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2011 Chattanooga Lookouts Minor League Season in Review

The Chattanooga Lookouts are the second to last team in my minor league seasons in review, and they turned out to be a very interesting club in 2011.  Heading into the season their roster wasn't all that impressive, but a couple of breakout seasons and a few promotions later and the Lookouts turned into one of the more noteworthy teams of 2011.  Residing over 2,000 miles away from Los Angeles and rarely appearing on, the Lookouts were a bit of a mystery since our only connection to the team was through audio feeds and box scores.  That being said, 4 players from the Chattanooga roster made their major league debuts in 2011 which gave the team even more credibility.

Record: 77 - 62 (35 - 35 First Half, 42 - 27 Second Half)

Season Result: After a 4th place finish in the first half of the season, the Lookouts rallied and won their division in the second half.  Unfortunately Chattanooga was swept by the Tennessee Smokies in the first round of the playoffs.

Season Recap: The Lookouts exceeded all expectations in 2011 as they turned out to be a very well balanced team.  Several players stepped up to lead the club, especially on offense, and the team improved throughout the season culminating in a second half division crown.  While they fell short in the playoffs, there were several reasons to be excited about the Lookouts during their season. 

In terms of team stats, Chattanooga was atop the leader boards in both pitching and hitting.  The Lookouts led the league in both ERA (3.66) and strikeouts, while placing second in saves, WHIP, and HR allowed.  The hitting was even better as the club ranked 1st or 2nd in virtually every offensive category.  Their team slugging % (.444) and team OPS (.794) ranked best in the circuit, and they also led in doubles, triples, and total bases.  Chattanooga was second best in average (.273), HR's (125), and even stolen bases (121).

Offensive MVP: There were a couple of standout offensive seasons for the Lookouts in 2011, but Scott Van Slyke was the clear MVP of this team.  He led the team in every significant offensive category except for runs and stolen bases, and even won the league batting title with a .348 average.  His SLG %, OB%, and OPS all ranked 2nd in the league, and his big season earned him a spot on the Dodgers 40 man roster.

Best Offensive Prospect: I'm giving the top offensive prospect award to Alfredo Silverio, who was the other Lookout hitter to have a breakout season.  Scouts always liked his athleticism, and he finally used it to his full potential in 2011.  Even though he still had trouble taking a walk, he lead the Southern League in Total Bases and had a surprising 18 triples despite failing in 12 of his 23 stolen base attempts.  In addition, even though I don't think Silverio will be able to play center fielder regularly in the big leagues, that is where he spent most of his defensive time in 2011 so that gives him some additional value as a prospect.

Pitching MVP: There were a number of candidates for this award, ranging from solid starting pitchers to dominate relievers.  After much consideration I'm giving the honor to Nate Eovaldi even though he only won 6 games for Chattanooga.  Eovaldi's 2.62 ERA in 103 innings was more than a run lower than any other starter not named Rubby De La Rosa, and his WHIP was an impressive 1.18.  The 21 year old also struck out 8.65 batters per 9 innings and had a great FIP of 3.05.  Finally, batters hit just .203 against him, and he allowed just 3 homers prior to his big league call up. 

Best Pitching Prospect: Similar to the pitching MVP award, there were a bunch of guys to consider for the Lookouts's best pitching prospect.  Since Rubby De La Rosa is no longer technically a prospect, I'm picking Allen Webster, giving him this award for the second time since he also was my selection as the best pitching prospect for the Quakes.  While Webster's overall stats in AA weren't very impressive (5.04), he was actually very good until the month of August when his workload caught up to him.  He's still just 21 years old and the 145 innings he threw were a career high so I have no problem with him tiring late in the season.  As I mentioned in my Quakes report Webster has a good sinking fastball and a great changeup that scouts say might be plus-plus in the future.

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.  There were quite a few guys on this Lookout team worth mentioning.

Kyle Russell - OF - Russell continued his trend of hitting for a lot of power while striking out a ton.  He ranked 2nd on the team with 19 homers, but K'ed in 32.2% of his plate appearances.  The good news is that the 25 year old also continues to walk at a good rate which helped him post a .840 OPS despite a .259 average.

