2011 Dodgers Minor League Preview - Albuquerque Isotopes

As you all know by now, 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 another few days, 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 last part of my series will focus on AAA, which is probably the most difficult roster to predict given that there are so many non-roster invitees and last minute big league decisions to be made.  It’s always difficult to know which NRI’s and young players will end up making the Dodgers, which will be cut, and which will start the season in AAA.  Nevertheless, I’m giving it my best guess based on what we know to date.

Even though the Dodgers AAA team generally has the least number of prospects since most of the players are older veterans, the Isotopes should at least have a few top 10 talents on the team this year.  Also, the team is always fun to follow because they play in a very hitter friendly ballpark and league, so there are always tons of high scoring games during the season.  This year, the team will be managed by Lorenzo Bundy, who was the manager of the Arizona Dodgers last season.  Bundy has AAA managing experience as he was the Las Vegas 51’s Manager from 2007 – 2008 when the team was still a Dodger affiliate.  Bundy also has coaching experience in the big leagues as he was the Diamondback beach coach in 2004 and their 1st base coach in 2009.  The team’s pitching coach will be Glenn Dishman, and the hitting coach will be John Valentin who was promoted from AA.

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.  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.  That being said, I still wasn’t able to fit all the minor leaguers and non roster invitees onto the four minor league teams I previewed, so I’m not sure how everything is going to work.  Some guys will be left in extended spring training, but I’m just not exactly who those guys would be.  So again here is my best guess.

Also, click here for my Great Lakes Loons preview, here for my Rancho Cucamonga Quakes preview, and here for my Chattanooga Lookouts preview.

Starting Pitchers:

Pos.

Name

Acquired

My Rank

DOB

Age

Height

Weight

Thr.

SP1

John Ely

Trade for Pierre

MLB

5/13/1986

  24.88

6' 2"

200

R

SP2

C. Monasterios

2009 Rule 5 draft

MLB

3/21/1986

  25.02

6' 2"

175

R

SP3

M. Antonini

Trade for Hu

New

8/6/1985

  25.64

6' 2"

200

L

SP4

W. de la Rosa

Signed Nov 2010

New

2/21/1985

  26.10

6' 0"

180

L

SP5

A. Bastardo

AA Rule 5 Draft

102

4/6/1984

  26.98

6' 0"

160

L

I’ll start by saying that I’ve excluded Tim Redding from this roster because the Isotopes start their season on April 7th, and since he is supposed to pitch for the Dodgers on April 10th that wouldn’t really allow him to make a start for Albuquerque.  Therefore, I have John Ely as the Isotopes #1 starter.  He still remains an option to join the Dodgers at that point this season, but he’ll definitely start the year in AAA.  Ely had a tough time in Albuquerque last season as he posted a 6.22 ERA, so he’ll look to rebound despite pitching in a hitter friendly environment.  Carlos Monasterios, who I have as the #2 starter on this team, is a unique player in that he has spent an entire season on a major league roster, yet has thrown less than 15 minor league innings above class A.  The strange thing is that given the aforementioned hitter friendly environment in the PCL, Monasterios could have a bigger challenge in AAA than he had in the MLB.  Newcomer Michael Antonini, who was acquired from the Mets in the trade for Chin-Lung Hu, should be the #3 starter on the team.  The crafty lefty doesn’t throw real hard, but has a plus changeup and has been a workhorse over the last few seasons.  I expect Antonini to give the Isotopes a lot of quality innings this season, but I’m not sure that he’ll compete for a big league job.  Wilkin de la Rosa is penciled in as the Isotopes #4 starter and will be another lefty in the team’s rotation.  He was signed this offseason after getting released by Yankees, and actually had a decent amount of upside.  He can throw in the mid-90’s and has a career 3.27 ERA and 9.2 K/9, although he has yet to play in AAA so 2011 will be a big challenge for him.  In the final spot of the rotation I have Alberto Bastardo, who has been in the Dodgers organization since 2005 and was re-signed this past offseason.  He didn’t fare will in Albuquerque last season (6.99 ERA in 56.2 innings), so he’ll try to improve upon those results in 2011.

Bullpen:

Pos.

Name

Acquired

My Rank

DOB

Age

Height

Weight

Thr.

