Layne Somsen is perhaps not the answer most would have given to the question. However, he is the answer for the pitcher with the most innings thrown, yet to allow an earned run. In the early 2017 season, from a statistical standpoint, the righty reliever is the best pitcher in the Dodgers system. Somsen, who made his MLB debut nearly one year ago (May 14, 2016) for the Cincinnati Reds, has pitched in his first 9 games of this season, 14.2 innings, without yielding an earned run. Layne Somsen has always had a low earned run average in his minor league career (2.57). The Yankton South Dakota native had a bump in the road last season with Oklahoma City, his uncharacteristically high ERA and WHIP in 6 games indicated a problem. He was placed on the disabled list for the rest of the 2016 campaign.
The Dodgers of Oklahoma City have a bullpen that some MLB teams would love to have. Layne Somsen is a name that is sometimes overlooked among the bunch of bigger, more flashy names. Somsen, obviously over his injuries of a year ago, has been one of the most consistent relievers in all of baseball to this point in 2017. It has not been easy. Baseball, particularly in the PCL, never is. The Jackrabbit Alum has had his share of walks (6) and hits (9) allowed, he has worked out of jams and had many chances to keep the opposing hitters from driving in runs.
If Layne Somsen continues his assault on opposing batters in the PCL, we may see him and his tenacious spirit on the mound in Los Angeles well before the September call ups. Lots of injuries and stuff would need to happen, certainly not wishing that upon any MLB team. It would be nice to see Layne helping the Dodgers bullpen this year, in Oklahoma and in Los Angeles. For fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers, its a comfort to know that dependable relievers like Somsen are only a flight away.
The Quakes took on the San Jose Giants in a morning weekday game at the Epicenter in Rancho. Starting for the Dodgers single A affiliate is Walker Buehler, the 1st round draft pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt. Buehler has made three starts so far this season, he has pitched 3 innings in each start. Entering todays game he had not allowed an earned run and had recorded 15 K’s in his 9 innings of work. The San Jose Giants will counter with RHP Jake McCasland who is 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA.
Drew Saylor’s club has a five game winning streak entering today and have been perfect so far at home. The Quakes are 8 – 0 (before game) at the Epicenter in Rancho Cucamonga. They look to continue that streak this afternoon against the Giants. Will Smith looks to extend his hot hitting. Will was the California League Player of the Week last week, as he hit safely in all seven games played.
Buehler and the Pen
Walker Buehler started off the morning looking sharp and throwing hard. Jalen Miller hit a lazy grounder to shortstop. Buehler then struck out the next Giants batter, Ryan Howard. Walker finished the inning easily enough by inducing a weak liner to Drew Jackson at short. The hard throwing right hander used only fastballs in the first frame. Walker Buehler struck out the first two batters in the second inning before getting Jose Vizcaino Jr. to ground out softly to Brandon Montgomery at 3B. The second was a breeze for the Quakes righty, he mixed in a couple of breaking balls in the top of the second. Walker worked quickly today, and for the most part, stayed ahead of Giants hitters. To leadoff the third inning, Giants catcher Matt Winn crushed a triple off the wall in right field. The next batter got sawed off on a sharp inside fastball, still the ball grounded past the mound and Buehler gave up his first run of 2017 as Winn came home. Buehler got a pitch in on leadoff hitter Jalen Miller’s hands and he lined softly to 2B to end the 3rd. Ryan Howard led off the 4th with a pop out to 1B. Then an uncharacteristic sequence from Buehler, as he walked the DH Bryan Reynolds on 4 pitches. Then Walker walked LF Gio Brusa. Then, the next batter, Buehler struck out Jonah Arenado the last batter he would face. That would be the day for Walker Buehler as Manager Drew Saylor went to Wes Helsabeck to get out of the situation. Walker Buehler exits with runners at 1st and 2nd and two out in the top of the 4th. He had thrown 53 pitches and 35 strikes.
