How to Get Unblocked

You all know the story… in 2014, at age 18, a Dodgers minor league first baseman hit .312 with 3 HR and 34 RBI.  That same year, Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers 1B, hit .276 with 27 HR and 116 RBI.  Three years later, that 18 year-old 1B who was 21 by then, hit 39 Home Runs because he seized the day.  Adrian Gonzalez was injured and the Dodgers needed a 1B, so they called up Cody Bellinger and the rest is history.

No one anointed Cody Bellinger the Dodgers 1B  (OK, maybe I did) – he was given an opportunity… and he delivered! That is usually what happens.  As a rule, your minor league press clippings don’t buy much, not even respect.  It’s what you do at the Show that counts.  Yes, it appears that some Dodger players are “blocked” but are they really?

I will admit that it sometimes takes some luck, but I also believe that luck is where preparation meets opportunity.  Andrew Toles is a ballplayer, Alex Verdugo is a ballplayer… they will get their chance.  Maybe not until April or August, but it will come.  Will they be ready? Will they deliver or will they cry about the fact that they are “blocked?”

Wally Pipp went down and Lou Gehrig was ready.  That’s what happens in baseball.  AC was right.  There are several players that are “blocked” but things have a way of changing.  Luck is involved: Preparation meets opportunity! What are the odds that the Dodgers TOP 5 starters start every game? I would say there are two chances: slim and none!  Somewhere along the line, Ross Stripling, Walker Buehler or Julio Urias will get their chance.  Will they be ready like Gehrig… that’s the question?

Corey Seager could go down, he has an elbow and back issue (maybe). Justin Turner could go down (he is getting up there and he has a knee issue). Others could go down.  That’s when Verdugo and/or Toles gets their chance.  Can they deliver?  If they do, they are in.  If they don’t, they are out! They have to Seize the Day!

Matt Kemp blocks the young guys too, but (1) he’s not getting traded (yet); and (2) can he last all season? We are probably going to find out.  Depth is a great thing, but you have to wait your turn and you have to be ready.

Parting Shots

  • I love Brock Stewart in the pen.  I think he’s special in that situation.  As a starter, he’s AAAA…. maybe less!  Both the Dodgers and Brock need to come to grips with that.  Brock Stewart is special out of the pen.  He’s not so special as a starter.  Look up up his splits as a starter and a reliever.  There’s no comparison.  Put him in the pen, FAZ!
  • By the way, yesterday’s photo was Chase DeJong, Trevor Oaks and Scott Barlow – all are prospects we loved and now all are gone!
  • We may have a surprise for you.  Another extremely knowledgeable and highly respected Dodger writer may be joining our blog… Stay Tuned.
  • Hopefully, you don’t believe that W – L records mean anything in Spring. The Dodgers pitched one… maybe two pitchers who will be on the team this year.  The W – L record means nothing.  Manny Banuelos started the game and has a 12.17 ERA. James Robinson surrendered 3 runs and a 135.00 ERA – Yeah, he’s making the team!  Not likely!
  • Kay Bear Ruiz is ready.  Yeah, he’s 20.  He’s ready. I have not felt this way about many rookies.  I like Walker Buehler, but I don’t feel he can’t miss.  Ruiz can’t miss.  I said Kershaw, Seager and Bellinger could not miss. Well, I also said Andy LaRoche could not miss… so there is that!  Ruiz is ready to take the leap.  Be prepared! BTW, Ruiz was 3-3 yesterday.

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don't do game recaps or such things -- lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don't think they are the "end-all-be-all.". This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We'd like to hear your voice.

This article has 32 Comments

  1. Good morning. I have a question: Since the Dodgers do not have a real talented prospect in the minor leagues to play third base, could they teach a catcher to play third base? After all, here is a lot of talent in that position

    1. Catcher Kyle Farmer has played 72 games at third base in the minors and four at the MLB level. He was a shortstop in college ball and converted to catcher.

      Catcher Will Smith has played 14 games at third base and 11 at second in his short minor league career.

      Third baseman Christian Santana (21) had a break out year with the Loons in 2017. He has played 138 minor league games at third base.

      Matt Beaty and Rylan Bannon are third base options but Beatty is more adept at first base and Bannon no doubt will move to second base.

