This is the third in a series of reports on all the teams in the Dodgers’ minor-league system.
The Dodgers’ signing of first-round draft pick Zach Lee on Monday night was big for more than one reason.
Sure, it proved that the Dodgers weren’t going cheap in the draft due to Frank and Jamie McCourt’s pending divorce. It also gave the ailing farm system a much-needed boost in pitching.
A quick scan from Triple-A to rookie ball reveals that the Dodgers are sorely lacking in impact pitchers. Those that they do have are struggling through lost seasons.
The Dodgers gave Lee a $5.25 million bonus to help correct that problem, but as a high school pitcher, it could be three years or more before Lee is ready to take the mound in Los Angeles.
Scouting director Logan White told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Lee is unlikely to pitch in the minors this season, what with only three weeks remaining. He will likely report to Instructional League later this fall.
“He has an absolutely picture-perfect delivery and excellent arm action,” White told ESPN. “He is as pure as any pitcher I have ever seen. He has power stuff like (Clayton) Kershaw and (Chad) Billingsley, but when those guys were younger, they would almost fight through a wall sometimes and try to overpower somebody, but they have grown and learned how to pitch more than just throw and be more effective with their pitch counts.
“I think Lee at the same age has a better feel for how to pitch than Chad or Clayton, and I don’t mean that to disparage them at all.”
While Lee has a long road ahead of him, the Dodgers’ pitching needs are more immediate. Three-fifths of their starting rotation — Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla — are free agents after the season.
Albuquerque’s current rotation includes John Ely, who went 4-7 with a 4.63 ERA for Los Angeles earlier this season but is just 4-2 with a 6.12 ERA with the Isotopes; 33-year-old Seth Etherton, 32-year-old Tim Corcoran and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who was torched (0-4, 8.40) with the Dodgers earlier this season and was then dropped from the 40-man roster in July.
One pitcher who might have been able to help the Dodgers next season was lefty Scott Elbert, who was ranked as the organization’s No. 6 prospect by Baseball America prior to the season.
After going 1-1 with a 4.98 ERA in nine starts with the Isotopes, Elbert made one relief appearance in the majors, got sent back down and then left Albuquerque to deal with “personal matters” which have apparently taken up the rest of his season. At one point, the Dodgers didn’t even know where Elbert was and there has been speculation he may have simply quit baseball.
Another Isotope who was seen as having tremendous potential was right-hander Josh Lindblom, who entered the year ranked fifth among prospects. After struggling through 10 starts, though, Lindblom was moved to the bullpen, where he shined in college as the closer at Purdue.
The move hasn’t helped Lindblom’s overall numbers, however, as he’s just 3-2 with a 6.51 ERA in 34 total games while allowing 126 hits in 84? innings.
The pitching staff at Double-A Chattanooga is mainly littered with non-prospects and journeymen, but there are a few arms who retain varying degrees of potential.
Right-hander Chris Withrow, the Dodgers’ No. 2 preseason prospect, has taken it on the chin with the Lookouts despite playing in a pitcher’s league. Withrow is 3-8 with a 6.08 ERA in 23 starts.
“Frustrated. Very frustrated,” Withrow told the Chattanooga Times Free Press earlier this season. “I will go out and have a good outing, and then I will go out there and not have a good outing. It is mostly inconsistencies in my mechanics. It has been really frustrating, because I can feel myself doing it and I won’t stop it.”
Reliever Javy Guerra (No. 16) has battled through injuries to post respectable numbers — 2-0, 2.29, five saves in 20 games.
Lefty Aaron Miller (No. 3) struggled mightily with Chattanooga (1-4, 7.04) before returning to Single-A Inland Empire, where he’s gone 3-4 with a 3.01 ERA in 16 games (14 starts).
Miller is one of the few arms who has put up good numbers at Inland Empire’s hitter-friendly home park in San Bernardino.
Right-hander Ethan Martin (No. 4) has been roughed up (9-11, 5.57) with the 66ers, but he’s often been his own worst enemy, allowing 69 walks in 108? innings.
Another right-handed starter, Nathan Eovaldi (No. 13), has had a decent season (3-5, 4.45) marred by injuries. He is currently on the disabled list.
The Dodgers’ most impressive affiliate this season has been Single-A Great Lakes (Midland, Mich.), which has gone 35-15 to lead the Midwest League’s Eastern Division in the second half and has an overall record of 78-41, tops in all of the minor leagues.
