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Guzman's physical ability has been lauded since he signed for a club- and Dominican-record $2.25 million as a 16-year-old. Following two inconsistent seasons, he made significant progress last year turning his potential into performance. He was rated the No. 1 prospect in the high Class A Florida State League and ranked No. 2 in the Double-A Southern League. At the Futures Game in July, he turned heads with his power display during batting practice at Minute Maid Park. Guzman's maturity was questioned when he clashed with his low Class A manager Dann Bilardello early in 2003, but the Dodgers were pleased with his makeup and work ethic in 2004. Guzman's affluent background--his mother is a teacher and his father is a lawyer in the Dominican Republic--has aided his development as he communicates well with teammates and absorbs instruction. Guzman might best be described as a manchild. He has as much offensive upside as almost any prospect in the minors, drawing tremendous raw power from his 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame. Last year he made adjustments at the plate to help translate his batting-practice blasts into similarly prodigious homers during games. He made strides with his pitch recognition, which hampered him during his first two seasons, and stayed back on offspeed stuff better. Guzman has remarkable plate coverage and is learning to drive the ball out of all parts of the park. He does a tremendous job of staying inside the ball and keeping his hands ahead of the barrel. He generates exceptional bat speed. His approach is similar to Vladimir Guerrero's in that Guzman is aggressive in all counts. Defensively, he features a plus-plus arm and soft, easy hands. He has good actions and makes smooth transitions around the bag. While he almost certainly will outgrow the middle infield, scouts grade his overall defensive package now as average to slightly above-average for a shortstop. Guzman's future playing weight figures to be somewhere near 250 pounds, which will necessitate a position change. His range and speed project as below-average for a big league shortstop. His instincts, athleticism and arm strength will allow him to move to a corner infield or outfield spot. With prospects James Loney (first base) and Andy LaRoche (third base) working their way up the ladder, the Dodgers likely will put Guzman in right field. He swings and misses too frequently, though his power numbers help justify his lofty strikeout totals. Though he has improved his pitch recognition, he still has a tendency to allow situations to dictate his approach. For instance, he often chases pitches when he's trying to come through with runners in scoring position. Despite being just 19, Guzman answered every challenge Los Angeles threw at him in 2004, including a promotion to Double-A. He likely will open the season back at Jacksonville and would benefit from at least another full season in the minors. With patience and another year of refinement, Guzman could be ready to contribute in Los Angeles by 2006.
Teams shied away from high school righthanders in the first round of the 2003 draft, with only two chosen, but the Dodgers don't regret spending their first-rounder and $1.375 million on Billingsley. His stock soared in his first full season, as he was rated the top pitching prospect in the Florida State League before earning a promotion to Double-A before his 20th birthday. Billingsley attacks hitters with plus power stuff. He shows good control of an explosive fastball that sits at 94 mph and tops out at 97. His slider has depth and late life, and he throws a hard curveball. Strong and durable with calves like Mark Prior's, he also has tremendous makeup. While Billingsley has a good idea on the mound, he has a tendency to try to overpower every hitter, which leads to too many walks. He needs to improve his offspeed stuff to keep hitters off balance, but he doesn't have a great feel for his changeup yet and hasn't been forced to use it much. The Dodgers might slow the pace of Billingsley's development after watching Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller get hurt when they were rushed. He'll probably go back to Double-A in 2005.
Jackson was dominant at times in his September 2003 big league callup, beating Randy Johnson on his 20th birthday in his first outing. A prime Rookie of the Year candidate for 2004, he struggled in spring training and never got untracked. His confidence suffered and he missed a month with a strained forearm. Though his velocity fluctuated last year, Jackson's lively fastball sits at 93 mph and touches 97 when he's healthy and pitching downhill. His slider was also inconsistent, but at times showed the tight, late break that makes it a potential out pitch. He has outstanding makeup and work ethic. The Dodgers tweaked Jackson's delivery and he seldom repeated the same free and easy motion. He was primarily an outfielder until 2002 and still lacks an advanced feel for pitching despite his meteoric rise. He needs to hone his control and consistency, especially of his offspeed stuff. While Jackson regressed a year ago, he remains a premium prospect. The Dodgers had him rest during the offseason and hope he makes a better showing in spring training this year. Unless he's lights out, he'll open 2005 back at Triple-A Las Vegas.
