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Dodgers Minor League Countdown: 60 - 51

While we are still one post away from my Dodgers top 50 prospects, this group of players includes some very talented players. In fact, I'm convinced that the majority of the players in this group would be ranked in the top 50 prospects for most organizations. It is simply due to the emergence of other players that caused this group of guys to be ranked above #50.

60. Gustavo Gomez, RHP (7.2 IP in Pioneer League, 44 games in Arizona league in 2010)

Signed by Dodgers in 2008

6’1”, 150 lbs, 19.75 years old

4-3, 3.66 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 2.74 FIP, 8.19 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 65; Pre 2009 Rank: 113

Signed by the Dodgers out of Panama as a 17 year old in 2008, Gustavo Gomez had a great season in the DSL in 2009 which earned him a promotion in 2010. As a 19 year old with the Arizona Dodgers, Gomez had a rough transition and recorded a 6.14 ERA through his first 22 innings. However, he regained his footing in the second half of the season and posted a 1.23 ERA through his next 22 innings, earning the Dodgers pride award for August and a promotion to the Pioneer League for the final week of the season. Used as both a starter and reliever, Gomez showed good control in 2010 and also allowed just one home run all season. He was also mentioned by DeJon Watson as one of the players to keep an eye on for 2011. In addition, it should be noted that his height and weight haven’t been updated since 2008, so I’m guessing he is now bigger than his listed measurements. Still just 19 years old, Gomez has made good progress in his three years as a professional and will try to maintain his momentum in 2011. If the Dodgers want to be aggressive with Gustavo they’ll assign him to the Great Lakes Loons next season. However, my best guess would that he’ll start 2011 in the Pioneer League with the Raptors.

59. Matt Kirkland, 3B (16 games in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 12th round

6’2”, 210 lbs, 20 years old, bats right handed

.239 average, .655 OPS, 0 HR’s, 6 RBI’s, 0 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

Matt Kirkland was selected by the Dodgers out of high school in the 12th round of the 2010 draft, and although he had committed to play college ball at Tennessee, he signed with the Dodgers pretty quickly. After signing he said, “It's a thrill. My family is excited. The community is excited. I got a lot of support. I think it's good for the community. I plan to represent my family and community as best as possible.” He also gave us some insight into his high school job by saying, “Let's just say, the deal I got, it beats selling goats and chickens for a living. That was my business. It beats selling livestock.” In high school, Kirkland hit 17 homers as a junior in high school and 11 HR’s as a senior (with a .505 average). According to scouting reports, he has plus raw power and has good pitch recognition. However, like most players coming out of high school, he has holes in his swing that he’ll have to fine tune as he gets older. Probably the most exciting part about Kirkland is that he’s been described as an above average defender with a plus arm and good range. That means he won’t have to be moved off the hot corner any time soon, which increases his value as a prospect. In the draft video I watched of him, he showed good technique both on defense and at the plate, and his swing looks like it does indeed generate a good amount of power and loft. While he was a little older than most players coming out of high school, Matt will still be just 20 years old when the 2011 season starts so he has a lot of time to improve his game. Because his professional debut was relatively limited, I’m guessing he’ll play in the Pioneer League next year and get a good amount of playing time at 3rd base with the Raptors.

58. Jaime Pedroza, 2B (130 games in LoA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 9th round

5’8”, 167 lbs, 24.5 years old, switch hitter

.280 average, .779 OPS, 7 HR’s, 37 RBI’s, 11 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 59; Pre 2009 Rank: 19