Brian Cavazos-Galvez - OF/1B - BCG got off to a slow start with just 4 homers through the month of June, but he finished with a flurry and connected on 7 bombs over his final 30 games while posting a .969 OPS.  The 24 year old's stolen base numbers were way down from last year proving that he was simply taking advantage of the younger competition in the Midwest League, and he continues to walk at an extremely low rate.

Chris Withrow - RHP - The 2007 1st round pick didn't get a lot of attention in 2011, but Withrow quietly had a very good season despite walking too many batters.  In his second season with the Lookouts Chris lowered his ERA from 5.97 to 4.20, and he also led the Southern League with his 9.1 K/9 rate.  Like I said the 22 year old issued too many walks which didn't allow him to work deep into games, but besides that he did everything else well.  His fastball can reach 98 mph, and he also has the makings of a plus curveball.

Shawn Tolleson - RHP - Tolleson finally found a league where he couldn't strike everyone out as his K/9 was "only" 11.2, but in all seriousness he continued to dominate with a 1.62 ERA and a 2.18 FIP in 44.1 innings.  He also converted 12 saves and made the back end of Baseball America's Southern League's top prospects list, where they wrote that the 23 year old throws in the low 90's but has good movement on all his pitches, especially his cutter.

Cole St. Clair - LHP - The 25 year old lefty reliever was outstanding through July, and even with a rough final month of the season he finished the year with a 3.04 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 2.58 FIP.  Cole has never been known as a hard thrower, but he hits his spots and walked just 13 batters in 50.1 innings.

Josh Wall - RHP - As I've mentioned many times before, Wall has found new life in the bullpen and can again be considered a legitimate Dodger prospect.  He led the Lookouts with 68.2 inning in relief and posted a 3.93 ERA, which wasn't all that impressive but was the best of his career since 2005.  He's currently throwing very well in the AFL and rumor has it that he's hit 100 mph.  The 24 year old is also a candidate to be added to the 40 man roster in the next few weeks.

Steven Ames - RHP - Ames' numbers with Chattanooga weren't quite as ridiculous as they were with the Quakes, but he continued his success with a 2.48 ERA and a K/9 of 11.3.  Since getting drafted in 2009, the former 17th round pick has a career ERA of 2.14, a career WHIP of 0.98, and a career K/9 of 13.5 in 109.1 innings.  The 23 year old is another guy throwing in the AFL and while he's getting hit around a bit, it is a great experience for him.

Ethan Martin - RHP - As mentioned in my Quakes' season in review, Martin was promoted to AA after a move to the bullpen.  He continued to have problems with control in Chattanooga, but overall he showed solid improvement as his ERA was a solid 4.02 and he struck out more than a batter per inning.  The 22 year old also picked up 3 saves.

Javy Guerra - RHP - Guerra was the first of four Lookout pitchers to make his major league debut in 2011, and so he only threw 17 innings for Chattanooga before his promotion.  The recently turned 26 year old was carving up the competition in his limited appearances with a 1.06 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP.

Rubby De La Rosa - RHP - We all know the De La Rosa story by now as he was dominating AA, got promoted to Los Angeles, but then was shut down after 60 big league innings because of a balky elbow that required Tommy John surgery.  In his time with the Lookouts, the 22 year old had a 2.93 ERA and struck out 11.7 batters per 9 innings while posting a .199 batting average against.

Josh Lindblom - RHP - Lindblom split his season pretty evenly between Chattanooga and LA, and had a remarkable turnaround from an ugly 2010 season.  After posting a terrible 6.54 ERA in AAA in 2010 with a K/9 under 8.0, Lindblom recorded a 2.13 ERA with the Lookouts and a K/9 of just about 11.5.  Then of course he had a sub 3.00 ERA with the Dodgers, so really it was an incredible comeback for the big 24 year old.

