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From Duke to Joc

A Dodgers' Prospect Blog

LA Dodgers Trade Hector Olivera to Braves for Alex Wood & $ to Miami for Mat Latos

Atlanta Braves Trade Rumors, LA Dodgers Trade Rumors, MLB Trade Rumors, Miami Trade Rumors, 2015, Top Prospects Marlins, Top Dodgers Prospects, Braves top Prospects, 2015 Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves Trade Rumors, LA Dodgers Trade Rumors, MLB Trade Rumors, Miami Trade Rumors, 2015, Top Prospects Marlins, Top Dodgers Prospects, Braves top Prospects, 2015
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

For weeks, the Dodgers have been linked to every top or middle of the rotation pitcher surrounded by trade rumors. The better the pitcher the bolder the type spelling LA in every baseball columnist's trade article. The thinking that LA would predominately target the best available is sound. Deep pockets, deep farm, and a deep need made LA likely buyers at the 2015 trade deadline. 

Overpaying in top prospects for a rental, or to save money in 2016 free agency, isn't this front office's style. Stan Kasten appears to be allergic to giving up his top prospects. Last October, Farhan Zaidi preferred a cheaper pair of pitchers, Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy to the more accomplished, Jon Lester (all 3 pitched for the A's while Farhan was in Oakland). The same off-season Friedman showed his reluctance to overpay for a Russell Martin if there's a younger option like Yasmani Grandal available for trade. This is the front office that let the 2015 MLB draft come to them by picking highly talented pitchers who fell below their consensus rankings. They seem to be taking a similar approach to the 2015 trade deadline, staying away from Cueto and Hamels in favor of Mat Latos and Alex Wood

Yesterday's, still unofficial, trade is reported to include 3 teams, 12 (?) players, and a 2016 draft pick. Try to keep up. LA sends 3, low-level, minor league arms SP Kevin Guzman, RP Victor Araujo, & SP Jeff Brigham to Miami. Miami sends Mat and 1B Mike Morse to LA. LA sends 3B/2B Hector Olivera, RP Paco Rodriguez, & SP Zach Bird to Atlanta for SP Alex Wood, RP Luis Avilan, RP Jim Johnson, and (likely?) 2B/CF Jose Peraza. LA is also sending a 2016 Marlins comp pick and Morse to the Braves.

The Hector Olivera signing, and the decision to front load his contract are looking great as of right now. Who would have guessed teams would give up top talent for a 3B? In this market? Atlanta must not be high on convincing Aramis Ramirez on not retiring this off-season. Hector has a .348/.392/.493 in 2015 and career .323/.407/.505 in Cuba's Serie Nacional.

The parts moving to the Marlins are mostly depth, Guzman has good size with projection (6'3", 165 LBS) and Brigham was a 4th rounder in 2014. This move was done by Miami, largely,  because of LA's willingness to eat (probably around) $14 Million in salary for Morse and Latos.

The parts going to ATL are harder for a Dodgers' fan to swallow. Olivera has torn up the minor leagues this year but also has experienced issues getting in to game shape day in and day out. Now he's bothered by a hamstring issue. Paco Rodriguez has been very successful in parts of 4 seasons in LA, when healthy (career 2.57 ERA, 2.97 FIP). Zach Bird is big (6'4") and raw (turned 21 this month) but has control problems (4.9 BB/9 in '15, 4.7 for his career). To date, the kid hasn't shown much in terms of results but the big righty bumped up his fastball velocity in 2014 to the mid to high 90's. He wouldn't be the first, big pitcher to put it together after age 20 if he did figure it out later. Many had him in LA's top 10 or 20 preseason prospect lists, not me. I've never been sold on Bird and expect his stuff to eventually play up in the 8th or 9th inning at the MLB level.

Overall I think the trade is a great move for the Dodgers. They get a 2B to replace Howie Kendrick or even insurance for Corey Seager's defense at SS. I thought Peraza was prematurely moved off of SS by the Braves, at the time. Them's the breaks when Andrelton Simmons mans SS for your squad. The 21-year-old is already in AAA and looks like he could be MLB ready next season. I'm more bearish than a spring 2016 ETA.

Alex Wood is someone I've admired since he debuted in 2013. The lefty has been dominant at every level and for every season. He's currently experiencing his worst season (3.54 ERA, 3.39 FIP), after being a 2nd rounder in 2012. The lefty has seen his fastball tick down since debuting in '13, sits at 90 and touches 94 MPH. Not bad for a southpaw.

