The Los Angeles Dodgers rookie level minor league affiliate is the Arizona League Dodgers playing in the Arizona Rookie League. The rookie Dodgers became part of the Arizona League when the Dodgers moved their spring training base of operations from the Grapefruit League to the Cactus League in 2009. Up to that point, the young Dodgers were part of the Eastern Division of the Gulf Coast League in Florida at the legendary complex in Vero Beach, affectionately known as Dodgertown.
The Arizona League has been run by Major League Baseball since 1989, presently with thirteen major league affiliates. Teams are located in and around the Phoenix area. The Dodger facility is Camelback Ranch in Glendale with a seating capacity of 12,000. The facility is shared by the Chicago White Sox.
The Arizona League teams played a shortened season with a 56-game schedule which began on June 20 in 2013 and ended on August 28. The Dodgers finished first in the Central Division in both the first and second half of the season with identical 17-11 records. In the semi-final game of the playoffs they defeated the Rangers 9-4 but fell to the Giants, who finished first overall, 4-0 in the championship game.
During the 2013 season, the regular players for the AZL Dodgers came from these sources:
- Players drafted by the Dodgers in the June amateur draft – 14 players
- Players with previous experience in the Dominican Summer League – 10 players
- Free agents signings from Mexico – 7 players
- Players on rehab assignments from higher levels within the organization (including the Dodgers) - 10 players
Shortstop Christian Gomez (17) signed out of the Dominican Republic came directly to the Arizona League. He struggled with the bat and will no doubt return to the AZL Dodgers in 2014.
Right fielder Theo Alexander (18), a seventh round draft selection in 2012, returned to Dodgers for a second year in 2013 and showed modest improvement but encouraging signs with some power.
As with the Dominican Summer League, player projections in the AZL are challenging because many players are so young. The first three Dodger draft selections in 2013 went directly to the Great Lakes Loons – Chris Anderson, Tom Windle and Brandon Dixon. However, as always, there are personal favorites on any team. Pitchers seem to dominate the prospect list with the AZL Dodgers.
Arano (18) came directly to the Dodgers from Cosamalopan, Mexico. The 6’2”, 200 pound right-hander was the work horse on the staff. He pitched 49 innings with 49 strikeouts. His second half ERA dipped to 3.38 after a 5.40 ERA in the first half. With the bases empty Arano had a 0.71 ERA. His problem came with runners on base. His ERA balloons a bit so working from the stretch has been a problem which hopefully he can correct next season. He finished the season well allowing six hits over his last ten innings while striking out 12.
Wascar (19) pitched with the DSL Dodgers in 2012 where he posted a 1.67 ERA in 54 innings. He also is a right-hander at 6’4” and 185 pounds. In 2013 Wascar complied a 5-1 won-loss record with a 2.55 ERA in 35.1 innings. He struck out 35 and gave up only 21 hits in his 35 innings resulting in a 0.99 WHIP. His walk total of 14 might he a bit high. He did have one relief appearance with the Ogden Raptors towards the end of the season that did not go very well as he gave up three runs in one inning. I expect him to start with the Raptors in 2014.
Another pitcher, Gonzalez (18) is a 6’, 200 pound left-hander from Tuxpan, Mexico in his first year with the Dodgers. In 38 innings he gave up 35 hits, struck out 45 and had an ERA of 3.79. Gonzalez had an outstanding first half with a 1.97 ERA but a couple of poor starts in August inflated his ERA. Perhaps he tired as he pitched the entire season as a seventeen year old just turning eighteen on November 16th.
Ordinarily young relievers are not picked as top prospects. However, with players this young they may well be pitching limited innings in preparation for a stint as a starter. Osuna, also just turned 18 in November , is the son of former Dodgers pitcher Antonio Osuna and was signed out of Mexico in July of 2012. In 25 innings as a reliever he gave up 18 hits, struck out 23 and had an ERA of 1.82. Osuna, a right hander like his father, limited hitters to a .202 batting average.
Bellinger (18), the son of former MLB player Clay Bellinger, is a lanky first baseman at 6’4” and 180 pounds. Drafted out of Hamilton High School in Chandler Arizona, he turned 18 in July. His stat line was not all that impressive: .210 BA, 30 RBI, 16 extra base hits. He did walk 31 times compared to 46 strikeouts and posted an OBP of .340. Bellinger is a left-handed hitter who will probably return to the AZL Dodgers in 2014. His situation is reminiscent of Justin Chigbogu, also a left handed first baseman, who spent 2012 with the AZL Dodgers but after eleven games in 2013 was promoted to the Ogden Raptors. Cody Bellinger was a fourth round selection in the June draft so the Dodgers obviously see some real potential in him.
Anther AZL Dodger to keep an eye on in 2014 is right-handed pitcher Bryan Munoz (18), who went 0-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched for the AZL Dodgers in 2013.