The annual Baseball Winter Meetings have come and gone and, while the Dodgers didn’t make the big splash that their cross-town brethren the Angels or the newly christened Miami Marlins made, the Blue nonetheless were busy acquiring a number of solid players to round out their roster, adding lefty Chris Capuano, utility player Jerry Hairston, Jr., and right-hander Aaron Harang, while re-signing outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr., all in the span of 10 days.
Notable to Isotopes fans in that span, however, is a high-profile departure from the organization in outfielder, and fan-favorite, Jamie Hoffmann, who was picked up off of waivers by the Colorado Rockies. Los Angeles had removed Hoffmann from its 40-man roster to provide some flexibility for acquisitions like Hairston and the reigning Isotopes team MVP was quickly snatched up by the Rockies, with whom he’ll compete for a fourth outfield spot. Hoffmann spent parts of each of the last three seasons in Albuquerque, hitting .310 with 36 doubles, eight homers and 74 RBI last year.
Another notable defection was that of last year’s ace, left-hander Dana Eveland, who was traded to the Baltimore Orioles on December 8 for left-hander Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson. Martin spent last year, his second in professional baseball, with the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds, where he went 5-12 with a 4.96 in 31 games (18 starts), and probably won’t be seen in Albuquerque for a while, but Henson could very well start the season as an Isotope. The outfielder made his Triple-A debut last year with the Norfolk Tides, batting .247 with 55 runs, 18 doubles, three triples, three homers, and 36 RBI in 123 games. While Henson played all over the outfield, he was primarily a right-fielder for the Tides, where he logged 85 games. He also saw action in 22 games in left and 17 games in center. As recently as 2009, Henson was a third baseman before being converted to an outfielder.
The Dodgers also unveiled the list of 15 players who will get an invitation to Major League Spring Training, with a number of names that could very well be playing in Albuquerque when the PCL season opens on April 5.
RHP Angel Guzman – After 12 years in the Cubs organization, the right-hander joins the Dodgers still working his way back from arthroscopic surgery to his right-shoulder that sidelined him the entire 2010 campaign. Last year, he split the season between Peoria and Daytona, both Single-A stops. Guzman was 3-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 55 games for the Cubs in 2009 before getting hurt.
RHP Fernando Nieve – The right-hander made just three starts for Oklahoma City in the Houston Astros organization before being released on April 27 and signing with the Doosan Bears in South Korea. His only win with the RedHawks ironically came against the Isotopes on April 15 at Bricktown Ballpark. Nieve has big league time with the Astros (2006, 2008) and the Mets (2009, 2010), going 8-11 with a 4.61 ERA in 99 total Major League games, 19 of them starts.
RHP Jose Ascanio – The righty reliever appeared in eight games last year with Pittsburgh, but spent most of 2011 in Triple-A Indianapolis, going 2-3 with a 4.91 ERA and a save in 30 games (five starts). He also logged big league time with the Braves (2007), and Cubs (2008, 2009) before joining the Pirates for two games in 2009.
RHP Ryan Tucker – Had the Isotopes not switched affiliations, the right-handed reliever might have been a ‘Tope in 2009 instead of starting that season with the New Orleans Zephyrs. A Florida Marlins farmhand for the first six years of his career, Tucker appeared in 29 games (eight starts) for the Round Rock Express last year, going 3-5 with a 5.40 ERA and two saves. He also appeared in five games for the American League Champion Rangers. Tucker made his big league debut with the Marlins in 2008.
RHP Shane Lindsay – A native of Melbourne, Australia, Lindsay saw action in four games with the Chicago White Sox last year but spent most of the season dominating at Triple-A Charlotte, going 2-2 with a 1.98 ERA four saves in 45 games with the Knights.
RHP Will Savage – The right-hander gets his first invitation to Major League camp after spending all of last year at Double-A Chattanooga where he dominated out of the Lookouts’ rotation. In 25 games (23 starts) with Chattanooga, Savage was excellent, leading the Southern League in wins while going 12-6 with a 3.95 ERA
LHP Alberto Castillo – Last season was a whirlwind for the left-handed Cuban reliever, who started the season at Triple-A Norfolk in the Orioles organization and ended it with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After going 2-4 with a 1.89 ERA in 20 games for the Tides, Castillo was granted free agency on June 15 and signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks just three days later. It took just eight games at Triple-A Reno before the D-Backs purchased his contract on June 28 and he spent the rest of the season in Arizona, going 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 17 games.
