Bullpen Update

Tom Koehler the pitcher many hoped would replace the arm of Brandon Morrow had his season flushed when he hurt his right shoulder and will be out a minimum of two months. This will have a trickle down effect on the Dodger bullpen since Koehler was already penciled in as a lock.

With Dave Roberts announcing this weekend that five of his relief pitchers are going to be Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Tony Cingrani, Scott Alexander, and inexplicably Ross Stripling that leaves three spots for the remaining candidates.

I can understood the four of the five having near locks in the bullpen but I’m not sure why Ross Stripling is a lock. Especially since he has two options and it might be more prudent to have being stretched as a starter in AAA.

David Hood wrote up JT Chargois and I still don’t understand how the Twins released him. As David noted he is now the highest ranked pure relief pitcher in the Dodger system.

This leaves Brock Stewart, Wilmer Font, Yimi Garcia, Josh Fields, J.T. ChargoisEdward Paredes,  and Adam Liberatore fight fighting for those final three spots.

Brock Stewart – should be starting in AAA which is where I’d also put Ross Stripling but we have to work with the idea of Ross being in the bullpen since Dave Roberts already said he’s a lock. Brock Stewart’s future may be in the bullpen but for now he should be stretched out as a starter and be part of the backup starting depth.

J.T. Chargois should start out in AAA to prove he’s healthy and get some innings under his arm after barely pitching the second half last year

The Dodgers have two lefthanders in the bullpen right now with Cingrani and Scott Alexander so the team doesn’t need either Liberatore or Paredes to make the team but I think one of them will. Liberatore is having an outstanding spring so far and looks like the guy who dominated the National League in the first half of 2016. A healthy Liberatore would go a long way to helping solidify the bullpen.

Josh Fields has yet to pitch this spring but I’d expect him to make the bullpen unless he’s not healthy.

Thus leaving the last spot between Yimi and Wilmer. I’ve stated before that Font will get a spot because he’s out of options.  Yimi has one left and given he didn’t pitch last year it makes sense that he’s headed for AAA.

The dark horses or pitchers who will be in AAA are Pat Venditte the dual throwing relief pitcher who last pitched in the majors in 2016.  Y Sierra who at times has looked like a major league relief pitcher but nothing like the pitcher the Dodgers are paying $3.5 Million to for 2017.  Maybe now is his time. Justin DeFratus last pitched in the majors in 2015 with the Phillies. He has pitched more innings this spring than any other Dodger pitcher and at one time was an effective major league relief pitcher.  Manny Banuelos can pitch his way into bullpen contention but he’ll have to do it from AAA. The big armed pitcher has plenty to prove this spring and not enough innings for it to happen this spring.  Brian Moran was picked up last year from the Independent League and excelled in AA the final month of the season. He has pitched four innings already this spring so the Dodgers are giving him a look. His career was interrupted by TJ in 2014 and he is the longest of shots but 27 K’s in 19 innings with only 3 walks in AA does get your attention as does the fact the Dodgers have run him out there three times this spring and he’s been fantastic. Remember the career arc of Edwardo Paredes and you can see a light for Moran.

There is concern that the Dodgers need to trade for another bullpen piece or sign one via free agency.  They might do it, but I think they will wait until the season starts and see how this group works out.  The back four in Jansen, Alexander, Baez, and Cingrani could be very strong.  Liberatore has been dominant when healthy so it would be wise to see which one shows up this season. Josh Fields isn’t anything special but he gets the job done most of the time.  Font is a wild card, as is Yimi. If that group does not do the job or Pedro Baez isn’t up to snuff, they can make a move  but I don’t see any reason to do one right now.

With the help of the Eric Stephen payroll sheet which is a handy place to find out how many minor league options each pitcher still has we can look at the bullpen this way.

First Five Options Role
Jansen Closer
S Alexander 2 LH Setup
T Cingrani 0 LH Setup
P Baez 2 RH Setup
R Stripling 2 RH Early
Next Three
J Fields 1 RH Early
A Liberatore 1 LH Early
W Font 0 RH Early
AAA Depth
Y Garica 1 AAA Depth RH
E Paredes 1 AAA Depth LH
J.T. Chargois 1 AAA Depth RH
Brock Stewart 1 AAA Depth RH
Y Sierra 2 AAA Depth RH
More AAA Depth
Pat Venditte AAA Depth RH/LH
Justin DeFratus AAA Depth RH
M Banuelos AAA Depth  LH
Brian Moran AAA Depth LH
Prospect who might help
W Buehler
D Santana

Wilmer and Keibert Show

The Wilbur and Keibert show is getting great ratings this spring and hope to be renewed for many years.

