What is the value of each minor league player? That is, how important is each player? For me, the answer to the question is that none are more important than others. Sure, we like to see prospect lists with rankings but perhaps we should look at team rosters and draft lists, players that are signed as non-drafted free agents and minor league players signed after being released by other teams. On any given day every minor league player is playing an important role in the development of the parent team and in supporting minor league baseball as well as achieving personal goals. It doesn’t mean they will all make it to MLB. It does mean they all deserve to be recognized and deserve the same coverage regardless of how they profile as prospective MLB players.
If we stop to think about it – those young players often treated as no-name players – are the foundation of baseball, both minor league and major league baseball. If we remove all but those who are considered to be top prospects, all who will not make it to MLB, the whole structure collapses or we go to far fewer MLB teams and draft and play directly out of college or high school as they do in the NBA.
The Dodgers are not built on a top 30-player list, but on over 200 players in their minor league system. Those players keep the rosters filled out for the Dodgers eight minor league teams – OKC Dodgers, Tulsa Drillers, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Great Lakes Loons, Ogden Raptors, AZL Dodgers, DSL Dodgers 1 and DSL Dodgers 2.
Having said that, I have a thumbnail sketch of some relief pitchers in the Dodgers minor league system that I followed during the 2017 season.
DSL Dodgers 1 – Adolfo Ramirez
He was born in Heroica Mulege, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The 18-year-old right-hander was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent on July 2, 2016. During the 2017 season the 6’0”/165-pound Ramirez pitched 34 innings over 17 appearances posting a 0.79 ERA along with a 0.91 WHIP along with 33 strikeouts and eight walks.
DSL Dodgers 2 – Elio Serrano
Perhaps Serrano expected to start the 2017 season with the AZL Dodgers but having pitched most of the 2016 season as a 17-year-old, albeit very successfully, he perhaps was deemed too young to make the jump to the United States. Born in Los Guayos, Venezuela, the 5’11”/160-pound right-hander made 23 relief appearances during the 2017 season. Over 30.1 innings he posted a 2.67 ERA along with a 1.12 WHIP. He struck out 37 and issued eight walks.
Arizona League Dodgers – Zach Pop
Pop hails from Brampton, Ontario in Canada and was drafted by the Dodgers in the 7th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Kentucky. He previously had been selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 23rd round of the 2014 June Draft.
I certainly waited for him to get to work with the AZL Dodgers or Ogden Raptors and he eventually made an appearance with the Dodgers on August 16. During the balance of the season the 6’4”/225- pound right-hander made five appearances pitching five innings with five strikeouts. The then 20-year-old gave up but two hits.
In short stints, Pop works in the upper 90’s and can reach 99 mph with nice sink on his fastball. He also can overpower hitters with a slider that reaches the high 80s, though it stands out more for its velocity than its sharpness. Pop most likely will begin the 2018 season with the Ogden Raptors or perhaps the Great Lakes Loons after an extended spring training. Having had some injury issues in the past he may be a candidate for the Driveline program. A scouting report suggests if his control can be polished, he has the pure stuff to become a MLB closer.
Ogden Raptors – Justin Hoyt
Hoyt was selected by the Dodgers in the 22nd round of the 2017 Amateur Draft out of Jacksonville State University. The Birmingham, Alabama native was a walk-on at JSU and served as the closer for his final two years with the Gamecocks recording 20 saves.
The now 22-year-old made his professional debut with the rookie level Ogden Raptors on June 20 against the Grand Junction Rockies pitching a scoreless inning while achieving the rare feat of four strikeouts in an inning. One batter reached base after striking out on what was ruled a wild pitch that eluded the catcher.
On the season he made 19 appearances in relief over 29 innings recording 39 strikeouts and issuing 11 walks. He was not used in a closer’s role except on two occasions late in the season in which he closed out the game successfully giving up one hit in 4.2 innings. His 4.03 belies his season. It ballooned due to a six-run disaster in one inning on August 7. Hoyt allowed but seven runs in his other 28 innings pitched.
