2012 Arizona Dodgers minor league season in review

Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIR - Presswire

The Arizona Dodgers had a great regular season, but fell in the first round of the playoffs

Next up in my minor league season in review series is the Arizona Dodgers. The Arizona Rookie League typically features a mixture of players from the most recent draft, international players, non drafted free agent signees, and guys from previous drafts who just weren't ready to be promoted. You'll also find a rehabbing player in the lineup every now and then. The 2012 Dodger team fits this basic description, although the fact that the draft signing deadline was moved up to July 15th (from August 15) meant that the guys on the team from the most draft got more playing time than has been the case in recent history. In total 51 players put on a Arizona Dodger uniform this season, and I'll highlight the most notable guys below.

Record: 34 - 21

Season Result: Won their division, but in the playoffs they lost in the sudden death semi-final game to the Rangers

Season Recap: The Arizona Dodgers started the season on absolute fire, winning 14 of their first 16 games to jump out to a big lead in their division. While they then dropped 8 of their next 10, a seven game winning streak in the middle of August pretty much solidified their post season birth. Unfortunately the Dodgers weren't able to win their second championship in three years as they were dismissed from the abbreviated Arizona League playoffs in the first first post season game.

In terms of team stats, the Dodgers were pretty much in the middle of the pack in most offensive and pitching categories despite posting the second best record in the league. Their .261 team batting average placed them in the bottom half of clubs, and their .741 OPS was right smack dab in the middle of the league rankings. Their best offensive showing came from their 37 home runs, which was 4th best. On the pitching side the Dodgers' 4.23 ERA also ranked 4th in the league, as did their 1.40 WHIP. Finally the club's K/9 of 8.54 sounds impressive, but it was actually only 9th best among the Arizona League teams..

Offensive MVP: Paul Hoenecke - When you look at the Arizona League statistical leaders (check the bottom of the post), you realize how obvious the choice of Hoenecke was for this award. The 2012 24th round pick not only ran away with the league batting title (.382 average), but he also ranked 2nd in the league in OPS (1.064), 3rd in Total Bases (107), and 7th in RBI's (38). All those stats obviously lead the Arizona Dodgers as well, along with several other categories. On the defensive side of the ball he was also quite valuable as he split his time between 1st base, 3rd base, and outfield, although his glove seemed to play better in the infield. I remember crowning him the minor league player of the day several times in 2012, and if I recall correctly he also had a few game winning hits for the Dodgers.

Best Offensive Prospect: Jesmuel Valentin - Keeping in mind that I didn't consider Yasiel Puig for this award because he only played 9 games, I'm giving this award to Valentin despite a rough season. The Dodgers 2012 supplemental 1st round pick hit just .211 and had a .907 fielding % at shortstop, but he isn't 't the first 18 year old to struggle in his professional debut so I'm not going to read too much into his stats at this point. He obviously has great bloodlines, and his pre-draft scouting report gives me reason to believe that he'll eventually make it to the big leagues as a utility type player.

Pitching MVP: Miguel Sulbaran - A year ago I never would have thought I'd be choosing between Sulbaran and fellow 18 year old Jonathan Martinez for the Arizona Dodgers pitching MVP award, but here we are. Miguel had slightly better stats than Jonathan so I gave him the nod for the MVP, and he definitely deserved it as he lead the league in strikeouts with 62 K's and ranked 3rd in the circuit with his 2.51 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. The organization was so impressed with Sulbaran that he was actually promoted to LoA where he made a couple of spot starts, then he ended the season in the Pionner League. Not bad for an 18 year old.

Best Pitching Prospect: Zachary Bird - I can see the argument for either Sulbaran or Martinez winning this award, but based on scouting reports it appears that Bird was the most impressive pitcher for the Arizona Dodgers in 2012. After watching him pitch most scouts wondered how Zach lasted until the 9th round of the 2012 draft as he was already showing good movement on his low to mid 90's fastball which should only improve with his projectable frame. While his secondary pitches (curveball and changeup) are still a work in progress Baseball America reported that Dodgers manager Matt Martin said "I've never seen anyone at this age that had such good swing-and-miss stuff." Sounds like we got a steal with Bird, and even though he won't be 19 until next July I believe he could start 2013 with the Loons.

Other Notable Players and Prospects:

Jonathan Martinez - RHP - J-Mart started his season in Arizona despite being just 18 years old and having just 32 professional innings under his belt, but he showed he belonged in the U.S. as he posted a sub-3 FIP and struck out exactly a batter per inning. I still don't know a whole lot about his pitching repertoire, but I like what I see out of him so far.

