I don’t know if this is where the ship turns around, but I have always said that this team has too much talent to fail very long. This team is finally figuring out how to work the count and hit as a team… picking each other up.
Some of you think the Dodgers didn’t make wholesale moves over the winter because FAZ is from a small market and is not used to spending money like that. If that floats your boat, then believe it… but it’s fiction. What is not fiction and what many GM’s will tell you is that Andrew Freidman and Farhan Zaidi (FAZ) likely have a list of prospects that are untouchable, and there is no way they will trade any of them.
Whether that methodology works remains to be seen. Everyone had a great discussion yesterday on potential free agents signing next year. For the record, I prefer Machado over Harper, but to me it depends upon the cost and duration of the contract. There is rarely a correlation between BIG FAT LONG CONTRACTS and winning… maybe a correlation with losing! I am not sure that is the path to success. I do not believe the Dodgers were ever serious about Giancarlo Stanton… just my opinion.
What was the last big, long-term free-agent signing that resulted in sustained winning? When a GM signs a player to a long-term $200 million plus contract, the likelihood is nearly 70% that it will be a bad deal. That Dodgers have been unwilling to move certain prospects is a given. Who those prospects are, we can only guess, but I would think the list looks something like this:
- Dennis Santana
- Dustin May
- … an maybe more.
Maybe some of the players the Dodgers have traded (Montas, Holmes, Cotton, De Leon, et al) will become stars… but it hasn’t happened yet. FAZ absolutely did put the Dodgers in position to win in 2017… and they won until the very end as they fell one game short. It’s not too much to expect for your Ace to be unhittable like Mad Bum was for the Giants, but Clayton was unable to do that. It’s not too much to expect the best closer in baseball to be able to hold a lead, but Kenley didn’t. It was logical that Yu Darvish should have been at least average, not horrid, in two World Series Games, but he wasn’t!
That’s not FAZ’s fault. They absolutely delivered last year and those three stars let them and let the fans down. DC nailed it when he mentioned that as the reason the Dodgers did not win the World Series. Understand, it was not that FAZ did not get the players. It’s that the players they counted on, did not deliver. By the way, Yu Darvish has a 6.00 ERA this year – I think he is still damaged goods – damaged between the ears.
Clayton Kershaw has been my favorite player for a long time. Sandy Koufax used to be my guy, but Clayton has not delivered on the Big Stage… repeatedly. Maybe the brass lets him walk. Maybe it’s time to turn that page and get another Ace who can be an Ace in the Biggest Games. Forget Darvish! If Kenley and Clayton had done their jobs, the Dodgers would be World Champs.
Many of you are frustrated because the Dodgers have not won a Series since 1988, but I am going to suggest that FAZ is part of the solution… not the problem. In 2016, if Clayton had pitched well against the Cubs in game 6, Rich Hill would have been in position to do what the Dodgers got him for in Game 7, but it was our Ace who let us down… again! Not FAZ! I can’t make any more excuses for Clayton. He has to deliver! PERIOD!
FAZ is not perfect. They have made their share of bad deals. Jeff Luhnow of the Astros had three straight years when he had the #1 overall draft pick in baseball, and all he has to show for it is Carlos Correa. He also took Mark Appel and Brady Aiken, who both proved to be horrid picks… but the Astros overcame it. FAZ has actually traded quite a few prospects, but whether they should have traded more remains to be seen.
Will Urias realize his great potential? Will Buehler be that #2 the Dodgers need? Will Verdugo be a batting champ who finally has power? Will Ruiz be an All-Star? Will Dennis Santana be a #3 or a closer? The jury is still out, but the Dodgers do currently have 9 players on the 25-man roster who were not on it at the beginning of last season. That’s not exactly “standing pat” but maybe you wanted Stanton and his $300 million dollar contract to go with his .210 batting average. Maybe you think that $300 million dollar contract will defy the odds and be a good one. Good luck with that!
I always saw the potential in Yasmani Grandal, but he has never harnessed it for long. Right now, he is the Dodgers best hitter. Can he keep it up? I guess we will find out, but most fans suggest he should be traded. I don’t get it. The Dodgers success rests squarely upon the shoulders of FAZ who has given them the players and if they need more, they will get them this year, but the pipeline is full of possible stars. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Where would the Dodgers be this year without Yasmani, who “took” his job back?
Justin Turner will be back in a few weeks and all this will be forgotten. I still maintain the Dodgers did not need to make many changes – the only change that needs to be made is that the players they have need to step up when required. Are you listening Clayton and Kenley?
