When the new front office was brought in, it definitely put an emphasis on acquiring quality players. This is, obviously, evident by the product the Dodgers are putting out night after night. But where the regime’s plan is succeeding — thus far — is also in the minor leagues.
Each of the four full-season teams are playing better than .500 ball, with the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Tulsa Drillers and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are in first place (or tied for first in the case of Tulsa) in their divisions. The Great Lakes Loons are 1 1/2 games out of first place.
While the minor-league standings themselves don’t mean much of anything to the MLB club, the fact that there are quality players at each level is encouraging for the organization’s long-term success.
Not every level is prospect-dominated, but each level has some quality prospects, as I examined after the rosters were announced earlier this month.
The OKC Dodgers (12-4) are led by a Pacific Coast League-best pitching squad. The team is leading in every major pitching category: ERA, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, BB/9, K/9, shutouts, — all by a wide margin. This is thanks to some veteran pitchers like Scott Baker (who may or may not be brought up to start Sunday), Mike Bolsinger and guys like David Aardsma and Ryan Buchter out of the bullpen. The most encouraging performance thus far has been by Zach Lee, who has a 0.95 ERA in his first three starts. A lot of that can be attributed to his getting out of Albuquerque, he’s also pitching better overall. He’s missing more bats (8.5 K/9) and allowing very few base runners (5.7 H/9 and 1.9 BB/9). Joe Wieland (who also may or may not be brought up to start Sunday) has also been really good early on.
The offense hasn’t been nearly as good as I expected, as O’Koyea Dickson, Scott Schebler and Darnell Sweeney have struggled with their first taste of Triple-A ball (Schebler more than the other two). But, guys like Buck Britton, Chris Heisey and Kyle Jensen have helped to pick up the slack. And Austin Barnes is doing Austin Barnes things at OKC (.404 OBP).
The Dodgers’ two best prospects are at Double-A Tulsa (9-5), and both are off to good starts. Corey Seager, as Chad noted earlier this week, is ripping up the Texas League. He’ll be in Oklahoma City soon enough. Julio Urias, despite a rough outing last time out, is still doing amazing things as an 18-year-old in Double-A (namely, a 16:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio). But Chris Anderson has been the team’s best hurler, as he’s carrying his late-2014 success in Rancho Cucamonga over to Tulsa. He has a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings and a (good for him) 17:7 K:BB ratio. With other decent prospects and veteran players (some of whom would be in Triple-A in many other organizations), the success should continue.
The Quakes (10-6) are the biggest surprise for me so far. Yeah, they have Jose De Leon (who just came of the 7-day disabled list and was a little rusty last night), but the rotation has been solid so far with Scott Barlow, Zachary Bird and John Richy. The bullpen also has some live arms in Ramon Benjamin (just placed on the DL), Jacob Rhame, Rob Rogers and A.J. Vanegas. Offensively, Cody Bellinger has been solid with his .825 OPS, while Kyle Farmer, Adam Law and Brandon Trinkwon — all old for the level — are hitting well.
The Loons (8-5) have Grant Holmes and Alex Verdugo. By themselves, they aren’t enough to make this team go. But the recently promoted to Rancho Jeff Brigham was really good in his seven innings and Brock Stewart — drafted as a reliever last year — has been a pleasant surprise in the rotation. But the team’s best pitcher has been Trevor Oaks, who has a 0.53 ERA in his first 17 full-season innings. You remember him from last year, no? In an offensively depressed environment, it’s not surprising to see some guys struggling. Julian Leon and Verdugo are off to slow starts, but Michael Ahmed seems to be handling the league with some ease so far. As a team, the Loons have hit just one home run in 13 games.
This just goes to show the depth within the organization. This is a far cry from years past when the Dodgers had to rely on players like Garret Anderson, Adam Kennedy, Aaron Miles and Justin Sellers for significant playing time/contributions. Having quality options to recall from the minors bodes well for the big league club, and we’ve already seen it so far this season.
Good on you, front office.