2011 Dodgers Minor League Preview - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

With the minor league season right around the corner, I’m doing a mini-series to preview each of the Dodgers minor league full season teams.  Since official rosters won’t be out for until next week, I am predicting what the minor league roster will be for each of the Dodgers full season affiliates at the start of the season.

The second part of my series will look at the Dodgers newest affiliate, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.  Like the Dodgers former affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers, the Quakes play in the California League which is a HiA level.  Their ballpark is called the Epicenter, and it is less than 47 miles from Dodger Stadium.  Because their stadium is so close, I plan on going to several games in Rancho Cucamonga this year, and I recommend that you do the same.

Since the 66ers were so terrible last season, it won’t be difficult for the Quakes to outperform their predecessors.  There should be more prospects on the team this year, so they should be more fun to watch.  A known hitter’s league, I expect at least a few Quake hitters to surpass the 20 home run mark if they play in the league all season.  I also expect the team’s rotation to be very solid.

The Quakes will be led by the very popular Manager Juan Bustabad.  He has been a manager or coach in the Dodgers organization since 2000, and spent the last three seasons turning the Great Lakes Loons into a powerhouse.  He is a "player’s manager", and I expect him to do very well in Rancho Cucamonga.  Bustabad will be joined by Hitting Coach Michael Boughton, who followed Juan up from the Loons, and Pitching Coach Hector Berrios who is new to the organization.

Finally, please note that I did spend considerable time piecing together the teams, and I looked carefully at a number of different factors, including age, position, experience, prior year stats, etc.  That being said, I’m sure there will be a few minor league veterans that were signed this off-season who will be assigned to the Quakes, but I didn’t want to include those guys in my prediction.   Also, you will notice that I put together 27 man rosters for each team instead of the traditional 25.  I did this to take into account any possible injuries at the beginning of the season.

Also, click here for my Great Lakes Loons preview

Starting Pitchers:

Position Name Acquired My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Throws
SP1 Ethan Martin 2008, 1st 7 6/6/1989  21.80 6' 2" 195 R
SP2 Carl Webster 2008, 18th 9 2/10/1990  21.11 6' 3" 185 R
SP3 Nathan Eovaldi 2008, 11th 15 2/13/1990  21.11 6' 3" 195 R
SP4 Matthew Magill 2008, 31st 22 11/10/1989  21.37 6' 3" 190 R
SP5 Greg Wilborn 2009, 18th 44 6/3/1987  23.81 6' 2" 175 L

If my prediction holds up, the Quakes should have a very solid rotation in 2011 full of 21 year olds.  The top of the rotation will be led by former 1st round pick Ethan Martin and rising prospect Allen Webster.  Martin failed miserably in the California League last season, but did show flashes of brilliance and still has very solid stuff.  Management has indicated that Ethan will remain in HiA until he can demonstrate the ability to dominate the competition, so hopefully he’ll show better mental composure and put up better stats in 2011.  Webster is on the opposite end of the spectrum since he was very good last season in LoA, but he just barely turned 21 years old and so he probably isn’t quite ready for AA.  I have Nate Eovaldi slated as my #3 starter, although I could also see him beginning the season in AA.  Eovaldi had his 2010 season cut short due to an oblique injury in July, although he did make a few rehab starts in rookie ball to end the season.  He’s made a few appearances during spring training and has a strong fastball, but he’s going to have to improve his secondary stuff if he wants to remain a starter.  Matt Magill, yet another 21 year old, gives the Quakes a very strong #4 starter.  He led all of minor league baseball last season .194 batting average against and has a very good slider.  However, scouts think he’ll get exposed against more advanced competition, so 2011 will be a big test for Magill.  The veteran of my staff would be 23 year old Greg Wilborn, who turned some heads during the second half of 2010.  The lefty would be the team’s #5 starter, and will hopefully build on last year’s success.

Bullpen:
Position Name Acquired My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Throws
RP Jon Michael Redding 2008, 5th 72 11/16/1987  23.35 6' 1" 195 R
RP Edwin Contreras Signed 11/28/06 95 9/17/1988  22.51 6' 2" 165 R
RP Ji-Mo Lee Signed 5/21/09 108 10/30/1986  24.40 6' 1" 188 R
RP Nick Gaudi 2009, 30th 121 8/2/1986  24.64 6' 5" 215 R
RP Jimmy Marshall 2009, 23rd 122 4/13/1987  23.95 6' 6" 195 R
RP Joseph Paxson 2009, 13th 92 7/28/1986  24.65 6' 3" 250 R
RP Andrew Suiter 2009, 10th 81 6/10/1987  23.79 6' 3" 210 L
CL Stephen Ames 2009, 17th 38 3/15/1988  23.02 6' 1" 205 R

The Rancho Cucamonga bullpen will be anchored by closer Steven Ames, who has had an outstanding professional career thus far (not counting his 2010 stint in the AFL).  His career WHIP is 0.85, his career K/9 is 13.9, and he’s walked just 9 batters in 61.1 professional innings.  I’m curious to see what makes him so good, so I look forward to potentially watching him pitch live at the Epicenter.  I foresee J.B. Paxson and Andy Suiter as the righty and lefty setup men for Ames.  They both held similar roles for the Loons in 2010 and had solid stats, but they’ll need to step up their game even more in 2011 to be considered legitimate prospects.  My surprise pick to make the team is the 6’6" right-hander Jimmy Marshall who was drafted back in 2009, but has yet to play above the Arizona Rookie League.  For some reason I like this guy and I believe he could be ready for the California League since he is a big body and almost 24 years old.  I’m guessing that two more middle relievers on the Quakes will be Ji-Mo Lee and Nick Gaudi.  Both had somewhat abbreviated seasons in 2010, but I expect the 24 year olds to be healthy heading into this season.  Finally, I’m predicting that the long relievers/swingmen will be Edwin Contreras and Jon Michael Redding.  Redding has been a starter throughout his entire career but I just don’t think there is room for him in the rotation, especially after his subpar 2010 season.  Contreras has flipped back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and up until last season I always thought he compared favorably to former teammate Elisaul Pimentel.  Could it be his turn to breakout in 2011?