RP

Jon Link

Trade for Pierre

30

3/23/1984

  27.01

6' 1"

190

R

RP

R. Troncoso

Signed 6/20/02

MLB

2/16/1983

  28.11

6' 1"

220

R

RP

T. Schlichting

Signed as FA

33

10/19/1984

  26.44

6' 4"

190

R

RP

Cole St. Clair

2008, 7th

46

7/30/1986

  24.66

6' 5"

225

L

RP

James Adkins

2007, 1st

50

11/26/1985

  25.34

6' 6"

230

L

RP

David Pfeiffer

2003, 14th

80

8/17/1985

  25.61

6' 3"

190

L

RP

Jon Huber

Signed May 2010

Old

7/7/1981

  29.72

6' 2"

195

R

CL

Josh Lindblom

2008, 2nd

18

6/15/1987

  23.79

6' 5"

240

R

In an ideal world Josh Lindblom would emerge as the Isotopes closer for the 2011 season, so that’s where I have him slotted on this team.  After flip-flopping between starter and reliever for the past few seasons it has been determined that Lindblom will now definitely remain in the bullpen, so now Josh can focus on his permanent role.  When he’s on his game Lindblom has the best pure stuff of the players in my predicted Isotope bullpen, so that is why I believe he could thrive as the closer on this team if he gets his head on right.  Travis Schlichting and Ramon Troncoso will be two players in the Isotopes bullpen that Dodger fans are already familiar with.  Both have already had successful stints in Los Angeles, but are victim of the numbers game given that they both have options remaining.  Either of these guys could also help fill the closer role should Lindblom falter.  I’m expecting Jon Link to be the swingman for the Isotopes in 2011 given that he has been training as a starter, yet has a lot of experience as a reliever.  He had a solid season in AAA last year and made it up to LA several times, so we’ll see what this season holds for him.  The final righty I have coming out of the Albuquerque bullpen is Jon Huber, who in 2004 was traded from San Diego to Seattle for Dave Hansen.  Huber spent most of last season in Chattanooga and was a non roster invitee of the Dodgers this spring, but he struggled at Camelback Ranch and is now likely to spend 2011 in AAA.  Cole St. Clair seems like a reasonable bet to make the Isotopes in 2011 given that he is 24 years old and spent the better part of last season in AA.  The lefthander doesn’t possess an overpowering fastball, but he has enough quality pitches and solid pitch placement which may get him to the show at some point in the future.  James Adkins failed in his AAA stint last season, but he’ll most likely get another chance to prove himself in Albuquerque in 2011.  Not counting the time he spent in AAA last season, James had a .238 batting average against out of the bullpen for Chattanooga and overall showed solid improvement from his previous seasons as a starter.  The final piece of my AAA bullpen will be lefty David Pfeiffer.  Pfeiffer isn’t anyone to write home about, but he can be a solid minor league bullpen piece and has posted solid stats over the past two seasons.  He can serve as an extreme left handed insurance policy for the Dodgers this season.

Outfield:

Pos.

Name

Acquired

My Rank

DOB

Age

Height

Weight

Bats

LF

Trent Oeltjen

Signed July 2010

N/A

2/28/1983

  28.08

6' 1"

190

L

CF

Tray Robinson

2005, 10th

8

9/1/1987

  23.57

5' 11"

195

S

RF

J. Hoffmann

Signed 9/2/03

43

8/20/1984

  26.60

6' 3"

235

R

The one thing I know for certain is that Trayvon Robinson will be the center fielder for the Isotopes to start this season.  The Dodgers have made it very clear that they like Robinson but believe that he needs a little more seasoning, so he’s been destined for AAA from the beginning of the spring.  Travyon has not yet played above AA, so it should be interesting to see how he performs in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.  Jamie Hoffmann is probably best suited for center field, but with Robinson in the fold he’ll probably shift over to right for the Isotopes this season.  Hoffmann had a very solid campaign in AAA last season and will continue to grind it out until there is a need for him at the big league level.  The fact that he is back on the 40 man roster helps his chances of making back to LA at some point this season.  The Australian Trent Oeltjen had a solid spring training, but never really had a chance to make the Dodgers and will return to Albuquerque for another season.  In 49 games with the Isotopes last year Oeltjen hit .349 with a .979 OPS which earned him a September call up, but he was removed from the 40 man roster this past off-season.  Trent is capable of playing both right and center field, but will probably get pushed to left field given the defensive talent of Robinson and Hoffmann.

Infield:

Pos.

