Checking Into the 2012 Albuquerque Isotopes

December 26, 2011 at 10:25 am | Posted in Albuquerque Isotopes, Alfredo Silverio, Justin Sellers, Russ Mitchell, Scott Van Slyke, Tim Federowicz | 38 Comments

Last year at this time, I look a look at how the roster was shaping up for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. Considering how set the MLB roster seems to be at this point, it’s a whole lot more interesting to look at the minors, so let’s do it again. A year ago, we were excited at the prospect of seeing Dee Gordon, Trayvon Robinson, and Jerry Sands all playing together at the highest minor-league level. This year, there’s a different crop of interesting offensive prospects to keep tabs on, though not likely a whole lot of interest on the mound.

C: After parts of four seasons in Triple-A, dating back to 2008 with Las Vegas, A.J. Ellis is out of options and finally set to get a shot in the bigs. There’s little question here that Tim Federowicz will be the regular Isotopes backstop, since the 102 plate appearances he received with Albuquerque last season were his first above Double-A. Last year’s primary backup, Damaso Espino, is an unsigned free agent, so it’s likely that recently-signed veteran Josh Bard joins Federowicz in New Mexico, with a decent chance we’ll see either prospect Gorman Erickson or recently-signed and well-traveled Salomon Manriquez making appearances at points as well.

1B: Scott Van Slyke, 2011’s Dodger minor league hitter of the year, moves up from Double-A Chattanooga; he could still see some time in the outfield corners, but is mainly seen as a first baseman. Fun stories John Lindsey and Corey Smith are each unsigned and probably won’t be back; Jerry Sands could see some time here as well as in the outfield if he ends up not breaking camp with the big club.

2B: I’m still not convinced that he won’t be traded this winter, but the Mark Ellis signing eliminated any chance that Ivan DeJesus was going to make the Dodgers, so he’ll likely return to Triple-A for a third consecutive season. You have to wonder when Jaime Pedroza, owner of a .370 OBP in parts of two Double-A seasons, could get a shot; in addition, Justin Sellers might be the primary shortstop but should still see time at second and third as he attempts to keep his positional flexibility fresh for his future career as a utilityman.

3B: Russ Mitchell has no shot of making the Dodgers barring a string of injuries, and Pedro Baez & Travis Denker are hardly pushing him from behind, so he’ll return for his third Triple-A year at the age of 27. We’ll see him in the bigs again, as we always do, and he’ll be underwhelming as usual. Did you know the ‘Topes had thirteen third basemen last year? Okay, seven played in fewer than five games, but still.

SS: Sellers probably gets the initial look, though I’ll guess he won’t play the majority of games at shortstop since he’ll both be at second and third for Albquerque and probably spend a decent amount of time in the bigs once the elderly begin to break down. Recent minor-league invites Luis Cruz and Lance Zawadzki should collect plenty of time filling space until Jake Lemmerman is ready, perhaps in 2013.

LF: This largely depends on Sands, because if he’s in the minors, he’s playing every day. Primary 2011 left fielder Trayvon Robinson is of course gone, so there should be an opening for what could be a hilarious season out of Kyle Russell. Russell has been known for his massive power and nearly-as-impressive difficulties in making contact, so that package in ABQ should present some Triple-A fueled numbers that’ll have us all pretending like he’s the next big thing by June.

CF: Alfredo Silverio was added to the 40-man roster earlier this offseason after a solid season in Chattanooga, and with both regular center fielders gone from 2011 – Robinson to Seattle, and Jamie Hoffmann to Colorado – there’s a big hole here for Silverio to fill. Non-roster invite Cory Sullivan probably also fits into the mix here.

RF: Well, I don’t think Jay Gibbons is coming back. Alex Castellanos, impressive in a short look with Chattanooga after being acquired for Rafael Furcal, is likely to start the season as the primary Isotope right fielder; Russell and Sullivan could see time here as well.

Bench: Other than the guys I’ve already mentioned – Bard, Cruz, Zawadzki, & Sullivan – corner infielder Jeff Baisley will probably be an Isotope, plus perhaps 2B/3B Joe Becker, who got into 70 games with the club last season. In the outfield, expect to see Trent Oeltjen or someone else like him, and at some point, Albuquerque native Brian Cavazos-Galvez should make his hometown debut.

Starting Pitching

It helps, somewhat, that the Dodger starting rotation and bullpen are all but set, so there’s no worry about ten guys fighting for that fifth rotation spot. On the other hand, the Dodgers have shown a pattern of trying to keep their top pitching prospects away from the high-offense PCL, preferring to promote them directly from Double-A instead, so these are informed guesses and little more.

