Contemplating the Oklahoma City Dodgers’ Keys to Success

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(Mandatory Credit: Cody Roper/Oklahoma City Dodgers)

Despite a recent series struggle against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Oklahoma City Dodgers have been the gem of the PCL this season as they still control the American Northern division and lead the entire league with a 24-12 record.

It’s hard to point a finger at one particular thing that’s working right for OKC, especially when considering the overwhelming number of players who have been shuttled to and from the big league roster during the early parts of the 2018 campaign.

While we’ve already touched upon the impact that journeyman lefty Manny Banuelos has had on the team, another member of the Oklahoma City rotation, veteran righty Justin De Fratus, has had an impressive season of his own, having been named the PCL Pitcher of the Week on Monday.

The 30-year-old righty began the season at Tulsa, and after being promoted to OKC in mid-April, made his first 2018 Triple-A start against Round Rock a month ago. In some perspectives, the Banuelos/De Fratus top-of-the-rotation combination is already drawing comparisons to last year’s dominating, veteran combo of Wilmer Font and Justin Masterson.

De Fratus threw the PCL’s first nine-inning, complete-game shutout of the season against Memphis last Friday. He retired 16 of the first 17 hitters he faced and 26-of-31 total, only needing 89 pitches to secure the CG. De Fratus scattered four hits, didn’t walk a batter and tallied three strikeouts. De Fratus’ gem was the first nine-inning shutout by an Oklahoma City pitcher since Jake Buchanan did it on May 20, 2014.

Ironically, while with the Drillers, De Fratus was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week back on April 15—the only other time in his career that he earned POTW honors. The Oxnard, California native has made 191 career Major League appearances, all with the Phillies, which whom he began he career.

Yet, besides Banuelos and De Fratus, there have been plenty of other significant contributors, despite all the players having been jettisoned to the big league squad, and especially when considering that Andrew Toles and Rob Segedin have missed a good portion of the first month with injuries.

Utility infielder Donovan Solano is leading the team in hitting with a .352 average and a .407 on-base percentage. With smaller sample sizes due to their promotions, the trio of Tim Locastro, Breyvic Valera and Max Muncy are right there behind Solano as far as averages go. Outfielder Henry Ramos has been another workhorse on offense so far, having tallied 36 hits, including seven doubles, two triples and three long balls, not to mention his team-leading 22 RBI and six stolen bases. Versatile outfielder Alex Verdugo has already proven he has the skills to shine at both the Triple-A and big league levels.

Even the catching tandem of Cael Brockmeyer and Rocky Gale are hitting .415 and .326 respectively after both having seemingly cool starts to their campaigns.

While Brian SchlitterPat Venditte and Edward Paredes have been the chief arms in the relief crew, young righty Joe Broussard has settled down nicely recently, having reduced his ERA more than three full points after lingering around the 6.00 mark in April. While Venditte and Paredes have both already made major league appearances this year, Broussard is now tied for the team lead with 15 appearances.

But perhaps the most important cog in the wheel has been the club’s venerable manager, Bill Haselman.

Haselman is unique in the sense that he’s a mid-generation leader who has a distinct blend of both old school and new school ideals. He was a journeyman catcher who played with four different clubs over a 13-year major league career, most notably being Roger Clemens‘ personal catcher in Boston and having caught the legendary Randy Johnson in Seattle. Ask him who the most talented player he’s ever seen on the field is, and without hesitation, he’ll tell you it’s his former teammate and Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr

In four short years, he’s accelerated through the ranks of the Dodgers farm system, having been promoted to manage Rancho Cucamonga in 2015, then heading to the PCL the following year to manage Oklahoma City. In his first year with OKC, he led his squad to the 2016 PCL Championship, but was eventually defeated by his counterparts, skipper and former Dodger catcher Rod Barajas and the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Haselman proclaims that his prime objective on the Dodgers’ farm is to make the road easier for players when transitioning from minor league ball to the majors, stating that the highest priority of the organization is the development of homegrown players.

“We try to teach them to guide themselves through the game—to develop them into players who think on their own, make decisions on their own, and make adjustments on their own. We don’t want to control them,” Haselman said. “We want them to learn how to make the right decisions and really learn how to play the game of baseball.”

