We have almost reached the Dodgers top 50 prospects. Included in my next post will be a recap of prospect #'s 201 - 51 so everyone can see where all the previous players fit into my ranking. Also, as a reminder since I haven't mentioned this in a while, I have ranked all in the Dodgers minor league system who meets the following qualifications: (1) played in the Dodgers minor league system during 2009, or was injured during the entire 2009 season; (2) is still within the Dodgers organization as of season end; (3) is under 28 years old as of Opening Day 2010; and (4) the player is still considered a prospect by Baseball America Standards, which means that pitchers must have less than 50 innings pitched in the majors, and hitters must have less than 130 at bats in the majors. Like Baseball America, I do not take into account service time, and therefore it is possible that I have included prospects who will not technically be rookies in 2010 (i.e. Brent Leach). Also, the player's age I've listed is how old they will be when the 2010 season starts.
60. Beyker Fructuoso, RHP (28.7 innings in Arizona League in 2009)
Signed by Dodgers 7/9/07
6’3", 195 lbs, 20 years old
1-5, 6.28 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 9.10 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 26
While I may have been a little off in my ranking of Fructuoso last season, I haven’t given up hope on this young Dominican player. He’s got a ton of potential and simply hit a speed bump in his young career. Signed as a 17 year old in the summer of 2007, Beyker spent his first professional season in the Gulf Coast League and went on to have a very successful debut. As an 18 year old he posted a 2.37 ERA, allowed just a .229 batting average against, and struck out 37 batters in 38 innings. In 2009, Fructuoso was placed in the Arizona Rookie League and played the entire season as a 19 year old, so he was still one of the youngest players league. It’s no excuse for his 6.28 ERA, but I will give him a little bit of a break because he showed good control, struck out more than a batter per inning, and was victimized by the long ball (he gave up a team 8 HR’s despite pitching just over 28 innings). Despite his sophomore slump, it’s easy to see why I am so excited about Beyker as a player. He has already shown flashes of brilliance, and has a great pitcher’s frame at 6’3". I have no idea how hard he throws, but judging by his stats and his build my guess is that he’ll be able to one day sit in the low to mid 90’s (if he’s not there already). With 66 professional innings under his belt, Fructuoso is ready to move up to at least the Pioneer League in 2010. While he’s been under the radar so far, he’s definitely someone to keep your eye on.
59. Jaime Pedroza, 2B (136 games in LoA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 9th round
5’8", 167 lbs, 23.5 years old, switch hitter
.260 average, 15 HR’s, 78 RBI’s, 36 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: 19
In 2007, Pedroza was drafted out of UC Riverside in the 9th round after leading the Highlanders to a NCAA tournament berth during his junior year. In his professional debut, he dominated the Pioneer Rookie League with a .360 average, a .413 on base percentage, 8 HR’s, and 40 RBI’s. That earned him a promotion to Hi-A at the end of the 2007 season, and he returned there in 2008 where he had a great season with the 66ers. He hit .290, showed off his power with 9 HR’s, and also added a new element to his game as he stole 25 bases. So most people would have assumed that Pedroza would have either stayed in HiA or been promoted to AA. However, the Dodgers sent Jaime to LoA in 2009. My guess as to why the Dodgers sent him to the Midwest League was because they promised the Loons that they would field a good team in 2009, and Pedroza was one piece of the puzzle. The moved paid off for the Dodgers because Pedroza had an all around solid season and was one of the players that led the Loons to the playoffs for the first time in 2009. While his average wasn’t great, he ranked second on the team with 15 HR’s and 36 SB’s, and also led all Dodger minor leaguers with 100 runs scored. In addition, Pedroza was money in the Midwest League playoffs and hit two game changing home runs during the Loons playoff run. In terms of his overall prospect status, Pedroza’s ranking has dropped since last year, but he is still a pretty good player. Although he is just 5’8", he is the perfect size for a middle infielder and has more offensive force than most players at that position. The problem is that he isn’t very good defensively as he made 27 errors in 2009; second most in the Dodgers minor league system. In addition, his strikeouts scare me as he struck out in 26.6% of his plate appearances in 2009. According to someone who covered the Loons during the 2009 season, "this is an important off-season for Pedroza…the Dodgers have to decide whether to push him up to Double A or cut him." I can’t imagine that he’ll be cut due to his offensive performance, so my guess is that the Dodgers do in fact give him a chance in AA in 2010 to see how he responds. In addition, he’ll be reunited with his brother Sergio who originally drafted by the Dodgers in 2005 was traded to Tampa Bay for Julio Lugo, and was re-signed by the Dodgers this past off-season. Hopefully Jaime will have another good season in 2010 and prove that he is a legitimate Dodger prospect.