After batting .343 with five doubles in 35 at-bats in big league camp last spring, Loney appeared ready to blast off. But he fractured the tip of the middle finger on his left hand and developed an infection in the finger, costing him three weeks and hampering his production afterward. Loney did bat .314 in the Arizona Fall League and remains one of the game's most promising first-base prospects. Loney makes hard, line-drive contact and projects to hit for a high average. He stays inside the ball well, and his swing path allows the bat head to stay in the zone for an extended time. His defense is major league quality already. He's smooth and fluid with exceptionally soft hands and a well above-average arm. Scouts have wondered when Loney's power is going to come--he has a .407 slugging percentage as a pro--and some have suggested his swing path might not be conducive for big-time home run production. He has below-average speed, though he runs the bases well. Since Loney reached high Class A Vero Beach at age 18, hand-related injuries have kept him from peak performance. He needs another full year and a healthy one before contending for a job in Los Angeles in 2006. He'll probably start this year in Double-A.
The Dodgers had to fight the commissioner's office's bonus recommendations to sign LaRoche for $1 million in 2003. After establishing himself as the best hitter in the Cape Cod League that summer, they believed he would become a first-rounder if he went to Rice. His father Dave was an all-star pitcher and his brother Adam starts at first base for the Braves. LaRoche has big-time power potential. He has good strength, a quick bat and excellent load for his swing, helping him generate backspin and loft. He owns the organization's best arm and has above-average range and hands. He's an average runner. LaRoche is almost exclusively a pull hitter and can be too aggressive in his approach. He swings and misses too often, so he may never hit for a huge average. He battled arm soreness, which led to throwing errors, after moving to third base last year. He played shortstop before turning pro. If he reaches his ceiling, LaRoche could hit 35-40 homers annually. He may start 2005 back in high Class A but should reach Double-A by the end of the season.
Outside of Joel Guzman, Martin made the most significant leap in the system last year. A 35th-round pick by the Expos out of Montreal ABC baseball academy in 2000, he played two years at Chipola Junior College before signing with the Dodgers for $40,000. He moved from third base to catcher in 2003. Martin made strides in his defensive game last year. He's quick, uses his excellent footwork to help him block balls in the dirt and has a well-above-average arm. Offensively, he has a line-drive stroke, good plate discipline and the potential to hit 15-20 homers annually. He's durable, works hard and has a strong makeup. Martin's swing can get long at times. He needs to maintain his focus throughout games on his receiving, but more than anything else he requires more experience behind the plate. He's a below-average runner, though not a baseclogger. After taking a step forward in the Arizona Fall League, Martin will open the season in Double-A. He has no challenger as the Dodgers' catcher of the future and may be ready for the majors by September 2006.
After establishing himself as baseball's top lefthanded pitching prospect in 2003, Miller never took the mound last season. He had shoulder pain toward the end of the 2003 season and had the bursa sac removed from his shoulder last March. Doctors discovered a bone spur in January, and performed a second operation on his shoulder. Before he got hurt, Miller's velocity had steadily increased, from the mid-80s to low 90s in high school to regularly touching 95 in 2003. His hard slider has developed into a plus pitch, and he has a power curveball. A solid-average changeup completes his repertoire. What separates Miller, though, is his cerebral approach and deft command of all his pitches. Miller's health is a major question mark. Some Dodgers officials believe his shoulder troubles resulted from being rushed, and that the club reacted too slowly to treat the problem. Following changes in the player-development department, Los Angeles will take a more conservative approach with Miller. He was expected to begin throwing again by spring training and could join Class A Vero Beach by mid-June.
Considered the best hitter in the 2004 high school draft class, DeWitt lived up to his reputation after signing for $1.2 million. He moved from shortstop to third base and strung together a 19-game hitting streak in his first month as a pro. He was rated the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. DeWitt has a pretty lefthanded stroke. He generates good bat speed with a nice load that allows him to set his hands before unleashing. He has the potential to develop into a 30-35 home run threat. He made adjustments well and handled offspeed stuff better as the season went on. His arm is slightly above-average. DeWitt's speed and range are fringe-average, and his hands are just adequate. He led Pioneer League third basemen with 20 errors. The Dodgers say he can become at least an average third baseman because of his work ethic. He needs to stay back on breaking balls and use all fields, and he showed a feel for doing so last summer. DeWitt figures to begin his first full season at low Class A Columbus. As he gets acclimated to pro ball, he could move quickly.
