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Loney's name jumped up the follow lists of Houston area scouts last spring. Most teams were enticed by his left arm and projected him as a supplemental first- to second-rounder as a pitcher. The Dodgers, however, grabbed Loney as a first baseman with the 19th pick. After passing up a Baylor scholarship to sign for $1.5 million, he tore up the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where managers rated him the No. 1 prospect. He had no trouble making a late-season jump to high Class A Vero Beach. The only glitch came when he was hit by a pitch that broke his left wrist. That nixed plans to send him to the Arizona Fall League. Demonstrating his passion for the game, Loney was back swinging a bat with one hand within two weeks. He won a gold medal with the U.S. 16-and-under team at the 2000 Pan American Youth Games and the national high school title with Elkins High last spring. Loney was a high school All-American, batting .509-8-58 and going 12-1, 1.51 with 120 strikeouts in 69 innings. He got plenty of exposure playing for the best team in the country and in the same region as fellow first-rounders Clint Everts (Expos) and Scott Kazmir (Mets) of Cypress Falls High. Against Everts in a scrimmage, Loney drilled a 93 mph fastball out of the park to the opposite field. Loney has outstanding bat control, and his picturesque lefthanded stroke reminds scouts of Shawn Green. He uses a pronounced leg lift as a timing mechanism, drawing comparisons to David Justice. Loney stays inside the ball well and his swing path keeps the bat head in the zone for a long time. He has grown four inches since his junior year, and projects to hit 35-plus home runs in the majors. He generates natural loft and raw power already. He's also a future Gold Glover as a first baseman. His instincts for the position make up for average range, and his soft hands will help save wild throws. On the mound, he reached 93 mph. Some scouts worried about Loney's durability as a position player because he had arthroscopic knee surgery after his junior season. His injury last year was a freak occurrence, but any time the wrist is involved, there are concerns about how it will affect his swing mechanics. Loney is an aggressive baserunner but will have below-average speed as he fills out. Loney jumped on the fast track and only injury can slow him. He could beat out Kazmir as the first high schooler from the 2002 draft to reach the majors. He'll play first at high Class A this year--if the Dodgers can resist promoting him.
Figueroa burst onto the prospect scene in December 2000 at the Perfect Game World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., and he spent the majority of 2001 touring the showcase circuit. He also played in the Perfect Game Fall Scout League in Iowa, going 6-1 with 65 strikeouts in 33 innings that summer. The Dodgers got a bargain when they signed him for $500,000 last January. Figueroa fires an 89-94 mph fastball from a deceptive three-quarters slot, creating outstanding arm-side run. His curveball is the best in the organization. He'll drop down for a low three-quarters release to get a slider break against lefthanders--who managed a .141 average against him--and throw a hard, downward- biting curve against righties. He honed his changeup and toned his developing body in instructional league. Figueroa's mechanics are solid, though he occasionally rushes his arm. That causes him to lose his balance, affecting his command. Figueroa could get lefties out in the big leagues right now, and the Dodgers will move him along aggressively. His next stop is the high Class A rotation.
Jackson's story is the opposite of James Loney's. Most teams coveted Jackson's bat when he was in high school, but the Dodgers drafted him as a pitcher. They allowed him to DH between starts during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. They wanted his athleticism on the mound, however, and he began concentrating solely on pitching last spring. He started the season in extended spring training, joined low Class A South Georgia in May and was named the organization's minor league pitcher of the year. Jackson throws 91-94 mph with a picture-perfect arm action, and he can get to 96 with heavy, late action up and in on righthanders. His slider has slurvy action, showing hard, tight spin and late bite at times. He's one of the best athletes in the system, with the makings of an easy, repeatable delivery. Though he throws two types of breaking balls, Jackson might be better off abandoning the curve to help him improve his slider. The Dodgers say he'll be more efficient with his pitch counts once he gains consistency with his mechanics. His changeup has potential but still needs more work. The Dodgers project Jackson as a frontline starter. After an impressive showing in instructional league, he might make a move to Double-A this year.