Wes Helsabeck comes in with 1st and 2nd, two out to face Jose Vizcaino Jr. and he struck him out of three pitches to escape the jam. Vizcaino Jr. had to have been looking for something other than the 0 – 2 fastball. He watched strike three go by and Helsabeck did his job. The entire bullpen did for that matter. Helsabeck threw two more effective innings to pick up the victory today. Alex Hermeling came in and worked a perfect frame and had a strike out along the way. Hermeling with the hold, and passed the ball to Shea Spitzbarth. Shea worked two innings to earn his 5th save of the young season. The Giants did not go without a fight in the 9th. Spitzbarth was tough as nails, and although one run did score, he shut the door with a strikeout of Jalen Miller for a final score of 3 – 2. Quakes win!
Luke Raley got the Quakes offense started early. He led off the 2nd inning with a stand up double. Ibandel Isabel moved Raley over to 3B with a deep fly to center, that was nearly misplayed by Fargas. Zach McKinstry with ground ball for an RBI, scoring Raley to make it 1 – 0 Quakes. Third inning, Drew Jackson draws a lead off walk. Jackson got caught stealing in what appeared to be a busted hit and run. Will Smith eventually struck out swinging. Then with two out D.J.Peters crushed a HR over the left center 432′ wall. It was a bomb on a 1-2 pitch, a fastball. 2 – 1 Quakes. Bottom 6th, Garrett Kennedy with, what turned out to be the game winning RBI, on a double that scored Ibandel Isabel and made the game 3 – 1 at that time. This was a team victory, offense, defensive and pitching. One more at home, then the Quakes go back on the road and head out to Lancaster to face the Jethawks for a three game set.
Great Lakes offense is beginning to heat up with the weather. Game time temperature tonight at Dow Diamond in Midland Michigan, 70 degrees. A warm April evening in the Midwest League. As the mercury rises, so will the team’s collective batting average. This is the Loons third win in a row and moves their record to 8 – 11 on the young season. Tonight’s game marked a couple of firsts for the Dodgers Class A affiliate. It was their first shutout of the year, scattering four hits to the Lake County Captains. It was also the first inning the Loons had scored more than three runs in a frame. They scored 8 runs in the 6th inning of this game. By far the best offensive inning of the young campaign. This was a case of both the offense and pitching coming together for Jeremy Rodriguez’s club.
Devin Smeltzer was at the top of his game on Tuesday evening. He worked fast and stayed ahead in counts. He matched the Captains starter, Shane Beiber, pitch for pitch in the early going. Devin really had the slider and fastball working to both sides of the plate, as well as vertically. Smeltzer set a career high with his 8 strike outs. He only allowed 2 hits in his 6 innings of work and perhaps more importantly, zero walks. The left handed pitcher from Mt. San Jacinto junior college in Texas, earned his first victory of the season and lowered his ERA to 1.50 in 18 innings. He now has 21 strike outs to only 2 base on balls. His WHIP is 0.61 and he has surrendered just 9 hits in those 18 innings worked. He was so good tonight he even picked a runner off from first base.
Brendon Davis had another multi hit game. He had a multi hit inning in the explosive 6th inning for the Loons. Davis smashed a solo HR to left center, and then hit once more in the 6th. This time Brendon had the bases loaded and he delivered a clutch single to drive in 2 more Loons. At that point, making the score 7 – 0.
The Loons had contributions from all members of the starting line-up on this night. Even the players without hits either scored a run or drove one in. Nick Yarnall made his debut with Great Lakes and he drove in the games first run with an RBI fielders choice in the 5th inning. He also played a solid first base. Welcome to the club. Miguel Urena also debuted for the Loons, he pitched three scoreless to earn a save in his first appearance.
Players who had not been hitting, or at least in the box score, had those hits fall in, in tonight’s contest. Oneil Cruz had 2 hits. Cody Thomas had two hits, a single and an RBI double. Mitchell Hansen broke out with a 3 hit night as well. Of course, Carlos Rincon kept up his hot hitting, going 3 – 5 with one run scored and driven in. Fun night at Dow Diamond for the Loons and their fans. They return to battle for four wins in a row tomorrow in Midland, one more before the road. Go Loons!!
BATTING 2B: Thomas (2, Martinez, H). HR: Davis, B (2, 6th inning off Bieber, 0 on, 0 out). TB: Rincon, C 3; Cruz, O 2; Ruiz, K 2; Thomas 3; Davis, B 5; Hansen 3. RBI: Yarnall (1); Davis, B 3 (10); Hansen 2 (2); Ruiz, K (6); Rincon, C (15); Thomas (10). 2-out RBI: Davis, B 2; Rincon, C; Thomas. Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Cruz, O; Lux 2; Davis, B 2. Team RISP: 8-for-17. Team LOB: 8.BASERUNNING SB: Thomas (1, 2nd base off Bieber/Ice).
