It’s been one of those seasons so far. You know, the kind where you’d like a do-over. The launch to the Dodgers 2013 season has not had many smooth landings, with the team currently sitting in last place in the NL West sporting a record of 19-26 - and it seems to be a franchise-wide thing, too.
Down on the farm the Dodger minor league affiliates aren’t fairing much better with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes at 23-24, the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts at 19-27, the Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes at 23-23 and the Low-A Great lakes Loons at 16-29. Collectively, the five teams in the Dodger system are 100-129 on the season. On many nights there is not a lot of good news for Dodger fans, with only the Quakes and Isotopes hovering around the .500 mark.
So what is a Dodger fan to do to ease the pain, especially the pain inflicted by the parent club? Switching team allegiance is not an option after so many years of bleeding Dodger Blue. Watching hockey or basketball doesn’t cut it either. Gardening is a great outlet for me but the draw of the game is still too strong each evening to stay away. For me, following the minor league teams is a good option as two of the farm teams are close to my Nova Scotia Atlantic Time zone.
With all of the Dodger farm teams struggling I decided to narrow my focus, keying in on players that are performing well even though their teams may not be. I naturally watch prospects such as Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Zach Lee, and Ross Stripling, but as happens each year, occasionally players that are not high draft picks seem to come out of the woodwork and surprise the fans, although I suspect they may not be surprising to Logan White and the Dodger scouting staff.
One such surprise was the Dodgers 23rd round draft pick in 2012 – Lindsey Caughel. Previously selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 35th round of the 2011 Rule 4 Draft, Caughel elected not to sign with the Orioles but instead returned to Stetson University in DeLand, Florida for his senior year. As a result he became one of six Stetson Hatters drafted in 2012 – a testament to Head Coach Pete Dunn’s baseball program at Stetson.
The 6’3” Caughel pitched well in 2011 with the Stetson Hatters until an injury derailed his progress. However, he rebounded in 2012 and finished his college career with a degree and a strong season on the mound. Caughel started 15 games with the Hatters, with a 3.86 ERA and a 7-3 record. He recorded 80 strikeouts against just 18 walks in 88.2 innings. That performance was enough to catch the eye of Dodger scouts.
Excited to be drafted by the Dodgers, the 22-year-old right hander reported to the Arizona League Dodgers on June 22, 2012. He quickly made his mark in the AZL making seven starts and picking up two wins to go along with a respectable ERA of 3.32 and an equally respectable WHIP of 1.039.
After spending only one month with the AZL Dodgers, Caughel was promoted to the Ogden Raptors. He again made seven starts at this new level, winning three games and compiling a 3.38 ERA and .096 WHIP.
Although Caughel’s 43 strikeouts in 59 innings don’t exactly jump out at you, their timing does and shows a mound presence and maturity that most 22-year-olds often do not display. What also jumps out at you is that he allowed only 11 walks in his first full season of professional baseball.
The Orlando, Florida native began the 2013 season with the Dodgers Low-A affiliate Great Lakes Loons but after just five starts he was promoted to the Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. With the Loons Caughel had an ERA of 2.00 and a WHIP of 0.889. He struck out 26 batters in 27 innings and walked but two. His first start with the Quakes was a typical first start at a higher level in which he gave up eight hits in five innings and three earned runs. He struck out six and walked two.
Perhaps his next start gave Quakes fans a glimpse of what Dodger scouts must have seen before drafting Caughel. In the hitter-friendly California League he picked up a win against the San Jose Giants with six innings of five hit ball, giving up one earned run, while striking out four and walking none. His strikeout rate has improved in 2013 as he has struck out 36 in 38 innings while walking only four. Caughel has a fastball in the low nineties and as his curveball was rated average by Baseball America back in 2011.
Lindsey Caughel is a young man with his feet planted firmly on the ground . He acknowledges his coaches along the way and expresses his appreciation for the role they have played in his baseball career: high school coaches Frank Viola, Mike Stanley, Joe Oliver (summer league) and Pete Dunn at Stetson. He feels having catchers as coaches has helped him learn what catchers expect of pitchers; that is, “They like bulldogs on the mound. They like the pitcher to hit the mitt wherever they put it.” Where have we heard that before?
Hugh Bernreuter who follows the Loons in Midland and reports daily had a great interview with Lindsey Caughel in his May 4 column. The above quote is from Hugh’s article. He goes on to give us some insight into the young man who is Lindsey Caughel, a young man who wants to give back. Hugh writes that, “ During the off-season, (Caughel) returns to Lake Highland, where he is a substitute teacher. He also helps out the high school baseball team. At some schools, having a pro baseball player return to teach or help the team might be considered extraordinary.”
Lindsey Caughel is a young man with a plan. “I have my teaching degree and certificate, so someday I would like to go back and teach,” Caughel said. “I’d like to go back when I’m done playing baseball, however long that is.”