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Dodgers 2012 Minor League Countdown: 30 - 21

Griff Erickson coming off the field during the 2012 Winter Development Program
Griff Erickson coming off the field during the 2012 Winter Development Program

Here is the next part of my minor league series, and in this post we delve into the top 30 Dodger prospects. While there probably aren't any major surprises in this group, there are some differences to some of the other top 30 that I've seen. I'm a little higher on guys like Landry and Schebler than most, while I'm not as big of a believer in guys like Van Slyke and Castellanos. As always let me know what you think.

Also, with two more post to go in the series it doesn't look like I'll be able to finish my minor league countdown before the start of spring training, but I should still have it done by the end of February.

30. Juan Rodriguez, RHP (76 IP in LoA in 2011, including 59 IP with Red Sox)
Trade with Red Sox for Trayvon Robinson
6’5”, 195 lbs, 23.25 years old
3-5, 4.38 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 2.92 FIP, 12.79 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: N/A; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

There’s something about Juan Rodriguez that I like. The hard throwing right hander was acquired by the Dodgers as part of the Trayvon Robinson trade, and what he lacks in control he makes up for with velocity. Signed by the Red Sox as a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic, Juan dominated the DSL for two seasons before getting promoted to the Red Sox Gulf Coast team in 2010. After a solid US debut Rodriguez was sent to the Sally League in 2011 and had a 5.19 ERA prior to be shipped to the Dodgers. Upon joining the Loons, however, Juan posted a 1.59 ERA over 17 frames and allowed just 6 hits for a .105 batting average against. At the time of the trade, Ned Colletti said “Rodriguez has power stuff and is still very young. He has potential to develop into a solid late-inning reliever." Here is video of him throwing for the Loons. In addition to an upper 90’s fastball, Rodriguez throws a slider and a changeup, but by all accounts his secondary pitches are fringy at best. He has good movement on his fastball, however, which is what allows him to strike out so many batters. Overall I love Rodriguez’s projectable frame, and because he is still just 23 I feel that he’ll be able to improve upon his control and slider with good coaching. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dodgers challenged Rodriguez with an assignment to AA in 2012, and like Ned Coletti I think Juan could eventually be a late inning reliever for the Dodgers.

Why #30: Rodriguez’s performance with the Loons showed that he could be something special, and I especially love his projectable frame. If he can fine tune just one of his secondary pitches then I think he could reach his potential of a late inning reliever. If his secondary pitches remain fringy, however, then it’s unlikely that he’ll succeed at the higher levels of the minor leagues.

29. Josh Wall, RHP (68.2 IP in AA in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2005, 2nd round
6’6”, 220 lbs, 25 years old
4-5, 3.93 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 3.99 FIP, 7.47 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: 61; Pre 2010 Rank: 57; Pre 2009 Rank: 49

Josh Wall signed with the Dodgers out of high school in 2005 as a 2nd round pick for $500,000 and spent the first 6 professional seasons as a middling starting pitcher. 2011 brought about quite a few changes for Josh, however, because after four years in Class A the Dodgers finally decided to move him to AA, and they also changed his role from starter to reliever. Wall responded with his best season to date, posting an ERA below 4 for the first time since 2005 while providing the Lookouts with a solid bullpen arm. While his overall stats weren’t all that impressive, he did add a few ticks to his fastball and was rumored to be hitting 100 mph in some outings. After the season Wall was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he had even more success as he posted a 2.16 ERA over 8.1 frames against baseball’s best prospects. Here he is throwing for the Salt River Rafters. In addition to his strong fastball, Josh throws a hard slider along with a decent curveball and a fringy changeup. His overall potential as a reliever was too much for the Dodgers to ignore as they added him to the 40 man roster this past November. He was also invited to the Winter Development camp this past January along with several of the organizations other prospects. While there is currently no room for Josh in the big league bullpen, Wall is definitely an option to join the Dodgers at some point during the 2012 season. Given his age and experience the Dodgers probably won’t be afraid to send him to AAA despite the tough pitching conditions.

Why #29:
After 7 minor league seasons, Wall has finally become relevant as a prospect thanks to his newfound success as a reliever and a fastball that apparently can reach triple digits. I’ve always liked Wall’s size and draft pedigree, and I’m glad that he’s found a home in the bullpen because that should allow him to eventually make it to the big leagues. He doesn’t seem to the stuff of a closer but I think his ceiling is that of a big league middle reliever.

