Dodgers 2012 Minor League Preview - Chattanooga Lookouts

Lookouts

With the minor league season right around the corner, I’m in the middle of 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. Here was my prediction for the Great Lakes Loons, and here is what I wrote about the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

The third part of my series will preview the team considered by management to be the safe haven for pitching prospects; the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts are coming off a solid 2011 season which saw them make the playoffs thanks to a solid combination of offense and pitching. Unfortunately they are a tough team to follow on a day to day basis as they are rarely on MILB.TV, have a relatively poor radio broadcast team, and are located more than 2,000 miles from Los Angeles.

The 2012 Chattanooga coaching staff remains 100% intact from 2011. Manager Carlos Subero will head the Lookouts for the 3rd straight season, and he'll be joined by hitting coach Frankin Stubbs and pitching coach Chuck Crim. Crim in particular had a season to remember in 2011 as four of his pitchers made their major league debuts, and he'll be looking to promote even more of his players in 2012.

The Lookouts' roster should be one of the easier team's to predict, although non roster invitees and the various minor leaguers signed over the past few months could complicate matters. I'm also not 100% sure where some of the top pitching prospects will end up, especially since the Dodgers try and shield their best young hurlers from AAA. That being said, I did spend considerable time piecing together each of the minor league 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 30 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.

Starting Pitchers:

Name How Acquried My Rank Age Height Weight Throws
Nathan Eovaldi 2008, 11th 6 22.12 6' 3" 195 R
Allen Webster 2008, 18th 2 22.13 6' 3" 185 R
Chris Withrow 2007, 1st 3 22.99 6' 3" 195 R
Aaron Miller 2009, 1st 14 24.53 6' 3" 200 L
Matthew Magill 2008, 31st 45 22.38 6' 3" 190 R

As I mentioned above, the Dodgers typically try to avoid sending their top young pitchers to Albuquerque. For that reason I have Nathan Eovaldi as the Lookouts #1 starter because there doesn't appear to be room for him in Los Angeles to start the season, so at the very least it seems that he'll be in Chattanooga for their opening day. The Dodgers will probably keep him on schedule for a possible April 14th start in LA in case Ted Lilly doesn't fully recover from his neck injury, but if things go according to plan then Eovaldi could be in AA for most of the season. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that Allen Webster will spend 2012 with the Lookouts as he is another one of the Dodgers top prospects. Webster logged 91 innings while in AA last year, but the long season caught up to him as he struggled down the stretch. He'll look for a fresh start in 2012, and with four legitimate pitches (including an outstanding changeup) he is probably the early front runner for the Dodgers 2012 minor league pitcher of the year. Compared to the first two pitchers I mentioned, Chris Withrow is a grizzled veteran of AA since he's already spent 2 full years and part of another in season the Southern League. He showed solid improvement in 2011, and might just have the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the organization. Now on the 40 man roster, Withrow could see Los Angeles by the end of the season if he continues to develop. Aaron Miller had a lost season in 2011 thanks to a groin injury and a sports hernia, and to be honest I'm not even sure if he'll be ready at the start of the season. Assuming he is healthy for opening day, Miller should join the Lookouts rotation given his age and experience. The southpaw actually made it up to AA back in 2010, but he struggled to the tune of a 7.04 ERA and he just hasn't been healthy enough to make it back. Hopefully the 2009 supplemental 1st round pick can get his career back on track in 2012. I have the final spot in the rotation going to Matt Magill, although as you'll see below there are plenty of other starting pitcher candidates who can fill the role that I currently have delegated to the bullpen. After a stellar season for the Loons in 2010, Magill found the California League to be a bit tougher as his ERA increased by a full run. But even still the 22 year old held his own with the Quakes and should be in line for a promotion despite his youth. He doesn't throw with a lot of velocity, and in AA we'll finally get to see if his secondary stuff gets exposed by the more advanced hitters.

