I've only got a couple of more posts left after this one, so we are now moving into what I consider the Dodgers top 30 prospects. As I remindder, the players that I have included within my ranking are players 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 (so that is why Hoffmann is still included); (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. Enjoy, and let me know your comments as to which players you think should be ranked higher or lower based on your opinions.
30. Jamie Hoffmann, RF (68 games in AAA, 29 games in AA in 2009)
Signed by Dodgers 9/2/03
6’3", 235 lbs, 25.5 years old, bats right handed
.291 average, 10 HR’s, 64 RBI’s, 15 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: 29
I realize that Jamie Hoffmann is no longer with the Dodgers because he was selected by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft, but because I put together my ranking early in the offseason, I’ve included him. Plus, there is a very good chance that Hoffmann will be returned to the Dodgers before the end of the 2010 season because the Yankees already have four other outfielders who are ahead of Hoffmann on the depth chart. Whether he returns or is gone forever, I see Hoffmann’s ceiling as a major league backup so he barely warrants a top 30 ranking. The ex-hockey player is a great defensive outfielder and has a knack for getting on base, but he doesn’t really have that plus offensive tool that would allow him to be a major league regular. His power is mediocre at best, and while he did steal 15 bases in 2009, he was also caught 11 times. Even if Hoffmann does return to the Dodgers, he definitely wouldn’t have a spot on the team in 2010 unless injuries diminish the Dodgers outfield depth. However, there is an opportunity for him to claim a spot on the Dodgers bench in the future after Manny leaves (given that Hoffmann does in fact return to the Dodgers). No matter what happens, 2010 should be an interesting year for Jamie because at the very least, he’ll get exposed to the crazy New York media during spring training.
29. Cole St. Clair, LHP (36.3 innings in LoA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 7th round
6’5", 225 lbs, 23.5 years old
4-1, 2.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 11.15 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 20
Cole St. Clair has a very impressive high school and college resume, and it’s amazing that he fell all the way to the 7th round of the 2008 draft. I mentioned many of his amazing stats last year, but it is worth noting a few of them again: (1) he went 11-1 with a 1.16 ERA as a high school senior; (2) as a college sophomore, in 74 innings he went 7-2 with a 1.82 ERA, struck out 100 batters, and allowed only a .151 batting average; (3) in the summer of 2006 he played for Team USA and posted a 0.69 ERA in 26 innings and struck out 43; (4) during his junior season in college he recorded a 1.91 ERA and picked up 9 saves; (5) finally as a college senior he went 10-3 with a 3.03 ERA. After he was drafted, Logan White called St. Clair the "sleeper" of the draft and predicted that he would move quickly through the system. While the 23 year old has only moved up to LoA so far, St. Clair has posted very good stats since turning pro. In 2009 with the Loons, Cole picked up 15 saves, had a FIP of 2.87, recorded 11.15 strikeouts per 9 innings, and allowed a .226 batting average against. He also ended the regular season with 14 dominate shutout innings. In addition, St. Claire is still regaining his velocity after suffering injuries in college, but has learned how be crafty in the meantime until his velocity returns (if it ever does). He currently tops out at around 90 mph, but has great pitch placement and solid secondary pitches. Overall, I've gone back and forth on St. Clair's potential, but my final conclusion is that he has a good chance of becoming a successful middle reliever or set-up man in the big leagues. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was promoted to AA in 2010 to face tougher competition and give the Dodgers a better look at him
28. Scott Van Slyke, RF (132 games in HiA, 3 games in AAA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2005, 14th round
6’5", 195 lbs, 23.75 years old, bats right handed
.293 average, 23 HR’s, 100 RBI’s, 10 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: 123
Scott Van Slyke had a huge year in 2009, but I'm still not sold on his overall potential and therefore I’m not as high on him as some other people are. Van Slyke is 6’5" and is the son of former major leaguer Andy Van Slyke, so he definitely has the size and bloodlines to succeed in baseball. However, in his five years as a professional, he has only had one good season and it was in the hitters’ paradise called the California League. Don’t get me wrong, his 23 home runs and 100 RBI’s were very impressive, as were his 42 doubles, which led all Dodger minor leaguers. In addition, his outfield arm is very strong and so is his overall defense. But before we get too excited about Van Slyke, I think we need to see how he performs against tougher competition. He spent the last week of the 2009 season in AAA and only had 1 hit in 6 at bats, and then played in the Mexican Winter League after the season and had a rather unimpressive 32 at bats. So next year will be his true test as he will be a 23/24 year old playing most likely in AA. As much as I would like for Van Slyke to succeed, I see his 2009 season as a fluke rather than a sign of things to come, so he’ll have to prove me wrong with his performance next season.