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

Catcher: Matt Wallach (25) was the Lookouts' primary backstop, although he missed most of July due to an injury and was replaced late in the year by the younger Griff Erickson (23).  Wallach was on the verge of becoming a legitimate catching prospect for the Dodgers after a solid season in 2010, but he failed to show any progress in 2011 and in fact regressed with a .247 average and just 3 homers.  His the only impressive part of his season was that he walked more than he struck out.  Erickson, on the other hand, smacked 7 homers in just 41 games and posted a .808 OPS in his first taste of the Southern League.  Both Wallach and Erickson also showed strong defensive skills.  Hector "Vector" Gimenez (29) was the only other Chattanooga player to spent a significant amount of time behind the plate, and even though he is no long in the Dodgers system at least we'll always have spring training 2011 to remember him by.

1st Base: Two outfielders, Scott Van Slyke (25) and Brian Cavazos-Galvez (24), split the season at 1st base in 2011.  Both were learning the position for the first time, and they alternated in left field when they weren't playing at 1st.  I've mentioned each of their  offensive season's above, and in terms of their defense at 1st base they both were considered adequate and had a fielding % of around .980 for the season.  Hector Gimenez (29) also spent some time at 1st when he wasn't catching or the DH.

2nd Base: Jaime Pedroza (25) was the Lookouts' main 2nd baseman for the second year in a row, although a late demotion to the California put a damper on his season.  Pedroza only has himself to blame for the demotion, however, as he was hitting just .250 with 6 homers and 24 RBI's though 87 games despite being one of the older players in the league.  Super utility man Elian Herrera (26) also spent a good amount of time at 2nd base, and he left his mark on the basepaths with a team high 33 stolen bases.  Besides his speed and versatility Herrera didn't show too much potential as he batted .278 with 3 homers while making 20 errors in the field.

Shortstop: It was an ugly group that manned shortstop for the Lookouts in 2011, led by the light hitting minor league veteran Ivan Ochoa (28) who had a .636 OPS for the season.  The aforementioned Elian Herrera (26) and Wilberto Ortiz (26) also spent time at the position until Jake Lemmerman (22) took over full time in August.  Late Night hit two homers in his short time with the Lookouts, but batted just .234.

3rd Base: There was a revolving door at 3rd base for the Lookouts as 5 different players spent at least 20 games at the hot corner.  Travis Denker (26) actually led the way despite playing just 45 games at 3rd base, and he had an ugly fielding % of .904.  His hitting, on the other hand, was much better as he connected on 10 homers in just 233 at bats and had a solid .862 OPS.  Spring Training star Corey Smith (29) was another player that filled in the gap at 3rd base, but he was pretty quiet at the plate and isn't worth writing about.  Someone who is worth writing about is Pedro Baez (23), who accumulated just 105 at bats in 2011 before getting shutdown for the season.  There were rumors that he'd emerge later in the year as a pitcher a la Kenley Jansen, but that was not the case.  I actually don't know what was wrong with him nor what his future plans are after he hit just .210 in his shortened season.

Outfield: The outfield was definitely the bright spot of the Chattanooga offense, and the majority of these players have already been mentioned above.  Center field was manned by Alfredo Silverio (24) for most of the season, although Silverio also spent a decent amount of time in left and played some right field as well.  Silverio actually accumulated 19 outfield assists during the season, but I don't think it's because he has an amazing arm.  Brad Coon (28) was the backup outfield and did basically nothing at the plate.  As previously mentioned Scott Van Slyke (25) was the primary left fielder when he wasn't at 1st base, and split his time out there with Brian Cavazos-Galvez (24)Kyle Russell (25) was the everyday right fielder until his late promotion to AAA, at which point Alex Castellanos (25) took over full time.  Castle made a great impression on Dodger prospect fans after joining the team in the Furcal trade as he posted a 1.009 OPS in his 32 games with the Lookouts, connecting on 4 homers, driving in 23 runs, and walking almost as much as he struck out.  There has been talk about converting him to either 2nd base or 1st base since the Dodger have a crowded minor league outfield, so it will be interesting to see where he plays next season.  By the way, I forgot to mention this in my Roster Addition Preview, but Castellanos is another guy that needs to be added to the 40 man roster or else the Dodgers risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft.