58. Francisco Felix, RHP (55.3 innings in AA, 21.3 innings in AAA in 2009)
Signed by Dodgers 2/19/03
5’11", 191 lbs, 26.75 years old
4-2, 3.05 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.16 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 62
After spending seven minor league seasons with the Dodgers, Francisco Felix will finally get the opportunity to spend some time in the Dodgers big league camp. You see Felix was re-signed by the Dodgers after the 2009 season and was surprisingly invited to the major league spring training as a non roster player. While his odds of actually making the 25 man roster out of spring training are slim to none, I’m sure it will be a good experience for Francisco. In addition, it will give him a chance to pitch in front of big league coaches and hopefully show them that he deserves to be an option in the major league bullpen if injuries should occur. Management should actually already be familiar with Felix due to his success last season. He recorded a 2.93 ERA in the first half of the season at AA, then upon his promotion to Albuquerque he continued his success with a FIP of 2.54 through 21 innings. After the season, Felix returned home to Mexico to play in the Mexican Winter League and appeared in 33 games more games, accumulating a 2.40 ERA and a .228 batting average against. Overall, Felix has put up some pretty good numbers over the past year. Despite being just 5’11", he obviously has good stuff and can definitely be a relief option for the Dodgers in the future if he continues to succeed.
57. Josh Wall, RHP (111.3 innings in HiA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2005, 2nd round
6’6", 190 lbs, 23 years old
5-8, 5.98 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 6.22 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 49
Since being drafted in 2005, Josh Wall has not pitched like a 2nd round pick. Though he signed for $500,000, Wall has a career ERA of 5.46, a career WHIP of 1.60, and a career K/9 of just 6.5 K/9 through 5 professional seasons. Things are getting any better either, because he has spent the last two seasons in HiA and has actually performed worse than his career averages. Part of his struggles can be blamed on the fact that the California League is never kind to pitchers, and part of it can be blamed on the fact that he is still adjusting to his 6’6" frame, but at the end of the day he still needs to do a better job of executing. The thing is, he has the raw talent to be really good. While his velocity has fluctuated over the years, Wall has hit 96 mph in the past and generally sits in the low 90’s. He also has a pretty good curveball and a solid changeup. He just needs to learn to put everything together while on the mound. The good thing about Wall is that he just turned 23 years old, so he still has time to turn things around. While some people might disagree, I really think that Wall should move up to AA in 2010 to put him in a new environment. He obviously hasn’t had a good experience in the California League, so maybe a promotion to Chattanooga will change his luck. Plus, as much as I hate to say it, it’s not like Charlie Hough has been able to do anything for him over the past two years. Overall, I haven’t given up on Josh Wall just yet, and I still think he has it in him to put together a solid season in the near future.
56. Nick Akins, LF (32 games in Arizona League, 27 games in Pioneer League in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 19th round
6’1", 180 lbs, 22.25 years old, bats right handed
.300 average, 11 HR’s, 50 RBI’s, 3 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: N/A
Nick Akins is only 22 years old, yet has already had an interesting baseball career. It started in high school when he transferred from Los Angeles High School to El Camino Real High during his junior season, which required him to take a two hour bus ride each way. Because Los Angeles High School wasn’t in the best neighborhood, Nick’s dad thought that getting Nick to a better school would help him in life. Well, to make a long story short there was an ugly fight involving Nick and his father during his junior year at El Camino Real which led to his expulsion from the team. Even though the fight wasn’t started by Nick, the administrators didn’t care. Nick transferred back to Los Angeles High School for his senior year, but wasn’t allowed to play baseball despite his best appeals. He ended up playing in weekend adult league and the Dodgers actually drafted him in the 13th round of the 2006 draft. Nick didn’t sign, however, and played ball at Riverside Community College for two seasons, winning the JUCO state championship in the process. After the 2008 season Adkins transferred to the local NAIA college Vanguard, and after hitting .314 with 13 home runs, 35 runs batted in and a .633 slugging average over 47 games he was again was drafted by the Dodgers, this time in the 19th round. He ended up signing with the Dodgers and was placed in the Arizona Rookie League where he absolutely dominated. In just 120 at bats, Akins hit 7 HR’s and had an outstanding 1.055 OPS. He was rewarded for his efforts by being named a post season All Star for the League. In the middle of August he was promoted to the Pioneer League and while his stats dropped off a little, he still continued to show good power potential. Despite all these good qualities, Akins does have a few drawbacks to his game. First, he is pretty much limited to left field, which hurts his value on the field. Second, while Akins can mash fastballs, he has a lot of trouble with off-speed pitches, which is something that will most likely be exploited as he moves up in the minors. Finally, so far in his minor league career Nick has posted a poor walk to strikeout ratio, demonstrating that he strikes out too much. Nevertheless, I see Akins as a legitimate Dodger prospect who has a lot of potential. While he’ll probably never become a big league regular, I can see Akins as a solid big league backup someday. He’ll definitely spend 2010 in either LoA or HiA.
