Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Guys Drafted with Bloodlines

We know by now that Logan White loves drafting guys with major League bloodlines.  So far, the jury is out on the results, but you can’t complain too much.  For every Brian Pilkington (Burt Blylevan’s nephew and drafted prior to Logan White’s arrival), there’s a Dee Gordon.  You have the absolute flops, i.e. Preston Mattingly, and the players that have Major League possibilities, such as Ivan DeJesus Jr.  Then there are the promising guys like James Baldwin III that we pray will continue to ascend through the organization and that Ned will not dangle as trade bait.  Below is my assessment of a few players drafted within the Dodger organiaztion that have the major league ties through blood.  I am not addessing all Dodger draftees with bloodlines (Adam Laroche and Mike Piazza’s brother Tom, come to mind), only those that I can recall that are still in the organization.

Preston Mattingly
Preston Mattingly:  Drafted as a first round pick in 2006, the 31st overall player chosen out of high school in Evansville Indiana.  Preston hasn’t panned out.  Rated by John Sickels as a “B” level prospect with “promising tools,” the son of “the hit man” has not lived up to potential.  The first problem was finding him a position.  He was drafted as a shortsop, but very soon into his career it was determined that he wasn’t well suited for the position (25 errors in 48 games at SS in his first two years).  A move over to second base didn’t help much either.  Mattingly became a corner outfielder by year three in the minors, but progress was not occurring at the plate.
Mattingly hit very well in his inaugural rookie league campaign as an 18 year old.  Since then his batting average hasn’t surpassed .238 and his OBP has never been over .296.  Mattingly has performed poorly in pitching friendly leagues and in hitting friendly leagues.  His 6’2” 210 lb. frame has never developed power, never hitting more than 5 homers in a season.  His eye at the plate leaves much to be desired.  The Dodgers essentially gave him away to Cleveland a few days before his father became the Dodger manager, with the thinking that Preston needed a change of scenery.  By the end of Spring Training, the Indians released him and the Dodgers swooped him up again, most likely as a favor to his dad.
Now six seasons into his career and at age 24, Mattingly has never advanced above High A ball.  Short of a miraculous surge, Preston’s baseball career seems to be over.

Ivan DeJesus Jr.
Ivan DeJesus Jr.: There was a time that DeJesus’ advancement to the Big Leagues was a certainty.  Then the freak broken leg injury happened.  I don’t think he has been taken seriously since.  It kind of reminds me of his father.  As long as Bill Russell and Davey Lopes and Lee Lacy were around, Ivan Sr. was never going to be a factor in the Dodgers lineup.
A second round draft pick out of high schoool in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  Ivan Jr. progressed nicely through the system with improvement all the way up to AA Jacksonville in 2008.  In 2008 he was named the organization’s minor league player of the year.  Then the injury happened in Spring Training, 2009.  A nasty broken leg that sidelined him for an entire year.
DeJesus emerged in AAA Albuquerque where he has hit respectably.  But for some reason not made known to us, Ivan appears to have fallen out of favor with Dodger brass.  For two consecutive years, DeJesus has not been called up to the Majors in September after certainly deserving the promotion.  
Ivan made the big club out of Spring Training and didn’t fair well in the first two games, facing Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, striking out in 5 of his first 7 ABs.  He played in 17 games from  April to June, 2011, shuttling back and forth between LA and Albuquerque following injuries to Rafael Furcal.  For some reason, DeJesus never got a shot again.
Now 24 years old, and passed over by Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers on the depth chart.  A Dodger career doesn’t look like it’ll happen for Ivan, with the recent acquisitions of Adam Kennedy and Mark Ellis in the off-season.  Some serious injury problems will have to occur for De Jesus to get a shot in 2012.  Ivan may be dangled out there as trade bait this winter or during the spring.  
He has had an incredible Winter League campaign in Puerto Rico.  As of today, December 19th, through 21 games for Ponce he has a stat line of 84 AB, 13 R, 30 H, 6 2B, 4 3B, 0 HR, 9 RBI, .357 BA, .413 OBP, .937 OPS.    Hopefully he keeps it up this spring.  Another Dodger youngster had an amazing Winter League Season in Puerto Rico last year, it was Dee Gordon.

