The Isotopes announced their roster on Wednesday and as strange as it sounds, their strongest part of their team might be their bullpen. While the lineup also has a good combination of speed and power, the Albuquerque relievers are all solid pitchers and should make the team tough to beat once they get a lead.
As everyone already knows Dee Gordon will be the Isotopes shortstop to start the 2013 season where he will continue to work on his game. The walks he took during spring training are a good sign, and now he just needs to put everything together to show he's big league ready. Elian Herrera will probably end up playing all over the field, but given this roster he'll probably spend most of his time at 2nd base. He'll try to prove that his success in 2012 was not a fluke. Scott Van Slyke could see some time at outfield but should be the club's main 1st baseman in 2013. He doesn't really have much to prove at AAA with the bat, but he hasn't proven he can hit big league pitching and there isn't a spot for him in LA anyways.
The rest of the infielders on the roster are Rusty Ryal, Brian Barden, and Osvaldo Martinez and the will probably split time at 3rd base and as utility players. In terms of catchers, Matt Wallach finally gets the call to AAA where he'll split playing time with Jesus Flores.
Albuquerque should have a pretty strong outfield in 2013, led by Alex Castellanos who is another guy who doesn't have much left to prove in AAA. It's yet to be seen if the Dodgers will continue to give him time in the infield which could make him more valuable to the big league club. Like Castellanos, Tony Gwynn Jr. will be waiting for an injury at the big league level because he believes he deserves to be there. While he isn't on the 40 man roster I still think there is a good chance we'll see him in LA at some point in 2013.
Matt Angle and Nick Buss are similar players and will likely take turns occupying the 3rd outfield spot for the Topes. Neither really has a whole lot of potential but they should be solid AAA players and are good insurance polities to have around. Finally Alfredo Amezaga will play all over the field as he also works his way back toward a major league job.
Isotopes Starting Pitching
The Isotopes rotation will feature a top young pitching prospect for the first time in a long time in Matt Magill. The 23 year old had a breakout season with the Lookouts last year and also had a very solid spring, but it will be interesting to see how he performs in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. The only other player in the rotation to qualify as a "prospect" is Stephen Fife who will likely be the first minor league starter to get called up should something happen to more than 3 of the 8 starting pitchers the Dodgers have.
Javy Guerra is the surprise name in the rotation, although he isn't making that transition to a starter. Instead the Dodgers just want to get him a few more innings, as Mattingly said "We're going to try to stretch himself out a little bit down there. In the sense he'll be a National League long man, a two- or three-innings guy. We feel that will allow him to work on his mix of pitches." The final two spots in the rotation will be filled out by minor league veterans Blake Johnson and Sean White.
The Isotopes bullpen looks like it will be stacked, with several guys who could be a candidate for the closer role. Shawn Tolleson will probably get first crack at it given his track record and success in the big leagues last year, although the club could also go with the incumbent Josh Wall who also got a taste of the big leagues in 2012. Then again Peter Moylan has the most big league experience so he could get the closer job as well.
The wildcard in the bullpen will be Chris Withrow who finally gets promoted to AAA. The hard throwing yet often injury Withrow has only been a reliever for a few months now, but I think it's a role that he can really thrive in. Steve Ames, Red Patterson, and Geison Aguasviva will also all be getting their first taste of AAA after very successful seasons with the Lookouts in 2012.