SP1: Being the #1 starter on this list doesn’t mean “ace” as it would in the bigs; rather, it’s just the order in which I consider them most likely. John Ely, owner of 25 starts for the Isotopes last year and a few stints with the Dodgers, is almost certainly headed back for another year of Triple-A. He’s roster depth at best – great to have around, never someone you want to count on.

SP2: Will Savage had a reasonably successful season for the Lookouts last year, striking out few but showing excellent control. Hardly a top prospect – 28 next year, and has been a minor-league free agent more than once – he’ll likely turn his invite to big-league camp into a season spent in New Mexico.

SP3: Like Savage, Michael Antonini is hardly a name to know – he was acquired for Chin-lung Hu for chrissake – but he’ll be 27 next year, was invited to the offseason developmental camp, and has a few games of Triple-A experience under his belt from his time with the Mets.  He’s been a bit homer-prone in the lower levels, which is somewhat terrifying to think about in Albuquerque.

SP4: I went back and forth on this one, which is why he’s SP4, but I’ll guess that Nathan Eovaldi does head to Triple-A rather than Double-A. That’s partly because the Chattanooga rotation looks like it could be getting full, but also because Eovaldi was decent in his time in the bigs, and sending him back down two levels could look like an insult. Besides, if you’re going to succeed in the NL West, you have to learn how to win in Colorado and Arizona.

Others: Alberto Bastardo and Randy Keisler combined to make 34 starts last year; each is currently a free agent and might not be back. Tim Sexton was awful last year, largely as an injury fill-in, and don’t forget that Carlos Monasterios should be back from elbow surgery at some point. There’s probably also going to be another Dana Eveland-like veteran that we don’t know about yet, and it’s possible that younger arms like Allen Webster, Chris Withrow, and Stephen Fife could push their way up if the organization doesn’t try to keep them away from Albuquerque.

Relief Pitching

Take your pick. It’s possible that none of the top three Isotope leaders in games pitched from 2011 – Jon Link (already signed with Baltimore), Travis Schlichting, Merkin Valdez – returns. The fourth was Ramon Troncoso, who might make the Dodgers but is far more likely to be DFA’d since he’s out of options. Josh Lindblom could appear if he doesn’t make the big team, but the entire collection of recently signed fungible veterans – Angel Guzman, Fernando Nieve, Jose Ascanio, Ryan Tucker, Shane Lindsay, Alberto Castillo, Matt Chico, Scott Rice, John Grabow, Wil Ledezma – are candidates to make up the bullpen, as again, the Dodgers try not to put their better prospects like Shawn Tolleson, Steve Ames, and Josh Wall here.

Remember, the Isotopes have used 49, 56, and 52 players going back to 2009, so this is an extremely high-level look; needs change as the big club makes their own moves.


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  1. What’s going to happen with Rubby this season? I read that he was invited to the developmental camp…

    http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111220&content_id=26212360&vkey=news_la&c_id=la

    Once he’s 100%, I assume he’s on the big club right? He seems like he could pitch anywhere in the lineup. I wonder what his ETA is though because I didn’t think we’d even hear his name mentioned until later in the season and here he is already popping up. The current rotation looks a lot nicer with Rubby in it and one of the lower end guys as depth/long relief.

    • I believe the developmental camp is often as much about off the field skills (dealing with media, managing your bank account, etc) as it is for baseball skills for the young players, which I think is a great idea.

      RDLR is probably out until at least July before he can even make rehab starts, and that’s assuming his rehab has no setbacks. Then he’ll need at least a few weeks in the minors, and *might* be available to the Dodgers in September, though it’s hardly guaranteed.

      • Thanks Mike, I knew they did more than just you basic baseball skills in the development camp, but didn’t realize it went that deep. Loved watching Rubby pitch last year…hopefully he heals up well and is ready for a bounceback 2013.

        • Someone on fangraphs, probably Newman, said that RDLR’s fastball is possibly the best he’s ever seen. That is something right there. Great job blocking him from the rotation until 2014, Ned.

          • Here’s hoping that a new, competent GM unloads all of Ned’s crap signings of the past two off-seasons, starting in June 2012.

  2. Mike Parisi is listed under the Dodgers organization in offseason stats at mlb.com. He should be mentioned as an SP.

    • Shocking, you found something to complain about. I didn’t list Parisi because I haven’t seen any evidence that he’s resigned for 2012. He was pretty terrible for the Topes last year anyway.

      • When a decent person (like me for example) makes an error, no matter how slight, esp. of omission they appreciate that omission being pointed out. You, on the other hand, who I have never ever seen take a friendly gesture of help as anything but an attack, respond with unwarranted aggressiveness.
        I, of course, never said Parisi wasn’t terrible last season; that fact is just a smokescreen to excuse the fact that you made an omission which I can only imagine makes you feel worthless since you respond in such pit-bull fashion..But, I did love the “anyway”.
        My comment was not a complaint; it was an attempt to be helpful. Perhaps you have been in New York too long.

