1999 Top 10
Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By David Rawnsley
1. Chin-Feng Chen, OF
Background: When Chen became the first Taiwanese player to sign with a U.S. club since 1975, the Dodgers expectations matched Chens $680,000 signing bonus. Still, the Dodgers had doubts. Virtually all of the prospects who had previously signed from the Far East were pitchers. The cultural differences, years of swinging aluminum bats and radically different instructional philosophies generally guarantee a difficult transition for an everyday player, but Chen defied the odds. In his pro debut, Chen became the first 30-30 player in California League history and was named that leagues top prospect. He left just prior to the end of the season to play for Taiwan in the Asian Games, but his country failed to earn one of Far Easts two Olympic berths. The Taiwan media maintained a "Chen Watch," detailing his every at-bat, but he handled the pressure.
Strengths: Chens wiry body doesnt look like it houses either exceptional power or above-average speed, but both come easily for him. He has quick, strong wrists and generates outstanding bat speed with a short, level swing. Chens swing path stays on the plane of the pitch almost from the start of his swing, and the ball explodes off his bat to all fields. Its a swing that should produce both average and power in the future. Chens 4.15 speed to first base and plus baserunning instincts were a surprise to the Dodgers.
Weaknesses: Although he played center field for the Taiwanese national team, Chen is considered strictly a left fielder by the Dodgers due to his below-average arm strength. His speed and instincts should help him become solid there. Chens strikeout totals were high, but the Dodgers attribute this to the pressure that Chen would put on himself to excel at all times. They expect his contact to improve as he learns to relax more at the plate.
The Future: Chen spent part of the offseason in Los Angeles, taking English and driving lessons to help his cultural adjustment. That type of effort and awareness make his future even brighter. How soon and in what manner the Dodgers clear Gary Sheffield from left field will determine when Chen claims the starting job, with 2001 being the likely best guess. He will start 2000 in Double-A.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB San Bernardino (A) .316 510 98 161 22 10 31 123 75 129 31
2. Eric Gagne, RHP
Age: 24 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 195
Signed: Seminole (Okla.) JC, 1995 (NDFA) Signed by: Claude Pelletier
Background: Gagne, a member of the Canadian national junior team, was passed over in the 1995 draft and signed that summer. He missed the 1997 season after Tommy John surgery. He rebounded to lead all of Double-A in strikeouts and fewest hits per nine innings in 1999.
Strengths: Gagne has a long, fluid three-quarters arm action, lending heavy sink to his 90-92 mph fastball. His changeup, an outstanding pitch he uses to close out hitters, gets similar sinking action from the same release point. The Dodgers describe Gagnes demeanor as tough, though opponents lean toward mean.
Weaknesses: Gagnes curveball lags behind his fastball and change. He had eye surgery following the season to correct problems that forced him to wear heavy goggles on the mound.
The Future: The previous regime didnt consider Gagne a prospect, but his performance in 1999 changed that. He is likely to start 2000 in the Dodgers rotation.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO San Antonio (AA) 12 4 2.63 26 26 0 0 168 122 64 185 Los Angeles 1 1 2.10 5 5 0 0 30 18 15 30
3. Hong-Chih Kuo
Age: 18 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-0 Wt: 187
Signed: Tawian, 1999 Signed by: Jack Zduriencik
Background: Kuo became the second blue-chip Taiwanese player to sign with the Dodgers in 1999, agreeing to a reported $1.25 million bonus. Complications with the Taiwanese government after the signing didnt preclude Kuo from participating in instructional league.
Strengths: Kuos build resembles that of Chan Ho Park, with a loose, flexible upper body but strong, thick hips and thighs. He relies almost exclusively on his fastball, which stays in the 95-98 mph range, exceptional for his age. While his velocity is atypical for a lefthander, the Dodgers describe his high-energy personality as decidedly lefthanded.
Weaknesses: Kuos curveball and changeup are both at the developmental stage, more from lack of repetition than any other reason.
