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Rodriguez won a total of five games in three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before making his U.S. debut in 2000. It was a smashing success, as he won the pitching triple crown in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Tested by skipping two levels to the high Class A Florida State League last year, he responded with another strong performance. Rodriguez topped the FSL in strikeouts and ranked among the leaders in wins, ERA and innings. Both the FSL and the Dodgers named him their pitcher of the year, and he was picked for the Futures Game at midseason. Rodriguez has all the ingredients to be a solid No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues. He has a good two-seam fastball that registers consistently in the 91-93 mph range and as high as 95. He mixes his heater well with a plus curveball that has a hard break and acts like a slider. He added a changeup during instructional league in 2000 and used it extensively last year. What made Rodriguez most effective last season was that he was willing to throw all three of his pitches at any time in the count. He has a loose arm and above-average command, moves the ball around in the strike zone and is willing to pitch inside. Rodriguez also impresses with his maturity and the way he battles on the mound. He shows the ability to be an innings-eater at higher levels. The Dodgers say he needs to refine his mechanics. While some observers said he dominated the Pioneer League the year before because of his age, he had no problems jumping all the way to high Class A. If he can prove himself again at Double-A Jacksonville this year, that should erase all doubts. The Dodgers have shown plenty of patience with Rodriguez and hope he'll move more rapidly through Double-A and Triple-A. He's developing into a complete pitcher, and his competitive streak should continue to take him up the ladder. Los Angeles has milked the international market for plenty of starters through the years, and Rodriguez has put himself next in line. He could get his chance in Los Angeles at some point in 2003.
The Dodgers' top prospect after the 1999 season before falling a notch following 2000, Chen overcame offseason surgery on his right shoulder to reestablish himself as a top prospect. He regained his stroke in the first half as a DH at high Class A Vero Beach before crushing the ball in Double-A. He also displayed his power for host Taiwan in the World Cup in November. Chen has middle-of-the-lineup power and makes quick adjustments. He kills fastballs and is adept at hitting breaking pitches. While his speed is below-average, Chen is an effective baserunner because of his solid instincts. The Dodgers want to see Chen have continued success against better competition. He needs to stay healthy and keep making adjustments against veteran pitchers. Even for a left fielder, his arm is average at best. Chen is back on track toward becoming the first Taiwanese player to reach the major leagues. He has proven to be resilient and has the tools of a run producer. His next stop should be Triple-A, with a September callup to Los Angeles a possibility.
The Dodgers wasted little time returning to the Dominican Republic after being barred for a full year as punishment for their illegal signing of Adrian Beltre. Los Angeles outbid 20 teams and inked Guzman last July 2 to a $2.25 million bonus, the largest ever given to a Dominican player. Guzman is a potential five-tool talent whom the Dodgers compare to Alex Rodriguez. An outstanding athlete, he has a projectable body and plus power from the right side of the plate. For his age, he has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. Guzman speaks fluent English and shows a tremendous aptitude and thirst to improve his game. He has yet to make his pro debut and is several years away from the majors. It remains to be seen how he'll adjust to professional pitchers who are significantly older than he is, though the Dodgers aren't worried. Guzman will be moved slowly during the early stages of his development. He's expected to begin 2002 in extended spring training before moving to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in June. He's probably at least five years away from the majors.
After a strong college career at Arizona that made him the 17th overall pick, Diggins ranked as the top prospect in the organization last winter. But he had an uneven pro debut last season at low Class A Wilmington. He struggled with his velocity at midseason and battled a hamstring problem early in the campaign. He did end on a high note, going 5-0, 1.57 in his final eight starts. After reaching 98 mph with his fastball and consistently hitting the mid-90s in college, Diggins was in the 87-89 mph range at Wilmington. He finally returned to the low 90s with good movement in August, while showing improvements with his curveball. He impressed the Dodgers with his competitiveness and ability to pitch. Diggins played both ways at Arizona and offers plenty of power at the plate. Like many tall pitchers, Diggins struggles with the consistency of his mechanics. He has been working on a changeup since he signed but the pitch still needs a good deal of refinement. Diggins' ceiling remains as high as anyone in the organization. Some scouts say he's a better prospect as a power hitter, but the Dodgers see him as a pitcher, possibly as a closer. His development will continue this year in high Class A.
