The Chattanooga Lookouts as a team were extremely average all season. They never really had playoff aspirations, and their pitching was pretty bad all season. In addition, their hitting was pretty boring in terms of power until Sands joined the team in the middle of the season. In terms of Dodger prospects, however, the team featured quite a few players who were worth following as 14 of the 30 players who were featured in last year’s Baseball America Prospect Handbook played in Chattanooga in 2010. Remember that these reports are very extensive, so just because I’m writing about a player doesn’t mean that he is a big time prospect. While I’ll usually mention if a guy is worth keeping an eye on, you’ll have to wait for my upcoming prospect ranking to fully understand who I consider prospects and who are simply organizational players. Also, how the poll question plays out will help when me when I run our overall TBLA top prospect poll in a couple of weeks.
Record: 65 - 74 Season Result: Finished in 3rd place (out of 5 teams) in the 1st half, and finished in 4th place in the 2nd half. Needless to say, the Lookouts didn’t make the playoffs. Their .468 overall winning percentage ranked 7th out of the 10 teams in the Southern League. Season Recap: The Lookouts were stuck in mediocrity all season, never really getting hot, but never really playing too poorly either. Sure they had some winning streaks and losing streaks, but for the most part Chattanooga was in 3rd or 4th place all season. In terms of team stats, the Lookout offense was pretty much in the middle of the pack. Their .261 team average ranked in 5th place, as did their 88 homers. Their overall pitching was another story, however, as their 4.54 team ERA and 1.53 team WHIP both ranked dead last in the Southern League. League Leaders: Category Player Rank Amount At Bats 1st 555 Runs 5th 86 Runs 8th 80 Hits 4th 154 3B’s 4th 10 HR’s 4th 17 RBI's 2nd 86 Walks 3rd 73 SB’s 1st 53 SB’s 3rd 38 SB’s 6th 31 OBP 3rd 0.404 OPS 6th 0.842 Starts 3rd 27 CG’s 6th 1 CG’s 6th 1 CG’s 6th 1 Shutouts 2nd 1 Saves 3rd 18 K’s 4th 120 GF’s 5th 26
Record: 65 - 74
Season Result: Finished in 3rd place (out of 5 teams) in the 1st half, and finished in 4th place in the 2nd half. Needless to say, the Lookouts didn’t make the playoffs. Their .468 overall winning percentage ranked 7th out of the 10 teams in the Southern League.
Season Recap: The Lookouts were stuck in mediocrity all season, never really getting hot, but never really playing too poorly either. Sure they had some winning streaks and losing streaks, but for the most part Chattanooga was in 3rd or 4th place all season. In terms of team stats, the Lookout offense was pretty much in the middle of the pack. Their .261 team average ranked in 5th place, as did their 88 homers. Their overall pitching was another story, however, as their 4.54 team ERA and 1.53 team WHIP both ranked dead last in the Southern League.
Offensive MVP: Trayvon Robinson had a great all around year and was with the Lookouts for the entire season, so he was the easy choice for the offensive MVP of this team. He led the team with a .300 average, hit 9 homers, stole 38 bases, and only made 4 errors all year. He also had an impressive .404 on base percentage which ranked 3rd in the entire Southern League. While he missed the final few games of the season due to injury which resulted in him not getting a big league call up, he is still a legit prospect and should see time with the Dodgers at some point in 2011. Baseball America ranked Robinson as the 13th best prospect in the Southern League and noted that he has turned his tools into skills over the past few seasons.
Best Offensive Prospect: I know some people won’t be happy with this choice, but I’m selecting Dee Gordon as the best offensive prospect on the Lookouts. It was a tough decision, but in my opinion Gordon is slightly ahead of both Trayvon Robinson and Jerry Sands in terms of prospect status. I know he was caught stealing 20 times and posted an on base percentage of only .332, but he has a ton of raw talent, and I really think he has the best shot of being a solid big league regular of any 2010 Lookout hitters. The fact that he was voted as the most exciting player in the Southern League gives me even more hope that he’ll be able to one day harness all of his potential. Also, Baseball America ranked him as the 6th best prospect in the entire Southern League, saying that his speed is an 80 and the 20-80 scouting scale. At just 22 years old, he has plenty of time to fine tune his skills and be the Dodgers shortstop of the future.
