Dodgers Prospect Countdown: 50 - 41

Your first look at #47 prospect Luis Vasquez in Dodger blue

We are now into my top 50 Dodger prospects, so we are getting close to the finish line of this series.  Since most people are going to be more interesting in my top 50 players than they were with the previous 150, I’ve added a new feature for the final 50 guys.  It’s included at the end of each write-up, and gives a quick summary of why I have each player ranked where I do.  In most cases I also include what I think the ceiling is for each player, and hopefully provides even more insight into my rankings. 

Also, at the bottom of this post I’ve added links to each of my previous write-ups, so feel free to visit any that you missed.

 

50.  James Adkins, LHP (4 IP in AAA, 45.1 IP in AA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 1st round

6’6”, 230 lbs, 25.25 years old

3-2, 5.84 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 4.29 FIP, 9.85 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 41;     Pre 2009 Rank: 18

 

For a supplemental first round pick, James Adkins has definitely been a disappointment.  The all time strikeout leader at Tennessee with 380 K’s now has a career minor league ERA of 4.77 and a career WHIP of 1.58.  However there is good news because Adkins was finally converted to a reliever in 2010 (a move that I recommended last year) and while his overall stats weren’t amazing, he did have a couple of streaks during which he was very effective.  While in AA, James had a combined ERA of 1.08 in the months of May and June, and then didn’t allow a run in 11 August appearances.  AA batters also hit just .238 against him for the season, and he struck out almost 10 batters per 9 innings.  Even though Adkins struggled during his two week stint with the Isotopes, which inflated his 2010 ERA, I still believe that he has value to the organization.  Lookouts announcer Larry Ward said that Adkins’ fastball was up to 93 mph in 2010, which is definitely faster than when he was a starter.  When you combine his fastball with his good slider, that could be a recipe for success as a reliever.  After spending three seasons in the Southern League, the 25 year old Adkins will most likely start the 2011 season in the Albuquerque bullpen.  If he has some success in AAA, there is a definitely the possibility that he could help the Dodgers at some point in the future, especially since the Dodgers are currently lacking in left handed relievers.

 

Why #50: Despite poor stats over his minor league career, he was a 1st round pick and hopefully will thrive now that he’s a full time reliever.  I’m not overly optimistic about his future, but believe he deserves to be in the top 50 give his size and move to the bullpen.  He could eventually spend time with the Dodgers in middle relief.

 

 

49.  Brent Leach, LHP (39.2 IP in AAA, 65 IP in AA)

Drafted by Dodgers 2005, 6th round

6’5”, 215 lbs, 28.25 years old

10-5, 5.25 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 4.00 FIP, 7.62 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 31;     Pre 2009 Rank: 17

 

Brent Leach had an interesting year in 2010.  He started the season in AAA as a reliever, but then was sent to Chattanooga to work as a starter.  During his stint in the Southern League he actually had a pretty smooth transition, going 7 and 3 with a 4.57 ERA and a 3.98 FIP.  After the season, however, Leach was designated for assignment and his rights were sold to the Yokohoma Baystars in Japan.  Because I put together my rankings at the beginning of November, Leach is included in my list, and this is where he would have ranked had he stayed in the organization.  Personally, I wasn’t very upset when I heard that Leach leaving because I didn’t feel like he provided much value anymore.  He is already 28 years old, and the Dodgers were trying to convert him to a starting pitcher, which is a role I think he would have failed in.  In my opinion, even if Leach had stayed in the bullpen he would have continued to be a marginal left handed specialist at best, and while he probably would have given the Dodgers a few more good innings out of the bullpen in the future, there is no way he would have been anything special. Good luck to him in the Far East.

 

Why #49: He already played in the major leagues so he has what it takes to pitch in the big leagues, but even if he didn’t go to Japan I simply didn’t see much upside and wasn’t sure how he fit into the Dodgers future plans now that he is 28 year old.

