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September 8, 2010

Future Shock

Org Watch: Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers

by Kevin Goldstein

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The Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers all entered 2010—and this summer as well—as contenders in their divisions. With mid-September nearing, all three are now essentially also-rans in the playoff race; as a result, they're using this month to look at some kids who could play a role down the line.

The Red Sox seem to have their 2011 outfield set, but with age concerns, there are a few possibilities that could open up.

The Angels continue to have a good farm system, but one of the minor leagues' home run leaders seemingly has no real major league spot.

The Dodgers may have a real battle at closer coming up in the very near future.

Red Sox: Who's in the outfield?

Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and J.D. Drew are all under contract for 2011; that would seem to be the Red Sox's starting outfield come April. More realistically, though, those three have combined to play less than 200 games this year—and Drew turns 35 in November, while Cameron hits 38 in January. That means the Red Sox needs to make some decisions about new blood, and the constant injuries have allowed the club to at least answer plenty of questions heading into next year.

While a great story, Daniel Nava has proved not to be big league-capable due to a lack of hitting and defensive flexibility. Darnell McDonald, though, has resurrected his career by proving he can hit a bit, run well and play all three positions. While he's created some kind of big league future for himself, it might not be in Boston, due to the presence of two outfielders who actually qualify as traditional prospects.

By getting the big league call at the end of July, Ryan Kalish had seemingly passed Josh Reddick on the team's depth charts—but Reddick re-entered the picture with a monstrous second half that included a .351/.372/.627 line at Triple-A Pawtucket after the All-Star break. Both players are, if not big league-ready, at least deserving of an opportunity to prove they are, and having them both on the roster next year to spell Cameron and Drew could give the Red Sox one more year and much more information to make decisions for the following season.

Angels: Plenty of options

The biggest late-season call-up—literally, figuratively and in terms of velocity—is Jordan Walden, who has suddenly been given the opportunity of a lifetime with former closer Brian Fuentes being shipped to the Twins. Rookie closers are a rarity, but Walden has suddenly put himself in the running by striking out 10 of the first 22 big league hitters he's faced while sitting at 98-99 mph with his fastball. If it weren't for Aroldis Chapman and the first-place Reds, this would be the rookie arm everyone was talking about, and concerns about Walden's long-term health are greatly relieved now that he's expected to throw only 60 innings per year.

The end of the Triple-A season also brought a pair of position prospects that have the potential to stagnate in the minors if the Angels can't find a home for them. Catcher Hank Conger finished the year strong (.300/.385/.463) by hitting .376 over his past 30 games. His defense remains a mixed bag: He led Pacific Coast League catchers with 13 errors—yet, in good news, he wasn't charged with a single passed ball in 81 games behind the plate. At the major league level, Jeff Mathis has proved once again that he can't hit big league pitching, and Mike Napoli is a liability defensively. Conger can take advantage here.

More confusing is the future of Mark Trumbo, who hit .351/.432/.653 after the All-Star break and finished tied for the minor league lead with 36 home runs. Primarily a first baseman, Trumbo received a handful of outfield starts this year—to bad reviews—but even figuring how to play left field at an acceptable level will help his chances immensely. With Kendry Morales returning in the spring, Trumbo has no chance to play first base at the major league level any time soon; there's a chance he could replace Hideki Matsui, but bringing a young guy in as a DH is not typically done.

Dodgers: A closer competition

With the late-season struggles of Jonathan Broxton contributing to the Dodgers' slide, is the closer job suddenly an open competition next spring?

Current closer Hong-Chi Kuo would be the obvious favorite in such a situation—but converted catcher Kenley Jansen has been making his case of late, with a dominating fastball/slider combination that has led to 14 strikeouts over seven two-hit innings in his past five appearances. Moved to the mound just a year ago, Jansen's explosive development gives the Dodgers plenty of options should Broxton's problems end up being permanent.

The trading of Blake DeWitt gave Ryan Theriot the second base job, and he has hit enough to deserve the shot. He's also the only real option, despite some impressive numbers from infielder Ivan DeJesus at Triple-A Albuquerque. After missing all of 2009 with a broken leg, DeJesus rebounded to hit .296/.335/.405 for the Isotopes, but Albuquerque is one of the most inflated offensive environments in the minors. As a team, Albuquerque hit .340/.392/.554 at home and just .263/.320/.404 away from the friendly confines of Isotopes Park. That trend continued for DeJesus, who hit just .251/.288/.330 on the road. What often looks like a prospect for the Dodgers' Triple-A squad is often a mirage worthy of the New Mexico desert.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who

21 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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David Laurila

Daniel Nava has "proved not to be big league-capable due to a lack of hitting..."?

I don't agree with that statement at all. Nava has fewer than 150 MLB plate appearances to go with career minor-league numbers of .337/.431/.532. If a player has always hit, it takes more than 44 games to prove he can't hit at his most-recent level.

I'm not suggesting that he will ever be as good as Dustin Pedroia, but the .250/.347/.367 mark Nava has put up in Boston is better than the numbers Pedroia put up in his initial 150 PAs.