Pitching MVP: Selecting a MVP from the starting pitchers on team is like trying to make a good meal out of a pile of garbage. Of the players on the team with at least 50 innings pitched, the lowest ERA belonged to Jesus Castillo at 3.83, but his record for the year was 4 and 10. Therefore, I was forced give this award to a reliever. Kenley Jansen had great stats, but he was only with the team for 2 months. Javy Guerra, Justin Miller, and Javier Solano all had ERA’s below 2.80, but each of them also spent a significant amount of time on the DL or with another team. At the end of the day, I picked 29 year old Jon Huber as the team’s pitching MVP. He had a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings and picked up 18 saves as the team’s closer. His WHIP was 1.06, and he struck out over a batter per inning. He obviously isn’t a prospect and I almost never mentioned him in my daily minor league reports, but I think he should get some recognition here for having a very good season for the Lookouts in 2010.
Best Pitching Prospect: Picking the best pitching prospect on this team was a very tough decision. Rubby De La Rosa and Kenley Jansen got significant consideration, but at the end of the day I’m selecting Chris Withrow. He obviously had the worst season of the three candidates, but my reasoning is that I believe Withrow has the best chance of being a frontline starting pitcher at the big league level. The 11th best prospect in the Southern League according to Baseball America, Withrow has a mid 90’s fastball with good movement, and also has a plus curveball. He also throws a changeup, but it’s a work in progress. He needs to work on his consistency and command, and if he is able to do that he will be a very good pitcher. The other thing to remember about Withrow is that he is just 21 years old with only 256 innings under his belt. As I wrote in my DeJon Watson interview, Withrow would have been a junior in college this past season, and if he were eligible for the 2010 draft he still would have been a no doubt mid 1st rounder. Look for him to stay in AA next season, although I’m expected much better results in 2011.
1st Base: Eduardo Perez was the Lookout’s main first baseman, but he had a disappointing season. After hitting 11 homers with a .838 OPS with the Lookouts in 2009, Perez stumbled to a .271 average with 4 homers and a .702 OPS in 2010. The 26 year old switch hitter did place 2nd on the club with 58 RBI’s, but that was the only highlight of his season.
Corey Smith also played some 1st base during the season, but he was mostly a 3rd baseman and will be discussed later.
Jerry Sands was the only other Lookout to spend a significant amount of time at 1st base, although he spent more time in the outfield and will also be talked about later.
2nd Base: The 5’8" Jamie Pedroza played 2nd base for the Lookouts, and he had an up and down season. He started off the year pretty quietly, including a .212 average in the month of May, but then he really hit a hot streak in June in July. From August on, however, he hit a bit of a cold spell as he finished the year with a .230 average in his final 117 at bats. For the season, Jaime ended up with a .280 average, 7 homers, and a .779 OPS. He just turned 24, and after jumping from HiA in 2008 to LoA in 2009 to AA in 2010, it will be interesting to see where he ends up in 2011.
The speedy Elian Herrera also played some 2nd base for Chattanooga, although he was more of a utility guy. In addition to his 24 games at 2nd base, Herrera also spent time at all 3 outfield positions, 3rd base, and shortstop. He also spent about a month in AAA when injuries struck the Isotopes. At the plate, the 25 year old didn’t really provide much offense, hitting just .258 with a .341 slugging percentage. However, he was a distraction on the base paths as he stole 31 bases in 41 attempts.
3rd Base: Corey Smith got the majority of the starts at 3rd base, and he had a pretty good season. He lead the Lookouts with 86 RBI’s, and made the mid and post season Southern League All Star teams. In addition, he provided veteran leadership as he brought 10 years of minor league experience to the team. The bad news is that he is 28 years old, and is not a very good defensive 3rd baseman.
Shortstop: Dee Gordon got almost every start at shortstop for the Lookouts in 2010, which is good news considering that he still needs to work on his defense. His .936 fielding percentage needs improvement, but according to Baseball America "He has all the tools to be a standout defender at shortstop: smooth actions, quick feet and plus agility and arm strength." See the "Best Offensive Prospect" section above for additional discussion about his offensive performance.
Catcher: 6 different players put on the gear for the Lookouts in 2010, including Mike Rivera who led the team with 56 games behind the plate. The 34 year old Rivera, who made his MAJOR league debut in 2001 and has appeared in 188 big league games, had no business playing in AA. He was really just an emergency insurance policy for the Dodgers. Strangely enough, after getting released in August Rivera signed with the Marlins in September and got into 7 big league games in 2010.
Jessie Mier played the 2nd most games at catcher for Chattanooga, but was injured several times during the season and had a very poor year offensively. He is 25 years old and isn’t much more than an organizational player at this point in his career.
As I wrote in my Inland Empire report, Matt Wallach made his way onto the Dodgers prospect radar in 2010 and played the final month of the season in Chattanooga. Given that this was Wallach’s first taste of AA, he did very well as he recorded 3 homers and an .822 OPS in 68 at bats. He also showed extreme patience against the more advanced pitchers, walking in 15.5% of his plate appearances. His success earned him a spot in the AFL, and I’m guessing he’ll return to AA at the start of next season.
