De Jon Watson, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ vice president, player development, was back in Albuquerque this weekend to watch the Isotopes. Prior to Saturday night’s game Watson sat down for an extensive interview about the current Isotopes and the other players coming up through the Dodgers’ farm system.
The Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts have a record of just 36-63, but there is quite a bit of talent there. Many of those prospects figure to reach Albuquerque next season, though at least one pitcher could be an Isotope before the year is out.
Left-hander Chris Reed, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2011, has gone 4-6 with a 3.19 ERA in 19 starts this season. He leads the Southern League with 109 strikeouts and is tied for fourth in that circuit in ERA.
“He’s on pace to continue moving forward,” Watson said. “He could be here (in Albuquerque) even before the year is out. You just never know how this thing kind of shakes itself out. He’s pitching well enough to compete at this level and even higher.”
Entering the season the Dodgers contemplated a role change for Reed, their No. 8 prospect according to Baseball America. The lefty was a closer at Stanford but had started in 45 of his 51 professional appearances.
“I think coming out of spring training we had some discussions on whether to put him in the bullpen or (keep) him a starter,” Watson said. “We sat down with the kid, had a really long discussion. He saw himself as a starter and we wanted to do that.”
To remain in the rotation, Reed had some corrections to make. So far, just about everything he has done has worked out.
“He went back and he made some adjustments to his delivery,” Watson said. “He’s been able to command both sides of the plate a lot better. His changeup is a plus, plus pitch for him right now. The slider, breaking ball, whatever you want to call it, the shape of it has gotten better with more tilt and depth to it.”
Chattanooga has recently gotten a boost with the promotion of shortstop Corey Seager, the organization’s No. 2 prospect. Seager had put up some eye-popping numbers (.352/.411/.633, 18 HR, 70 RBI) at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
“We’re looking forward to him getting a taste of Double-A,” Watson said. “I do think he will have some success there and continue to move forward. It’s a really advanced offensive approach. He handles both left-handed and right-handed pitching well.”
Seager struggled in the second half of last season when he first joined Rancho Cucamonga and those struggles continued into the Arizona Fall League. Watson credited Seager and the Quakes’ coaching staff with getting him back on track.
“(He) worked his tail off in spring training on his angles and his reads,” Watson said. “P.J. Forbes, our manager down in the Cal League has done a tremendous job with him on his infield defense, along with Juan Castro.
“The approach from an offensive standpoint, the thing we’re trying to do is really manage stride direction with his lead leg. In the Arizona Fall League he had trouble recognizing that changeup, that strike-to-ball changeup, he was swinging right over it. That comes with stride direction.”
Two other standouts in the Lookouts’ lineup have been infielder Darnell Sweeney (.302/.397/.484, 11 HR) and outfielder Scott Schebler (.264/.345/.534, 17 HR). They entered the year as the Dodgers’ Nos. 25 and 17 prospects, respectively.
“Darnell Sweeney has had a really sound year,” Watson said. “He’s played both short and second, primarily second, and we’ve also added some outfield play for him. There’s still some errors in there but that will clean itself up as he continues to progress and grow as a player on both sides of the baseball.
“(Schebler) is definitely coming and making some noise. He plays so fast and hard and I think there’s still some upside in his skillset that there’s a chance to eventually grow into a major-league regular.”
Watson had more to say about three top pitching prospects at Rancho Cucamonga, plus shared his thoughts on the 2014 draft class. Look for that story Wednesday.