The Future: While the Dodgers obviously thought a lot of Kuo when they signed him, he was better than they had expected during instructional league. Kuos personality is the opposite of his quiet, intense countryman Chen, but both should be on the fast track.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Did Not PlaySigned 2000 Contract
4. Jason Repko, SS
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 175
Drafted: HS--West Richland, Wash., 1999 (Supplemental 1st round) Signed by: Hank Jones
Background: Most scouts thought Repko, a shortstop and pitcher in high school, would go straight to center field as a pro. The Dodgers left him at shortstop, though, and he became the Pioneer Leagues No. 7 prospect.
Strengths: Repko is a rare five-tool athlete, especially after his surprising power display in his pro debut. He gets to first base from the right side in less than 4.0 seconds and has the speed under way to turn doubles into triples. Repko has plenty of arm strength for shortstop.
Weaknesses: Repko made 38 errors, the second-highest total in Rookie ball. Most of them come from footwork and balance problems that leave him in poor position to make throws. He made significant improvement in instructional league in this area.
The Future: The Dodgers see Repko as a throwback to some of ttheir stars of the 70s such as Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Bobby Valentine, who could play all over the field because of their makeup and athletic ability. Hell stay at shortstop for now.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Great Falls (A) .304 207 51 63 9 9 8 32 21 43 12
5. Hiram Bocachica, 2B
Age: 24 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 165
Drafted: HS--Bayamon, P.R., 1994 (1st round) Signed by: Juan Loyola (Expos)
Background: Dodgers scouting director Ed Creech drafted Bocachica when Creech had the same job with the Expos. Nagging injuries and a reputation for uneven effort dogged Bocachica until last season. After moving back and forth between shortstop and the outfield, he blossomed as a full-time second baseman.
Strengths: Bocachicas speed, arm strength and fielding ability all grade out above-average. He has the bat speed and wiry strength to drive the ball to the alleys. His arm strength and quickness make him especially effective turning the double play.
Weaknesses: The most important thing for Bocachica is to continue the dedication he showed for the game through the entire season at Double-A San Antonio. The physical part of the game will take care of itself.
The Future: The trade of Eric Young to the Cubs leaves a hole at second base that the Dodgers will likely plug with a one-year fix in 2000. If Bocachica can duplicate his 1999 season, the job could be his in 2001.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB San Antonio (AA) .291 477 84 139 22 10 11 60 60 71 30
6. Mike Judd, RHP
Age: 24 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 217
Drafted: Grossmont (Calif.) JC, 1995 (9th round) Signed by: Gordon Blakeley (Yankees)
Background: Despite inflated ERAs in both Triple-A and Los Angeles last year, Judd was dominant at times. Acquired from the Yankees in 1996 for lefthander Billy Brewer, Judd led all Triple-A starters in strikeouts per nine innings (9.92). The Dodgers shut him down with a tender elbow late in the season.
Strengths: Judd has a power pitchers arsenal. His fastball is 93-96 mph and gets good riding life. Judds slider is a solid second pitch, and he adds an average changeup and curveball.
Weaknesses: Judd will fall into streaks where he throws too many breaking balls early in the count. He needs to realize his fastball is his best pitch and use it more aggressively.
The Future: Judd is out of options and will make the big league staff in the spring if he is healthy. There is no consensus whether his future is in the bullpen, where simplifying his pitch selection could help, or in the rotation, where his his raw arm strength and four-pitch arsenal could be an asset.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Albuquerque (AAA) 8 7 6.67 21 21 1 0 111 132 47 122 Los Angeles 3 1 5.46 7 4 0 0 28 30 12 22
7. Luke Allen, 3B
Age: 21 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 208
Signed: HS--Covington, Ga., 1996 (NDFA) Signed by: Lon Joyce
Background: After playing third base in 1997 and left field in 1998, the Dodgers moved Allen back to third base last year. While his performance at the plate was outstanding for his age and level, Allen struggled defensively, leading all of minor league baseball with 53 errors.