While many expected the Wilmer Font show to get cancelled after just a few episodes our pick for the surprise season of 2018 has opened more eyes this spring with two excellent outings. I’ve always maintained he had a great shot to make the roster simply because he was out of options but I wasn’t getting much backup. Even last Friday after he started the game with two perfect innings when the Dodger broadcast team showed the starting rotation and five other pitchers who could start for the Dodgers, they didn’t include the name of Wilmer Font. They actually had one of my other favorite prospects Dennis Santana on the list which seems a little early.  Font has now pitched in two games and has looked like someone who was the AAA pitcher of the year.  Jon Weisman gave the idea that Wilmer would make the team some credence with this twitter exchange.

Travis Barbary is not a household name and probably never will be in the Dodger world but maybe his connection with Keibert Ruiz who is only 19-years-old and is getting games at major league camp should make him one.  Keibert had three hits today, his first hits at major league camp and Tim Brown with his excellent timing put up an excellent article on his strange famlia .  This is a must read for any Dodger fan. I didn’t know anything about Keibert Ruiz except his skills as a prospect when I labeled him prematurely in some peoples mind the best position prospect in the Dodger system last June.  Once I read this story we may be thanking Travis Barbery if Keibert does indeed reach the potential that some think he has.

This spring, Keibert is in big-league camp for the first time. Travis had run him through the etiquette of a 19-year-old in a major league clubhouse – don’t park in the player’s lot if it’s going to be full, don’t ask too much of the clubhouse guys, be respectful, keep a low profile. He also advised, “You’re a great kid. Be yourself.”

About the gesture then. Over almost a quarter century, you see enough young men work so hard, want it so bad, it becomes a part of you, too. It can be an assembly line down there – next man up, next man up, next man up. It’s lonely and scary and all the street signs are in another language, and home is so far away. So many fail. So many, perhaps, did not have to.

“God,” Travis said, “it’s hard for anybody, even American players, that road from Rookie ball to the big leagues. Sometimes you take it for granted.”

For sure this story has made it even easier to root for Keibert.


MLB Pipeline unveils LAD top 30

MLB Pipeline just unveiled their LAD top 30 prospects.  No surprises at the top with Walker Buehler / Verdugo / Ruiz taking the top three spots.

New additions to 2018 from the 2017 spring list who were drafted in 2017 are Jeren Kendall, Connor Wong, Morgan Cooper, James Marinan, and Donovan Casey. Interesting that Wong was drafted in the 3rd round but is ranked 15th compared to 2nd round pick Morgan Cooper who was ranked 21st. Cooper did not pitch professionally in 2017 so he has yet to pitch in the Dodger organization while Connor Wong had a very successful professional debut.

New additions from 2018 that were not ranked in the 2017 spring top 30. Cristian Santana goes from being unranked to number 14. That is quite a jump. Caleb Ferguson goes from unranked to 16th. Errol Robinson, Tony Gonsolin, Matt Beatty,  Kyle Farmer, Romer Cuadrado, and Luke Raley round out the players new to the 2018 top 30 ranking.

Players falling from the list that are still in organization are Omar Estevez, Josh Sborz,  Carlos Rincon, Johan Mieses, and Andrew Sopko. I have to admit I’m surprised at the exclusion of Omar Estevez.  He didn’t wow anyone last year but at the same time he was very young for his league. David Hood was also not impressed with him so I guess baseball doesn’t think much of him. That is to bad because he cost the Dodgers six million back in Nov of 2015. If he blows out that will be another Cuban signing that has not panned out.

Players who are no longer on the list because they graduated to the majors are Cody Bellinger and Brock Stewart.

Players no longer on the list because they are no longer in the Dodger organization are Willie Calhoun(2nd), Trevor Oaks(15th), ONeil Cruz, Brendon Davis, AJ Alexy(16th), and Jacob Rhame.