After missing much of 2003 with wrist tendinitis and a biceps strain, Broxton reported to spring training healthy and in much better shape. Nicknamed "Bull," he's the most physically imposing pitching prospect in the system. Broxton pounds the strike zone with a heavy 92-93 mph sinker, which he complements with a sharp, mid-80s slider. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and repeats his delivery consistently despite his size. He has good makeup and pitches with tenacity. Broxton struggles with his changeup grip. He prefers to throw the pitch similar to a palmball and tends to raise his arm angle, tipping it off to astute hitters. Maintaining his body will be important after his weight soared as high as 277 pounds in 2003. If he develops the changeup, Broxton profiles as a potential No. 2 starter in the big leagues. He should open the season in the Double-A rotation, though he could move to late-inning relief down the road.
Days before he was to attend class at Cal State Fullerton in the fall of 2003, Tiffany signed for $1.1 million, the second-highest bonus any second- rounder got that year. He started a combined no-hitter last May, then improved on that effort two weeks later with a seven-inning perfect game. He finished the season by reaching double-digit strikeouts in each of his last four starts. Tiffany shows an advanced feel for setting up hitters with three potential pitches. He pitches at 86-90 mph with his fastball, which features late life and tops out at 92. Both his 12-to-6 curveball and circle changeup already rate as plus pitches at times. Like most young pitchers, Tiffany lacks consistency with his secondary pitches. Because he's just 6-foot-1, it's hard for him to maintain a downhill plane for added deception. He tends to get under or around his pitches, causing his stuff to flatten out and sit high in the strike zone. His stocky body always has concerned scouts. Few lefthanders have better all-around stuff than Greg Miller or Tiffany. The Dodgers see no need to rush Tiffany and will send him to high Class A this year.
Elbert, who grew up less than 10 miles from where Dodgers scouting director Logan White went to grade school, was considered the top prep lefthander in the 2004 high school draft class. Elbert was also an all-state running back as a junior, rushing for a Missouri-high 2,449 yards with 36 touchdowns in 2002 before giving up football. His athleticism translates well on the mound. His arm works loose and easy, creating effortless 90-94 mph velocity on his hard, sinking fastball. He scrapped his curveball in favor of a mid-80s slider that has plus potential, and his changeup also has late, diving action. He projects to have above-average control and command. Elbert didn't pitch as aggressively in his pro debut as he did as an amateur, leading to high pitch counts and too many walks. He needs to throw his changeup more frequently. With two developing plus power pitches, Elbert could profile as a closer down the line. The Dodgers will continue to develop him as a starter. He needs innings and will make his full-season debut in the low Class A rotation in 2005.
After he performed well as an outfielder at a tryout in the Dominican Republic, the Dodgers signed Pimentel for $70,000 and promptly moved him to the mound. Built similar to Yhency Brazoban, Pimentel has a live arm with premium athletic ability. He dominated at times when he got his breaking ball over for strikes, including a 16-strikeout, seven-inning performance in June. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 mph and sits around 90 with boring action. Pimentel also has a hard, downer breaking ball, a changeup and a sinker. His frame is broad, and he's projectable because of his arm action and athleticism. At times it seemed as if Pimentel wasn't sure where his pitches were headed, and he needs to learn how to harness his stuff. He showed a grasp for setting up hitters, though his learning curve is considerable. Pimentel has good aptitude, raw but electric stuff and the durability to profile as a future middle-of-the-rotation starter. He's slated to open 2005 in high Class A.
While the Dodgers' high-profile Pacific Rim signings of Hong-Chih Kuo and Chin-Feng Chen have not paid off, Hu has stepped forward as a potential impact Taiwanese prospect. Former special assistant to the GM Jeff Schugel scouted Hu during the 2002 World Junior Championship in Sherbrooke, Quebec and the Dodgers signed him five months later. He hit safely in 15 of 20 games following a late-season promotion to high Class A before going down with a right elbow injury. Hu's best tool is his glove. He was named the best defensive shortstop in the low Class A South Atlantic League and turns in acrobatic highlight plays up the middle with regularity. He makes good reads on grounders, has a smooth exchange from glove to throwing hand, plus range and an accurate, adequate arm. Hu is undersized and his frame doesn't lend to considerable growth potential, but his strength shouldn't be underestimated. Some scouts project Hu's power potential as average. He generates good bat speed and drives the ball to both alleys, with occasional home-run power. He handles the bat well, shows good instincts on the bases and is an above-average runner, though he's not a burner. Moreover, Hu has embraced American culture, is beginning to grasp the language and has adapted well. He likely will open the season in high Class A.