Starting Pitchers: The Lookouts had a pretty consistent rotation in 2011, as only 7 pitchers started 5 or more games for Chattanooga.  4 of these 7 starters were discussed above (Chris Withrow (22), Nate Eovaldi (21), Allen Webster (21), and Rubby De La Rosa (22)), so I'll talk about the other three pitchers here.  Michael Antonini (26) was acquired by the Dodgers from the Mets for Chin-Lung Hu, and in his first season in Dodgers organization Antonini was the Lookouts' workhorse with 148 innings.  He ranked second on the team with 10 wins, and had a solid ERA of 4.01 with a K/9 of almost 8.  Overall it was a good season for the lefty, and while his ceiling isn't all that high he remains an option to one day make it to the show, potentially as a spot starter.  Will Savage (27) was another Chattanooga starter that spent the entire season in the rotation, and he won a league high 12 games by working 141.1 innings.  His ERA was similar to Antonini's at 3.95, but his WHIP of 1.25 ranked 2nd in the league among qualifying pitchers. Signed as a minor league free agent prior to the 2010 season, the Dodgers clearly like what they see in Savage because they just re-signed him for yet another year.  Finally, Stephen Fife (25) was a late addition to the club since he was acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade, and he essentially took the spot of Eovaldi in the rotation.  In 6 starts Fife posted a 3 - 0 record, and his 4.01 ERA was pretty consistent with the 3.66 ERA he had while in the Eastern League earlier in the season.  The 2008 3rd round pick has pedigree and a good 3 pitch mix, but he doesn't miss a lot of bats and is currently getting hit around in the AFL.

Relief Pitchers: I mentioned virtually every significant Lookout reliever in the section above for "Other Notable Prospects, so I'll be brief in my bullpen recap.  Javy Guerra (26) started the season as the Chattanooga closer, then was replaced by Josh Lindblom (24) when Guerra got the call to LA.  Lindblom then served as the Lookout closer when he wasn't with the Dodgers, and in his absence he was replaced by a combination of Shawn Tolleson (23) and Steven Ames (23).   Josh Wall (24) and Cole St. Clair (25) were the team's most effective setup men, while Ethan Martin (22) was more of a middle/long reliever.  All the other significant bullpen arms were minor league veterans, with the exception of Javier Solano (21).  As I mentioned in my Quakes report, Solano put up better numbers in AA than he did in HiA for the second year in a row, recording a 3.03 ERA in Chattanooga and allowing just 1 homer in 32.2 innings.  I'm sure he'll start the 2012 season back in AA. 

League Leaders:

Southern League Hitters
Category Player Rank Amount
Runs Alfredo Silverio 2nd 90
Hits Alfredo Silverio 2nd 163
Hits Scott Van Slyke 3rd 159
Doubles Scott Van Slyke 1st 45
Doubles Alfredo Silverio 2nd 42
Triples Alfredo Silverio 1st 18
Home Runs Scott Van Slyke Tied 5th 20
RBI's Scott Van Slyke 3rd 92
RBI's Alfredo Silverio Tied 5th 85
Total Bases Alfredo Silverio 1st 289
Total Bases Scott Van Slyke 2nd 272
Walks Scott Van Slyke 4th 65
Strikeouts Kyle Russell 2nd 144
Stolen Bases Elian Herrera 4th 33
OB% Scott Van Slyke 2nd 0.427
SLG% Scott Van Slyke 2nd 0.595
SLG% Alfredo Silverio 4th 0.542
Average Scott Van Slyke 1st 0.348
Average Alfredo Silverio Tied 5th 0.306
OPS Scott Van Slyke 2nd 1.022
Southern League Pitchers
Category Player Rank Amount
Wins Will Savage 1st 12
Wins Michael Antonini Tied 4th 10
Losses Michael Antonini Tied 5th 9
Shutouts Allen Webster Tied 1st 1
Saves Josh Lindblom Tied 3rd 17
HR Allowed Michael Antonini Tied 1st 19
Walks Chris Withrow 4th 75
Strikeouts Michael Antonini Tied 3rd 131
Strikeouts Chris Withrow 5th 130
WHIP Will Savage 2nd 1.25