Outfield:

Position Name Acquired My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
LF Mario Songco 2009, 4th 31 9/9/1988  22.54 6' 0" 190 L
CF Brian Cavazos-Galvez 2009, 12th 26 5/17/1987  23.85 6' 0" 215 R
RF Blake Smith 2009, 2nd 20 12/9/1987  23.29 6' 2" 220 L

If my calculations are correct, the 2010 Loons outfield of Angelo Songco, BCG, and Blake Smith will all reunite in the California League in 2011.  I’ll start with center fielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez, who is also a candidate to play in AA but I’m guessing will start the year in the California League.  Galvez had a great season in 2010 while showing the rare combination of power and speed, however the soon to be 24 year old has yet to be tested against older competition.  Left fielder Angelo Songco has a ton of power and could have a field day in the hitter friendly league, but he ended the 2010 season in a terrible slump.  I expect him to bounce back with the Quakes and he has the potential shoot up the prospect charts next season.  Blake Smith will play right field and is the best defensive player of this outfield group because of his rocket arm.  Smith is yet another power hitter who could put up big numbers in Rancho Cucamonga, although he is a former pitcher so a poor offensive season could lead to him moving back to the mound.

Infield:

Position Name Acquired My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
1B Blake Dean 2010, 8th 77 2/25/1988  23.07 6' 1" 175 L
2B Rafael Ynoa Signed 7/8/05 74 8/7/1987  23.63 6' 0" 180 R
3B Pedro Guerrero Signed 7/10/06 99 12/3/1988  22.30 6' 3" 181 R
SS Bryant Hernandez 2009, 9th 105 3/5/1988  23.05 5' 8" 170 R

The Quakes infield seems to be set on the right side of the infield, but the left side is up in the air.  It seems logical that 1st base will be occupied by 23 year old Blake Dean because he is an advanced player who played four years of college ball at LSU.  Even though Dean was drafted just last year has yet to play above rookie ball, he has excellent plate disciple and should be ready for HiA.  After a solid campaign in LoA in 2010, Rafael Ynoa appears to be a good fit at second base for Rancho Cucamonga.  I still haven’t completely bought into Ynoa as a Dodger prospect, but the switch hitter could change my mind with another good year.  Shortstop is a tricky position to predict, but I’ve penciled in Bryant Hernandez into this spot.  Hernandez hit just .179 last year which he spent mostly in LoA, but he actually finished 2010 in HiA and I’m guessing he will return there in 2011.  Bryant is a smooth fielder and 2011 will be just his 3rd professional season, so he still has time to turn into a decent Dodger prospect.  Finally at 3rd base I have Pedro Guerrero, who has been mostly a middle infielder since signing in 2007 but has grown to 6’3" and is now probably better suited for 3rd base.  He does have 45 games of experience at the hot corner so far in his career, and I’ve always thought that he was a candidate to be a sleeper prospect who could put his name on the map if given the chance to play a full season.

Catcher/DH:

Position Name Acquired My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
C Jeremy Wise 2009, 5th 56 6/2/1986  24.81 6' 0" 210 R
DH Nick Akins 2009, 19th 41 12/25/1987  23.24 6' 1" 220 R
BU C Gorman Erickson 2006, 15th 62 3/11/1988  23.03 6' 4" 220 S

Jeremy Wise is another player who could skip the California League and head to AA, however my gut tells me that he’ll at least start the 2011 season in Rancho Cucamonga.  The 24 year old slumped in the first half of 2010 with the Loons but then caught fire in July and rode a hot streak all the way through the end of the season.  He’ll hope to carry that success into 2011.  Despite a below average season for Gorman "Griff" Erickson in 2010 in which he hit just .215, I’m guessing that he’ll again team with Wise behind the plate in 2011.  The 6’4" switch hitter is still just 23 and will hopefully use the hitter friendly California League to jumpstart his bat.  My DH for this team is Nick Akins who has crushed the ball during his first two professional seasons, yet hasn’t played above rookie ball.  While he might play in the Midwest League in 2011, it would be interesting to see what kind of damage he could do with the Quakes so that’s why I have him on this team.  Akins would also rotate in at left field throughout the season.

Bench:

Position Name Acquired My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
BU INF Casio Grider 2009, 14th 114 8/17/1987  23.60 6' 1" 165 R
BU OF Nick Buss 2008, 8th 103 12/15/1986  24.27 6' 0" 180 L
Utility Brian Ruggiano 2008, 23rd 120 6/9/1986  24.79 6' 0" 175 R
Utility Chris Henderson 2009, 21st 112 6/23/1988  22.75 5' 11" 190 R

The Quakes bench I have is pretty uninspiring as it doesn’t really include any significant Dodger prospects.  The speedy Casio Grider would serve as the backup infielder as he can play both middle infield positions.  Nick Buss was a starter on this team last year, but struggled to the point where he was demoted mid-season.  I now have him as the backup outfielder on this team.  The two utility players on my bench are Brian Ruggiano and Chris Henderson.  Ruggiano had a mediocre season last year, but Henderson actually hit .341 last season in Ogden with a .429 OB%.  Henderson didn’t show any power, however, so I don’t think he’ll have a regular starting role for the Quakes.

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