Follow the jump for #'s 28 - 21

28. Scott Barlow, RHP (1.2 IP in Arz Rookie Lg in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2011, 6th round
6’4”, 170 lbs, 19.25 years old
0-1, 27.00 ERA, 4.20 WHIP, 13.40 FIP, 5.40 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: N/A; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

I’m usually a big fan when the Dodgers draft high school arms, but when I heard that the Dodgers picked Scott Barlow in the 6th round of this past draft I wasn’t overly excited. High school players picked in the top 10 rounds of the draft are usually dominant in the prep career, but Barlow didn’t have eye popping stats as he went 7-4 with a 3.17 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 64 innings as a senior at Golden Valley High in Santa Clarita. In addition, reports were that his fastball maxed out in the high 80’s, and that he had some attitude problems during his high school career. However I partially changed my mind about Barlow’s potential after reading that he had added significant muscle after the draft and was hitting 94 mph in the Dodgers offseason instructional league. Besides his newly improved fastball, Scott also has a strong curveball, a slider, and a changeup, so he apparently has enough offerings to remain in the rotation. According to a Baseball America offseason chat with Jim Shonerd, Barlow should be considered one of the Dodgers best sleeper prospects, and I also learned in that chat that the Dodgers were also encouraged by his clean mechanics and feel for pitching. Barlow will be just 19 years old during the 2012 season so I’m guessing the Dodgers will take it slow with Scott and keep him in the Arizona Rookie League for a full season. As mentioned above I’m encouraged by the recent reports on his stuff so I definitely think that he should be considered a legitimate prospect going forward.

Why #28:
Before reading about Barlow’s improved fastball I was ready to rank him in the 40 to 50 range, but obviously he’s now moved up a few spots. I still don’t have him as high as some other publications, however, because I’ve yet to see how his different pitches will work against professional hitters. I’m also worried a bit about reports about his attitude problems. If everything goes according to plan I believe his ceiling is that of a #3 starter, but that potential is a long ways off.

27. Leon Landry, CF (125 games in LoA in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 3rd round
5’11”, 185 lbs, 22.5 years old, bats left handed
.250 average, .667 OPS, 4 HR’s, 41 RBI’s, 28 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: 21; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

Leon Landry played his college ball at LSU, and although he helped the Tigers win the 2009 College World Series he was overshadowed by several players on that team. That changed in 2010 as he established himself as a more elite player by hitting .338 with 6 homers and 16 stolen bases, striking out just 25 times in 240 at bats, and making just one error in center field. The Dodgers selected him in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft and Landry signed quickly for about $285K. Leon made his professional debut in the Pioneer League and had an outstanding season for the Ogden Raptors, ranking among the league leaders in several offensive categories and hitting very well both at home and on the road. He also showed that he was an outstanding defender, and according to Raptor radio man Brandon Hart “Landry should be defined by his defense. It is what got him drafted in the 3rd round. He has a second gear in the field.” In 2011 Landry moved up to the Midwest League, but unfortunately like a lot of his Loons’ teammates his numbers fell dramatically in LoA. He was only able to match his 2010 home run total despite aggregating more than double the at bats, and his OPS fell more than 240 points. On the plus side he stole 28 bases, continued to play solid defense in center field, and struck out in just 12.1% of his plate appearances. In addition, he was incredibly consistent as he not only hit .250 for the season, but batted exactly .250 in April, May, and July. Overall Neon Leon’s potential probably falls somewhere in between the outstanding athlete we saw in 2010 and the disappointing player we saw in 2011. His defense definitely has big league potential so he just needs to learn a more consistent approach at the plate. Still just 22, I think Landry will move up to HiA in 2012 where he’ll roam center field for the Quakes.

Why #27:
Similar to last year, I think Landry has the ceiling as a solid defensive outfielder at the big league level who can play either left or center and hit .280 with about 10 homers and 25 stolen bases per year. While he fell off the map for some, I still like his potential and think he just needed to adjust to playing baseball over an entire 140 game schedule.

