Triple A - Albuquerque Isotopes
For a pitching prospect, being assigned to the Pacific Coast League is more punishment than promotion. The Topes' home park is one of the friendliest hitters' parks in all of the minors. Few Dodger prospects have succeeded there. Will any top prospects start 2012 in New Mexico?
While he made a serious case to make the club out of spring training, Nathan Eovaldi is rightly being sent to the minors where he can develop as a starter. There's just as good a chance that he starts the season in Chattanooga and not Albuquerque, but either way he's going to be in the high minors and first in line for a callup.
Dodger fans have seen what he's capable of this spring, with his excellent fastball and developing breaking ball. I'm sure Dodger officials will have him focus on refining the slider and establishing a changeup to complete his repertoire. While it isn't preferred, there is a possibility of him joining the big club in a relief role, in which he should be productive.
Another candidate for a Triple A assignment is reliever Shawn Tolleson, who has fallen victim to an overcrowded big league bullpen. Tolleson breezed through the minors last season, posting a 1.17 ERA through three stops. He also struck out 105 batters while walking just 18. Shawn's name could be the first called if a pen arm is needed in LA.
One more name to mention is Josh Wall. Wall converted from starting to relieving last season and saw his stuff take a major jump forward. He now pitches in the mid 90s, touching the high 90s and features a good slider. He's probably the Dodgers' second minor league relief option, behind Tolleson.
Double A - Chattanooga Lookouts
The Lookouts boasted an impressive rotation last year and should do the same in 2012. It will be spearheaded by the prospect whom I ranked #2 in the organization coming into the year, Allen Webster.
Webster pitched sparingly in spring training for the major league squad with mixed results, but fans shouldn't read into those numbers. He also had a string of three "disaster starts" near the end of 2011 which inflated his ERA. But when he's on, he's a top of the rotation starter.
Webby figures to be joined in the rotation by 2007 first rounder Chris Withrow. The former 20th overall pick has the stuff to be an ace, including a mid 90s fastball and a hard curve, but still needs to harness his pitches. Withrow made 25 starts for the Lookouts last year, posting a respectable 4.20 ERA. However, his main problem has been his control, as he's allowed a career 4.9 walks per 9 innings in his minor league career. Having just turned 23, it's time for Chris to take the next step to realize his immense potential.
Another name to watch in 2012 is another former first rounder who needs to throw more strikes: Ethan Martin. The 2008 first rounder pitched 95 innings between High A and Double A last season, posting a 5.95 ERA. He was better pitching in relief for the Lookouts, making just three starts in 40.1 innings and lowering his ERA to just over 4. With a similar arsenal to Withrow, Martin is another candidate to finally put it all together in 2012.
A few more prospects to follow are starters Stephen Fife and Matt Magill, the former being acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade, and reliever Steve Ames. Fife has a decent arsenal and posted a 4.01 ERA in 6 starts after the trade. Magill succeeds more on deception and command rather than pure stuff, but his results so far in his minor league career have been impressive. Ames pitches in the low 90s with a slurvy slider, which led to him striking out 11.3 batters per 9 innings in 33.2 innings with Chattanooga last year.
High A - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
The crown jewel of the Dodgers farm clubs in 2012 should be the Quakes. The roster looks to have sufficient offense to go along with an extremely impressive rotation.
Heading the staff will be Zach Lee, who's coming into just his second full season as a pro. The 20 year old has the command and confidence to succeed in adverse conditions that the California League provides to pitchers.
Next up in the rotation could be 2011 first rounder Chris Reed. In a playoff start for the Quakes in 2011, Reed was sitting in the low to mid 90s with his fastball, showed both a good slider and changeup but took a tough luck loss after allowing just a single run.
The third spot in the rotation could be occupied by Garrett Gould, who ranked 5th on my Dodgers' prospect list. The 2009 second rounder posted terrific numbers for Great Lakes last season and his propensity to induce grounders should allow him to succeed in the Cali League.
Up fourth, you could see Jarret Martin. The 22 year old was featured in one of my previous spring articles and should see improvement over his 2011 campaign, in which he posted a 4.96 ERA in Low A.
The abundance of riches doesn't stop at the back of the rotation, as Angel Sanchez figures to occupy the final spot. The hard-throwing Dominican earned himself a trip to LA for the freeway series, after which he'll take the short drive to Rancho to begin the 2012 season.
And that's not all! The bullpen could feature former supplemental first round pick Aaron Miller, who's struggled through injuries for the past two season, Scott McGough, a college reliever who profiles much the same as Steve Ames, as well as hard throwers Luis Vasquez and Juan Rodriguez. Suffice it to say, the Quakes' pitching staff is absolutely stacked.
Low A - Great Lakes Loons
The Loons' rotation will certainly be weaker than it was last year, with Lee, Gould and Sanchez graduating. However, there still should be some interesting prospects to follow in Great Lakes.
Cuban defector Raydel Sanchez is a crafty righty who throws in the upper 80s but has an absolutely devastating slider and very good command. The 22 year old could provide an advanced arm at the top of the rotation.
Brandon Martinez, a 7th rounder in 2009, posted an admirable 4.07 ERA in 15 starts with the Raptors, though he walked over 5 batters per 9 innings last season. Improved control is imperative for the 21 year old.
A trio of 2011 draftees could compete for spots in the rotation. 4th rounder Ryan O'Sullivan was another pitcher I mentioned in my spring notes, getting up to 98 mph with his fastball. 6th rounder Scott Barlow looks like a breakout candidate, with a promising fastball/curveball combination. 8th rounder Rick Anton pitched 27 innings for the Loons last year, using command and deception to fool young hitters.
In the bullpen, you should find Yimi Garcia. The 21 year old Dominican native posted a 3.10 ERA in 20 games for the Raptors last year, including an impressive 71 strikeouts in 52.1 innings. Another pen arm could be Jose Dominguez, the hard-throwing righty I featured in the same article as O'Sullivan. Don't forget about 2010 31st rounder Derek Cone, who struggled with Great Lakes last year but could be in for a bounce back.
That does it for the minor league preview. The season starts on April 5th. Be sure to check here for all the latest news and analysis.