    2. If Will Smith hits he will be the catcher that replaces Barnes and Grandal and Ruiz would move to third IMO.

      1. Good possibility. Both catchers have similar height and weight and Smith is three years older.

  2. Here is a comment by Justin Upton on the effects of Sabrmetrics on baseball and particularly on free agency:
    ““Teams don’t value players as people anymore,” Upton said. “They value them as a number on a sheet of paper.” That, too, rings true as every team in baseball now has an analytics department. Front offices have run the numbers and are shying away from signing free agents to long, expensive contracts. They’re choosing to sign their young players to contract extensions that prevent them from reaching free agency until, in many cases, their early 30’s. Upton also expressed as much. “I’m not saying this in a negative way at all, but when Sabermetrics came into the game and guys became stats, this was coming,” he said.”

    Baseball players as stats and not people?

    1. While the Dodgers do use Sabrmetrics to value players they also place a premium on character. Otherwise, there would be no Chase Utley. They didn’t sign him because some metric indicated that. They signed him for what he brings to the clubhouse. The Dodgers also spend a lot of time and money helping develop good habits and character for these young men. I was listening to Andre Ethier a few days ago and he expressed his admiration for the Dodgers organization and how he was always treated with class and respect.

      Teams are shying away from long, expensive contracts, not because of Sabremetrics so much, but because the overwhelming majority are just bad deals.

  3. Regarding Stewart as a starter–he was a shortstop and started pitching much later than most pitchers. He rose quickly in the minors and still needs to perfect one or two more pitches to have a full starter’s arsenal. But kershaw was not Kershaw until he developed his slider.
    Stewart has tremendous movement on his fastball. This is the year he perfects two more pitches and becomes a starter. He won’t develop those two other pitches in the bullpen.
    Kershaw, Hill, Wood, Maeda, Ryu, Buehler, Stewart, Stripling, White, Urias is a deep starter group and taking Stewart and Stripling out of the starter category shrinks the depth one year too soon given the readiness of other prospects.

  4. I think Toles and Verdugo will start the season in OKC, but one or both will be back in the starting lineup for the Dodgers. If Kemp plays like he has for the past two years or Taylor has to move to second base because Forsythe is playing like last year or Seager is having more elbow problems then one or both could be called up.
    Buehler will get his chance sometime this year and we will see if he is ready for the challenge.
    Ruiz isn’t being blocked by anyone, it’s just the Dodgers figuring out if they want to trade Grandal before the end of the season or not, and how they want to utilize Barnes in the future.

    1. I second that. I very much look forward to discussing the Dodger Minor League prospects with you again.

  5. The ‘shreader’ placed Grandal 4th and Barns 6th as best catchers in baseball projected this season. So I’m certain the F/O wants to sit back and watch how things play out.

  6. What about Thursday’s big news?
    Bobby’s date?

    How’d it go mate?

    Did you get to 1st base?

    Sorry (couldn’t help it!!)

      1. haha Wat, my brother! I’d say I doubled last night. Next time we’ll try circling the bases

    1. Watford

      Bobby is a gentleman, he doesn’t kiss and tell.

      I know your dying for the season to start, if you are getting this umped up, about Bobby’s date.

  7. Mark, you and I have been in agreement about Brock Stewart for some time. He could very well be that lock down setup RHRP. Bums is right that Stewart is fairly new to pitching; since his redshirt junior year at Illinois St. When he did pitch in college, he was a reliever having only starting one of twelve games he did pitch. He threw all of 26.2 innings in college. After being drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 draft he debuted with Great Lakes where he continued to relieve. He started to transition into a starting pitcher in 2015. So yes he is relatively new. But it is for this reason that Stewart is really a reliever at the ML level. He really only throws three pitches; four-seamer, slider, change. Brock has a tremendous four-seamer and an average or slightly above average slider. But his changeup has not been a good pitch for him. He very rarely throws a curve or anything with sink. IF (and that is a BIG IF) he could develop a change as an out pitch, I would still like him better as reliever, ala Eric Gagne. But it is not easy to develop a change (just ask Clayton Kershaw). The Dodger prospects have two pitchers that grade out with a 55 change; Jordan Sheffield, and Morgan Cooper. Buehler only grades out at 50. There are more prospects that grade out at 45 than 55.
    Kenley, Baez, and Dennis Santana are pitchers that started elsewhere on the diamond. Kenley and Baez are both relievers and Santana is much like Stewart where his strengths (fastball/slider) is best suited for relief, which is where he will eventually end up (IMO). It is very very difficult to develop three plus pitches needed to be an effective ML starter when starting so late. I know it can be done, and I am sure that it has been, but I just cannot name anyone off the top of my head who has gone from position player to starting pitcher at the college or professional level. I am also certain that he can continue to fight the change to relief as did Andrew Miller and Brandon Morrow, but that is where he will excel at the ML level.

