Out of Options: The Futures of Four Dodgers

Pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch this Tuesday, and many players have already arrived in Arizona for Spring Training. It’s usually a time for optimism and anticipation. A fresh slate of a season gives both the ball players and fans a renewed sense of hope. It’s another chance to win the World Championship. But there is a lot of hard work to be done before we can even begin to think about Fall. The team must be assembled, and both returning Dodgers and newly signed players must meld together and learn to play as a well-oiled machine of a team in order to compete to Major League standards.

There will be many underlying stories this Spring. It will become apparent who is in and who is out once play commences in the Cactus League. We already know how most of the roster will fill out, but there’s always that last spot or two which can be won or lost during Spring Training.

There are four Dodgers who are out of Minor League options: Ramon Troncoso, Scott Elbert, Blake Hawksworth, and A.J. Ellis. These players who are currently on the 40-man roster are those who have less than five years of service time. They must clear waivers before being sent down to the minors. This means that this Spring is even more important to these four since they will be vying for a spot on the roster and ultimately battling for their livelihood as a Dodger. Let’s take a closer look at these four to see where their future may lay.

 Scott Elbert

May 30, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Scott Elbert (57) pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

 

Career statistics (through 2011 season)

Win-Loss

2-2

Earned run average

4.37

Strikeouts

63

 

Scott Elbert is most definitely making the team since the Dodgers do not have any other lefty out of the pen after Hong-Chih Kuo signed with the Seattle Mariners this offseason. The 26-year old was chosen by the Dodgers in the 1st round of the 2004 MLB Draft. After success in the minors, Elbert made his MLB debut with the Dodgers on August 29, 2008. He pitched in 10 games for the Dodgers that season, and in 2009 he was named the Dodgers “Minor League Pitcher of the Year.” He pitched  for both the AA Chattanooga Lookouts and the AAA Isotopes before appearing in 19 games with the Dodgers. He also pitched in Game 3 of the 2009 NLCS. In 2010 he started in AAA and was briefly called up to the Dodgers and promptly optioned back to Albuquerque after walking three left-handed batters on May 28th. In 2011 Elbert once again started in AAA, but was called up to the Dodgers on May 11th in order to help out in the pen since Kuo had so many problems. Elbert pitched in 47 games  and finished with a 2.43 ERA in 33.1 innings with two saves and 34 strikeouts. Although still a bit green, Elbert will essentially be the primary left-handed specialist in the bullpen for the Dodgers this season.

A.J. Ellis

 

Jul 6, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (17) bats against the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

 

Career statistics (through 2011 season)

Batting average

.262

Home runs

2

Runs batted in

28

 

A.J. Ellis will be the Dodgers’ primary catcher this season. He finally gets his chance to be an everyday player. Matt Treanor will be his backup, and FedEx could see some time with the Dodgers as well. The 30-year old backstop was picked in the 18th round of the 2003 Draft by the Dodgers. He made his MLB debut on September 15, 2008. Since 2008 Ellis has primarily been the catcher for the Albuquerque Isotopes, but he has been called up to the Dodgers numerous times only to be optioned back down again. Last season he played in 31 games for the Dodgers, and he hit his first two big league homers. There will be no flight to or from Albuquerque for A.J. this year.

 

Blake Hawksworth

Jul 29, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Blake Hawksworth (36) delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

 

Career statistics (through 2011 season)

Win-Loss

10–13

Earned run average

4.07

Strikeouts

124

 

Blake Hawksworth, the 28-year old Canadian right-handed pitcher, was acquired by the Dodgers on November 30, 2010 in the trade that sent Ryan Theriot packing to St. Louis. Hawksworth appeared in 49 games in relief with the Dodgers in 2011 finishing with a 2-5 record and a 4.08 ERA. Hawksworth struggled in the second half last season, and reportedly was bothered by a reoccurring hip injury. Last month Hawksworth underwent elbow surgery, and he is supposed to be ready by Spring Training. If Hawk is healthy, he should make the team. For insurance the Dodgers signed Todd Coffey recently who can pitch middle relief or long relief if needed which is a role Hawksworth had last season.

 

Ramon Troncoso

Sep. 28, 2011; Phoenix AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher

 

Career statistics (through 2011 season)

Win-Loss

8-8

Earned run average

3.92

Strikeouts

141

 

Then we come to Ramon Troncoso. Interestingly, he is now the second longest-tenured Dodger after James Loney. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent on June 20, 2002 by the Dodgers. He played his first three professional seasons with the Dodgers’ Dominican Summer League. Troncoso pitched very well in the Dodgers’ farm system, and he was a good prospect back in 2006. He made his MLB debut on April Fool’s Day, 2008. The following year Ramon pitched great. He pitched in 73 games, a team high. Perhaps he was overused by Joe Torre, because Troncoso would not be able to recreate his 2009 season.  He finished with a 5-4 record and a very good 2.72 ERA. In 2010 he played in 52 games and had a 2-3 record with a 4.33 ERA. 2011 was pretty much a disaster for Troncoso. He began the season with the AAA Isotopes, but was called up on April 16 when Kuo was placed on the DL. He only lasted 5 days after he allowed 12 hits in only 2 2/3 innings. He rejoined the Dodgers briefly later in September, and he had an embarrassing outing during the last game of the season against the D-Backs. If you don’t remember that inning vividly, Troncoso came in to pitch the bottom of the 9th for some unknown reason and proceeded to serve up the following: two singles, followed by a wild pitch, a walk, then a grand slam to Cole Gillespie, then for good measure a homerun to Henry Blanco. Mattingly finally brought in Kenley Jansen to shut the game and season down. Honestly I’m not quite sure why the Dodgers are hanging on to Troncoso.

Who do you think will make the team? Will Troncoso be able to resurrect his Dodger career? We’ll have the answers soon. Join us for complete Spring Training coverage.

Topics: A.J. Ellis, Blake Hawksworth, Los Angeles Dodgers, Ramon Troncoso, Scott Elbert

Want more from Lasorda's Lair?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.