Great Lakes, single A affiliate of the Dodgers, and defending league champs, have won two straight games as they begin to warm up along with the weather. It has been a cold start to the Midwest League for the entire region. Average temperatures in the 40’s, wind chill factors below that, with the occasional game snowed out. That chill has certainly extended to the Loons bats. Until Luis Paz got hot the last couple games, with his walk off home run on Sunday and 3-4 performance yesterday, he was hitting south of .100. At a glance it would appear many players have had a tough time at the plate to begin the young season. Oneil Cruz, Mitchell Hansen, Cody Thomas and Gage Green all have batting averages below .200 currently. To only peak at the box score would ignore the quality at-bats that these young men are having and hard contact they’re making. Some of the outs are smashed, but, right at a defender. Loons fans have seen all of these players hit some scorchers, unless they fall in for a hit, the box score still shows a zero for that plate appearance. You can’t see minor league development from numbers alone. Perhaps the most perspective one could truly attain on these players, and the team as a whole, is to speak with their leader. Loons Manager Jeremy Rodriguez told me, “this team doesn’t quit. They have a lot of heart, a lot of energy, a lot of passion and that’s all I really want from my guys.”
Jeremy Rodriguez, born in Burbank and grew up in Southern California, is in his first season with the Dodgers Organization after spending the last seven years with the Padres. He was a minor league catcher for five seasons and Managed for the Friars’ Dominican Summer League team the last two years. Before his professional career, Rodriguez played collegiately at California State University, Bakersfield. He prepped at Crespi High in Encino. Before he played for a varsity team, before he attended high school, Jeremy took lessons on baseball and hitting from Reggie Smith. Perhaps there is no one more qualified to impart knowledge on the game than Mr. Smith. The Loons dropped their first four games of the season against the Lansing Lugnuts, before winning at Lake County 6-2 on April 10th. Win number one for the Padres former 16th round draft pick, the Roadrunner alum responded, “Great experience for me to get that first one as a Dodger and the first one in the United States. Definitely awesome to get it out of the way, the guys really pulled together and it was great.” Wondering about such an achievement, I asked who he felt shares in that victory with him? “My father,” was his statement after telling me that he could go on for a half hour about all the people that helped him along the way. Jeremy continued, “he was my number one coach my whole life, still is.” The Manager at Midland went on to speak of his high school coach at Crespi, the late Scott Muckey, and his coaches while in college, Bill Kernen and Joey Robinson. “I have been very blessed with a good group of coaches.” Pure baseball wisdom. Patience, a virtue for any Manager, particularly one managing 19 year old talent in the Midwest League. Jeremy has that engrained in his baseball DNA. A true benefit for the development of the Loons players of today and the future.
In our interview from spring training last month, Interview with Jeremy Rodriguez ST ’17 , we spoke about players who’s talent “jumped out” at him. Carlos Rincon and Keibert Ruiz were two names the former catcher mentioned immediately. Rincon has started the 2017 season as the Loons most productive and arguably most consistent hitter thus far. He and Brendon Davis, .333 and .327 respectively, are the main-stays of the lineup in this young season. When scouting reports begin to circulate about you, as they have about Rincon, the true tests come. The Midwest League has already begun to pitch him differently. Rincon, like any young power hitting prospect, must make the necessary adjustments. According to his Manager, Rincon is passing his early tests. “He is learning, which is great!” Rodriguez added, “he is making adjustments.” Those are high remarks from the skipper about his young hitting protégé. Rincon has seen much more off speed and breaking balls lately. He has remained on the ball, with his weight back. Going deep in counts and hitting the ball sharply. Carlos Rincon is the #24th ranked prospect on the Dodgers very talented Top 30 List.