Abercrombie has blossomed from a raw draft-and-follow into, in the minds of some club officials, the organization's best prospect. Also a football and basketball standout in high school, Abercrombie hit .096 with 41 strikeouts in 96 at-bats in April. After getting contact lenses on May 1 he hit .315-10-53 with 23 walks and 117 strikeouts the rest of the way. Abercrombie doesn't just possess above-average tools; he grades out near the top of the charts for his raw power, speed, arm strength and defense. He's an aggressive hitter with a lightning-quick bat. He is a premium athlete, which prompts comparisons ranging from Preston Wilson to Torii Hunter to Reggie Sanders to Eric Davis. Statistical analysts argue Abercrombie won't hit because his plate discipline is so unrefined. Most scouts beg to differ because they say his flaws will be correctable with experience. He occasionally gets overanxious at the plate and the barrel of the bat gets out in front of his hands, causing him to hit around the ball. Abercrombie finished 2002 as Double-A Jacksonville's top hitter in the postseason, with a .303 average and five strikeouts in 33 at-bats. He'll spend the entire year there in 2003. If everything clicks, he profiles as a five-tool right fielder.
Thurston has earned a reputation as a winner by winning championships in junior college and the minors. In 2002, he won his second organization minor league player of the year award in three seasons and led Triple-A Las Vegas to the best record in the Pacific Coast League, topped the minors in hits and total bases (297) and all Dodgers farmhands in runs, doubles and triples. "Joey Ballgame" earned his nickname for his instincts and passion, which is evident in the way he carries himself. He doesn't employ classic swing mechanics as he dives into the plate and looks out of sync, but he has outstanding bat control and has developed more gap power as he has matured. He's the best baserunner in the system and has solid-average speed. Because he lacks soft hands, Thurston moved from shortstop to second base in 2001 with promising results. He rarely draws walks, which means he'll have to hit for a high average to have a good on-base percentage. He doesn't always make it look easy and his tools aren't overwhelming, leading some PCL scouts to project him as a utilityman instead of a regular. One of the Dodgers' most sought-after players in trades, Thurston is penciled in as their everyday second baseman following the offseason trade of Mark Grudzielanek. Thurston is a prime rookie of the year candidate.
Hill batted .354 as a three-year starting third baseman at Wichita State and led the Missouri Valley Conference with a .391 average as a junior. He was converted to catcher after signing in 2000. He led Jacksonville with 11 homers last year, then batted .307 in the Arizona Fall League. Hill has a pretty line-drive stroke with quick hands, and a disciplined approach from both sides of the plate. He shows the ability to drive the ball from the left side and projects to hit for average power. Hill has improved his game-calling and throwing, erasing 33 percent of basestealers last year. His arm strength and receiving skills are above-average. His makeup and feel for the game are on par with Joey Thurston's as the best in the organization. Hill is a well-rounded player without any glaring deficiencies. Still inexperienced as a catcher, he committed a Southern League-leading 17 errors after making 16 in 2001. Hill skipped a level a year ago and will move to Triple-A this season. With Paul LoDuca signed for two more years, the Dodgers have enviable catching depth. They won't need to rush Hill, who profiles as an everyday backstop.
Like Ricardo Rodriguez, the organization's top prospect a year ago before he was traded to Cleveland, Gonzalez pitched in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League for three years. Signed for $75,000, he grew three inches along the way. His fastball grew as well. Gonzalez' changeup is graded as a top-of-the-charts 80 pitch (on the 20-80 scale) by some scouts and elicits comparisons to Eric Gagne's. It acts like a screwball or splitter with wicked late fade. After throwing 87-90 mph when he came to the United States two years ago, he effortlessly dials his fastball up to 93 with plus boring life now. He repeats his delivery and works to both sides of the plate. Because he has pitched in relief, Gonzalez hasn't had much opportunity to develop a breaking ball. He made strides with a slider pitching as a starter this winter in the Dominican. Gonzalez blitzed through three levels last year and was added to the 40-man roster. He'll get a long look this spring and should secure a middle-relief role in Los Angeles at some point in 2003.
