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Teams entered last year's draft with mixed feelings about Diggins. Some clubs liked his bat, others preferred his arm and several teams were interested in both. That was the case in 1998, when the Cardinals used a supplemental first-round pick to draft him in hopes of developing both aspects of his game. He instead attended the University of Arizona and went 10-4, 3.83 as a draft-eligible sophomore last spring. Diggins wound up as the 17th overall pick, but didn't come to terms until the day before classes were to resume for Arizona's fall semester, netting a club-record $2.2 million signing bonus. He reported to instructional league and proved to be even better than advertised. Diggins has a 96 mph fastball that was clocked as high as 98 at Arizona and rated by Baseball America as the best in the draft. He also throws a good changeup and is continuing to work on the consistency of a slider that already is average and has all the makings of a plus pitch. While those will get any pitcher noticed, the Dodgers are most impressed with Diggins' athleticism, especially for a 6-foot-7 pitcher. Comparisons to Dave Kingman and Dave Winfield have been common. Considering that Chin-Feng Chen hit just six homers while Willie Aybar drilled four in 2000, a case could be made that Diggins has the organization's best power potential. But he's definitely sticking to the mound. Inexperience is the biggest hurdle for Diggins to clear. He's still learning how to pitch and has yet to face professional hitters. Some scouts are concerned about his tendency to throw his fastball across his body. His delivery and mechanics need fine-tuning to enable him to control his arm action and improve his overall command. Diggins also showed fatigue late in the college season, meaning an improvement in his overall conditioning is being addressed in order for him to handle the longer pro season. Of course, focusing strictly on pitching instead of playing a position in between starts will keep him fresher. Diggins is coming off an outstanding showing during instructional league that included several overpowering performances and will be expected to open the 2001 season at Class A Wilmington. A midseason promotion to high Class A Vero Beach would excite all parties, but isn't considered mandatory. The Dodgers believe that once Diggins gets his feet wet in the pro ranks, he could move quickly.
Chen had a difficult first season in Double-A. Named the organization's top prospect in 1999 after becoming the first 30-30 performer in high Class A California League history, Chen hit .344 last April but just .262 with four homers during the season's final four months. He ended the season ranked as the 20th-best prospect in the Texas League. Chen is the most natural baseball player and has the best power in the system. He has good instincts on the basepaths and in the field. He also possesses above-average strength and the hitting ability to be a middle-of-the-lineup run producer in the majors. While his throws are accurate, his arm strength is below-average. His speed is no better than average, which led to his being caught 15 times in 38 steal attempts last year. When slumping, Chen has difficulty catching up to plus fastballs. Chen had surgery to remove scar tissue in his right shoulder after a strong start in the Arizona Fall League. Despite a difficult 2000, he's still on pace to become the first Taiwanese native to reach the majors. His performance this spring will determine whether he returns to Double-A or moves up to Triple-A.
After receiving a reported $1.25 million signing bonus, Kuo made one dominating appearance in 2000 by striking out seven batters in three innings before feeling a minor twinge in his left elbow. To everyone's surprise, he required Tommy John surgery, costing him the remainder of the season. The Dodgers believe Kuo is one of the most talented pitchers in professional baseball. His forte is a 95-97 mph fastball from the left side. With a flexible upper body and a thick, strong lower body, he has all the makings of a power pitcher. The Dodgers also like his high-energy personality and aggressiveness on the mound. Kuo relied strictly on his fastball as an amateur in Taiwan, and surgery slowed the necessary improvement with his curveball and changeup. While he's expected to come back as strong as before his operation, the procedure can take two full years for a complete recovery. Kuo has given every indication that he's ahead of schedule with his rehab. The Dodgers believe he'll be at full strength by the end of spring training and able to open the season at Vero Beach.