        • ^this guy smh

          • I believe you’re both wrong about Parisi being “terrible” last season. He was pretty consistent, and went 5-0 in the month of August alone. Plus, have you looked at his off-season stats? I think he’ll be one of the better starters for the ‘Topes this year

  3. Parisi has been re-signed, it was in the BA transactions a while back. Bastardo signed with the Phillies, so we are spared seeing him get torched again.

    Pretty much lines up with what I had at this point. Since my temporary full-time status with the Journal ends on Jan. 7, I’ll be back on examiner.com with an offseason update shortly. I’ll just have to frame it differently since you did it this way, Mike. Sheesh, make a guy work harder just when his paychecks shrink back to nothing…

    • Ha, sorry. Hope all’s well.

      • Coming down with my first cold of the season. Brain not all there. And the “a” dude is right, Marlins, not Phillies. I blame the damn virus.
        * * *
        There is also a high comedy element with Kyle Russell. The dude jumped to the top of my interview list after his brief stint here last season. He’s got quite the wit.

    • There are many Bastardo’s in baseball. “Our” Bastardo signed with the Marlins:New Orleans Zephyrs signed free agent LHP Alberto Bastardo.

  4. After reviewing this article I can see that our AAA team has been put together to mirror the success of the parent ball club.

  5. So…the Dodgers prefer to keep their top pitching prospects out of AAA Albequerque, and all hitters stats there are viewed as mostly inflated and largely irrelevant [ see Lindsay, John ]. We’d have to assume other organizations do the same w/ their pitchers, so, why would a hitter move ‘up’ to the PCL to face worse pitching? Mike….Chris ?

    • I don’t know if other organizations do it to the same extent… all of the PCL is inflated, sure, but ABQ particularly, I believe. Chris would know better though.

      • The gonzo offensive parks of the PCL are ABQ, Colorado Springs (highest elevation in pro ball, so the Rockies are putting a humidor in there), Salt Lake, and Reno. All over 4,000 feet in elevation, with CS checking in at over 6,000 (higher than Denver). Vegas and Tucson can also be launching pads, though that has more to do with the dry air than the elevation (Tucson is only about 2,000 feet). As for the notion of keeping pitchers out of these parks, yes, a lot of them do it the same way as the Dodgers. In the case of the hitters, though, it has less to do with the quality of pitching as the type of pitching. Remember, PCL rosters are flooded with ex-big leaguers, most of whom are more junkball/finesse types, guys who “pitch backwards” rather than the more traditional types of arms that players see working their way up from rookie ball to Double-A. Teams want their top hitters to face these kind of pitchers, since they’re bound to see a lot of them in MLB.
        Most of the hitters I interview are fully aware that the PCL can inflate their stats; the smart ones know better than to get too cocky, and the good organizations have managers and hitting coaches who remind guys that just because you can go deep consistently for the first time in your career (Justin Sellers is a good example), it does not mean you have suddenly transformed from a line-drive specialist to a cleanup hitter.
        * * *
        In the end, though, it all comes down to basic math. If a team has a good outfield prospect, but is set at the big-league level, it has to put him somewhere. A lot of guys, even top prospects, just end up here because there’s no room above. If players are really unbelievably good, they’ll jump from Double-A straight up. The Eovaldi situation will be a fascinating one to watch. If the Dodgers really do put him here, it might show they’re not that afraid of ABQ’s mile-high elevation (at the ballpark, officially the city is measured from downtown, which is about 4,500 feet; for those who have never been here, think of ABQ as being in a valley, with the Sandia Mountains at 10,000+ feet on the east side and the Rio Grande running down the middle; we’re on a slope, basically).

  6. Completely off-topic conspiracy theory: I was reading the James Loney story to my family over the holiday, to laugh over how crazy it was, and my mother said “you just described a seizure.” She’s somewhat right. It would explain why Loney was never charged, and why alcohol/drug abuse has not been proven, as well as why they were able to keep it private for so long. It might explain Loney being really confused and angry after the crash, but I don’t know how long he was belligerent. I doubt it would explain how Loney would still be flipping out at the hospital, if it was hours later. Just an interesting, completely void-of-fact conspiracy theory.

    • likely not a seizure if he was still trippin a few hours later.. maybe he had a brief psychotic break at the idea of potentially being tendered by ned co

      • There are a lot of different kinds of seizures. From wikipedia: “…a seizure can also be as subtle as… a sensation of fear and total state of confusion.” That sounds pretty accurate.