Jackson Mateo - RHP - Mateo earned a promoted to Arizona in 2012 after dominating the Dominican Summer League in 2010 and 2011. He continued his success with the Dodgers in 2012 as the 3rd member of the former DSL rotation posted a 2.72 ERA, even though his walk to strikeout ratio was pretty ugly when compared to Sulbaran or J-Mart. Jackson is another guy that made it all the way up to LoA in 2012, and I expect him to begin the 2013 season in Michigan.

Bladimir Franco - 3B - In his 3rd season in Arizona Franco finally seemed to find somewhat of a groove as he lead the club with 6 homers despite playing in just 23 games. While his average wasn't all that impressive (.253), Bladimir eventually earned a promotion to Ogden where he actually improved his average and socked two more bombs.

Justin Chigbogu -1B - The 2012 4th round pick had terrible stats in his debut season, but the 18 year old has a ton of raw power and is definitely someone to watch going forward. Even though he struck out in 38.2% of his plate appearances and had a .595 OPS, I expect the big lefty to improve as he matures. He'll probably stay in a rookie league in 2013, but given his age that is to be expected.

Alex Santana - 3B - Santana didn't start the year in Arizona, but after struggling with the Raptors the teenager found himself back in the Grand Canyon State. The former 2nd round pick still has a decent amount of upside, but after after striking out in 38% of his plate appearances in Arizona and hitting .240 over 26 games I have some reservations about the the 19 year old

Theo Alexander - OF - Alexander was a 7th round pick and signed for about $150K, and even though his 2012 numbers were more than ugly (he had a .530 OPS) I think he's a guy that has some potential and could be a player to watch in years to come. Given his age I think he's a guy the Dodgers felt was worth the long term investment.

Position by Position Breakdown (player's age in parenthesis):

Catcher: Really not much to see behind the plate as both players who spent more than 10 games at catcher. 2012 29th round pick John Cannon (22.25) got the majority of the starts and hit just .225, although the University of Houston product provided solid defense and walked almost as much as he struck out. Given his age Andrew Edge (24.75) had no business being in Arizona, but yet he found himself back in the rookie league and had an OPS of just .646. The one catcher who did make a lot of noise with this bat was Tyler Ogle (22), but his time in Glendale was short-lived and he actually only played 6 games behind the plate.

1st Base: Offensive MVP Paul Hoenecke (22.25) was the team's main 1st baseman, although the 2012 24th round pick also spent some time in the outfield. John Sgromolo (22) made the most of his professional debut as he hit .310 in 100 at bats with an .805 OPS, however the 2012 37th round pick probably isn't much of a prospect. Finally we already talked about Justin Chigbogu's (18.25) rough year at the plate above, and at 1st base he could also use some work as he made 3 errors in his limited opportunities.

2nd Base: If you had told me that Stefan Jarrin (22), the Arizona Dodgers main 2nd baseman in 2012, would actually get traded to another team I would have said that you're crazy. I mean the kid was basically drafted as a favor to his grandfather, and after hitting .213 in 2011 he actually regressed in 2012 and hit .209. So why would any other team actually want him? Anyways enough about the newest Phillie minor leaguer. The only other notable 2nd baseman was 2012 10th round pick Zachary Babitt (23), who was an extreme over draft yet a strategic pick as he signed for just $2,500 and gave the Dodgers some financial flexibility with their other draft picks. Babbitt hit just .254 before getting shut down for the year in mid July with an unknown injury.

Shortstop: I wrote about Jesmuel Valentin (18.25) and his forgettable season above, but one stat I didn't discuss was his strikeout to walk ratio. The switch hitter actually walked more than he struck out (35 BB's vs. just 24 K's), so that's definitely a positive for the youngster. Leo Rodriguez (20.75) was the only other player to start double digit games up the middle, but he didn't do anything worth mentioning.

3rd Base: I already talked about both of the Dodgers main 3rd baseman above, but I'll talk a little more about them here. Bladimir Franco (21.5) started the year in Arizona as the team's main 3rd baseman, and in his 3rd go around with the team he finally found success as he led the team with 6 homers in just 23 games. At that point he basically switches teams with Alex Santana (19), who was demoted from the Ogden Raptors due to is struggles at the plate and on defense. Unfortunately Santana was even worse in his return to Arizona as he had an ugly .638 OPS and struck out in 38% of his plate appearances.

