As the Dodgers pressed toward their second National League West title in three years, they had their farm system to thank for supplementing their big league roster. Righthanders Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton, lefty Hong-Chih Kuo, catcher Russell Martin and outfielders Matt Kemp and Jason Repko all had a hand in helping L.A. contend for the postseason, and all are homegrown players.
Martin had taken over the team's everyday job behind the plate and, as a 17th-round pick in 2002 out of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, the Canadian was one of the year's most intriguing scouting and player development stories in a year that saw an unprecedented number of rookies breakthrough in the majors.
The Dodgers hoped to have another Canadian follow in Martin's footsteps, though their fourth-round pick this year, Kyle Orr, won't fly under the radar the way Martin, a converted third baseman, did.
With a powerful lefthanded swing and a projectable 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame, Orr was considered the best draft-eligible player in the country in 2006. He had shown plus raw power in batting practice and helped Canada's junior national team win a bronze medal at the 2005 Pan Am Championship in Mexico.
He was eligible for the Canadian junior team again in 2006, and because he had not yet signed with the Dodgers, Orr departed for Cuba with Team Canada, where he participated in the IBAF World Junior Championship. He went just 3-for-26 with one homer in the event.
There was widespread speculation that Orr had agreed to terms with the Dodgers this summer, but that the club delayed announcing the signing based, in part, because the bonus exceeded the recommended slot (113 overall).
Dodgers scouting director Logan White refuted that claim. "That's not accurate at all," White said. "I think we're going to get it done, but he hasn't signed. When he gets back (from Cuba Sept. 29) we're going to meet with his family."
Orr originally sought a bonus near $500,000, sticking tight to his commitment to Kentucky as leverage. He was in Cuba with Team Canada for an eight-day trial period prior to the World Junior Championship, which began Sept. 17. He had not enrolled in classes (which began Aug. 23 at Kentucky), and, like Martin, was a candidate to attend a junior college if he and the Dodgers could not come to terms.
His talent and upside is evident, although few teams seriously considered pursuing him once Orr voiced his lofty bonus demands. While he has apparently softened those wishes, the Dodgers will carefully measure how much of a bonus his unrefined skills warrant.
"He is young and he's got a great body, but I'm not 100 percent sold on the swing," said one scout, who has followed Orr for the past three years.
Of course, watching Martin surpass his original expectations and compete for the National League Rookie of the Year award, just three years after being converted from third base to catcher, naturally could influence White's decision.
"Mr. Martin has made me a little biased, sure," White said. "The fact that we've had success with Canadian players, beginning with (Eric) Gagne before I was here and now Russ, has made us more comfortable dealing with guys from up there."Scherzer News Scant
No movement was reported in the Max Scherzer talks, as the No. 11 overall pick and only unsigned first-round pick and his agent, Scott Boras, continued to negotiate with the Diamondbacks.
Scherzer was working out at Boras’ facility and back home in Missouri to stay ready, but Boras said there was no urgency to the talks.
“We told them in good faith that Max would not return to college, so they would not feel pressured to do something by any kind of deadline, and they indicated to us that the organization didn’t feel any rush to get this done,” Boras said.
Instead of discussing contract terms in the interview, Boras said Scherzer was “one of the top two or three pitchers available in the (2006) draft.”
New Diamondbacks scouting director Tom Allison indicated in an earlier interview that the organization was not affected by the change in scouting director. Mike Rizzo was scouting director when the Diamondbacks picked Scherzer but left the organization over the summer to become assistant general manager with the Nationals.
"We’ll all put our heads together and work on it," Allison said. "I did scout Max and I have my own reports on him, but (general manager) Josh Byrnes is also very familiar with him obviously, and I’m sure he’ll do what’s best for the organization.”