  7. Second base might also be the landing spot for Castellanos, although I have read that he was a butcher over there with the Cardinals. I just think that DeJesus is going to dealt before having a real chance at being a Dodger. That broken leg may have sapped some of his skills and likely his chances as a Dodger.

    I suspect that because of Ned’s idiocy, Sands will spend much too much time in Albuquerque while we get way too many at bats from Juan Rivera.

    • If he is to have any value, it would be as a 2nd baseman. Then again, we are pretty “deep” in the IF.

    • The Dodgers had some success in converting a few outfielders to become middle infielders – Bill Russell, Davey Lopes for instance. Lopes and Russell were more defense oriented outfielders – more lithe, agile and not over muscled power hitters. That and time to practice in the minors allowed them to become MLB infielders. Castellanos seems to be more of a power guy – kind of stiff, over muscled etc. They would also be doing a rush job of transitioning him to 2B if it happens. The Dodgers could certainly use some Jeff Kent type offense at 2B and I would hope Castellanos gets a fair chance in the OF or at 2B. Reports are that he hill hit, but from what position?

      • *will – not “hill” in the last sentence – sorry – typo

    • Castellanos has not played 2B since 2009 at Single-A Palm Beach. I still find the notion of him being an infielder a bit far-fetched. But if Skip Schumaker can do it, anything is possible. I’ll keep everybody updated when he gets here as to whether or not he starts taking groundballs on the infield during BP.

  8. I’m looking forward to Van Slyke’s season. He was so consistent last season, that I imagine he will have a silly year.

  9. Is a players success at Chattanooga a bit more telling than success at ABQ?

    • That’s debatable, too. Remember, Double-A pitching is not all that good. For every time a guy had to face, say, Matt Moore of Montgomery, he also got to face the middle relievers down there, the back-end starters, and so on, pitchers with no chance of making it to MLB. In the end, you have to take certain stats with a grain of salt no matter where a guy plays. Pitchers in the Southern League are often overrated, just like hitters in the PCL. There is no perfect environment for baseball, no perfect mix of wind patterns, elevation, relative humidity, etc. For all the games that the Dodgers play at home in pitcher-friendly conditions, they play plenty of games on the road at Arizona and Colorado. The best formula for figuring out a player or pitcher’s talent is usually found in the more hardcore sabremetric stats; I’d look at a pitcher’s flyball-to-groundball ratio. Generally guys who keep it on the ground a majority of the time fare better regardless of environment. For hitters, stats like OPS are far from perfect, but they’re probably more useful than just HR and RBI totals. Even some guys who seem to show good plate discipline at Double-A are just taking advantage of pitchers who can’t throw strikes consistently.
      It’s all why baseball teams still employ scouts, to look beyond the numbers, to figure out if a player is really capable of succeeding at the highest level. There is no perfect way to do it, however. It’s an imperfect science, and I think that’s why we embrace it. We’re all imperfect, too.

  10. Hey Mike,
    Any news on your softball roster?

    • I think we still need another woman.

      • Hmmm… I know a few good lady softball players. I’ll ask around.

  11. Are any of these guys considered remotely good prospects? I fear I already know the answer.

    • Baseball America ranks the Dodgers’ top 10:
      1. Zach Lee, rhp
      2. Allen Webster, rhp
      3. Nate Eovaldi, rhp
      4. Alfredo Silverio, of
      5. Chris Reed, lhp
      6. Garrett Gould, rhp
      7. Chris Withrow, rhp
      8. Josh Lindblom, rhp
      9. Joc Pederson, of
      10. Tim Federowicz, c
      So three (Eovaldi, Silverio, FedEx) should end up in ABQ.

      • Wow, FedEx is a top 10 prospect in the Dodgers system. It’s worse than I thought.

    • The best case scenario for the Dodgers likely includes Federowicz developing into a MLB C, Van Slyke and Sands becoming MLB 1B/LFs, Castellanos and Russell becoming MLB RFs, Silverio becoming a MLB OF, and Sellers becoming a MLB backup SS/2B. With Kemp, Gordon and AJ Ellis, this leaves LA with needs of a starting 2B and 3B, and another backup INF. Go Blue!

  12. [...] Last week, I took a look at a prospective roster for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes and enjoyed the process enough that I thought I’d do the same thing for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts, in no small part because this pitching staff has the potential to be loaded with talent. It helps, of course, that the Dodgers tend to keep their pitching prospects in Chattanooga and skip them straight to Los Angeles, rather than promoting them to the high altitudes of the PCL. Though the Isotopes are in the “highest” league, Double-A often has more talent, since so many clubs use Triple-A as something of a Quad-A dumping ground for fill-in veterans as needed. [...]

  13. [...] First, there’s a comprehensive look at the 2012 ‘Topes by the excellent Dodger Blog Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness [...]


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