55. Chris Jacobs, 1B (42 games in Pioneer League in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 17th round
6’5", 260 lbs, 21.25 years old, bats right handed
.277 average, 4 HR’s, 17 RBI’s, 0 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: 24
When you look at the 6’5" and 260 pound Chris Jacobs, you see an athlete. Growing up, there was no doubt that he would play a professional sport, it was just a matter of him deciding which one he would play. Football was an obvious option, but Chris made the decision early during his high school career to put all his time and energy into baseball. Even though wasn’t drafted until the 17th round in 2007, he feels that he made the right decision by choosing baseball. Jacobs spent his first two professional seasons in the Gulf Coast League and posted mediocre stats. He moved up to the Pioneer League in 2009, and while his overall stats point to another average year, he actually showed improvement over his first two professional seasons. His slugging percentage rose by 68 points, and his OPS increased to a respectable .810. However, his 4 home runs are a disappointing total and show that he hasn’t come close to tapping into his power potential, which is what the Dodgers were looking for when they drafted him. In addition, he struck out in 28.7% of his 2009 plate appearances, which is not a good sign because that percentage was substantially worse than his 2008 percentage of 20.4%. Despite these disappointing figures and the fact that Jacobs has spent three seasons in rookie leagues without much success, I’m still optimistic about his future. He is still just 21 years old and obviously has huge power potential. He also has not yet been given the opportunity to play a full season, so in 2010 it will be interesting to see what he can do with 400 or 500 at bats. I’m guessing he’ll play in LoA and while he’ll probably still have to split time with other young first basemen, I’m sure he’ll get plenty of time at DH.
54. Justin Miller, RHP (115 innings in LoA, 34.3 innings in HiA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 6th round
6’3", 190 lbs, 22.5 years old
5-14, 5.48 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 4.82 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 48
Even though Justin Miller was considered to be one of the best community college pitchers available in the 2007 draft, he fell to the 6th round where the Dodgers gladly scooped him up. What probably scared most teams away was the fact that Miller actually spent more time in right field than on the mound during his final college season, as he developed a tender elbow. Nevertheless, he was hitting 94 on the radar gun before his injury, and at 6’3", the Dodgers felt like he had a very projectable frame. After being drafted, Miller was assigned to the Gulf Coast League where he ended the season by pitching 7 innings of scoreless relief in the GCL playoffs. That success allowed Miller to start the 2008 season in LoA where he played all year end posted a 3.99 ERA despite a 4-11 record. In 2009, Miller returned to LoA and even though he didn’t quite find the same success as in 2008, he was promoted to HiA in August. Unfortunately, Miller wasn’t up to the challenge as he posted an 8.13 ERA in the California League and somehow managed to be the losing pitcher in each of his 7 starts. He also posted a career low by striking out just 4.8 batters per 9 innings. Luckily, Miller doesn’t need to strikeout a whole lot of batters because he is a sinkerball pitcher, but I would still like to see a rate higher than what he had in 2009. According to Baseball America, Miller currently hits 92 mph and has a good slider, but they see him more as a bullpen arm than a starting pitcher. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment because sinkerball pitchers are generally more useful in the rotation, especially if they don’t strike a lot of guys out. However, Miller is going to have to step up his game when he returns to HiA next season if he wants any kind of shot with the Dodgers because there are plenty of young arms in the Dodgers system that are ahead of him at this point.