 

48.  Justin Sellers, SS (90 games in AAA, 24 games in HiA in 2010)

Acquired via trade with Cubs in April 2009

5’10”, 160 lbs, 25 years old, bats right handed

.279 average, .815 OPS, 14 HR’s, 68 RBI’s, 7 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 75;     Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

 

Originally selected by Oakland in the 6th round of the 2005 draft, Justin Sellers was traded to the Cubs in February of 2009 for Michael Wuertz.  He was then traded to the Dodgers for an undisclosed amount of cash.  Sellers ended up hitting a solid .280 for the Lookouts in 2009, but didn’t show any power as he had just two homers.  He was then demoted to HiA for the beginning of the 2010 season, and only hit .260 for the 66ers in 24 games.  Nevertheless, when Chin-lung Hu got injured Sellers was the one to replace him at shortstop in AAA and that is where the magic began.  Despite coming into the 2010 season with just 17 career homers in 5 minor leagues seasons, Sellers managed to slug 14 jacks with the Isotopes and posted a .867 OPS.  In addition, he hit .285 and walked nearly as much as he struck out.  Like many other Albuquerque players Justin was aided by the hitter friendly home ballpark, but even still he had a very impressive season.  When you look a little deeper into his background, however, you’ll realize that Sellers big season wasn’t as big of a surprise as first thought.  Sellers was named by Baseball America as currently having the best strike zone discipline in the Dodgers organization, and was in their top 30 from 2006 through 2008, peaking at #9 in the 2006 version of the book.  He is also the son of former big league pitcher Jeff Sellers, so he has the great bloodlines.  In addition, before he was drafted some scouts thought that Sellers would have been a late first round pick if he had been just a few inches taller.  Always known for his strong defense up the middle, Justin’s bat was what was keeping him from the big leagues.  Now that he’s shown he can hit advanced pitching, the Dodgers seem to have placed more confidence in Sellers heading into 2011.  Not only did the Dodgers trade Hu, but they also invited Justin to big league spring training.  Since Dee Gordon isn’t quite ready to play in the big leagues, my guess would be that Sellers would be next in line for the Dodgers shortstop position in 2011 should injuries hit the big league club.  I still don’t think Sellers has a very high ceiling nor do I believe he’ll ever be the Dodgers starting shortstop for a long period of time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually gets added to the 40 man roster and fills the Chin-lung Hu role for a season or two.

 

Why #48: I expect Sellers to make it to the big leagues one day as a backup infielder, but that is really his ceiling as he has limited upside at the big league level.  He could be the Dodgers next Chin-Lung Hu.

 

47.  Luis Vasquez, RHP (40.1 IP in LoA in 2010)

Signed by Dodgers 10/20/03

6’4”, 192 lbs, 25 years old

3-2, 2.68 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 4.14 FIP, 8.70 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 174;     Pre 2009 Rank: 130

 

When I did my rankings last year, I had no idea Vasquez could throw 99 mph.  If I had known that, I definitely would have ranked him higher.  That being said, the fact that Luis Vasquez was added to the 40 man roster in November was still one of the most surprising Dodger moments of 2010.  I know that he posted a strong ERA and batting average against with the Loons in 2010, but he was also one of the older players in the Midwest League, did not have good peripheral stats in 2010, and has terrible career stats.  Vasquez is extremely wild, and has a career walk rate of 6.1 walks per 9 innings.  He also gives up a lot of home runs, and has a career K/9 of just 6.60.  Stats aside, Vasquez does have a fastball can reach into the upper 90’s and has an ideal pitcher’s frame, so obviously that is what the Dodgers were looking at when they added him to their 40 man roster.  But even still, there is no way that another team would have selected Vasquez in the Rule 5 draft had he been left unprotected.  One good thing about him being on the 40 man roster, however, is that now he will get more of a chance to work with major league coaches.  Hopefully these coaches will be able to teach him better control of his 99 mph, which could turn the soon to be 25 year old into a legitimate prospect in 2011.  With a full season of LoA under his belt, combined with stops in HiA in previous seasons, I’m guessing that Vasquez will be ready for AA next year. 

 

Why #47: His 99 mph fastball earned him a spot in my top 50, but he’s already 25 years old and going to have to do something in the upper minor leagues before he moves up any further in my rankings.  He has the ceiling of a power late inning reliever a la Ronald Belisario, but the chances are slim that he reaches that potential.

