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Some Potential New Friends

With the September roster expansion looming, the Dodgers have an opportunity to add some players to the team who aren't yet on the 40 man roster. With 38 men on the 40-man roster right now, and two easily cleared spots filled by Eric Gagne and Tim Hamulack up to four extra players can be added to the Dodgers roster in September. Let's take a look at some guys who aren't currently on the Dodgers 40 man roster that could see some time in September.

Edwin Bellorin, Catcher,  Las Vegas 51s

Einar Diaz was acquired about a week and a half ago to fill the role of third catcher in September, but he went down with an injury. Since the only status report I can find on Diaz is "who cares", Bellorin might be pressed into duty come September.

He only gets the job by default, since the Dodgers have zero catching depth in the minors. Bellorin has career minor leaguer written all over him, hitting only .232/.269/.345 in 284 at bats this year, falling well short of his career high OPS of .684, set last year as a 23 year old in high A ball.

Bellorin stinks, but he is the best we have, and he's a better option at catcher than Ramon  Martinez in case Russell Martin and Toby Hall happen to be standing in the same place when a meteor strikes.

Wilson Valdez, Shortstop, Las Vegas  51s

Valdez is not good. He has a career .530 OPS in 180 big league at bats, and a still bad .680 OPS in the minors. He is having a career year this year with a .774 OPS, brought on entirely by playing in Vegas (.917 home OPS, .615 road) but that's still nothing eye popping. The only reason he's listed here is due to Ned's fetish for utility men. If Valdez can enter and leave the 40 man roster without any adverse consequences, there's a good chance we'll see him in September.

Wilkin Ruan, Center  Field,  Jacksonville Suns

Ruan is also in the category of "stinks, but fills a minor role." At one point regarded as the "fastest man in baseball" by Vin Scully, Ruan hasn't been able to find any work despite these accolades, probably because in his best year ever he had a .334 on base percentage.

Still, considering that Lofton can't catch, Jason Repko is his defensive (more like offensive, ha-ha!) replacement, and Matt Kemp doesn't appear to be any great shakes defensively, Ruan could fill a role as a pinch runner/defensive replacement. So long as he doesn't touch a bat, I have no problem with this. Much like most of the players I've listed, he can be tossed off the 40 man roster with zero consequence.

Mark Alexander, Relief Pitcher, Las Vegas 51s

Alexander started the season at AA where he was unhittable, striking out 13.6 per nine, walking under two and a half per nine innings, and serving up only two home runs in 41 innings. These peripherals lead to a .66 ERA, and a call up to Vegas in Mid July.

Since moving to Vegas, Alexander has become mortal. He's still striking out almost a batter an inning, but his walk rate has jumped, he's one less free pass in 14 innings in Vegas as he did his entire time in Jacksonville. Even with these issues, the only pitcher in AAA with more promising stats that's not on the 40 man is Lance Carter, interpret that as you will.

The only thing that might keep Alexander off the 40 man is that he has one more year until he's rule five eligible, it's entirely reasonable that the Dodgers would want to keep Alexander off the 40 man roster until he's ready.

Still, the Dodgers desperately need bullpen help, I do not want to see Tomko or Beimel in any kind of crucial situation down the stretch, and Alexander is far more likely than any of the players I've listed to actually help in September.

Casey Hoorelbeke, Relief Pitcher, Jacksonville Suns

One of the other players that has actual promise on this list, Hoorelbeke has taken over closer duty for the Suns with the departure of Mark Alexander.

Hoorelbeke started his career as an undrafted free agent at the age of 24. After a relatively ineffective run as a starter in 2004, he was converted to relief in 2005 and he found great success. While he didn't overpower anyone, he threw 81 innings without allowing a home run at Vero Beach, one of the most home run friendly parks in the minors.

Hoorelbeke continued his stingy ways at Jacksonville this year, giving up only one home run in 63.2 innings while increasing his strikeout rate to 7.69 per nine without an increase in walks. Hoorelbeke's downside is that he's 26, so any of these numbers should be considered in this context, but he's only been in the pros for three years.  However, with Hoorelbeke's rule five eligibility looming (I can't tell if he'll be eligible this year or next year) stashing him on the 40 man probably isn't a bad idea. At worst, he'd provide some entertaining headlines. You can start with "A Hoorelble Outing" and work from there.

B.J. LaMura, Relief Pitcher, Jacksonville Suns

The windfall from the Sandy Alomar trade, LaMura has been very effective in AA, striking out 12.5 per nine in 69 and 2/3rds innings while allowing only four home runs. On the downside, his walk rate is very high (his K/BB is barely over two despite striking out so many) and he's 26. Unlike Hoorelbeke, who has less than three years of professional experience, this is LaMura's sixth season in the minors. As Tim Hamulack taught us, if someone's been in the minors that long, there's probably something wrong with him, no matter how good his stats look. Even so, LaMura might get a cup of coffee if the Dodgers clinch the division, if only to protect him from the rule V draft.

Right now, the Dodgers farm system is stacked at the top with players that are already big league ready, and at the bottom with players who will contribute in the future.  What the Dodgers lack is talent in the middle, leaving the Dodgers without any inspiring additions to the 40-man roster except Alexander and maybe Hoorelbeke. Sure, these guys can fill some small holes the Dodgers have, but I wouldn't let most of them touch a bat or pitch in a crucial situation.