Outfield: The Lookouts outfield was anchored by Trayvon Robinson, who played 120 games in center field. Even though I already wrote about him above, it is worth mentioning that he is also a pretty good defensive player. Baseball America says that he gets good jumps and takes solid routes. In addition, while his arm is just average, he was able to record 12 outfield assists in 2010.
Jerry Sands played both outfield spots during his time in AA, and continued to show that he can be a plus defender. In just 50 games played in the outfield, Sands recorded 8 assists. He also only made 1 error in those 50 games. Getting back to Sand’s hitting, he continued to show big power while in Chattanooga. He quickly claimed the team lead for homers despite not joining the club until the end of June, and ended up ranking 4th in the Southern League in big flies. His average dropped a bit in AA down to .270 but he maintained a solid walk to strikeout ratio and posted a strong .889 OPS. Now playing in the AFL, it will be interesting to see where Sands starts and ends up in 2011.
Kyle Russell didn’t get promoted to AA until June 8th, but he ended up leading the team in games played in right field. I wrote a lot about Russell in my Inland Empire report, so here I’ll spend some time analyzing his AA stats. Kyle got off to a terrible start in Chattanooga, hitting just .192 in June and .211 in July. However he was able to turn things around in August as he recorded an OPS of 1.018 during that month. His overall stats were also not too bad considering this was his first crack at AA as he finished with a .462 slugging percentage and a .781 OPS. The one negative that everyone likes to focus on is his strikeout rate, and I’ll admit it was pretty horrendous with the Lookouts. Russell struck out in 36.7% of his plate appearances, and if he keeps up that rate it is true that he’ll never succeed at the big league level. But if he can somehow bring it down to a more manageable level, even to somewhere in the mid 20 percents, then I think he has a chance to make it to the show. Hopefully it will just take some additional coaching and maturity.
Prior to Russell playing in AA, the Lookouts right fielder was Scott Van Slyke. He struggled pretty badly, and then was sent to Inland Empire which is the only place he is able to hit. Needless to say the excitement about him as a prospect has diminished, and I’m glad I never bought into that hype.
In case you forgot, Andrew Lambo, also briefly played outfield for the Lookouts in 2010. His drug suspension and then trade to the Pirates limited him to just 47 games in a Chattanooga uniform, during which time he was mediocre at best. Finally, Tommy Giles spent some time in a Lookout uniform in 2010, but he struggled at the plate, was sent to HiA, and then was released during the season.
Starting Pitchers: As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the starting pitching for the Lookouts was pretty horrendous. Chris Withrow was supposed to be the ace of this staff, and although I labeled him as the best pitching prospect on this team, his 2010 stats were not those of a frontline starter. Withrow had a 5.97 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP, although his FIP was a little more favorable at 4.51 for the season. One of his biggest problems was his ability to keep the ball in the park as he allowed 13 homers, compared to just 5 allowed in 2009. One positive for Withrow in 2010 was that he stayed healthy all year for the 2nd consecutive season.
Jesus Castillo started and ended the year in AA, spending a month in Albuquerque during the middle of the season during which time he was terrible. With the Lookouts, Castillo actually had a decent ERA of 3.83, but his win - loss record was just 4 and 10. Never known as a strikeout pitcher, Castillo showed consistency by K’ing only 5.75 batters per 9 innings. At 26 years old, I’m not sure where Castillo goes from here.
Like Castillo, Alberto Bastardo bookended his season in Chattanooga while spending some time with the Isotopes, although his stint in AAA lasted a little longer than Castillo’s. For Chattanooga, one could argue that Bastardo was the team’s most effective starter as he went 7 and 4 with a 3.20 FIP. However his ERA was 4.79 and he is already 26 years old so he was playing against much younger competition.
Remember when Mario Alvarez was on the Dodgers 40 man roster? Well at 26 years old I don’t think he’ll ever make his way back onto that roster. Anyways, Mario started the year in the Lookouts rotations, but after 19 starts was moved to the bullpen. Alvarez’s ERA was almost identical as a starter and as a reliever, and for the year it was 4.94. He’s another guy who doesn’t strike a lot of guys out, and unfortunately batters also hit him pretty well to the tune of a .319 average.
Tim Sexton also was a starter and reliever for the Lookouts, and accumulated a 3 and 12 win – loss record before getting demoted to HiA. While his ERA was 5.06, you could say that Sexton was a little unlucky in AA as his FIP was a respectable 3.73. Sexton struck out just over 7 batters per inning, and allowed 8 homers in 101 innings. He is still just 23 years old, so the 6’6" righty still has time to improve his game. He’ll probably return to AA next season.
