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Dodgers Prospect Countdown: 20 - 11

Here is the second to last post in my Dodger prospect countdown.  I really like the players in this group, and it was difficult for me to keep some of these guys out of my top 10.  I had some tough decisions to make in my rankings, and some players like Aaron Miller had to pay the price.  It’s not that I don’t like Miller as a prospect; it’s simply that I liked 8 other pitchers and 5 other position players better than him.  Next week I’ll post my top 10 prospects just in time for the start of spring training.

20.  Blake Smith, OF (115 games in LoA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 2nd round

6’2”, 220 lbs, 23.25 years old, bats left handed

.281 average, .852 OPS, 19 HR, 76 RBI’s, 2 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 20;     Pre 2009 Rank: N/A


Blake Smith was selected in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft out of Cal where he was a two way player for the Golden Bears.  During his 3 year college career, Smith had a .312 average with 28 homers in 158 games, and a 4.63 ERA in 62.2 innings with a 12.2 K/9.  The Dodgers signed Smith as an outfielder, and after the draft Logan White said, “He was highly touted as a hitter and a pitcher.  Just like Loney, he has a really nice left-handed swing and he's a power guy with incredible raw power. When he worked out, he almost hit one out of Dodger Stadium -- way up in the seats. Obviously he can throw and if we can work with him to utilize that raw power, he'll be a front-line corner outfielder.”  After a terrible professional debut in 2009, many wrote off Smith as a wasted pick.  I, on the other hand, expected a rebound season for Smith in LoA in 2010 and that is exactly what happened.  Blake led the Loons with 19 home runs and posted a very solid .852 OPS.  He also hit .303 against left handers despite being a lefty himself, and played very strong defense in right field while recording 11 assists.  However, Smith has a career strikeout rate of 28.4%, and some expect him to struggle against more advanced pitching.  Therefore, despite his improvements in 2010, the Dodgers are apparently still considering moving him to the mound at some point down the road.  Smith has a very strong arm and as previously mentioned had very good strikeout numbers in college, so making him a pitcher is definitely an option.  That move won’t be made anytime soon, though, as the Dodgers are probably going to promote Smith the HiA and make him the Quakes starting right fielder in 2011.  Given the hitter friendly environment of the California League, Blake could have a very big season next year.


Why #20: Blake Smith has a lot of value because he has the potential to be a powerful outfielder, yet also could end up as a power reliever on the mound.  If I had to guess right now, I’d say Smith’s ceiling is a big league right fielder who could hit 25 homers annually with an adequate batting average.

19.  Jake Lemmerman, SS (66 games in Pioneer League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 5th round

6’1”, 192 lbs, 21.75 years old, bats right handed

.363 average, 1.044 OPS, 12 HR’s, 47 RBI’s, 5 SB’s

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


Jake Lemmerman is a local kid who grew up in Corona Del Mar, yet he decided to play his college ball at Duke.  While he was a Blue Devil, Lemmerman built up quite a reputation for himself both on and off the field.  I'll stick to talking about what he did on the field, however, as Late Night lead the team in virtually every offensive category, including batting average (.335), homers (11), slugging (.569), and RBI’s (45).  He also had a solid .987 fielding percentage as the team’s shortstop.  That prompted the Dodgers to select Lemmerman in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, and they were able to sign him very quickly.  Assigned to the Pioneer League, Lemmerman had pretty much the best season possible for a first year shortstop.  Jake was named the MVP for the entire league, and definitely deserved it with the offensive stats he put up as a middle infielder.  Jake hit .363 over 259 at bats and finished the season with 12 homers.  He also ranked 1st in the league in runs (69), 1st in doubles (24), 7th in RBI’s (47), 2nd in total bases (158), 3rd in OBP (.434), 3rd in SLG (.610), and 4th in OPS (1.044).  His season reminds me a lot of what Brian Cavazos-Galvez did in the Pioneer League in 2009, but I’m much more impressed with Lemmerman because he is a full year younger than BCG was at this stage, and also because he plays the premium position of shortstop.  After the season, Baseball America ended up ranking Lemmerman as the 6th best prospect in the league, and compared him Mark Grudzielanek and Mark Loretta.  The only caveat to his big season was that Lemmerman hit 10 of his 12 home runs at home, but his overall numbers on the road were still very good as he hit .360 with a .937 OPS as the away team.  Probably the biggest question for Lemmerman is if he’ll be able to stay at shortstop as he moves up through the system.  Most of the reports I’ve read say that he is a great defender at shortstop, yet Baseball America mentioned in their pre-draft report that they saw him moving to 2nd or 3rd base in the future.  Since his ability to play shortstop is what really boosts his value, let’s hope he can continue to stick at that position.  I see Lemmerman spending 2011 as the Loons everyday shortstop, and it will be interesting to see how he performs over a full season in the Midwest League.


