Chattanooga Lookouts 2011 Season Review: Pitchers

Dominican Summer League Dodgers: Pitchers
Dominican Summer League Dodgers: Hitters
Arizona League Dodgers: Pitchers
Arizona League Dodgers: Hitters
Ogden Raptors: Pitchers
Ogden Raptors: Hitters
Great Lakes Loons: Pitchers
Great Lakes Loons: Hitters
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: Pitchers
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: Hitters

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Today I continue my off-season recap of the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league affiliates, moving on to the pitchers of the Chattanooga Lookouts.

I’ll be picking the prospects for the 2012 Prospective Prospect Profiles list from these reviews, so it might be worth reading. Or not.

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Nathan Eovaldi – RHP – 21

Nathan Eovaldi Statistics

2011 was a breakout year for Eovaldi, as he got pushed to AA and did nothing but excel there, posting a 2.62 ERA and a 3.00 FIP. That performance earned him a call to the big leagues, where he continued to prove himself by putting up a 3.63 ERA and 4.35 FIP. During the transition, his strikeout rate fell from 23.2% to 15.8% and his walk rate rose from 10.8% to 13.7%, but for a 21-year-old who had never pitched against advanced ball prior to this year, he definitely had a successful run.

There’s no doubt about his fastball, which sits regularly at 93-96 and can touch 99. However, as of right now, that’s his only major league pitch. I think he needs more time to develop his slider and change, which is why I was puzzled that the Dodgers decided to start his clock in 2011. As I’ve been saying for a while now, his slider is not so much a slider but a cutter that doesn’t cut half the time. As such, he doesn’t even have a secondary pitch right now, much less a tertiary one. If the Dodgers truly want him to be a starter, he needs more time in the minor leagues.

Eovaldi should either be a bullpen contributor right away in 2012 (if that’s what his future is going to be) or be put at AA/AAA to develop further as a starter.

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Chris Withrow – RHP – 22

Chris Withrow Statistics

It’s easy to forget, but Withrow is still just a 22-year-old, and he’s already in AA, so he’s hardly behind schedule despite being on prospect lists for years now. In 2011 he posted a solid year with a 4.20 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 23.5 K%. However, as usual, his control was an issue, as he walked batters 13.6% of the time.

On the plus side, he got his fastball back to 92-95 and touching 98 after it had dipped severely at the end of 2010. On the minus side, his control hasn’t gotten significantly better, and that was always the main problem since he was drafted. His curve and change are both serviceable pitches as far as stuff is concerned, but if neither can be located, then it’s an exercise in futility.

Honestly though? I’ve never seen a gigantic issue in his mechanics that he absolutely needs to fix. His issues seem to stem primarily from a complete lack of consistency and repeatability, causing him errors with just about everything. It’s not hopeless, he just needs to put work into body control and balance over pure power stuff.

Withrow should repeat AA in 2012, and like so many other pitching prospects, he’s just a bit of command away from being a potentially useful starter, but it remains to be seen if he can make the adjustments necessary. If he can’t, perhaps he would be better off focusing in short spurts from the bullpen.

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Cole St. Clair – LHP – 24

Cole St. Clair Statistics

St. Clair had a solid season at AA, posting a 3.10 ERA and a 2.45 FIP. Perhaps more importantly, he dominated lefties, posting a 1.97 FIP against them compared to a 2.79 FIP against righties. If nothing else, that bodes well for a future as a matchup lefty in the majors.

His stuff is still not back to what it was in his Rice days, but he has made his way back into the 90s with a bit of sink and has a good curve. His control is good and he locates his pitches well, the latter of which is probably more important. His motion has built in deception against lefties, and both his demeanor and delivery are aggressive.

I would like to see what he can do at the major league level at some point in 2012, as the Dodgers are already looking for another lefty out of the pen. To start though, my best guess is that he’ll be at AAA.

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Josh Wall – RHP – 24

Josh Wall Statistics

While it’s true that the bullpen move has turned him from a non-prospect into somebody worth monitoring, I probably wouldn’t get overexcited yet. At AA he posted a 3.93 ERA and 3.94 FIP, and he was about league average at striking out and walking batters.

At 24, that’s nothing to get excited about, but his stuff has taken an uptick and that gives some hope. He can sit 93-95 as a reliever, touching as high as 97, and has a passable curve. His control is okay, but his command still needs work, as he doesn’t hit his spots often enough for my liking.

Wall will start 2012 in the minors, but if he continues to thrive, he could get a call to the majors. Unfortunately for him, the Dodgers have nothing but power bullpen arms at this point in time, so he could get lost in the shuffle.

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Josh Lindblom – RHP – 24

Josh Lindblom Statistics

After being dicked around by the Dodgers with the whole “let’s make him a starter” charade, Lindblom got to return to his rightful role in the bullpen and excelled, posting a 2.11 ERA and a 2.63 FIP. More importantly, his peripherals were excellent, as he struck out 32.3% of batters while walking a below league average 8.4%. Upon being called up to the majors, he continued to thrive, putting up a 2.73 ERA and an even better 2.35 FIP. His peripherals didn’t drop significantly either, as he struck out 24.1% of batters and walked 8.6%.

Now that he’s back in the bullpen, he has been able to scrap his average curve and mediocre change in favor of a 84-86 slider with two plane break that should be a decent strikeout pitch in the majors. Additionally, the short bursts allow him to ramp up his fastball velocity to 91-94 with better arm-side tail. He’s aggressive and I’ve always liked his demeanor better in the pen.

Why would a cost controlled reliever who put up a 2.35 FIP in the majors last year be relegated back to AAA in favor of signing a veteran with inferior numbers to a more expensive contract? Who knows, but that seems to be what will happen in 2012 barring injury. Lindblom should be one of the first to be called up to the Dodgers though.

About Chad Moriyama

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