The 6’0”/210-pound left-hander was chosen as the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week for the week of August 14-20.
Great Lakes Loons – Andre Scrubb
Scrubb was born in Woodbridge, Virginia and attended C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, where he was a four-year letter winner.
He had a three-year college career with High Point University in which he recorded a 4.28 ERA with 16 wins over 187 innings pitched. He struck out 187 and struggled with control walking 114.
Scrubb was selected by the Dodgers in the eighth round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
The 6’4”/265-pound Scrubb is armed with a fastball at times touching up from 95 mph. Although his fastball has caught most of the attention, he considers his curveball to be his best pitch. His curveball thrown in the 78-83 mph range could be considered to be a power curveball. As a result, his strikeout rate has always been high. However, so has his walk rate.
With the Loons in 2017 he posted a 1.74 ERA over 31 games and 51.2 innings pitched. He struck out 55 and walked 33 while giving up only 33 hits.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Tony Gonsolin
Gonsolin was selected by the Dodgers in the ninth round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Saint Mary’s College, a Division I School in Moraga, California.
The 6’2”/180-pound right-hander was promoted to the Quakes after a three-game stint with the Great Lakes Loons in 2017. With the Quakes he made 39 appearances over 62 innings in which he posted a 3.92 ERA along with 73 strikeouts and 18 walks. His strikeout rate for nine innings increased from 7.8/9 in 2016 to 10.6/9 in 2017.
The native of Vacaville, California was rather surprisingly added to the latest Top 30 list by MLB Pipeline slotted in at No. 24 with the following explanation.
“Gonsolin opeed 2017 with an 89-92 mph fastball, boosted it to 90-94 in May, started working in the mid-90s in August and touched 100 mph by season’s end. His secondary pitches also gained power and can miss bats as well. He backs up his heater with an upper-80s splitter that bottoms out at the plate, a mid-80s slider and a low-80s curveball that can be a hammer at times.”
Tulsa Drillers – Corey Copping
Copping was selected by the Dodgers in the 31st round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Oklahoma.
He was born in Pasadena California and will begin his fourth season in the Dodgers minor league system in 2018, no doubt with the AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers. He debuted with the Ogden Raptors in 2015 but skipped the Great Lakes Loons and was assigned to the Rancho Cucamonga the following season.
The 6’1”/175-pound right-hander is one of the Dodgers original participants in the Driveline program along with Andrew Istler. He said his fastball was clocked between 86 and 88 mph at the end of spring training in 2016. After 10 weeks of Driveline, he was regularly touching 92 to 94 mph.
Corey Copping was selected as the Pitcher of Week in the Texas League for the period of August 14 – August 20.
On the season he posted a 5-2 record along with a 3.57 ERA over 49 games along with 18 saves. In his 68 innings he allowed only 48 hits while striking out 60. He walked 34 and no doubt would like to decrease his walks per nine innings during the 2018 season with the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Joe Broussard – Oklahoma City Dodgers
Broussard, a native of New Orleans, was selected by the Dodgers in the 15th round of the 2014 June Draft out of Louisiana State University.
He missed the entire 2013 season recuperating from Tommy John surgery but rebounded in 2014 becoming the LSU closer. He went 3-2 and led the Tigers with 8 saves and recorded 37 strikeouts with a 1.05 ERA in 34.2 innings. Opponents batted only .164 against the hard-throwing right-hander.
Broussard began his professional career with the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League in 2014 and pitched a surprising 45.2 innings in relief combined with an ERA of 3.35 and 56 strikeouts.
Along the way he was selected as an organizational all-star in 2016 following an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League where he posted a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 relief innings, including nine strikeouts, no walks and five saves.
After a brief stop in Tulsa to start the 2017 campaign, Broussard finished the season in Oklahoma posting a 3.57 ERA with the Dodgers along with 67 strikeouts over 58 innings. He walked 20.
Perhaps 2018 will be the season Joe Broussard gets to climb the hill at Dodger Stadium.
Photo credit: Kentucky Athletics