Los Angeles' minor league player of the year in 2000, Thurston experienced adversity last season but worked his way through it. He struggled at the plate in Double-A before adapting in the second half. Thurston capped his year by finishing third in the Arizona Fall League batting race at .369. He succeeds with his tremendous heart, along with his good speed and quickness. He takes the extra base and possesses enough speed to steal 25 bases annually in the major leagues. He does the little things well with the bat, such as sacrificing, moving guys over and hitting to the opposite field. Defensively, he has excellent range at second base. Thurston likes to jump on the first pitch in an at-bat, but he could stand some more patience and work the count to give him more advantages. Moved from shortstop to second base last year, he's just an adequate defender because his hands aren't particularly soft. Known as Joey Ballgame, Thurston was added to the 40-man roster in November. He'll move up to Triple-A in 2002.
Kuo continued his battle back from Tommy John surgery last year by rehabbing in extended spring training and making limited appearances in the Gulf Coast League. The Dodgers believe the Taiwan native, who signed for $1.25 million in June 1999, is nearly back to where he was before blowing out his left elbow during his first professional start. Kuo has all the makings of a power pitcher. He features a 95-97 mph fastball, a flexible upper body and thick legs that allow him to drive off the mound, like Tom Seaver. The Dodgers also love his aggressiveness. Surgery retarded the development of his curveball and changeup, but Kuo has shown the desire and talent to improve those pitches. They should become at least average major league offerings. The biggest concern centers on Kuo remaining healthy. He was tentative in 2001 and experienced some tenderness in his elbow during instructional league. The Dodgers believe he'll be significantly stronger and more confident in high Class A this year.
Before signing Joel Guzman, the Dodgers had the previous record for a Dominican bonus when they gave Aybar $1.4 million. Though his power output in low Class A was nearly identical to his production in Rookie ball, Los Angeles wasn't disappointed with his performance in his first full year as a pro. The Dodgers believe Aybar will be a power-hitting machine. He has a sweet swing and the potential to drive balls from both sides of the plate. His quick, strong wrists keep him from being fooled often. At third base, Aybar shows outstanding hands and a good arm. He needs to add strength to his growing body, in order to get more pop as well as endurance. He has a good eye, but improvement with his pitch recognition will increase his average. Los Angeles may have pushed Aybar last year, though his numbers at Great Falls in 2000 merited a promotion. The Dodgers are in no hurry to get Aybar to the big leagues, preferring instead to see him develop a strong foundation of success. He'll head to high Class A this spring.
Rojas matured to the point last season that more than one instructor in the Dodgers system described him as "a little Pedro Martinez." Pitching in his first full season in the United States, the righthander led the low Class A South Atlantic League in ERA. Rojas reached the mid-90s early in 2001 and settled in the 92-94 mph range. His fastball is enhanced because he can throw his changeup for strikes and at any point in the count. He also has exceptional control and doesn't make many mistakes in the strike zone. Rojas flashed a plus slider last season but never got it consistent enough to use in crucial situations. If he can add a third pitch to his repertoire, the Dodgers say he'll be unhittable. His stature will lead to continual questions about his durability, though he hasn't had any problems to this point. While his rapid progress last year was a surprise to some, Rojas showed enough that the Dodgers had to restrain themselves from promoting him to high Class A until the end of August. He'll return there in 2002.
Promoted to low Class A as a teenager in his first full year, Hanrahan held up well. He led Wilmington in starts and innings while ranking second in strikeouts. He had success against older competition while making strides with the command of all three of his pitches. Hanrahan throws a 91-92 mph fastball, which alone didn't make him stand out on a Wilmington staff with several quality arms. What did separate him from the pack was his wicked slider and deceptive changeup. He isn't afraid to throw his change, which keeps hitters off balance. His projectable frame makes him a potential workhorse. Despite getting off to a 1-4, 6.33 start last year, Hanrahan didn't panic and instead made steady progress. Hanrahan can refine his mechanics and command, and his willingness to accept instruction should make those tasks easier. The Dodgers say Hanrahan simply needs time to continue working his way up the ladder. Hanrahan is advanced for a high school pitcher out of Iowa, which doesn't have a spring high school baseball season. The Dodgers hope he'll build on his success this year in high Class A.