The 2000 season was a wasted one for Repko, who battled a hamstring problem followed by a strained back. Though he got just 17 at-bats at short-season Yakima, the Dodgers aren't worried about his progress based on his showings in spring training and instructional league. Repko is a top-of-the-lineup hitter who has attracted comparisons to Paul Molitor. His offensive potential is as good as anyone in the organization. He brings considerable energy and athleticism to the lineup with his outstanding speed. He also continues to display more power than most scouts expected when he signed out of high school. His arm strength is also above-average. He needs experience more than anything else. A natural athlete with five tools, Repko tries to do too much at times, especially on defense. The Dodgers believe his errors will decrease as he learns the nuances of pro ball. Last year's injuries should have no effect on him in 2001. He'll experience his first taste of a full-season league by opening the year at Wilmington.
Prokopec made major strides in his second season in the Double-A Texas League after he was removed from the 40-man roster prior to the season. He ranked second in the circuit with a 2.45 ERA, then received a September promotion to Los Angeles and won his second start. He reaches the low 90s with a fastball that looks better than it may be, thanks to a hard slider that was rated the best breaking ball in the TL last year. His control is the best in the system. He's a warrior with outstanding aggressiveness. After signing as an outfielder, Prokopec didn't begin pitching as a professional until 1997, and his inexperience shows at times. Though not afraid to pitch inside, he needs to continue to work both sides of the plate while improving his changeup. The Dodgers were criticized for promoting Prokopec instead of allowing him to pitch for Australia in the Olympics last fall. That cup of coffee, however, could mean the difference this spring between whether Prokopec earns a job in the Los Angeles rotation or returns to Triple-A.
Judd has accumulated 46 innings with the Dodgers over the last four years while spending most of the past three seasons as a Triple-A starter. He's coming off his best year in Triple-A and finally looking more like a pitcher than a thrower. Judd's entire repertoire consists of hard stuff. He works off his 93-96 mph fastball, which has excellent movement and moves up and in against righthanders. Judd also throws a good, sharp slider as well as an average changeup and curveball. He needs to be more consistent with his delivery. Smoother mechanics also will improve his command. He continues to throw too many breaking balls early in the count instead of going right after hitters with his heat. The Dodgers continue to be infatuated with Judd's potential, though he has yet to live up to expectations in the big leagues. Most members of the front office believe this will be the year he puts everything together by earning a job in the major league bullpen.
The Dodgers signed Aybar last January for a $1.4 million bonus, which established a new high for a Dominican amateur. He showed the ability to make adjustments against more experienced players and ranked as the 14th-best prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Scouts rave about the different sound the ball makes off Aybar's bat compared to most players'. Though aggressive at the plate, he remains under control most of the time. The switch-hitter has power from both sides that should enable him to hit 30-plus homers annually. Aybar also made the move to third after playing shortstop as an amateur. He has good hands, a consistent glove and a strong arm. Not unlike most players his age, Aybar needs to add strength, which should occur naturally as his body continues to mature. More experience is also paramount at this stage in his career. He handled an advanced Rookie league last year with no problem. The Dodgers will be patient because of his youth and may have him return to Great Falls in 2001, though a promotion to Wilmington is a definite possibility.
Guerrero, OF Peter Bergeron, 1B Jonathan Tucker and LHP Ted Lilly, July 31, 1998. Bocachica had one of the best seasons in the organization last year and was the second baseman on Baseball America's Triple-A All-Star team. He also performed well during his first stint in the majors. He could turn out to be the best thing to come out of a regrettable July 1998 trade with the Expos that also brought Mark Grudzielanek and Carlos Perez for four prospects. Bocachica gave every indication last year that he has put the finishing touches on all aspects of his game and is close to being a polished product. An exciting offensive performer with his excellent speed, he combines good strength and bat speed to drive the ball into the gaps. He also has an above-average arm and is a steady fielder. The Dodgers envision him as a utilityman. He tried playing the outfield during winter ball, but the results weren't overwhelming. Dogged by a reputation for a lack of dedication to the game, he has proven his critics wrong and simply must make the adjustments against better competition. The Dodgers plan to give Bocachica a shot this spring at earning a job as a reserve infielder in the big leagues.
