As we move into the top 50 of my minor league countdown we are going to start seeing some of the best Dodger league prospects. Just like last year, for the final 50 players I'm going to add a short justification to the end of each paragraph to provide a little more insight as to why I ranked each player where I did. Just as a reminder, the age I list for each player is as of 2012 opening day. As always, let me know what you think.
50. Russell Mitchell, 1B/3B (93 games in AAA, 25 games in Majors in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2003, 15th round
5’10”, 210 lbs, 27 years old, bats right handed
.283 average, .875 OPS, 16 HR’s, 69 RBI’s, 1 SB (minor league stats only)
Pre 2011 Rank: 34; Pre 2010 Rank: 52; Pre 2009 Rank: 32
Most people wouldn’t really consider Russ Mitchell a prospect at this point, but heading into 2012 he still qualifies as a rookie and has just 93 big league at bats. He is also just 27 years old despite the fact that he was drafted way back in 2003. Mitchell’s journey as a Dodger has a been a long one as he has played on 9 different minor league teams and has spent time at 6 different positions during his minor league career. The organization even considered trying him out as a catcher at one point, but after a lot of hard work he has established himself as a serviceable 3rd baseman. Russ has spent the majority of the past two seasons in Albuquerque, and has been a September big league call up both years. His stats for the Isotopes have been very strong, and in 2011 he hit 16 homers and posted a .875 OPS while striking out in just 15.8% of his plate appearances. The only drawback to his success is that Mitchell has been much better at home than on the road since joining the Isotopes, which obviously gives the impression that he has been aided by Albuquerque’s hitter friendly park. For 2012 there didn’t look to be any room for Russ in Los Angeles, so he was designated for assignment and removed from the 40 man roster. That will make it difficult for him to make it back up to the big leagues, but you never know so he’ll serve as an insurance policy while spending a 3rd season in Albuquerque.
Why #50: While Mitchell was never going to be a big league regular, give his marginal power and ability to 3rd base I always considered him a cheap option that had the ability to fill in as a bench player for a major league team. The fact that the Dodgers chose to take him off their 40 man roster over guys like Troncoso and Oeltjen isn’t a good sign for his future, however, and the two home runs he hit for Los Angeles in 2011 might be the highlight of his big league career.
49. Noel Cuevas, OF (23 games in HiA, 60 games in Pioneer Rookie Lg in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 21st round
6’2”, 187 lbs, 20.5 years old, bats right handed
.267 average, .740 OPS, 8 HR’s, 43 RBI’s, 15 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: 52; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A
The Dodgers selected Noel Cuevas in the 21st round of the 2010 draft, and after a lengthy holdout he finally inked a deal with the club for $100K. The outfielder from Puerto Rico was just 18 years old when he signed, and according to Baseball America he had “intriguing raw power”. Even though Cuevas only had 3 professional games under his belt heading into 2012, the Dodgers sent Noel to the California League in May. Cuevas was mostly overmatched against the advanced competition, however, and after hitting .220 the month long experiment was over as he was sent back down to the Pioneer League. Noel fared much better in Ogden as he saw his OPS rise from .538 with the Quakes to .814 with the Raptors, and he ranked 3rd on the team with 29 extra base hits. He also made decent contact as he struck out in 19.9% of plate appearances for the season, and even stole 15 bases. Here he is getting a hit during the Raptors’ playoff run. Defensively Cuevas was pegged as a left fielder when he was drafted, but he held his own in center field during James Baldwin's absence. Left field is probably still his best position, but it’s still encouraging to know that he's athletic enough to handing playing in the middle of the field. In 2012 I’m guessing that Cuevas will get another shot with the Quakes, although it’s just as likely that he’ll spend the season in the Midwest League. He’s got an interesting set of tools and is still quite young so he’ll definitely be someone worth following next season.
Why #49: Cuevas’ power potential makes him deserving of a spot in my top 50, although he’s still quite raw and has a long ways to go before reaching Los Angeles. I’m guessing that his defense limitations will be more apparent as he moves up through the system, although I was encouraged by his stolen base numbers and his ability to handle center this past season. Overall Noel’s ceiling appears to be that of big league outfielder with 25 homer potential, but he obviously has a long ways to go before we can even think about him reaching that level.
