Dodgers 2012 Minor League Preview - Albuquerque Isotopes

Isotopes

With the minor league season starting later this week, I’m finishing up my mini-series that previews each of the Dodgers minor league full season teams. Since official rosters won’t be out until later today (or maybe tomorrow), 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 previous parts of the series looked at the Great Lakes Loons, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, and the Chattanooga Lookouts.

The final part of my series takes a look at the Dodger minor team that historically displays the most offensive firepower; the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Isotopes play in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, and their home field in Albuquerque is especially hospitable to batters. In 2011 Albuquerque led the league in several offensive categories, however their pitching staff struggled and the Isotopes missed the playoffs.

Similar to Chattanooga, the Albuquerque coaching staff remains completely intact from 2011. The team will be managed by Lorenzo Bundy, who was also the manager of 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 after the 2010 season.

The Isotopes roster is probably the most difficult to project because there are quite a few non roster invitees that could muddle my predictions. That being said, things have cleared up over the past few days thanks to players being released and others being reassigned to minor league camp. Even still, you'll notice my prediction below doesn't include guys like Luis Cruz or Josh Fields because I'm just not sure where they'll end up. Overall, 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 Bats
Michael Antonini Trade with Mets 51 26.65 6' 2" 200 L
Stephen Fife Trade w/Red Sox 53 25.49 6' 3" 210 R
William Savage Signed 2/2/10 84 27.60 6' 4" 215 R
Carlos Monasterios Rule 5 draft N/A 26.03 6' 1" 205 R
John Ely Trade w/White Sox N/A 25.89 6' 2" 200 R

The Isotopes' rotation looks to be a bit weak as my prediction features a couple of marginal prospects and a few minor league veterans. John Ely is a AAA expert, so I expect him to get the ball on opening day despite an ERA of almost 6.00 in 2011. The soon to be 26 year old was a victim of his environment last season so he'll try to adjust to the hitter friendly league in 2012. The next three members of my Isotopes rotation all started for the Lookouts in 2011, and Michael Antonini was probably the best of the bunch as he posted a 4.01 ERA in the Southern League and boasts and impressive changeup. Ned Colletti mentioned that Antonini could be a left handed bullpen option for the Dodgers in 2012, but for now it appears that he'll stay in the rotation. Stephen Fife was acquired from the Red Sox in the Trayvon Robinson trade, and while he's not a big time prospect he was added to the Dodgers 40 man roster this off-season and will most likely be in the Isotopes rotation. Fife won 14 games in 2011 against just 4 losses, and while his strikeout rate is a bit low I can see him being a serviceable pitcher for Albuquerque. After a solid season in 2011, Will Savage was invited to the Dodgers big league spring training but was cut quite quickly. I believe the 27 year old will be included in the Isotopes rotation, although I don't think the right hander will ever make it to Los Angeles. Finally, Carlos Monasterios has been a forgotten name thanks to his injury in 2011, but he seems to be healthy now so I foresee him as the Isotopes #5 starter. While he's no longer on the Dodgers 40 man roster, I believe the Dodgers are still interested in his performance given that they kept him on their major league roster for the entire 2010 season.

Bullpen:

Name How Acquried My Rank Age Height Weight Bats
Ryan Tucker Signed 12/12/2011 41 25.32 6' 1" 200 R
Shane Lindsay Signed 12/9/2011 36 27.18 6' 1" 205 R
Ramon Troncoso Signed 6/20/02 N/A 29.12 6' 1" 210 R
Angel Guzman Signed 12/9/2011 N/A 30.30 6' 3" 200 R
Wil Ledezma Signed 12/7/2011 N/A 31.19 6' 4" 225 L
Fernando Nieve Signed 12/12/2011 N/A 29.71 6' 0" 220 R
Scott Rice Signed May 2011 N/A 30.53 6' 6" 220 L
Brent Leach 2005, 6th N/A 29.37 6' 5" 215 L
Blake Johnson 2004, 2nd N/A 26.80 6' 5" 200 R
Josh Wall 2005, 2nd 29 25.19 6' 6" 220 R

Assuming that Josh Lindblom starts the season in Los Angeles, I tentatively have Josh Wall in the closer role even though that spot will probably be up in the air at this point. Wall had a breakout season in 2011 after being moved to the bullpen, and his fastball reportedly touched triple digits. I don't think he really has what it takes to be a closer in the big leagues, but hopefully he can handle the job in AAA. Ryan Tucker and Shane Lindsay are both hard throwing right handers who signed minor league deals with the Dodgers this past off-season, and I think the two of them will serve as the main setup men for the Isotopes. They both have already made it to the big leagues and are still pretty young, so I could see one or both of them eventually making it to LA during the 2012 season. Ramon Troncoso is a veteran of AAA, and since he cleared waivers he'll return to the Pacific Coast League for a 4th season. I would expect more of the same out of him, so his ERA will probably be around 5. Brent Leach returns to the organization after a year in Japan, and will be one of the lefties in the Isotopes' bullpen. Now 29 years old, Leach will serve an insurance policy if nothing else. Wil Ledezma and Scott Rice will be the other southpaw relievers for Albuquerque, that is if Rice doesn't start the season in LA. Both guys are up right near the top of the lefty reliever depth chart for the Dodgers so their seasons will be watched closely by the organization. I have Angel Guzman and Fernando Nieve as two more bullpen arms, and I foresee Nieve in the long reliever role. Finally, Blake Johnson was originally selected by the Dodgers in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft, but was traded to the Royals in 2006. He rejoined the Dodgers after they signed him in their tryout this Spring, and I have him filling the last spot in the bullpen.