The Loons have succeeded in spite of losing two of their best arms, Brett Wallach (6-0, 3.72) and Elisaul Pimentel (9-3, 3.49), in trades. Wallach entered the year as the Dodgers’ No. 20 prospect.
Right-hander Allen Webster (No. 10) has been Great Lakes’ staff ace, going 11-7 with a 2.72 ERA.
Josh Wall, who was unranked to start the season, has impressed to the tune of a 7-7 record, a 3.72 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 130? innings.
The Dodgers recently promoted their seventh-round draft pick, lefty Ryan Christenson, to Great Lakes from the club’s rookie team in Arizona. Christenson has gone 2-0 with a 5.24 ERA in five games (four starts).
While Lee, 18th-rounder Chad Arnold and 31st-rounder Derek Cone have all likely signed too late to play this year, a few other draft picks are already off and running with either rookie-level Ogden or in Arizona.
Second-round pick Ralston Cash is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in seven starts in Arizona.
Lefty Andrew Pevsner (16th round) and right-hander Logan Bawcom (17th) have both pitched out of the bullpen at Ogden. Pevnser has gone 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 13 games, while Bawcom is 3-1 with a 4.74 ERA and one save in 11 games.
Right-hander Red Patterson (29th) has been a revelation as a starter for the Raptors, going 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 56 innings.
Shawn Tolleson (30th) has 15 saves and a 0.78 ERA in 21 games for Ogden.
In comparison, the Dodgers’ No. 11 preseason prospect, right-hander Garrett Gould, has struggled (0-3, 4.54) with the Raptors.
With Elbert a mystery, Ely and Lindblom struggling at Triple-A and the ongoing woes of Withrow and Martin, the Dodgers will likely have to rely on free agents and trades to keep their pitching stocked at the big-league level.
Around the system
- Outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez, a product of Albuquerque’s Manzano High School who was drafted out of UNM, set a team record at Great Lakes last month. Cavazos-Galvez racked up a 24-game hitting streak. “It feels good to put my name up there with some of the good guys that have come through here,” Cavazos-Galvez told the Midland Daily News. “Dee Gordon, Eduardo Perez. To put my name up there with those guys feels great.” Overall this season, Cavazos-Galvez has hit .312 with 13 home runs and a team-leading 67 RBI and 39 stolen bases.
- One of Cavazos-Galvez’s former teammates, first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands, has continued to move up the prospect charts since jumping from Great Lakes to Chattanooga. Though his numbers have dipped somewhat, that’s to be expected skipping a level and going to a pitcher’s park in Tennessee. Sands has hit .283 with 11 homers for the Lookouts after batting .333 with 18 homers for the Loons. Overall, he has hit .311 with a staggering 1.013 OPS (on-base plus slugging), an impressive feat for a player who never expected to reach Double-A this season. “I just figured I was going to San Bernardino to play high A,” Sands told The (Johnson County) Herald. “I was super excited. I don’t want to say I am overdoing myself, but I don’t think people thought I would be this successful this year.”
- The playoff chase is on for all of the Dodgers’ affiliates. Great Lakes holds a four-game lead in its division, while Ogden already won the first-half title for the Pioneer League’s South Division. The Raptors are 12-5 in the second half and are still in first place. While the Isotopes (61-61) sit three games out in second place in the American South Division of the Pacific Coast League, neither Chattanooga nor Inland Empire expects to be playing deep into September. The Lookouts are 55-64 overall and currently occupy last place in the Southern League’s North Division. The 66ers are a dismal 45-75 overall and are in last in the California League’s South Division.
- Baseball America recently released its lists of Best Tools (subscriber-only) for all the full-season minor leagues as voted upon by league managers. A handful of Dodger farmhands were honored, with shortstop Dee Gordon earning three spots on the Southern League list as the best baserunner, fastest baserunner and most exciting player. Kenley Jansen was named best reliever prior to his promotion to Los Angeles. The only Isotope to make the list was Ivan De Jesus Jr., who was named best defensive second baseman in the PCL. Matt Wallach was named the California League’s best defensive catcher, while third baseman Pedro Baez earned best infield arm. Sands was named the best power prospect and best defensive first baseman in the Midwest League prior to his promotion to Chattanooga. Reliever Rubby de la Rosa was seen as having the best fastball before he was also promoted to the Lookouts, while Great Lakes’ Juan Bustabad was named the best managerial prospect.