Thurston was the Dodgers' minor league player of the year in 2000, his first full professional season. He impressed California League managers enough last year to earn recognition as the league's most exciting player, the shortstop on the postseason all-star team and the 17th-best prospect. His game is built around his outstanding speed and quickness. He makes solid contact and uses his legs to get on base, enabling him to lead the Cal League in hits. He possesses excellent range and has a lightning-quick first step out of the box and in the field. He's a good baserunner who placed second in the organization in stolen bases last year. While some scouts like Thurston as a shortstop, his high error totals could land him at second base. His defense remains raw, though he has improved immensely with his routes to grounders. He took his game to a higher level last year by learning how to hit to the opposite field. With impeccable character, he'll move quickly to the top if he has the same type of season this year at Double-A Jacksonville that he did in 2000 at San Bernardino.
Acquired last winter from the Cubs, Ricketts was the Dodgers' most effective Triple-A reliever in 2000. He led Albuquerque in appearances while placing second in ERA and third in saves. Ricketts has an intimidating presence, combining above-average height and stuff to dominate out of the bullpen. His fastball is clocked consistently in the low 90s with good side-to-side movement. He also throws an above-average changeup and a slider that showed solid improvement over the course of last season. Ricketts tends to lose confidence in his second and third pitches and winds up going exclusively with his fastball when he needs to throw strikes. With his large frame, his delivery needs regular fine-tuning in order to maintain his control. Ricketts has an outside shot of earning a job in the Los Angeles bullpen this spring. He's more likely to return to Triple-A to gain more consistency with his secondary pitches.
King made the move from playing shortstop in high school to third base as a professional last year. He did anything but embarrass himself, and impressed managers enough to be ranked as the short-season Northwest League's 12th-best prospect. In fact, more than one skipper considered King to be Yakima's top prospect. He has attracted comparisons to Travis Fryman. He has outstanding athletic ability, impressive size, a strong arm and good mobility at the hot corner. While he hit just one home run in 238 at-bats, he projects to have above-average power as soon as he gets stronger. The greatest concerns regarding his game center on his ability to add strength and hit consistently enough to play third base in the major leagues. The Dodgers love his makeup, but his confidence tends to wane, which is to be expected for such a young player. With a solid season under his belt, King will move up the organizational ladder to Wilmington this spring.
Garcia made a strong impression in his first season pitching in the United States. He was named the Dodgers' top minor league pitcher as well as the California League's pitcher of the year after leading the league in wins and ERA. He got stronger as the season progressed, capping the year by going 3-0, 1.82 in the playoffs. Garcia is a workhorse who worked at least six innings in 25 of his 27 starts in 2000. He has an above-average fastball in the 92-93 mph range that has good sinking action. He also mixes a plus changeup well to keep hitters off balance. In addition to his excellent command, the Dodgers love Garcia's makeup, work ethic and desire to be his best. A plate painter, Garcia tends to be too fine with his pitches on occasion, and the Dodgers would like to see him go after hitters more often by pitching inside. A veteran of two seasons with the Mexico City Reds, the experienced Garcia will continue his development this season at Jacksonville.
Though injuries, including a fractured left eye socket suffered on a bad-hop grounder, hampered Allen during 2000, he wound up having a productive season in his second year at Double-A. He finished second on San Antonio in RBIs despite having his season conclude at the end of July, and he cut his errors in half after making a minor league-high 53 in 1999. Managers ranked Allen's arm as the best among Texas League infielders last year. The problem is, he still hasn't found a home in the field. His hands aren't soft and he hasn't shown the necessary consistency to handle the hot corner at higher levels. Those limitations could land Allen in right field soon. With his quick wrists, improving power and good speed for a player of his size, he's a budding offensive player who could develop into a middle-of-the-lineup run producer. After proving he has recovered from eye surgery with a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League, Allen was placed on the Dodgers' 40-man roster. His next stop is scheduled to be Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Dodgers rarely tout players from recent drafts for placement among their top prospects. A college player such as Ben Diggins is an exception because of his experience and obvious high ceiling. A pitcher such as Hanrahan is a different story in more ways than one. Because the state of Iowa doesn't play a spring high school schedule, many scouts and crosscheckers have trouble getting an accurate read on potential picks heading into the draft. Hanrahan, however, was so impressive with his low-90s fastball and projectable body during the previous summer and fall that several teams considered him a potential first-round pick. He made a successful debut in the Pioneer League. In addition to his above-average fastball, he showed a promising changeup and slider, which should give him three average offerings. Experience, particularly against a higher level of competition, is his greatest need, along with a better overall knowledge of how to work hitters and both sides of the plate. He'll work on that at Wilmington in 2001.