Brent Leach had an interesting year in 2010. He started the season in AAA as a reliever, but then was sent to Chattanooga to work as a starter. During that time he actually made the transition pretty well, going 7 and 3 with a 4.57 ERA and a 3.98 FIP. However, when Leach returned to AAA in late August he was again used as a reliever, so his future role still appears to be up in the air. I personally like him better as a reliever, but we’ll see what happens in 2011. He still has one option year left heading into next season.
Aaron Miller made 6 subpar starts in AA before he was sent back down to the 66ers. Miller accumulated a 7.04 ERA with the Lookouts and recorded a 2.00 WHIP. You can read about his solid performance in HiA in my Inland Empire report.
Finally Rubby De La Rosa made a huge splash after getting promoted to AA in late July. In 8 starts (51 innings), Rubby allowed just 8 earned runs which translates to a 1.41 ERA. He also had a 1.16 WHIP and batters hit just .215 against him. I guess the only negative you could point to is that he struck out just 6.9 batters per 9 innings. You can read more about De La Rosa’s pitches and upside in my Great Lakes Loons report.
Relief Pitchers: I already talked about the team’s closer, Jon Huber, above, but there are several other relievers on the Lookouts that are worth mentioning. Kenley Jansen obviously had a great 2010, but it was his performance in Chattanooga that showed the Dodgers that he was big league ready. In 27 AA innings, Jansen posted a 1.67 ERA, a 1.39 FIP, recorded 8 saves, and had a K per 9 of 16.67. The only negative that one could point to was that his walk rate was a little high, but didn’t really matter since he was so dominant in every other aspect of pitching.
David Pfeiffer played a surprisingly big role for the Lookouts in 2010. He was an inning eater as his 82 innings lead all relievers, and he even made 3 spot starts when the team needed him. For the year, he posted a respectable 4.06 ERA and had a solid WHIP of 1.29. Another interesting fact about Pfeiffer is that he actually had some big hits at the plate, batting .278 in 18 at bats and picking up an unexpected 5 RBI’s. The 25 year old lefty has played 7 minor league seasons and I’m pretty sure can opt to be a minor league free agent, but hopefully he sticks around.
Cole St. Clair started the year in the California League, but was promoted to AA in May after 12 effective innings in HiA. Once in Chattanooga, St. Clair was pretty consistent throughout the season, posting ERA’s in the 4’s in every month from May through August. His overall FIP for the year, however, was 3.53 and he only allowed 3 homers in 60 innings. In addition, he struck out almost a batter per inning. The 6’5" lefty is 24 years old, and while he doesn’t throw real hard, he has enough quality pitches that may get him to the show at some point in the future.
James Adkins has been nothing but disappointing since being drafted in the supplemental 1st round of the 2007 draft. However in 2010 Adkins was converted to a reliever, and while his overall stats weren’t amazing, he did have a couple of streaks in which he was extremely effective. While in AA, James had a combined ERA of 1.08 in the months of May and June, and then didn’t allow a run in 11 August appearances. In addition, AA batters hit just .238 against him for the season, and he struck out almost 10 batters per 9 innings. I still think that Adkins has some value, especially once he gets more comfortable in the relief role.
Javy Guerra was limited in 2010 due to injuries, but still managed to work 27 innings in AA where he posted a 2.33 ERA. However his WHIP was 1.70 and his FIP was 4.24 because he had excessive control issues. Guerra is currently making up for lost time in the AFL, and since he is already on the 40 man roster he might get the chance to work out of the Dodgers bullpen as early as next season if he can learn better control.
Justin Miller is another guy whose ERA significantly outperformed his FIP. Miller’s ERA was an impressive 2.76 in 42.1 innings, but his FIP 5.12. The driver of Miller’s high FIP wasn’t walks, however, but instead his extremely low strikeout rate. Miller struck out just 3.83 batters per 9 innings, which is honestly one of the lowest strikeout rates I have ever seen. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again that Miller is an extreme sinkerball pitcher who pitches to contact, so the low strikeout rate doesn’t concern me much. Nevertheless, the 23 year old is probably going to have to get a few more swing and misses in the future because he probably won’t always be so lucky.
Finally, Javier Solano spent the last month of the season with the Lookouts and was extremely impressive in 19.2 innings. The 20 year old was by far the youngest player on the team, yet posted a 2.29 ERA, a 2.94 FIP, and a 1.02 WHIP. In addition, he struck out 10.5 batters per 9 innings and only walked 4 batters during his AA stint. According to a conversation I had with Charlie Hough during the season, he said that Solano has a low 90’s fastball, and also has a cutter, a curve, and a changeup. The only negative I can think for Solano is that he isn’t very big, and according to Hough might actually be shorter than the 6’0" he is listed at.