Rants and Raves
- The Yankees and Dodgers have both vowed to get under the Luxury Tax and both have done it. This has changed the whole contract landscape in baseball. Fans may not think it’s a big deal to be over the Luxury Tax Level, but the facts are twofold:
- High payrolls are not the path to the Series; and
- High payrolls lead to the Luxury Tax which is absolutely not a good utilization of assets and is felony stupid! There is a better way.
- Dave Roberts believes in Kike and so do I. Confidence breeds confidence. That’s why Doc has him where he is – I hope his trust proves to be warranted.
- The Dodgers have a solid #5 starter in Ryu with a 2.97 ERA. Where would Darvish even slot on this team?
- Alex Verdugo got stronger and better conditioned over the winter. After hitting 6 HR last year all season, Verdugo now has 3 in his first 50 AB’s. It appears he is finding his power.
- Henry Ramos was 3-5 with 4 RBI and a walk-off single. He is hitting .432 and OPS’ing 1.205.
Someone asked about Conner Wong last week and of course, there are the usual places to find out info on him, such as Baseball America’s 2018 Prospect Handbook, where he is the Dodgers #18 Prospect:
Wong starred at shortstop as a freshman in Houston but moved to catcher for his sophomore season. His progression in two year behind the plate and a solid junior season that included 12 homers and 26 stolen bases convinced the Dodgers to draft him in the third round and sign him for $547,500. Wong immediately went out to low Class A Great Lakes and took over as the Loons’ starting catcher.
Wong is in the same vein as organizational-mates Austin Barnes and Will Smith as plus athletes capable of catching or playing the infield. He is a plus runner with above-average-to-plus arm strength and the athleticism to become and above-average receiver, although he needs work to get there due to his lack of experience. He can fill in at shortstop, third base and even the outfield as needed. Wong has sneaky power and good plate discipline, but his lack of noticeable bat speed limits his overall offensive potential.
The Dodgers believe Wong can become a plus defensive catcher as he gets more reps behind the plate, with enough bat to play everyday.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball does not rank him, but David Hood of TrueBlueLa wrote this:
A deep system of catchers did not stop the Dodgers from selecting Wong early in the 2017 draft. A prolific and versatile offensive force for the Houston Cougars as a junior, Wong brought much of that performance with him to Class-A Great Lakes, which should put him in an advanced placement to the California League in 2018.
Wong’s body type and athleticism fits the current trend of Dodger backstops seen in Austin Barnes and 2016 first rounder Will Smith. Small in stature but not lacking in athleticism, Wong was a threat on the basepaths in college and his agility and acumen should allow him to succeed as both a receive and potentially an infielder at times in pro ball.
Wong has a simple set up at the plate, with low hands and a toe tap for timing. Some upper body rigidity and swing length could lead to swing and miss issues down the road, but Wong could make up for it with power. His bat speed is above average for a catcher and he swings with enough uppercut to profile as a future flyball hitter at the big league level.
As mentioned, the Dodgers are deep in catchers and don’t face an immediate need for Wong’s services at the big league level. He could show more versatility in 2018 with occasional starts at second, but should be the primary catcher for Rancho Cucamonga. His present in-game power could see him have a big offensive season in the hitter-friendly California League.
Hood is a prophet because Wong is currently hitting over .340 and OPS’ing over 1.300 with 5 HR and 11 RBI. You can see him here:
Hood says he has “above average bat speed for a catcher” while BA Says: “his lack of noticeable bat speed limits his overall offensive potential.” I can’t see that he has a noticeable lack of bat speed. That’s something some scouts say about Edwin Rios as well, so I asked a scout who has seen both and his response was that Rios bat speed may be a problem, but that he saw nothing to lead him to believe that Wong’s bat speed was deficient.
I suspect that Wong may not stay at catcher, because of Grandal, Barnes, Smith and Ruiz being ahead of him, but maybe Ruiz gets moved. I think either player could handle 2B… or 3B. Hood has Ruiz as the Dodgers #2 prospect and I would place him there as well. That’s no knock on Verdugo, just a vote of confidence on Ruiz. This should be interesting in following the growth of Ruiz, Smith and Wong.
MINOR LEAGUE REPORT by AlwaysCompete
The Dodgers affiliates played yesterday and three more Dodger affiliate victories. OKC, Tulsa, and Rancho Cucamonga now reside at the top of their respective divisions. RC tied for first with OKC and Tulsa alone at the top.