Before tendinitis and other elbow problems shelved him for the season, Burnside joined fellow Australian Luke Prokopec as two of Los Angeles' few bright spots at the Double-A level last year. The Dodgers were concerned late in the season when Burnside's elbow didn't improve after he was sent to minor league rehab and feared he had contracted Lyme disease when he had discomfort in his knee and ankle joints, but that didn't prove to be the case. He was slated to pitch for Australia in the Olympics before he got hurt. Burnside has outstanding arm strength for a lefthander, which led the Reds to select him in the major league Rule 5 draft after the 1999 season. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 mph, and he throws an average changeup that has improved over the past two years. Burnside's albatross always has been both his command and control, or lack thereof. He tends to become too fine and goes deeper into counts than he should. He's a candidate to pitch at Las Vegas this season.
Shoulder surgery to remove scar tissue cost Foster all but the final few weeks of the 2000 season. After pitching at Double-A for most of 1999, he pitched 12 innings in high Class A before reporting to the Arizona Fall League. Foster is a power pitcher who was clocked as high as 99 mph and consistently at 96 prior to surgery. He was back to 95 last summer and reported no pain in his shoulder after battling tenderness in both his shoulder and elbow in 1997 and '98. The operation doesn't appear to have affected the control of his fastball, which hindered his progress during his early days in the organization. Foster's slider showed impressive improvement prior to his surgery. The development of a changeup would help him immensely. At age 26, Foster is no longer a pup. If he hadn't needed surgery, the Dodgers believe he might have pitched in the major leagues last year. How he pitches this spring will determine his destination, with Triple-A the most likely choice.
Having led Great Falls with 53 runs and 20 stolen bases in his first pro season, Victorino continued to use his legs to create havoc at Yakima in 2000. Reviews were mixed regarding the speedster's performance last year. Those who like him compare Victorino to Lenny Dykstra. He's a gritty leadoff hitter who plays hard from start to finish. Those who aren't impressed labeled Victorino as a one-tool talent who has a long way to go in order to develop another average tool. He tends to swing for power when he should focus on slapping the ball on the ground and going the other way with pitches. He also whiffs too often for a player at the top of the lineup, and he needs to improve his knowledge of the strike zone in order to draw more walks. After watching Victorino play a modest second base last year in the Northwest League, the Dodgers will take a look at him in the outfield as well in order to maximize his speed. The good news is that age is on Victorino's side. He's scheduled to play both second base and the outfield this season at Wilmington.
Rodriguez got stronger as the 2000 season progressed. He went 3-1, 1.02 in August, capping a year in which he was Pioneer League pitcher of the week five times and the Dodgers' pitcher of the month twice. He led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts to earn a berth on Baseball America's short-season all-star team. Rodriguez has above-average arm strength and good command. He throws a hard slider and a fastball that clocks consistently in the 93-94 mph range. Though he was old for the Pioneer League last year at 21, he showed the ability to pitch along with a strong competitive streak. Having pitched three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, Rodriguez isn't as far up the organizational ladder as he should be. He can't afford an injury or extended difficulties. The Dodgers would like to start pushing Rodriguez faster now. He'll open the season Wilmington.
Nunez spent his first season in the Dodgers organization last year after leading all Class A players with 116 runs in 1999. He caught fire at the plate last July to lead Vero Beach in runs, hits and triples while topping the entire system in stolen bases. He has a wiry, athletic body that projects to be even more productive as he continues to mature. His arm was rated as the best among Florida State League infielders last year. He also has outstanding speed that he parlays into impressive baserunning skills. His athleticism, however, can cause Nunez to play out of control on occasion. He also isn’t as disciplined as he needs to be at the plate, resulting in few walks and more than 100 strikeouts in each of the past two seasons. He has some power and produces a decent number of extra-base hits, but Nunez would be better served spraying the ball to all fields in order to get on base more often. The Dodgers believe he’s just beginning to reveal his vast potential and are looking for more progress this year at Jacksonville.