Follow the jump for #'s 48 - 41
48. Jon Michael Redding, RHP (137.2 IP in HiA in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 5th round
6’1”, 195 lbs, 24.25 years old
11-7, 3.66 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 3.53 FIP, 8.50 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: 72; Pre 2010 Rank: 46; Pre 2009 Rank: 37
The Dodgers 5th round pick in 2008, Jon Michael Redding played his college ball at Florida Community College where he went 8-5 with a 2.02 ERA and a .222 batting average against in 2008. He began his professional career in the Pioneer Rookie League, but was limited to just 31 innings in his professional debut due to a heavy college workload. Redding spent 2009 with the Loons in LoA and led the Midwest League in wins with 16 and logged 133 innings while posting a respectable FIP of 3.70. In 2010 Redding moved up to the California League, but unfortunately the results were pretty ugly. Despite proving to be a workhorse yet again with 144 innings pitched, Redding’s numbers declined in every category. Probably his worst stat in 2010 was his strikeout rate, which dipped to a K/9 of just 5.38. 2011 provided Redding with a fresh start, however, and armed with a new pitch Jon Michael was able to find redemption in his second go around in the California League. In my post season review I crowned Redding the Pitching MVP of the Quakes, and he showed massive improvement as he lowered his ERA by almost 2 runs while increasing his K/9 by more than 3. Always considered a workhorse, Redding logged 137.2 innings along with a team high 130 punchouts, and batters hit a career low .250 against him. He even had one game in July during which he struck out a career high 14 batters. In a quote after that stellar game, Redding said “Tonight, I definitely spotted the fastball and used my cutter. I don't think I threw one changeup. I used my curve ball effectively, but my cutter was definitely my out pitch. I put my pitches in spots where they couldn't do much damage.” Here is a video of him pitching last season. In terms of his stuff, as you can tell from his quote Redding has a plethora of pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90’s fastball and his cutter is his new pitch which has basically replaced his slider. Given his experience Redding will surely move up to AA in 2012 where he’ll try and build upon his 2011 success. I still see him as a back of the rotation guy who could eventually make his way into the big leagues.
Why #48: At one point Baseball America saw Redding as a #3 starter, but as of now I’d consider his career a success if he made it the show as a spot starter. He has solid tools and has the ceiling of a guy who could fill out the back end of big league rotation, but at the same time he doesn’t really stand out as someone who is going to ever really break out and take it to that next level.
47. Pedro Baez, 3B (32 games in AA in 2011)
Signed by Dodgers 1/22/07
6’2”, 195 lbs, 24 years old, bats right handed
.210 average, .659 OPS, 2 HR’s, 15 RBI’s, 1 SB
Pre 2011 Rank: 23; Pre 2010 Rank: 12; Pre 2009 Rank: 11
Despite a lackluster season in 2010, the TBLA community had high hopes for Pedro Baez heading into 2011. Most of this was fueled by our very own Phil Gurnee, who watched Baez take infield drills and batting practice during the Dodgers January 2011 winter development program and said he was the most impressive prospect he saw that day. Unfortunately Pedro never got a chance to prove Phil right because his 2011 season ended in early May after he injured his non-throwing shoulder while diving for a ball. In addition, up until that point Baez had done nothing to impress as he was hitting just .210 for the Lookouts at the time of his injury. After the season I asked about Baez in a Baseball America chat, specially mentioning a possible move to the mound. Jim Shonerd’s response was “As far as his performance goes, Baez is just a really streaky hitter. He's got plus power and is an outstanding defender with a cannon arm, but he goes through stretches where he gets out of rhythm and swings through everything. And yes, one Dodgers exec did in fact mention the possibility of putting him on the mound. Not saying it's going to happen soon, but it's something to keep in mind.” We all know that he Baez has a great arm which is why we always talk about him as a potential pitcher, with his throws across the infield being clocked at 94 mph. His career fielding % at 3rd base is just .916, however, so I’m not sure I agree with Shonerd in that he’s a plus defender. Also he is a great fastball hitter, but he has a lot of trouble against off-speed pitches so with his offensive struggles over the past two years it might be time to move him to the mound. Still just 24 years old, he could probably make the conversion over the next year and be ready to help the big league club by 2013 if he catches on quickly enough. If he stays at 3rd base, however, I think he’ll continue to be over matched against the more advanced pitchers in the upper minor leagues who will continue to exploit his weaknesses. It will be interesting to see where he is when spring training starts.
Why #47: Baez continues to fall in my rankings because of his injuries and lack of success, but he’s still a top 50 guy because of his power potential and his outstanding arm that could warrant a move to the mound. He’s a true wildcard, and where he ends up in spring training will tell us a lot about his future.
