Many Dodger fans remember Arthur “Red” Patterson who joined the Dodgers in 1954. Red was a public relations innovator and became known as the father of the “tape measure home run” when he paced off Mickey Mantle’s 656-foot shot on April 17, 1953, the longest home run in baseball history. Red died in 1992 at the age of 83 leaving his mark on the Dodgers and all of baseball.
Since 2010 the Dodgers have had another Red Patterson, John “Red” Patterson, who is presently representing the Dodgers in the Arizona Fall league. John indicates that he has had the nickname since he was in the third grade, along with two other classmates named John. “Red” was applied to him by a coach, because of his hair color, to differentiate him from his teammates, and it stuck.
Red was drafted by the Dodgers in the in the 29th round of the 2010 draft out of Southwestern Oklahoma State. During his senior year Red had a very unsightly ERA of 6.84. He was convinced he would not be drafted and went to Puerto Rico to pitch, only to learn the Dodgers had drafted him. The Dodgers scouting department must have seen something that interested them. Perhaps it was his 103 strikeouts in 72.1 innings.
John Red Patterson has climbed up the Dodgers farm system ladder quite quickly. He has done so almost as an invisible man.
Most lists of Dodgers prospects do not rank Red very highly. In fact, none even mentioned him except one that ranked him sixty-fourth in the Dodgers system in December of 2011. John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com listed Red as a sleeper and wrote: “Keep a close eye on sleeper prospect Red Patterson, who I might bump up to a C+.” It could be argued that relief pitchers usually don’t make prospect lists. However, Red was a starter in his first two years compiling a won-loss record of 18-6, recording 238 strikeouts in 241 innings, 59 walks, a WHIP of 1.15. and a career ERA of 3.47. Following a successful rookie year with the Raptors in 2010, Red split his time almost equally between the Loons and Quakes and with equally good results. Oddly enough, if we had those numbers for a top draft pick, we would be rather excited. Yet with Red they went mostly unnoticed.
In 2012 at age 25, Red spent his entire season with the Lookouts at the AA level. For whatever reason, he was converted to relief pitching. Although his WHIP was a bit high at 1.45, his ERA was 3.09 and he had 71 strikeouts in 71 innings in his 47 appearances. Oh yes, his win-loss record was 7-1 giving him a career 25-7 won-loss record.
In an interview with Hugh Bernreuter, Red explained his spike pitch: “I’ve never been able to throw a real curve, so I came up with the spike, basically digging my fingernail into the ball,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t move 12-to-6, but more 3-to-9, but even then it sometimes moves different ways.” His pitching coach with the Loons, Kremlin Martinez spoke of Red’s improvement there. “This year, the control on his off-speed pitches improved,” Martinez said. “He still has a good fastball, but he’s been able to use his change-up and curve to get lefties out.”
Incidentally, Hugh Bernreuter is an excellent source of Loons information. Hugh interviews most of the Loons players during the season.
So why did the Dodgers send Red to the AZL? Javier Solano would perhaps have been a more likely candidate. Red is 25 years old in only his third season. I expect his age is a factor as the Dodgers need to know very quickly what Red’s upside is. They apparently feel it is higher than many project for him. He no doubt is seen as a middle innings reliever who can pitch more than one inning. I expect they see a maturity and calmness with Red that might project him to the MLB level late next year or in 2014.