I wasn't able to do a proper "preview" of the Arizona Dodgers because their roster wasn't released until the day of their first game, but even though they've played four games already I still wanted to do a write-up of the team. The Arizona League consists of 13 teams that play their games at the spring training complexes of their parent club. It's a 56 game schedule, with almost all games being played at night due to the extreme heat of Arizona. Last year's team actually won the Arizona League championship, but it really didn't have many prospects and probably had one of the oldest teams in the league. This year's club looks like it has way more young talent.
The Arizona Dodgers coaching staff will be less star studded in 2012 as last year's manager, Jody Reed, is now the Dodgers Infield Coordinator. Matt Martin, who actually had been the Infield Coordinator for the last few years, will step in and take on the manager role for the first time. Matt Herges has also moved on to the Quakes, so the Dodgers pitching coach will be Kremlin Martinez, who spent the 2011 season with the Loons. Former Reds outfield Leo Garcia will reprise his role as the hitting coach. These 3 coaches will be leading a young team that features several 2012 draft picks, quite a few players promoted from the DSL, and some other guys who are returning to the rookie league. Similar to what I described in my Ogden Raptor preview, while the roster is currently set, players will be added to this team throughout at the year as more 2012 draft picks sign.
Again I'm not going to list out the entire roster, but instead will highlight many 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. Those without a number were not ranked as they are new to the system in 2012.
Before I preview the pitchers on this team, it has come to my attention that Scott Barlow, the Dodgers 6th round pick in 2011, recently had Tommy John surgery. He had shown a lot of promise during the Arizona Instructs and I had ranked him as the Dodgers 28th best prospect this off-season, so it's a bit of a blow. Hopefully he can return to full health in 2013.
Getting to current roster, one of the more interesting things about this club is that the first 4 starts for Dodgers all went to players who spent last year in the Dominican Summer League. The organization will typically promote a few players from the DSL each year, but to have 4 of the team's 5 starting pitchers all promoted in the same year is very rare. Anyways, lefty Miguel Sulbaran (ranked #87) got the first start of the year, and after putting up outstanding numbers in 2011 he already started off 2012 with 5 strong innings. Listed at just 5'10", Miguel is still just barely 18 years old so hopefully there's room for him to grow. As of last season he was already hitting 89 mph with a solid curve and slider. Jonathan Martinez (#95) was even better than Sulbaran last year in the DSL, and in his first start of the season he one upped him again with 5 shutout frames. I don't really know a whole lot about Martinez other than he was born in Venezuela and turns 18 years old later this week. Victor Araujo (#172) started the third game of the season and got his around a bit, but last year in the DSL he was pretty dominate. One reason I ranked him so low last year was because his player page on milb.com lists him at 22 and a half years old, but in the Dodgers media guide he is listed at 19. So if he really is just 19 then he has a lot more value as a prospect. Jackson Mateo (#90) got start #4 for the Dodgers and he is another guy that put up great numbers in the DSL. He's another guy who's age is a little bit of a mystery (he's either 19 or 20 depending on which source you go off of), and while he doesn't strike out a ton of batters he has a career ERA of under 1.50. Of the remaining players on the roster, I expect 2012 9th round pick Zachary Bird to get some starts for the Dodgers. Bird is a lanky, yet raw right hander that shows promise as he can touch 92 mph, has a curve, and is working on a changeup. He is still just 17 years old, however, so I'm sure his outings will be abbreviated to say the least.
