Double-A Tulsa was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ only full-season affiliate to not make the playoffs last year. Barring some serious help in the pitching staff, that looks likely again this season.
While last season’s Drillers roster featured three of the organization’s best hitting prospects, as well as strong starting pitching, this year’s team looks more for overachievers rather than star power.
It will be hard to replace the offense from last season. The Drillers scored just under 4.5 runs per game, which was good for third in the league. They finished first in on-base plus slugging percentage and second in both doubles and home runs. While this year’s offense is short on big names, it shouldn’t be short on long balls.
Some of the farm system’s best power hitters will be with Tulsa to start the season. Outfielder Johan Mieses led the organization with 28 home runs last season (all coming with High-A Rancho Cucamonga) during his breakout campaign.
First baseman/third baseman Edwin Rios homered 27 times while playing in just 108 games. Outfielder Kyle Garlick and infielder Mike Ahmed clubbed 19 homers each; Ahmed with the Quakes, and Garlick between High-A and Double-A.
Behind the plate, Kyle Farmer returns while looking for an injury-free season. The 26-year-old played in a career-high 120 games in 2015 but injuries limited him to just 78 contests last season.
The athletic backstop will also spend some time playing third base; he was drafted out of college where he played shortstop.
Cuban infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez looks to bounce back after a rough spring. The soon-to-be 29-year-old batted just .167 in 24 at-bats. However, his bat is his strongest tool, so look for the second baseman to produce at the plate.
While the bullpen features some strong prospects, the rotation is a bit lacking. Ranking highest on my top prospect list is Scott Barlow. The 24-year-old righty finished seventh in the organization with 124.1 innings last season to go along with a 3.98 ERA.
Joining Barlow at the top of the rotation is right-hander Isaac Anderson. The Dodgers’ 40th-rounder from 2015 pitched 118.2 innings last season. He’s pitched for every domestic affiliate, except Triple-A Oklahoma City, over his first two seasons and he could see time with OKC later this season.
One of the best names in baseball returns to the Drillers in 2017. Tim Shibuya pitched for the Quakes, Drillers and OKC Dodgers last year, posting a combined 3.61 ERA in 24 games. Ivan Vieitez, a righty who spent all of last season in the Great Lakes’ bullpen, figures to take his turn in Tulsa’s rotation.
Same goes for southpaw Colt Hynes, who last started in 2012 and has pitched in 484 games between the Minors and Majors.
The relief corps will be led by the Dodgers’ $30 million man, Yaisel Sierra. After signing and being sent to Rancho’s rotation, Sierra struggled while seeing his stuff diminish. Sierra eventually was promoted and moved to Tulsa’s bullpen, where he thrived, touching 100 mph, striking out 21 batters in 14.2 innings.
Joe Broussard was one of the organization’s most productive relievers last season. The 26-year-old right-hander pitched in 50 games between the Quakes, Drillers and OKC Dodgers, collected nine saves and boasted a 1.80 ERA.
One of the best mustaches in the Minors belongs to Ralston Cash, who is returning for his third stint with Tulsa. Between the two Oklahoma affiliates last year, Cash posted a 2.87 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 69 innings.
A pair of lefties should help stabilize the bullpen. Edward Paredes, who recorded the Dodgers’ first save this spring, pitched for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Tulsa League affiliate last season and sported a 2.27 ERA in 46 games.
Michael Johnson spent all of last season with the Drillers, yielding a 3.81 ERA while appearing in 46 games.
2B: Jose Miguel Fernandez
C: Kyle Farmer
RF: Johan Mieses
1B: Edwin Rios
CF: Jacob Scavuzzo
LF: Kyle Garlick
DH: Matt Beaty
3B: Mike Ahmed
SS: Tim Locastro
Scott Barlow, Isaac Anderson, Tim Shibuya, Ivan Vieitez, Colt Hynes
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