Sunday, January 25, 2015

Keeping track of the 2014 Isotopes

Updated on Jan. 31, 2015

Updating the former Isotopes gets more confusing with the affiliation switch from the Dodgers to the Rockies. No matter what, the Topes roster will be completely different in 2015. Virtually everybody from 2014 is gone.

For simplicity purposes, this list will be players who are no longer in the Dodgers organization. If somebody isn't listed, that means they're still under contract to the Dodgers, or they're an unsigned free agent. 

OF Mike Baxter signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs, the last week of January 2015. It was surprising that Baxter remained unsigned so long. He didn't have a great 2014, but rallied in the final six weeks to still post a respectable .289/.365/.439 slash line. He also plays excellent defense at all three positions, along with smart base running and a good attitude. At age 29, Baxter is well past prospect status. But he's a solid veteran for a triple-A team and provides organizational depth.

OF Roger Bernadina: signed a minor league contract with Colorado Rockies (Dec. 2014). The affiliation switch means that Bernadina is a former Isotope who is likely to become a current Isotope once again. Bernadina will join, among others, catcher John Baker (Marlins, Dodgers) who played for the Topes with two different organizations. We didn't see much of Bernadina last year. He was signed in early July, then was injured in a collision at first-base against Fresno, not too long after the Dodgers signed him. The injury ended up lingering much longer than expected. Wouldn't surprise me if Bernadina goes back-and-forth between the Rockies and Isotopes a few times in 2015.

RHP Bruce Billings: signed a minor league contract with Nationals (Nov. 2014). Billings is a fellow #Aztec4Life. When I interviewed him last year about getting recruited by Tony Gwynn and his reaction to Mr. Padre's death, I was fighting back tears. Best wishes to Billings.

RHP Jose Dominguez: traded to Tampa Bay Rays, with RHP Greg Harris, for RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Adam Liberatore (Nov. 2014). Dominguez injured his shoulder in late July and didn't pitch the rest of the season. Something I've always wondered: did Dominguez injure the shoulder pitching, or was that a casualty of the brawl with Reno? We initially thought Dominguez was ejected from that game because he left the field after order was finally restored. We later discovered he left due to an injury. Dominguez was still suspended for his involvement. He went to the Dodgers spring training facility during his suspension and we never saw him again. Hmmmm.

LHP Scott Elbert -- signed a minor league contract with the Padres (Jan. 2015). Elbert is one of three players that Logan White drafted with the Dodgers who have now signed with the Padres since White joined that organization. The success rate of pitchers returning from a second Tommy John surgery is dramatically lower than after a first one. Elbert had to learn last year how to get outs without the same velocity on his fastball. We'll probably see him with triple-A El Paso a bunch.

C Griff Erickson: signed a minor league contract with Padres – Nov. 2014. Another one of Logan White's former draft picks, Erickson should benefit from a new organization. Erickson spent a lot of time on the "phantom" disabled list in 2014. Even when active, he didn't get much playing time because Tim Federowicz was an ironman. Erickson can hit, but can he throw out base runners? That was an issue last year. I'm excited that Erickson will get a chance with his hometown organization.

RHP Justin Germano: signed a minor league contract with Mariners – Dec. 2014. Germano was only with the Topes at the end of last year and wasn't very effective. Fun fact: Germano broke Mark McGwire's home run record at Claremont Little League.

INF Walter Ibarra: signed minor league contract with Diamondbacks – Nov. 2014. Ibarra grew on me during the season. Great defensively, under appreciated triple-A leader, and his bat is better than I originally thought. He's certainly appreciated by DeJon Watson, the former Dodgers director of player development who is now with the Diamondbacks.

INF Alex Liddi: signed a minor league contract with Royals – Jan. 2015. Liddi hit 30 home runs and drove in 104 runs for triple-A Tacoma in 2011. Over the next three years, he's averaged 15 homers and 47 RBIs. Last year, he was demoted to double-A Chattanooga. Might be the last chance for Liddi.

