Down on the Farm – Chattanooga Lookouts Year In Review

Chattanooga Lookouts

The Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League, are a Double-A affiliate of the Dodgers. The present affiliation began with the 2009 season and is extended through the 2014 season. Prior to that the Lookouts had a twenty-one year affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds. The Lookouts actually have a storied history dating back to 1930. In 1931, the New York Yankees played an exhibition game against the Lookouts. During the game, a 17 year old girl named Jackie Mitchell pitched for the Lookouts and struck out Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. A few days after the game, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis voided Mitchell’s contract, claiming that baseball was “too strenuous” for women. Some would claim the event was staged but none of the participants have ever acknowledged that, including Jackie Mitchell, until her dying day.

The Lookouts played from 1930 until 1999 in Engel Stadium. A new stadium, AT&T Field, was built for the 2000 season. The field was totally privately financed after the owners promised the fans, “If you come, we will build it.” Chattanooga’s AT&T Field is most notable for its location and the overabundance of aluminum used to construct it. Neither its location nor its structure seem to be the most advantageous for baseball fans, yet attendance has not dropped. Engel Stadium has been maintained as a historical site and is used occasionally.

AT&T Field is located on the banks of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. (Photo credit – Herb Lingl)

The Lookouts made a run at the league championship in 2012, capturing the second half in the Northern Division by four games over the second place Jackson Generals. In the divisional playoff the Generals turned the tables on the Lookouts beating them 3-1 in the five game semi-finals. The offense was middle of the pack for the Lookouts in 2012 and as expected, the pitching was good, finishing second in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and saves, as well as allowing the fewest home runs. The loss of starters Ethan Martin and Allen Webster at the MLB trade deadline certainly put a dent in the pitching staff with Martin having allowed the fewest hits per inning of any starter in the Southern League. The pitching staff also lost closer Logan Bawcom to trade and Steven Rodriguez was promoted to the Dodgers.

Players of Note:
Offensively, there are few, if any, hot prospects with the Lookouts. Players such as Kyle Russell, C.J. Retherford and Blake Smith are getting a bit old at AA to be considered prospects. Jake Lemmerman has failed to impress at the AA level. Bobby Coyle is of interest, but as an outfielder there is not much chance of him making it to the Dodgers. Infielder Rafael Ynoa appears to be on a path similar to those of Elian Herrera and Luis Cruz and is doing exceptionally well in the Arizona Fall League. Griff Erickson has yet to break out but as a switch hitting catcher still has time to develop.

Outfielder Bobby Coyle had an outstanding first half with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2012 which earned him a late season promotion to the Lookouts. where he hit .324. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

The Lookouts now are the launching pad for young Dodger pitchers, the Dodgers preferring not to send the young arms, especially starters, to Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast league. With Webster and Martin traded, two of the more MLB ready pitchers from the Lookouts are now looking to succeed with Boston and Miami. However, the cupboard in Chattanooga is not bare. It is still quite well stocked. In a previous blog article I profiled Onelki Garcia and Duke von Schamann, both with few innings with Chattanooga in 2012. Duke von Schamann was drafted in 2012 by the Dodgers. It is doubtful he will start at AA at the beginning of 2013.

Zach Lee and Chris Reed are considered the strongest pitching prospects in the Dodger system. Lee is listed as the #1 Dodger prospect on all prospect lists. He progressed slowly in 2012 with the Lookouts but in his last eight appearances covering 46 innings Zach allowed ten earned runs for an ERA of 1.96. During that span he struck out 35 and walked 10. Although we might like to see a higher strikeout rate, his walk rate in those eight games averaged 1.7 walks/9 innings.

Chris Reed pitched only 35 innings with the Lookouts being limited to no more than three innings per appearance. Chris’ year could be considered somewhat less than successful in Chattanooga. His ERA was 4.84 along with a WHIP of 1.44. Chris struck out 29 and walked 20. He did experience some health issues during the year. 2013 will be a better year for him.

Chris Withrow

Chris Withrow continues to be a tease although he did suffer a strained pectoral muscle injury which limited his innings pitched to 60. Chris has dominant stuff but not the command to control it. He struck 64 in his 60 innings but also walked 36. Chris completed his sixth season in the Dodger system in 2012. He will be 24 in 2013 so next season is decision year for him. Does he continue on as a starter or begin a new life as a possibly dominant reliever? That new life might already have started in 2012 as his last ten appearances were in relief and he was quite dominant.

Matt Magill has had an interesting career. He rarely gains acknowledgement as a prospect but was the top pitcher with the Lookouts in 2012. Matt won 11 games, had an ERA of 3.75, a WHIP of 1.28, and struck out 168 in 146 innings, leading the league in strikeouts, 39 more than the next highest total. Matt was selected as Pitcher Of The Week four times in the Southern League in 2012 and did so as a twenty-two year old.

Andres Santiago

Andreas Santiago was drafted out of Puerto Rico in 2007 at the tender age of 17, and spent his first four professional seasons in the Dodgers lowest US based rookie leagues. In 2012 Andreas spent most of his season with Rancho Cucamonga, a much improved season over his previous year with the Quakes. He was promoted to Chattanooga late in the season. In 26 innings with the Lookouts Andreas struck out 26 and posted an ERA of 2.72. He is currently pitching quite well in the Arizona Fall League.

 

The Lookouts, even after losing Logan Bawcom in a trade, had a strong core of relievers, perhaps with careers in MLB on their radars: Steven Ames, Eric Eadington, Red Patterson, Javier Solano.

 

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4 Responses to “Down on the Farm – Chattanooga Lookouts Year In Review”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    I might mention that Aaron Miller is also at a crossroads in his career. He was the Dodgers first round selection in 2009. Aaron is a lefty and he too has had command problems. In 2012 he struck out 110 but walked 71 in 121 innings. He is now 25. During his starts in 2012 Aaron seemed to pitch well for three or perhaps four innings and then things often went poorly after that. Perhaps he will be more suited to being a middle innings reliever working in two or three inning stints.

  2. OldBrooklynFan says:

    Thank you for the Jackie Mitchell story, I’ve never heard about that. I have a friend who once married and lived for a while in Chattanooga. He and especially his wife seemed to get very annoyed of my spelling “Chatanugga” her home city of Tennessee on my mailing envelope. That was just something that came to mine.
    You’re doing a great job, Harold, of keeping us informed and updated of the happenings in the minor leagues.

  3. Ron Cervenka says:

    When I was at the National Baseball Museum in Cooperstown, they had an excellent exhibit for Jackie Mitchell in the Women of Baseball section; however I completely missed the connection to the Chattanooga Lookouts (excuse me for spelling it correctly).

    I only saw Aaron Miller once or twice at Rancho in 2011 but didn’t really pay much attention to him (my bad). But as you know, I spent A LOT of time watching C.J. Retherford this past season and Blake Smith in 2011 at Rancho and both of them are mashers.

    I wasn’t all that impressed with Rafael Ynoa at Rancho in 2011 and kind of took him off of my radar in 2012 after he moved up to Chattanooga, but I was VERY impressed with him in the AFL this season. If nothing else, he has become a big trading chip for the Dodgers.

  4. Bluenose Dodger says:

    It is interesting that at one point this year there were five first round picks on the Lookouts. (I can spell Albuquerque but Chattanooga is pretty much impossible) The five first round picks were: Chris Withrow (2007), Ethan Martin (2008), Aaron Miller (2009), Zach Lee (2010) and Chris Reed (2011).

    I thought Ethan Martin was coming the fastest among them. He pitched very well at Reading (Phil,) but control was still a bit of a concern.

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