Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dodgers Shortstops Scouting Reports: Ynoa and Lemmerman

Since the team was sold to Guggenheim Baseball Management (better known as the group lead by Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson), the Dodgers have been the most aggressive team when it comes to spending money. Despite this, their current shortstop situation is certainly not ideal. They started the season with speedster Dee Gordon at the position, but not only did he not hit, he got injured and really struggled defensively thanks to a bizarre issue when it comes to throwing to first base. The team ended up using  Luis Cruz (who finished 2011 in the Mexican League, but performed valiantly for the Dodgers) at short for 24 games and Hanley Ramirez (whom they traded for despite being moved to 3rd base in the off-season by the Marlins. Ramirez has always been considered athletic, but not a very good defender. His bat has also taken a step back over the last couple of seasons for whatever reason) for 57 games. Cruz repeating his 2012 success in 2013 seems unlikely from just a basic statistical standpoint, and Hanley Ramirez simply does not get to as many balls as a traditional shortstop does. Having a good offensive/bad defensive shortstop has worked for the Yankees (and perhaps to a lesser degree, the Tigers), and it doesn't seem like the Dodgers have a lot of other options. 26 year old Justin Sellers played in just 19 games in the Majors in 2012 thanks to bulging disk surgery. At least an adequate defender according to minor league batted ball data, the former 6th rounder has had some offensive success in the minors and should be an at least okay baserunner. Do you want him as a starter on a contender though? Probably not (even if healthy). 24 year old Osvaldo Martinez (acquired in the middle of the season) has a career .556 AAA OPS (most of it in the PCL), making him not an option at all. So in this post, I will look at the Dodgers two AA shortstops, Jake Lemmerman and Rafael Ynoa, and see if the Dodgers have their next shortstop in either of those players.

Jake Lemmerman was a 5th round pick by the Dodgers out of the University of Duke (where his offensive statistics were very mediocre) who destroyed the Pioneer League after signing and moved into full season ball at the start of 2012. After a decent offensive performance in A + Rancho Cucamonga (105 OPS +, 104 wOBA +), he got his first taste of AA in 2011 and then spent the whole year there in 2012. While he put up the same kind of numbers in AA (104 OPS +, 104 wOBA +), nearly all of his damage was done at home (.206 ISO versus a .078 ISO on the road). The AA Chattanooga park is a pretty hitter friendly park compared to the rest of the Southern League (105 Park Factor in 2012, 109 in 2011), particularly when it comes to doubles (it is basically neutral when it comes to homers). Doubles are Lemmerman's game (just 7 homers, 4 at home, 3 on the road in 2012), as he was tied for 5th in the Southern League. 24 of those doubles came at home, just 5 of them came on the road. He did have a larger GB % on the road, and his K/BB wasn't as good either, but the park accounts for at least as much as the doubles as those variables do.

He is considered a good contact guy, but that didn't exactly play out in 2012 as he struck out 21.8% of the time. He doesn't seem to be a platoon player, as despite the fact that he is better against LHP, he has held his own against RHP, only seeing slight decreases in rates. He has sort of a weird leg kick to begin his swing but still manages to use good bat control to get the bat on the ball most of the time.

Lemmerman played a little 2nd base, but played mainly shortstop. FRAA thinks he played above average there while range factor had him below average.
You see a lot of things like "good instincts" and "knowledge" when it comes to Lemmerman (what you might expect from a major college shortstop drafted relatively high). However, you see a lot of things like "lack of range and speed" and skepticism as to whether or not he will stick at short. This shows in things like steals. Lemmerman had just 8 steals, but was not caught stealing (5.1 speed score). The arm is considered anywhere from average to good in the field.

Rafael Ynoa is a couple years older than Lemmerman at age 25, and he was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Dodgers back in '06, where he would stay through 2007. Evidently unconcerned with the mediocre showing with the bat there, the Dodgers brought him to the states where he would eventually make it to AA to start the 2012 season. His offensive season was just slightly worse than Lemmerman's (106 wRC +, 102 wOBA +, 99 OPS +), but offense has clearly not been Ynoa's strong point, as he was league average in Class A in 2010, pretty bad offensively in A + the next year, and has a career OPS just under .700 (with a SLG under .350). This means he will have to make up for his bat with other tools. While Lemmerman has appeared towards the bottom of almost all of the Dodgers scouting reports, Ynoa has been mostly absent.

He split time almost equally between 2nd and SS, which is probably not good news for Ynoa since it is seen as questionable as to whether Lemmerman will stick there. When Ynoa played in the Arizona Fall League, he played mainly 2nd base. Both range factor and FRAA had Lemmerman as the better defender, but Ynoa has been positive in that category for most of his minor league career. He has also shown some speed as well, with a 6.0 Speed Score in AA and 6.8 in the Arizona Fall League with 30 steals and 12 caught stealings in all.

Ynoa didn't have the splits Lemmerman had, and if you only look at the road statistics for the two, Ynoa was not only better, he was considerably better. Even though he is a switch hitter, he is quite a bit better from the left side, walking less, striking out less, and hitting for more power. It seems he likes to stand in the back of the batters box and goes from leaning on his front foot to leaning back before the ball is pitched. This gets his hips in a strange position, almost like he is batting from a closed stance (even though it doesn't appear that his feet are "agreeing" with his hips). The actual motion of the swing is clean, and the bat seems quick enough, with a pretty large sweeping uppercut. He doesn't have big strikeout rates and has a pretty normal GB/FB/LD/IFB, so it doesn't seem that the uppercut or swing is a problem. It just doesn't generate a lot of power for whatever reason (it is not like he is exceptionally small, listed at 6-0, 180). Plate discipline is not an issue either, as he has posted good walk rates to go with his relatively low strikeout rates through out his career. I would love to get a look at more advanced batted ball data (spray charts/average batted ball distance/etc.), because it seems that he should be a better hitter than he is. The mechanical problems listed above may explain a good deal, and I wonder if they are fixable or whether he has been playing too long to be able to make a large change in his mechanics.

While both of these players have the potential to help the Dodgers, but I don't think either will have a large impact barring a few different injuries to the infield (or more likely, the abandonment of Hanley Ramirez at short, moving him somewhere else and Cruz being unable to repeat his 2012 success). They certainly seem like an organization that isn't going to try to plug holes with minor leaguers, which is why I have been surprised to not hear them linked to the middle infielders on the free agent market. As for long term potential, the two obviously have more value at shortstop than they do at 2nd base. I am not sold on Lemmerman's bat, which really makes me skeptical of him as anything more than an okay utility option (more likely a journeyman type). To me, the big thing for Ynoa will be his defense. Even if he doesn't improve with his bat, a switch hitting middle infielder that can run and field will always be able to find a utility job.

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