After putting together two solid years in the minors that had him ranked ninth in the organization entering 2000, Colyer struggled last season. He had difficulty once again with his control, relegating him to bullpen duty at midseason. He posted a 5.76 ERA in a league that generally favors pitchers. While Colyer would have benefited from being able to report to a low Class A league, he did show two plus pitches in a mid-90s fastball and an overhand curveball. He's continuing to work on his changeup, but it has yet to develop into an average offering. Colyer is his own worst enemy with his inconsistent approach and overall lack of maturity. There continues to be a strong movement within the organization to move the strong-armed Colyer to the bullpen permanently. The hope remains for him to discover some consistency this year in Double-A.
Totten was selected to Baseball America's short-season all-star team after heading a Yakima rotation that won the Northwest League title. He had the best professional debut among the Dodgers' 2000 draft class by topping the league in ERA. Totten throws strikes, keeps the ball down in the strike zone and isn't afraid to challenge hitters. While not overpowering, he moves his average fastball around in the strike zone. His best pitch is a plus slider that he'll throw when behind in the count. He still needs to upgrade his changeup in order to keep hitters honest. Totten so impressed the Dodgers during his debut that he has a chance to move quickly through the system. He'll open the 2001 season at Wilmington, with a midseason promotion to Vero Beach within reach.
Williams became the ninth Australian to play in the major leagues and the second to play for the Dodgers when he made his major league debut late in 1999. He returned to the big leagues for seven relief appearances last year, when he made 12 Triple-A starts. He experienced numbness in his left hand and wrist during an early-season callup, then returned to Triple-A and tried to pitch through the discomfort before a pinched nerve was discovered. He had surgery, forcing him to miss the Arizona Fall League. Williams also has experienced a dead arm in the past. In 1996, he logged a lot of innings with Southeastern Louisiana and the Australian Olympic team. The result was a fastball that had difficulty breaking 80 mph for more than a year. He now throws in the low 90s with good movement, along with an average curveball and changeup. While he has had success during his stints in the majors, Williams remains an unproven 28-year-old pitcher who’s coming off an injury. In other words, it won’t be long before the clock strikes midnight on his big league potential.
The son of longtime Dodgers player and coach Manny made the jump to Triple-A last year but had difficulty adjusting to the higher caliber of competition. He also battled injury problems again after suffering a season-ending thumb ailment in 1999 and undergoing right shoulder surgery that cost him playing time in both 1996 and 1997. When healthy, Mota is a solid contact hitter with good plate coverage. He showed a considerable increase in power in 1999 with a career-high 15 homers, but he produced a mere 21 extra-base hits last year. Mota is an above-average defender with an arm strong enough to play right field in the major leagues. He also covers a large amount of ground with his plus speed. Mota's progress has been hampered by injuries and a lack of overall consistency in all phases of the game. While he remained on the 40-man roster in November, Mota needs to upgrade his performance this year in Triple-A in order to remain in the Dodgers' plans.
The Dodgers' 1999 draft got even better in 2000, when they signed the unheralded Abercrombie as a draft-and-follow and watched him blossom. He showed raw athleticism along with solid baseball skills in the Pioneer League. A potential five-tool talent, Abercrombie succeeds with his plus speed. He has excellent range in center field, takes the proper route to most fly balls and possesses an above-average arm for his position. His ability to run is also evident on the basepaths, as he ranked second in the Pioneer League in stolen bases while succeeding on 32 of 40 attempts. The Dodgers were a little surprised about how well Abercrombie made adjustments at the plate. The one area his game is lacking is in power, particularly for a player his size. The Dodgers, however, believe he has projectable power that should develop as he continues to mature and face better pitching. With Los Angeles scrapping its Yakima affiliate, which would have been Abercrombie's likely destination, he probably will head to Wilmington.