Jim Johnson is an interesting RP who would likely slot into the 7th or 8th inning for LA. This scenario assumes Jim continues his current level of production (2.25 ERA, 3.18 FIP) and not revert to his 2014 season (7.09 ERA, 5.08 FIP). The 2015 Johnson is the player we should expect going forward. Or it's more likely he'll look like he did last year? I don't know and I wouldn't even pretend to know such things. When it comes to over 30 relievers, you never can tell.

Georgia has a killer reputation for great bands and great ballplayers, but still manages to feel underrated in both arenas. Meet the Coathangers, a gritty, all-girl, garage rock, group from Atlanta. 10,000 reasons why I'm smitten with this band, Drummer taking some lead vocals and their name are only two of the biggest. These two songs are a few years old, but the new LP is pretty good too, it's titled "Suck My Shirt"

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Noah Syndergaard & Steven Matz VS Julio Urias & Jose De Leon (New York Mets Los Angeles Dodgers Prospect Comp)

NY Mets, LA Dodgers Top Prospects 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, Comparison, comps, MLB Scouting Reports, MLB Trade Rumors Noah Syndergaard, Julio Urias, Steve Matz, Jose De Leon Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, ESPN, Rankings, Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
NY Mets, LA Dodgers Top Prospects 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, Comparison, comps, MLB Scouting Reports, MLB Trade Rumors Noah Syndergaard, Julio Urias, Steve Matz, Jose De Leon Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, ESPN, Rankings,
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have called up their top 2 preseason prospects to fill their most glaring hole, swinging a bat. Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard have each earned 0.2 oWAR (BaseballReference). That's in 26 PA & 12 games combined. Steven "Bats" and Noah "swing it hard", like most Mets pitchers, don't issue many free passes. The Mets do a great job of targeting and molding pitchers who throw strikes from the draft up the ladder to their occasional free agent. 

If the Wilpons were willing to spend big on a pitcher this off-season they could trade some young pitching for young hitting. This off-season would be the time to buy pitching, there will be many, quality starting pitchers to choose from. David Price, Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, and Jordan Zimmermann are headlining a deep class of 2015-2016 pitching, all available for only $. Matz or Syndergaard would command a nice package in return from Chicago or Texas. I'd lean towards keeping Matz, if only because of his left-handedness. I can understand not wanting to move those two, their stats and scouting reports suggest future number 1's or 2's.

From a purely upside perspective, it'd be easier to swallow moving 27 year old Jacob deGrom or even selling lower on the injured pair of Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero. San Diego could be looking to move Justin Upton, who has hit 11 of his 14 HR's in Citi Field west. Oakland would be an interesting partner with Ben Zobrist. Cincinnati has a nasty lefty in Aroldis Chapman that would transform NY's bullpen. The Cubs make almost too much sense on a Mets trade with Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara all being middle infielders. There are a few options if NY doesn't sit on their hands this trade deadline.

We all get the feeling Sandy Alderson would rather keep his low-cost MLB pitching, even if he's hinted otherwise lately. This option could be the smartest play for the Mets. Wheeler and Matt Harvey are perfect examples of how young pitchers have Tommy John surgery too. Pitchers, they break. You can never have too much top of the rotation pitching. You know all the traditional sayings I could spew out. Despite all of the justified criticism that myself and others have thrown New Yorks way for being cheap, I really like the idea of a 6 man rotation. If Alderson were to add just one free agent pitcher the Mets could have a 6 man rotation with tons of talent and lower their risk of injury for the entire staff. 

We only need to look across the pacific to see the benefits of a 6 man pitching staff. Japanese pitchers do very well in a 6 man rotation, both Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka have experienced elbow problems since converting to the MLB 5 man rotation. Eno Sarris wrote a great piece about this last season. 6 man rotations will become the norm eventually, it's the natural progression of the game and it can only be delayed, not stopped. MLB team expansion isn't likely soon and players unions would welcome teams adding an extra roster spot to the MLB level.

The two newest members of the Mets rotation bare striking resemblances to LA's top two pitching prospects, Julio Urias and Jose De Leon. On the surface, Matz and Urias look like peas in a pod. Both are 6'2", 200 LB, lefties, with plus, mid 90's fastballs and plus change ups (some scouts grade Urias curve better than his change, I'm not sold). Noah and De Leon are two righties with plus fastballs and plus breaking pitches (De Leon's slider, Syndergaard's curve), as well as underrated change ups. For the sake of my comp, I find Matz and De Leon a better match, mostly for their similar age VS level and prospect rankings. Urias and Thor match up well for the same reasons.

