Don’t look now but the minor league season is looking a bit short. Where has it gone? As always there has been much to follow and some surprises.
The minor league play-off picture is taking shape with the possibility of five Dodger affiliates extending their season with three already qualifying for the extension.
Dominica Summer League Dodgers:
The DSL Dodger complement, after a promising start, has run aground. The DSL Dodgers (Guerrero) are coming off a nine-game losing streak leaving them six games behind the first place Rays 2 in the DSL North Division. The DSL Dodgers (Robinson) have won seven of their last 10 games but stand seven games behind the Rays 1 in the Northwest Division. With 30 games left in the regular schedule anything can happen but it does not look overly promising.
Because there is so little information on the youngsters in the DSL – mostly signing dates and stats – it is difficult to make projections unless there is something totally eye-catching happening.
The following pitchers, 18 years of age or younger, have pitched at least 30 innings with a WHIP of less than one and a K/BB ratio of 4/1 or better. All are right-handers.
- Jose Rodulfo (17)
- Carlos Duran (16)
- Juan Gonzalez (18)
- Carlos Montilla (18)
Offensively the DSL Dodgers have not separated themselves from the pack. Eighteen-year-old Jaime Perez might be the most consistent with a triple slash of .289/.416/.542 along with five home runs and 20 runs batted in. Seventeen-year-old Andy Pages might be the most interesting. His contact is inconsistent but his power is not. Although he strikes out 25 per cent of the time he leads the league with eight home runs. He also has five doubles among his 24 hits.
Arizona League Dodgers
The AZL Dodgers are currently 2.5 games up on the DSL Padres 2 and have captured the first half play-off spot with a 17-9 record.
Offensively the team is in the middle of the pack with a team batting average of .254. On the hill the team ERA of 3.18 and WHIP of 1.21 are both league leading.
A number of players have made a pit stop in Arizona before moving on including 2018 draftees outfielders Josh McLain, Jon Littell and second baseman Devin Mann. The AZL Dodgers top hitter now is 20-year-old outfielder Ronado Lebron who has posted a slash line of .356/.4343/.386.
The pitching staff has been led by 19-year-old right-hander Juan Morillo who has posted a 3.22 ERA and a WHIP of 1.12 over 22.1 innings pitched. Keep an eye on 18-year-old Aldry Acosta, a right-hander from Caracus, venezuela.
Of special interest, the Dodgers third round selection in the 2018 June Draft made his professional debut on Saturday, July 21. Left-hander Jon Rooney out of Hofstra University on Long Island certainly had an interesting debut. On paper he pitched two shut out innings on one hit and recording four strikeouts. What happened on the field was far more interesting and perhaps indicative of his pitching make up. He hit one batter and one hitter reached first base on a wild pitch strikeout. Two of his strikeouts were looking and he erased two runners by picking them off first base. More on him later.
The Raptors also captured a first half play-off spot with a division leading 24-12 record. The Ogden team simply blasted its way to victory leading the league in most offensive categories including runs, total bases, runs batted in, walks, home runs, slugging, OBP and OPS. They scored 10 or more runs 14 times in 36 games.
Their pitching was in the middle of the pack as a number of those high scoring games were closer than we might think and there were a few double-digit losses. Right-hander Jose Chacin leads the league with a 1.28 ERA. He has gone 5-0 with a 1.18 WHIP along with 36 strikeouts and nine walks in 41 innings pitched. He should get another shot with the Great Lakes Loons after his first opportunity early in the season did not go so well for the 21-year-old. Personal favorite, right-handed reliever 19-year-old Elio Serrano is starting to round into shape after a slow beginning states side.
At the plate AC has kept us updated with 18-year-old Miguel Vargas. The young third baseman has a slash line of .453/.493/.656. Two 19-year-olds are also on his radar. Shortstop Jacob Amaya and second baseman Jeremy Arocho have done nothing but hit. Well not exactly. Arocho has made but two errors in 133 total chances. At the same time I have been watching recently turned 22-year-old outfielder Drew Avans who was selected by the Dodgers in the 33rd round of the June Draft out of Southeastern University. He is currently hitting .339 in 15 games with four home runs and 18 runs batted in.