 

46.  Cole St. Clair, LHP (60.2 IP in AA, 12 IP in HiA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 7th round

6’5”, 225 lbs, 24.5 years old

1-3, 4.21 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 3.31 FIP, 9.17 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 29;     Pre 2009 Rank: 20

 

Cole St. Clair had 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.  While I’ve written these stats before, they are worth mentioning again: (1) as sophomore at Rice, he went 7-2 in 74 innings with a 1.82 ERA, struck out 100 batters, and allowed only a .151 batting average; (2) in the summer of 2006 he played for Team USA and posted a 0.69 ERA in 26 innings and struck out 43; (3) during his junior season at Rice he recorded a 1.91 ERA and picked up 9 saves; (4) finally as a college senior he went 10-3 with a 3.03 ERA.  After St. Clair was drafted, Logan White called St. Clair the “sleeper” of the draft and predicted that he would move quickly through the system; and so far White’s assessment appears to have been accurate.  After two strong seasons in the Pioneer League and Midwest League, Cole started the 2010 season in HiA with the 66ers.  He got off to a great start in the California League, and before the calendar turned to May he was already promoted to AA.   Once in Chattanooga, St. Clair was pretty consistent throughout the season, posting ERA’s in the 4’s for every month from May through August.  Despite his mediocre ERA, his overall FIP for the year was 3.31, and he only allowed 3 homers in 70+ innings.  In addition, he struck out more than a batter per inning.  At 6’5”, Cole doesn’t throw real hard, and according to Lookouts announcer Larry Ward his velocity in AA was around 88-92 mph.  However, he has enough quality pitches and solid pitch placement which may get him to the show at some point in the future.  After the season St. Clair was invited to participate in the Arizona instructional league, and for 2011 I’m guessing he’ll get to play in AAA.

 

Why #46: He didn’t really have a bad year, but the emergence of other prospects caused him to drop in my rankings.  He is already 24 years old, and I see his ceiling as that of a middle reliever at the big league level.

 

45.  Justin Miller, RHP (42.1 IP in AA, 34.2 IP in LoA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 6th round

6’2”, 190 lbs, 23.5 years old

6-2, 2.10 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 4.20 FIP, 5.49 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 54;     Pre 2009 Rank: 48

 

Justin Miller was considered to be one of the best community college pitchers available in the 2007 draft, yet 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.  In his first three professional seasons, Miller was used strictly as a starter and had pretty disappointing results.  His career win-loss record heading into 2010 was 11 – 26, and he was much too hittable.  So the Dodgers decided to move Justin to the bullpen in 2010, and they have got to be pleased with his results.  Starting the year in LoA, Miller recorded a 1.30 ERA through 34.2 innings and had an outstanding .208 batting average against.  Given his success the Dodgers moved Miller up to AA where he wasn’t quite as dominant, but continued to get the job done.  After the season he was invited to participate in the AFL, and prior to the start of the Fall season DeJon Watson said about Miller: “We'll try to push the envelope with him. He has a sinking fastball. He's a ground-ball pitcher, and we want to get him prepared for next level. He'll probably start the season at Double-A. We want him facing better hitters here to understand the adjustments he'll need to make. He can be deceptive, and we want him to get to where hitters are chasing his pitches.”  Miller didn’t fare too well in the AFL, but he did get experience against advanced competition which will hopefully help him down the road.  As Watson alluded to, Miller is a sinkerball pitcher who pitches to contact when possible.  That is why his strikeout rate is so low, and it also affects his FIP.  In November I was sure the Dodgers would add Miller to their 40 man roster since he was eligible for the Rule 5 draft and would be easy to hide in the back of a big league bullpen, but the Dodgers decided against it and luckily he is still in the organization.  Justin will return to the Southern League in 2011, although a mid-season promotion to AAA is very possible.  I like Miller as a pitcher because of his sinker ball, and I predict that at some point down the road he’ll be good enough to help out the Dodgers bullpen in middle relief a la Ramon Troncoso. 

 

Why #45: Had a great year after moving to the bullpen, although his K/9 is pretty scary.  Looks to me like he could be a middle reliever at the big league level, and since he has a good sinkerball he could be the pitcher that gets called on to get out of a jam by inducing a double play ball.