Sep 08, 2010 10:06 AM
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Matt Kory

I was going to say the above statement from the article seems to be a rush to judgment on Nava. I wouldn't be at all upset if he were on the 2011 Red Sox or at least a frequent contributor via the Pawtucket-to-Boston shuttle.

Sep 08, 2010 12:13 PM
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harderj

Thank you for pointing this out. With Nava being an ex-Santa Clara Bronco, it's been nice to follow his journey, and I had taken that comment at face value, looked at his on base and slugging so far this year, and thought, eh, that's it.

But your including minor league #'s and pointing out the sample size and Pedroia comp helped me temper that.

Sep 09, 2010 08:01 AM
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hyprvypr

Kevin does Ryan Westmoreland still project to be a star CF for Boston? By all accounts he's made a great recovery, is there optimism here?

Sep 08, 2010 11:25 AM
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Matt Kory

I'm pretty sure the Red Sox sent Westmoreland to hang around with a few of the minor league teams towards the end of the season. To my ear that bodes well for the future.

Sep 08, 2010 12:16 PM
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leites

Westmoreland is "still battling issues with his vision."

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/yb/149289659

Sep 09, 2010 08:09 AM
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amazin_mess

I'd be surprised if Westmoreland returns from that condition. I hope so, but I doubt it.

Sep 09, 2010 09:14 AM
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leites

Westmoreland said he was close to being legally blind after the surgery and in the first couple of months he had trouble watching television and movies. He slowly moved up to playing golf and worked on building muscle memory watching things that stood still.

Now he has 20/20 vision in his right eye and 20/25 in his left. His vision was a perfect 20/20 in both eyes before the surgery. His goal is to build up enough momentum with the soft toss from different angles where he can take regular batting practice, but he had no timetable on when that would happen.

“I saw a quick improvement,” said Westmoreland. “My eyes have learned how to focus on things that are still, it’s just now they are learning how to focus on things coming at me.”

http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2010/08/31/westmoreland-takes-an-important-step-in-long-journey-back/

Sep 09, 2010 11:41 AM
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amazin_mess

Believe me, I hope he can come back.

Sep 09, 2010 15:34 PM
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Drew Miller

Sounds like it might be years. :( Poor guy.

Sep 10, 2010 13:46 PM
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Mike H

Wow, Reddick's ability to take a walk seems beyond abysmal. How many of the handful of times he reached base without a hit were real walks, not HBP or IBB? He seems to have a good batting eye, and had a nice power surge, but without the ability to take a walk, I can't imagine that his 2nd half success will translate to the majors, especially in the AL East.

Sep 08, 2010 11:49 AM
rating: 1
 
Matt Kory

Sadly, I agree. If he's swinging at everything (so to speak) he won't be slugging .600 in the bigs.

Still, its important to note that he's only 23 years old. He's probably never going to have the world's greatest batting eye, but if he improves to even mediocre his defense and power could play well at the big league level.

Sep 08, 2010 12:15 PM
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Drew Miller

At that walk rate, he'll be lucky to slug .500. But maybe he can pull an Alfonso Soriano or something.

Sep 09, 2010 20:33 PM
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John Carter

Re Nava: (Post Reply doesn't work from my computer) Go ahead and draft him on your fantasy teams, guys. I think I'll pass. What have his last 98 PA looked like? .212/.316/.271. That is someone who was "figured out" pretty quickly by Major League pitchers and hasn't been able to adjust. Yes, his Minor League stats over a much larger N was awesome, but not all that great at the AAA level with its craftier more experienced pitchers.

Sep 08, 2010 14:11 PM
rating: -2
 
Matt Kory

I don't know about you, but a .289/.372/.458 line at AAA is pretty darn good. I don't think anyone's expecting him to be Ted Williams, and I expect he'll probably be back in AAA ball next year, but I wouldn't have a problem with him splitting time between AAA and Boston next season.

Sep 08, 2010 15:51 PM
rating: 1
 
Drew Miller

small sample size.

Sep 09, 2010 20:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Nathan

"...concerns about Walden's long-term health are greatly relieved now that he's expected to throw only 60 innings per year."

Is that how it works? Fireballing relievers have long, healthy careers? Color me perplexed.

Sep 09, 2010 05:02 AM
rating: 0
 
Cromulent

You could also read that as 'he couldn't cut it as a starter so now that we know what he is - a fungible reliever - we can just keep running him out there until there's nothing left.'

Sep 09, 2010 08:10 AM
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Drew Miller

I don't have a cite, but don't pitchers who throw mostly fastballs put less stress on their arms than those who throw more breaking balls?

Sep 09, 2010 20:27 PM
rating: 1
 
Duranimal

I have always loved Broxton, and I think he's fatigued from poor use this year, but the Dodgers need to deal from a position of strength and trade him for a bat.

Sep 09, 2010 09:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

So you're saying Broxton's 7.23 post-ASB ERA puts them in a position of strength?

Sep 09, 2010 11:17 AM
 
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