  8. Interesting comments by Justin Upton with respect to the effects of sabrmetrics and free agency that Dodgerrick shared above. It is no different in the business world where metrics are measurement tools used to judge a product line, a salesperson, cost control managers, etc. Analytics has a tendency to take emotion out of the equation. When we are talking about 7-10 year nine figure contracts, there has to be value (future value, not past value) to justify the cost. I commented early on that JDM is not worth more than Justin Upton while Boras was trying to justify a $200M contract. JDM eventually signed for 5 years and $110M while Upton signed for 5 years $106M.
    The players, and more specifically the players’ agents, have pushed the GAME of baseball into the BUSINESS of baseball. ML teams are using analytics to quantify value, and I see no problem with that. Organizations are learning that you cannot operate on emotion when trying to field the best team. While metrics are now an essential tool, it is not the only tool. Mark’s example of Chase Utley is right on. Chase has a $1M AAV and to justify that on a WAR basis is very reasonable. But from an emotional position, what Chase does to the clubhouse is to increase the WAR of other players, and that is not quantifiable. Extending Kershaw will also have a large emotional element attached to it. There is value to Kershaw that extends beyond his starts, and some of that is quantifiable, but a lot is not.

  9. On Catchers:
    Roberts said Grandal’s swing is too long. “He’s searching right now,” Roberts said. Grandall os 0-for-11 and said Barnes will catch his first game “shortly.”

    On players coming back from illness:
    The team Still believes Seager has plenty of time to be ready to start season, despite interruption in throwing program.

    On Prospect DJ Peters:
    Dave Roberts: ” He’s going to will himself to the big leagues and stay for a long time.” Likes his work ethic and “compete” at the plate. While BA’s Kyle Glaser adds: Peters’ is ridiculously cut. Chiseled is the word that comes to mind. But as much as his physical skills, his quiet leadership and “blue-collar” work ethic drew raves from #Dodgers minor league coaches throughout last year

    On Prospects:
    Dustin Nosler is finally into his top 30.
    Omar Estevez at 30.
    One of the one I like to track, Melvin Jimenez at 23.

    1. nice quotes on peters. there’s a minor league interview I saw of him that makes it impossible not to be a fan of his. and I believe he wears #31, which is the best number

  10. Here’s the irony of ‘blocking’. The guys that are being blocked complain and possibly wish to be somewhere, anywhere else until, of course, they do the blocking. Then they say it’s all part of the game and that first night they laugh maniacally while lying in bed.

  11. Man, Edwin Rios has such a nice swing. He’s also looked better at 1b than I expected; I’ve seen him shorthop a few bad throws from his infielders.

    We may not need him, but some team certainly will. I wish him luck

    1. Edwin Rios has shown improvement year-over-year. He could be come a solid 1B. He doesn’t have much range but he can glove a ball.

  12. Willie Calhoun: .500. He’s probably the best pure hitter the farm has developed recently. That includes Seager, Bellinger. But DH might be his best fit. He will help the Rangers big time.

  13. Corey Copping impressed as did Liberatore and Sborz.

    Koehler is on the shelf and Stewart stank up the joint (it happens somedays).

    Kershaw looked Kershawish. Verdugo and Toles are not laying down and giving up LF. They are pushing!

    I like Rios.

    FLASH: This just in – Grandal got a hit! Hopefully he will get untracked.

    Can they keep Utley over Peter?

    Joc looks lost again.

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