Times. Don Mattingly suggested a role model for Ethier: Derek Jeter.
  • It just keeps getting worse for Scott Podsednik. Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star reports that "Podsednik suffered a re-aggravation of foot injury he first came down with in 2010, and will not be immediately available to open spring training with the team." Jays manager John Farrell said the ex-Dodger, whose unguaranteed contract gives him $1 million for making the team, is battling plantar fasciitis again.
  • I've been meaning to highlight this for a long time but kept forgetting: Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. went to the trouble of ranking and providing detailed capsules of the Dodgers' top 200 minor-league prospects. Here's your path to the trove.
  • A 7-foot-1 pitching prospect? You be the judge: Bill Plunkett of the Register has a fun feature on the Angels' 85-inch minor leaguer, Loek Van Mil.
  • Dee Gordon, interviewed by Josh Jackson for MLB.com, says he isn't expecting Stephen King to write "The Girl Who Loved Dee Gordon."
  • ESPN.com has an entire page dedicated to 6-foot-2 high school basketball player Diamond DeShields, daugher of Delino and class of 2013.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Dee Gordon
BA HR RBI R
.365 1 6 5
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 5
RBIA. Gonzalez 15
RA. Gonzalez 11
OPSJ. Uribe .980
WZ. Greinke 3
ERAH. Ryu 1.93
SOZ. Greinke 29