Los Angeles Dodgers: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Los Angeles Dodgers: Scouting Reports

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, 2008.

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If the Rockies proved anything during the 2007 season, it was that timing is everything. On Sept. 18, the Dodgers were fresh off series wins against the Padres and Diamondbacks and sat just 2 1/2 games back in the National League wild card race. But when Todd Helton hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off Takashi Saito, Colorado had completed a doubleheader sweep of Los Angeles.

The wins were the second and third of 11 straight for the Rockies, who went on to win the NL pennant. They also marked the beginning of the end for the Dodgers, who lost eight of their next 11 games and finished fourth in the NL West.

As Colorado's blend of youth and experience peaked at the perfect time, Los Angeles' was spoiling like month-old milk. Jeff Kent was outspoken about a clubhouse rift between disgruntled veterans and hungry up-and-comers, such as Matt Kemp and Russell Martin.

Second-year general manager Ned Colletti chose in the 2006 offseason to re-sign Nomar Garciaparra and bring in free agents Luis Gonzalez, Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf at a total cost of $124.85 million. What resulted was a punchless lineup that finished 10th in the NL in runs and a patchwork pitching staff that wound up with David Wells and Esteban Loaiza taking the ball every fifth day in September.

Though he officially resigned, manager Grady Little was shown the door following the season and replaced by Joe Torre. A cohesive clubhouse was an underpinning of Torre's time with the Yankees, and creating the same serenity in Los Angeles is at the top of his to-do list.

During his introductory press conference, Torre waxed about the continuity of the great Dodgers teams he watched growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and '50s. Los Angeles could have a similar homegrown nucleus, as it's evident that the future of the franchise lies with its youth.

Martin won the first of what figure to be multiple Gold Gloves and made the NL all-star team. Kemp recovered from an early-season wrist injury to hit .342/.373/.521 while showing improvement almost daily. After James Loney was left off the Opening Day roster, he eventually pushed Garciaparra to third base and hit .331/.381/.538.

When Schmidt registered only one win before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery, Chad Billingsley entered the rotation and went 8-5, 3.38 in 20 starts.

The next batch of prospects is ready to contribute. Tony Abreu, Chin-Lung Hu and Andy LaRoche all have gotten a taste of the majors and could give the Dodgers a fully homegrown infield, though it may be 2009 before that transition is complete. Lefthander Clayton Kershaw, who ascended to Double-A in his first full pro season, could join the rotation late in 2008.

Stability was a reason the Dodgers were named Baseball America's Organization of the Year in 2006, but they have gone through massive changes since, naming a new manager, scouting director (Tim Hallgren succeeded Logan White, who was promoted to assistant GM) and farm director (DeJon Watson took over for Terry Collins, who left to manage in Japan).

The margin for error in the division has suddenly shrunk, but the Dodgers have the pieces in place to be a part of the party in the future.

1.  Clayton Kershaw, lhp   Born: March 19, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—Dallas, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Calvin Jones
Clayton KershawBackground: As an underclassman in high school, Kershaw had the benefit of pitching on high-profile travel teams in Texas, but teammates Shawn Tolleson (now at Baylor) and Jordan Walden (Angels) got most of the attention. Kershaw pitched just four innings out of the U.S. junior team's bullpen at the 2005 Pan American Championships in Mexico, buried at the time behind harder throwers such as Tolleson, Brett Anderson (Diamondbacks) and Josh Thrailkill (Clemson). But it was Kershaw who blossomed into the best high school prospect in the 2006 draft after he gained velocity on his fastball and tightened his curveball. The Tigers were set to take him with the sixth overall pick before Andrew Miller unexpectedly fell in their laps, allowing Kershaw to drop one more spot to the Dodgers. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2006 and in the low Class A Midwest League in 2007. He also pitched in the Futures Game and jumped to Double-A Jacksonville a month later in just his first full pro season.

Strengths: Kershaw pitches off a fastball that rests comfortably at 93-94 mph. He touched 99 a handful of times last summer, including once with Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti in the stands (the Great Lakes scoreboard posted a reading of 101 on the pitch). Kershaw's heater has late, riding life with explosive finish at the plate. His 71-77 mph curveball has hard 1-to-7 tilt from his high-three-quarters arm slot. He made strides with his circle changeup during the year, and it too grades as a third plus future offering. He generates his stuff with a loose, clean arm action. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he has an ideal pitcher's frame that exudes durability as well as athleticism. He eventually should pitch with above-average command, though he didn't show it in 2007. Kershaw is a little slow to the plate, but is cognizant of baserunners. He employs a slide-step effectively and has a good pickoff move. His makeup and competitiveness are off the charts, and he's lauded for his humility off the field.

