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2011 Arizona Dodgers Minor League Season in Review

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The Arizona Dodgers play their home games at Camelback Ranch, shown above, although unlike spring training games the stands are usually empty.
The Arizona Dodgers play their home games at Camelback Ranch, shown above, although unlike spring training games the stands are usually empty.

Next up in my minor league season in review series is the Arizona Dodgers.  The Arizona Rookie League typically features a mixture of players from the most recent draft, international players, non drafted free agent signees, and guys from previous drafts who just weren't ready to be promoted.  You'll also find a rehabbing player in the lineup every now and then.  The 2011 Dodger team fits this basic description, although there seemed to be more undrafted free agent signees on this club than usual.  In total 61 players put on a Arizona Dodger uniform this season, and I'll highlight the most notable guys below. 

Record:  34 - 22

Season Result: The Arizona Dodgers won the 2011 Arizona Rookie League Championship with a 4 - 2 win over the Giants. 

Season Recap:  The Dodgers were a bit streaky in 2011, starting the year 8 - 2 before enduring a couple of losing streaks in mid July.  From July 24th through the end of the season on August 31st, however, the Dodgers were extremely hot as they finished the year 24 and 8 which helped them capture the league championship. 

In looking at the league statistics, the Dodgers won the title with their pitching as their team ERA of 3.87 ranked 2nd in the circuit and their 505 K's placed 1st.  Their hitting was merely average, however, since their .266 team average was in the middle of the pack, as was their .745 team OPS.

Offensive MVP: There is no question that the Dodgers team MVP was 2011 28th round pick Joe Winker.  The 22 year old was a little old for the league, but he led the club in every offensive category except for runs and stolen bases.  His name was also scattered all over the Arizona Rookie League leader board as you can see below.  Despite his impressive stats, he doesn't figure to be much of a prospect because of his aforementioned age and the fact that he doesn't really have any standout skill.  He should be a nice organizational player for the Dodgers, however.

Best Offensive Prospect: Alex Santana is the easy choice for this award as he has the highest ceiling and most upside of any player on this team.  The 2011 2nd round pick was by far the youngest player on the team as he didn't turn 18 until August 21st, and while he struggled for most of the season I would say that his professional debut was still a success.  The negatives are that he hit just .238 in 50 games while striking out in 31.2% of plate appearances and making 17 errors at 3rd base, but the biggest positive is that he has already gained a full year of experience.  He also stole 8 bases and ranked 3rd on the team with 30 runs scored.  Santana actually reminds me a bit of James Baldwin because they both have baseball bloodlines, and both mostly struggled through their first professional season in the Arizona Rookie League as young teenagers.  While I'm not guaranteeing that Santana will breakout next season in the Pioneer League like Baldwin did in 2011, I wouldn't be surprised if Alex followed a similar path.

Pitching MVP: Compared to the offensive honors, it was quite difficult to select the Dodger pitching award winners.  After much deliberation, I'm give the Pitching MVP to non drafted free agent signee Jason West.  West, who was a closer in college at Stephen F Austin University, pitched strictly out of the bullpen for the Dodgers but had a big impact both in the regular season and in the playoffs.  The 5'11" righty threw 17.1 innings during the season and completely shutdown the opposition by allowing just 1 run while striking out 23 and recording 4 saves.  His success continued into the short Arizona League postseason as he saved both playoff games and got 5 of his 6 outs via the K.  The bad news is that he is already 23 years old, but even still you can't deny the success he had in 2011.

Best Pitching Prospect: Deciding on the top pitching prospect on this team was extremely challenging, especially since I don't count rehabbing players or guys who didn't make at least 5 appearances.  After much deliberations, I picked Daniel Tamares for this award based on this stats, size, age, and history of success.  Tamares spent 4 seasons in the DSL before heading stateside, including a dominant 2010 season in which he had a 1.41 ERA and a .141 batting average against as a starter.  Daniel was moved to the bullpen in 2011, and continued his success with a 2.11 ERA in 21.1 innings and a K/9 of almost 14.  I'll be honest in that I don't know how hard he throws or what type of pitches he has, but Tamares is a big man at 6'3" and is still just 21 so he is still young enough to make a name for himself in the Dodger minor league system.

Follow the jump for more...

Other Notable Players and Prospects: Before I get into the position by position breakdown, I wanted to highlight a few more players on the team who either had a great season and/or have the potential to turn into a legitimate Dodger prospect.  This way, the more notable players don't get lost in all the detail below. 

Jose Dominguez - RHP - Dominguez made exactly 10 starts for the Dodgers and was the team's most consistent starting pitcher with a 3.50 ERA and just about a strikeout per inning.  He spent most of the season as a 20 year old, and overall had a successful US debut after spending 3 years in the DSL.

Michael Thomas - LHP - The 2011 35th round pick may have been a little old for the league at 22 years of age, but was pretty dominant in his 4 starts and 8 relief appearances (21.2 IP).  Thomas had a 2.49 ERA, a 1.78 FIP, and a K/9 of 14.1. 

