The Ogden Raptors being their 10th season as a Dodger affiliate season on Monday, making them the longest tenured minor league club for LA. Playing in the hitter friendly Pioneer League, the Raptors are usually an offensive heavy club. Over the past few years several big hitters have come through Ogden, including Jerry Sands, Angelo Songco, and Blake Smith in 2009, Jake Lemmerman and Jonathan Garcia in 2010, and O'Koyea Dickson, James Baldwin, and Joc Pederson in 2011.
The 2012 team will again be led by manager Damon Berryhill, who has guided the club to an impressive 127 and 100 record over the past three seasons at the helm. Bill Simas return for his second year as the team's pitching coach, while the ever popular Johnny Washington will also be in Ogden again, although this time he'll simply be a coach rather than the hitting coach. The hitting coach job has gone to 12 year big league veteran and former Dodger Doug Mienkiewicz who will be making his coaching debut. Unlike the minor league previews I did earlier in the year, I will not be guessing the team's roster because it has already been announced. That being said, I'm sure there will be a lot of additions and turnover on this team since there are a lot of 2012 draftees who have yet to sign.
While I'm not going to list out the entire roster, I will highlight several of the names that will be appearing at each position. Also, the number in parenthesis after each name indicates where I ranked that player heading into this season.
The opening day starter for the Raptors is expected to be Derek Cone (ranked #35), who will be joining Ogden for the 3rd straight season. Cone appeared in one game for the Quakes earlier this season and I actually expected the 22 year old to spend all of 2012 in a full season league but it looks like the Dodgers have other plans. Cone had an ERA over 5 last season for the Raptors but also struck out more than 10.5 batters per 9 innings so he has good stuff. I like his frame and projection which is why I ranked him so high this past off-season. Matt Laney (#140) is penciled in as the #2 starter after spending the first part of the season with the Loons. The 23 year old free agent signee dominated younger competition in the Arizona Rookie League in 2011, but struggled a bit in Great Lakes. Carlos Frias (#71) will get another chance to start after being used sparingly as a reliever with the Quakes last season. Frias actually played in Ogden way back in 2009, then also spent the entire 2010 season with the Raptors. He's a guy whose velocity has fluctuated over the years, but when at his best he can get his fastball up to the mid 90's. Carlos De Aza (#124) has started just 2 games in his 5 year minor league career and struggled in the Ogden bullpen last season, but for now it looks like he'll join the rotation. Despite his extensive experience he is still just 22 years old so hopefully he can put it together in 2012. Jake Hermsen, the Dodgers 2012 28th round pick out of Northern Illinois, looks like he'll be the #5 starter. The lefty didn't have much success during his senior season, but he's a lefty and the Dodgers must have seen something they liked out of him.
First off, please be aware that some of the players I have listed in the bullpen could end up in the rotation. The five starters I have listed above are tentative, and things could change. That being said, based on the current roster the Raptors would have 9 members of their bullpen, so there will definitely be some fluctuation with the roster at the beginning of the season. Based on my rankings from this past offseason, the highest rated player in the Raptor bullpen would be Kazuki Nishijima (#97) who spent all of last year in the Pioneer League, but was a little unlucky and posted a 5.51 ERA vs. a 3.60 FIP. The lefty is a sinkerball type pitcher who should have a better year in 2012. Craig Stem (#113) would be my next best ranked player and at 6'5" has a lot of projection. The 2011 15th round pick had a 2.39 FIP in the Arizona League last season, but struggled in a brief appearance with the Quakes this year. Jason West (#148) was the only only bullpen arm I had ranked in my top 150, and he actually spent a good part of 2012 already with the Loons. Don't let his 2.22 ERA in the Midwest League fool you, though, as he walked more batters than he struck out and had a FIP of 4.44. I'm going to skip over a few of the relievers, but I did want to highlight the current bullpen features 3 members from the 2012 draft. 15th rounder Duke von Schamann was a recent addition to the team as he just signed, and it's yet to be seen if his sinker ball will be used in the rotation or in relief. 19th rounder Owen Jones seems like he'd be better suited as a starter, but a heavy college workload is probably what is forcing him to the pen. Finally Daniel Coulombe, the Dodgers 25th round pick this year, could turn out to be a valuable left hander out of the bullpen for Ogden as he excelled for Texas Tech this past year.