27. Brandon Martinez, RHP (21 innings in Arizona League in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 7th round
6’4", 150 lbs, 19.25 years old
0-4, 9.86 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, 9.86 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: N/A
Besides Garrett Gould, Brandon Martinez was the 2009 draftee that I was most excited about. He is still extremely young and has so much room to grow, and that is why I feel that his ceiling is so high. Drafted out of Fowler High School (near Fresno), Martinez had dominate stats his senior season as he struck out 85 batters in 45 innings and allowed a .124 batting average against. While most scouts say that Brandon sits around 90 mph, it has been reported that he hit 94 mph in high school. After the draft, Logan White said "This kid is skinny as rail but I'll tell you he has an outstanding delivery, throws hard and has a fine breaking ball. We'll have to put a little weight on him. He could turn into a really fine pitcher over time." Upon signing with the Dodgers, Martinez was sent to the Arizona Rookie League and struggled mightily. However, I wouldn’t read too much into those stats because he was simply adjusting to professional hitters and more importantly did show flashes of dominance with this strikeout rate. I’m guessing that the Dodgers will take it slow with Martinez and send him to the Pioneer League in 2010. Finally, there is one other interesting thing about Brandon Martinez: he is the subject of a book written by his father called "Born to Play." Since I’m not the first to report this, I will simply quote that this book "details Brandon Martinez’s unique life — his daily existence, his struggles against discrimination due to Tourette Syndrome (a neurological disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics), and more important, it examines a father’s persistent fight for his son’s academic and athletic life. Here, the author reveals how the disorder of his son, the discrimination and bad politics almost prevented him from achieving his boyhood dream." While I have not read this book it seems very interesting and I am tempted to read it as some point this spring.
26. Travis Schlichting, RHP (13.7 innings in AA, 12.7 innings in AAA, 3 innings in Arizona League in 2009)
Signed by Dodgers 10/6/07
6’4", 215 lbs, 25.25 years old
2-0, 0.92 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.06 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 38
Travis Schlichting has already had a long and complicated baseball career. Originally selected as a 3rd baseman in the 4th round of the 2003 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, Schlichting never really succeeded with his bat. He was traded to the Angels after the 2005 season, and during 2006 he played both in the field and on the mound. While he threw 8 scoreless innings for the Angles during that 2006 season, they released him, and he would up playing with an independent league for all of 2007. The Dodgers decided to take a chance on him in October of 2007, and after an extended stay in Spring Training at the beginning of 2008, he debuted at AA for the Dodgers and pitched very well throughout the entire season. He logged 60 innings, had respectable stats, and earned a surprise spot on the Dodgers 40 man roster in November of 2008. Heading into in 2009, Schlichting was looking forward to his first major league training camp. But unfortunately he was one of the first players to get hurt and was sent back to minor league camp before ever getting into a game. He returned to the mound in May, and after 13 impressive innings in AA he was called up to the Dodgers. He made his major league debut on 6/7/09 in Texas and allowed one run in 1.2 innings. He pitched in just one more game before getting sent down to Albuquerque in mid June. Schlichting continued to dominate the minors in AAA before again being shut down, this time due to a back injury. Because of roster limitations, Schlichting was eventually placed on the 60 day DL to create another spot on the 40 man roster. Even though he did finish up the season by making a few more rehab appearances in the Arizona Rookie League, he was kept on the 60 day DL until the season ended. While he did get to make up for some lost time in the Arizona Fall League, he still ended pitching just 47 innings in 2009. Watching him online during a few AFL games, I saw that Schlichting’s fastball topped out at 93 mph and was usually at around 91 mph. I also noticed that he threw several curveballs, sinkers, cutters, and changeups, all in 82 to 90 mph range. So, the question now is where does the 25 year old Schlichting fit into the Dodgers 2010 plans? While he seems to be ready for a role in a major league bullpen, the Dodgers simply don’t have room for him heading into the 2010 season. That means he’ll continue to pitch in AAA, work on his controls (which is his one weakness), and serve as an insurance policy in case the bullpen suffers injuries (which it always does). Overall, he’s a solid option to have in the minors, and even if he doesn’t see any major league action in 2010, I’m guessing that he’ll provide the Dodgers with several valuable innings over the next few years.