Since getting drafted out of UC Riverside in 2007, Jaime Pedroza has had an interesting career path. After an outstanding offensive season in the Pioneer League in his professional debut, Pedroza was sent to HiA in 2008, his first full season. While his stats weren’t quite as impressive with the 66ers, he still had a solid season at the plate and was probably looking forward to playing in AA. However, the Dodgers had other plans for Jaime in 2009 and sent him to LoA. While he was probably disappointed with this assignment, he responded with career highs in homers (15) and stolen bases (36). That brings us to 2010, when Pedroza finally made it to Chattanooga. While he didn’t have eye popping stats with the Lookouts in 2010, Pedroza again had solid numbers and has now accumulated a .287 average and an .810 OPS over 4 professional seasons. Going forward, his biggest challenge will be his height because it is rare to find a major league player at 5’8”. However, the fact that he plays 2nd base helps his cause since most MLB players shorter than 5’10” are middle infielders. With Ivan De Jesus most likely staying in AAA for another season, I’m guessing that Pedroza will return to Chattanooga in 2011. Now 24 years old, my feeling is that Jaime is definitely worth keeping around, but unfortunately I doubt that he’ll ever make it up the show.

57. Jeff Hunt, 3B (18 games in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 15th round

6’2”, 190 lbs, 20 years old, bats right handed

.240 average, .666 OPS, 2 HR’s, 7 RBI’s, 0 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 37; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

Selected by the Dodgers in the 15th round of the 2009 draft, Jeff Hunt turned down a scholarship to Ohio University and signed with the Dodgers when they offered him $125,000 and up to $114,000 in education money if he enrolls in school within two years of retiring from professional baseball. Upon signing Hunt said it was a tough decision, but also explained that he wanted to play every day instead of having to worry about school work. Hunt’s professional career got started a little late due to delayed US visa paperwork (he’s from Canada), and his 2009 stint with the Arizona Dodgers was mostly just a learning experience. Before heading to spring training in 2010, he told his local newspaper “You can find someone off the street and they’ll tell you I didn’t have a great season. But more than just putting up stats, it was a learning process for me. I got to get my feet a little wet. Coming out of high school, a lot of players still have problems with their swings and it’s a maturity issue, so those are some of things I had to go through. I worked hard in instructs (instructional league) to clean up my swing and build a mental approach on how to coach myself and feel my swing, and how to get myself out of ruts. Going into this year, knowing more about myself personally and my swing, is something that I picked up last year in only nine weeks in Arizona.” Unfortunately Hunt’s 2010 season also started due to some sort of injury because he didn’t get into a game until late July. While he never really got it going in the 18 games he played, Jeff did have a couple of good games and ended up with 2 homers in just 50 at bats. Despite two lost seasons, what makes Hunt the most valuable in my option is that he is a legitimate power hitter and plays 3rd base. According to scouting reports, Hunt plays solid defense and “uses his long arms to his advantage from the left side, displaying legitimate power potential.” He is also a former hockey player, and got a lot of good experience by playing with the Canadian Junior National Baseball Team for a few years before being drafted. He's a wildcard right now, especially in terms of power, and 2011 will be a big season for him. If he comes to camp healthy and has a good spring, the 20 year old could potentially play in a full season league and make a name for himself. Otherwise, he’ll probably stay in extended spring training until the Pioneer League starts up in June.

56. Jeremy Wise, C (86 games in LoA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 5th round

6’0”, 210 lbs, 24.75 years old, bats right handed

.309 average, .868 OPS, 12 HR’s, 62 RBI’s, 0 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 48; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

Jeremy Wise was already 23 years old when he was selected by the Dodgers in the 5th round of the 2009 draft, which drew criticism from some fans. However, the Dodgers liked the fact that he plays catcher and had success during his college career (2009 Big 12 player of the year, 2009 Finalist for Johnny Bench Award, and 2009 semifinalist for Golden Spikes Award). According to Logan White, “he reminds you of AJ Ellis as a defender and the kid is really a good hitter. He stays inside the baseball, he hits to all fields and he's got good power. I think he will develop into a power hitting catcher at the major league level. He plays hard and he is a gamer.” Wise wasted no time in proving White right because he tore up the Pioneer League in his professional debut with a .338 average and .967 OPS. In 2010 Wise was promoted to the Midwest League but got off to a very slow start. Through the first 45 games of the season, Jeremy was hitting just .235 despite being one of the older players in the league. However, Wise was able to flip the switch at some point in July and ended up hitting .309 for the season by posting a .400 average after the All-Star break along with a 1.089 OPS. He also ended the year with 12 homers and 62 RBI’s, and had a .990 fielding percentage behind the plate. While I’m still not sold on Wise due the fact that he has being playing against younger competition for the past two years, his 2nd half performance bought him at least another year of evaluation. In addition, he crushed left handed pitching and is probably the best hitting catching prospect in the organization, so the Dodgers will want to see what he can do against tougher opposition. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw AA at some point in 2011.

