VERO BEACH, Fla.â€”Baseball Americaâ€™s reigning Organization of the Year, the Dodgers fell to No. 6 in our annual organizational talent rankings this seasonâ€”primarily because they graduated so many players to the big leagues.
The system still boasts two of the top lefthanded pitching prospects in the game in Scott Elbert and Clayton Kershaw, an impact third baseman in Andy LaRoche, and an intriguing situation developing at shortstop as well.
Ivan DeJesus sits atop the depth chart at that positionâ€”even if Chin-Lung Hu has more professional experience under his belt. A 2005 second-rounder, DeJesus played in nine games in big league camp this spring and impressed the Dodgersâ€™ brass with his approach and demeanor as a 19-year-old kid playing in the middle of the diamond opposite Jeff Kent.
â€œIf you didnâ€™t know his age, you wouldnâ€™t have known this was a young kid that hadnâ€™t played above A ball playing in a big league game,â€ Dodgers manager Grady Little said. â€œHe has some kind of presence.â€
And aside from the defensive ability, DeJesus batted .375 in his brief big league stint and showed decent plate discipline against much more advanced pitching than heâ€™d ever seen before.
Though Hu struggled to find consistency with the bat last year at Double-A Jacksonvilleâ€”hitting .254/.326/.334 in 488 at-batsâ€”though his glove is the 23-year-oldâ€™s calling card by far.
â€œI saw him in the Arizona Fall League last year and this guy is truly a magician with the glove,â€ farm director DeJon Watson said. â€œBut he really just needs to get the bat going. Once we get the bat goingâ€”staying inside the ball and using the opposite field a little bitâ€”I think heâ€™s going to be OK.â€
But the shortstop picture doesnâ€™t stop there, as Los Angeles has even more pieces in place with 2006 supplemental round pick Preston Mattingly and righthanded hitting Mexican shortstop Francisco Lizarraga. (Lizarraga was originally a switch-hitter, but he’ll only be hitting from the right side from now on.)
A superior athlete, some scouts question whether Mattinglyâ€™s sizeâ€”heâ€™s already 6-foot-3, 205 pounds as a 19-year-oldâ€”will allow him to remain in the center of the diamond.
â€œPrestonâ€™s a tremendous athlete and I know heâ€™s big-bodied, but I think he has a chance to stick at shortstop,â€ Indians special assistant to the general manager Buck Showalter said. â€œVery interesting package of tools and intelligence. Iâ€™ve known him since he was about four years old though, so I might be a little biased.â€
Showalterâ€™s admitted bias aside, Mattingly certainly has the athleticism and aptitude to make an impact somewhere on the fieldâ€”maybe third base, maybe even a corner outfield spot if he outgrows his natural position.
Mattingly was an all-Indiana wide receiver in high school, and averaged 20 points per game on the basketball court, so the pieces are in place.
â€œFor me, this guy comes from a cold weather state where he hasnâ€™t been able to get outside much, heâ€™s made tremendous strides in a short period of time here,â€ Watson said. â€œHeâ€™s a basketball guy, so weâ€™re trying to use some basketball analogies with him for things like first-step quickness, being in control of the gameâ€”just learning the little nuances of playing the position.
â€œHeâ€™s still grasping and trying to learn things. Heâ€™s such a good athleteâ€”he ran a 6.6 60 (yard dash) the other day. And heâ€™s got a crazy vertical leapâ€”really good athlete with size, strength and quickness.”
And finally, there is Lizarraga. Signed out of Mexico by international uber scout Mike Brito in 2002, the 21-year-old also has an interesting package of tools.
A solid defender with plus range to both sides and above-average arm strength, the only question will be Lizarragaâ€™s bat. He hit .273 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season, and the club is still trying to instill the value of using the whole field in his approach.
â€œI think thereâ€™s some slashy bat potential there with some gap power in the future,â€ Watson said. â€œBut defensively heâ€™s a pretty polished kid with some skills.â€
â€¢ STOCKED PEN HELP: The Dodgers might be counting on righthanders Zach Hammes and Jonathan Meloan to come up and give them some innings out of the bullpen this season. Hammes, who opened just about every pair of eyes in Hawaii Winter Baseball last fall, has been reaching the upper 90s with his fastballâ€”he topped out regularly at 98-99 mph in Hawaiiâ€”and he complements that pitch with a hard, slurvy breaking ball.
Meloan, who went a combined 3-1, 1.90 with a 91-16 strikeout-walk ratio across three levels last season and then followed that performance up with a solid AFL season, could also be in the bullpen mix.
â€œHis fastball is solid-average to above-average at times,â€ Watson said. â€œHe has some life on his two-seamer but he really likes his four-seam fastball. Power curveball, power sliderâ€”heâ€™s got some swing-and-miss with his breaking ball.
â€œWeâ€™re going to stretch him out a little bit and get him some multiple innings over the course of the summer in case there is some need (in the big leagues) heâ€™s ready to goâ€”heâ€™s a guy theyâ€™ll be looking at.â€
â€¢ COX OUT: Bad news from Yankees camp yesterday, as righthanded reliever J. Brent Cox went down with an elbow injury that required surgery. The extent of the injury and subsequent surgery are not known, but a source from the club said that it was not Tommy John surgery. â€œWeâ€™re not really certain on a timetable for return as of now,â€ the source said. â€œBut noâ€”it was not Tommy John.â€
â€¢ BARTON HURTING: Indians outfielder Brian Barton has been struggling for the majority of the spring with a knee injury that occurred during instructional league last season. The injury actually goes back to early April last season when Barton was at high Class A Kinston, and it caused him to miss two weeks.
It doesnâ€™t sound like anything too seriousâ€”and there was no surgery involved. It does, however, sound like Bartonâ€™s been all over it since his rehab.
â€œHeâ€™s very much a student, not only of the game but also of his body and what it takes to be physically prepared,â€ Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. â€œHeâ€™s constantly thinking about itâ€”he was in the library non-stop after he got hurt trying to find as much information that would expedite the recovery period for his injury. Our main concern right now is whether or not heâ€™s seen enough live pitching.â€
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog