AA Southern League - Chattanooga Lookouts Review

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Our AA affiliate had a miserable season from both a won/lost,  and prospect scenario. High hopes entered the season with top outfield prospect Andrew Lambo ready to build on his scintillating AA debut from 2008. Josh Bell was coming back from an injury that shortened his 2008 season, and it was expected that Ivan DeJesus might play SS one more year in AA before helping the club in Sept. Instead DeJesus broke his leg and basically missed the whole season. Lambo was pedestrian , and Josh Bell was traded right after he broke out his power stroke.

HITTING:

Best Offensive Prospect

With Josh Bell gone, Andrew Lambo is still the best offensive prospect.  Baseball America did make him their 18th best prospect in the league. He was the only Dodger prospect to make the list.

18. Andrew Lambo, of, Chattanooga (Dodgers)
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: '07 (4)
The Dodgers' No. 1 prospect entering the season, Lambo played briefly in Double-A last year shortly after turning 20. He returned to the SL in 2009 for the full season and might end up repeating the level in 2010, as he posted mediocre numbers even in one of the league's more hitter-friendly parks.

Scouts who have followed Lambo the last two years said he didn't show the same power and liveliness in his bat that was present a year ago and worry that he might be a future fourth outfielder. Some scouts still liked his swing, as he has an advanced ability to drive the ball to the opposite field for a player his age. He has some raw power, though it showed up more as doubles (he finished third in the league with 39) than homers (11).

A well below-average runner, Lambo already is confined to left field. He does gets decent reads in the outfield and has an average, accurate arm.

I have to remember Lambo skipped a league but his performance in 2009 seems to have killed the idea this kid was going to be an elite prospect. He might simply end up a decent left fielder but I was hoping for more.

The Positives: His K rate dropped from 21% to 17%. His BABIP was .298 compared to .348 and .399 so he was probably a bit unlucky in 2009. Or it could be he simply stopped hitting the ball hard. That is what the scouts are saying, the ball was simply not jumping off his bat this year. The stats show his line drive rate was 20% so there is that. To his credit no other 21 year who qualified with 300 at bats did jack in the Southern League this year.

The Negatives: Drop in power for the third straight year. He went from a pitching park with an ISOP of .173 to an offensive park and yet his ISOP dropped to .150. Walk rate is still below 10% helping keep his wOBA at a below average .311.

Best Offensive Hitter:

No one was outstanding but 24 year old catcher  Lucas May held off Thomas Giles and Eduardo Perez to win the honor. May had a slow start in April but went to work in May posting a mind boggling wOBA of .554 for the month before getting hurt. He came back in July and barely missed a beat putting up a .405 wOBA before slowing down in August. His OPS of .858 was just a tick behind Thomas Giles.  Just one other note, May had an outstanding World Cup and delivered several key home runs to help the US win this round of the World Cup.

Sleeper:

Thomas Giles is already 26 and yes he can hit but at 26 he should be able to hit. Is there a sleeper on this team? Russ Mitchell if he could actually play 3rd base but he can't. So if I had to pick someone I'd pick 25 year old switch hitting 1st baseman Eduardo Perez . He destroyed the Cal League and was promoted in late May where he struggled his first two months. Once he got comfortable he was the best hitter on the team in August. In looking at his splits since he's a switch hitter he crushed LHP to the tune of 1.342 but that dropped of to .792 in AA. He was more consistent against RHP in both leagues.

Disappointment:

Lambo was the only player I had expectations for so his pedestrian performance was a disappointment to me. I'd hoped for a break out year that would put him on the national prospect map but this performance will make sure he does not see any top 100 lists. Trading Josh Bell was a huge disappointment. BA ranked him 10th in the league.

PITCHING:

Best Pitcher:Evidently Josh Linblom and Scott Elbert pitched enough innings to qualify for the Baseball America top 20 prospect list per league but neither made it. They both made 11 starts for the Lookouts before being promoted to AAA. Elbert is more then two years older then Lindblom but he outpitched him during his 11 starts. Elbert had 3.90 ERA with a 3.04 FIP. A K/9 rate of 12.6 leads the good news. The bad news is the 4.3 BB/9 rate which has been his problem. Many question if Elbert can become a mainstay in a major league rotation. Baseball America had this to say:

Frankie (Casper, WY): Do Scott Elbert and Andrew Cashner best project as starters or relievers, and did either get consideration?
Ben Badler: I already hit on Cashner, but yes, I think both of them end up in the bullpen. Elbert was a close call to make the list, but I just worry about his durability and his command, which is why I think he ends up in the bullpen, but I think he could be an excellent reliever.

Best Prospect: Chris Withrow only started six games for the Lookouts but the 20 year old was one of the youngest pitchers in the league. Madison Bumgarner gets all the hype as a 20 year old in AA but Withrow is not that far behind him considering he missed a full season in 2008. Don't be surprised if Withrow at the end of 2010 is not considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.

Next Best Prospect: With two years on Elbert, Lindblom could end up being the better prospect. In his first full professional season Lindblom did very well. He wasn't excellent but his FIP showed he also wasn't the pitcher sporting the 4.71 ERA in the Southern League. His FIP was a solid 3.40 which is good for that league. Would have liked to have seen a better K/Rate but his BB/Rate of 2.2 is excellent.

Biggest Disappointment: This may be the last time we see James Adkins listed as a disappointment since going forward I have little expectations. Logan White really whiffed on this draft pick. Then again is was  not that strong a draft though a Jordan Zimmerman would have looked nice pitching for the Lookouts in 2009 instead of blowing out his arm for the Nationals.

Other pitchers of note:

23 year old Javy Guerra was converted to a closer and sent to A ball to learn his craft. He was brilliant for the Loons and earned a promotion to AA on June 26th.  He wasn't quite ready for AA and struggled with his command. However he seemed to right the ship at the end of the year and finished the season on a high note with no walks in his last five appearances with seven K's in 6.1 innings. Someone to keep an eye on.

Paul Koss, Mathew Sartor, and Francisco Felix all have potential to help a major league bullpen.

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