Despite a light workload as an amateur in Iowa, where high schools don't play a spring season, Hanrahan has responded to aggressive promotions and established himself as a workhorse. He tossed nine and six inning no-hitters last year before earning a promotion to Double-A. Hanrahan displays a feel for three solid pitches. His 90-92 mph sinker and slider are plus offerings, and he also throws a straight changeup. He does an effective job at changing speeds and pitching inside aggressively. He has a strong, durable frame and clean arm action. Hanrahan has good command, but his delivery occasionally gets out of whack and hinders his location in the zone. The key is for him to stay on top of the ball through his delivery. Otherwise he flies off toward first base, causing his arm slot to drop and stuff to flatten out. He made progress working with pitching instructor Ken Howell. Hanrahan projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he still needs two full seasons in the minors to accumulate innings and experience. He'll return to Jacksonville, where he got hit hard in three starts.
Coming off a one-year ban in the Dominican Republic for illegally signing Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles outbid 20 teams to sign Guzman for $2.25 million, a club record and the biggest bonus ever for a player from that nation. The Dodgers didn't have a first-round pick in 2001 and viewed Guzman as the equivalent. Guzman exhibits rare light-tower power in batting practice. He has the potential for five above-average tools, though his only present pluses are arm strength and raw pop. He has the bat speed and strength to develop well above-average game power in time. Guzman has yet to adjust to breaking pitches. He bails and his knees buckle at the sight of the slightest wrinkle. He needs to learn to trust his hands. Most scouts question whether he'll have the quickness to stay at shortstop and think a move to third base is on the horizon. Guzman is still immature at times. While the Dodgers have to keep him motivated, they won't hasten his timetable. It might be 2006 before he makes a big league appearance, but the end result could be special.
Rated as the No. 1 prospect in the organization after turning in an unprecedented 30-30 season in the high Class A California League during his 1999 pro debut, Chen hasn't displayed the same explosiveness on the bases or at the plate since shoulder surgery in 2000. He moved to first base last year, but didn't take to the new position and will head back to left field in 2003. Chen has quick wrists and generates raw power with plus bat speed. He shows well-above-average juice to the opposite field. While he doesn't get a good jump out of the box, Chen is a smooth, athletic runner once he gets under way. Chen is a streak hitter, and when he's not on he swings and misses a lot. His first move is away at the plate, leaving him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half. Defense isn't his strong suit. Chen's footwork around first base was horrendous, and he's a tentative outfielder with a below-average arm. Chen can still be a productive major league corner outfielder. The questions are whether it will be in Los Angeles and whether a club will tolerate his lofty strikeout totals. Unless he's traded or an injury creates an opening, he's headed back to Triple-A. By playing in three games with the Dodgers in 2002, Chen became the first player from Taiwan to play in the big leagues.
Kuo was one of Jack Zduriencik's last significant signings as the Dodgers' international scouting director before he left in 2000 to become Brewers scouting director. But since Kuo signed for $1.25 million, injuries have kept him from showcasing his high-octane arm. He needed Tommy John surgery following his first pro start in 2000. After missing most of 2001, he made one rehab appearance in the Gulf Coast League last June, but reported discomfort in his elbow and didn't pitch again until August. Each time out, he flirted with upper-90s velocity. He pitched for Taiwan in the Asian Games, but was wild and ineffective in two relief outings. Upon his return to the United States, doctors discovered scar tissue was irritating the nerves in his elbow. Though Kuo hasn't stayed healthy long enough to pitch in more than five consecutive games, Los Angeles officials insist he is one of the most promising prospects in the organization. Kuo has a free and easy arm action that makes it look like he's just playing catch with 97 mph heat. He creates a lot of his power with a strong leg drive in his delivery. He also spins a big breaking ball and shows an effective straight change. There's still time for him, but 2003 is a critical year in his development. He was able to participate in winter workouts at Dodger Stadium.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Diaz went to high school in Chicago and was selected as a draft-and-follow pick before his freshman season at Grayson County (Texas) CC, which also produced John Lackey. Diaz has won batting titles in the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic leagues in his first two pro seasons. While he has a slightly unorthodox, free-swinging approach at the plate, he has plus bat speed and bat-head control. He can drive the ball into the alleys but probably won't hit for above-average home run power. Though he's stocky with a thick lower half, he's an above-average runner when he puts forth full effort. Scouts have questioned his work ethic since high school. He appears lackadaisical, especially in the field. He enjoys hitting so much that some scouts believe he just blows off working on his defensive skills. The Dodgers moved him from third to second to first base last year, and still aren't sure where he'll end up. He has plenty of arm strength, but lacks the hands and the first-step quickness for third base. Los Angeles would like to see him handle second base. He'll try to take home a third batting title in Double-A this season.
