For a good illustration of the ups and down minor league players go through in their careers, notice the high's and ultimately low that Scott Elbert went through during week 18 last season. On Friday August 7th, Elbert was named the starter for the Sunday game against the Braves, however Elbert was called upon Friday night to pitch in relief once the game went into extra innings. The outing didn't go very well as Elbert gave up the go-ahead run followed by a 3 run home run. As Sunday rolled around, not only was Elbert not the starter for the Dodgers, he had been sent back to AAA the day before. During the span of 24 hours, Elbert went from being the probable starting pitcher on Sunday, to being optioned back to the minors. Brutal.
Despite not being given much of a look at the major league level, Elbert, the Dodgers 2004 first round draft pick now entering his age 24 season, had a very strong year in 2009 in the minors. In his first full year after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2007, Elbert was named theDodgers minor league pitcher of the year with solid statistics split between AA and AAA. Control continues to be the issue with Elbert, and the lack of control has my fellow bloggers using the shorthand W.A.L (wild ass lefty) when discussing Elbert's outings. Yesterday's spring training outing was par for the course in this regard as Elbert walked 1, hit another yet struck out 3 in his two innings of work.
Aside: For a detailed scouting report on Scott Elbert, see Memories of Kevin Malone prospect profile on Elbert.
I believe Elbert will start the season in the minors. Of the candidates for the 5th starter spot, Haeger and Stults are out of options and will be given the first look by the club to start the season in the rotation while the other will likely be designated for assignment. Another candidate, James McDonald, figures to have the upper hand in the competition with Elbert for a spot on the 25 man roster, as McDonald was able to post impressive numbers as a reliever in 2009 (2.72 ERA, 3.53 FIP in 41 games) and the Dodgers already have 2 solid left hander relievers on the 25 man roster in George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo. Elbert will again need to impress in the minor league ranks to put himself in the position for the occasional spot start. That's not to say the organization doesn't remain high on Elbert. As mentioned above Elbert did win the minor league pitcher of the year award last season and is reportedly viewed by Ned Colletti as the more likely starting pitcher in the future compared to McDonald. Interestingly, Torre is reported to have the opposite projection (McDonald starter, Elbert reliever) for the two going forward, and while Colletti technically outranks Torre, its the manager who will ultimately make the call for who is placed in the starting rotations. With that in mind, Elbert will need to impress Torre (as McDonald did late in 2008) in his major league stints in order to secure a starting job in the future. I predict Elbert will spend more time with the major league club in 2010 in a role of long reliever and spot starter and will post:
ERA 3.95, WHIP 1.35, FIP 4.10 in 43 games and 2 starts.
What are your community projections for Scott Elbert?