Outfield:

Name How Acquried My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
Jerry Sands 2008, 25th N/A 9/28/1987 24.51 6' 4" 220 R
Matt Angle Waivers N/A 9/10/1985 26.56 5' 10" 175 L
Alex Castellanos Trade w/Cardinals 24 8/4/1986 25.66 5' 11" 180 R

The center of the Isotopes outfield will almost certainly be anchored by the recently acquired Matt Angle. The speedy 26 year old has played all but 12 of his career minor league games in center field, and he has a .993 fielding percentage at the position. He'll serve as an insurance policy for the big league club given Alfredo Silverio's recent injury. Jerry Sands will definitely spend some of his time at 1st base, but I foresee him playing mostly in right field while with the Isotopes. Sands launched 29 bombs with in AAA last season (although most of his damage came at home), and I expect more of the same from Jerry while he's with the Isotopes in 2012. As has been predicted by many, I too expect Sands to be back in a Dodger uniform by May. I have the final outfield spot going to Alex Castellanos, although he is another guy who will also see some time in the Albuquerque infield (at 2nd base). Acquired in the trade for Furcal, Castle has proven to be a valuable commodity as he's done nothing but hit since joining the Dodgers. The 25 year old doesn't have age or size on his side, but if he tears up the PCL then he should be in a Dodgers' uniform sooner rather than later.

Infield:

Name How Acquried My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
Scott Van Slyke 2005, 14th 25 7/24/1986 25.69 6' 5" 220 R
Russell Mitchell 2003, 15th 50 2/15/1985 27.12 5' 10" 210 R
Ivan De Jesus 2005, 2nd 31 5/1/1987 24.92 5' 11" 200 R
Justin Sellers Trade w/Cubs 34 2/1/1986 26.16 5' 10" 160 R

Scott Van Slyke may play some outfield for the Isotopes, but I believe his main position will be 1st base given his size and lack of mobility. Scott showed significant improvement in 2011 as he won the Southern League batting title and posted an OPS of 1.022, and now that he's on the 40 man roster he's that much closer to making it to the big leagues. He shouldn't have any trouble hitting in Albuquerque and should reach Los Angeles by September. Russ Mitchell will most likely reprise his role as the team's 3rd baseman despite being removed from the Dodgers 40 man roster this off-season. Mitchell has put up good numbers in AAA, but that simply hasn't translated into success at the big league level as his batting average in the MLB is a paltry .151. At the end of the day he'll serve as an insurance polity for the Dodgers at a position where the team is admittedly thin. Even though he has an oblique injury, I expect Ivan De Jesus to make the opening day roster which would mean that he'll be starting in AAA for the 3rd straight season. Last year De Jesus put together a solid campaign, including a good finish to the season, and like many others on the team he'll be waiting to make the trip to LA given that he's on the 40 man roster. Finally, Justin Sellers may start the season in Los Angeles, but if he doesn't he'll be the Isotopes everyday shortstop. We all saw Sellers quite a bit last season so we all know what to expect of him, although his home run numbers do jump when playing in AAA thanks to the hitter friendly environment of the PCL.

Catcher/DH:

Name How Acquried My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
Tim Federowicz Trade w/Red Sox 13 8/5/1987 24.66 5' 11" 200 R
Kyle Russell 2008, 3rd 20 6/27/1986 25.76 6' 5" 195 L

We all know that Tim Federowicz will be the everyday catcher for the Isotopes, and his stay in Albuquerque will really depend upon the performance of AJ Ellis at the big league level. The defensive minded backstop showed off some offensive skills in his short stint with the Isotopes last season, and if he continues to tear the cover off the ball it will be difficult to keep him in AAA for long. I have Kyle Russell penciled in as the DH of this team, even though I'm sure he'll get plenty of outfield starts. The powerful lefty should put up big numbers in the hitter friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League, although I will venture to guess that he'll continue to strike out at an alarming rate. If he has a big season in Albuquerque, I could see him eventually making it onto a big league club as a left handed bat off the bench.

Bench:

Name How Acquried My Rank DOB Age Height Weight Bats
Tyler Henson Trade w/Orioles 77 12/15/1987 24.30 6' 1" 205 R
Elian Herrera Signed 5/14/03 117 2/1/1985 27.16 5' 11" 190 S
Lance Zawadzki Signed Dec 2011 118 5/26/1985 26.85 5' 11" 195 R
Joseph Becker Signed 1/11/07 150 11/8/1985 26.40 5' 10" 184 R
Trent Oeltjen Signed July 2010 Old 2/28/1983 29.09 6' 1" 190 L
Salomon Manriquez Signed 11/4/2011 Old 9/15/1982 29.54 6' 1" 200 R

The Isotopes bench looks like it will be a relatively boring group of guys. Trent Oeltjen is the most interesting name of the bunch, and in all actuality he will probably won't really be a bench player because I'm sure he'll see plenty of time in the outfield and as the team's DH. Tyler Henson, acquired in the Dava Eveland trade, is another guy who should see plenty of playing time both in the outfield and maybe even at 3rd base. Henson didn't have a whole lot of success in AAA last season, and I really don't see him as much of a prospect. Lance Zawadzki has big league experience and is the perfect player to have in AAA as middle infield insurance. Joe Becker will likely reprise his role as another infield utility man for the Topes after posting surprisingly good stats last year. That being said, his splits were quite amazing as he hit .432 at home and .202 on the road in 2011. Elian Herrera is a super utility man as he can play all over the field, which his biggest asset being his speed. Finally every team needs a backup catcher, but because Josh Bard was released there aren't many options for the Isotopes. That leaves me with Salomon Manriquez, a 29 year old minor league veteran who will probably only play once a week.

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