Follow the jump for the rest of the preview
Compared to last year, it looks like the Raptor outfield will be significantly weaker in terms of overall talent and prospect status. Last year Joc Pederson, James Baldwin, and Scott Schebler, all top 30 Dodger prospects in my opinion, roamed the outfield grass for Ogden. Based on the current roster Malcolm Holland (#96) would be the highest rank player in the group, and he doesn't even have outfield experience. Holland, a 2nd baseman last year, is a quick player who has a lot of speed and will probably play some center field. His bat is still very raw, though, so it will be interesting to see if the 20 year hits enough to stay in the lineup. Devin Shines (#141) started the year in Great Lakes but struggled, went on the DL, and now has been sent back to Ogden. He can play all over the outfield but again has a bit of a questionable bat. Devon Ethier (#152) is the 3rd outfielder listed on the roster and I'm surprised that he's even still in the system after the horrendous numbers he put up last year. He hit .119 in the Arizona Rookie League so hopefully he can show some improvement. Pat Stover, the Dodgers last pick in the 2012 draft, is the final outfielder but I really don't know much about him. He had a decent season playing college ball at Santa Clara University and has good size at 6'4", but I don't know what to expect from him.
When compared to the outfield, the Ogden infield should be relatively exciting in 2012 as it features some of the team's top talent. At this point 18 year old 3rd baseman Alex Santana (#21) has to be considered the team's top prospect as he has the most potential, although he is also very raw. Santana was a reach when the Dodgers selected him in the 2nd round in 2011, but he still has a lot of talent and will look to prove himself in the hitter friendly Pioneer League. Jesus Valdez (#56) is also listed as 3rd baseman, but he played a lot of 1st base last season and will probably return to the right side of the infield. He showed some power last year and is still just 20 years old without a lot of hitting experience (he was also a pitcher in college) so he is a bit of a wildcard. The middle infield should be some sort of a combination of Justin Boudreaux (#60) and 2012 13th round pick Darnell Sweeney. Boudreaux started 2012 with the Loons but struggled mightily, so he'll return to Ogden where he had some success in 2011 as a shortstop. Sweeney is a solid defender but not much of a hitter, so he'll probably go back and forth between 2nd and shortstop and hit in the bottom part of the order.
2012 18th round pick Eric Smith will probably get at least half of the starts behind the plate because he's relatively new to the position and needs the reps. The 21 year old hit for a solid average while at Stanford and could turn out to be a solid middle round pick. Jose Capellan (#146) should get the other half of the starts at the beginning of the season, although he could lose playing time later in the year once other catchers are added to the roster. I haven't seen enough of the 21 year old Capellan to know if he's simply an organizational player or if he can turn into somewhat of a prospect. For the DH spot, I have Korean native Tae-Hyeok Nam (#104) penciled in. The 21 year old has been in the Dodgers organization since 2009, but has yet to do much at the plate. This will technically be his fouth season of Rookie ball so he really needs to put it together now.
Other 2012 draftees who might join the Raptors:
There are quite a few 2012 draftees who have signed yet aren't on a roster yet, so this team could be significantly different in a few weeks. I'm not going to spent time talking about the later round picks, but in terms of players selected in the first 15 rounds, I think several of the college draftees will join Ogden like 5th rounder Ross Stripling (RHP), 10th rounder Zach Babbit (2nd base), 11tth rounder Jeremy Rathjen (OF), and 14th rounder Matthew Reckling (RHP). Of the players who haven't signed yet, UCLA closer Scott Griggs (8th round) is almost a lock to join Ogden, and 2nd rounder Paco Rodriguez (LHP) could join the team as well, although my hunch is that he'll go straight to a full season league. The Dodgers top 2 picks, Corey Seager and Jesmuel Valentin, will probably start out in Arizona and then may join the Raptors towards the end of the year.