Miller was on most Southern California area scouts' follow lists heading into last spring, and some thought he'd make a nice draft-and-follow pick. Then his low-80s velocity improved to the upper 80s, which coupled with his plus breaking ball caused his stock to soar. "He got better in March instead of the following spring," one American League cross-checker said. By draft day, that scout wasn't the only one making Chuck Finley comparisons. One of the youngest players in the draft at 17, Miller operates with an 89 mph fastball with sink down in the zone. He tops out at 92 and has projectability. His knuckle-curve is an above-average pitch with hard, downward break, though he needs to sharpen his command of the pitch. He demonstrates a feel for his rudimentary circle changeup, which projects as an average offering. Miller's delivery is a little choppy and needs some minor tinkering, but it also adds to his deception. He has a high leg kick and short stride, which helps him to snap off his nasty knuckle-curve, so the Dodgers won't lengthen it too much. Spring training will determine whether he's ready to jump to a full-season league.
Brown was something of an unknown when he was acquired as a throw-in in the Gary Sheffield deal with the Braves. Credit Los Angeles' pro scouting staff for uncovering a gem. Brown had Tommy John surgery and missed the 2000 season, but was touching the mid-90s by instructional league in 2001. He made a good impression on his new organization by ranking second in the Florida State League in strikeouts and third in average allowed last year. Brown can be overpowering with an 89-93 mph fastball, and his hammer curveball is a strikeout pitch. He mixes in a below-average slider and average changeup. He reminds some of a young Jack McDowell. He has a long, loose arm action, and just needs to repeat his delivery and release point to sharpen the command of his fastball. Brown's next challenge will be Double-A. He should move one level at a time.
When Cleveland's 2001 draft class was loaded with pitchers, Thompson went from a promising 2000 supplemental first-rounder to buried in a deep system. Knee surgery that limited him to just 12 innings in 2001 didn't help his cause. Still overshadowed, he emerged last spring throwing harder than ever. Thompson showed his best stuff in the high Class A Carolina League playoffs and, in what essentially turned out to be a showcase for Dodgers scouts, during instructional league last fall. In need of a lefthanded reliever, Los Angeles worked out a deal with the Cubs, who took Thompson in the major league Rule 5 draft and then sold him to the Dodgers. His 89-94 mph fastball, nasty two-plane slider and changeup spelled troubles for lefties, who hit .225 against him last year. The heavy sink on his fastball makes it difficult for hitters to lift the ball, resulting in loads of grounders. He has an athletic delivery with minimal effort. He'll have to throw lights-out for Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy in spring training, as it will be tough for a contending club to carry an extra arm. But the Dodgers project Thompson as a starter down the road and would like to find a way to keep him on their 25-man roster.
Signed by Venezuelan scout Camilo Pascual as a 17-year-old, Gutierrez is a true projection prospect. He has average tools across the board with a chance to add a few pluses as he matures. Still lean and underdeveloped, he has a good frame to fill out. He shows tremendous raw power in batting practice, though he didn't mash in games last year. The Dodgers were pleased with the way he handled himself in his first taste of full-season ball, however. Gutierrez displays strong hitting mechanics and a lightning-quick bat. The wrist action in his swing creates good backspin carry off the bat. There are some holes in his swing he needs to address, though the Dodgers think his aggressiveness is one of his strongest assets. He's not a burner, but he's an athletic runner with a good stride from first to third. His arm strength is average and he's a solid defensive outfielder. He's expected to spend the season in high Class A.