25. Javy Guerra, RHP (41 innings in LoA, 28.3 innings in AA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2004, 4th round
6’1", 195 lbs, 24.25 years old
6-2, 2.60 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 10.90 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 47
After several mediocre years in the Dodgers system, Javy Guerra made big strides in 2009. Drafted back in 2004, Guerra had a solid debut in the Gulf Coast League but was then sidelined for portions of the 2005 and 2006 season due to Tommy John surgery. He returned to full time action in 2007 and was used as a starter, but the results were disastrous as he had a 6.27 ERA in the HiA. 2008 saw the beginning of Guerra’s conversion to reliever, and he showed a lot of improvement in the California League and then later in the Hawaii Winter League. At the start of the 2009 season, Javy was "demoted" to LoA, but was handed the closer’s role with the idea that success would lead to a big promotion. As it turns out Guerra exceeded expectations in the Midwest League with a 1.54 ERA and .161 batting average against through 41 innings, and showed much better control, which was something that had plagued him throughout his professional career. That earned Guerra the promotion he was looking for as he was sent to AA at the end of June. While he didn’t quite have the same success against the tougher competition in Chattanooga, Javy did enough to earn himself a spot on the Arizona Fall League roster. Through 10 AFL innings, Guerra only allowed one run, but his control issues returned as he walked 9 batters during that span. Nevertheless, the Dodgers added Guerra to their 40 man rosters this past November to protect him in the Rule 5 draft. The Dodgers have always been intrigued by his velocity as he has been able to consistently throw fastballs in the mid 90’s. His heater is complimented by a sharp slider, which sat between 87 and 89 mph during the AFL games that I watched online. During the AFL Rising Stars game, the announcers describe him as having a big arm, a fastball with sink, and an "electric slider." Guerra will most likely return to AA at the start of the 2010 season, and depending on his results he may get promoted to AAA at some point. Overall, while I don’t expect Guerra to ever be an elite major league player, I do think that he will be able to become a solid middle reliever at the big league level as soon as this year (similar to how Brent Leach broke into the MLB in 2009 and provided some solid innings).
24. Lucas May, C (68 games in AA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2003, 8th round
5’11", 195 lbs, 25.25 years old, bats right handed
.306 average, 6 HR’s, 32 RBI’s, 3 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: 25
The key to Lucas May’s success is his ability to play catcher. You see may people feel that May is already close to major league ready with his bat, but that is only if he is able to also play catcher at the big league level. His offensive abilities are not outstanding by any stretch of the imagination, but they are considered solid for a catcher. Basically, May does not have the bat to play outfield or first base, but as a catcher he would at least be an adequate hitter at the very least. The good news is that his defensive ability is improving, as noted by DeJon Watson in a recent offseason interview. Also, I mentioned this story last year, but it is worth repeating again. Early in 2009, I had the opportunity to talk to former player and former Dodger scout Mitch Webster about the Dodger minor league system. After talking about the obvious players, I asked him which players he thought had potential yet were a little under the radar. One of the players he mentioned was Lucas May. When I asked if he thought that he could one day back up Russell Martin, Mitch replied by saying that he thought May would be good enough to one day be a starting catcher in the major leagues. So there you have it, from the professional himself. In regards to May’s season in 2009, it was cut short by a wrist injury which limited him to just 68 games in AA. May made the most of his time, however, and ended the season with solid stats. After the minor league regular season ended, May went on to participate in the Baseball World Cup and the Arizona Fall League, and performed very well in both. In the World Cup he showed a lot of power in limited plate appearances and was one of the heroes for Team USA in the championship game. In the AFL he had an OPS of over 1.000 through 40 at bats. Lucas will most likely spend the majority of the 2010 season in AAA, but I can almost guarantee that he will be a September call up. I can guarantee this because believe it or not, 2010 is Lucas May’s last option year (he was added to the 40 man roster in November of 2007). Therefore, I’m sure the Dodgers will want to get a look at him at the big league level prior to the spring of 2011, which is when they will have a decision to make whether to keep him on the 25 man roster or place him on waivers.