Great Lakes Loons:
What can we say about the Loons? On the season they are dead last in the Midwest League with a 33-66 overall record and that is pretty much where they are in most offensive categories. The team pitching is somewhat better but still in the lower third of the league.
Outfielder, 22-year-old Brayan Morales, has come into his own this year hitting .273 with a league leading 46 stolen bases. Twenty-year-old pitchers Edwin Uceta and Alfredo Tavaras have pitched quite well in a starting role. Uceta has a .353 ERA while Tavaras has posted a 3.22 ERA. Another personal favorite, Dan Jagiello, has pitched very well in relief and should soon be promoted to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Jagiello was selected by the Dodgers in the 34th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of LIU Post on Long Island. Now 23, he has pitched 50 innings while posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He has struck out 59 and given up only 30 hits. His 31 walks have inflated his WHIP. Not to be forgotten is 19-year-old Geraldo Carrillo who is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico. After a brief dominant stint with the AZL Dodgers he has pitched 10.2 innings with the Loons giving up but five hits and no runs while walking three and striking out 10.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes:
What can we say about the Quakes? The folks in RC are certainly happy. They won the first half of the season with a 35-35 record. In the second half they have gone 24-7.
The Quakes lead the league in home runs, runs batted in, total bases, walks, slugging and OPS while ranking second to Lancaster in runs, hits, OBP and batting average. The pitching staff has performed just as well leading the league in ERA and WHIP and with the fewest hits and runs allowed as well as giving up the fewest home runs.
Dodger fans are breathing a sigh of relief that shortstop Gavin Lux is now playing like a first-round selection. It is easy to forget that he is still just 20 years of age. Outfielder Cody Thomas, third baseman Jared Walker, first baseman Christian Santana and second baseman Omar Estevez are doing their parts. We are still waiting on outfielder Jeren Kendall to get it going.
The pitching staff is led by 20-year-old right-hander Dustin May who is supported by recently promoted righty Max Gamboa, lefty Leo Crawford and right-hander Isaac Anderson, the Dodgers 40th round selection in the 2015 Amateur Draft. And yes, we are waiting on Jordan Sheffield, presently on the 7-day DL and perhaps more suited to a relief role.
As I write this I find that relief specialist right-hander Marshall Kasowski has been promoted to the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League no doubt as a result of the trade that sent Zach Pop to the Orioles in the Manny Machdo trade. Big right-hander Andrew Scrubb will now continue to step up in the Quakes pen and one has to wonder what 6’10” Nolan Long must do to gain another shot with the Drillers.
The Drillers fell short in the first half play-off run by one game losing out to the Arkansas Travelers. In the second half they are sporting a 3.5 game lead over those same Travelers but more importantly 9.5 games over the Springfield Cardinals. The Drillers are currently 20-9 since the All-Star break. They are fourth in the league with a .267 team batting average but lead in doubles, home runs, total bases, slugging and OPS as well as near the top in other offensive categories. The pitching staff ranks third in most categories behind the San Antonio Missions and Corpus Christi Hooks.
Outfielder Jacob Scavuzzo has been on fire for the past month or so leading the Drillers in batting average and runs batted in. His 17 home runs trail teammates Will Smith and DJ Peters. Peters is tied for the league lead with 20 round trippers with former Dodger prospect Joey Curletta. Scavuzzo is also ably supported by outfielders Luke Raley and Zach Reks as well as a productive group of infielders as well as catchers Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz. At age-23 the Dodgers no doubt are looking for Errol Robinson to pick up the pace.