Name

Acquired

My Rank

DOB

Age

Height

Weight

Bats

1B

John Lindsey

Signed 12/12/09

Old

1/30/1977

  34.16

6' 1"

245

R

2B

Justin Sellers

Trade with Cubs

48

2/1/1986

  25.15

5' 10"

160

R

3B

Russell Mitchell

2003, 15th

34

2/15/1985

  26.11

5' 11"

205

R

SS

Dee Gordon

2008, 4th

2

4/22/1988

  22.93

5' 11"

150

L

Isotope fans will see a familiar face at 1st base as John Lindsey will once again man the position for Albuquerque.  Even if he gets DFA, which is likely given that the Dodgers need to open up a few roster spots, I’m still betting that he will head to Albuquerque to tough it out for yet another minor league season.  As many reporters wrote last year when he finally made it to the show, John loves baseball and will probably only hang it up when he is no longer able to perform.  Given that he hit .350 for the Isotopes last year, I don’t think Lindsey has reached that point yet.  Across the diamond from big John will be Russell Mitchell who had a breakout season in AAA in 2010 and made his major league debut last September.  Probably the biggest surprise about Mitchell last year was that he proved he could handle the hot corner, which makes him much more valuable as a prospect.  I expect another big season out of the 26 year old in 2011.  The Isotopes middle infield is expected to be filled with a couple of lightweights.  I’m still not 100% sure where Dee Gordon will start the 2011 season, but I’m predicting it will be in AAA.  If I’m right, the speedy Gordon will be the Isotopes shortstop for all of 2011.  It will be a good challenge for him to face the older competition, and his 2011 season will be a strong indication to management on whether he’ll be ready to take over the big league shortstop job in the future.  The other piece of the Albuquerque double play combination will most likely be Justin Sellers, who got a hard look during spring training but “threw away” his opportunity with too many errors and mediocre offensive stats.  His spring aside, Sellers is generally known as a very solid defender and can play all over the infield.  He added also added a new dimension to his game last year when he smacked 14 homers in AAA, although I don’t really expect much power out of Justin if he ever makes it to the show. 

Catcher/DH:

Pos.

Name

Acquired

My Rank

DOB

Age

Height

Weight

Bats

C

A.J. Ellis

2003, 18th

Old

4/9/1981

  29.97

6' 2"

225

R

DH

Corey Smith

Signed 2/12/10

N/A

4/15/1982

  28.95

6' 1"

200

R

BU C

JD Closser

Signed 2/11/09

N/A

1/15/1980

  31.20

5' 10"

180

S

Unless the Dodgers decide to have 3 catchers on their opening day roster (which now seems like a realistic possibility), A.J. Ellis will be the Isotopes everyday catcher to start the 2011 season.  This will be his 4th season in AAA, and 3rd in Albuquerque. Ellis had a glimmer of hope to make the Dodgers roster when Navarro went down with his oblique injury, but at the end of the day he’ll probably be doomed by his one remaining option.  I do expect to see A.J. in LA at some point this year, although it might not be until September.  The backup catcher on this team will again be J.D. Closser, although he can also play 1st base and will also get plenty of playing time at DH.  Believe it or not this will also be Closser’s 3rd season with the Isotopes.  DH will be occupied by a variety of players, but I am expecting Corey Smith to get the majority of the playing time at the start of the season.  Smith had a good season last year in AA and really tore it up in Spring Training, so I’m guessing that will impress management enough to let him get steady at bats for the Isotopes.  He is actually a very similar player to John Lindsey, and at 5 years Lindsey’s junior he could take over Lindsey’s role at 1st base when he finally retires.

Bench:

Pos.

Name

Acquired

My Rank

DOB

Age

Height

Weight

Bats

OF

Brad Coon

Signed Dec 2010

New

12/11/1982

  28.30

6' 0"

175

L

OF

A. Jackson

Trade for Dotel

118

6/17/1984

  26.78

5' 8"

175

S

INF

Travis Denker

Signed May 2010

83

8/5/1985

  25.65

5' 9"

205

R

Utility

D. Espino

Signed 12/20/10

New

5/8/1983

  27.89

6' 1"

201

R

My predicted AAA bench could quite possibly be the most lackluster group of all time.  I really don’t know what to say about this group of guys, and I really hope that the Isotopes actual bench is better than who I am projecting here.  I guess the most interesting guy in the group would be Travis Denker, who returned to the Dodgers organization in the middle of last year and re-signed with the team after the 2010 season.  Denker can play all over the infield and has a decent stick so he should get plenty of playing time in Albuquerque.  Austin Jackson, who was the player to be named later when the Dodgers traded Dotel to the Rockies, will be one of the backup outfielders on the team.  He has good speed and can also play a little 2nd base, but he isn’t much of an offensive threat at the plate.  Brad Coon is another speedy player who will be a backup outfielder for the Isotopes.  He was signed as a minor league free agent after spending the first six years of his career in the Angels organization.  Finally Damaso Espino will serve as the 3rd catcher on the team, although he can also play some 1st base.  He is really nothing but an insurance policy.

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