While Mike is on vacation/files/includes/,.css he asked me to offer up some thoughts about the Albuquerque Isotopes and how what amounts to the Dodgers’ reserve team is shaping up as the season begins. The ‘Topes have only been home for a total of eight days so far this season — they begin their fourth road series of the year tonight at New Orleans (Marlins) — so this is all a very/files/includes/,.css very preliminary analysis of the 25 players I have observed.
FedEx is the man on the spot/files/includes/,.css the lone Isotope ranked by Baseball America in the Dodgers’ top 10 prospects. While plenty of fans are still smarting about last year’s trade that sent Trayvon Robinson packing and brought Fed and two pitchers to the organization/files/includes/,.css so far the young backstop is showing promise. “He’s been a lot better this year/files/includes/,.css he’s a lot more patient/files/includes/,.css” manager Lorenzo Bundy said of Fed’s hitting (.292/.365/.477). The swing-first/files/includes/,.css pull-everything mentality from last season is all but gone. Defensively he has looked sharp/files/includes/,.css making strong throws to second/files/includes/,.css blocking the plate well and doing a good job of working with the pitching staff. As for Bard/files/includes/,.css as the Isotopes’ oldest player (34/files/includes/,.css which makes him the only player on the team older than me … yikes)/files/includes/,.css he has not played much/files/includes/,.css but he has played well/files/includes/,.css batting .385 (10-for-26). “Obviously/files/includes/,.css Josh with his experience … it’s like having an extra coach floating around here/files/includes/,.css” Bundy said. “He takes the leadership role. He knows his role on this club and he’s ready at any time.”
First baseman Jeff Baisley
The veteran slugger has played well so far/files/includes/,.css batting .313/.390/.531 with three homers and a team-leading 16 RBI. Though primarily a third baseman with Salt Lake (Angels) last season/files/includes/,.css he has handled first base well defensively and it clearly has not had an impact on his hitting. Personality-wise/files/includes/,.css he keeps it serious on the field and keeps it loose during batting practice and in the clubhouse. Though he is viewed as a leader/files/includes/,.css Baisley said he has not had to overly assert himself so far. He certainly continues the recent tradition of high-character veterans the Dodgers like to have in Albuquerque.
Second baseman Alex Castellanos
Though currently on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring (return date unknown)/files/includes/,.css the converted outfielder has been solid so far at the plate (.366/.477/.746)/files/includes/,.css while overcoming the defensive obstacles that come with returning to his old position. The big issue for Castellanos offensively lies with his ability to overcome his aggressive/files/includes/,.css swing-first mentality. In the field/files/includes/,.css throwing has been the biggest challenge/files/includes/,.css but after a week spent with Dodgers special instructors Juan Castro and Jody Reed (laugh about their hitting/files/includes/,.css but both were good in the field)/files/includes/,.css Castellanos seems to be adapting quickly. Just calm down on the early promotion possibilities; Castellanos himself said he needs close to a full season playing every day at second base before he is ready for MLB.
Shortstop Luis Cruz
The wily veteran has been on “Cruz Control” since he arrived/files/includes/,.css smacking the ball around (.328/.343/.500) while making some sharp plays in the field. He is another veteran who keeps it loose; his imitation of teammate Trent Oeltjen‘s Australian accent is a sight to behold.
Third baseman Josh Fields
Nicknamed “QB” for obvious reasons/files/includes/,.css the former Oklahoma State football standout has gotten off to a quiet start (.289/.375/.526) when compared to his teammates. Nonetheless/files/includes/,.css he has been a solid contributor. This is no sign of the dreaded “jaded ex-big-leaguer stuck at Triple-A” disease that sometimes afflicts players. Much like Cruz/files/includes/,.css he seemed to be riding high off his strong spring that nearly saw him make the big-league roster. He has been a positive influence/files/includes/,.css playing good defense with (no surprise here) a very strong arm.
Utility man Elian Herrera
Bundy said the Isotopes’ turnaround/files/includes/,.css from a 2-6 road trip to their current record of 11-9/files/includes/,.css has been thanks in part to the ultra-versatile Herrera. A pure contact hitter (.340/.357/.566)/files/includes/,.css he is Albuquerque’s fastest player and has done well out of the leadoff spot. Defensively/files/includes/,.css he has looked especially sharp at second base and third base/files/includes/,.css while also seeing time at shortstop and the outfield. He would strictly be a bench player at the next level/files/includes/,.css but with Jerry Hairston and Adam Kennedy not getting any younger/files/includes/,.css the Dodgers could do worse.
Becker is a favorite of Bundy’s especially with his ability to deliver big hits in the clutch/files/includes/,.css often as a pinch hitter. He is also a capable defender at second/files/includes/,.css though he lacks the arm for third and has not played much shortstop. Zawadzki joined the team from extended spring on the last day of the homestand. While I have yet to see him play for the Isotopes/files/includes/,.css he was a solid defender and a streaky hitter last season with Omaha (Royals).