OKC Dodgers – 8-7 win over New Orleans Baby Cakes (Marlins)
This was the third consecutive come from behind walk off win for the Dodgers. It was their 8th consecutive win, and they remain 1.5 games up in the PCL American North. Walker Buehler started and went 4.0 IP, allowing 3 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 2 BB, and 5 K. He was pulled after 4 innings after reaching 80 pitches. While not really a concern, it is still something to watch…4 innings and 80 pitches. 20 pitches per inning is a bit much. Buehler was relieved by Adam Liberatore who pitched 2.0 innings allowing 2 hits and 1 unearned run, 0 BB, and 2K. C.C. Lee was touched up for the first time this season as he faced three batters and all reached base, 2 via a walk. Joe Broussard relieved Lee with the bases loaded and got the double play grounder while 1 run scored, and got the third out without any additional run. However in the 8th, SVS produced a 1 out single and came around to score. The tying run scored from 3rd on a strike out caught stealing of 2B. The run scored before the baserunner was ruled out in a run down between 1st and 2nd.
Pat Venditte was touched up with an unearned run in the 10th. In their home half of the 10th, Travis Taijeron started at 2B in the new extra inning rule. Tim Locastro reached 1B safely on a fielder’s choice, and Max Muncy singled to load the bases with nobody out. Henry Ramos then singled to score both Taijeron and Locastro to win the game.
Offensively Max Muncy had a 4-5 night with a double. Henry Ramos went 3-5 with a double and 4 more RBI’s, Alex Verdugo went 2-4 with his 3rd HR, Donovan Solano went 3-5, Rob Segedin 2-5, and Tim Locastro 2-6. Tim Locastro started in LF, giving him three different starting positions this year. He has started in CF 4 times, 2B twice, and LF once.
As a team, OKC is now batting .331/.396/.485/.882. Individually, Andrew Toles is #2 in batting average at .462, with Donovan Solano #3 at .441, Henry Ramos #4 at .432, Travis Taijeron #10 at .409, and Tim Locastro #17 at .375. Ramos is also #2 in RBI with 16.
Tulsa – 7-4 win over Midland RockHounds (A’s)
With the victory, the Drillers increased their lead to 2 games in the Texas League North. The story of this game was starting pitcher Dennis Santana who went 4.1 innings (73 pitches). He allowed 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, and 10 strikeouts. I know the Dodgers do not care about wins and losses, but with the way Santana was pitching, it sure would have been nice to let him finish the 5th so he could get the win. I would expect that Santana would keep the Company line about the team winning is his only concern, but individually he does care and would have wanted the win. Brian Moran and Michael Johnson followed Santana, with Johnson retiring all five batters he faced. Emmanuel De Leon the 9th and promptly allowed 3 hits and a walk giving up 1 run and leaving the bases loaded for Josh Sborz. With a 7-2 lead, Sborz only wanted outs and produced a sac fly to score the 3rd run, and then ending the game on a punch out just after the RockHounds’ final run came home on a fielding error by Michael Ahmed. Both Ahmed and Drew Jackson recorded their 5th error on the season.
Offensively the Drillers were led by DJ Peters went 3-5 including his 4th HR, raising his BA to .362. Will Smith went 3-3 including a double and walk, raising his average to .364. Keibert Ruiz broke out of his mini-slump with a 2 HR and 4 RBI night, and Luke Raley contributed 2 hits. Smith and Peters are now #8 and #9 respectively on the BA leader board. Peters moved to a tie for #2 on the HR leader board (with teammate Connor Joe and two others). Kyle Garlick is tied for #3 with 10 RBI’s.
Rancho Cucamonga – 4-1 win over Lancaster JetHawks (Colorado)
The win moved the Quakes atop the California League South with 2 other teams with a record at 6-6. Okay it’s only a three way tie in a 4 team division, but it is still 1st place. Andrew Sopko had another good start going 4.2 IP (77 pitches), allowing 1 run on 3 hits, 3 walks, and 6 K. Jason Richman and Ryan Mosely finished the final 4.1 shutout innings allowing a single hit, 1 BB, and 5K. Richman got the win and Moseley got the save. Sopko left the game with a 3-1 lead. He recorded the first two outs in the 5th but after allowing the single and reaching 77 pitches he was pulled. See comment above on Dennis Santana.
Jeren Kendall led the RC offense with a 2-4 night, including a double. Ibandel Isabel and Omar Estevez each hit a double. Kendall and Connor Wong each stole their 3rd base. Connor Wong is now batting .350/.422/.825/1.247, with 5 HR and 12 RBI. Wong is now #1 SLG, #2 OPS, #5 BA, #1 (tied) HR and #1 tied (RBI) on the league offensive leader boards.
Starting pitchers today
OKC – Manny Banuelos
Tulsa – Caleb Ferguson
RC – Jordan Sheffield
Great Lakes – Melvin Jimenez