55. Scott Van Slyke, RF (12 games in AAA, 65 games in AA, 48 games in HiA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2005, 14th round

6’5”, 195 lbs, 24.75 years old, bats right handed

.270 average, .768 OPS, 14 HR’s, 69 RBI’s, 7 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 28; Pre 2009 Rank: 123

Scott Van Slyke had a huge year in 2009, but I never really bought into his season because his success came in the hitter friendly California League and he had never shown me anything in his previous 4 seasons. The 6’5” son of former major leaguer Andy Van Slyke did his best to prove me right in 2010 because he struggled mightily in AA before getting demoted back to Inland Empire in June. Scott again found his stroke with the 66ers, smacking 9 homers in 189 at bats, and was then sent to AAA to close out the final two weeks of the 2010 season. What’s interesting is that Van Slyke’s has demonstrated that the California League is the only place he can have success. When you looks at Van Slyke’s split stats for his minor league career, he has an OPS of .883 with Inland Empire, and an OPS of .722 with all other teams. Overall, while he definitely has the size and bloodlines to succeed, and also has a strong arm and plays solid defense, I’m going to continue to doubt his ability to make it as a big leaguer until he hits somewhere other than HiA. The 24 year old’s 2011 destination will probably depend on how many outfielders the Dodgers end up inviting to spring training this offseason because most of them will probably end up in AAA. If the AAA outfield is too crowded Van Slyke will probably end up in AA, but if not he’ll probably be with the Isotopes next year.

54. Shawn Tolleson, RHP (28.2 IP in Pioneer League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 30th round

6’2”, 215 lbs, 23 years old

1-1, 0.63 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 1.46 FIP, 12.24 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

Shawn Tolleson, who was a travel ball teammate of Clayton Kershaw back in high school, had probably the best and most surprising season of any Dodger minor league player in 2010. Selected in the 30th round of the 2010 draft out of Baylor, nobody thought much about him when he signed because he was coming off of an unimpressive college season. As a redshirt junior, Tolleson went 2-7 for the Bears with a 5.17 ERA, although he did strikeout more than a batter per inning. Mainly a starter in college, Tolleson was moved to the bullpen in his professional debut with the Ogden Raptors and something must have clicked because he was filthy all season. In addition to his stats posted above, his absolutely ridiculous numbers include a .175 batting average against and 17 saves, which lead the league by a significant margin. He also only walked five batters all season and allowed just two total runs. A lot of his success can be attributed to his plus cutter, which is his out-pitch. According to Ogden broadcaster Brandon Hart, “He loves to throw (the cutter) with two strikes and hitters can rarely make contact. He is definitely a guy to look out for. He is not only getting the guys out in the bottom of the order and getting the easy three-run lead saves. He is also getting the close-game, get-out-of-a-jam saves.” After the season, Tolleson himself said “I was drafted in the 30th round, but maybe I'm not a 30th-rounder. So yeah, I came in here not even just trying to prove that but just to prove that I'm good enough to make it.” A Tommy John surgery survivor, Tolleson was a little old for the Pioneer League and only has 28.2 professional innings under his belt, so before we get too excited about him we should probably wait to see what he does in a full season league in 2011. However, he really did have a dream season for the Raptors so he definitely deserves some respect in my rankings despite being such a late round pick.