Acquired in the Shawn Green-Raul Mondesi trade with the Blue Jays prior to the 2000 season, Nunez led the Southern League in stolen bases last year. His performance enabled Nunez to return to the Dodgers' 40- man roster in the offseason after he was left off the year before. Nunez is a tools player who can do several things well. He has plus speed and outstanding quickness that he uses on the basepaths and in the field. His arm was rated as the strongest among SL infielders last year. Nunez hit 14 homers in his last year in the Blue Jays system but hasn't shown the same kind of power since the trade. He needs to make more contact instead of trying to hit home runs. His offense will improve if he can tighten his strike zone. If he can't, then he'll have to be relegated to the bottom of the batting order. The Dodgers say Nunez is just beginning to mature physically and get comfortable with his body. He'll open 2002 in Triple-A. Los Angeles' trade for Cesar Izturis has at least temporarily taken away Nunez' status as the shortstop of the future.
A third baseman who led the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average as a junior at Wichita State, Hill started catching at short-season Yakima after being drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round in 2000. He made significant strides last year in low Class A to emerge as the organization's top catching prospect. Hill has the potential to be an offensive catcher with power from both sides of the plate. While his arm strength is average, he has excellent footwork and makes easy transfers from his glove to his hand, averaging 1.9 seconds on his throws to second. Hill also has shown a knack for calling a game, and he has attracted raves from his pitchers on the way he handles game situations. Hill didn't become a full-time catcher until spring training in 2001. His overall awareness behind the plate could use some improvement. His next stop will be high Class A.
Repko was inconsistent with the bat last year in low Class A and missed three weeks with lingering back problems. But when he's at full strength, he rates no worse than average with all five tools. He has above-average speed and the overall talent to be a sparkplug at the top of the lineup. The Dodgers compare him to Paul Molitor, though he won't ever approach that type of production until he gets stronger and learns the strike zone. There also are concerns about Repko's defense and health. Some scouts wonder if his future will be in the infield--he made 26 errors in 77 games at shortstop in 2001--with many believing he'd be better served to concentrate on his hitting while manning left field or possibly center. Repko has played the outfield before and doesn't have the arm strength for right field. His back limited him to 17 at-bats in 2000 before flaring up again last year, but numerous tests haven't revealed anything physically that doctors are able to correct. Repko sorely needs to remain on the field in order to improve all phases of his game. Spring training will determine whether he returns to Wilmington or receives a promotion to high Class A to get a full year's worth of at-bats.
King had an outstanding spring training in 2001 and the Dodgers had a bevy of infield prospects set for Wilmington, so he jumped past low Class A to the Florida State League. Skipping a level may have been too challenging for King, who also battled a hamate problem in his wrist. While he struggled at the plate, he did show the solid all-around ability that put him on a fast track in the first place. While he played shortstop in high school, he's an excellent defender with a strong arm and good mobility at third base. He also impressed the Dodgers last year with his ability to remain resilient and maintain his confidence in the face of adversity. With just five home runs in 749 pro at-bats, he has yet to display the power potential Los Angeles officials project him to develop, but they remain confident he'll blossom as he continues to mature physically. King also needs to improve his plate discipline and make more consistent contact. He's expected to climb to Double-A in 2002.
Allen finally showed signs of mastering Double-A in 2001 after spending the previous two full seasons stuck there. A former third baseman who moved to right field last year, he took his offensive game to a higher level while showing signs of being more comfortable on defense. Allen's best tool is his arm, which managers rated as the strongest among outfielders last year in the Southern League after he earned similar praise among Texas League infielders in 2000. What excited the Dodgers most about Allen was the way he hit the ball as hard as he ever has as a professional, resulting in a career-high 16 homers. He made better adjustments against all type of pitches, yet he also struck out 111 times, the highest total of his career. While he has good speed and quick wrists, Allen needs to improve his strikezone judgment and continue to prove he can handle the demands of right field. An energetic player who obviously loves to take the field, he drew praise for his veteran leadership at Jacksonville. He'll finally make it to Triple-A on a full-time basis in 2002.
