The Los Angeles Dodgers were a mainstay in the Florida State League for years, having a full season affiliate in Vero Beach from 1980 til 2006. In 2007, the team moved its High A affiliation from the FSL to the California League, adopting the Inland Empire 66ers as its new squad. Two years later, the team would shift its spring training operations to Arizona, leaving Florida for good.
After four seasons with the 66ers, the Dodgers moved to Rancho Cucamonga and have been there since 2011. The park plays fairly neutral but the league undoubtedly favors hitters. Notorious desert landscapes and jet stream winds allow routine fly balls to leave the yard.
2013 Record: 65-75
On offense, the Quakes finished in the top half of the league in runs scored with 5.20 a game. Their 145 home runs ranked 4th, leading to the third best SLG in the circuit at .435.
Pitching and defense were another animal, as the club ranked 3rd to last by allowing 5.74 runs per game, including a league-leading 198 errors.
2013 Team MVP: Scott Schebler [image src=”http://www.milb.com/assets/images/5/8/8/52753588/cuts/Scott_Schebler_3sxdqhsz_v2t2sj96.jpg” width=”240″ height=”135″ title=”Scott Schebler” lightbox=”yes” align=”center”]
The Dodgers’ 2013 Branch Rickey Award Winner for hitters, Schebler broke out in a big way in 2013, posting a line of .296/.360/.581 with 29 doubles, 13 triples and 27 home runs. His SLG was 5th in the league and his .941 OPS placed him 9th. The one downside was his propensity to strike out, as his 140 K’s ranked 6th in the Cal League.
2014 Manager: P.J. Forbes
Forbes got a well-deserved promotion after helming the AZL Dodgers club last year that won its division and was a win away from taking the league championship. The second year skipper is in his 11th year of coaching in the minor leagues, following a playing career that lasted 13 seasons.
Matt Herges returns as the club’s pitching coach, while Mike Eylward moves from Low A Great Lakes to Rancho in the same capacity as hitting coach.
2014 Players to Watch: Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Chris Anderson, Tom Windle
Three of the Dodgers’ best prospects figure to begin the year with Rancho. Seager, who struggled near the end of last season, is still considered by many to be the best talent in the system. He still figures to play shortstop, even though many project him to inevitably move to third base. He’ll start the season as a 19 year old, but I expect him to hit for average and power.
Urias, the Mexican phenom who came out of nowhere to dominate Great Lakes in 2013, could face another intimidating challenge in facing Cal League competition before his 18th birthday. The southpaw is mature beyond his years and could conceivably reach Double A by late next season.
The club’s first rounder in 2013, Anderson blew away Low A hitters in his first taste of pro ball. Now he’ll enter a more difficult environment with more experienced hitters. He should be flanked by second rounder and fellow Minnesotan Tom Windle, who also fared well in his debut.
Malcolm Holland LF
James Baldwin CF
Tyler Ogle 1B
Corey Seager SS
Jeremy Rathjen RF
Kevin Taylor 2B
Brandon Dixon 3B
Pratt Maynard C
Chris O’Brien DH
Outside of Seager, there aren’t any real high profile guys here. A few guys, like Baldwin, Rathjen and Holland could develop into something, but you’d have to bet on most of them bouncing back from down years or breaking out in a big way.
Julio Urias LHP
Chris Anderson RHP
Tom Windle LHP
Garrett Gould RHP
Gustavo Gomez RHP
Closer: Scott Griggs RHP
The top three are as good as it gets in the system. Urias, who won’t turn 18 until August, has a chance to defy the odds yet again by conquering the Cal League. Anderson and Windle should be partnered up for the next couple of seasons. Gould has all but lost his status as a prospect, with Gomez looking to improve on a disappointing 2013 campaign. Griggs desperately needs to throw strikes but has swing-and-miss stuff.
2014 Opening Day: April 3
Unfortunately, the California League is all but bereft of video coverage, so you’ll have to carry your ham radio with you if you want to follow the team live. As always, check DodgersNation.com when the season starts for daily recaps.
Next up, the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League.
ICYMI: Clayton Kershaw is honored to pitch Game 1 in Australia for the Dodgers