Weaknesses: After Kershaw posted a 54-5 strikeout-walk mark in his pro debut, he failed to maintain his focus and delivery during 2007, which led to erratic command. He's working on improving the timing of his shoulder tilt. He tends to load his left shoulder late, causing his arm to drag during his follow-through, a correctable flaw. It makes him misfire up in the strike zone, and when he overcompensates, he begins to bury his pitches in the dirt. Because of the exceptional life on his fastball and the fact it gained velocity in 2007, learning to harness it will be an important step. His focus also wavers at times during outings. The shape of his breaking ball is somewhat inconsistent, and he'll need to continue to work on sharpening his secondary pitches.

The Future: He offers a promising combination of front-of-the-rotation stuff and the work ethic to reach his ceiling as an ace. Some in the organization say Kershaw's stuff is more advanced than Chad Billingsley's and Jonathan Broxton's at the same stage of their development. Now Kershaw has to apply the polish. He'll most likely open what could be his last season in the minors in Double-A.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Great Lakes (Lo A) 7 5 2.77 20 20 0 0 97 72 5 50 134 .203
Jacksonville (AA) 1 2 3.65 5 5 0 0 25 17 4 17 29 .193
2.  Andy LaRoche, 3b   Born: Sept. 13, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: Grayson County (Texas) CC, 2003 (39th round)Signed by: Mike Leuzinger
Andy LaRocheBackground: LaRoche entered spring training in competition for the Dodgers' third-base job, but went 11-for-51 without a homer in big league camp and spent most of the season in Triple-A. He had left shoulder surgery after the '06 season, which might have precipitated his slow start, and he battled back soreness in '07 as well.

Strengths: LaRoche has plus bat speed and raw power to go along with a good feel for hitting. When he gets his arms extended, balls fly of his bat to all fields. He has advanced pitch recognition and commands the strike zone well when he stays within himself. He's an average defender with a solid-average arm.

Weaknesses: LaRoche's approach was inconsistent last season. He was overly patient at times when he first got to the majors in May, then chased balls out of the zone in his second try in September. He also gets pull-happy. He's a below-average runner with unexceptional range defensively. The Dodgers would like to see him take his preparation more seriously.

The Future: LaRoche profiles as an everyday third baseman with the potential to bat in the middle of a lineup. That might not happen in Los Angeles, where ownership could opt for a more proven commodity to fill a hole at third base that has been present since Adrian Beltre departed.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Las Vegas (AAA) .309 .399 .589 265 55 82 18 1 18 48 39 42 2
Los Angeles (NL) .226 .365 .312 93 16 21 5 0 1 10 20 24 2
3.  Chin-Lung Hu   Born: Feb. 2, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 165
 Signed: Taiwan, 2003Signed by: Pat Kelly/Vincent Liao
Chin-Lung HuBackground: After a poor offensive season in 2006, he came to camp 10 pounds heavier and produced the best numbers of his career. He was the MVP of the Futures Game, the Dodgers' minor league hitter of the year and a September callup.

Strengths: A line-drive hitter with good barrel awareness, Hu cleaned up mechanical flaws in his swing and improved his plate coverage and ability to make hard contact. His well above-average defensive package—with the arm strength, footwork and hands of a Gold Glover—always will be his best asset. He has slightly above-average speed and runs the bases well.

Weaknesses: Hu had a career .397 slugging percentage entering 2007, and even with the improvements, his power grades as below-average. Avoiding bad habits with his swing will be vital to his ability to produce against more advanced pitchers.

The Future: Rafael Furcal is entering the final year of his contract, so Hu will compete with Tony Abreu for a utility-infield job in spring training. Hu could spend most of the season in Triple-A and will be poised to take over in 2009 if he can replicate his offensive success.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Jacksonville (AA) .329 .380 .508 325 56 107 30 5 6 34 26 33 12
Las Vegas (AAA) .318 .337 .505 192 33 61 10 1 8 28 6 18 3
Los Angeles (NL) .241 .241 .517 29 5 7 0 1 2 5 0 8 0
4.  Scott Elbert, lhp   Born: May 13, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Seneca, Mo., 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Mitch Webster
Scott ElbertBackground: Elbert entered 2007 among the minors' elite pitching prospects, but he made just three starts before being shut down in April. He had surgery to remove scar tissue from his labrum in June and missed the rest of the season. He was throwing at 75 percent up to 70 feet off flat ground by November.

Strengths: A talented athlete who was an all-Missouri running back in high school, Elbert has outstanding arm strength and two plus pitches. When he's healthy, his fastball sits at 90-92 mph and touches 96. His two-plane curveball has the spin, shape and deception of a legitimate wipeout pitch against both lefties and righties.