The Dodgers drafted Pilkington with their first pick (second round) in the 2001 draft and signed him quickly. He worked just 16 innings before being shut down with a sore shoulder that required arthroscopic surgery. He's expected to be back at full strength by spring training. A nephew of former major leaguer Bert Blyleven, Pilkington possesses picture- perfect mechanics, a 92-93 mph fastball and command of three pitches. He walked just seven batters as a high school senior and had an impressive 17-2 strikeout-walk ratio in Rookie ball. The Dodgers believe the rest required by the surgery will be beneficial for Pilkington, who pitched nearly year-round in Southern California for two years. He has a projectable body that should allow him to become a true power pitcher. He also has great composure on the mound and could move rapidly with his impressive combination of talent and desire. The Dodgers believe all Pilkington needs is experience and a clean bill of health to start making a name for himself.
A potential five-tool player, Abercrombie focused most of his attention on football and basketball while he was in high school. Now that he's dedicating himself to baseball after signing as a draft-and-follow in 2000, he's showing the raw ability the Dodgers knew he had. Abercrombie's arm and speed both rate above average, and his instincts are helping him make up for lost time. He has good defensive skills and takes the right routes to fly balls in the outfield. His power improved last year, when he tripled his extra-base output compared to the previous season. He's an efficient basestealer as well. Abercrombie's strike-zone knowledge is atrocious at this point, and his pitch recognition also needs a lot of work. He's still learning how to harness his skills and understand the mental aspects of the game. Los Angeles hopes he'll have a coming-out party this year in high Class A.
Victorino moved to center field in low Class A last year after two seasons of modest success at second base, and he blossomed into the type of prospect the Dodgers always thought he was. The move enabled him to be much more consistent on offense and develop into one of the best defensive outfielders in the South Atlantic League. Victorino's speed rates as a 7 on the 2-to-8 scouting scale, and several SAL managers commented about how few fly balls dropped in center. After attempting to switch-hit in 2000, he returned to batting from the right side only and did an excellent job of turning on fastballs. He also showed significant improvement in taking pitches the opposite way with some power. Though his strikeout total dropped last year, Victorino needs a better grasp of the strike zone. He swings too aggressively at times when he could be more effective if he simply made contact. His arm strength is just average for center field. Few position players in the system improved more last year than Victorino. A promotion to high Class A will be his next challenge.
Like many Dominican players, Martinez took some time to develop after signing as a teenager. Dedicated work in the weight room and an improved diet strengthened his once skinny body into an impressive 6-foot-4, 210-pound build. He now has good power and some of the best speed in the organization. He joined Willy Aybar and Reggie Abercrombie in putting on some spectacular shows during Wilmington's batting practices in 2001. Despite his size, Martinez runs the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds, enabling him to steal 54 bases in low Class A last year. But even with his quickness, he's no better than adequate as an outfielder and is limited to left field by his arm. He also needs to tighten his strike zone significantly so more advanced pitchers don't exploit his aggressiveness. The Dodgers believe Martinez is just beginning to tap into his abilities. He'll try to continue his progress in high Class A this year.
After a successful college career, Nance was nevertheless not a premium draft pick because of his size. But he breezed through high Class A en route to Double-A in his first full pro season. He also pitched well in the Arizona Fall League and was even better at the World Cup, pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts and no walks for Team USA. Short and stocky, Nance isn't overly impressive except for his ability to get hitters out. His fastball, curveball and changeup aren't overwhelming but are effective. His command of all three pitches is inconsistent from game to game, but he has shown encouraging signs that the pieces are starting to come together. The Dodgers say they're more interested in a player's heart than his size, and they love the way Nance wants the ball in any situation. He'll probably get promoted to Triple-A this spring and could get a look in Chavez Ravine at some point during the 2002 campaign.