After a breakout year in 2003, Navarro entered last year as the Yankees' top prospect. But he showed up in Double-A overconfident and his play suffered. An attempt to get stronger in the offseason backfired, as he came in overweight and lost bat speed. New York sent him to Arizona in January, and the Diamondbacks sent him and three minor league pitchers to the Dodgers for Shawn Green the next day. Navarro has a compact swing that helps him make consistent, hard contact from both sides of the plate. He's a gap-to-gap, line-drive hitter and isn't afraid to take a walk or work deep counts. A converted infielder, he has a strong throwing arm that helped him nab 33 percent of basestealers in 2004. His receiving skills are average. He never has hit for much power, however, and his lack of conditioning made matters worse. Like most catchers, he's not much of a runner. A strong finish helped Navarro salvage an otherwise uninspiring season. Though the Dodgers need catching help, Navarro clearly isn't ready yet. He needs to re-establish himself in Triple-A.
When the Dodgers included Guillermo Mota in a trade deadline deal with the Marlins last year, they were hoping to get a boost in the pen from Edwin Jackson and Duaner Sanchez. But it was Brazoban who stepped up as the most reliable set-up man down the stretch. He was converted from an outfielder in 2002 by the Yankees, and the Dodgers acquired him in the Kevin Brown-Jeff Weaver swap in December 2003. His career took off after he switched organizations. He allowed just three earned runs in his first 26 big league appearances and was unflappable late in games. Brazoban works primarily with a two-pitch arsenal consisting of a 94-97 mph fastball that explodes out of his hand and an above-average, but inconsistent slider. He displays good command of both pitches. The Dodgers were working to improve his changeup, which he doesn't throw often. Brazobanis still learning the nuances of pitching. The Dodgers still haven't replaced the invaluable Mota, and Brazoban is the favorite to bridge the gap to Eric Gagne.
Most scouts expected Paul to honor his commitment to Tulane after joining Chad Billingsley as a Baseball America second-team High School All-American in 2003, but he signed with the Dodgers for $270,000 instead. The Dodgers drafted his brother Matthew in the 18th round last year out of Southern University. Paul earned a spot in the organization's top 10 after his encouraging debut, then came out of the gates with a .361-3-20 start last April before struggling the rest of the way. He tweaked his hitting mechanics during the year, reducing his stride, but seems most comfortable with a full stride at the plate. He generates good power from his strong, compact body and quick wrists. Paul is patient to a fault at the plate. He often found himself behind in counts as he waited for his pitch, but too frequently failed to make contact in two-strike counts. He is adequate at best in the outfield. He is an above-average runner with well-above-average arm strength, but doesn't make good reads and needs to improve his routes. He could repeat low Class A in 2005 depending on his showing this spring, but should see time at high Class A sometime during the season.
Hanrahan has been on the cusp of the big leagues for the last couple of seasons but has struggled to get over the hump. He was roughed up in Triple-A during a late-season promotion in 2003, and followed that up with his worst season as a pro. He has three solid-average pitches, but doesn't repeat his arm slot, neutralizing his stuff and hurting his control. Hanrahan's sinker/slider combination, as well as a good straight changeup, is effective from his usual high three-quarters arm slot, but he often drops down and causes his pitches to flatten out. He gave up a lot of home runs last year after managing to keep the ball in the yard in his first three years in the organization. Hanrahan also had a tendency to spin off his front side toward first base, which contributed to his career-high walk total in just 119 innings, his low for a full season. He has good makeup, pitches with tenacity and pitched through a bout of shoulder stiffness last year. When his mechanics are in sync, His boring sinker sits at 91-92 mph and maxes out at 94. His mid-80s slider has good tilt and bite, and his changeup has nice sink as well. This season is pivotal for Hanrahan, who needs to improve his conditioning, make adjustments and show he can fulfill his potential as a middle- of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. He'll start the season back in Triple-A.