Outfield: There are quite a few outfielders to get to here, and I'll start with the ones who spent the most time out on the grass. Gregory Pena (20.75) spent time at all 3 outfield spots, although most of his time was in right and center. In his US debut Pena didn't have a great offensive showing as he failed to record an extra base hit all year long and batted just .270, but on the plus side he stole 7 bases and walked at a decent clip. Theo Alexander (18) also played all over the outfield, but scouting reports say he has a below average arm so I'm not sure what the means for his long term future. I guess he'll need to hit first before we can talk about a long term position for him. 2012 6th round pick Joey Curletta (18.5) was the club's main right fielder, but he had an absolutely abysmal season at the plate as he recorded just 11 hits all season long for a .411 OPS. Corey Embree (20.25) on the other hand was a 38th round pick this year, and he had a successful professional debut at the dish as he hit .320, had a .902 OPS, and tied for the team lead with 4 triples. Noel Cuevas (21) was on an extended rehab assignment and ended up ranking 3rd in the league with 22 stolen bases, and finally Jacob Scavuzzo (18.75) struggled to the tune of a .220 average, but he is still so young and has great size at 6'4" so I'll wait a few years before I pass judgement.

Starting Pitchers: The Arizona Dodgers had four pitchers who where consistently in the starting rotation all year long, while the 5th spot was pretty much a mix of several different guys. I've already discussed 3 of the four rotation members above at length in Miguel Sulbaran (18.5), Jonathan Martinez (18.25), and Zachary Bird (18.25), so that just leaves Victor Araujo (22.75) as the one to talk about here. Unlike his rotation mates, Araujo struggled quite a bit in his US debut. His 6.88 ERA was one of the worst on the team, and his 5.00 FIP was fueled by the fact that he gave up a league high 9 homers.

Relief Pitchers: Outside of Jackson Mateo (20) who was discussed above, the Arizona Dodger relievers were a relatively unimpressive group. State-wise Jordan Hershiser (24) probably had the best season of the group, but he was also one of the oldest players in the league by a lot so it's hard to be too impressed with his 2.55 ERA or 10.2 K/9. Non drafted free agent Ricky Perez (22.25) started the year as the club's closer and was very impressive through July, but he got absolutely rocked in August and finished the year with a 8.46 ERA despite ranking 2nd in the league in saves with 9 and posting a 2.70 FIP. Fellow NDFA Travis Jones (23.25) took over the closing duties late in the year and did very well for the most part as he led the team with a 1.36 FIP and a 11.2 K/9 rate. 2012 23rd round pick Lindsey Caughel (22) threw well in relief for Arizona before moving on to the Pioneer League, and finally Japanese teenager Kazuya Takano (19.75) showed some improvement from the prior year before getting shut down for the season at the beginning of August.

League Leaders:

Arizona Rookie League Hitters
Category Player Rank Amount
Hits Paul Hoenecke Tied 5th 63
Doubles Paul Hoenecke 2nd 21
Home Runs Bladimir Franco Tied 6th 6
RBI's Paul Hoenecke 7th 38
Total Bases Paul Hoenecke Tied 3rd 107
Walks Jesmuel Valentin 5th 35
Strikeouts Justin Chigbogu Tied 8th 50
Stolen Bases Noel Cuevas 3rd 22
OB % Paul Hoenecke 6th 0.416
SLG % Paul Hoenecke 2nd 0.648
Average Paul Hoenecke 1st 0.382
OPS Paul Hoenecke 2nd 1.064
Arizona Rookie League Pitchers
Category Player Rank Amount
Wins Miguel Sulbaran Tied 1st 6
Wins Victor Araujo Tied 10th 4
Wins Jackson Mateo Tied 10th 4
ERA Miguel Sulbaran 3rd 2.51
ERA Jonathan Martinez 6th 3.05
Saves Ricky Perez 2nd 9
Saves Travis Jones Tied 8th 4
Innings Pitched Jonathan Martinez 6th 59
Innings Pitched Miguel Sulbaran 7th 57.1
HR Allowed Victor Araujo 1st 9
Strikeouts Miguel Sulbaran 1st 62
Strikeouts Jonathan Martinez 3rd 59
WHIP Miguel Sulbaran 3rd 1.15
WHIP Jonathan Martinez 8th 1.27
Holds Jackson Mateo Tied 4th 4
Games Finished Ricky Perez Tied 2nd 14
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