Why #19: Anyone that has the ability to play shortstop and puts up great offensive stats deserves to be included in my top 20.  However, Lemmerman’s sample size is limited to one season in a hitter friendly league, so that is why I don’t have him ranked higher than #19.  While he is still a long way off from reaching his potential, I see his ceiling as an everyday shortstop at the big league level with the ability to smack 15 homers and hit .280 over a full season.


18.  Josh Lindblom, RHP (95 IP in AAA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 2nd round

6’5”, 240 lbs, 23.75 years old

3-2, 6.54 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 4.31 FIP, 7.96 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 8;     Pre 2009 Rank: 6


After getting selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft out of Purdue, Lindblom appeared to be on the fact track to the big leagues.  He made it up to AA in his first professional season, and then found himself in the Dodgers big league spring training camp less than 10 months after getting drafted.  After a solid 2009 season, he again earned himself an invite to the Dodgers 2010 big league spring training.  Since then, however, things have gone downhill for Josh.  He started the 2010 season in the Isotopes rotation, but had a 7.06 ERA through 10 games and moved to the bullpen.  While the move helped him some, he still had a 5.93 ERA over the final 3+ months of the season.  Despite the down year, fans shouldn’t lose faith in Lindblom as a prospect, especially since he is still just 23 years old.  When asked about Josh after the season, DeJon Watson said that AAA is a very difficult place to pitch, so you have to take his stats with a grain of salt.  Watson also mentioned that Lindblom will definitely remain in the bullpen, and that it has taken him a while to get readjusted to his role as a reliever.  The fact that Josh can now focus on being a full time reliever should help him in the future since back and forth between starter and reliever is very difficult for any pitcher.  Also, reports out of the Arizona Instructional League were that Lindblom’s fastball was back up to 95 mph, so that is good news heading into 2011.  When you combine his fastball with a hard curve, a developing changeup, and solid command, that should lead to higher K/9 numbers and better overall stats in the future.  I expect Lindblom to spend 2011 in AAA, and could even serve as the Isotopes closer.  I still project him to be a solid reliever at the big league level in the future, and will most likely be added to the Dodgers 40 man roster before the end of this year.


Why #18: Lindblom is still very young and has the ceiling of a big league closer.  While he hasn’t yet demonstrated that he can handle major league hitting, he could end up being a significant piece in the Dodgers bullpen for years to come.  However, his poor year in 2010 has caused him to drop in my rankings.


17.  Kyle Russell, RF (76 games in AA, 53 games in HiA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 3rd round

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

.291 average, .934 OPS, 26 HR’s, 81 RBI’s, 11 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 14;     Pre 2009 Rank: 14


Kyle Russell was the Dodgers 3rd round pick in the 2008 draft out of Texas, and after setting home runs records in college he has continued to put on a power display as a pro.  He has also struck out at a pretty alarming rate (32% for his career), but really that just comes with the territory for Kyle.  After earning co-MVP honors in the Midwest League in 2009, Russell made a joke out of the California League in 2010 by hitting .354 in 53 games with 16 homers and a ridiculous 1.140 OPS.  That earned Kyle a promotion to AA in June, and while his stats dropped across the board in the Southern League, he still managed to rank 3rd on the Lookouts with 10 home runs.  In addition, when you dig a little deeper into his AA stats, you’ll notice that after getting off to a terrible start in Chattanooga, he was able to turn things around in August as he recorded an OPS of 1.018 during that month.  In terms of his defense, Russell is a strong defensive outfielder with a good arm and profiles best in right field.  When you watch video of Kyle in college, you’ll notice how skinny he was back then.  Luckily he has added a little muscle since turning pro and now looks more solid on the field.  Overall, Russell has the power to make it to the big leagues, but you can almost guarantee that he would never hit for a high average.  He has a long swing and definitely struggles with breaking balls.  The obvious comparison to Russell is Mark Reynolds, but I don’t think that Kyle would be quite as extreme as Reynolds as a big league player since I doubt he’d hit 40 homers over a full season and I also doubt he’d hit below .200.  A more realistic expectation would be 20 – 30 homers over a full season with an average around .240.  Now 24 years old, Russell will probably return to AA to start 2011 and is going to have to continue to impress if he wants to make it to the show.  A promotion to AAA isn’t out of the question, and if he has a solid year I would expect the Dodgers to add Russell to their 40 man roster next offseason.


