Weekend Preview: March 7-9
THIS WEEK 1. Coach Andy Lopez is happy to be alive, but that doesn’t mean he accepts Arizona’s current level of play. 2. The UCSB Gauchos face their first big [...]
Top Ten Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Alan Matthews
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after 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 April 1, 2006.
When the 2005 season began, the Chavez Ravine air was rife with optimism. The Dodgers were fresh off their National League West division title in 2004 and a popular pick to return to the playoffs. But after a promising 12-2 start, their season slipped away and they finished at 71-91, the franchise’s second-worst record (63-99 in 1992) since moving from Brooklyn in 1958.
Injuries and unsuccessful acquisitions spelled doom in the second season under the guidance of general manager Paul DePodesta. Los Angeles players missed 1,150 games due to injury, the most on any Dodgers club in two decades.
While Jeff Kent (two years, $19 million) produced as expected, DePodesta’s two biggest free-agent acquisitions—J.D. Drew (five years, $55 million) and Derek Lowe (four years, $36 million)—were disappointments. Meanwhile, Kent and Milton Bradley engaged in an ugly clubhouse feud.
All the chaos looked mild compared to the front-office turmoil that began the day after the season ended. DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy opted to part ways, with Tracy surfacing with the Pirates and taking pitching coach Jim Colborn and bench coach Jim Lett with him.
DePodesta’s search for a new manager abruptly halted four weeks later when owner Frank McCourt fired him. While McCourt didn’t detail the reasons for the dismissal, he said his criteria for a new GM included communication skills and the ability to evaluate talent. The Dodgers turned to Ned Colletti, assistant GM for the Giants under Brian Sabean for the last nine years.
Asked if the Dodgers were presently capable of putting a division winner on the field, Colletti smiled and said, “No.” But thanks to the deepest and most talented farm system in baseball, the Dodgers are on the cusp of becoming perennial contenders.
Double-A Jacksonville cruised to the Southern League championship (the first for a Dodgers affiliate since 2002). The first five players on this prospect list—righthander Chad Billingsley, third baseman Andy LaRoche, shortstop Joel Guzman, catcher Russell Martin and righty Jonathan Broxton—starred for the Suns, the Minor League Team of the Year.
Most of the Dodgers’ top prospects have been signed since Logan White became scouting director following the 2001 season. His first-round picks have included Billingsley (2003), lefthander Scott Elbert (2004) and third baseman Blake DeWitt (2004), all of whom made this Top 10, and first baseman James Loney (2002) and righty Justin Orenduff (2004), who just missed.
White’s 2005 draft doesn’t initially appear as promising as his first three efforts. Los Angeles forfeited its first-round pick for signing Lowe as a free agent and spent its first pick on Tennessee righthander Luke Hochevar. After a summer with little give and take, Hochevar switched agents in September and agreed to a $2.98 million bonus, then reneged and falsely accused White of trying to coerce him into signing a bad contract. The negotiations don’t appear salvageable.
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