Strengths: Allen has middle-of-the-order potential on offense. He has a smooth and fast swing and is just beginning to learn how to turn on pitches and loft them. For a big man, Allen runs very well once under way and led the Texas League in triples in 1999. His best defensive tool is his above-average arm strength.
Weaknesses: Allens errors were not concentrated in any one area. He doesnt have the good first-step quickness needed at third base, and he was often off-balance and in a hurry when making plays.
The Future: The Dodgers want to keep Allen at third base, figuring the benefits of potentially developing a run-producing third baseman far outweigh his short-term defensive problems. They figure they can always move him back to the outfield later.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB San Antonio (AA) .281 533 90 150 16 12 14 82 44 102 14
8. Brennan King, 3B
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 180
Drafted: HS--Murfreesboro, Tenn., 1999 (2nd round) Signed by: Marty Lamb
Background: King was considered one of the top shortstop prospects in the country last spring, but missed much of the season with shoulder tenderness. The Dodgers moved him to third base immediately because of his lack of overall speed and projected size and strength.
Strengths: King already has one of the sweetest swings in the Dodgers system. He can loft the ball or drive it to the opposite field depending on the pitchs location and adjust his trigger to different velocities. King has excellent arm strength at third base, where his balance and soft hands should make him a defensive standout.
Weaknesses: King still has a skinny, wide-shouldered frame and will have to add strength and weight to fulfill his offensive potential. He has good first-step quickness in the field but is a 4.5-second runner to first base.
The Future: King must develop the physical strength to take advantage of his natural swing. He likely will move gradually through the system until his physical maturity kicks in.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Great Falls (R) .291 247 37 72 13 1 2 30 24 45 9
9. Steve Colyer, LHP
Age: 21 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-4 Wt: 205
Drafted: Meramec (Mo.) JC, D/F 1997 (2nd round) Signed by: Mike Hankins
Background: Colyer is a perfect example of why the Dodgers need a low Class A affiliate. Usually a pitcher at his age with inconsistent command would pitch below the California League.
Strengths: Colyers raw stuff should place him higher on this list. He throws a mid-90s fastball and a power overhand curveball, both potential strikeout pitches when he has good command. Colyers changeup showed improvement last summer.
Weaknesses: Colyer hasnt shown maturity on the mound or off the field to take advantage of his natural tools. His approach is inconsistent from start to start, and scouts felt that he gave up late in the year. Colyers command would improve if he simply concentrated more.
The Future: Colyer will turn the corner if he dedicates himself to being a major league pitcher. Some members of the organization believe Colyers best role might be as a power reliever who could come in and throw in the upper 90s for an inning at a time.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO San Bern. (A) 7 9 4.70 27 25 1 0 146 145 86 131
10. Kris Foster, RHP
Age: 25 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 200
Drafted: Edison (Fla.) CC, D/F 1992 (39th round) Signed by: Doug Carpenter (Expos)
Background: The Dodgers acquired Foster from the Expos in a 1995 trade for shortstop Rafael Bournigal. The Dodgers finally settled on a relief role for him in 1999, and he reached Double-A for the first time.
Strengths: Foster has the best fastball in the system and regularly lights up the radar gun in the 97-98 mph range. He made great progress in 1999 by simplifying his delivery and improving his command. Foster also began throwing a slider and made significant progress with the pitch.
Weaknesses: The shoulder and elbow tenderness that plagued Foster for years dissipated in 1999. His simplified delivery helped, as did junking his curveball for the slider.
The Future: Injuries have left Foster playing catchup on the normal development curve. No pitcher in the system took as big a step forward as Foster did, though, and the organization is hungry for power arms. Expect Foster to get more closing opportunities at San Antonio to start 2000.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Vero Beach (A) 1 1 1.76 8 0 0 0 15 10 2 15 San Antonio (AA) 0 2 3.59 33 0 0 4 53 43 26 53
Rest of the Best:
11. Randey Dorame, lhp
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