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Interview with the Dodgers Director of Player Development DeJon Watson

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Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to speak with the Dodgers Assistant General Manager DeJon Watson.  Watson also happens to the Director of Player Development, and is probably the only person in the world who knows more about the Dodgers minor league system than I do.  That is why I was directed to him when I asked some tough questions about a couple of players on the Arizona Dodgers.  Knowing that I was going to get talk to the king of Dodger prospects, however, I came up with several other questions that I knew would be of interest to several people on this site.

Instead of posting all of the questions and answers, I’ve decided to bullet point the insights that he provided into the Dodgers minor league system.  Also, one last thing before I get to the meat of the post.  DeJon was one of the nicest people to talk to, and seemed very excited about all of the Dodgers prospects.  He was also thrilled that I paid so much attention to the Dodgers minor league system, and told me to keep up the good work.  An all around great guy.

·         Pitcher Brandon Martinez has gained about 10 pounds since last year (he was originally listed at 150 lbs), and has gotten a little stronger in his legs and across his back, but he still needs some more added strength.  But in short, he weights more than his listed weight of 150.  While he can still touch 93 and 94 mph on a good night, he sits comfortably with a slightly above average fastball at about 90 to 92 mph.  His breaking ball is solid average, and his changeup is developing. 

·         Tae-Hyeok Nam is a big strong kid, and is now about 6’3" and 215 lbs.  He has a solid approach at the plate, and is a line drive/gap hitter with occasional pull power.  According to DeJon, he has a chance to play solid average down the road, and is strictly a 1st baseman. 

·         When asked if Jerry Sands is a 1st baseman or a corner outfielder, DeJon said that he can play both and that the Dodgers don’t have to limit him.  He thinks that Sands’ versatility will help Ned Colletti down the road when he is building his team.  His defense is fine, his base running is fine, and his arm is above average.  Also his approach at the plate has been consistent all year.  However, you can’t put a time table on when he’ll make the big leagues, and it is going to come down to how he continues to progress and when the Dodgers have a need for him.

·         Rubby De La Rosa’s skill set is what caused the Dodgers to promote him to AA.  In particular, his poise, his demeanor, his fastball command, and his ability to make adjustments inning to inning and batter to batter.  He has come a long way in a short period of time.  The Dodgers are not concerned with his workload this year because he threw way more than the listed 16 innings in 2009.  In fact, when I mentioned the 16 innings from 2009, DeJon basically said "that is not accurate…that is just what you have listed in your book."  I thought that was pretty funny.

·         I asked about any potential breakout candidates for 2011, and he mentioned three players in Arizona, but my phone broke up at that exact second so I didn’t catch all of their names.  I believe one of the names was Scott Schebler, but I just couldn’t make out the 2nd name.  I definitely know James Baldwin was the 3rd name, and he said that those kids in Arizona are going to fun to follow, as well as the kids on the Great Lakes Loons who are going to have a chance to go up to the California League or AA in 2011.

·         Later on in the conversation, he went back to potential breakout candidates again because it seemed like he thought of a few more.  He mentioned Greg Wilborn and said something like "isn’t it something what he’s doing this year".  He also said Matt Magill isn’t sexy, but has crazy stats.  Finally, he listed Arismendy Ozoria and Gustavo Gomez as guys to keep our eye on in 2011.

·         He said when you look at our depth from an organization standpoint, our outfield depth is really strong from AA down to rookie ball.  He also made the reference that Trayvon Robinson would be promoted to AAA next season, and he also said it will be fun to watch these kids compete for playing time as they progress up the ladder. 

·         When asked if the Dodgers saw any difference between Lo-A and High-A, DeJon said that they are viewed as basically the same level.  He does realize, however, that the California League is a much tougher league for pitchers, and mentioned that any pitcher with an ERA under 4 in the California League is doing a very good job.

·         Finally, I asked him if he had any insight into why 3 of our top pitching prospects are struggling in 2010 (Lindblom, Withrow, and Martin).  He started with Josh Lindblom, and first of all said that he will definitely remain in the bullpen.  He also said that it has taken him a while to get readjusted to his role as a reliever, and just needs to get back to where he was a year ago.  He’s hoping that he regains that form soon, and will also get an opportunity to do so in the instructional league this offseason.  DeJon also said that AAA is a very difficult place to pitch, so you have to take his stats with a grain of salt.  However, he specifically mentioned that he needed to improve his hit to innings pitched ratio. 

·         In regards to Martin, DeJon says the stuff is there, and that the biggest challenge for Ethan is the mental game.  He needs to make mental adjustments in order to succeed.  He is still throwing 92 all the way up to 98 mph and has three very good pitches, but will most likely repeat the California League next year and will stay there until he can prove he can dominate that level. 

·         Finally, DeJon said that Chris Withrow has made big strides since a year and a half ago (which is when he threw just 4 innings in 2008).  He also said that both Withrow and Martin are only the age of college juniors, so are still way ahead of most 21 year olds.  In addition, DeJon mentioned that if both of them had went to college and put up similar stats in 2010 in college as they had put up this year, they both still would have been mid first round picks in the 2010 draft.  Getting back to Withrow’s struggles, he said that his mental composure needs to improve for him to pitch more effectively.  Lastly, he mentioned that while of course the Dodgers would have liked for Withrow’s 2010 numbers to be better, they are happy with the strides he has made.