Los Angeles Dodgers: Top 10 Prospects

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Alan Matthews
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TOP TEN
PROSPECTS
1. Clayton, Kershaw, lhp
2. Andy LaRoche, 3b
3. Chin-Lung Hu, ss
4. Scott Elbert, lhp
5. Blake DeWitt, 3b
6. Chris Withrow, rhp
7. James McDonald, rhp
8. Jonathan Meloan, rhp
9. Delwyn Young, of
10. Pedro Baez, 3b
BEST
TOOLS
Best Hitter for Average Delwyn Young
Best Power Hitter Andy LaRoche
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Ivan DeJesus Jr.
Fastest Baserunner Jovanny Rosario
Best Athlete Scott Elbert
Best Fastball Clayton Kershaw
Best Curveball James McDonald
Best Slider Greg Miller
Best Changeup Cody White
Best Control James McDonald
Best Defensive Catcher A.J. Ellis
Best Defensive Infielder Chin-Lung Hu
Best Infield Arm Pedro Baez
Best Defensive Outfielder Jamie Hoffmann
Best Outfield Arm Xavier Paul
PROJECTED 2011
LINEUP
Catcher Russell Martin
First Base James Loney
Second Base Tony Abreu
Third Base Andy LaRoche
Shortstop Chin-Lung Hu
Left Field Delwyn Young
Center Field Matt Kemp
Right Field Andre Ethier
No. 1 Starter Clayton Kershaw
No. 2 Starter Chad Billingsley
No. 3 Starter Brad Penny
No. 4 Starter Scott Elbert
No. 5 Starter Derek Lowe
Closer Jonathan Broxton
TOP PROSPECTS
OF THE DECADE
Year Player, Position 2007
1998 Paul Konerko, 1b White Sox
1999 Angel Pena, c Camden (Atlantic Lg.)
2000 Chin-Feng Chen, of La New (Taiwan)
2001 Ben Diggins, rhp Out of baseball
2002 Ricardo Rodriguez, rhp Pirates
2003 James Loney, 1b Dodgers
2004 Edwin Jackson, rhp Devil Rays
2005 Joel Guzman, ss/3b Devil Rays
2006 Chad Billingsley, rhp Dodgers
2007 Andy LaRoche, 3b Dodgers
TOP DRAFT PICKS
OF THE DECADE
Year Player, Position 2007
1998 Bubba Crosby, of Reds
1999 Jason Repko, ss/of Dodgers
2000 Ben Diggins, rhp Out of baseball
2001 Brian Pilkington, rhp (2nd) Out of baseball
2002 James Loney, 1b Dodgers
2003 Chad Billingsley, rhp Dodgers
2004 Scott Elbert, lhp Dodgers
2005 *Luke Hochevar, rhp Royals
2006 Clayton Kershaw, lhp Dodgers
2007 Chris Withrow, rhp Dodgers
* Did not sign
LARGEST BONUSES
IN CLUB HISTORY
Clayton Kershaw, 2006 $2,300,000
Joel Guzman, 2001 $2,250,000
Ben Diggins, 2000 $2,200,000
Hideo Nomo, 1995 $2,000,000
Scott Elbert, 2004 $1,575,000
DODGERS
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Los Angeles Dodgers

If the Rockies proved anything during the 2007 season, it was that timing is everything. On Sept. 18, the Dodgers were fresh off series wins against the Padres and Diamondbacks and sat just 2 1⁄2 games back in the National League wild card race. But when Todd Helton hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off Takashi Saito, Colorado had completed a doubleheader sweep of Los Angeles.

The wins were the second and third of 11 straight for the Rockies, who went on to win the NL pennant. They also marked the beginning of the end for the Dodgers, who lost eight of their next 11 games and finished fourth in the NL West.

As Colorado’s blend of youth and experience peaked at the perfect time, Los Angeles’ was spoiling like month-old milk. Jeff Kent was outspoken about a clubhouse rift between disgruntled veterans and hungry up-and-comers, such as Matt Kemp and Russell Martin.

Second-year general manager Ned Colletti chose in the 2006 offseason to re-sign Nomar Garciaparra and bring in free agents Luis Gonzalez, Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf at a total cost of $124.85 million. What resulted was a punchless lineup that finished 10th in the NL in runs and a patchwork pitching staff that wound up with David Wells and Esteban Loaiza taking the ball every fifth day in September.

Though he officially resigned, manager Grady Little was shown the door following the season and replaced by Joe Torre. A cohesive clubhouse was an underpinning of Torre’s time with the Yankees, and creating the same serenity in Los Angeles is at the top of his to-do list.

During his introductory press conference, Torre waxed about the continuity of the great Dodgers teams he watched growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and ’50s. Los Angeles could have a similar homegrown nucleus, as it’s evident that the future of the franchise lies with its youth.

Martin won the first of what figure to be multiple Gold Gloves and made the NL all-star team. Kemp recovered from an early-season wrist injury to hit .342/.373/.521 while showing improvement almost daily. After James Loney was left off the Opening Day roster, he eventually pushed Garciaparra to third base and hit .331/.381/.538.

When Schmidt registered only one win before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery, Chad Billingsley entered the rotation and went 8-5, 3.38 in 20 starts.

The next batch of prospects is ready to contribute. Tony Abreu, Chin-Lung Hu and Andy LaRoche all have gotten a taste of the majors and could give the Dodgers a fully homegrown infield, though it may be 2009 before that transition is complete. Lefthander Clayton Kershaw, who ascended to Double-A in his first full pro season, could join the rotation late in 2008.

Stability was a reason the Dodgers were named Baseball America’s Organization of the Year in 2006, but they have gone through massive changes since, naming a new manager, scouting director (Tim Hallgren succeeded Logan White, who was promoted to assistant GM) and farm director (DeJon Watson took over for Terry Collins, who left to manage in Japan).

The margin for error in the division has suddenly shrunk, but the Dodgers have the pieces in place to be a part of the party in the future.

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