Few players have caused more organizational head-scratching than Crosby. He was a consensus first-rounder after hitting 25 home runs in his final season at Rice. But his power has been virtually nonexistent since he started swinging wood bats, producing a total of one home run during his first two seasons and eight in the Florida State League in 2000. His all-around hitting has not been spectacular, either. He did provide a ray of hope in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .346-3-13 in 104 at-bats. He has above-average speed, resulting in a career-high 27 steals last year. He also is an adequate defender with a decent arm, but has shown nothing to merit his $995,000 signing bonus. The Dodgers have been patient with Crosby and admit he hasn't been a complete flop. At the same time, he's going to start getting pushed to see how he reacts against better competition, beginning this year at Double-A.
Diaz held his own last year in the Pioneer League, which produced four catchers who were ranked among the circuit's top 10 prospects. Diaz checked in at No. 10 while making the league's postseason all-star team. Managers gave him high marks for his blocking skills, glovework and arm strength, with some grading him as the league's best defensive catcher. What hurts Diaz is his hitting. His .219 average established a new career best. He does have average power, but his inability to make consistent contact, especially against breaking balls, is affecting his development. Also working against Diaz is the fact that he missed all of the 1999 season due to an injury and has played just one year in the United States. Given his age, he'll be provided every opportunity to earn a job at Wilmington during spring training.
Inconsistency continued to be the defining term in Castillo’s career during the 2000 season. After a breakthrough in 1999 that included the fourth perfect game in California League history, he failed to get in a groove for any stretches in the Florida State League and wound up spending his third full season at the high Class A level. Castillo is a finesse pitcher who tends to nibble instead of going right at hitters. He works off an 88-90 mph fastball with excellent sinking action. He complements it with an above-average changeup that he can become infatuated with, and an average curveball. He also possesses sterling control. What’s more, Castillo has proven resilient after enduring a 15-loss season at Vero Beach in 1998. If he’s to succeed at higher levels, he must not give up the inside half of the plate. Challenging hitters more often also would lead to additional success. The Dodgers hope to see him make those strides this season at Double-A.
The Dodgers re-signed Regalado as a six-year free agent after he led the organization with 30 saves last season and made Baseball America’s minor league all-star team. Florida State League managers also rated him as the league’s best reliever. Regalado went 2-12, 5.80 in 1999 at Vero Beach before moving to the bullpen during instructional league at the suggestion of roving pitching instructor Jim Benedict. The combination of natural maturation and learning from adversity enabled Regalado to blossom in his new role. He converted all 21 of his save opportunities and posted a 0.88 ERA in his return to Vero Beach before a midseason promotion to Double-A. Regalado succeeds with a 95 mph fastball. While his lack of a consistent changeup or breaking pitch always hurt him as a starter, it’s not as big problem as a reliever. He still needs to develop at least one more average offering to succeed at higher levels. Regalado has all the makings of a late bloomer, but he needs another strong season in order to become part of the Dodgers’ plans.
The Dodgers decided to roll the dice by taking Nunez from the Mets in the major league Rule 5 draft. He's coming off his first activity in a full-season league after four years in Rookie ball. A starter in 1998 and '99, he spent most of last season in the bullpen. Nunez has excellent command of all his pitches, including an above-average fastball that reaches the low 90s with outstanding movement. He also throws a good changeup and an average curveball. Nunez may be a longshot to make the major league roster—where he must remain or be offered back to New York for half his $50,000 draft price—but the Dodgers have just one lefty (Onan Masaka) in their major league bullpen. His all-around stuff and ability to dominate hitters make him an intriguing Rule 5 selection.
Hill made a strong pro debut last summer, impressing Northwest League managers with his ability to swing the bat. One skipper said Hill has the potential to develop into a Greg Colbrunn type with his ability to play the corner infield positions as well as catcher, all the while providing some power. A solid defensive third baseman at Wichita State with good hands and an above-average arm, Hill saw activity at catcher in Yakima. His inexperience was obvious, resulting in several catcher-interference calls. The Dodgers liked Hill's footwork and overall athleticism at the position and are planning to give him more catching experience in a full-season league in 2001. As a hitter, Hill uses the entire field and can drive the ball to all fields. He needs better plate coverage and must get ahead in the count more often. While he may be a work in progress, Hill has the versatility to develop into a productive utilityman.