I put their current ranking from their new team in parenthesis.

Biggest jumps – Dennis Santana 15 spots, DJ Peters 13 spots, Dustin May 12 spots, Keibert Ruiz 10 spots.

The 2016 number one picks  had some big drops.  Gavin Lux went from 7 to 13 and Jordan Sheffield from 9th to 18. However other 2016 draft picks are moving up such as Mitch White, Will Smith, DJ Peters, Dustin May.


ProspecName BirthDate AGE MLB Spring 2018 MLBSpring2017 POS Draft League
Walker Buehler 7/28/1994 23 1 5 SP 1/2015 AAA
Alex Verdugo* 5/15/1996 21 2 3 CF 2/2014 AAA/MLB
Keibert Ruiz 7/20/1998 19 3 13 C Int/FA A+
Mitchell White 12/28/1994 23 4 10 SP 2/2016 AA
Yusniel Diaz 10/7/1996 21 5 6 CF Int/FA AA
D.J. Peters 12/12/1995 22 6 19 OF 4/2016 A+
Jeren Kendall 2/4/1996 22 7 ND OF 1/2017 A
Yadier Alvarez 3/7/1996 21 8 2 SP Int/FA AA
Will Smith 3/28/1995 22 9 14 C 1/2016 AA
Dennis Santana 4/12/1996 21 10 25 RHP Int/FA AA
Dustin May 9/6/1997 20 11 23 SP 3/2016 A
Edwin Rios* 4/21/1994 23 12 22 1st/3rd 6/2015 AAA
Gavin Lux 11/23/1997 20 13 7 SS 1/2016 A
Cristian Santana 2/24/1997 21 14 NR 3B Int/FA A+
Connor Wong 5/19/1996 21 15 ND C 3/2017 A
Caleb Ferguson* 7/2/1996 21 16 NR SP 38/2014 A+
Starling Heredia 2/6/1999 19 17 12 OF Int/FA A
Jordan Sheffield 6/1/1995 22 18 9 SP 1/2016 A+
Imani Abdullah 4/20/1997 20 19 15 SP 11/2015 ExtendedSpring
Errol Robinson 10/1/1994 23 20 NR SS 6/2016 AA
Morgan Cooper 9/12/1994 23 21 ND RHP 2/2017 DNP
James Marinan 10/10/1998 19 22 ND RHP 4/2017
Matt Beatty 4/28/1993 24 23 NR INF 12/2015 AAA
Tony Gonsolin 5/14/1994 23 24 NR  P 9/2016 A-
Kyle Farmer 8/17/1990 27 25 NR C 8/2013 Majors
Drew Jackson 7/28/1993 24 26 18 SS Trade AA
Romer Cuadrado 2/12/1997 21 27 NR OF Int/FA SS
Ronny Brito 3/22/1999 18 28 20 SS #N/A A
Luke Raley 9/19/1994 23 29 NR OF 7/2016 A+
Donavan Casey 2/23/1996 22 30 ND  OF/1st 20/2017 Rookie
Cody Bellinger 7/13/1995 22 1 1st/OF 4/2013 Majors
Willie Calhoun* 11/4/1994 23 4 2nd 4/2015 Texas
Brock Stewart 10/3/1991 26 8 SP 6/2014 Majors
Omar Estevez 2/25/1998 20 11 2b/SS #N/A A+
Josh Sborz 12/17/1993 24 16 SP 2/2015 AA
Trevor Oaks 3/26/1993 24 17 SP 7/2014 AAA
Oneil Cruz 10/4/1998 19 21 3rd Int/FA Reds
Carlos Rincon 10/14/1997 20 24 OF FA A
Johan Mieses 7/13/1995 22 26 SS #N/A AA
Brendon Davis 7/27/1997 20 27 SS 5/2015 Reds
Andrew Sopko 8/7/1994 23 28 SP 7/2015 AA
AJ Alexy 4/21/1998 19 29 RHP 11/2016 Rangers
Jacob Rhame 3/16/1993 24 30 RP 6/2013 AAA

Spring Training has lost some luster

This will be an old man rumbling. One of the beauties of spring training for me was getting the first look at a prospect you may have read about but had no way of ever seeing them play unless you watched their minor league games. There was no Baseball America telling how good they were, there were no youtube video’s up the wazoo showing you the skill set.  No MLB pipeline.