Young validated his status as one of the organization's best hitting prospects with his third straight productive season, leading the Florida State League in extra-base hits (61) and finishing second in homers and third in RBIs and doubles. His 36 doubles broke Henry Rodriguez' Vero Beach club record, which had stood since 1989. Young's hit and power tools grade out as above-average. An aggressive, confident switch-hitter, he has good bat speed and rarely gets cheated at the plate. His swing gets long at times, leading to swings-and-misses, but when he centers the ball he generates loft and carry. Young has better bat control from the right side and more power from the left. He is a below-average runner. Scouts doubt he has the range to play second base in the big leagues, but he made strides defensively in 2004. He embraced the instruction of minor league infield coordinator Jerry Royster and assistant field coordinator John Shoemaker, which helped him improve his footwork around the bag. He still allows ground balls to get too deep, though he has a solid arm. Young will join Joel Guzman up the middle in Double-A this year and could end up at a corner outfield spot down the line.
Dunlap has dropped 70 pounds after ballooning to 300 in high school in Alameda, Calif., where he was a teammate of Dontrelle Willis. He maintained his conditioning at Contra Costa Junior College with the help of former major league all-star Willie McGee and climbed draft boards last spring. He led all California juco hitters with a .523 average. Described as a professional hitter, Dunlap had a strong debut and led the Pioneer League in walks and on base percentage while ranking as the league's No. 7 prospect. Dunlap's spray approach has drawn comparisons to Tony Gwynn's. He has a simple, level stroke with good strike-zone judgment. His power is mostly to the gaps now, but he shows potential to hit 25-30 home runs a year, and will pull pitches deep to right field on occasion. Dunlap has good plate coverage but is susceptible to balls in on his hands. He is a 30 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. Defensively, Dunlap shows good instincts and adequate hands at first, though his range could improve. He tends to rush throws, leading to inaccuracy, though his arm strength is at least average. Sustaining his conditioning and improving his strength will be integral to his development. Dunlap could move quickly and should open 2005 in low Class A.
Megrew, who strained a ligament in his elbow late in his debut 2002 season, was making progress last summer before he tweaked his elbow in July, causing him to miss a start. Still, he finished the season by tossing seven no-hit innings in late August. Following the season, though, he had Tommy John surgery and probably won't get back on the mound in 2005. When healthy, Megrew relies on good command and a deceptive circle changeup, one of the best in the system. Megrew's changeup has good sink and fade, especially away from righthanded hitters. His fastball sits between 87-91 mph and he shows a feel for changing speeds and locating it. His 77-78 mph breaking ball is a hard slider with good life. The long, lanky Megrew had a clean arm stroke and repeatable mechanics, so if he returns to form injuries shouldn't be a long-term concern. Rehab will give him an opportunity to bulk up his frame, and the Dodgers hope he'll throw off a mound by instructional league in 2005.
Without much fanfare, Abreu and Ching-Lung Hu provided one of the most dynamic middle-infield combinations in the minor leagues last year. Abreu, who has been compared to Jose Vizcaino, has the tools to play shortstop but played second base alongside Hu last season in low Class A before a late promotion to Vero Beach. When Hu went down with an arm injury in August, Abreu moved to shortstop, where his arm is fringe-average. His glove is ahead of his bat at this stage. He has good range, aided by good first-step quickness, and soft hands. One Dodgers staff member said of Abreu's approach, "He wants to hit so bad he's insulted to take a walk." He needs to be more selective, but makes consistent, solid contact and drives balls all over the field, especially when he finishes his stroke and gets extended. Abreu generates his bat speed from a good load and could be a run producer if he gets stronger and refines his approach. He has average speed. He and Hu will team up again up the middle at Vero Beach this year, and the Dodgers see him as a second baseman long-term.