Aybar was No. 7 on the Dodgers prospect list in each of the first two years after he signed for a then-Dominican record $1.4 million in January 2000. (The mark since has been shattered by Joel Guzman's $2.25 million deal.) Aybar, whose brother Eric is a rising prospect in the Angels organization, got off to an inauspicious start last spring when he wasn't allowed into the United States because he couldn't produce documents to verify his identity. He didn't join the Dodgers until the end of spring training and it was the end of April before he was in the Vero Beach lineup. The good news was that his age was confirmed. The bad news was that he missed significant development time playing the waiting game with the U.S. consulate, though he did work out at the Dodgers' Dominican complex. Young and immature, Aybar is a high-maintenance prospect. He has developed a patient approach at the plate, perhaps at the expense of his aggressiveness. He doesn't identify pitches well and gives away too many at-bats. His swing is smooth and effortless from both sides of the plate, and he can drive the ball to all fields. An amateur shortstop, Aybar shows swift actions at third base but his lower half is getting thicker. He also has soft hands and a plus arm. His performance doesn't merit a promotion to Double-A and he'd be best served with another year in high Class A.
Nicknamed "The Bull," Broxton reminds scouts of Angels prospect Bobby Jenks for his large frame and power-pitcher mentality. Broxton turned down a Georgia Southern scholarship to sign for $685,000 as a 2002 second-round pick. A big-boned kid at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, he'll have to keep his weight under control. If he can, the Dodgers view his size as a plus because he's strong and durable. Broxton has a textbook delivery, with an effortless action and good arm speed. He pours 94-95 mph fastballs into the zone and tops out at an explosive 97. He threw four pitches in high school, including a slider and curveball, but the Dodgers say he'll be more effective if he focuses on one breaking ball. His curve shows more promise, with good velocity and late depth. Broxton made impressive progress on his changeup with roving instructor Mark Brewer last fall. He also made an adjustment to speed up his times to the plate with a new slide step. He throws strikes and can blow the ball by hitters. Broxton remains a starter for now, and he can fall back on being a quality set-up man or potential closer if he can't stay in the rotation for the long term.
In one of Omar Minaya's first moves as Expos general manager, he looked to stabilize his bullpen by acquiring Matt Herges from the Dodgers. The price proved to be steep, as Los Angeles came away with Guillermo Mota and Ruan. Mota made progress in middle relief and is a possible 97-98 mph set-up man for Eric Gagne. Ruan is more of a mystery. Last spring, he turned out to be a year older than previously believed. Scouts are split on his profile. Those who like him project him as a Gold Glove center fielder with a chance to develop power. Those who don't dispute his hitting potential but acknowledge that his defense will carry him to the big leagues. A free swinger with an overaggressive approach, Ruan made adjustments last year to iron out flaws in his swing. By lowering his hands in his stance, he takes a more direct path to the ball, and it paid off in Triple-A. His productivity still is below that of a quality outfielder. Ruan doesn't make enough contact or have enough discipline to hit at the top of the order, and he doesn't hit for enough power to bat in the middle. He uses his blazing speed well on the bases--where he improved his jumps on steals last year--and in center field. Ruan reminds scouts of Andruw Jones with his range and he has an above-average arm to boot. He needs more time in Triple-A to work on his approach at the plate.
Questions over Nixon's signability kept him out of the top two rounds. One of the top athletes in the draft, he was recruited as a quarterback by Arizona State and Notre Dame after setting the Arizona high school record for career passing yards, and he committed to UCLA as a safety. Arizona's 2001 prep football player of the year kicked and punted as well, and he led Sunnyslope to a basketball championship. Nixon left his multisport aspirations behind when he signed a baseball-only contract worth $950,000, the third-highest bonus outside 2002's first round. His obvious athleticism aside, the Dodgers were enamored with Nixon's leadership and believe he'll translate it into superior game-calling skills. He still has a lot of room for improvement behind the plate. His feet don't work in sync with his upper body yet, which often causes his arm slot to drop, and he throws sliders down to second. He nabbed just eight of 74 basestealers (11 percent) in his first pro summer. Nixon has the agility to shift his weight and block pitches in the dirt. Despite his background as a quarterback, his arm is fringe average. At the plate, he hits line drives with a short, compact swing. He does a good job of staying inside the ball. Like most young players, he still needs to learn the strike zone. Not all scouts believe Nixon will be able to remain behind the plate, but he can handle the outfield, the position he played in high school. He'll make his full-season debut in low Class A this year.