Keibert Ruiz is also ranked on that list, #13. The young catcher from Venezuela that the Dodgers organization is so excited about has shown great promise early. In late March, Manager Rodriguez said, “I expect my catchers to take control of the defense and the pitching staff. I expect great communication and leadership.” That department has not been a concern for the Loons as Ruiz and Steve Berman have been more than effective in handling the pitching staff. Watching Ruiz behind the plate, his footwork, poise, and framing abilities, it is easy to see why he is valued so highly. Catching and defense may be the first thoughts when the name Keibert Ruiz is mentioned, but his at bats have been solid as well. The young backstop has come up with some important run producing at bats. As Jeremy Rodriguez noted, “he clutched up that at bat! He grinded it out.” We had been speaking of Keibert’s recent 6th inning at bat, with 2 outs,and Rincon at 3B. Ruiz had a 9 pitch at bat before stroking a single to centerfield. When the Manager confirms it as a “professional” at-bat, you know it’s accurate.
Loons Pitching Well
The Loons pitching staff have shown early success and strides to keep pitch counts down and limit runs. Starting pitching, in particular has been especially consistent and impressive. Led by A.J. Alexy and Jordan Sheffield , the staff has kept the Loons in position to give the team a chance at a victory. Dustin May (2.93 ERA) and Devin Smeltzer (2.25 ERA) have also had great starts to the ’17 season. Parker Curry and Willian Soto have pitched “lights out” coming from the bullpen. Jeremy Rodriguez and his catching staff have some of the most highly touted pitching prospects in the system, pitching for them. That’s got to be a good feeling, especially in comparison to the cold of the Midwest League. I asked the general of the Loons dugout about one of his youngest starting pitchers. The Skipper describes A.J. Alexy in this way, “He competes…like every time he goes up there I can never tell if he has his best stuff or he has his worst stuff that day because of his confidence on the mound, his attitude and the way he goes about his business. That’s something I have been impressed with especially for such a young pitcher.” As far as compliments a Manager could bestow on a young pitcher, this quote is among the best. It will be interesting to watch these young pitchers develop this season.
If the hitting can heat up and match the pitching, this team will be doing plenty of winning this season. However, the best thing that can happen to these players is to stay injury free and to develop. These young men will benefit from the experience that Jeremy Rodriguez brings to the clubhouse and the field. He has played in countless games behind the plate, for some of the most knowledgeable coaches baseball has to offer. The Dodgers family as a whole benefits from the new Loons Field Manager. Two more games at Dow Diamond versus Lake County, then the Loons travel to Dayton to play a four game set against the Reds affiliate. No shortage of talent on this roster! Go Loons and Go Dodgers!!
The piano man from Riverside is denied his first victory after another quality start tonight in Oklahoma City. Trevor Oaks had his usual efficient outing. Interview with Trevor at ST Working quickly and attacking the bottom of the strike zone, Oaks found the zone often in the first inning. He only needed 13 pitches (9 strikes) to maneuver through the top three in the Redbirds batting order. He induced a lazy fly ball to Trayce Thompson in center for the game’s first out, then got Hoffman and Voit to each strike out swinging to end an impressive opening frame. The 2nd inning was not an atypical Oaks effort, although he did recover to end the threat with the bases loaded. He hit a batter, with a cutter that moved four feet, and he walked a batter in the top of the 2nd as well. The bout of temporary wildness came after a one out single to Kelly, then Oaks hit Bader and walked Tovar. Trevor showed his poise and worked out of the jam in a calm but serious demeanor. Tommy Pham, the hottest hitter in the Memphis line-up, lead off the 3rd with a sharp single and Oaks would once again work from the stretch. No problem for the right handed sinker ball specialist, he proceeded to dispatch the next three Redbird hitters, numbers 2, 3 and 4 in the line-up. Oaks cruised through the 4th and the 5th innings respectively and had thrown 82 pitches at the end of 5 innings. The most he had thrown previously was in his last start, 79 pitches. Manager Bill Hasselman did not take any chances with his young ace and relied on the bullpen for the rest of the night.
The Dodgers offense, besides a first inning blast by O’Koyea Dickson, never got it together against the Memphis Redbirds on Saturday evening. Dickson crushed a fastball over the fence in left center field and it looked as though the Dodgers would be off and rolling from an offensive standpoint. It was not to be tonight as the Redbirds starter Daniel Poncedeleon was stingy with base runners, and matched Oaks inning for inning in the early going. Singles from Alex Verdugo, Darnell Sweeney and Charlie Culberson, the extent of the attack from the AAA Dodgers. After Poncedeleon, the Memphis bullpen came in for three perfect innings to ensure that OKC kept their bats from waking late. Trayce Thompson, still shaking off the rust from a short spring training, continued his batting of zero for 2017 so far between OKC and LA.
