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Background: Pena was signed as a 17-year-old by legendary Dominican scout Ralph Avila, but his career was sidetracked by elbow surgery in 1994 and shoulder surgery in 1997. Healthy and in better shape last year, Pena had a dominant offensive year in the Texas League's toughest hitter's park. He led all Double-A hitters with a .376 batting average on the road, where he hit 16 of his home runs and had 65 of his RBIs. Pena also led all Double-A and Triple-A regulars by hitting .410 against lefthanders. Strengths: As well as Pena hit in 1998, scouts save their highest praise for his defensive abilities. He has an innate feel for handling pitchers and calls an excellent game. Pena's arm strength is above-average and he is surprisingly quick and nimble for his size. At the plate, Pena has above-average bat speed and an aggressive approach early in the count. He adeptly drives the ball to all fields but also has the strength to hit tape-measure home runs when he turns on pitches. Weaknesses: As one Dodgers official said about Pena, "the chest protector just looks a little smaller on him." Pena has often weighed well in excess of his listed 228 pounds, and his body has been a constant source of concern. Better conditioning has helped Pena's hitting (he hit .205 in 1996 in his first 127 Class A at-bats), but the Dodgers are resigned to the fact he'll never have an ideal athletic body. The Future: Todd Hundley has a lock on the Dodgers everyday catching job for the next two years--if his elbow remains healthy. So Pena will have to bide his time in Triple-A or on the Dodgers bench. If Pena maintains his conditioning until he gets an opportunity, he could be the rare catcher who can impact a game both offensively and defensively.
Background: Chen will be the first Taiwanese player in the North American minor leagues since 1975. The Dodgers signed him to a $680,000 bonus after this winter's Asian Games, where he homered off Chan Ho Park. Chen had been his national team's leading slugger and youngest player for two years. In eight international tournaments over the past two years, he has hit more than .400 with 40 home runs. Strengths: Chen was signed primarily for his offensive potential. He projects above-average power and is already a polished offensive performer. Weaknesses: At Chen's first Dodger Stadium workout, he swung a wood bat for the first time, so there likely will be an adjustment period with the change from aluminum. He may also have to leave center field as he gets older and stronger. The Future: The Dodgers signed the first significant players from Korea (Park) and Japan (Hideo Nomo), so it is only fitting that they have the first premium prospect from Taiwan. Unless he surprises in spring training, Chen will probably debut at Class A San Bernardino.
Background: The Dodgers stole Judd from the normally astute Yankees in 1996 for journeyman lefthander Billy Brewer then saw him develop quickly into one of their top pitching prospects. Judd struggled in his first true big league trial last year, but he pitched just 11 innings in a nine-week period--a difficult test for a young power pitcher. Strengths: Judd has a fastball in the 94-95 mph range and also can come at a hitter with a slider, curveball, split-finger, changeup and cutter. When he stays on top of the ball, he gets heavy sinking action on his fastball and sharp movement on his slider. Weaknesses: Judd didn't react well to the hitting circus in Albuquerque and pitched passively, relying on his cutter too much and trying to finesse hitters. His two inactive months in the Los Angeles bullpen capped a forgettable year. The Future: The Dodgers are still high on Judd's arm and he'll start with a clean slate with the team's revamped development staff. The big league rotation seems set for the near future, so Judd probably will have the opportunity to polish his skills in Triple-A.
Background: The Dodgers drafted Colyer in the second round in 1997 and signed him last May for a $650,000 bonus--slightly more than he had turned down the previous year. He was the highest pick from the '97 draft who spent last spring in junior college. Strengths: Colyer has a pure power arm. He can overmatch hitters with a 94-95 mph fastball or freeze them with a hard-biting curveball. The Dodgers were thrilled with the progress he made last summer in throwing both pitches for strikes. Weaknesses: When Colyer was drafted, he weighed close to 240 pounds. But he worked hard in junior college and was in the 205-pound range when he signed. He still needs to improve his changeup and his command. The Future: With his improved conditioning and strong performance last summer, Colyer has started answering many of the questions scouts had about his future. Physically, he has the highest ceiling among all Dodgers prospects. Another strong year could find him at the top of this list.
