'Looney Bin' Appears Stocked With Dodgers Prospects





LOS ANGELES—Five years ago, the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate boasted a stable of prospects who quickly became known as the Jacksonville Five. By the middle of the next summer, four of the five—Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Joel Guzman and Russell Martin—were in the majors.

Which may explain why the Dodgers are high on another gifted group of minor leaguers with a creative moniker, the guys coming out of the Looney Bin at low Class A Great Lakes.

The Loons started the season headed by the Dodgers' eventual player and pitcher of the year: outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands and righthander Rubby de la Rosa.

Sands hit .333/.432/.646 in 69 games to earn a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga, where he hit 17 more home runs to finish with 35—tied for second-highest in the minors. De la Rosa, who split his time between the rotation and the bullpen in Great Lakes, was 4-1, 3.19 with 55 strikeouts and 17 walks in 59 innings before joining Sands in the Southern League.

Two players don't fill a Looney Bin, however. Great Lakes also had righthander Allen Webster, who tied for the Midwest League lead with 12 wins; center fielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez, who batted .318/.343/.520 to win the MWL batting title; right fielder Blake Smith, who led the team with 19 homers; left fielder Angelo Songco; and second baseman Rafael Ynoa.

"I think Jerry Sands kind of set the tone for the group," farm director DeJon Watson said. "The way he went about his business was outstanding."

And when he left, there were plenty of other guys to pick up the slack. Watson was especially high on Smith, a second-round pick in 2009 who he said had a breakout year after struggling to a .214 average with one home run in rookie ball.

"It's a good group of kids," Watson said.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

• Lefthander Scott Elbert, who left the Triple-A Albuquerque team in June to deal with personal issues, returned to the mound in the Arizona Fall League, pitching one inning for Phoenix in the season opener.

• The Dodgers, who had just one player steal more than 20 bases in the big leagues, saw three steal at least 40 in the minors, led by Dee Gordon and his SL-best 53.