26. Scott Schebler, OF (70 games in Pioneer Rookie Lg in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2010, 26th round
6’1”, 208 lbs, 21.5 years old, bats left handed
.285 average, .853 OPS, 13 HR’s, 58 RBI, 1 SB
Pre 2011 Rank: 27; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

The Dodgers selected Scott Schebler in the 26th round of the 2010 draft after a huge season at Des Moines Area CC where he hit .446 with 20 jacks and 82 RBI’s. However his asking price to sign was $300K - $500K and he had a strong commitment Wichita State, so both Scott and the Dodgers played the waiting game. After getting drafted Schebler participated in the Northwoods League, a wood bat college summer league, to boost his stock. He did just that as he smacked 10 more homers in just 218 at bats. While negotiations went down the wire, the Dodgers eventually signed Schebler for $300K and a commitment to pay for his college. Scott played in just 5 games for the Dodgers in 2010 because he signed so late, so 2011 was really our first real look at Schebler. He spent the year in the Pioneer League and quietly had a very good season for Ogden, tying for the team lead with 13 homers while posting a .853 OPS. Check out one of his at bats here. He was outstanding with runners on base, and ended the season on a hot streak. He also answered some questions about his defense as he spent almost all his time in right field and posted the best fielding percentage of all the outfielders. The one surprise about his season was the fact that he only stole one base, especially because Baseball America described him as having plus speed in their pre-draft report. In addition Schebler posted a very low walk rate and ended up K’ing in 30.8% of his plate appearances, which isn’t a good combination. Despite those negatives, I still see Schebler as a very exciting athlete that has a lot of potential. He’ll definitely move up to a full season league next season and hopefully he’ll show improvement in the various aspects of his game now that he has a full season of experience under his belt. I expect him to spend 2012 with the Loons where he’ll be an intriguing guy to follow.

Why #26: While Schebler got lost in the mix of a good Raptor team and seems to have fallen off the prospect radar despite a strong season, I am holding fast on my ranking of the outfielder. His lack of stolen bases concerns me because I thought that would be a big part of his game at the next level, but I still think he could mature into a power and speed guy who can handle any of the outfield positions. His ceiling would be that of a major league player with 20 – 20 potential, but that’s obviously a long way off and he’s definitely going to need to improve his contact rate next season.

25. Scott Van Slyke, RF (130 games in AA in 2011)

Drafted by Dodgers 2005, 14th round
6’5”, 220 lbs, 25.5 years old, bats right handed
.348 average, 1.022 OPS, 20 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, 6 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: 55; Pre 2010 Rank: 28; Pre 2009 Rank: 123; TBLA Prospect #14

For Scott Van Slyke, things just seem to take a little longer. Drafted way back in 2005, Scott muddled through several seasons including a very average performance in the California League in 2008. When he returned to HiA in 2009, however, Van Slyke had a breakout season that included 23 homers, 100 RBI’s, and a .907 OPS. That earned him a promotion to AA in 2010, but he got off to a slow start in his new environment and was sent back down to HiA where he again found success. Van Slyke got another shot at the Southern League in 2011, and just like with HiA he broke out in his second go-around. This time Scott really set the world on fire as he led the Lookouts in every significant offensive category except for runs and stolen bases, and even won the league batting title with a .348 average. As Ken Gurnick pointed out in a recent article, the change for Van Slyke came when he started taking baseball seriously. You can read all about it here, but overall he says he is now more committed to the game. Defensively Scott can play both outfield and 1st base, although he’s merely average at both positions and probably can’t handle center or right field at the big league level. I got a good look at Van Slyke during the Winter Development Program last month, and I was impressed with how big he was and how much he looked like a ball player. I’ll admit that his appearance helped bump him up a few spots in my rankings, although I’m still not one of his biggest fans so I still probably have him lower than most. Now that he’s on the 40 man roster, Van Slyke will have a bigger spotlight on him in 2012 so we’ll see how he responds to that. He’ll most likely play in the hitter’s paradise known as Albuquerque, so I do expect him to continue to put up big numbers. I’m not sure how his success in the minors will translate in the big leagues, however, so for now I think he’ll be a bench player at best.

Why #25: Van Slyke has definitely improved over the past few seasons, but I just don’t see him as a big league starter. He’ll probably make his MLB debut in 2012 and could eventually be a bench player, but given his struggles with new environments (another example was this past winter when he hit .194 in the Venezuelan Winter League) he could have a lot of trouble getting enough playing time at the big league to get comfortable enough to have success.