53. Steven Ames, RHP (30 innings in Pioneer League in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 17th round
6’1", 205 lbs, 22 years old
1-1, 2.10 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 14.10 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: N/A
Steven Ames had an unbelievable debut season, especially when you consider that he was a 17th round pick. Even though he only pitched 30 innings in 2009, his numbers were off the charts. His 14.10 K/9 was ridiculous, and he only walked 6 batters all season. In addition, batters only hit .192 against him, and his FIP was an incredible 1.53. The best part about Ames, however, is that he did all this as a 21 year old. This type of performance would be expected from a college player who was 22 or 23 years old, but as a 21 year old I am every impressed. Going back to his college days, Ames played for three years at Gonzaga and posted an ERA under 2.00 in his first two seasons. In 2009 with the Bulldogs he struggled a little bit and posted a 3.91 ERA through 96 innings, but the Dodgers realized his potential and drafted him in the 17th round of the 2009 draft. Luckily he signed with the Dodgers, and as mentioned above, he thrived in the Pioneer League. While he was mostly a starting pitcher in college, the Dodgers used Ames exclusively as a reliever and I’m guessing that’s where he’ll stay as he continues his professional career. While I’m not very familiar with Ames pitching arsenal, according to Baseball America he has been able to hit 94 mph on the radar gun. In addition, I’ve read that he has three good pitches and has a good feel for pitching. Based on his 2009 performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dodgers promoted Ames to Hi-A in 2010. He is certainly ready for the challenge of the California League, and has the stuff to succeed there. The long term projection for Ames is a middle reliever in a big league bullpen, although he’ll have to continue to dominate to reach big leagues as a 17th round pick.
52. Russell Mitchell, 1B (131 games in AA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2003, 15th round
6’1", 182 lbs, 25 years old, bats right handed
.241 average, 13 HR’s, 63 RBI’s, 4 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: 32
By now, most people know that Russell Mitchell is a grinder who is a player in the mold of Kevin Millar. He can play all over the field and in 2009 he spent significant amounts of time at 3B, 2B, 1B, and in the outfield. Over the past seven years, he has steadily progressed through the Dodgers minor league system and even though his career batting average and on base percentage aren’t great, he does have 85 career HR’s and 412 RBI’s. After a mediocre season in Chattanooga, the Dodgers sent Mitchell to the AFL where he really blossomed. He hit .319 and had 5 HR’s and 25 RBI’s in less than 100 at bats. He was also named to the AFL All-Prospect team and even won the league’s Sportsmanship Award. After winning the award, Mitchell said "This is a big honor. Words cannot express how much it means to me. It's nice to know the coaches think so highly of you, and that they feel you represent someone who was a great man." Based on his AFL performance, the Dodgers re-signed Mitchell to a minor league contract this off-season (he was a minor league free agent after the 2009 season), and he recently participated in the Dodgers January minor league mini camp. In addition, he was given a surprise invitation to the Dodgers major league spring training. While he has no chance to make the big league club out of spring training, it will be a good opportunity for Mitchell to play in front of the big league coaches and with superior talent. He’ll most likely spend 2010 as a utility player in AAA and at 25 years old, he will have to do something really special to ever make it to the show.
51. Matthew Sartor, RHP (71.7 innings in AA in 2009)
Signed by Dodgers 7/24/07
6’6", 250 lbs, 25.5 years old
4-6, 4.27 ERA, 1.30 WHP, 9.54 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 33
Matthew Sartor started his college career at North Central College, but ended up transferring to the University of Texas at Arlington. During his two seasons with the University of Texas at Arlington, Sartor was used sparingly and he went undrafted after posting a combined 7.91 ERA in just 31 innings. After the 2007 college season, however, Sartor was not ready to give up baseball so he joined an independent league. The move paid off as the Dodgers signed Sartor shortly thereafter and was placed in the Pioneer League. I’m not sure if Sartor showed better stuff in the independent league or if the Dodgers signed him purely due to his size and projection, but either way the signing has looked great based on his professional success. Since he was already 23 at the time of his signing, he made his professional debut in the Pioneer League posted great numbers. He struck out 25 batters in just 18 innings, picked up 2 saves, and only allowed a .161 batting average. 2008 was split between LoA and HiA, and Sartor again thrived with a combined 3.12 ERA and a strikeout rate of 10.7. As predicted, Matt played in AA in 2009 he got off to a very hot start. Through the month of June, Sartor lead all Dodger minor leaguers with a 0.94 WHIP (minimum 30 innings) and had a FIP of 2.53. He was also selected to the Southern League midseason All Star team. Unfortunately the 2nd half of the season was not kind to Sartor has he had an ERA of 6.29 after the All Star game, but even still Matthew had an overall successful season. He ended the year with a respectable 3.57 FIP and batters only hit .236 against him. He also had great strikeout numbers and fanned over a batter per inning. He’s a massive player, and while I’m not exactly sure about how hard he throws, I’m assuming that it’s at least in the low 90’s. Because of his age, 2010 is an important year for Sartor to demonstrate that the second half of 2009 was a fluke. At 25 and a half years old he is definitely old enough to handle AAA, and as I mentioned last year he is a wildcard to one day make the Dodgers major league roster.