46. Cole St. Clair, LHP (50.1 IP in AA in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 7th round
6’5”, 225 lbs, 25.5 years old
1-5, 3.04 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2.58 FIP, 8.23 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: 46; Pre 2010 Rank: 29; Pre 2009 Rank: 20
After a very successful college career at Rice University, the Dodgers selected Cole St. Clair in the 7th round of the 2008 draft. After he was drafted, Logan White called St. Clair the “sleeper” of the draft and predicted that he would move quickly through the system. That has proven to be true so far, especially after Cole had a very impressive season in 2011 for the Lookouts. While he was overshadowed by several of his teammates, the big lefthander started off the year on fire allowing just 2 earned runs through the month of June for a sparkling 0.76 ERA. Even though he tired a bit down the stretch he still finished the year with solid numbers and finished the season with the 3rd best FIP of all Dodgers minor leaguers (min 50 IP) thanks to a strong strike to walk ratio and the fact that he only allowed 1 home run in 2011. In terms of his stuff, Cole isn’t going to intimidate anyone with his velocity, but instead uses excellent pitch placement to get outs. His fastball sits in the high 80’s to low 90’s, and he has a solid curveball along with a changeup. His control is solid as he has walked just 3.3 batters per 9 innings for his minor league career vs. a K/9 of 9.5. After the season the Dodgers sent St. Clair to the Arizona Fall League, and while he struggled a bit with a 4.64 ERA it was a good experience for him to face the league’s top talent. Here he is warming up for the Salt River Rafters. Also, here is additional footage of him throwing during a 2011 spring training game. St. Clair will almost certainly spend 2012 in Albuquerque, but given the Dodgers lack of left handed relievers he’s probably higher on the Dodgers bullpen depth chart than most people realize. He’s not yet on the 40 man roster, but with a couple of injuries at the big league level Cole could find himself in Los Angeles at some point in 2012.
Why #46: St. Clair had a great season in 2011, but his ranking remained constant thanks to other emerging players and 2011 draftees. I have little doubt that he’ll eventually make it up to the big leagues, but his lack of velocity could get him exposed against top competition. Despite his 2011 success, I’m not sure that he’ll be any better than former Dodger minor leaguers Travis Schlichting or Jon Link.
45. Matt Magill, RHP (139.1 IP in HiA in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 31st round
6’3”, 190 lbs, 22.25 years old
11-5, 4.33 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 3.95 FIP, 8.14 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: 24; Pre 2010 Rank: 44; Pre 2009 Rank: 78
Matt Magill is from my wife’s hometown of Simi Valley and was picked by the Dodgers late in the 2008 draft due to his strong college commitment to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. At the time he only threw about 90 mph, but the Dodgers liked his plus slider and 6’3” frame. After a solid professional debut in the GCL, and a strong sophomore campaign in the Pioneer League, Magill had a breakout season in 2010 with the Loons. He lead all of minor league baseball with a batting average against of just .194, while his 3.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 9.6 K/9 all ranked among the Dodgers minor league leaders. Here he is throwing some warm-up pitches for Great Lakes. That brings up to 2011, which Matt spent in Rancho Cucamonga. He got off to a hot start for the Quakes by allowing just 4 total runs over his first 5 starts, but from there his season was a bit up and down. His ERA by month was 1.64 (April), 5.45 (May), 3.94 (June), 2.36 (July), 7.15 (Aug), and 9.82 (Sept), and overall saw his batting average against jump to .280. He did throw a team high 139.1 innings, however, and had couple of high strikeout games including back to back starts during which he collected 10 and 12 K's respectively. In terms of his stuff, last year there were reports that he was hitting 94 mph with his fastball in the Midwest League, but when I watched him in person this year the radar gun at the Epicenter had him sitting in the mid 80’s with his fastball. He did flash solid secondary stuff including his aforementioned slider, but overall I came away unimpressed with this stuff and can see why scouts think his stuff will get exposed against more advanced hitters. He is still just 22, however, so he still has time to improve his game and make adjustments of his own. In 2012 Magill should move up to AA where he’ll being his true test.
Why #45: As mentioned above I wasn’t very impressed with Magill in person, so that caused him fall in my rankings this year. He’s still quite young and could turn out to be a back of the rotation starter at the big league level, although he’ll need to conquer AA first.