Garnering an overwhelming amount of respect and esteem from his players, Haselman has led his team to its league championship series in three of his last five seasons as a minor league manager. Once the dust settles, there’s a very good chance the club will return to the dance this season, despite the big league squad’s high demand for OKC’s best players.

If there’s indeed such a thing as team chemistry or continuity, there’s no question it can be found with Haselman and the Oklahoma City Dodgers.

 

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12 thoughts on “Contemplating the Oklahoma City Dodgers’ Keys to Success

  1. So THAT’S who’s been primarily responsible for the AAA OKC Dodgers’ incredible start to their season this year! Bill Haselman, eh? Gonna remember that name the moment ownership finally gets fed up with the three-headed monster of Friedman, Zaidi, and Roberts after this season. It seems like he’s EXACTLY what’s been missing from the parent club dating back the last couple years, someone who doesn’t completely toss out years of hard-earned baseball experience for the latest in non-stop sabermetric madness!

    Back to that OKC ballclub, I’ve been following them ever since Day 1 this season and let me tell you this about ’em: they REALLY started getting on a roll down there when Haselman finally slotted Tim Locastro and Andrew Toles in the No. 1 and 2 spots in the batting order. The amount of damage those two caused up there was eye-opening! Damn shame Toles is still out with injury (unless it turns out to be another cheap ploy by management to keep Joc Pederson around a little longer, boy I better be wrong about that one…) because he had no business being down there in the first place and the decision to send him back down there right after ST in favor of Pederson has already cost the big-league Dodger club quite a bit in the W-L column ever since.

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    1. Another player not many people are talking about is Henry Ramos. I betcha he could be starting for s few of those lower-level clubs. One thing he does need to prove, though, is that he can stay healthy.

      I have tons of respect for Haselman.

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      1. So do I, for that matter. Not sure where Ramos fits in the Dodgers’ grand scheme of things, but there’s no denying he’s having himself a season to remember. I remember one stretch earlier on this season, he was so locked in at the plate there was just no way the opposition could get him out down there and ended up carrying the club for a good week or so as a result. And now they finally brought up overlooked talent in Kyle Garlick (guy seems to be hitting a longball every other game of late, it seems) and Jacob Scavuzzo from AA Tulsa just recently. I’m sure Haselman’s already got ideas on how to get the most out of ’em. Can’t wait for Edwin Rios and a rehabbing Julio Urias to rejoin that club at some point as well. Speaking of Rios, he could end up becoming a key trade piece ala Willie Calhoun last season since the Dodgers have no room for him with Turner and Bellinger deeply rooted at 3B and 1B respectively. I wonder if they can get another proven high-leverage bullpen arm in return for him, hmm…

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      2. Ramos could be starting for a lower level club, eh? I hate to say this Dennis, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are a lower level ballclub right now. Maybe we should just do a 25 for 25 trade. L.A. for OKC.

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  2. The only thing that matters about the OKC Dodgers is how they can help the Los Angeles Dodgers. So far everyone they’ve sent up has looked like what they are – 4A replacement players. We need help, and if OKC can’t offer it maybe we have to dip into the AA pool.

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  3. True. But I’m willing to bet there are thousands that do live there and don’t give a rat’s ass about the OKC Dodgers.

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    1. As of today I’m sure you could make the same statement about L.A. and the Los Angeles Dodgers. If my math is correct, we have now officially reached the threshold of having lost 60% of our league (non playoff) games since last Sept 1st. Quite an impressive feat for a 100 win team. When they’re good they’re really good, but when they’re bad……………………..

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      1. This is what all or nothing looks like Jeff. This is what is being taught in LA. Swing for the fences no matter the count, no matter the situation. Exit velocity + launch angle = K.

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      2. Do any of you know if we’re striking out a lot more this year? It doesn’t seem like it to me although I could be very wrong. It’s like Doc and the players keep saying, one day the pitching is good and the defense and base running are bad. The next day the offense is good and pitching is bad. They just aren’t putting things together. Is the horrible production with men in scoring position mostly k’s because they’re swinging for the fences or contact but no results? I have no idea. Maybe someone else does.

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