There was only the sporting news or sometimes the local beat writer who gave out nuggets about the prospects.  Back then I don’t think beat writer paid any attention to the minor league system. It sure didn’t feel like it.

For most fans when Candido Maldonado made his first appearance in major league camp in spring training of 1981 it was the first time anyone had glimpsed him.  I was already 23 years old and yet getting a glimpse of Candido made my day back in the spring of 1981. That is why I watched spring training for those moments, getting the first look at the future.

I don’t miss that.

I like having all the information about the prospects from the time they are drafted or signed, but it has taken away a big part of why spring training was an exciting part of my journey as a Dodger fan.

Sometimes a prospect will still make spring training worthwhile such as the 2013 Puig version who blew minds after a pedestrian start to his professional career in 2012.

Those stories are few these days for anyone who pays attention to the prospects.

Can someone blow our minds this spring who isn’t exactly on the radar? Chris Taylor did it last spring.

Does this come back to Wilmer Font again?


Big moments for players equals blah for fans

The first few spring training games are big moments for a number of players in camp who will never sniff the majors with the Dodgers in 2018 but it is hard not be bored as a fan when viewing these games.  The Dodgers have a bazillion players in camp and thus they all need a moment to show off their skills in game situations but it is hard to imagine any of them having an impact on the season.

It is easy for me to get excited about watching the prospects play but as die-hard as I am I can muster no interest in seeing the likes of

Daniel Corcino, Andrew Robinson, Brian Moran, Ryan Mosely, Justin DeFratus, Brian Schlitter,  Guillermo Moscoso, Jordan Jankowski, Tony Gonsolin, Malcom Culver, Parker Curry, Cesar Ramos, CC Lee.

I wish all of them good luck but none of these  guys are pitching for a spot on the major league roster. They are pitching to make the organization and while that is cool for them, it isn’t much fun for the fans who make the trek to see the Dodgers play in spring training. Which is why I’d never go to Arizona for the 1st week of spring training games.

When I go, I would target the exact time the minor league games open. The pitchers are more stretched out and management is now only looking at pitchers that will either break camp or who have a shot at breaking camp or at the good arms in the system they want to get a look at. Plus you have the advantage of watching the major league game and the minor league games.

Kevin Smith almost died today

and I was already writing this column when I read about it on twitter.  On Sunday I met a parent of one of my wives students and he was why I was writing an article about heart attacks and luck.

We were at a youth Hockey game Sunday to watch one of my wives students play. We met his dad and started talking. He was between 30 – 40 and seemed in great health but it turned out he had escaped death by a matter of luck. Several years ago after his own hockey game he felt light headed when he got home. He laid down on the couch and noticed that he couldn’t see out of the bottom of his left eye. His wife didn’t ignore the symptom and took him to the emergency room. At first they treated it like a stroke but luckily for him the emergency room doctor went further and ordered some tests. Those tests required more tests and before he left the hospital after several days of tests he had learned he had the same heart condition that had killed John Ritter and Allan Thicke.

 Aortic dissection

Thicke had also been playing adult hockey when he had his attack. They had actually played in the same Burbank adult hockey league.

Eventually he flew to Cleveland where they performed open heart surgery to fix his Aorta and is now ready to live a longer life.  Why does the best surgeon for Aortic dissection work out of Cleveland? I have no idea but I’d love to ask him this question. Rumor has it that he does 500 of these surgeries a year with each surgery taking an average of five hours.  Luckily he has a team who does all the prep work and he swoops in and performs his magic. Not everyone is going to survive. It is after all open heart surgery.

We we talked about luck.  What if he had fallen asleep and had missed the eye symptom and never went to the emergency room? What if his emergency doctor had simply treated him as a minor stroke victim and hadn’t pressed for more tests? I thought of the people where these tests simply aren’t an option in our health care system.

Many people will never get those tests and will die of their unknown Aortic dissection. Supposedly 15,000 people die of Aortic dissection every year.  Because of luck, our new friend will not be one of them.

This column doesn’t really have a point, but I continue to marvel at how luck plays such an important part in our lives.

Maybe one of you reading this has the condition but you’d never know until you die from it because  a normal physical would never uncover it.