Few pitchers have the arm speed and the overall velocity Strayhorn possesses. His fastball sat on 93-94 mph during his pro debut and overpowered many Gulf Coast League hitters. Some scouts had worried about the health of Strayhorn's arm prior to the draft. He touched 96 mph during the 2000 Area Code Games but threw in the low 90s for most of last spring. The Dodgers were impressed with the strides he made in the GCL. He also showed a plus breaking ball and outstanding makeup. He's very aggressive and isn't afraid to use both sides of the plate. He doesn't have a very projectable body, and it's possible his maximum-effort delivery could lead to injuries down the road. Los Angeles will continue to monitor him closely this year in low Class A.
A draft-and-follow who signed in 2000, Keirstead started putting things together last year. He finished the season in low Class A, and pitched well in three appearances for Canada at the World Cup in Taiwan in November. Keirstead struggled somewhat with his command in the South Atlantic League, yet proved to be overpowering at times with a 93-95 mph fastball. He has good size and excellent strength. He has learned to throw a splitter that makes him much tougher to hit. A native of New Brunswick, Keirstead lacks extensive amateur experience. That's obvious at times, particularly with the slow development of his changeup. His fastball also loses movement on occasion, which leaves him vulnerable. Even so, he's making solid progress and would surprise no one in the organization if he made another significant leap in 2002.
Drafted last year as a college senior, Pierce impressed the organization with the plus speed and outstanding toughness. He developed those skills while returning kickoffs and catching passes for San Diego State's football team. Voted the MVP at Rookie-level Great Falls after leading the club in on-base percentage (.414) and triples while ranking second in steals and RBIs, Pierce earned a promotion to low Class A at season's end. He showed signs of being a mature hitter at the plate and handled breaking pitches with little difficulty. He also gets the job done in center field. The Dodgers believe that if he can continue to make consistent contact, Pierce's excellent speed and quickness will make him a dangerous offensive player. Though he's just now living up to his potential as he devotes himself entirely to baseball for the first time, Pierce was old for the Pioneer League and must prove he can produce against more advanced pitchers. He may get the chance in high Class A this year.
The Dodgers' 1997 draft was one of the worst in recent memory--not just for them but for any team. Of the players they've signed and solely developed, only Colyer has a legitimate chance to reach the majors. And for the second straight year, he experienced an inconsistent season as a starter in high Class A. Colyer would blow hitters away with his 95-mph fastball one game, only to come back five days later and have trouble finding the strike zone. Despite his difficulties, the Dodgers still view Colyer as a potential lefty set-up man in the majors. His overhand curveball gives him a second plus pitch, but he has had trouble throwing a changeup. Besides his command and changeup, he's also inconsistent with his mental approach and maturity. Colyer will try to make the necessary refinements in Double-A in 2002.
As bad as Los Angeles' 1997 draft was, its 1998 effort might have been even worse. The only reasonable hope to make it to the big leagues from that crop is first-rounder Crosby. After three disappointing seasons in Class A, he reinvented himself last year in Double-A. A slugger during his days at Rice, he abandoned his college slugging approach and focused on hitting line drives and dropping down bunts from the No. 2 spot. Crosby had difficulties adjusting to wood bats, then lost confidence in his ability while battling injuries. He regained his poise last year and stayed healthy for his first extended period as a pro. Crosby finally has discovered how to get on base in a variety of ways, and his batting eye has improved. He has above-average speed and is a decent outfielder, albeit with a marginal arm. If he can maintain consistency, he could have a major league career as a fourth outfielder.
The Dodgers didn't bring Garcia to the United States to play until 2000, after he spent two seasons pitching for Mexico City. He looked good in his debut and led the high Class A California League in victories and ERA in 2000, when he was named pitcher of the year by both the league and the organization. He opened 2001 in extended spring training because of shoulder tendinitis and was expected to head to Double-A in May. However, the pain didn't decrease until the end of the year and he never pitched an inning. When healthy, Garcia dominates with a sinking 92-93 mph fastball and an unmatched desire to take the mound. He also throws a plus changeup, possesses excellent command and does a good job of mixing his pitches to keep hitters off balance. The Dodgers' lone concern about Garcia prior to his tendinitis was his reluctance to pitch inside. His work ethic is unquestioned, and Los Angeles officials know he would have pitched through the pain last season if capable. They hope an offseason of additional rest will allow Garcia to report to Double-A in 2002.