44. Javier Solano, RHP (32.2 IP in AA, 44 IP in HiA in 2011)
Signed by Dodgers 1/18/08
6’0”, 177 lbs, 22 years old
3-3, 3.64 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 2.98 FIP, 8.45 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: 28; Pre 2010 Rank: 111; Pre 2009 Rank: 139
The Dodgers purchased Javier Solano's rights from the Mexican League's Monterrey Sultans before the 2008 season for $250,000. According to Baseball America at the time of his signing, they said that “Solano's two best pitches are an 89-93 mph fastball that sits around 91 and a plus 75-78 mph curveball. He also has some feel for a changeup and uses a slider as his fourth offering.” Assistant GM De Jon Watson also chimed in with some comments when Solano signed, saying that he's thrown "exceptionally well" and is "very advanced for a 17-year-old, with an above-average fastball and curveball.” While those scouting reports are about 4 years old, I did get some updated information on Solano in 2010 from Charlie Hough who said “Javier Solano has a low 90’s fastball, and also has a cutter, a curve, and a changeup. He will remain a reliever, and actually might be shorter than the 6’0" he is listed at.” Anyways, Solano started his professional career with a couple of middling seasons in the Pioneer League, but in 2010 he was promoted up to HiA and broke out in a big way. He posted a FIP of 2.39 and struck out about 10 batters per 9 innings, which earned him a promotion to AA in August despite being just 20 years old. Here is a quick video of him while with the 66ers in 2010. The Dodgers sent Javier back to the California League to start the 2011 season, and even though he recorded a 4.09 over 44 frames his FIP was much more impressive at 2.65 thanks to an outstanding strikeout to walk ratio. In July Solano earned a midseason promotion to AA for the second straight season, and just like in 2010 he got even better after reaching Chattanooga as he recording a 3.03 ERA with the Lookouts while allowing just 1 homer in 32.2 innings. Overall, Javier aka “Javy” aka “Ivan” has good stuff and has made great progress given his age, but I still have questions about his physical makeup. As mentioned above he is actually shorter than 6 feet tall, and there have been concerns about his ability to stay in shape. In addition, Solano struggled a bit in the Mexican Winter League this past off-season with a 4.57 ERA and 6 homers allowed in 41.1 frames. Given his age and pure stuff, however, I do think that Solano will eventually make it up to the big leagues as a middle reliever. His ceiling isn’t all that high, but could still bring some value to the big league club. In 2012 Solano will almost certainly start the season in AA, and he’ll probably remain in Chattanooga all year long.
Why #44: My biggest concern about Solano is his stout stature, and to be honest I’m not sure how he generates his velocity. Despite his great FIP in 2011, Javier was quite hittable and allowed a .309 batting average against while in Rancho. That said he is still so young and basically has a year of experience at AA with a lot of success, so I think he has the ceiling of a big league middle reliever
43. Austin Gallagher, 1B (111 games in HiA in 2010)
Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 3rd round
6’5”, 210 lbs, 23.25 years old, bats left handed
.292 average, .838 OPS, 13 HR’s, 62 RBI’s, 0 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: 35; Pre 2010 Rank: 19; Pre 2009 Rank: 7
It’s pretty rare for a minor league player to spend 4 full seasons in class A ball before their 23rd birthday, but that is exactly what we have in Austin Gallagher. The big 6’5” first baseman made his professional debut in the Pioneer League, and since then has played 3 seasons in the California League and 1 season in the Midwest League. In his 3 seasons in HiA Gallagher has been amazingly consistent, hitting .293 in 2008, .291 in 2010, and .292 in 2011. 2011 was definitely his best season of the bunch, however, since he finally showed some power with a career high 13 homers and also had great plate disciple as he walked almost as much as he struck out. This video is from 2010, but it probably gives you the best look at his swing. In addition, his defense showed improvement this past season as he posted a career best .992 fielding percentage. At the end of the day Gallagher is definitely not the player I once thought he was when I ranked him as the Dodgers #7 prospect in 2009, but I also don’t think he should be written off just yet. He’s still just 23 years old and is finally showing signs of breaking out, so hopefully he’s turning the corner will continue to show improvement. In 2012 Austin should finally get his first taste of AA and despite his experience he’ll still be one of the younger players in the league. A good season for the Lookouts could really get him back on the Dodger prospect radar.
Why #43: Gallagher had by far his best season to date, but he still hasn’t shown that breakout potential to make me believe he could turn into a big league first baseman. His hitting splits show that he is much better against right handed pitchers (.306 average in 2011 and all 13 of him homers came against righties), which means that even if he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could possibly be a left handed bat off the bench. He’s still young and could surprise us all in AA next season.