Background: Allen went undrafted out of high school because he was playing out of position at shortstop. Scout Lon Joyce followed him during the summer, though, and recommended the Dodgers sign Allen after he gained significant strength and bat speed. Strengths: Allen has a strong, mature body and a smooth lefthanded swing. He has the potential to have above-average power and he's showed impressive hitting maturity. A slightly above-average runner once he's under way, he has good range in the outfield. Weaknesses: The Dodgers switched Allen to third base in 1997 and to the outfield in 1998, when he split time between left and center. Allen's hands and first-step quickness were short for the infield, but neither is a factor in the outfield. The Future: Allen has moved down the defensive spectrum the past two years, which is not a positive sign for a young player purported to be a good athlete. He will have to fulfill the Dodgers' offensive projections to stand out in what could become a crowded left-field situation.
Background: When the Dodgers signed Prokopec, he was a 16-year-old outfielder. After more than two years of showing little power and little ability to hit for average, he became a pitcher at midseason in 1997. Prokopec finished seventh last year among full-season minor league starters with 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Strengths: For someone who has been pitching full-time for little more than a full season, Prokopec possesses surprisingly polished stuff. His fastball is in the 89-91 mph range and he occasionally hits 93 mph. Prokopec's knuckle curveball shows above-average spin and life, and his changeup is a potentially above-average pitch. Weaknesses: Prokopec is actually an inch or two shorter than his listed height, so his size is a concern. His fastball is straight so he'll have to continue to spot it well to be successful. The Future: A late-season stint at San Antonio proved Prokopec is ready for Double-A. He'll likely start this season in the Missions rotation.
Background: A standout first baseman in college, Davis split his time equally between first and left field in 1998. His younger brother Ben, the second overall pick in the 1995 draft, is a top catching prospect with the Padres. Glenn was the 25th overall pick two years later. Strengths: Drafted as a smooth-swinging, smooth-fielding first baseman out of the Mark Grace mold, Davis has shifted his skills dramatically since signing. In addition to playing in the outfield, Davis has shown more power than expected after putting a slight uppercut in his swing. Weaknesses: The side effects of Davis' power surge have been a low batting average and too many strikeouts. He needs more work defensively in left field to become as comfortable as he is at first. The Future: If Davis can make more contact and maintain his power, he could become a multi-skilled big league first baseman. He will begin 1999 in Double-A.
Background: Undrafted out of high school in 1997, Piedra planned to attend Southern California. But veteran scout George Genovese followed Piedra during the summer and signed him before classes enrolled. Piedra's first-year results were outstanding as he flirted with .400 for much of the summer and was named the Pioneer League's No. 2 prospect. Strengths: Piedra is a polished player with the bat and the glove. He is much stronger than he was when he went undrafted, and he has the potential to develop power with his line-drive, gap-to-gap swing. He has excellent instincts and above-average range in center field. Weaknesses: Without blazing speed or raw power, Piedra will have to avoid being stereotyped as a tweener outfielder. He also will have to continue to get stronger to fully develop his offensive potential. The Future: The Dodgers have struggled for years to find a steady center fielder. They have no sure things in the system at that position now, so expect them to challenge Piedra in 1999.
Background: Riggs has struggled to stay on the field the past two years, missing more than two months in 1997 with a broken hamate bone in his left wrist and more than three months in 1998 after labrum surgery on his right shoulder. Strengths: When healthy, Riggs has shown every offensive skill. He hits with power, draws an above-average number of walks, steals bases and owns a .324 career minor league average. He has an aggressive, focused approach to the game. Weaknesses: Both of Riggs' injuries were not spontaneous, game-related injuries, so his durability is in question. Defensively, Riggs has worked hard at second base, which he only started playing in pro ball. He'll be at least an average second baseman if his shoulder recovers. The Future: Incumbent second baseman Eric Young is signed through 2001 but his name has been mentioned often in trade talks. If Young stays, Riggs could improve the Dodgers offensive bench strength in 1999.