Joe Broussard pitched the 6th and 7th, and had a big strikeout of Tommy Pham, one of the hot hitters for Memphis to end the 7th scoreless with a runner at first. Layne Somsen enters in the 8th. Somsen, surrendered one hit but managed the 8th inning well to keep the Redbirds from advancing the runner or scoring. Both Broussard and Somsen were fantastic tonight. Their performances will get lost in the story of this game, but should be noted. Neither righty reliever has surrendered an earned run yet in 2017. Interview with Joe at ST
Then in the 9th the Redbirds got their bats going against RHP Brandon Morrow. Three straight singles and Memphis tied up the game, after all that fantastic pitching by Oaks, Broussard and Somsen. Two run single by Tommy Pham with the bases loaded made the score 3 – 1. With the anemic offense that lead seemed insurmountable. Then Huffman singled in two more for the Cardinals affiliate and the game really became out of control. 5 -1. Then Voit with an RBI single and it was a 6 – 1 deficit. Still no outs recorded by Brandon Morrow. He was never able to record an out. He faced seven batters, all reached base. Six hits, and a fielders choice that resulted in no outs as Morrow’s throw to third was late after he played the bunt. So the Dodgers had the lead going into the ninth 1-0, and lost after going quietly in the bottom of the 9th 6-1.
Fans, do not wait to watch Walker Buehler pitch in Rancho Cucamonga, if you do, you may regret it later. Not attempted to stoke any trade rumors, just trying to warn fans. The warning is this: Watch your stars before they are gone. Again, not a trade rumor, no insider information, just a plea to anyone reading. Go watch Walker Buehler pitch before he is moved up to Tulsa. Fans may have a few more starts with Buehler at the Dodgers Class High A affiliate in Rancho, but after that, he may just move along towards to big leagues. Tonight Walker Buehler threw only three innings, but they were three electrifying innings.
There was much more to the story on this night for the Quakes, but pitching still the prime topic as the bullpen was fantastic. Shea Spitzbarth came in to prolong the Lake Elsinore team’s strike out streak, that Buehler had started, by ringing up the first batter of the top of the fourth. Spitzbarth, already with 2 saves on the year finished the Padres minor league affiliate in order to conclude his work for the night. Dean Kremer came in for the next three innings for the Quakes. Although Kremer did surrender the three runs the Storm scored on the night, his stuff looked great and he did strike out five batters in his three innings of work. Wes Helsabeck came on in relief in the 8th inning. He worked both the 8th and the 9th, the lefty from North Carolina was certainly on his game tonight. He struck out the side in both innings to earn his first save of the season. The Quakes pitching staff ended up striking out 20 Storm batters on Saturday night.
Quakes Offense Keeps Rumbling
Drew Jackson drove in the games first run in the bottom of the second when he singled to left field, Ibandel Isabel scored on the play. Luke Raley was thrown out at third on Jackson’s RBI base knock. The Quakes offense went back on the attack in the next inning as Will Smith smacked a triple off the wall in center field, scoring both DJ Peters and Yusniel Diaz. The Dodgers farm hands were now up 3-0. Next batter, Ibandel Isabel got a chance with Smith at third base and he capitalized, plating the young catching prospect with a fairly deep fly to left field. 4-0 Quakes until the next frame for Rancho, that’s when Drew Jackson came up and had Logan Landon in scoring position. Landon came around to score after Jackson singled sharply to left field. Drew Jackson, one of the newest prospects in the Dodgers organization ended up a great night. 2-4 2RBI’s and 2 clutch singles when his team needed them the most.