There are a ton of arms that will be coming out of the Dodgers bullpen, so I'm just going to highlight a few of the more interesting players. Japanese signee Kazuya Takano (#94) was used both as a starter and reliever for the Arizona Dodgers in 2011, and so far this year he was already used out of the bullpen. He had some pros and cons last year as he had a solid strikeout to walk ratio, but also gave up way too many home runs. Hopefully he does well this year. Francisco Villa (#127) is another player returning from 2011 who will be looking to improve his stats. Villa got crushed a year ago, although he did hold a solid K rate all season. The Mexico native has already had one good outing and one bad outing this year. Outside of Bird who was mentioned above, only two other pitchers from the 2012 draft are on this roster, with one of them being Jordan Hershiser (34th round). The son of Oral is almost 24 so he's obviously old for the league, but at the same time he didn't get a whole lot of innings under his belt in college because he was injured quite a bit. Lindsey Caughel was the Dodgers 23rd round pick this year out of Stetson. I don't know a whole lot about him but he has a solid frame at 6'3" and 190 lbs. The rest of the bullpen is made up of former DSL players and non drafted free agent signees, but the one other guy worth mentioning is Ricky Perez because he seems to have emerged as the team's closer early in the season. I don't know anything about him other that he is a 22 year from the Dominican Republic, yet this is his first baseball experience. Maybe he followed a similar path as Angel Sanchez, meaning he went to college in the Dominican and then signed afterwards. Either way he already has 2 saves and 5 K's in 2.1 innings, although he does only stand at 5'11".
Follow the jump for the rest of the preview
The outfield lineup will become more clear once a couple of older players end their rehab assignments, but from what I can tell it will be 2012 6th rounder Joey Curletta who will get the majority of the starts in right field. Tagged by some as a future 1st baseman given his side, the Dodgers will give him every chance to stay in the outfield especially since he has a rocket for an arm. I'm not exactly sure who the center fielder will be, but my guess is that Gregory Pena (#114) will see some time there after proving he can play the position last year. Fresh off a solid season in the Dominican Summer League, it will be interesting to see how the switch hitting Pena handles his first US based league. 2012 7th rounder Theo Alexander will probably play all over the outfield, and the same will probably hold true for Jacob Scavuzzo, the Dodgers 21st round pick this year. Both guys are very young so I'm sure they'll be handled with care. Finally Paul Hoenecke is listed as a 3rd baseman, but so far he's spent most of his time in left field. The 2012 24th rounder is off to a hot start so the Dodgers will probably want to keep his bat in the lineup for now.
Shortstop is probably the only infield position that will see consistent playing time from a single player as 2012 supplemental 1st rounder Jesmuel Valentin should get the majority of the starts there. The son of Jose is just 18 years old, but he has great baseball knowledge and should have no problem adjusting to pro ball. That being said Valentin is a natural right hander who just started switching hitting recently, so I wouldn't be surprised if he struggled from the left side of the plate. 3rd base will most likely be handled by Bladimir Franco (#115), who is now in his third season in the Arizona League. Still just 21, Franco struggled mightily over the past two seasons so he is going to have to turn it around or risk being released. I imagine that 2012 10th rounder Zach Babitt will get the majority of the starts at 2nd base, and at the plate he'll need to use his speed to his advantage as doesn't appear to be a power threat at 5'7". Several players will see time at 1st base, but I'm guessing that 2012 4th round pick Justin Chigbogu will get the majority of the starts. The big lefty is quite raw and is still just 17, but he has a ton of power and has already hit a home run. John Sgromolo has also already taken one deep this season, and the 2012 37th rounder is one of the other guys who will play 1st. DSL graduates Faustino Oguisten (#153) and Leo Rodriguez (#161), on the other hand, will likely play all over the infield besides 1st base.
The Dodgers have 4 catchers on their roster, but the one with the most upside is probably Tyler Ogle (#91). Ogle signed late last season so only played 6 games in Arizona, so the 21 year old will look to impress in his first real season. He's already hit 2 homers this season, and in his pre-draft report from last year Baseball America said Ogle "makes consistent hard contact and has solid power from the right side of the plate, and he controls the strike zone well. He's a decent defender with fringy arm strength." Webster Rivas (#169) made the jump from the DSL and will be fighting for playing time, while 2012 college senior draftees John Cannon (29th round) and Austin Cowen (35th round) round out the catchers on this team. As for the DH spot, I don't really think anyone will see consistent time there. Instead, the DH will be rotated among all the extra position players on the roster.