Weaknesses: Elbert's delivery has some effort and his mechanics may cause stress on his shoulder. He has a tendency to rush through his windup, which causes his arm to drag and contributes to below-average command. His secondary stuff is inconsistent, and he needs to improve the feel of his changeup.

The Future: He had displayed durability in the past and his mechanical flaws are correctable, so there's reason to believe Elbert will recover his status. He profiles as a No. 2 or 3 starter, and he could wind up as a top-flight set-up man if moved to the bullpen. If he's healthy, he'll begin 2008 in Double-A.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jacksonville (AA) 0 1 3.86 3 3 0 0 14 6 0 10 24 .128
5.  Blake DeWitt, 3b   Born: Aug. 20, 1985B-T: L-RHt: 5-11Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Sikeston, Mo., 2004 (1st round)Signed by: Mitch Webster
Blake DeWittBackground: DeWitt followed Scott Elbert as the second of two first-rounders the Dodgers drafted out of Missouri high schools in 2004. After a season at second base, DeWitt moved back to third base in 2007 and got back on track offensively. He hit .281/.354/.404 in the Arizona Fall League following the season.

Strengths: DeWitt has a smooth, repeatable lefthanded swing that creates consistent hard contact and enables him to keep his hands inside the ball. His pitch recognition and plate discipline also contribute to his above-average feel for hitting. He's an adequate defender with a solid-average arm.

Weaknesses: Some scouts don't see DeWitt developing the power to play third base every day in the big leagues. He's streaky as a hitter and his approach vacillates. He can get himself out by expanding the strike zone. He has 35 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale but runs better once underway.

The Future: DeWitt's supporters cite the development of James Loney, who also didn't consistently hit for power in the minors. If he continues to improve, DeWitt could compete for a major league role in 2009 and develop into a .280-290 hitter with 15-20 homers per year.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Inland Empire (Hi A) .298 .338 .466 339 48 101 29 2 8 46 20 42 2
Jacksonville (AA) .281 .306 .466 178 20 50 13 1 6 20 7 26 0
6.  Chris Withrow, rhp   Born: April 1, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Midland, Texas, 2007Signed by: Calvin Jones
Chris WithrowBackground: A year after taking Clayton Kershaw with their first-round choice, the Dodgers went back for another Texas high school pitcher and drafted Withrow at No. 20. Withrow's father Mike pitched in the minors with the White Sox and was Chris' pitching coach in high school. Signed for $1.35 million, Withrow was used sparingly in his debut but touched 98 mph in the Gulf Coast League playoffs while striking out five Yankees in two innings.

Strengths: A pure projection pitcher, Withrow steadily gained velocity as an amateur and there might be more to come. As a senior last spring, his fastball sat between 88-92 with good life when it was down in the strike zone. His 74-78 mph curveball has 11-to-5 shape with tight spin. He has feel for his changeup. His crisp, compact delivery is picture-perfect and his arm works easily.

Weaknesses: In his first pro season, Withrow will focus on consistency with his secondary stuff and command. His feel for pitching is rudimentary at this stage of his development.

The Future: Withrow projects to pitch with above-average command of three solid-average to plus pitches. He won't zoom through the minors, but he can become a future No. 2 or 3 starter. He'll most likely start '08 in extended spring training, but should make his way to low Class A eventually.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Dodgers (R) 0 0 5.00 6 4 0 0 9 5 0 4 13 .167
7.  James McDonald, rhp   Born: Oct. 19, 1984B-T: L-RHt: 6-5Wt: 195
 Drafted: Golden West (Calif.) JC, D/F 2002 (11th round)Signed by: Bobby Darwin
James McDonaldBackground: A draft-and-follow who signed for $150,000, McDonald's path to prospect status has been an uncommon one. The Dodgers liked him as a two-way player and decided to move him to the outfield when he came down with a sore arm after his 2003 pro debut. He batted .226/.299/.269 in two years in Rookie ball and returned to the mound.

Strengths: McDonald has above-average command of three average to plus offerings. His 11-to-5, 69-74 mph curveball is the best in the system, and he has the feel to throw it in any count. His 87-93 mph fastball plays up because of deception in his delivery and his ability to add and subtract velocity. He effectively sells his changeup, which shows occasional plus sink and fade. He always has had a loose, clean arm action, and Inland Empire pitching coach Charlie Hough helped improve his extension, which bettered his command and life of his pitches.

Weaknesses: McDonald still is honing the consistency of his stuff and his mechanics. He's still growing into his slender frame, and his ultimate stamina and durability are unclear.