Why #17: Russell has a ton of power and is a solid defender in right field, so his ceiling is that of a starting right fielder in the major leagues.  He has a career OPS of .920, but is already 24 years old so he is going to have to move quickly if he wants to have an impact in the big leagues.  At the very least, I do expect Russell to make it up the Dodgers as a bench player at some point in his career.


16.  Ralston Cash, RHP (6 IP in Pioneer League, 30 IP in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 2nd round

6’1”, 197 lbs, 19.5 years old

2-2, 5.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.59 FIP, 7.50 K/9

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


Ralston Cash was probably a bit of an overdraft when the Dodgers selected him in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, but you can’t blame the team since they spent $5.25M on their 1st round pick on Zach Lee.  The Georgia prep eventually signed for $463K, and joined the Arizona Dodgers in July of 2010.  Cash, the cousin of 2008 first round pick Ethan Martin, had an interesting upbringing because he was raised by his grandparents after his mother passed away in a freak car accident.  He was committed to play at Georgia, but he couldn’t bypass the Dodgers generous offer.  Upon joining the Arizona League, Ralston put up solid stats.  He played almost the entire season as an 18 year old, yet recorded a 2.83 FIP and did not allow a homer in his 30 innings pitched.  He was also rated as the 20th best prospect in the Arizona League by Baseball America, and he earned a promotion to the Pioneer League at the end of the Arizona season.  In terms of his stuff, Cash throws a fastball from 88-92 mph with good sink, and he has touched 94 mph.  Some scouts describe his secondary stuff as fringy, while others believe his changeup and slider can one day become plus pitches.  One interesting thing about Cash is that while he is listed at 6’1” on, other scouting reports have his height at 6’3” or 6’4”.  He’ll probably spend 2011 in the Pioneer League where he’ll continue to work on his game as a starting pitcher. 


Why #16: Ralston Cash has three pitches that project to be at solid to above average, which leads me to believe that his ceiling is that of a #3 starter at the big league level.  While there are several pitchers in the Dodgers system ahead of Cash at this point, he seems to be a solid prospect with good command of his game.


15.  Nathan Eovaldi, RHP (85 IP in HiA, 5 IP in Pioneer League, 8.1 IP in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2008, 11th round

6’3”, 195 lbs, 21 years old

4-6, 4.30 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 3.44 FIP, 6.59 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 7;     Pre 2009 Rank: 12


Nathan Eovaldi was the Dodgers 11th rounded pick in the 2008 draft, and surprised many people by signing for $250,000 instead of going to college.  In his professional debut he dominated the Gulf Coast League, and then put up solid numbers with the Loons in 2009.  Promoted to HiA in 2010, Nathan made 14 starts with the 66ers in 2010 before straining his oblique in July.  During his time in Inland Empire, Eovaldi showed flashes of brilliance including two complete game shutouts, but overall he didn’t really have the dominant season that I was hoping for.  His ERA was 4.45 and his WHIP was 1.55, and he only struck out 6.14 batters per 9 innings despite a very strong fastball that was clocked as high as 97 mph.  Eovaldi also has an above average curveball and occasionally throws a changeup, but he continues to struggle with the command of his pitches which has led to his less than stellar strikeout numbers.  Some scouts believe that Nathan would be better suited as a power relief pitcher, but for now the Dodgers want to keep him in the rotation since he is just 21 years old and has a lot of potential.  Nathan finished up the 2010 season by rehabbing the rookie leagues, and for 2011 I expect him to return to HiA for more seasoning.  The other thing to remember about Eovaldi is that he had Tommy John back in 2007 and has not yet gone over the 100 inning mark in any of his professional seasons, so he’s going to have to continue to increase his workload as he gets older if he wants to remain a starter.


Why #15: Eovaldi is one of my favorite Dodger prospects, but his mediocre stats and low strikeout rate in 2010 caused him to drop a little in my rankings.  I still think he’ll make it to the big leagues one day, however, and he has the ceiling of a middle of the rotation starter or a power reliever.


