With spring training games now underway, Albuquerque fans will have a chance to catch some of the potential 2013 Isotopes on television.
A total of 17 Dodgers games will be televised this spring, though not all will be available in New Mexico. DirecTV users with the expanded sports package will be able to watch most of the games, as will anyone with an MLBTV account through MLB.com.
The earlier games will provide plenty of opportunities for minor-league players to suit up for the big-league team and play in front of manager Don Mattingly and his staff.
That long list of potential Isotopes include the following players, grouped by their primary position.
Catchers: Tim Federowicz, Eliezer Alfonzo, Wilkin Castillo, Ramon Castro, Jesus Flores, Matt Wallach.
Federowicz was the Isotopes’ starter last year, batting .294 with 11 home runs and 76 RBI. Since he is on the 40-man roster, most expect him to back up former Isotope A.J. Ellis in Los Angeles this season. Then again, the Dodgers could opt for one of the veterans so Federowicz can play everyday and continue to work on his hitting. Flores hit .213/.248/.329 with six home runs for the Nationals last season and might loom as the favorite. Wallach, the son of former Isotopes’ manager Tim Wallach, will probably joint he Isotopes as a backup. He hit just .232/.340/.321 Double-A Chattanooga last year.
First basemen: Nick Evans, J.T. Wise
Evans is a former New York Met who missed most of 2012 with a broken left hand after he was hit by a pitch early in the season. He has a reputation as a good defensive player and is more of a line-drive hitter than a home run threat. Wise is a former catcher who moved to first base at Chattanooga last year and hit .278/.377/.445 with nine home runs.
Second basemen: Joe Becker, Elian Herrera, Rusty Ryal, Rafael Ynoa
Herrera hit .341 for the Isotopes last year and can also play shortstop, third base and the outfield. Becker has served in a utility role the last two seasons in Albuquerque and elsewhere in the Dodgers’ system. Ryal is a former Diamondback who spent 2011 in Japan; he also plays third base and is one of the few left-handed hitters in the Isotopes’ player pool. Ynoa had a decent year at Chattanooga before shining in the Arizona Fall League.
Shortstops: Alfredo Amezaga, Dee Gordon, Ozzie Martinez, Justin Sellers
Gordon was the Isotopes’ starter in 2011, but after a rough year in Los Angeles he seems likely to return to Albuquerque to work on his throwing issues and improving his ability to get on base. Sellers has spent plenty of time in Albuquerque already; he is coming off back surgery. Amezaga is a former Marlin who hit .274/.336/.372 at Triple-A Iowa (Cubs) last year. He can play multiple positions. Martinez is a good defender who hit .255 in 39 games with the Isotopes last year.
Third basemen: Brian Barden, Elevys Gonzalez, Omar Luna, Dallas McPherson, C.J. Retherford
Gonzalez was picked up in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He only hit .206 between Double-A Altoona (Pirates) and Single-A Bradenton last year, so he seems like a longshot to make the roster. Luna played multiple positions at Double-A Montgomery (Rays) and hit .315 with 19 stolen bases. McPherson hit 42 home runs for the Isotopes in 2008; he only hit 17 last year, but seems to have put his past health issues behind him. The Dodgers are taking a long look at him at first base as well so far this spring. Retherford tore up the Single-A California League last year and did well in Venezuela over the winter. Barden spent the last two years in Japan. He has big-league experience with the Diamondbacks and Cardinals.
Outfielders: Matt Angle, Nick Buss, Alex Castellanos, Brian Cavazos-Galvez, Tony Gwynn Jr., Jeremy Moore, Kyle Russell, Blake Smith, Scott Van Slyke
Angle was the Isotopes’ starter in center field for most of 2012, but he could have trouble making the roster this time around. Castellanos had a big year (.328, 17 HR, 52 RBI) playing mostly second and third base, but he profiles as an outfielder. He has a legitimate shot at a bench spot with the Dodgers. Albuquerque native Cavazos-Galvez hit well (.354, 7 HR) with the Isotopes but could get squeezed out. Veteran Gwynn is still owed $1.2 million by the Dodgers even though he was removed from the 40-man roster. He represents center field insurance. Moore is a former Angels prospect who missed all of 2012 after hip surgery. He is healthy as of now. Van Slyke hit well (.327, 18 HR, 67 RBI) for Albuquerque last year, but he was dropped from the 40-man roster this offseason. Potential Double-A call-ups Buss, Russell and Smith will have a tough time cracking this roster, though all hit left-handed, unlike Castellanos, Cavazos-Galvez, Moore and Van Slyke.
Starting pitchers: Fabio Castro, Stephen Fife, Matt Magill, Matt Palmer, Mario Santiago
The thinnest group, unless some of the relievers below get stretched out or someone with minimal Double-A experience gets promoted. A big thing to watch this season will be how the new humidor at Isotopes Park helps the Isotopes’ pitchers lower their ERAs. Fife is the lone returning starter, coming off a decent year (11-7, 4.66 ERA). He will be the emergency starter for the Dodgers this season. Minor-league vets Castro and Palmer had ERAs of 5.60 and 5.66, respectively, last season. Santiago returns after a stint with the SK Wyverns in South Korea. Magill, who led the Southern League with 168 strikeouts last season, was named the Dodgers’ No. 9 prospect by Baseball America.
Relief pitchers: Juan Abreu, Geison Aguasviva, Steven Ames, Michael Antonini, Victor Garate, Kevin Gregg, Gregory Infante, Blake Johnson, Mark Lowe, Peter Moylan, Hector Nelo, Red Patterson, Paco Rodriguez, Wilmin Rodriguez, Cole St. Clair, Javier Solano, Shawn Tolleson, Luis Vasquez, Josh Wall, Sean White, Chris Withrow
Wall had 28 saves as the Isotopes’ closer last year and should return in that role. Antonini, Johnson and St. Clair also return, though all three could get stretched out as starters. Paco Rodriguez and Tolleson are vying for a spot in the big-league bullpen, but could get squeezed out. Aguasviva, a lefty, and right-handers Ames, Patterson, Solano and Withrow could move up from Double-A. Ames and Withrow are both on the 40-man roster. Among the free-agent signees, big-league vets Gregg, Lowe and Moylan might opt out at the end of the spring if not in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Nelo was a Rule 5 pickup. The rest are free-agent signees with varying degrees of ability.
Dodgers spring training will continue through March, at which point the Isotopes’ roster picture will come more into focus before being set for the April 4 season opener versus Iowa at Isotopes Park.