Some would say it wasn’t luck but that God played a part in this but that won’t play with me because…………Nah, I don’t want to go there today.

Anyway, I’m glad they fixed his condition. He’s a great parent, is raising a great kid, and the world will be a better place with him still in it.

J.T. Chargois could be a diamond in the rough

I don’t know what the Twin front office was thinking or the 28 teams that passed on J.T. Chargois but I do like that the Dodgers scooped him on waivers from the Twins. The Twins took a chance on putting Chargois on waivers and it almost paid off as 28 other teams passed on him but ultimately they lost the gamble and an arm that you would normally want to keep within your organization even if it has been through the ringer.

The once highly regarded Chargois may never pitch for the Dodgers but this is the right kind of arm to take a chance on.  It was just July of 2016 that he represented the Twins in the Futures game after being their 2nd round pick in 2012. The Twins had three first round picks in 2012 and two second-round picks.  The first two picks were Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios who are expected to be part of the core of this year’s Twin roster.

Chargois was made available because of his arm problems including a bizarre stint last summer but if he can healthy (can any Rice pitcher get healthy?)  he could be exactly what every team is looking for these days, a hard-throwing setup man who can dominate a lineup one time through.  The Dodgers could take the chance because he still has an option left, I’m just shocked the Padres or Marines or Angels weren’t able to figure out a way to do the same.

One year ago Fangraphs felt Chargois had a shot at being the best relief pitcher in the Twin system.

The final damage for Chargois in September was a 2.84 ERA and 13-3 K/BB ratio in 12.2 innings. Opposing batters hit just .205/.255/.273 against Chargois, while his swinging strike rate jumped to a much more stomachable 12 percent. In fact, if we lop off Chargois’ brutal first outing of September, he closed the season by allowing one earned run over his final 11.1 innings (0.79 ERA) with a 10-2 K/BB ratio and a .421 OPS against. He told me in September that it basically boiled down to him getting his legs underneath him and finally feeling comfortable on the big-league mound.

Course they were talking about 2016 and 2017 was a lost year for Chargois. Sometimes that lost year becomes someone else’s lost treasure.

Bill Plunkett has a nice story up about Chargois.

“This place is crazy, man. This is awesome. It’s like Disney World or something,” he said, sitting at his locker Monday morning in the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch.

“Look at this place – it’s so bright and merry. Even when I was playing catch yesterday I was like, ‘The ball is so light. Why is everything so light and fluffy here?’”



The Bison is back

I won’t be doing a breakdown of every spring game but game one had plenty to talk about, including the return of the Bison to Dodger blue.

Wilmer Font is a huge man and buzzed right through the six hitters he faced.  He was the best pitcher on this day for either team though Edward Paredes gave him a run for his money by striking out the side in the 8th.  At least Orel got it right when he said that Font was out of options and the team would have to find a way to keep him on the roster. Ned Colletti did not as he said during the pregame that they could use Font up and down this year.  The only way that happens is if the Dodgers don’t put Font on the 25 man roster and every team takes a pass on him. I don’t see that happening.

The Bison is back. Matt Kemp hit a hard single up the middle in his first at-bat, slugged a home run in his second at-bat but more importantly the man looks great. We can finally remove those horrible images of Matt in the Padre and Brave uniforms looking very much like an over-the-hill designated hitter instead of the Bison we remember so fondly. During his multiple interviews with Alanna, he appeared to be very comfortable and even with blinders on, it didn’t take much imagination to see the Matt Kemp of old. The smile, the eyes, the hat on backward.  It can’t be what it was, but for one day it sure felt like it.

The players competing for the LF job were all over the lineup today. Kemp was the starting LF, Hernandez was starting at SS while Seager rests his arm, Thompson was starting in RF, and Alex Verdugo came off the bench. They combined to hit two home runs (Kemp, Hernandez), one double (Verdugo), three singles (2 by Thompson, 1 by Kemp), and one stolen base by Thompson.

They said Cody Bellinger had added muscle and I believe it. He was on 2nd when Kemp hit his home run and the view from TV of Cody leading off of second showed off his massive shoulders.

DJ Peters looks just like wild man Jayson Werth. More similarities, both right-handed, both tall and lanky, both with power, both have long mountain man like hair. Has to just be a matter of time that Peters grows a beard or breaks his wrist.