24. Alex Castellanos, OF (125 games in AA in 2011, including 93 games with Cardinals)
Trade with Cardinals for Rafael Furcal
5’11”, 180 lbs, 25.5 years old, bats right handed
.320 average, .958 OPS, 23 HR’s, 85 RBI’s, 14 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: N/A; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A; TBLA Prospect #17

The Dodgers obtained Alex Castellanos from the Cardinals in exchange for Rafael Furcal. Most fans didn’t expect Los Angeles to get anything more than salary relief for Furcal, so the fact that the Dodgers also got a decent prospect was icing on the cake. Since joining the organization, Castellanons has been a controversial prospect because he is loved by some, but ignored by others. He hit .322 after joining the Lookouts with a 1.009 OPS over 121 at bats, but he was one of the older players in the Southern League and didn’t have a whole lot of success in previous years. After the season he was sent to the AFL and started off on fire, but an oblique injury sent him home after just 8 games. I personally think Castellanos’ value lies in his ability to play the infield because as a 25 year old outfielder he is just another big league bench player. That being said, I don’t think he has what it takes to play 2nd base or 3rd base because if he had that ability he would have been playing there already. I got a chance to watch Alex practice in person during the Dodgers winter development program, and physically he did not impress me at all. He actually reminded me a bit of another Alex, Alex Cora, albeit with more power. While I was there Tommy Lasorda did specially ask that he get some extra reps in the batting cage and he did hit the ball pretty well, but I just don’t see him as being a power threat at the big league level. He’ll almost certainly spend 2012 in AAA, but now that he’s on the Dodgers’ 40 man roster he’ll probably see Los Angeles at some point next season.

Why #24: As mentioned above I was not impressed with Castellanos physical appearance, and although there is no denying his impressive stats in 2011 you do have to remember that he was already 25 years old when the season ended. He may eventually be a useful big league player and he has the ceiling of a starting outfielder, but I don’t think he’ll ever show significant power and he doesn’t really have any other plus skills. Unless he can truly transition to the infield then I’m going to keep him out of my top 20.

23. Ryan O'Sullivan, RHP (8.1 IP in Pioneer Rookie Lg in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2011, 4th round
6’2”, 190 lbs, 21.5 years old
0-1, 6.48 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 5.72 FIP, 5.40 K/9
Pre 2011 Rank: N/A; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

After declining to sign with the Giants out of high school as a 10th round pick, Ryan O’Sullivan decided to attend San Diego State and as a freshman in 2009 he was in the same rotation as Stephen Strasburg. While he struggled during that first season to the tune of a 6.79 ERA, the Aztecs believed he would eventually take over as the staff ace. Unfortunately he injured his elbow in his first appearance of 2010, however, which caused him to miss the entire season. Struggles with grades forced him to transferred to Oklahoma City College, but upon arriving it was discovered he couldn’t get an academic release to play in 2011. Despite another missed season, O’Sullivan was eligible for the 2011 draft and threw bullpen sessions for several teams. The Dodgers were among the teams scouting Ryan, and took a flyer on him with their 4th round pick. Per Baseball America he apparently had issues with his post draft physical, but instead of going through another year of college he decided to sign for a below slot deal of $100,000. O’Sullivan made his professional debut in the Pioneer League, but he only threw 8.1 innings over 3 appearances so the sample size is too small to analyze. There are solid scouting reports about his stuff, however, and per Baseball America he has a quality 4 pitch mix. His fastball sits in the low 90’s and peaks and 95 mph, while his slider is his best secondary offering. He also throws a show-me curveball and a circle change. Ryan, whose brother Sean O’Sullivan has thrown 193 big league innings with the Angeles and Royals, will almost certainly start 2012 in the Loons rotation, but they will probably limit his innings give that he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2009. Given his lack of experience and injury history he is a bit of a wildcard, but if he reaches his full potential then he seems to have the stuff to be a middle of the rotation starter.

Why #23:
When a guy has better pure stuff than his brother who has already made it to the big leagues, you have to like his changes. That being said Ryan’s injury history make him a bit of a question mark and caused him to fall a bit in my rankings. At his best he could be a middle of the rotation starter, but he is still a long way off from that ceiling.