De Leon was a late round college arm and made an adjustment in 2014 that drastically changed his results. His stand-out traits are a lot of movement and elite deception from hiding the ball behind his elbow. No source agrees on his best pitch and I think I've seen him throw a killer curve in Rancho, or he throws his change to same sided hitters. He climbs the latter for the K regularly and isn't afraid to throw any pitch in any count. His slider seems to be his hardest pitch to harness and he would likely dominate in a major league bullpen right now. His only roadblock in dominating on a major league staff is having at least 3 pitches working on the same night and handling the innings load. Here's Casron Cistulli (Jose De Leon's number 2 fan) with some hypnotizing GIF's. Here's the meat and potatoes: (age, level, run prevention, time on the mound, & H, HR, BB, K rates are all you need for a solid comparison). 

Matz started late because of arm injuries he was a 2nd round high school pick and has some of the best stuff being thrown by a left-handed pitcher anywhere in the world. Unless you're Chapman, Price, Clayton Kershaw or Chris Sale you can't say that you have better pure stuff from that side of the rubber. Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester, and Cole Hamels almost throw as hard, you can be the judge of their off-speed stuff. Matz has better run prevention numbers than De Leon but way less K's. He also dominated in Las Vegas with the high elevation, dry air, strong winds, and dirt infield. In LV everything in the air is a home run risk and on the ground a hit. Who wants to run, shag fly balls, or even breathe in 110-degree weather? Night games don't help much, I've been to Vegas a lot and seen it triple digits after dark. 108 at 10 PM would make you doubt the casino's sign thermometer if you weren't also standing outside. Not conducive to pitchers success is the point.

With Noah, you see high K's and low BB's at an extremely young age for his level of competition and it's obvious the stats say future MLB ace. Then you see it coming out of his 6'6" frame when he's on the mound and it makes you wonder what his ceiling may actually be. It's the type of frame that makes MLB hitters take notice when he's throwing 99 MPH in the 8th inning.

Julio Urias has Matz' fastball and his breaking pitches are on par with the top lefties in baseball too. Their's also his stat line, it looks like minor league Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, and Jose Fernandez. He has done all of it at an age VS level that is historically unprecedented. For 99% of his pitches thrown, he was the same age as American's in high school. has been speculating he's ready for two years now. The only thing holding him back is, working up to a full season of innings. This year the Dodgers provided him with a month off in-season on a cosmetic surgery that could have waited. I'm hoping the breather means he'll be able to transition to the MLB bullpen in 2015. has an interesting update on his first rehab start. Pitching out of the Dodgers' bullpen this year would help limit his innings and I hope he gets that shot before September so we can get a good look before the playoffs. You'd expect to see Urias pitch no more than 130 innings based off of most teams philosophies of modest increases year to year. My guess was 120 before the season, but I didn't foresee a mid-season break, he's at 38 right now. The prevailing theory de jour is that injury risk increases with pitches during games, more than any other factor. Why waste his bullets when we could use him this season.

Syndergaard has been great, but Julio has been way less hittable with more K's every step of the way. Most prospects are wild and their BB's decline with age, if they can harness that power. I generally see a minor-league pitcher's future as an ace most predictable by his H/9 and K/9 (Kershaw), being left-handed is always a plus. If LA doesn't want to trade for Cueto then they should pull back the reigns on De Leon and Urias now. Let Zach Lee have a shot when he reaches full health. If Lee proves incapable and Brandon Beachy isn't ready for the job, he didn't look it last night, why not use a monster righty/lefty tandem of Julio and Jose? Imagine the match-up problems of a team that goes 3 innings against a LHP who has a career .183/.254/.247 slash vs LHB and a RHP with a 2015 .183/.254/.247 against RHB for the next 3 innings. After that, you can just bring in Aroldis and Kenley Jansen to handle the 7th, 8th, and 9th. Try stacking your line -up on that day?

It's just a dream right now, but LA has the prospects to get it done. If LA offered Cincy a switch hitting, 2B/CF Darnell Sweeney and either Zach Lee or top 50 prospect, Grant Holmes for Chapman, I bet they have the best-named bullpen in baseball. I wouldn't usually like to give up a AAA position prospect and big SP for a RP but Chapman is 6'4", lefty, and throws 101 MPH. He should be a starter, even if his stuff ticks down 4-5 MPH, it's faster than every lefty starter in baseball. Keeping Chapman in the pen is like making Randy Johnson your closer, at least let him pitch 2 or 3 innings. Chapman is also controllable past this season.