The Future: He most likely will open 2008 in Double-A with a chance to move to Triple-A at midseason. McDonald has a ceiling as a No. 3 starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Inland Empire (Hi A) 6 7 3.95 16 15 0 0 82 79 8 21 104 .253
Jacksonville (AA) 7 2 1.71 10 10 0 0 53 42 5 16 64 .218
8.  Jonathan Meloan, rhp   Born: July 11, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 225
 Drafted: Arizona, 2005 (5th round)Signed by: Brian Stephenson
Jonathan MeloanBackground: After going 27-2 as a starter in his last two years at Arizona, Meloan has become a dominant pro reliever. He spent the first half of 2007 dealing in Double-A before climbing to Triple-A and eventually Los Angeles.

Strengths: A ferocious competitor with championship-caliber makeup, Meloan has an aggressive approach to pitching, pounding the zone with four offerings. His 89-94 mph fastball and mid-80s slider are his bread and butter. His fastball has occasional plus sink. It shows arm-side run, and he can cut it away from righthanders as well. His plus slider has tight spin and filthy bite. He also throws a curveball and changeup. He gets ahead with his fastball and has above-average command.

Weaknesses: Meloan's tightly-bound frame lacks looseness. His delivery has flaws, including recoil. He missed time in 2006 with elbow soreness, and his durability might determine his ultimate value.

The Future: A potential power set-up man with the consistency managers love, Meloan will report to spring training with an opportunity to win a bullpen role. The Dodgers have been pleased with his resiliency, and they've discussed moving him back to the rotation if he returns to Triple-A.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jacksonville (AA) 5 2 2.18 35 0 0 19 45 24 3 18 70 .155
Las Vegas (AAA) 2 0 1.69 14 0 0 1 21 12 2 9 21 .158
Los Angeles (NL) 0 0 11.05 5 0 0 0 7 8 1 8 7 .286
9.  Delwyn Young, of   Born: June 30, 1982B-T: B-RHt: 5-10Wt: 209
 Drafted: Santa Barbara (Calif.) CC, 2002 (4th round)Signed by: James Merriweather
Delwyn YoungBackground: Young's father Delwyn Sr. played pro ball and served as a hitting coach in the Mariners system. He taught his son well, as Delwyn Jr. has hit .303 in the minors, led the Pacific Coast League in doubles in each of the last two seasons and hit .382 during a September callup.

Strengths: Young has electric bat speed and an excellent feel for hitting. Balls jump off his bat, as he sprays line drives to all fields from both sides of the plate. He made strides against lefthanders in 2007, improving his average against them in Triple-A to .365, up from .198 in '06. He has average power. Defense isn't his calling card, but his arm is at least solid-average.

Weaknesses: Minor holes in his stroke and a free-swinging approach ultimately could make Young an extra outfielder. He'll chase fastballs above his hands. A former second baseman, he has improved as a corner outfielder, but with below-average speed, he lacks the range to play up the middle.

The Future: Comparisons range from Matt Stairs to Lenny Harris, but the consensus is that Young will hit enough to have a significant major league career. He's likely as a reserve in Los Angeles, but he could carve out an everyday role with a second-division team down the road.
Las Vegas (AAA) .337 .384 .571 490 107 165 54 5 17 97 38 105 4
Los Angeles (NL) .382 .417 .647 34 4 13 1 1 2 3 2 5 1
10.  Pedro Baez, 3b   Born: March 11, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 199
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007Signed by: Elvio Jiminez
Pedro BaezBackground: The Dodgers signed Baez for $200,000 just before his 19th birthday and allowed him to make his pro debut in the United States. In August, he slugged a three-run home run off a rehabbing Pedro Martinez. He ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Strengths: Baez is an excellent athlete with the basic instincts for the game. He has four tools that could grade as future pluses, with his power, arm and defense projecting as well-above-average for some scouts. He has a fluid swing with good bat speed and the early signs of barrel awareness. He can launch towering blasts when he squares up pitches. He's a confident, adroit defender with good actions and body control. He has good range to both sides. Dodgers assistant GM Logan White clocked his throws across the diamond as high as 94 mph.

Weaknesses: Baez' plate discipline and pitch recognition are in need of improvement. He'll chase breaking balls down and away. He tends to muscle up during his swing and get pull-oriented rather than letting his hands do the work. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: He'll need time to develop, but he profiles similar to Andy LaRoche. Baez will spend 2008 in low Class A, which should pose a challenge for the 20-year-old.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Dodgers (R) .274 .341 .408 201 35 55 14 2 3 39 17 40 3

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