23. Jerry Sands, RF (41 games in Pioneer League, 32 games in LoA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 25th round
6’4", 210 lbs, 22.5 years old, bats right handed
.315 average, 19 HR’s, 58 RBI’s, 1 SB
Prior Year Ranking: 81
Sands was the Dodgers 25th round pick in 2008 out of Catawba College in North Carolina, a NCAA division II school. During his 3 years at Catawba, Sands had a .381 career batting average and hit 61 home runs. His power numbers continued during his debut season with the Dodgers as he hit 10 HR’s in 46 games, which placed him second in HR’s in the GCL. In my write-up last year, I said "if he has another power outburst in 2009, the Dodgers will be looking at late round gem." Well Sands definitely had another power outburst in 2009, smacking 19 home runs and recording an OPS of 1.019 (which ranked 2nd in the entire Dodgers minor league system for players with at least 175 AB’s). Sands started the season in LoA, but struggled so badly that he was sent back to extended spring training in May. After working on his game, Sands resurfaced in the Pioneer League and was absolutely brilliant. He placed 4th in the league with 14 HR’s despite having just 163 at bats (the three players that ranked ahead of Sands in HR’s had at least 287 at bats), and his 1.114 OPS would have ranked first in the league had he qualified with enough plate appearance. Jerry was promoted back up to the Midwest League in August and this time found much more success, hitting .287 and adding 5 more home runs to his season total. A multidimensional player, Sands makes relatively good contact for a power hitter (he struck out in 19.5% of plate appearances in 2009) and hits the ball to all fields. He also has decent speed and can play all three outfield positions along with first base. However, his most likely destination is right field because of his strong arm and below average range. Overall, Sands is a very intriguing prospect with a very high ceiling. With 29 home runs in 119 games over the past two years, that projects out to almost 40 HR’s over a 162 game schedule. I'm not saying that Sands is ever going to hit 40 HR's in the big leagues, but I think that if he continues to improve, he has the chance to be a solid MLB regular. That's pretty good for a former 25th round pick. 2010 should see Sands return to LoA to start the season, but by the end of the year he may find himself in AA.
22. Danny Danielson, RHP (61.3 innings in Arizona in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 7th round
6’4", 220 lbs, 21.25 years old
5-2, 3.08 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 11.30 K/9
Prior Year Ranking: 75
Danny Danielson is a big kid out of Alabama who was the Dodgers 7th round pick in 2007. While he was brought along very slowly in his first two professional seasons, Danielson showed up to spring training 30 pounds lighter in 2009 and was ready to work. The extra training paid off because Danielson had a phenomenal year in the Arizona Rookie League in 2009. While his stats don’t look overly amazing at first glance, when you take a closer look at his numbers you will realize what a remarkable year he had. His FIP was 2.48, and he had an outstanding strikeout rate of 11.30 K’s per 9 innings. What was most impressive, however, was his strikeout to walk ratio which was 6.42 for the season and led all Dodger minor leaguers by a wide margin. When you do the math, that calculates out to just 12 walks in over 61 innings. In terms of his pitches, reports out of the Arizona League were that his fastball was sitting at around 89 mph, but he has reached 93 mph in the past and I think that he is more likely to sit in the low 90’s in the future given his big frame. He also has an average curveball and is working on a slider. His best pitch, though, is his changeup, which has been described as outstanding. Still just 21 years old, Danielson will most likely move to Lo-A for the 2010 season and get some more experience. While he doesn’t have the pedigree to be a #1 starter, I can see Danielson as a solid #4 starter at the big league level in the future.
21. Xavier Paul, OF (31 games in AAA in 2009)
Drafted by Dodgers 2003, 4th round
5’9", 205 lbs, 25 years old, bats left handed
.328 average, 2 HR’s, 16 RBI’s, 8 SB’s
Prior Year Ranking: 15
The one thing I didn’t realize about Xavier Paul was how short he was. I swear that he used to be listed at a taller height because last year in my ranking, I had him at 6’0". Anyways, that is beside the point. The real tragedy is that Paul blew a perfect opportunity last year to prove that he could be the Dodgers 4th outfielder in 2010. When Manny went down for steroids, Paul was called up and got off to a hot start, getting three hits in his first five professional at bats, one of those hits being a home run. But then a random staph infection sent Paul to the disabled list, and right when he was almost recovered from that, an ankle injury kept him out for the rest of the season. Injuries aside, the one thing that has always impressed me about Paul is his ability to hit the ball extremely hard. I’ve seen Paul play in AAA and during spring training, and the ball just sounds different off of his bat. He has a solid build, and while he’ll never hit a ton of home runs, he is a line drive machine. He also plays solid defense, and has the ability to play all three outfield positions given his above average range and his strong, accurate arm. That being said, I don’t think he has the talent to ever become a major league regular, but I do think he’ll serve as a solid backup outfielder for the Dodgers at some point in the future. While there is definitely not a spot for Xavier on the 25 man roster as of now, you never know what injuries are going to happen so Paul may end up spending some time with the Dodgers in 2010. If the Dodgers do remain healthy, he’ll spend the season in AAA as an insurance policy. After 2010, however, the Dodgers will have a decision to make because Paul will be out of options at that point. So in the spring of 2011, let’s hope this circumstance doesn’t turn into another Delwyn Young situation where the Dodgers end up trading him for almost nothing just because Paul is out of options.