Matt Laney - LHP - One off the 8 free agent pitchers signed by the Dodgers in 2011 that played on this team, Laney allowed just 2 runs all season in 24.1 innings.  That amounted to a 0.74 ERA, and he also had a 0.90 WHIP.  He just turned 23 so he is another guy who was too old for the league, but as a 6'4" lefty he could still turn into something.

Eric Eadington - LHP - I mostly ignored Eadington when he signed with the Dodgers as a non drafted free agent out of Harvard because he was already 23 years old, and even when he started to post great stats I didn't pay much attention.  It wasn't until a recent Baseball America chat where his name came up that I took some notice.  He apparently throws 92 - 94 and turned some heads after getting promoted to Ogden, so I guess he's worth keeping an eye on.

Juan Noriega - RHP - Noriega only appeared in 6 regular season games, but he quickly put himself on the Dodgers radar with 0 runs allowed and 21 K's in just 13 innings.  Signed out of Mexico, Juan just turned 21 and is only listed at 5'7" and 145 lbs, but his performance is worth mentioning. 

Delvis Morales - SS - I didn't think much of Morales after he hit .220 in the DSL in 2010, but his hitting improved after getting promoted as did his defense.  According to a Baseball America chat, the 21 year old switch hitter was actually considered the team's 2nd best prospect (behind Alex Santana) and actually resembles Dee Gordon just without the super speed.

Jesus Valdez - 1B/3B - Valdez was a pitcher in college, but the Dodgers wanted to use him as an infielder after selecting him in the 19th round of the 2011 draft.  The 19 year old missed a part of the season for an undisclosed reason, but hit 3 homers in just 23 games.  He seemed to have a good feel at the plate as he struck out in just 13.7% of at bats and walked in 8.4% of AB's, and has a big frame at 6'3".

Devin Shines - OF - The son of Razor ranked 2nd on the club in many offensive categories behind Joe Winker, including OPS (.858), average (.318), and OB% (.398).  He also lead the team with 13 steals and played a solid center field.  The only issue is that he is already 22 years old, and stands at just 5'9" so he's going to have to work extremely hard if he ever wants to make it to the show.

Chris O'Brien - C - Another bloodline player, the 2011 18th round pick put up solid stats all season long with a .855 OPS and 33 RBI's in 42 games.  The 22 year old also showed good plate disciple and displayed good defense as he threw out 34% of would be base stealers.

Position by Position Breakdown (player's age in parenthesis):

Catcher: The backstop duties were split pretty evenly between Chris O'Brien (22), who was mentioned above, and Jose Capellan (21).  O'Brien had the better season of the two, but Capellan also held his own despite being more than a year younger than his counterpart.  Jose hit .270 with a .691 OPS in his US debut (he spent 2 seasons in the DSL) and walked almost as much as he struck out.  JJ Ethel (22), the Dodgers 49th round pick in the 2011 draft, was the only other Dodger to spend at least 10 games behind the plate, although in total he only played in 12 games.  He had a .894 OPS in his limited action thanks to a big game on July 3rd

1st Base: Tae-Hyeok Nam (20) was the team's main 1st baseman but had another disappointing season.  After hitting .243 in 2010, Nam actually regressed in 2011 with a .221 average over 30 games.  I had pretty high aspirations for Tae-Hyeok when he initially signed out of Korea, but at this point I've lost most of my hope for the 20 year old.  Beau Brett (22) spent 18 games at 1st base and was even more disappointing (.160 average), and Jesus Valdez (19; mentioned above) actually spent most of his defensive time at 1st base even though he was technically drafted as a 3rd baseman (16 games at 1st base vs. 3 games at 3rd base).

2nd Base: Second base was a weak spot for the Dodgers as both Malcolm Holland (19) and Stefan Jarrin (21) had ugly seasons at the plate and in the field.  Holland, the primary 2nd baseman, hit just .159 and made 8 errors in 24 games despite drawing comparisons to Dee Gordon at the time of the draft.  The good news on Holland, however, is that he is very raw as he was a highly recruited football player in high school and is still just 19 years old.  Jarrin, the grandson of Jaime, played sparingly but managed to make 11 errors in 19 games at 2nd.  He doesn't have any standout tools and hit just .213 while playing the season as a 20 year old.

Shortstop: Delvis Morales (21) played almost every game at shortstop, and as mentioned above he was considered by some to be the team's second best prospect.  His stats weren't overly impressive (.277 average, .689 OPS, 8 SB's), but he is apparently an exciting player to watch; especially on defense.  Bryant Hernandez (23) also spent a little time at shortstop in between his time spent in LoA and AAA, and Justin Boudreaux (22) made a cameo before getting promoted to Ogden. 