Don't let these top 25 pitching prospects pitch in the notoriously, pitcher unfriendly, PCL. Teams are skipping AAA for their best guys more and more. Kershaw and Fernandez jump out as recent examples with success stories. We're not the Mets, we don't care about the extra cost of starting their clocks young. They say you learn the most when you play against the best. Let's bring up the skill level of MLB hitters by showing them what two of our best 4 pitchers look like. In 9 combined PA, Urias and De Leon have the same triple slash as hitters, .333/.333/.333. They just started hitting this year.

Warning, these songs may be NSFW depending on how they feel about art with curse words. 

It might be the last time I stamp that on my blog, but it always applies to the music. It's silly to get upset over words but even sillier when it's art. At least I won't post their Funny or Die video with Nick Offerman (Park's and Rec's Ron Swanson) peeing everywhere, I'll link it. This morning's set of songs is from LA Skate/Surf Punks FIDLAR. Their name is, subjectively, the worst band name ever. It's a skate acronym for Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk. It works well for them though. Growing up in Southern California, we all know the FIDLAR type of kid. The first song is about their drummers failure to surf, love of dubstep and Del Taco. The second features a buidling fire in LA. "I'm Ch-ch-ch-chugging all my roommates wine, cause your t-t-t-taking all your time". Love it.


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Bochy Hates Kershaw, Snubs Him Again (2015 MLB All Star Game)

Bochy enjoying himself while throwing baseballs at Clayton Kershaw's photo on a target (Kershaw target not pictured) Brad Mangin/Getty Images North America
Bochy enjoying himself while throwing baseballs at Clayton Kershaw's photo on a target (Kershaw target not pictured)
Brad Mangin/Getty Images North America

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and has been for, at least, the last 5 seasons. I know this, you know this, stat geeks know this, every objective baseball fan knows this, and of course Bruce Bochy knows this. 3 NL Cy Young awards in 4 years, 1st NL MVP by a pitcher since Bob Gibson (1968), 4 time MLB ERA champ, and he's the 2015 strikeout leader. I'll spare you the other league leading stats throughout his career. I just wanted to make sure we're clear that Kershaw's combo of resume, stuff, and left-handedness close the book on any "world's best pitcher" debate. 

Bochy has had the misfortune of watching Kershaw do his best Pedro Martinez impression more often than any opposing manager in the game. Bruce is clearly the best manager in baseball and handles a pitching staff like one of the greatest managers of all time. What he's managed to squeeze out of that team, year in and year out, turns me green with envy. The SF manager has taken the Giants from a team without a World Series ring in their city's history to 3-time champs. Let's give credit where credit is due, Bochy deserves a large share for San Fransico's recent winning. All the more impressive after over 50 years of losing near the bay. 

His current best pitcher is Madison Bumgarner and he's not afraid to be wrong if it means doing right by Madison. Some fans outside of Northern California take issue with Madison being rated above better pitchers. These things surface because of a small but vocal group of talking heads on TV who only watch west coast teams in October. I view his October performances as a big plus for Maddy's legacy. It doesn't erase the fact that he has a lifetime ERA+ of 114, which is good but nowhere near Clayton's 150 ERA+. It'd be silly of us to focus on his spectacular, 36 World Series innings and ignore the good, but not great, 1,000 regular season innings. 

The former catcher, turned Giants manager, has 40 years of pro ball experience and he's used that experience to mold, not only 1 but 3 different aces over his 9 years in Frisco (They're not fond of that name in the bay area, say it up there and watch everyone cringe or roll their eyes). I've always enjoyed their weird quirks, local eccentricities, and beautiful bay even if I don't share the same fondness for their ball club. This isn't likely to describe their feelings about LA though. Being the smaller city in LA's big shadow has instilled a chip on their shoulders. A chip that apparently carries over to their All-Star selection.

I do like their pitchers, and have been an admirer of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner for years. I've been impressed too many times by their ability and results against my Dodgers. Even with Tim's 2 Cy Youngs, and their 9 shared All-Star games, those 3 have never reached the level of Kershaw's last 12 months. Kershaw's statistical peers are guys like Pedro and Greg Maddux. No Clayton Kershaw in this year's All-Star game would be like keeping Maddux out for John Burkett in 1993. Maddux would go on to win the 1993 NL Cy Young and Giants pitcher Burkett would lose the 1993 AS game for the NL.

Bochy knows great pitching and Kershaw is the greatest lefty pitcher since Sandy Koufax. Why then would he choose to leave off Clayton Kershaw for A.J. Burnett and Michael Wacha? Despite my post's title, I don't think it's because he hates Kershaw (The title was a joke, but I'm sure you caught that) I'm also not buying that Bochy is heavily weighting wins as his decision maker, he's smarter than that. It may have more to do with his overall sentiment towards the Dodgers franchise. Since Bochy joined San Diego in 1983, the LA Dodgers have been his only real rival. It's almost like he'd rather tweak the LA fans than give his team the best shot to win. That would be silly of course because SF looks like they usually do on years that they win it all, subpar. They're 4 games back of the wild card. They're injured at multiple positions with few quality options in the minors.