Veteran area scout Clair Rierson raved about Schmoll during the 2003 college season, as he tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead with 124 strikeouts in just 88 innings. As a fifth-year senior, Schmoll was eligible to sign before the draft, and the Dodgers outbid several teams with a $75,000 bonus. Schmoll was in Double-A by August last season and was impressive in 19 innings in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1.42 ERA. Schmoll has always been a sidewinder, but former Dodgers minor league pitching instructor Mark Brewer dropped his arm slot to near submarine level and Schmoll flashed 93 mph velocity at times in the AFL. He sits regularly around 87-90 with nasty running movement. His slot isn't quite as low but is comparable to Kent Tekulve's and Dan Quisenberry's, creating outstanding late movement, while his cutter actually rises. Schmoll's slider will never have great break from that angle, so he needs to craft an effective offspeed offering either with a variant of his fastball or his changeup, which has potential. He attacks the zone and pitches ahead in the count. He profiles as a set-up man or long reliever, but could provide relief help as early as midseason. He'll likely open the season in Double-A.
Johnson ranked among the top prep righthanders in the country entering his senior season, but he injured his triceps muscle diving back into a bag early in the year and his velocity suffered all spring. He still managed to lead Parkview Baptist to a third consecutive Louisiana 3-A state championship. At the prestigious National Classic tournament in California last April, Tommy Lasorda was among the Dodgers staff members who saw Johnson ring up 12 strikeouts, 10 with his outstanding breaking ball. His curve is a twoplane out pitch that has true 12-to-6 break and changes the hitter's eye level. It already rates as one of the best curveballs in the organization. His fastball tops out at 94 mph and sits at 90. He also throws a changeup that needs work. Johnson has a projectable frame and his arm works well, fitting Dodgers scouting director Logan White's pitching profile to a tee. He made adjustments well in his first taste of pro ball, but still needs to learn the nuances of pitching. Johnson profiles as a starter, and has potential to pitch at the front end of a rotation if everything develops according to plan. His next step will be low Class A in 2005.
Orenduff bolstered his draft stock in the summer of 2003 when he was part of a dominant Team USA pitching staff that won a silver medal in the Pan American Games, going 6-0, 1.31 with 40 strikeouts in 41 innings. He finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 2.43 ERA for Virginia Commonwealth last spring, and signed quickly with the Dodgers for $1 million in June. He became the Dodgers' earliest college draft pick since Ben Diggins (17th overall) in 2000. After pitching 100 innings for VCU in the spring, Orenduff's professional debut was uninspiring. He has a compact delivery and loose, easy arm action from a three-quarters slot. He operates with a heavy, 87-93 mph sinker, a hard slider and a fringe-average changeup. He has shown a tendency to rely too heavily on his breaking ball, which was the case in Rookie ball. Orenduff also needs to quicken his delivery from the stretch and hold runners better. He has outstanding makeup and could move fast through the system. He projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter but could pitch in middle relief as soon as 2006 if the Dodgers chose to move him to the bullpen. He'll open 2005 in high Class A.
With Aybar posting modest power numbers in four minor league seasons and third baseman Andy LaRoche entering the system, the Dodgers moved Aybar from third to second in 2004. He responded with a career-high 15 homers and a career-best RBI total. His brother Erick also enjoyed a strong season in the Angels system and is considered one of the minors' top middle-infield prospects. Willy doesn't have his brother's speed or athleticism, and some scouts doubt he can stick at second base. He has good hands and an above-average arm, but his range is average to slightly below and he has stiff actions around the bag. His best tool is his bat. Aybar has a fluid, natural swing from the left side, and shows more bat speed and a shorter stroke from the right. He makes good contact and began driving balls with more regularity last year. He uses the whole field early in counts but gets pull-conscious when he's behind and chases fastballs up in the zone. He is better defensively than Delwyn Young but doesn't have the same power potential of Young or Etanislao Abreu. Aybar could reach the majors in the next two years, but he has fallen behind other players on the Dodgers depth chart and could become trade bait. He will spend most of 2005 at Triple-A.
Teams were apprehensive when scouting Guerra because of an unorthodox delivery that was similar to that of a fast-pitch softball pitcher but from a traditional three-quarters arm angle. College coaches even sent video of Guerra's motion to the NCAA to determine if it was legal by college standards before recruiting him. He committed to Arizona but instead signed with the Dodgers for a $275,000 bonus. Gulf Coast League pitching coach George Culver ironed out Guerra's mechanics, eliminating his crow hop without sacrificing velocity. He pitched at 90-92 mph, touching 95 mph with his fastball. Guerra allowed just five runs in his last seven starts. His arm works fast with a loose and easy motion and he pitches downhill, though he needs to improve his feel for pitching and control. Guerra features a curveball, slider and advanced changeup, an impressive repertoire considering he was 17 when the Dodgers drafted him. The curveball, which has tight rotation, is the better of his two breaking balls. He has a dogged demeanor on the mound and good makeup. Despite his age, the Dodgers are considering starting Guerra in low Class A this season.