Pat Venditte is the guy who pitches with either arm and in getting his five outs today he used both his arms to excellent effect.  Pat came into the game with two on and one out. He struck out the first hitter, then got out of a bases-loaded jam after Cody Bellinger made an error on a simple ground ball to 1st base. He retired the side in order the next inning. 

Noted above, Edward Paredes struck out the side in the 8th.



Dodgers kick off Cactus League play today

In a few hours, the Dodgers will start their Cactus league play as they try to defend their National League title.

Wilmer Font the forgotten man, when rotation depth is discussed, will start the game and probably embarrass me given how much faith I’ve put in a guy I’ve never seen pitch.

Much more interesting is that Matt Kemp will be protecting Cody Bellinger in the lineup.

My twitter feed has been fascinating as each day Matt Kemp is a Dodger more and more Dodger fans are coming out as being excited about Kemp being a Dodger again.  This is a bold move as Kemp has old-school counting numbers but sabermetrically was one of the worst players in baseball last year.  Matt has come into camp in great shape and appears to have a great attitude. Dave Roberts has said they feel they can mitigate his defensive weakness with proper positioning.  The last time Matt Kemp was a Dodger was in the 2014 NLDS series against the Cardinals. postseason. Kemp went out with a bang posting a .882 OPS in that series.

Since being a Dodger Matt Kemp has had hot and cold spells but has yet to put together a full season of above-average offensive production. When he was traded to the Braves in the summer of 2016 he ended the season on a high note as a Brave posting a .855 OPS in 214 plate appearances. He followed that by starting 2017 on fire with an April OPS of 1.077 and a May OPS of .962.  So for 380 plate appearances as a Brave, he was a great hitting left fielder. But………..baseball is 162 games and Matt Kemp from June 1st – Oct 1st was horrible.

His non-Dodger stats look like this:

Year     Tm   PA  2B  HR RBI   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2015    SDP  648  31  23 100 .265 .312 .443 .755  109
2016    TOT  672  39  35 108 .268 .304 .499 .803  113
2016    SDP  431  24  23  69 .262 .285 .489 .774  106
2016    ATL  241  15  12  39 .280 .336 .519 .855  126
2017    ATL  467  23  19  64 .276 .318 .463 .781  103
12 Y   12 Y 6283 308 259 920 .285 .338 .488 .826  123
LAD     LAD 4496 215 182 648 .292 .349 .495 .845  128
SDP     SDP 1079  55  46 169 .264 .301 .462 .763  108
ATL     ATL  708  38  31 103 .278 .324 .482 .805  110

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/23/2018.

How bizarre is it that Andre Ethier is gone and Matt Kemp is a Dodger?

If Kemp was to somehow win the full time left field job it would have huge ramifications on the 2018 roster as the team is full of players trying to gain part-time work in LF with Joc, Toles, Hernandez, Verdugo, and Thompson.  Though I hope Matt Kemp makes the Kemp haters eat some crow, baseball being baseball I expect Matt Kemp to have a great spring and just as he has given Kemp fans new hope, he will come up lame and we will be right back where we were on Jan 1st.

MLB Over / Under

Grant Brisbee is holding a poll on the MLB over/under wins for 2018. You can only pick one bet in his poll.

The Dodgers are at 96.5 which is a very high bar so I wouldn’t put all my money on that bet. I would instead look a little south and bet on the Angels to win more than 84 games. In a very quiet winter, the Angels were the biggest winner by adding Otani. Along with Otani, they added Cosart to give them one of the best defensive left sides in baseball.  The biggest hole on the Angels in 2017 was second base and they acquired Ian Kinsler to plug that hole. They also get a full year of Justin Upton, and hopefully, some of their starters will actually stay healthy in 2018. They can’t all get hurt again, can they?

The worst non-catcher position player on the team might be Albert Pujols.

Other bets I would consider.

Staying in the AL West I’d probably bet on Oakland to better 74.5 wins.

Also staying in California even with the horrible rotation, the Padres should better 69.5 wins.

I’m not a big fan of the Diamondback offseason and 85 wins is already a big drop from the 93 they garnered in 2017, I’m still going to take the under.