The Baldwin's, father and son
James Baldwin III:  A toolsy outfielder,  (son of James Baldwin, Jr.  a stand out starting pitcher that was briefly a Dodgers), was drafted out of Pincrest, NC High School in the 2010 draft fourth round.  
What the Dodgers have seen so far is impressive.  Baldwin works the count and gets on base.  In 422 plate appearances over two season at Rookie League and Pioneer League levels, James sports an OBP that is 70 points higher than his batting average.  And he’s still a teenager.  Baldwin has some pop and in Ogden sported .828 OPS, 10 homers, 39 RBI in 50 games with 39 SBs in 47 attempts.  Baldwin is a centerfielder that shows decent range and a powerful throwing arm, (5 outfield assists). We are looking at another potential 5 tool player here that will only get better as his frame fills out.  (Baldwin is 6’3”, 190 lbs).
It’ll be best to hold onto Baldwin and watch his development closely.  It is early and probably unfair to do so, but I can’t resist.  I see parallels to Matt Kemp here.  James doesn’t turn 20 until the season ends in October.  The ceiling on Baldwin is as high as the sky.  I’ll be definitely watching some minor league contests this Spring at CB Ranch with the expressed purpose of watching James the Third.

Devaris Gordon:  Dee Gordon broke through last season, so much so that the Dodgers had no issues with letting Rafael Furcal depart via trade.  His blazing speed and occasional spectacular play at SS was a welcome sight.  Gordon has a high ceiling and extremely positive attitude.  Yes, he can be erratic defensively, but that is to be expected.  The kid is  23 years old and is only 4 years into his professional career.  We aren’t talking Jose Offerman type defense here.  Not even close.  Gordon has the potential to play gold glove type “D” one day.
With 224 MLB ABs already under his belt, Dee needs to work some walks into his repertoire because once he’s on base, he’s a true threat.  In 56 games last year, Gordon stole 24 bases.  He was definitely overmatched at the plate against some flame throwers, but as he matures both mentally and physically, Dee will get better.  He finished his rookie season with a .304 avg.  and .325 OBP, with 9 doubles and 2 triples.  He has the uncanny ability to routinely turn singles hit slightly to the gap into easy doubles.  For heaven’s sake, Dee led the National League in hits for the month of September, and he did this in many games against clubs competing for a playoff spot.  Personally, I’m sky high positive when it comes to rating Gordon.  He was a great find and a 4th rounder at that.  Logan White is pure genius.

The Southern League Batting Champ, Scott Van Slyke
Scott Van Slyke: I watched Scott Van Slyke at Spring Training on the Minor League fields this past year.  Granted, I was only there for three days but I saw him strike out on three nasty curve balls and walk away without lifting a bat off his shoulder.  Everyone was laughing as he trudged back to the dugout with a sheepish grin on his face shaking his head.  Little did I know that I was watching the player that was to be named the Dodger organization's Minor League Player of the Year by season's end.  

A 14th round pick by the Dodgers in 2005, Van Slyke is now 25 years old.  After progressing to a stall in 2010, Van Slyke caught fire in 2011 AA Chatanooga, hitting .348 with a .427 OBP.  Scott easilly had his best minor league season and was promoted to AAA as the campaign ended where he continued to hit.  A right handed hitting corner outfielder and first baseman, Van Slyke is a big dude, standing 6’ 5” around 225 lbs. The log jam in the Dodger outfield will keep him in AAA this year but if he continues to hit, it’ll be hard to not call him up to the big club.
Van Slyke’s 2011 season earned him Minor League player of the Year honors with the Dodgers and the Southern League batting title at Chatanooga.  His 1.022 OPS were best in the organization.  He has always hit, but last year he was a top tier minor league hitter.  It’ll be interesting to watch him perform this Spring at Camelback Ranch.  He is on the Dodger 40-man roster at this moment.

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