 

44.  Greg Wilborn, LHP (38.2 IP in LoA, 43.2 IP in Pioneer League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 18th round

6’2”, 175 lbs, 23.75 years old

8-2, 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.13 FIP, 11.70 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 124;     Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

 

As you can see, Greg Wilborn has moved up quite a bit in my rankings since last year and has definitely turned into a legitimate pitching prospect.  He was drafted out of the University of Louisiana Lafayette in the 18th round of the 2009 draft, and for his career with the Ragin Cajuns Wilborn compiled an ERA of 7.30.  However, it should be noted that he missed the entire 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007.  Upon signing with the Dodgers Wilborn had a forgettable professional debut in the Pioneer League, recording a 7.45 ERA.  He returned to Ogden to start the 2010 season, but this time the results were very different.  In 8 starts with the Raptors Wilborn posted a 2.06 ERA, and stuck out over 12 batters per inning.  He was also undefeated in 4 decisions, and had a phenomenal FIP of 1.81.  That led to a promotion to the Midwest League in August where Wilborn continued to have success.  With the Loons, Greg recorded a 3.26 ERA in 7 starts and continued to rake up the K’s by striking out over 11 batters per 9 innings.  For the season as a whole, batters hit just .239 against Wilborn, and his FIP of 2.13 ranked as the best among Dodger farmhands (minimum 50 IP).  In addition, he has begun to get some recognition from the Dodgers because during my interview with DeJon Watson, he mentioned Wilborn as a breakout candidate and said “isn’t it something what he’s doing this year?”  In terms of his pitching repertoire, this lefty features a slider, curveball, and changeup, and can get his fastball up to 94 mph.  Therefore it definitely sounds like he has the velocity and secondary pitches to remain in the starting rotation.  Wilborn will be 24 this upcoming June, so the Dodgers will probably want to be relatively aggressive with him in 2011.  I’m guessing he’ll start the year in HiA, but might even get a shot to play in AA if he pitches well in the California League.  Finally, Greg got engaged this past offseason, so that is exciting news for him.

 

Why #44: Wilborn had great stats in 2010 which caused him to jump onto the prospect radar this past season, and I like his potential because he throws left handed.  That being said, Wilborn is 23 years old and I believe his ceiling is that of a #5 starter or a lefty middle reliever.

 

43.  Jamie Hoffmann, RF (139 games in AAA in 2010)

Signed by Dodgers 9/2/03

6’3”, 235 lbs, 26.5 years old, bats right handed

.310 average, .800 OPS, 8 HR’s, 74 RBI’s, 17 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 30;     Pre 2009 Rank: 29

 

Jamie Hoffmann is an ex-hockey player who signed with the Dodgers as a non drafted free agent way back in 2003.  He worked his way through the organization and was added to the 40 man roster prior to the 2009 season.  Injuries to other players allowed Hoffmann to make his major league debut in May 2009, but he was sent down after 14 games and was removed from the 40 man roster later that season.  Taken by the Yankees with the 1st pick of the 2009 Rule 5 draft, he battled with new Dodger Marcus Thames for a spot in the Yankees outfield, but was eventually sent back to Los Angeles and spent the entire season in Albuquerque.  Jamie had a very solid season for the Isotopes, leading the PCL with 169 hits, stealing 17 bases, and recording an .800 OPS.  Always known as a strong defensive outfielder, Hoffmann maintained his reputation by making only 1 error and posting a .996 fielding percentage for the season.  He also led the team with 5 outfield assists.  After the season the Dodgers continued to confuse casual fans by adding Hoffmann to their 40 man roster once again.  Now 26 years old, I still don’t see Hoffmann as more than a late inning defensive replacement and backup outfielder at the big league level, and given the Dodgers outfield current outfield situation he won’t see LA in 2011 unless there are a few injuries on the big league roster and Xavier Paul gets moved.  He is definitely worth keeping around, but his ceiling just isn’t very high.  Look for Hoffmann to again put up strong numbers in AAA again next season while he awaits another call to Los Angeles.

 

Why #43: Hoffmann has already made his major league debut and is on the 40 man roster, so that earns him some respect in my ranking.  However he is already 26 years old and has the ceiling of a backup outfielder, so that is why he didn’t rank higher on my list.