42. Brian Cavazos-Galvez, 1B/OF (116 games in AA in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 12th round
6’0”, 215 lbs, 24.75 years old, bats right handed
.277 average, .781 OPS, 14 HR’s, 61 RBI’s, 13 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: 26; Pre 2010 Rank: 34; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A
As most people know by now, Brian Cavazos-Galvez is the son of a former Dodger minor leaguer who actually conceived Brian while he was playing AAA ball in Albuquerque for the Dodger affiliate then called the Dukes. While the two lost contact, Brian grew up in New Mexico and played his college ball there before being selected by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2009 draft. BCG started his professional career with the Ogden Raptors and destroyed the Pioneer League in 2009, earning league MVP honors and leading the league in runs, hits, doubles, HR’s, and total bases. In 2010 he got off to a slow start for the Loons, but he really turned things around in the 2nd half of the season which is when he smacked 14 of his 16 homers, recorded a 1.043 OPS, and hit .375. The Dodgers promoted BCG up to AA in 2011, and he again got off to a slow start with just 4 homers through the month of June. He finished with a flurry, however, and connected on 7 bombs over his final 30 games while posting a .969 OPS. His stolen base numbers were way down from last year proving that he was simply taking advantage of the younger competition in the Midwest League, and he continued to walk at an extremely low rate. Brian also lost some value because he moved from the outfield to 1st base during the season, although scouts don’t really see a true defensive home for him anywhere. After the season Cavazos-Galvez was scheduled to participate in the instruction leagues, but he ended up playing in the AFL because Alex Castellanos suffered an oblique injury and needed to be replaced. In 2012 BCG will probably return to AA, but if he ends up making it to Albuquerque it will be a big deal because that is where he grew up and went to college. When he eventually does make it to AAA, that will probably be the highlight of his professional career because I just don’t see him making it to the big leagues given his lack of defensive abilities and relatively mediocre offensive abilities.
Why #42: I’ve never been a big fan of BCG, and while he has a good bat I just don’t think he can be a big league player given his lack of defensive position. Given that he’s already had a decent amount of success at AA, however, he’s closer to the big leagues then a lot of other players and could eventually get a chance in Los Angeles.
41. Ryan Tucker, RHP (68.1 IP in AAA, 5 IP in Majors in 2011)
Signed as a minor league free agent in Dec 2011
6’1”, 200 lbs, 25.25 years old
3-5, 5.40 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 3.77 FIP, 8.43 K/9 (minor league stats only)
Pre 2011 Rank: N/A; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A
I’ve been following Ryan Tucker’s career for a long time because he played his high school ball at Temple City High School, which is in the same league as my alma mater San Marino. I just missed playing against Tucker when I was in high school, but my younger brother actually faced him several times and said he was a very tough pitcher. Ryan ended up getting drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 draft by the Marlins, and ranked as Florida’s #3 prospect prior to the 2008 season (according to Baseball America). In fact, as recently as 2010 Tucker was ranked as the Marlins #6 prospect, but after a rough 2010 season he was actually placed on waivers by Florida and was picked up by Texas for 2011. Tucker spent most of 2011 with the Texas’ AAA affiliate in Round Rock, and even though he had another subpar season he did throw 5 innings for the Rangers this past season. Ryan was a free agent when the season ended, however, and signed with the Dodgers as a 2012 spring training invitee. He barely qualifies for this list because he has 42 innings of big league experience, although his major league ERA is an ugly 8.14. In terms of his stuff, Tucker was able to hit 97 mph with this fastball in the past and has a late breaking slider. He was working on a curveball and a cutter back in 2010, but I’m not sure if those pitches are still in his repertoire. It seems unlikely that Tucker will start the year with the Dodgers in 2012, but I do think he’ll make his way to the Los Angeles at some point next season. He’s still just 25 years old and has a very strong fastball, so given that the bullpen rarely stays healthy for an entire season I think he’ll eventually play for the Dodgers. Hopefully he is able to impress for his hometown fans.
Why #41: Once a top prospect, I’ve been surprised at Tucker’s minor league struggles over the past few seasons. He had attitude issues when he was younger, but hopefully he’s outgrown that now that he’s matured. He still processes a strong fastball and has good secondary stuff and I really think he can help the Dodgers bullpen at some point in 2012.