The Drillers pitching staff is led by left-hander Devin Smeltzer and right-hander Mitchell White and supported by Logan Balcom who returned to the Dodger fold as a free agent last May, as well as free agent acquisition Kyle Lobstein. Right-hander Tony Gonsolin has done well in his two starts after being promoted to the Drillers from Rancho Cucamonga. Personal favorites, both right-handers, Andrew Istler has pitched well in relief while Shea Spitzbarth needs a bit more consistency to pave his way to MLB and stay at the AAA level.
The Dodgers got off to a flying start, fell behind, and now have a .5 game lead over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in the American North Division of the league. The Dodgers rank fourth in a number of offensive categories along with a .284 team batting average. On the mound they have compiled a 3.91 ERA, second in the league to the Memphis Redbirds with other pitching categories ranking about fourth.
The talk of the town is left-hand hitting outfielder Alex Verdugo. Will he be traded or become a fixture in the Dodger outfield? He is currently hitting . 349 just behind the league leading .350, and his call to LA suggests the later. One wonders if Connor Joe, Edwin Rios or Henry Ramos will get a September call up at least. Catcher Kyle Farmer surely will. Andrew Toles should keep his suitcase packed.
Relief pitcher Corey Copping has had three good appearances after making 30 with the Tulsa Drillers before his promotion to OKC while right-hander Ariel Hernandez has had control issues at the AAA level this year walking 20 in 23 innings.
Mark’s Thoughts on Last Night’s Debacle
As always, hindsight is 20/20. I thought the biggest mistake was leaving Maeda in the game… but that’s hindsight, which only fans have the benefit of using. The bullpen pitched well.
“Roberts could have used Ferguson.” Yeah, Dusty Baker would have used him! Right or wrong, the Dodgers are treating Ferguson much like a starter and he had thrown 50 pitches the day before. He’s young and they want to be careful.
“Rich Hill should have started the inning.” Yes, in hindsight he should have, but he pitched a 40 pitch bullpen session Monday, so he was really a stretch.
Position player pitching appearances are becoming fairly common and it is happening at a record pace. There have already been more position player pitching appearances this year than any other season in baseball history – 41 times! It’s not just Roberts, it’s everyone. Why that is is apparent: starters are pitching less and they are trying to save the pen.
I hate to say it, but maybe Doc did just give up… and maybe he should have. Well, maybe he hoped for a Kike Hernandez miracle… after all the guy can probably hit 100 MPH on the gun, but Kike listened to his teammates and dialed it back.
Is it better to win the game and lose a pitcher or two to injury, or lose a battle in order to win the war? In 2014, John Baker actually won a 16 inning game for the Cubs as a position player pitching the last inning. Startegy is “dumb” when it doesn’t work, but the same strategy can be deemed “brilliant” if it does.
As Joe Maddon said:
When asked if he’s heard anything from these naysayers about the use of position players, Maddon pounced:
“I have not and for those that may have said that, let me just inform you about this: People that want to say that do not understand the interconnectedness of the day,” Maddon said. “Today’s Tuesday. Tuesday could absolutely be won or lost based on Monday.
“If I used one of our better guys yesterday in a game that was not really going anywhere vs. Steve Carlton reincarnated and then we get into a crucial moment today and then either [Steve] Cishek or [Pedro] Strop or [Carl] Edwards is not available because of that, that’s the wrong thing to do.
“Relax, folks. It’s a baseball game. It is not life or death. I want people to understand that. It’s a typical perfect example of it is a game and so I think people that say things like that don’t really understand how each day is connected. Yesterday was connected to Saturday, most specifically. Having to come out of the break and having to play five games in four days and the day-night doubleheader impacted Monday’s game.
“Whether or not you want to understand that, believe it or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s true. And we’re not crying, because that’s the way the schedule was set up. But yesterday’s game was definitely impacted by what had happened prior to that.
“But I did not want today’s game to be negatively impacted by a really bad process or method on my part to bring somebody in to emilerate somebody’s perception of what it should look like.”
Nobody died! Unlax doc! It is what it is: a loss. They have got another opne to win today!