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Dodgers Prospects 2-10
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Signed: Venezuela, 2002. Signed by: Bill Pleiss/Camilo Pascual.
Background: Figueroa burst onto the prospect scene in December 2000 at the Perfect Game World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., and he spent the majority of 2001 on the showcase circuit. He played in the Perfect Game Fall Scout League in Iowa, going 6-1 with 65 strikeouts in 33 innings that summer. The Dodgers signed him for $500,000 last January.
Strengths: Figueroa fires an 89-94 mph fastball from a deceptive three-quarters slot, creating outstanding arm-side run. His curveball is the best in the organization. Hell drop down for a low three-quarters release to get a slider break against lefthanderswho managed a .141 average against himand throw a hard, downward-biting curve against righties. He honed his changeup and toned his developing body in instructional league.
Weaknesses: Figueroas mechanics are solid, though he occasionally rushes his arm and loses his balance, affecting his command.
The Future: Figueroa could get lefties out in the big leagues right now, and the Dodgers will move him along aggressively. His next stop is the high Class A rotation.
3. Edwin Jackson, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSColumbus, Ga., 2001 (6th round). Signed by: Lon Joyce.
Background: Most teams coveted Jacksons bat when he was in high school, but the Dodgers drafted him as a pitcher. They allowed him to DH between starts during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. They wanted his athleticism on the mound, however, and he concentrated solely on pitching last spring. He ended up as the organizations minor league pitcher of the year.
Strengths: Jackson throws 91-94 mph with a picture-perfect arm action, and he can get to 96 with heavy, late action up and in on righthanders. His slider has slurvy action, showing hard, tight spin and late bite at times. Hes one of the best athletes in the system, with the makings of an easy, repeatable delivery.
Weaknesses: Though he throws two breaking balls, Jackson might be better off abandoning the curve to improve his slider. The Dodgers say hell be more efficient with his pitch counts once he gains consistency with his mechanics. His changeup needs more work.
The Future: The Dodgers project Jackson as a frontline starter. After an impressive showing in instructional league, he might make a move to Double-A this year.
4. Reggie Abercrombie, of
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Lake City (Fla.) CC, 1999 D/F (23rd round). Signed by: Lon Joyce.
Background: Abercrombie has blossomed from a raw draft-and-follow into, in the minds of some club officials, the organizations best prospect. Also a football and basketball standout in high school, Abercrombie hit .096 with 41 strikeouts in 96 at-bats in April. After getting contact lenses he hit .315-10-53 with 23 walks and 117 strikeouts the rest of the way.
Strengths: Abercrombie doesnt just have above-average tools; he grades out near the top of the charts for his power, speed, arm strength and defense. Hes an aggressive hitter with a lightning-quick bat. He prompts comparisons ranging from Preston Wilson to Torii Hunter to Reggie Sanders to Eric Davis.
Weaknesses: Some say Abercrombie wont hit because his plate discipline is so unrefined, but his flaws should be correctable with experience. He can get overanxious at the plate and the barrel of the bat gets out in front of his hands, causing him to hit around the ball.
The Future: Abercrombie was Double-A Jacksonvilles top hitter in the postseason, with a .303 average and five strikeouts in 33 at-bats. Hell spend the entire year there in 2003.
5. Joe Thurston, 2b
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 175. Drafted: Sacramento CC, 1999 (4th round). Signed by: Mark Sheely.
Background: Thurston has earned a reputation as a winner by winning championships in junior college and the minors. He led Triple-A Las Vegas to the best record in the Pacific Coast League, topped the minors in hits and total bases (297) and paced all Dodgers farmhands in runs, doubles and triples.
Strengths: "Joey Ballgame" earned his nickname for his instincts and passion, which is evident in the way he carries himself. He doesnt employ classic swing mechanics as he dives into the plate and looks out of sync, but he has outstanding bat control and has developed gap power. Hes the best baserunner in the system and has solid-average speed.
Weaknesses: Because he lacks soft hands, Thurston moved from shortstop to second base in 2001 with promising results. He rarely draws walks, which means hell have to hit for a high average. He doesnt always make it look easy and his tools arent overwhelming, leading some to project him as a utilityman instead of a regular.
The Future: A sought-after player in trades, Thurston is penciled in as their everyday second baseman going into spring training.
6. Koyie Hill, c
Age: 24. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Wichita State, 2000 (4th round). Signed by: Mitch Webster.
Background: Hill batted .354 as a three-year starting third baseman at Wichita State and led the Missouri Valley Conference with a .391 average as a junior. He was converted to catcher after signing in 2000. He led Jacksonville with 11 homers last year, then batted .307 in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Hill has a pretty line-drive stroke with quick hands, and a disciplined approach from both sides of the plate. He shows the ability to drive the ball from the left side and projects to hit for average power. Hill has improved his game-calling and throwing, erasing 33 percent of basestealers last year. His arm strength and receiving skills are above-average. His makeup and feel for the game are on par with Thurstons.
Weaknesses: Hill is a well-rounded player without any glaring deficiencies. Still inexperienced as a catcher, he committed a Southern League-leading 17 errors after making 16 in 2001.
The Future: Hill skipped a level a year ago and will move to Triple-A this season. With Paul LoDuca signed for two more years, the Dodgers have enviable catching depth. They wont need to rush Hill, who profiles as an everyday backstop.