See the rest of the predictions after the jump

Bullpen:

Name How Acquried My Rank Age Height Weight Throws
Shawn Tolleson 2010, 30th 17 24.19 6' 2" 215 R
Steve Ames 2009, 17th 38 24.04 6' 1" 205 R
Javier Solano Signed 1/18/08 44 22.00 6' 0" 177 R
Logan Bawcom 2010, 17th 57 23.40 6' 2" 200 R
Luis Vasquez Signed 10/20/03 65 25.99 6' 4" 175 R
Cole St. Clair 2008, 7th 46 25.66 6' 5" 225 L
Andres, Santiago 2007, 16th 89 22.42 6' 2" 200 R
Red Patterson 2010, 29th 64 24.88 6' 3" 210 R
Jon Michael Redding 2008, 5th 48 24.37 6' 1" 195 R
Ethan Martin 2008, 1st 8 22.81 6' 2" 195 R

My gut instinct tells me that Shawn Tolleson will return to AA to start the 2012 season as the Lookouts' closer. The 2011 minor league pitcher of the year dominated at three different levels last season, and with another few months of seasoning in AA he should be ready to step into the Dodgers bullpen by the All Star break, if not sooner. Backing up Tolleson will be 5 short relievers who all have experience pitching in the late innings, starting with Steve Ames. Ames has remarkable control and for his career he as a K/9 of 13.5 while walking almost nobody. He doesn't have great pure stuff, however, and in each of the past two years he's been lit up in the AFL. Hopefully the 24 year old continues to have success in the Southern League like he did in 2011. I originally had Cole St. Clair penciled into the AAA bullpen, but there just doesn't seem to be room for him in Albuquerque so for now I have him returning to the Lookouts. St. Clair is another location guy that doesn't throw all that hard, but it seemed to work for him in 2011 as he posted a 2.58 FIP over 50 frames. In an organization short of lefty bullpen prospects, Cole has a lot to gain if he can put together another good campaign in 2012. Javy Solano has spent parts of the last two years in AA, and he'll almost certainly return to Chattanooga to start the 2012 season. Still just 22 years old, Solano has posted solid numbers while with the Lookouts and will look to do the same this season. Logan Bawcom began the 2011 season in middle relief for the Loons, but by the end of the year he was closing for the Quakes. He'll look to continue his ascent in 2012 against the advance competition of the Southern League. Bawcom throws a fastball that can reach 95 mph, has a changeup, and uses a slider as his out pitch. The last short reliever I have for the Lookouts is Luis Vasquez, who is a bit of a wildcard because he throws so hard, but is also very wild and injury prone. If healthy, he'll be an interesting arm to follow in 2012. That brings us to Ethan Martin, who I am slotting in as the swing man for this club. He might begin the season in the rotation because the Dodgers have said they want him to return to a starting role, but I don't have room for him there in my prediction so I'm putting him as the long reliever for now. Some have already written off the 2009 1st round pick, but I'm on the other end of the spectrum because I still believe he will be a useful big leaguer at some point in the next few years thanks to his outstanding pure stuff. The final 3 members of the Lookouts bullpen are not really relievers at all, but I simply don't think there is room for them in any of the rotations to start the 2012 season. Jon Michael Redding, Red Patterson, and Andres Santiago were all members of the Quakes rotation last season and had varying degrees of success, and any of these three guys could easily step into the Chattanooga rotation if required. Redding is the highest rated prospect of the bunch and has the best pure stuff, although Patterson also turned a lot of heads last season and flashes a mid 90's fastball. Santiago is the youngest of the bunch and probably isn't quite ready for AA, but I have him here anyways.

Outfield:

Name How Acquried My Rank Age Height Weight Bats
Blake Smith 2009, 2nd 15 24.30 6' 2" 225 L
Nick Buss 2008, 8th 74 25.29 6' 2" 195 L
Brian Cavazos-Galvez 2009, 12th 42 24.87 6' 0" 215 R

The Lookouts outfield appears to be pretty well set, starting with center fielder Nick Buss. The USC alum struggled through a couple of mediocre years, but he had a breakout season for the Quakes in 2011 and is now back on the Dodgers prospect radar. Buss hit .328 last season and showed a solid combination of power and speed, so it will be interesting to see how that translates into the Southern League. Blake Smith was on pace to have a huge year in 2011, but a sports hernia injury limited him to just 80 games last season. Even still he smacked 20 homers and had a solid OPS of .948, and he'll look to build upon that in AA. Smith also has a cannon for an arm in right field which makes him an even more intriguing prospect. Brian Cavazos-Galvez appears to be more of a 1st baseman now a days, but I think he'll spend most of his time in left field this season because the Lookouts seems to have several other 1st base options and appear to be a little thin in the outfield. BCG had OK stats last season, but now that he's almost 25 years old he's going to have to really hit in his second go around in AA.