14.  Aaron Miller, LHP (23 IP in AA, 101.2 IP in HiA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 1st round

6’3”, 200 lbs, 23.5 years old

7-8, 3.68 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.91 FIP, 8.74 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 9;     Pre 2009 Rank: N/A


Aaron Miller was the Dodgers 1st round pick in 2009 out of Baylor where he was a two way player for the Bears.  As a hitter Miller batter .312 during his junior season with 12 homers, and on the mound he posted a 5.12 ERA with a K/9 of almost 11.5.  The Dodgers wanted Miller as a pitcher, and after signing him for almost $900,000 he paid immediate dividends with a stellar professional debut.  Promoted to HiA for his first full season, Miller was the easily the best pitcher for the 66ers.  He was extremely consistent all season, and stuck out almost a batter per inning.  Inland Empire pitching coach Charlie Hough had this to say about Miller, “Sneaky fastball…Easy, easy delivery and the ball kinda sneaks up on the hitters. He has a ways to go throwing some breaking balls. He has good feel with the changeup. Again, he's another guy that hasn't pitched an awful lot. He probably got 30 innings last year coming out of college, where he didn't pitch all that much anyway. He was a regular player. So he's gotta spend some time on the mound and develop a better feel of all of his pitches and for the game. He's getting them pretty good though.”  While Miller got lit up during his month long mid-season promotion to AA, he had an overall productive season.  That being said, what worries me that most about Miller was his dip in velocity.  While he apparently had the ability to dial it up to about 95 mph in the past, Miller sat in the high 80’s to low 90’s for most of 2010.  I realize that the 124 innings he pitched were by far the most he’s threw in any calendar year, but I still have some doubts that he’ll ever be able to get his velocity back up to where it once.  Hopefully he won’t need those extra miles per hour, however, since he has great control and also shows potential for a slider, which could be his 2nd plus pitch.  Miller will spend 2011 in AA, and I’m sure he’s eager to prove that his previous stint in the Southern league was a fluke.  At 23 years old, Aaron has already moved very quickly and could be knocking on the door of Los Angeles at some point in 2012 season if he has another strong campaign in 2011.


Why #14: I know that my ranking of Miller looks a little low, but there simply isn’t room for him any higher on my list since I feel the players I ranked ahead of him are better prospects and have even more upside.  That being said, Aaron has the ceiling of a middle of the rotation starter, and I think he has a pretty good chance of reaching that goal if he stays healthy.


13.  James Baldwin, OF (46 games in Arizona League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 4th round

6’3”, 190 lbs, 19.5 years old, bats left handed

.274 average, .676 OPS, 2 HR’s, 22 RBI’s, 17 SB’s

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


James Baldwin is one of the more intriguing players drafted by the Dodgers in 2010.  The son of the former major leaguer by the same name, Baldwin is an extremely athletic player who is still relatively raw as an outfielder because he played three sports in high school also spent time on the mound.  James signed relatively quickly for $180,000, but got off to a very slow start in his professional debut with the Arizona Dodgers.  Through July, Baldwin was hitting below .220 with an OPS of less than .525.  However, things clicked for Baldwin in August as he hit .357 in the month to go along with 15 RBI’s, 9 SB’s, and an .890 OPS.  For the season as a whole, he led the Arizona Dodgers with 17 SB’s and was among the top 3 on the club in runs, RBI, and doubles.  In terms of his prospect status, Baldwin has the potential to be a five tool player, although currently his only plus tool is his outstanding speed.  I’ve read mixed reports on his future power potential, but at 6’3” I’ve got to think that he’ll be able to hit at least 20 homers per year in his prime.  He also plays a very smooth center field, and uses his speed to get to balls quickly.  After the season, DeJon Watson had this to say about his new prospect, “James Baldwin is a guy to keep your eye on.  He’s a guy who’s going to pop up quickly…He’s going to stay in center field.”  Like most young players Baldwin needs to improve his pitch recognition at the plate, and hopefully that will improve the 30.8% strikeout rate he had in 2010.  The left handed batter also needs to get more reps against lefty pitchers because he hit just .057 against southpaws last year.  Since he’s just 19 years old, James will probably spend the first few months of 2011 in extended spring training before playing in the Pioneer League later in the year.  He still has a long way to go in the Dodgers minor league system, but he will be a very exciting player to follow over the next few years.


Why #13: I really like James Baldwin as a prospect, and although I haven’t seen him play I really like his potential.  Due to his athleticism his ceiling could be through the roof; possibly even as high as a Matt Kemp type player.  It’s for that reason that I have him ranked this high on my list.