3rd Base: The primary 3rd baseman for the Dodgers was Alex Santana (18), and he was discussed in length above.  The only aspect of his game not already mentioned was Santana's defense, which is definitely a work is progress as his fielding % was just .832.  The other player to man the hot corner for the Dodgers was Bladimir Franco (20), who also spent some time in right field.  Franco improved his 3rd base defense dramatically from a year ago, but his offensive production was well below expectations.  Despite repeating the Arizona League for a second season, his batting average was just .211 and he struck out in a third of his plate appearances.

Outfield: The outfield was the Dodgers strong suit as two of the team's best players spent their time in the grass.  Devin Shines (22) was the captain of the group and played a team high 52 games, all in center field.  He only made two errors and recorded a team high 7 outfield assists.  He was also the leadoff man for the majority of the season and was an all around spark plug.  Joe Winker (22), the offensive MVP, was the main left fielder and in addition to his hitting accolades, he didn't make an error all season.  Ronny Lugo (21), the everyday right fielder, was promoted to the Arizona League in 2011 after two seasons in the DSL despite hitting a combined .240 with the Dominican Dodgers.  Lugo got off to a hot start in June, but then hit a horrible slump and ended the year with a .230 average and just 4 extra base hits.  In addition to the three main starters, three other players spent at least 10 games in the outfield.  One was the aforementioned Bladimir Franco (20), and the other two are Gianison Rosa (21) and Devon Ethier (21).  Rosa was a random free agent pickup who had little impact, while Ethier had an awful season with a .119 average in 27 games with a K rate of 33%.

Starting Pitchers: The Dodger starting pitching staff was a mishmosh of players as 13 different guys toed to the mound to start games.  Luis Meza (21), who made his US debut after two seasons in the DSL, started a team high 14 games and led the club with 5 wins.  The 6'4" righty didn't strike out a ton of batters, but he did post a respectable ERA of 4.59 through 64.2 innings.  Jose Dominguez (21), who was mentioned above, was the only other Dodger pitcher with double digit starts.  A pair of Japanese right-handers made 5 starts each, although there was quite an age difference between the two.  The elder was Robert Boothe (25), who spent almost the entire season in Arizona despite being 25 years old.  He's always had a live fastball, but I'm guessing the Dodgers wanted to continue working on his mechanics.  While Boothe had a solid 2.57 ERA, he continued to be very wild as he walked 14 in 21 innings.   Kazuya Takano (18) was the other Japanese player, and the youngster struggled mightily as he gave up 8 homers in just 38.1 innings for a 6.81 ERA.  No other pitcher made more than 4 starts for the Dodgers.

Relief Pitchers: A ton of players pitched in relief for the Dodgers, but I'm only going to talk about the guys who spent most of their season with the club.  The more notable relievers on the team were already mentioned above (Jason West (23), Daniel Tamares (21), Michael Thomas (22), Matthew Laney (23), Juan Noriega (21), and Eric Eadington (23)), so that just leaves a few guys to discuss here.  If you don't count 2011 6th round pick Scott Barlow (18), who appeared in just 2 games at the end of the season, 15th rounder Craig Stem (21) was the earliest selection from 2011 draft to pitch for the Dodgers.  The 6'5" Stem appeared in 11 games, and while he allowed way too many base runners he still managed to put together a solid season with a 3.65 ERA and a 2.37 FIP.  Garrett Bolt (22), Freddie Cabrera (21), Robert Charma (23), and Greg Downing (20) were other 2011 draftees to pitch for the Dodgers, and they all had varying degrees of success (or lack thereof).  Francisco Villa (19), who was signed out of Mexico for $80K, made his professional debut with the Dodgers out of the bullpen but had a tough season as he recorded a 7.80 ERA over 11 appearances.  He did strike out a batter per inning, however, and is still very young so that is some good news.  Finally, converted outfielder Chance Gilmore (24) ranked second on the team with 17 appearances, but he had a 5.19 ERA despite a K/9 of 9.35.

League Leaders:

Arizona Rookie League Hitters
Category Player Rank Amount
Games Devin Shines Tied 5th 52
At Bats Devin Shines 4th 211
Runs Devin Shines 2nd 45
Hits Devin Shines Tied 5th 67
2B Joseph Winker 3rd 17
RBI Joseph Winker Tied 1st 46
Total Bases Joseph Winker Tied 5th 102
Strikeouts Alex Santana 4th 64
OB% Joseph Winker 1st 0.442
SLG Joseph Winker 3rd 0.626
Average Joseph Winker 3rd 0.374
OPS Joseph Winker 2nd 1.068


Arizona Rookie League Pitchers
Category Player Rank Amount
Wins Luis Meza Tied 5th 5
Games Started Luis Meza 1st 14
Innings Pitched Luis Meza Tied 1st 64.2
Hits Allowed Luis Meza 4th 73
HR Allowed Kazuya Takano Tied 1st 8
HR Allowed Luis Meza Tied 4th 6
Hit Batters Jose Dominguez Tied 3rd 8
Holds Daniel Tamares Tied 5th 4
Holds Gregory Downing Tied 5th 4