Diaz couldn't have been much more impressive in his pro debut after signing last May as a draft-and-follow. He won the Gulf Coast League batting title and also led the circuit in hits, doubles, extra-base hits (27), total bases (104) and slugging percentage (.533). He also helped guide the Dodgers' GCL entry to a league-best 41-19 record. Diaz attracted comparisons to Carlos Baerga with his fundamentally sound approach at the plate and his uncanny pop for a middle infielder. Also like Baerga, however, Diaz isn't a standout defender at second base. His hands aren't soft, and neither his arm nor his glove is really steady enough for the infield. Diaz could add some more strength to produce enough power for left field. His bat should enable him to make the climb to low Class A while he continues to search for a position.
Managers in both the Pioneer and South Atlantic leagues raved about how Diaz' defensive abilities were no worse than major league average last year. He's one of the best catch-and-throw guys in the minors. His throws were timed consistently in the 1.85-second range at Wilmington and as low as 1.75 at Great Falls, where he gunned down 45 percent of basestealers. Opposing skippers admitted that Diaz completely shut down their running games. Several scouts who saw Ivan Rodriguez at the same point in his development compare Diaz favorably to him, and people in the Dodgers organization compare him to Steve Yeager, one of the organization's best defensive catchers ever. The missing element is Diaz' inability to put the bat on the ball. He hit a combined .184 last year and has not batted higher than .219 in four minor league seasons. Given his arm strength and his impotent bat, there's the possibility that Diaz could move to the mound. Los Angeles successfully converted Felix Rodriguez from catcher to pitcher and is trying to do the same with Will McCrotty. For now, however, the Dodgers will hope Diaz' bat will come around when he begins 2002 in low Class A.
McCrotty toiled as a defensive-oriented catcher for four years before moving to the mound during instructional league in 2000. He responded with aplomb and ranked among the hardest throwers in the South Atlantic League last year. McCrotty's 94-95 mph fastball possesses excellent movement. He also has made impressive improvement with his curveball, making it a solid complementary pitch. Unlike most former catchers who tend to short-arm their throws, he has excellent arm action for a converted player. McCrotty pitched well enough to earn a promotion to high Class A during the second half of 2001, then stood out during instructional league while displaying progress with his developing changeup. He has developed quickly over a short period of time. His biggest needs are improved command and better consistency with his changeup. McCrotty has the necessary ingredients to blossom into a dominating reliever at higher levels. He'll probably begin this year back in the Florida State League.
Garcia turned 21 late in the 2001 season, which coincided with several Pioneer League managers noting how much the potential five-tool outfielder matured physically over the course of the summer. He has added close to 50 pounds of muscle since signing in 1996, and he's starting to incorporate the added strength into his game. He reached career highs in virtually every category last season and led Great Falls in hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs. Several Pioneer League skippers compared him to Raul Mondesi. Garcia impresses scouts with his loose body, obvious athleticism and budding power. He's a decent defender with good speed and enough arm to play right field. His powerful wrists enable him to whip the bat through the strike zone, resulting in hard-hit line drives to all fields. Garcia is somewhat of a late bloomer, but the Dodgers believe he's ready to start making up for lost time. His next stop will be low Class A.
Matthews was named the Dodgers' minor league player of the month last May, at the same time his wife gave birth to their first child, a tribute to his resiliency. He showed signs of becoming a better all-around player last year in high Class A prior to struggling at the plate following a promotion to Double-A. Earlier in his career, the free-swinging Matthews was a feast-or-famine type of hitter who produced either extra-base hits or strikeouts. After the 2000 season, the Dodgers sat down with him and suggested he start focusing his efforts on plate discipline. He took the advice to heart and ranked fifth among all minor leaguers with a .436 on-base percentage last year. Matthews possesses a somewhat stiff stroke and his actions aren't always fluid. Even so, he hit a career-high .285 last year and possesses aboveaverage power. If he puts everything together, he could be a dangerous player. He has plenty of arm for right field, totaling 37 assists over the last two years, though he also has made 20 errors during that time. He'll start 2002 in Double-A.