7. Alfredo Gonzalez, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 181. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Pablo Peguero/Ramon Perez.
Background: Like Ricardo Rodriguez, the organizations top prospect a year ago before he was traded to Cleveland, Gonzalez pitched in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League for three years. Signed for $75,000, he grew three inches and his fastball grew as well.
Strengths: Gonzalez changeup is graded as a top-of-the-charts 80 pitch (on the 20-80 scale) by some scouts and elicits comparisons to Eric Gagnes. It acts like a screwball or splitter with late fade. After throwing 87-90 mph when he came to the United States two years ago, he dials his fastball up to 93 with plus boring life now. He repeats his delivery and works to both sides of the plate.
Weaknesses: Because he has pitched in relief, Gonzalez hasnt had much opportunity to develop a breaking ball. He made strides with a slider pitching as a starter this winter in the Dominican.
The Future: Gonzalez blitzed through three levels last year and was added to the 40-man roster. Hell get a long look this spring and should secure a middle-relief role in Los Angeles sometime in 2003.
8. Joel Hanrahan, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HSNorwalk, Iowa, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Mitch Webster.
Background: Despite a light workload as an amateur in Iowa, where high schools dont play a spring season, Hanrahan has responded to aggressive promotions and established himself as a workhorse. He tossed nine- and six-inning no-hitters last year at Vero Beach.
Strengths: Hanrahan displays a feel for three solid pitches. His 90-92 mph sinker and slider are plus offerings, and he throws a straight changeup. He does an effective job at changing speeds and pitching inside. He has a strong, durable frame and clean arm action.
Weaknesses: Hanrahan has good command, but his delivery occasionally gets out of whack and hinders his location in the zone. The key is for him to stay on top of the ball through his delivery. Otherwise he flies off toward first base, causing his arm slot to drop and stuff to flatten out. He made progress working with pitching instructor Ken Howell.
The Future: Hanrahan projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but hell need two full seasons in the minors to get innings and experience. Hell return to Jacksonville, where he got hit hard in three starts.
9. Joel Guzman, ss
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 198. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001. Signed by: Pablo Peguero.
Background: Coming off a one-year ban in the Dominican Republic for illegally signing Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles outbid 20 teams to sign Guzman for $2.25 million, a club record and the biggest bonus ever for a Dominican. The Dodgers didnt have a first-round pick in 2001 and viewed Guzman as the equivalent.
Strengths: Guzman exhibits rare light-tower power in batting practice. He has the potential for five above-average tools, though his only present pluses are arm strength and raw pop. He has the bat speed and strength to develop well above-average game power in time.
Weaknesses: Guzman has yet to adjust to breaking pitches. He bails and his knees buckle at the sight of the slightest wrinkle. He needs to learn to trust his hands. He might not have the quickness to stay at shortstop, and a move to third base is on the horizon.
The Future: Guzman is still immature at times. While the Dodgers have to keep him motivated, they wont hasten his timetable. It might be 2006 before he makes a big league appearance, but the end result could be special.
10. Chin-Feng Chen, of/1b
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 189. Signed: Taiwan, 1999. Signed by: Jack Zduriencik.
Background: The organizations top prospect after an unprecedented 30-30 season in the high Class A California League in his 1999 pro debut, Chen hasnt displayed the same explosiveness on the bases or at the plate since shoulder surgery in 2000. He moved to first base last year, but didnt take to the new position and will head back to left field in 2003.
Strengths: Chen has quick wrists and generates raw power with plus bat speed. He shows well-above-average juice to the opposite field. While he doesnt get a good jump out of the box, Chen is a smooth, athletic runner once he gets under way.
Weaknesses: Chen is a streak hitter, and when hes not on he swings and misses a lot. His first move is away at the plate, leaving him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half. Defense isnt his strong suit. Chens footwork around first base was horrendous, and hes a tentative outfielder with a below-average arm.
The Future: Chen can be a productive corner outfielder. The question is whether a club will tolerate his strikeout totals. Unless hes traded or an injury creates an opening, hes headed back to Triple-A.
Best of the Rest
Los Angeles hasnt been hesitant to dole out large signing bonuses to unproven amateur talent on the international market: see Joel Guzman ($2.25 million), Willy Aybar ($1.4 million) or Hong-Chih Kuo ($1.25 million). But only Guzman could crack the Top 10 Prospects list. Kuo has logged all of 36 innings in three seasons since signing out of Taiwan in 1999, thanks to Tommy John surgery. He does have the best fastball in the system, a 97 mph heater, and a big-breaking curveball. Aybar, who held the record for the highest bonus paid to a Dominican before Guzman shattered it, had his entry into the United States delayed last spring when he couldnt produce documents to verify his identity. He still has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate, but Aybar hasnt been aggressive enough to take advantage of his tools.
Los Angeles has had more success on the lower end of the international market with Latin American power arms such as Jose Diaz, Franquelis Osoria, Joselo Soriano (who formerly went by the name Jose Diaz) and Marcos Carvajal. Diaz, Soriano and Carvajal regularly flirt with upper-90s radar-gun readings.
The Dodgers pitching depth, already strong at the lower levels, received another influx of talent from a strong 2002 draft, Logan Whites first as scouting director.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.