53. Timothy Sexton, RHP (101.1 IP in AA, 28 IP in HiA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2007, 25th round

6’6”, 185 lbs, 23.75 years old

3-13, 5.50 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 4.02 FIP, 7.65 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 40; Pre 2009 Rank: 57

Coming out of Miami Dade Community College, Timothy Sexton was projected as a third to fifth round pick in the 2007 draft, but many teams stayed away from him when he reportedly asked for a $500,000 signing bonus. The Dodgers took a chance on him in the 25th round, however, and were able to sign him for $123K. Because of his college experience, the Dodgers sent him directly to Lo-A where he had a very successful debut. Since 2007, however, Sexton has had a tough time, especially in terms of his win-loss record. From 2008 through 2010, Tim has won 16 games and lost 39 games in his time split between HiA and AA. I know that win-loss records don’t mean much, but that is a pretty bad winning percentage. In 2010, Sexton was promoted to the Southern League to start the season after throwing almost 300 innings in the California League over the previous two seasons. He 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. Upon rejoining the 66ers in August, Tim was really roughed up for a 7.07 ERA through 28 innings. When you look at the season as a whole, Sexton did show some improvement because he held his own in AA and improved his strikeout rate significantly when compared to the last few seasons. However he was also hit hard throughout the season (.306 batting average against), and again fell victim to the long ball as he allowed 14 homers (after giving up 17 bombs in 2009). The good news is that he is still just 23 years old, so the 6’6” righty still has time to improve his game. He was invited to participate in one of the Arizona Instructional Leagues after the season, and he’ll probably return to AA in 2011.

52. Noel Cuevas, OF (3 games in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 21st round

6’2”, 187 lbs, 19.5 years old, bats right handed

.333 average, .833 OPS, 0 HR’s, 0 RBI’s, 0 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

2010 21st round pick Noel Cuevas inked a deal with the Dodgers right around the deadline for $100K, but his signing went unnoticed by most because he was overshadowed by Zach Lee. The outfielder from Puerto Rico was just 18 years old when he signed, and has intriguing raw power according to Baseball America. He can put on a show in batting practice, however he has holes in his swing and his power doesn’t always translate into home runs during games. He’s apparently destined for left field because of his below average arm, but he is strong runner with good makeup. I actually watched a video of him and his outfield defense does indeed looked suspect, but I liked his swing which does seem to generate a lot of power. Still raw as a baseball player, Cuevas will likely benefit from playing every day in the minor leagues and could have some success once he adjusts to more advanced pitching. After playing just 3 games in the Arizona League in 2010, he’ll probably spend the 2011 season with the Ogden Raptors where he could have a big season in the hitter friendly Pioneer League.

51. Ryan Christenson, LHP (36 IP in LoA, 14.2 IP in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 7th round

6’1”, 185 lbs, 22.25 years old

3-1, 4.97 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.86 FIP, 7.46 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

2010 was actually the 3rd time that the Dodgers drafted Ryan Christenson. He was a 35th round selection out of high school in 2007, but chose to go to Nebraska instead. He didn’t play at all for the Cornhuskers in 2008, however, and transferred to South Mountain CC in Arizona for the 2009 season. The Dodgers then made Christenson a 40th round selection in 2009, but again he declined to sign because he believed he could improve upon his 5.87 ERA. He made the right decision because Ryan has a stellar season at South Mountain CC in 2010, posting a 1.09 ERA and striking out 59 batters in 58 innings. That forced the Dodgers to use a 7th round pick on him in 2010, and Christenson signed relatively quickly for $125K. Ryan was initially assigned to the Arizona Dodgers, but he dominated the league over a 3 week period (1 earned run in 14.2 innings with a .192 batting average against). Therefore, he was promoted to the Loons in late July and remained in the Midwest League for the remainder of the season. While most of his stats weren’t very good in LoA, he did have a solid FIP because he showed good control and only allowed 1 homer all season. Described as having a loose arm, it should be noted that Christenson’s dad Gary pitched in the major leagues with the Royals in 1979 and 1980. In addition, after the season Baseball America said that Christenson “doesn’t have top shelf stuff, but he's one to watch.” Now 22 years old, the left hander will probably return to Great Lakes in 2011 and work as one of the team’s 5 starters. I’m going to keep a close eye on him and try to learn more about his pitching repertoire because I think he is a potential breakout candidate for next season.