The Dodgers added Osoria to their 40-man roster over a handful of other promising pitchers, including Marcos Carvajal, who was taken in the major league Rule 5 draft by the Brewers and sold to the Rockies. Osoria doesn't throw as hard as Carvajal but shows the ability to command a nasty sinker. Osoria has a sixth digit on his right hand but doesn't use it to grip the ball. He spent most of 2004 in Double-A, where he was used in middle relief and a set-up role, and he should occupy a similar role in the big leagues. Osoria throws from a low three-quarters arm slot to generate late movement on his 88-92 mph sinker. Hitters know it's coming yet struggle to square the ball, making it difficult to lift and drive because of its boring action. Righthanders managed a .212 average and one homer against him in Double-A last year. Like the sidewinding Steve Schmoll, Osoria's slot prevents him from getting on top of a breaking ball. He needs to improve a second offspeed offering. His low-80s slider starts at a righthander's front hip and runs across the plate, but it's inconsistent. Osoria hasn't mastered English yet, and the language barrier has become troublesome for coaches and the player-development staff. He's on the cusp of pitching out of the Dodgers bullpen and will be challenged in Triple-A this season.
Dodgers scouting director Logan White drove a few blocks down the street after scouting high-profile Oklahoma prepster Michael Rogers--signed by the Twins for $300,000 after sliding to the 16th round in 2003--to get a look at Kemp, who was better known as a basketball prospect. Without the grades to secure a Division I college scholarship, Kemp signed in the sixth round. He was flanked in the Columbus outfield by two more polished prospects in Xavier Paul and Jereme Milons (since traded to the Diamondbacks for Elmer Dessens), but made a positive impression on scouts. Kemp's chiseled, 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame has that effect. He has four potential plus tools and made as much improvement in the last year as Joel Guzman, according to some in the organization. Like Guzman, Kemp has monstrous raw power. Balls jump off his bat and he showed a willingness to use all fields. He's a slightly below-average runner down the line and better under way. Kemp is still learning the nuances of playing the outfield, but has an average arm for right field. He can look bad on breaking pitches out of the zone, but also has the aptitude to make adjustments. The Dodgers will likely move him to high Class A this season. He is a bit of a work in progress but showed the potential for a breakthrough season in 2005.
The Dodgers signed Rivera as a 16-year-old in 2003, but he didn't make his professional debut until last summer because of a broken hand. He hit safely in 11 of his first 27 at-bats and earned comparisons to former all-star shortstop Tony Fernandez because of his pure shortstop actions and live, athletic body. Rivera plays with flair and his makeup is off the charts. He has good range up the middle and to his right and plenty of arm to make plays deep in the hole. At times he allowed a poor at-bat to affect his defense, but the Dodgers expect those kinds of problems to go away as he matures. Rivera has a slap approach from both sides of the plate now but projects to have gap power eventually, thanks to good bat control, projectable strength and solid eye-hand coordination. He can be beaten on hard stuff up and in. An average runner, Rivera has narrow shoulders, leading some scouts to wonder how much he'll fill out, but he has the instincts and tools to become a solid shortstop. He will most likely start 2005 in extended spring training and join Ogden in June.
Following five frustrating seasons marked by nagging back and hamstring injuries, a position change and inconsistent performance, Repko may have turned a corner in 2004. He posted career highs in homers, RBIs, doubles, average and at-bats between two advanced levels and was protected on the 40-man roster. Repko's hard work has helped him become the organization's best defensive outfielder. He moved to center field from shortstop in 2002 and now makes good reads on line drives, gets good jumps on balls, has above-average speed and plus arm strength. He probably profiles as an extra outfielder on a contending team, but still has a chance to play every day in the big leagues. In order to do that, he'll have to improve his on-base skills. He has an unorthodox, open stance at the plate and he carries his hands low. His swing can get long, though he has good hand-eye coordination and shows enough bat speed to drill the ball to all parts of the park. Repko is slated to start 2005 back in Triple-A but is an injury away from earning his first big league callup.
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