It was a minor league free agent type of night for the Drillers, so while the team won handily, there was little to see as far as major league potential tonight. A slower night from Corey Seager gives Brandon Dixon the spotlight.
Nothing loud to speak of from a tools standpoint, but we can begin to paint a better picture of his athleticism. I clocked Dixon home to first from the right side at 4.25, which grades out above average (55). Additionally, Dixon showed good first step quickness on his jumps on the basepaths, getting up to full speed quickly. These are grade changing numbers or observations, but help get a better glimpse of the type of offensive value he can provide. Dixon stole 30 bases at Arizona as a junior, and while he's not likely to repeat that number any time soon, he's still capable of 12-15 steals, a number that belies his 6'2 215 lbs. frame.
Dixon had two hits on the evening. One a broken bat single to second that the hard charging second baseman could not come up with in time, and a groundball single through the left side. He had one poor at bat where Northwest Arkansas pitcher Jonathan Dziedzic kept him off balance and ultimately struck him out. He's looked better when he's been aggressive challenging fastballs early, but he struggled to diagnose Dziedzic's pitches. Interestingly enough, Dixon has shown a reverse platoon split thus far this season.
Dixon made all the plays asked of him at second, all of the routine variety. He did look athletic gliding to the foul line for a pop up that ultimately was taken by first baseman Brian Burgamy, but his movement and tracking suggested that he could probably handle an outfield corner if need be.
Corey's walk rate exploded last night, going from 0% to 3.6%. It's small sample size, and Seager has shown discipline in the past, but it's still worth noting that Seager's approach is to be very aggressive on fastballs in the zone. Northwest Arkansas employed a heavy shift to the right side on Seager, which he hit into for two outs twice last night, but I still found the strategy somewhat interesting considering Seager's heat maps and batted ball profiles. I think Seager's line drive swing and plate coverage make him a good candidate to overcome the defensive alignment, with him capable of driving balls into the right center gap just as well.
Defensively, it was a quiet night for Seager, with him cashing in on all the routine plays. There were two hits, however, that went up the middle on the left side that I was hoping to see him challenge himself on. The balls were well struck hits that would even test the range of the likes of Andrelton Simmons, but I would have liked to have seen Seager's attempts on the ball to get a better idea of his range. This is not a knock on Seager, he's just playing the game and those balls are 99% base hits, I'm just looking for more defensive indicators that help clarify just what type of shortstop he can be.
Gore is not a Dodger/Driller and I won't make a habit of writing up opponents you may not care about, but it's always special when you can watch an 80 grade tool. The 20/80 scale doesn't contain Gore's speed, with a home to first from the right side time of 3.84 seconds, over a tenth faster than the standard for 80 speed. Gore took a turn for a double on the previous pitch that still clocked a 3.98 home to first. Daniel Mayora had no chance to nab Gore on a bunt single on Gore's first at bat. It was a play that made me wish the Drillers had started Seager at third base last night. Not because I believe he makes that play, but from a positional cross training standpoint, it would have been nice to see how his positional instincts react to the stress of dealing with an 80 runner from the hot corner.
McGuire was efficient last night, mixing in an average change and breaking ball with his low 90's fastball. The fastball has arm side run more than sink, but he can get a steeper plane on the pitch with his 6'6 frame. He ran the fastball back across the outside corner on right handed hitters for punchouts twice, displaying his pitchability.
Nights like last night highlight the failures of the minor league development team over the last few years, plus the prospect dealings of the current and past regime. The Drillers played 12 players last night either in the field or on the mound, and only three were Dodger draft picks or amatuer free agents. Of the those three, only two (Seager and Dixon) would be gradable prospects. Of the nine "non-homegrown" players, few if any were acquired as actual "prospects," though some have varying degrees of odds of making it at some point.
If you zero in on the 2011-2012 drafts, you can see the shortcoming of the development system in getting players through the system. In 2011, only four of the players drafted in the first 15 rounds have reached AA, one with a different team (Ryan O'Sullivan), and none of seen major league time with the Dodgers. 2012 has been more successful but also took a hit through trades. Six of the first 15 round selections have reached AA or higher, though two of the first four selections have been traded. 2012 also has two high school selections, Joey Curletta and Zach Bird, that look like promising bets for future AA promotion in the next year. It's a little early to look at 2013, but two players, (Chris Anderson and Brandon Dixon) have already reached and several more show promise.
Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi both come from organizations that typically strived for strong homegrown products and a balanced farm system, so I have high hopes for an increased emphasis on talent development at the lower levels. The previous regime was particularly poor at converting talented high school athletes taken in early rounds into ball players capable of handling full season level competition. James Baldwin, Theo Alexander, Alex Santana, and Justin Chigbogu are a couple of examples of players that thus far have been overmatched by A-Ball pitching (To be fair, you can probably fit Joc Pederson in this group, who has turned out just fine).
I'm not asking for a Double A team that's loaded with 10-12 major league quality talents, I'd just like to see more emphasis placed on Dodger developed talent working its way into the upper minors. Perhaps this is just an aberration year adjusting to flameouts and trades, as Rancho Cucamonga is largely homegrown and can count some of it's best players amongst the better Dodger prospects. Still, a part of me rolls my eyes when I'm missing the top two college baseball programs squaring off on television so I can watch Ramon Troncoso pitch the ninth inning for Tulsa.