Van Slyke/files/includes/,.css the Dodgers’ No. 21 prospect/files/includes/,.css has been the hitting star out of this group (.364/.437/.610). He has fared well defensively in both outfield corners/files/includes/,.css with a strong arm and more mobility than you would expect from someone who is listed at 6-5/files/includes/,.css 250. He made one start at first base during the homestand/files/includes/,.css looking a little out of practice there/files/includes/,.css so hold off on the “he can replace Loney” talk. Oh/files/includes/,.css and I will sit him down to talk about his life growing up around baseball with his father. His stories are hilarious. Sands’ struggles at the plate (.192/.310/.315) have been well-documented so far. Oeltjen has played all three outfield spots/files/includes/,.css serving more as a fourth outfielder than anything else. As such/files/includes/,.css his hitting (.250/.328/.350) has yet to get into a groove with such sporadic playing time. Angle has been the lost one of the bunch/files/includes/,.css looking all out of sorts at the plate (.146/.255/.268) and now finding himself on the DL with a strained hamstring.
Before his call-up to the big leagues/files/includes/,.css Antonini made one start in Albuquerque he would like to forget (3.1 IP/files/includes/,.css 7 H/files/includes/,.css 7 R/files/includes/,.css 6 ER/files/includes/,.css 2 BB/files/includes/,.css 3 HR allowed). Like many young pitchers/files/includes/,.css the 26-year-old lefty learned the hard way you have to keep the ball down in Albuquerque if you want to have a prayer of succeeding here. He certainly throws a lot of strikes/files/includes/,.css but he left too many up in that game. Despite being back for his third season with the Isotopes/files/includes/,.css Ely has remained upbeat and continues to work hard. He has been a completely different pitcher at home (13 IP/files/includes/,.css 4 ER) than on the road (7.1 IP/files/includes/,.css 11 ER). Fife has just plain struggled wherever he has pitched this year (1-2/files/includes/,.css 9.92 ERA). The big righty is a finesse pitcher and so far the PCL is chewing him up. Nieve went from horrible at Omaha (1.2 IP/files/includes/,.css 11 H/files/includes/,.css 9 ER) to solid at home (6 IP/files/includes/,.css 7 H/files/includes/,.css 3 ER) to then getting ejected in the third inning of his third start for hitting a batter. It has been a very bizarre season for the former Astro and Met/files/includes/,.css who throws hard but does not strike a lot of people out (8 total in 10.1 IP). Parisi has been the most consistent and effective starter to date. It should come as no surprise/files/includes/,.css since there always seems to be one veteran who puts together a solid campaign in ABQ (e.g. Dana Eveland last year).
Wall has looked sharp while sharing closing duties. He throws in the mid-90s and looks like another potentially solid addition to LA’s young bullpen down the line. There is still some wildness (4 walks in 8.1 IP) that needs to be smoothed out. Troncoso has looked like a man determined to get back to the big leagues (1.08 ERA in 8.1 IP)/files/includes/,.css while Savage has been lights out (4-0/files/includes/,.css 2.41) in the long relief/spot starter role/files/includes/,.css keeping the ball down and utilizing his cutter/files/includes/,.css fastball and curveball to their fullest extent. Felix/files/includes/,.css well/files/includes/,.css somebody has to take it on the chin/files/includes/,.css and so far he is doing just that (10.13 ERA in 13.1 IP). As the Dodger bullpen fluctuates/files/includes/,.css his head would seem to be the first on the chopping block down here.
Rice has been the star of the southpaw collective/files/includes/,.css sharing the team lead with four saves. He is at his most effective not when he is getting strikeouts/files/includes/,.css but rather when is able to get hitters to try and pounce on strikes/files/includes/,.css causing them to ground out and pop up early in the count. Leach (0-1/files/includes/,.css 6.57) has /files/includes/alternate.cssd between looking good and taking it on the chin; personality-wise he has not changed from his year in Japan/files/includes/,.css remaining the same funny/files/includes/,.css witty southerner who graced the clubhouse in 2009-10. St. Clair has been similar to Leach in terms of pitching/files/includes/,.css looking good one outing and struggling to throw strikes the next. Poor Ledezma was walloped in his first two home appearances (10 runs total)/files/includes/,.css but has since settled down and regained his confidence. Loop has yet to appear in a game in Albuquerque.
This is a better team than it looked after losing six of eight on the opening road trip. The Isotopes pulled off their first four-game sweep since 2009 when they took Iowa apart. As long as the pitching stays at least somewhat consistent/files/includes/,.css the lineup is more than capable of scoring enough runs. What looked like a pack of spot starters/files/includes/,.css middle relievers and bench players actually has some players with enough talent (Van Slyke/files/includes/,.css Castellanos/files/includes/,.css Federowicz/files/includes/,.css in particular) to help the Dodgers out in the future. Rice and Wall can be both be part of a big-league bullpen/files/includes/,.css as well. This team may lack the star power when Gordon/files/includes/,.css Sands (the good version) and Robinson were here last year/files/includes/,.css but it is still a fun bunch to watch.
As always/files/includes/,.css you can find all the ‘Topes news and notes you can handle here and you can now follow me on Twitter as @TopesWriter for quick updates/files/includes/,.css anecdotes/files/includes/,.css breaking news and even some play-by-play during home games.
— Chris Jackson