12.  Jonathan Garcia, RF (61 games in Pioneer League in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2009, 8th round

5’11”, 175 lbs, 19.25 years old, bats right handed

.305 average, .892 OPS, 10 HR’s, 40 RBI’s, 4 SB’s

Pre 2010 Rank: 10;     Pre 2009 Rank: N/A


The Dodgers selected Jonathan Garcia in the 8th round of the 2009 draft out of Puerto Rico, and so far the pick looks like a steal.  In his professional debut Garcia did very well in the Arizona Rookie League, hitting .305 with a .862 OPS as a 17 year old.  Promoted to the Pioneer League in 2010, Jonathan was a full two years younger than any other position player on the Raptors yet ranked 3rd on the club with his 10 homers and .527 slugging percentage.  He also showed above average bat speed throughout the season.  In addition to his strong hitting, Garcia is a very good defensive right fielder and tied for the league lead with 12 outfield assists.  Baseball America said he had a hose for an arm, and Raptors announcer Brandon Hart told me that “His arm is top notch and the best of the outfielders I have seen this season.”  Brandon also went on to mention that “His defense as far as catching the ball and range is average, not great but not bad either.  He has average speed.  He is not slow by any means but isn’t a speed demon either.”  With the good of course come the bad, and for Garcia he still needs to work on pitch selectivity.  In addition, at just 5’11” his size gives some people doubts, but I don’t think his height will hinder him as he moves up through the system.  Overall, the fact is that you couldn’t have asked for a better offensive season out of Garcia in 2010.  Sure he had pretty drastic home vs road splits, but can you honestly expect any more out of an 18 year old facing pitchers who are all 2 to 4 years older than him?  2011 will be a real test because Garcia will definitely move up to LoA for his first taste of full season ball.  He’ll still be one of the youngest players in the league, so he’s going to have to continue to work hard if he wants to maintain his solid stats. 


Why #12: Last year I compared to Garcia to Raul Mondesi with less speed, although the more I think about it Jonathan’s ceiling probably isn’t quite that high.  I still believe Garcia could be a solid right fielder at the big league level with solid power and a decent average, but that is still a long ways off.  Also, the only reason he dropped a couple spots in my ranking was because other prospects emerged and pushed him out of my top 10.


11.  Scott Elbert, LHP (43.1 IP in AAA in 2010)

Drafted by Dodgers 2004, 1st round

6’1”, 215 lbs, 25.5 years old

1-1, 4.98 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 4.82 FIP, 9.35 K/9

Pre 2010 Rank: 6;     Pre 2009 Rank: 4


Scott Elbert was the Dodgers first round pick back in 2004, and it seems like he’s been around forever.  He’s been ranked as a top 10 Dodger prospect basically since he was drafted, and made Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list from 2006 to 2008, peaking at #31 in 2007.  However, 2010 was season to forget for Elbert as he left the organization for personal reasons in June, and didn’t return until after the season.  He was back in time for the Arizona Fall League, however, and at the start of the AFL Elbert told Tony Jackson “It was just some personal issues I had to attend to.  I can tell you right now, it had nothing to do with baseball. It was just a lot of personal stuff I had to take care of, and that's about it.”  Although he had been a starter for pretty much his entire minor league career, in the AFL the Dodgers told Elbert to concentrate on his new role, which would be out of the bullpen.  Elbert took the news in stride, and said “To be honest, I would like to be a reliever. If that is going to be my job, then that is what I will prepare for. ... I don't ever think [starting] is out of the question, but I have always been known as a high pitch-count guy, and if I'm able to bring that down and go deeper into games, maybe I can be a starter again. Nothing is ever out of the question in this game.”  With the Desert Dogs in the Fall league Scott posted very good stats, striking out 15 batters in 11.2 innings and allowing a .195 batting average against.  His stuff was also described as “nasty” by several AFL scouts, which is definitely encouraging news.  His fastball is still in the mid 90’s, and his slider and a solid strikeout pitch and ranks as the best in the Dodgers organization.  He also throws a good changeup, although he doesn’t use it much out of the bullpen.  Don Mattingly got a chance to watch Elbert in the AFL, and said “He was tremendous for me. His stuff plays. I've talked to him. He's been up and down, up and down. He's got a power arm and can get lefties or righties out. He seems durable. He's not afraid. I like him.”  With the Dodgers lack of left handed bullpen arms, Elbert still has a shot to make the Dodgers 2011 opening day roster if he has a good showing in spring training.  If he doesn’t make the club, he’ll continue to work in the Isotopes’ bullpen and will almost certainly get called up to the Dodgers at some point in 2011 as long as he stays healthy.


Why #11: Elbert lost some value now that he is no longer a starter, which is why he dropped a little in my ranking.  However he still has very good stuff, so he if can stay healthy and doesn’t have any more personal issues, he will probably be a solid late inning bullpen arm for years to come.