 

42.  Carlos Frias, RHP (39.1 IP in Pioneer League in 2010)

Signed by Dodgers 1/3/07

6’4”, 170 lbs, 21.25 years old

2-6, 7.78 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 5.39 FIP, 9.84 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 32;     Pre 2009 Rank: 71

 

Signed out the Dominican Republic as a 17 year old before the 2007 season, Frias posted a 1.81 ERA in his professional debut in the DSL.  He was then promoted to the Gulf Coast League for the 2008 season and held his own despite being one of the younger players in the league.  He spent most of 2009 in the Arizona League and it was there that scouts and coaches began to notice his 96 mph fastball and his overall potential.  After jumping onto the Dodger prospect radar, however, Carlos Frias struggled with inconsistency in 2010 and ended up with ugly stats in the Pioneer League.  When I asked Ogden announcer Brandon Hart about his struggles, he said “Lately the velocity has been down but it is a mystery as to why.  The fastball is 91-93 but was probably in the high 80s in his last start.  Inconsistent is the word though.  His curveball is top notch but he has trouble controlling it.  When he knows where his pitches are going, he is nearly unhittable.   Also has a change-up that is coming along.”  Baseball America basically echoed what Hart said, and also added “Frias has all kinds of projection and runs his fastball up to 96 mph while sitting at 90-92. The problem is that his command completely deserts him frequently, and he walked 21 over 39 innings. Frias will snap off a quality low-80s slider now and then, but like the overall picture, it's all projection at this point. Check back after next season.”  I agree that Frias has a ton of projection, especially since he has a great pitching frame at 6’4”.  He also maintained a great strikeout rate in 2010, so he definitely still has great stuff at times.  Even though he struggled last year, I’m guessing that Carlos will play in LoA next season with the Loons.  He was placed on the Restricted List for an undisclosed reason in October, however, so I’m not sure how that will affect his status for next season.

 

Why #42: Frias has a great pitching frame and is still just 21 years old, so I’m pretty much overlooking his stats in 2010.  I like his potential since he has the ability to throw 96 mph, and I see his ceiling as a middle of the rotation guy or a late inning reliever.  The fact that he was placed on the restricted list scares me, however, so that is one reason why he dropped a hit in my rankings from last year.

 

41.  Nick Akins, LF (47 games in Pioneer League, 20 games in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 19th round

6’1”, 220 lbs, 23.25 years old, bats right handed

.341 average, 1.125 OPS, 21 HR’s, 70 RBI’s, 2 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 56;     Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

 

As I mentioned last year, Nick Akins had an interesting baseball career before even turning pro.  It started in high school when Nick and his father were involved in an ugly fight during his junior season which led to his expulsion from the team.  Nick transferred high schools for his senior year, but wasn’t allowed to play baseball despite his best appeals.  He ended up playing in a 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 Akins transferred to the local NAIA college Vanguard, and after hitting .314 over 47 games with 13 home runs and 35 runs batted in, he was again was drafted by the Dodgers, this time in the 19th round.  He ended up signing with this time 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 before getting promoted to the Pioneer League to end the season.  For whatever reason the Dodgers sent Akins back to the Arizona League to start 2010 and he again put up amazing numbers.  In 75 at bats Akins smacked 6 homers, collected 24 RBI’s, hit .400, and had an OPS of 1.277 before moving up to the Ogden Raptors.  Back in the Pioneer League Akins didn’t miss a beat and led the league him homers despite playing in just 47 games.  His Isolated Power (ISOP) of .334 was also extremely impressive.  So with these stats, why isn’t he ranked in the top 10?  For one, the 23 year old Akins has yet to play in a full season league, so that diminished his numbers a bit.  Second,  he has been compared to Manny Ramirez in terms of defense and attitude, so he won’t be able to play anywhere but left field because he doesn’t have the arm or speed to play any other outfield position.  Finally, according to Baseball America his pitch recognition remains spotty so he will probably be exploited in the upper levels of the minor leagues.  Nevertheless, it’s fun to root for a player with such plus power, and it will be interesting to see what he does in a full season league in 2011. 

 

Why #41: Nick Akins has done nothing wrong since turning pro, but he hasn’t played above rookie ball which discredits his stats a bit.  I see his ceiling as a powerful starting left fielder at the big league level, but Akins is still a long ways off from making it to the show.

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