Back to Walker
Walker Buehler began the game by surrendering two singles. The first was a squib just past the pitchers mound to the right of Buehler. Omar Estevez, at shortstop, charged hard and attempted the bare-hand, but was unsuccessful. The next batter, Chris Baker singled to left field sharply and the Quakes found themselves in a jam early. Or so it seemed. You could see no emotion from the Quakes right handed pitcher, but you got the feeling he was none too happy. The Vanderbilt alum went to work. He got the next batter for the Storm, Josh Naylor, to fly out to left field. After that, no other pitch by Walker Buehler was put into play. Buehler went on to strike out the next two batters to complete the first inning and to get out of the first inning “situation.”
Walker Buehler did not stop there. He went on to strike out the side in not only the second inning, but also in the 3rd inning. Walker was dominate as he disposed of would-be hitters one by one. He had 8 strike outs, five looking, three swinging. Walker threw 53 total pitches and 37 of those were strikes.
Not sure how accurate the stadium radar gun reading is, but according to that, (besides breaking balls) Walker did not throw a fastball slower than 94 MPH. He was consistently in the 97-98 MPH range. It even registered 99 MPH once.
The Dodgers organization is being very careful with young prospect pitchers such as Mitch White and Walker Buehler. Walker was not allowed to continue his strike out streak in the fourth inning. Quakes Manager Drew Saylor took him out after his 53 pitches.
After the combined no-hitter in his last start, Mitch White gave up one hit, and more importantly, has still not given up a single earned run in his entire professional career. On a night when the Quakes complied 11 runs and racked up 17 hits, the story in the minds of many, is the future MLB star pitcher that was hurling seeds past 66ers hitters.
It was a balanced scoring attack from the Dodgers High Class A affiliate tonight. Every batter in the lineup had at least one base hit in the game. Most of the runs scored early. The Quakes scored three in the first and added one more in the second inning, to help attentions turn to the stud on the mound for the Rancho squad.
There are many ways to describe the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospect Mitch White. Thus far my favorite is the way his Manager, Drew Saylor, choses to paint the picture regarding his right handed pitcher. Coach quipped, “I have been describing him (Mitch White) like this, if your playing MLB 2017 (Video game) and if you were to develop a player, from a physical standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, grit, hardworking…the guy you create would be Mitchell White.” Full Chat with Manager SaylorAppropriate and accurate.
Mitch White has not only never allowed a run in his professional baseball career, in his last start, he did not allow a hit. He and Alex Hermeling combined for a 7 inning no-hitter, the first no-no in the Quakes 25 year career.
Mitch White came out of the gate as expected tonight, efficiently working through the Inland Empire line-up. As an example, White threw only 12 pitches in the first inning with 8 of those being strikes. You need to be at the top of your game to use only 12 pitches in one inning, especially while striking out two of the batters in that inning. That is how Mitch White began tonight’s game against the 66ers. That is also, pretty much the way he disposed of opposing batters all night.
White’s Line From Tonight
After three runs scored in the first and one more in the second, the early part of the game seemed to be in complete control with Mitch White mowing down batters with relative ease, or at least that’s how he made it look. White, although only facing the minimum amount of batters, did surrender both a hit and a walk. The base hit he gave up was erased quickly enough as the DH Jared Foster of Inland Empire tried to stretch the single into a double and was unsuccessful. In the 3rd inning, after a lead off walk by White, he bared down for the ground ball double play on the very next batter, Cody Ramer. That was the only signs of life from the Angles minor league affiliate against Mitch White in his five innings of work. The RHP from Santa Clara finished his dominate start after 5 innings. He struck out 6 batters to go with the 1 BB and 1 H that White allowed. He finished the night throwing 59 pitches, 37 of which were strikes. After speaking with a few of the many scouts in the crowd, the consensus was that White had topped out at 97 MPH, and stayed consistently around 93-95 with the fastball. Impressive performance for Mitch White, especially considering he still, has not allowed an earned run in his entire professional career. That is now 31 career innings without a base runner coming across and scoring an earned run. As a matter of fact, he has only allowed 1 unearned run in his career, with only 8 hits allowed. I spoke with Mitch after the game, and asked him what his secret has been, his humble response, ” Been working with Kip Wells (Quakes Pitching Coach).” Post Game Chat with Mitch WhiteA tremendous performance tonight, and an equally outstanding attitude. Look forward to seeing him pitch for the Dodgers for years to come. With outings like this, our chance to watch Mr. White in Rancho will be fading fast, he continues like this, Tulsa is not too far away!