As in the cases of Andrew Brown, Derek Thompson and Ruddy Lugo, the Dodgers' pro scouting staff did a fine job identifying Rodriguez to get him thrown in as part of the Antonio Osuna trade with the White Sox in 2001. After he spent the first year in their organization as a starter, the Dodgers decided his two-pitch repertoire was better suited for the bullpen. He went 1-1, 1.13 in eight relief innings for the Dominican national team in the 2001 World Cup in Taiwan. Then Rodriguez didn't allow a run in 27 outings covering 35 innings last year, though his breakthrough season was interrupted by a bout with elbow tendinitis. He has a sneaky fastball that he can add and subtract velocity from. He can throw it by hitters at 95 mph. He sets up his fastball with a second plus pitch, a tight spinning curveball. Rodriguez was healthy by instructional league. Los Angeles pitching instructors think he could move fast if he didn't rely so heavily on his fastball. He should reach Double-A for the first time in 2003.
Like Joel Hanrahan, Hammes was signed out of Iowa by area scout Mitch Webster. Hammes is a giant on the mound, with more of an overpowering approach than Hanrahan. Hammes throws a power curveball rather than Hanrahan's nasty slider. Hammes' fastball features more explosive late life with projectable velocity. He already tops out in the 92-93 mph range. Without a spring high school season in Iowa, he has low mileage on his arm, though he did show his stuff for scouts in the Perfect Game spring scout league and various showcase events. He established himself as a premium pick at the predraft showcase last April. Because of his frame, effortless arm action and limited experience, he should reach the mid-90s. Dodgers pitching instructors will focus on improving Hammes' lower half in his delivery, which also should produce more power. He shows a feel for a straight changeup. Hanrahan jumped straight to a full-season Class A league in his second season, but Hammes might be better served staying in extended spring training to work on his delivery and offspeed stuff.
After spending the first four years of his career primarily as a starter, Colyer's aggressive mound presence and power arsenal prompted his move to the bullpen last year--as did his lack of control. Along with Colyer, the Dodgers have cultivated a promising group of lefthanded bullpen arms in the upper levels including Derek Thompson, Orlando Rodriguez, Victor Alvarez, Rick Roberts and 2002 15th-rounder Eric Stults. Colyer has the best arm strength of the group and one of the best fastballs in the system. He pitched at 94-96 mph in every outing last year, maxing out at 97 with explosive late life. His feel for the strike zone is limited because he has a full-effort delivery that's hard to repeat. Colyer flashes a solidaverage slider, but it's inconsistent because his release point is as well. He has the ideal mentality to pitch in tough late-inning situations, and not many lefthanders in baseball can match his pure velocity. He just needs the command to go with it. He'll move up to Triple- A this year.
Drafted out of the same Hillsborough High program that produced Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield and Carl Everett, Romano was often compared to Craig Biggio during his first few years in the Rangers system. After being passed by second baseman Mike Young in Texas and moved to the outfield, he came to the Rockies last summer. The Dodgers like his potential as a utilityman and traded for him in January. His bat has tailed off since he left high Class A in 1999, and Romano has established a reputation as more of a scrappy, versatile player. Drafted as a third baseman, he was moved to second base after his first season but never refined his footwork there. He has shown dramatic improvement in the outfield, utilitzing his instincts and aggressiveness. He has a compact, line-drive stroke and a sparkplug mentality, though his extra-base power has been absent at the upper levels. Romano has plus speed and runs the bases well. He should get consideration for playing time at second base in Los Angeles, but more likely will settle in as a versatile option off the bench. He also could be a righthanded complement to Dave Roberts in center field.
Repko showed the capability for all-around stardom as a first-team high school All-American in 1999, when he batted .581 with 18 home runs and 14 steals. A pulled hamstring and recurring back problems hampered his progress throughout the 2000-01 seasons, but he was healthy enough last year to play in a career-high 120 games. Instead of the five-tool projections and Paul Molitor comparisons from early in his career, Repko now projects as more of a versatile, reserve player in the Jason Romano mold. Repko moved to center field last year after committing 67 errors in 134 games at shortstop. He's one of the fastest players in the system--a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale--with plus arm strength and solid baseball instincts, so the transition went smoothly. His power doesn't project as a plus tool anymore, though he can drive the ball into the alleys with some authority. He has a quick bat that should produce a good average if he can develop more selectivity at the plate. He chases too many pitches out of the zone. Repko could get a shot at Double-A this year.