Infield:

Name How Acquried My Rank Age Height Weight Bats
Austin Gallagher 2007, 3rd 43 23.36 6' 5" 210 L
Anthony Delmonico 2008, 6th 52 24.92 6' 0" 194 R
Jake Lemmerman 2010, 5th 18 22.90 6' 1" 192 R
Jaime Pedroza 2007, 9th 76 25.54 5' 8" 167 S

My guess for the Chattanooga infield features a couple of familiar faces to Lookout fans, along with a pair of newcomers. The corner infielders are the ones who will be making their AA debut, starting with 1st baseman Austin Gallagher. After spending four seasons in class A, Gallagher should finally get a chance to play in the Southern League after his best season to date in 2011. Once Angelo Songco returns from his leg injury, however, Gallagher's playing time will probably diminish. Tony Delmonico made the transition to 3rd base last season, and will probably man the hot corner for Chattanooga in 2012. Tony has consistently shown strong on base skills and last year hit a career high 12 homers, so we'll see what he does against the advanced pitching of AA. The middle infielders are the ones returning to AA, and 2nd baseman Jaime Pedroza is definitely a Southern League veteran. The 25 year old will more than likely make his third consecutive opening day start at 2nd base for the Lookouts, and will look to rebound from a season that saw him get demoted to HiA at the end of the year. Pedroza isn't much of a prospect anymore, although if he has a big season he should still have a glimmer of hope to one day make the big leagues. Shortstop will be manned by Jake Lemmerman who spent the final month of last season in Chattanooga. The former Blue Devil struggled a bit in his first exposure to AA pitching, so he'll try and start over in 2012. Late Night doesn't have a very high ceiling as a prospect, but he's a consistent player who I could see one day being a decent big league middle infielder.

Catcher/DH:

Name How Acquried My Rank Age Height Weight Bats
Gorman Erickson 2006, 15th 22 24.05 6' 4" 220 S
Jeremy Wise 2009, 5th 63 25.82 6' 0" 210 R

Given that Griff Erickson only has 41 games of experience in AA (and combined with the fact that FedEx will be the everyday catcher at AAA), it seems safe to assume that Erickson will return to the Lookouts to be their everyday catcher. The big switch hitting backstop had a breakout season in 2011 as he posted a .866 OPS and also smacked 7 homers in just 142 at bats after getting promoted to the Southern League. He'll look to build upon that success in 2012 and will try to force the Dodgers' hand when it comes to their catching situation. The DH I have selected for the Lookouts is also a catcher, and teamed with Griff behind the plate in Rancho for the first half of 2011. J.T. Wise has pounded the ball in each of his first three professional seasons, and has a career OPS of almost .900. The main things working against him are his age (he's almost 26) and the fact that the Dodgers suddenly have solid catching depth in the upper minor leagues. Nevertheless Wise could make things interesting with another big season, and also has some versatility as he can play 1st base when needed.

Bench:

Name How Acquried My Rank Age Height Weight Bats
Pedro Baez Signed 1/22/07 47 24.05 6' 2" 195 R
Rafael Ynoa Signed 7/8/05 110 24.64 6' 0" 180 R
Matthew, Wallach 2007, 22nd 78 26.11 6' 1" 205 L
Travis Denker 2003, 21st 79 26.65 5' 9" 205 R
Anthony Jackson PTNL for Dotel 144 27.78 5' 8" 175 S
Charlie Mirabal Signed 3/1/07 158 24.99 5' 11" 180 R

I'm not all that excited about the Lookouts bench, with the exception of Pedro Baez. Baez actually has the skill set to be the starting 3rd baseman for Chattanooga and there is a good chance that he'll be in the opening day lineup, but given his injury history I'm putting him as a part time player for now. He's still just barely 24 years old and has a lot of raw power to go along with a very strong arm, but until he can play a full season he's going to be buried a bit on the depth chart. Matt Wallach will be the backup catcher and 1st baseman, splitting those duties with the aforementioned J.T. Wise. Wallach has a strong showing in a short AA stint in 2010, but struggled through the 2011 season and will need to rebound in 2012. Travis Denker and Anthony Jackson are two minor league veterans who could easily play in AAA, but after looking at the potential team in Albuquerque I think they fit better on the Lookouts' roster. Charlie Mirabal has jumped around a bit throughout the Dodgers minor league system and saw some time in AAA last year, but I think he'll serve as the backup middle infielder for the Lookouts for most of 2012. Finally, Rafael Ynoa failed to live up to expectations in 2011 after a big season for the Loons in 2010, but I still think might he make it up to AA as another utility player.

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