It's understandable that Bruce Bochy would view this as an opportunity to pump up Madison over sending his rival, the more deserving Kershaw, to the AS game. Mr. Johnny Cueto is also more deserving than Bumgarner. I can see the arguments for Burnett over CK and Cueto, but they're not solid ones (Burnett has less HR and a smaller ERA than Kershaw). I highly doubt Burnett finishes 2015 that way. It is interesting how Bruce matched up two of the top 4 NL pitchers against each other in a runoff vote. As an NL fan, I want to see the best All-Star team the NL has available and I take exception to Bumgarner, Burnett, and Michael Wacha playing over Cueto and Clayton. As a baseball fan, I want to see the most exciting players and interesting storylines. Bruce is essentially robbing fans of either, the best pitcher of our generation during his prime or the hometown hero on what may be his final hoorah in Cincy. Bruce's own lefty is better than LA's, star, LHP in only one major stat, BB rate. Being a fan of the most talented NL team increases my interest in winning homefield advantage for the World Series.

This isn't Bochy's first time using the All-Star game to slight the Dodgers ace. During Kid K's first Cy Young season, he went with Roy Halladay to start the 2011 All-Star game. A more defensible move considering Roy's larger track record of success and Kershaw being age 23. Kershaw would retire all 3 batters faced on only 8 pitches before being pulled (mid-inning) so that Jair Jurrjens could face the next 6 batters. In 2013, Bochy botched it again, by reversing his previous thought process and choosing the youthful Matt Harvey to start over Kershaw. Kershaw would go on to win the 2013 NL Cy Young award. Harvey did miss the last month of 2013 after needing Tommy John surgery. I was shocked that Mike Matheny would start Adam Wainwright last season after so many previous starting snubs for Kershaw. Kershaw threw a perfect game last year and was better than Wainwright, all prior to the 2014 All-Star game. Tony LaRussa went with Cain in 2012 when Kershaw should have won the Cy Young over the forever likable, R.A. Dickey

Kershaw is coming off an MVP award and is currently #2 in NL FIP, #1 in K/9, #2 in IP, #3 in K/BB, #7 in WHIP, #7 in OPS against, #8 in H/9, #11 in ERA, and #12 in BB/9. I get Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Gerrit Cole, and Jacob deGrom making the team first. You won't convince me the other NL All-Star pitchers are more deserving based off of current 2015 stats. No one is more deserving if you expand it past this season. Leaving Clayton off the All Star roster is a crime against pitching hounds, like myself, nationwide. Most fans don't get to see him as often as we do. Even the majority of LA doesn't get the privilege anymore, because of the local TV blackouts. After his historic performance in 2014, you'd expect some preferential treatment. His reward is going up against the All-Star hometown favorite in a vote for the best of the rest, courtesy of Bochy.

When asked about his shutout performance last night pushing his All-Star case forward Clayton praised Cueto who also pitched a shutout, the guy is all class. I'm scratching my head on this whole situation. Maybe I'd understand this more if Kershaw was more of a hot head like Bumgarner or didn't play the game the right way. He's the exact opposite of all those negative ball player stereotypes. He's handled himself like the a model MLB player on and off the mound for his entire, 7-year, big league career (one that started with 22 MLB games as a 20-year-old). This is a guy who puts his head down after every, last strikeout of the inning, walks to the dugout without making a fuss or even as much as breaking eye contact with the grass. The silver lining in all of this may end up being some extra rest for Clayton this July. For now, I'll keep punching my keys in hopes that he at least gets second place. Here's the link to vote the #MVPtoASG.

These two song's are both about the Winona Ryder & Christian Slater classic film Heathers. The bands don't share much else. Surf Curse is a great, new, young, surf band from Reno/LA. Summer Camp is a couple from England who love pop culture and make awesome indie pop. Summer Camp's been around for 6-5 years and they have 3 or more albums out. The song below is from their earliest EP. Their early stuff is really great, all or most of their EP track's became one of my favorite songs. They have two other tracks that stick out from the early stuff, "Jake Ryan" and "Ghost Train". Surf Curse only have an EP and an LP but they're really one of the best things I've heard over the last year. "The Smell Saved My Life" and "I'm Not Making Out With You" come to mind.

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