In 2001, Ed Creech's last draft as Dodgers scouting director, he tabbed high school pitchers with his first six picks including Pilkington with his first choice in the second round. Pilkington, a nephew of 287-game winner Bert Blyleven, was shut down with a sore shoulder that required arthroscopic surgery after just five pro outings in 2001. Pilkington was ready to go from Opening Day last year, working shorter pitch-restricted stints until stretching out deeper into starts later in the summer. Like his uncle, Pilkington has a curveball that's a go-to pitch. It has good three-quarters break through the zone. He has outstanding command and control of three pitches. As a high school senior, he issued just seven walks in 72 innings. His fastball is average, sitting around 88-91 mph and topping out at 92, and his changeup has late fading action. Because he relies on location and changing speeds more than overpowering hitters, some scouts think Pilkington is around the strike zone too much. He demonstrates an advanced feel for pitching for his age and just needs to be more careful with his location. He's ready for a full season in high Class A in 2003.
Logan White is developing a good track record of evaluating young, projectable lefties. As an area scout, he signed Kevin Walker for the Padres. As an Orioles crosschecker he was so confident he said he would have put his job on the line for Rommie Lewis. His first draft class as Dodgers scouting director yielded at least three southpaws with similar qualifications: Greg Miller, McGrew and 15th-round gem Eric Stults. McGrew's delivery and quick arm reminded White of Walker and Lewis, who both enjoyed rapid jumps in velocity from the mid-80s. Area scout John Kosciak clocked McGrew at 84-87 mph in the spring. After signing, Megrew reached 88-93, also spinning a good curveball and mixing in a deceptive changeup. He gave the Dodgers a scare when he strained a ligament in his elbow last August. All the ingredients--projectable velocity, feel for secondary stuff and repeatable delivery-- are in place for a rapid ascent. The Dodgers believe he'll be healthy for spring training and a potential trip to low Class A.
Not to be confused with the Jose Diaz who made last year's Dodgers prospect list and now is known as Joselo Soriano, this Diaz is simply known as "Jumbo" throughout the organization. Both fire mid- to upper-90s heat, but Jumbo demonstrates a better feel for pitching. Originally signed for $100,000, he's physically imposing and can overpower hitters with one of the best fastballs in the system. He tops out at 97 mph and pitches at 94-95. He also has some aptitude for a slider which distinguishes him from other live arms in the lower levels. Diaz needs to get innings and experience, though he'll move up the ladder as a reliever. He has the build of a tight end, drawing obvious parallels to Armando Benitez. Diaz could close in low Class A this year and has a shot to advance higher.
Another highly regarded young gun from Pablo Peguero's scouting efforts in the Dominican Republic, Osoria emerged as a prospect last year after two years as a starter in the Dominican Summer League. The Dodgers have a plethora of promising young arms who already have been restricted to relief roles. It's surprising that they've limited some of those prospects to the bullpen instead of developing stamina and encouraging a complete repertoire by making them starters. Osoria differs from the radar-gun monsters in that his fastball has average velocity, but no pitcher in the system can top his plus-plus movement. He keeps hitters off balance with a low three-quarters arm slot that borders on sidearm. Osoria operates primarily with a two-pitch, sinker-slider attack. He doesn't throw anything straight and hitters have little chance of lifting the ball against him. Florida State League hitters slugged just .260 against him, and righthanders managed a .181 average with one extra-base hit in 105 at bats. Praised for his work ethic, he could move through the system in a hurry.
Selected by the Braves as a 29th-round draft-and-follow in 2001, Young emerged as one of the top junior college hitters in California last spring. He was expected to sign with Atlanta, but negotiations fell through and the Dodgers redrafted him in the fourth round. He intrigued Los Angeles brass with an impressive hitting display during a predraft workout at Dodger Stadium. After finishing among the Pioneer League leaders in doubles, home runs, slugging and extra-base hits, he continued to shine as the most impressive player at the club's winter workouts at Chavez Ravine. Young can put a charge into the ball from both sides of the plate. He showed signs of getting too homer-conscious, getting himself into trouble by trying to lift everything. He has plus arm strength and good hands, but his footwork needs improvement. The Dodgers want him to stay at second base, and that's where he'll play for one of their Class A affiliates this year.