LHP Matt Chico – Chico joins the Dodgers after nine years in the Washington Nationals organization. Last year, he spent time with Triple-A Syracuse, Double-A Harriburg, and rookie-level GCL Nationals before he was released on July 21. In 2007, Chico made 31 starts for the Nats and was scheduled to begin the 2008 campaign as Washington’s number two starter before injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery.
LHP Scott Rice – The lefty reliever earns an invitation after a sensational 2011 at Double-A Chattanooga, where he went 4-4 with a 1.95 ERA in 34 games. Left-handed hitters batted just .173 against him.
LHP Wilfredo Ledezma – Lefty Ledezma spent most of 2011 in the bullpen of the Las Vegas 51s in the Toronto system, where he went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA and three saves in 36 games. Most impressive, however, was the fact lefties batted just .206 against him, earning him a call-up to the Blue Jays in late July. After five games in Toronto, Ledezma was designated for assignment on August 29 after posting a 15.00 ERA. The native of Venezuela has spent parts of each of the last nine seasons in the big leagues, posting a career record of 15-25 with a 5.40 ERA in 192 appearances. Interestingly, in 2007, Ledezma was traded from Detroit to Atlanta to San Diego within a month. In addition to those three teams and Toronto, he has also pitched in Arizona (2008), Washington (2009), and Pittsburgh (2010).
C Josh Bard – Probably the most recognizable name on this list, Bard brings 586 games worth of Major League experience to Dodgers Spring Training, the latest of which came last year with the Seattle Mariners, with whom he batted .210 in 26 games. Bard also played with Triple-A Tacoma a year ago, batting .301 in 58 games. The veteran back-stop has big league time with the Indians (2002-05), Red Sox (2006), Padres (2006-08), Nationals (2009), and Mariners (2010). An interesting bit of Isotopes trivia involving Bard; knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who pitched in Albuquerque in 2009 and 2010, had a special catcher’s mitt that was given to him by Bard that the pitcher would loan to catchers who had the unenviable task of catching him in games.
INF Jeff Baisley – A third baseman, Baisley spent all of last year with Triple-A Salt Lake in the Angels organization, batting .303 with 31 doubles, 20 homers, and 100 RBI in 134 games. Baisley was one of just eight players in the entire PCL to drive in 100 runs or more. The Tampa, Florida native’s only big league experience came in 14 games with the Oakland A’s in 2008, when he batted .256 (11×43).
INF Lance Zawadzki – Zawadzki spent all of last year with Omaha in the Royals organization, batting .233 with 13 doubles, six triples, eight homers, and 40 RBI in 91 games. The switch-hitting infielder turned it on when it mattered most, batting .400 in the PCL playoffs and was the only Storm Chaser to rack up two hits in Omaha’s 8-3 loss to Columbus in the Triple-A National Championship Game at Isotopes Park in September.
INF Luis Cruz – Cruz spent the majority of the 2011 season with Round Rock in the Rangers organization, batting .273 with 15 doubles, a triple, nine homers, and 34 RBI in 67 games. While primarily used a shortstop (34 games), the versatile Cruz also saw some time at second base (19 games), third base (seven games), and even outfield (nine games) with the Express. In the middle of the summer, Cruz was loaned to a team in his native Mexico, where he appeared in 16 games for the Diablos Rojos De Mexico. The 27 year-old also has a pair of cups of coffee in the Major Leagues, both with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the last of which came in 2009. In 56 career big league games, Cruz has a .221 average.
OF Cory Sullivan – Sullivan, left-handed-hitting outfielder who played college baseball at Wake Forest, spent his 2011 season in Lehigh Valley with the IronPigs, with whom he appeared in 36 games before getting released on May 28. While a member of the Colorado Rockies on April 9, 2006, Sullivan became just the 11th player in Major League history (and the first National Leaguer in 80 years) to collect two triples in an inning, a feat he accomplished against the San Diego Padres. In addition to parts of four seasons with the Rockies (2005-08), Sullivan has played for the Mets (2009) and Astros (2010).
December has also featured a number of former Isotopes who have signed elsewhere. This list includes the player (years as an Isotope) and the team with which he’s signed for 2012.
IF- Tony Abreu (2009) – Kansas City Royals
OF- Brett Carroll (2007, 2008) – Washington Nationals
OF- Jeremy Hermida (2003, 2007) – San Diego Padres
C- Lucas May (2010) – New York Mets
C- Mike Rivera (2010) – Milwaukee Brewers
LHP- Eric Stults (2009) – Chicago White Sox
LHP- Erick Threets (2009) – Oakland A’s