22. Griff Erickson, C (41 games in AA, 63 games in HiA in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2006, 15th round
6’4”, 220 lbs, 24 years old, switch hitter
.293 average, .866 OPS, 13 HR’s, 66 RBI’s, 4 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: 62; Pre 2010 Rank: 45; Pre 2009 Rank: 103; TBLA Prospect #19

Ever since he was selected in the 15th round of the 2006 draft, I’ve always had high aspirations for Gorman “Griff” Erickson. After hitting just .215 with 2 homers and a .619 OPS for the Loons in 2010, however, it was tough to consider Erickson a legitimate prospect. That all changed in 2011 after Griff was sent to the California League and had by far his best season to date. The big backstop only played 63 games for the Quakes because he was promoted to AA in early July, but he made the most of his time in Rancho with a .305 average and a .899 OPS. Griff also had a knack for getting on base with an OB% over .400, and showed a great eye as he walked almost as much as he struck out. After joining the Lookouts, Erickson smacked 7 homers in just 41 games and posted a .808 OPS in his first taste of the Southern League. He also continued to show improved defense while in AA and threw out 32% of would be base-stealers. After the season the switch hitter was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he struggled through 19 games, but the exposure to advanced pitching will be beneficial to him in the long run. Here he is batting right handed for the Salt River Rafters, here he is hitting left handed, and here’s a look at his receiving skills. Griff will be 24 years old when the 2012 season begins, so he is still quite young. He’ll probably return to AA where he’ll be the Lookouts’ main catcher, and other strong campaign should get him added to the 40 man roster next offseason. He’ll get a chance to show off in front of Dodgers management before then, however, because he was invited to the 2012 big league spring training. Overall Griff has more upside than fellow minor league catcher Tim Federowicz, but he’s less polished and has a lower chance of reaching his full potential.

Why #22: What’s not to love about a big switching hitting catcher coming off his best season? Especially when he held his own during his first taste of AA as a 23 year old? The only thing keeping him out of my top 20 is the fact that he hadn’t shown much potential prior to this season, so I’m a bit worried that he’ll return to his career averages in the future.

21. Alex Santana, 3B (50 games in Arz Rookie Lg in 2011)
Drafted by Dodgers 2011, 2nd round
6’4”, 200 lbs, 18.5 years old, bats right handed
.238 average, .636 OPS, 1 HR, 19 RBI’s, 8 SB’s
Pre 2011 Rank: N/A; Pre 2010 Rank: N/A; Pre 2009 Rank: N/A

After making Ralston Cash a surprise 2nd round pick in 2010, the Dodgers made another interesting decision in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft when they selected Alex Santana. Despite being picked #73 overall, Santana wasn’t ranked among the top 200 draft prospects by Baseball America. In fact, in BA’s state by state rankings, Santana was only the 72nd best draft prospect in the state of Florida. The Dodgers love bloodlines, however, so they made the son of former big league shortstop Rafael Santana their pick. Don’t get me wrong Santana is an intriguing player. He is extremely young and very raw, and he has some very interesting tools. Scouts say that he has strong wrists, is a good line drive hitter, and has good speed. He also projects to have above average power thanks to plus bat speed. Santana struggled during a 50 game debut in the Arizona Rookie League, posting a lowly .636 OPS and striking out in 31.2% of his plate appearances. He played almost the entire season as a 17 year old though so getting off to a slow start was expected, and he did have some bright spots as he stole 8 bases and ranked 3rd on the team with 30 runs scored. In terms of his defense, Alex was a shortstop in high school but has obviously outgrown the position. Now a 3rd baseman, Santana was still trying to learn the position during his debut season as he posted an ugly fielding percentage of .832 and made 17 errors in just 38 games. The good news is that he is expected to have the athleticism and arm to stick at the hot corner. Looking ahead to 2012, I can’t see Santana being ready for a full season league. Therefore I expect him to stay in extended spring training before playing the year in Ogden with the Raptors.

Why #21: I really like Santana’s potential and think he could be a solid major leaguer one day, but he could just as easily turn into just another organizational player. It’s tough to rank such a young player, but his bloodlines and power potential caused me to rank him in the top 20. His uncertainly and youth won’t allow me to rank him any higher, however. It’s very early in his career, but I currently see his ceiling as a big league 3rd baseman with 20 homer potential and a .280 average.