C Johnny Monell: signed a minor league contract with NY Mets – Nov. 5, 2014. Like Erickson, Monell was a victim of the "phantom DL" and getting very sporadic playing time behind Federowicz. Monell is a New York native, so signing with the Mets is probably a thrill. Doubtful he makes the big-league club out of spring training, but he gets to spend the summer in Las Vegas. Lucky.

1B/OF Brock Peterson: signed a minor league contract with Twins – Jan. 2015. On the final roadtrip, Peterson was hit by a pitch in his hand and suffered a broken finger. It should be healed by spring training. Peterson originally signed with the Twins out of high school. He was a welcome addition to the Topes. A dependable slugger and hitter, a fun personality ... and it never hurts when the guy's family comes by my radio booth to compliment me. That's why he was my mom's favorite player.

1B Clint Robinson: signed a minor league contract with Nationals – Dec. 15, 2015. My hope was that Robinson would sign with the Rockies, so we could get him with the Topes again. Alas, he signed with the Nationals, which surprised me, and not just because he's behind Ryan Zimmerman and Tyler Moore on the depth chart. Last year, I asked Robinson last year why he signed with the Dodgers, when he was behind a fellow left-handed hitter in Adrian Gonzalez. Robinson explained he wasn't thinking about the majors. He wanted a good triple-A ballpark to put up numbers and get himself a job for 2015. Smart man. Mission accomplished. However, the Nationals triple-A team is in Syracuse. Could be a brutal April. That's not a hitters league. Of course, maybe the Nationals made him an offer he couldn't refuse. I hope so. He's the consummate professional hitter and deserves to be paid well.

OF Trayvon Robinson: signed a minor league contract with Padres – Dec. 16, 2015. Trayvon is the third Dodgers to sign the Padres. Robinson is close with triple-A El Paso manager Pat Murphy, so I'm guessing that had just as big an impact as the Logan White connection. I'm glad Trayvon is remaining in the PCL. We'll see him a bunch. Great dude. Spectacular defense. His confidence was shot early in the season, but he rallied later. He's been a fan favorite everywhere. I'm sure the smart baseball fans in El Paso will appreciate his defensive skills.

INF Jamie Romak: signed a minor league contract with Diamondbacks – Nov. 2014. Romak has considered going to Japan for a bigger paycheck in recent years. That's always still a possibility. But for now, Romak follows DeJon Watson to the Diamondbacks. Romak made his major-league debut last year, after 12 years in the minors, but only went 1-for-21. When he was sent back to the minors, Romak averaged almost an RBI for every game the rest of the season. There's a lot of bitter "4A" guys in the minors, but not Romak. I loved his attitude about triple-A: the fans, the great cities, the ballparks, and the competition. As somebody who can play the infield corners and outfield corners, Romak has a shot to get some playing time with the D'backs too.

INF Carlos Triunfel: signed a minor league contract with Giants – Nov. 2014. Even when it's a minor-league deal, I still think it's weird when somebody goes from the Dodgers to the Giants. Let's hope Triunfel has a bounce-back season. Outside of a memorable grand slam off Taijuan Walker, Triunfel didn't do much offensively. And surprisingly, his normally spectacular defense was pretty average. We should see him in Fresno Sacramento next year. 

Less than a month remains until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. According to Baseball America's free agent tracker, seven members of the Isotopes are still unsigned: RHP Jeff Bennett, RHP Drew Carpenter, RHP Sam Demel, RHP Stephen Fife, RHP Josh Judy, RHP Justin Souza and RHP Nick Struck. 

Demel and Fife underwent Tommy John surgery in mid-to-late summer, so they might miss all of 2015. Judy and Souza all suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the season. I'm not privy to the status of their rehabs.

Bennett lives in Nashville, so you know he'd love to sign with the Brewers Athletics. But the A's usually don't sign 30+ year old pitchers. If Bennett doesn't get a minor-league deal, I'd expect him to pitch in the Mexican League again. 

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