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Billingsley was just 13 when parents of teammates gasped in disbelief--not over his pitching prowess, but because of the amount he was throwing. After reading "Nolan Ryan's Pitching Bible," Billingsley's father Jim began playing catch and long-tossing with his son before and after games, even if he was pitching that day. The routine helped Billingsley build the arm strength that led to mid-80s velocity by the time he was 15. A talented three-sport athlete, he ruptured his spleen during football practice as a freshman in high school, prompting him to concentrate on baseball. He and Dodgers lefty Chuck Tiffany were USA Baseball teammates in 2002, when Billingsley won the bronze-medal game at the World Junior Championships in Quebec. Two more top Dodgers prospects, catcher Russell Martin (Canada) and shortstop Chin-Lung Hu (Taiwan) also played in the tournament. One of just two high school righthanders taken in the first round of the 2003 draft, Billingsley has justified his $1.375 million bonus. He skipped past low Class A and has ranked as the top pitching prospect in his league in each of his three pro seasons. He first reached Double-A as a 19-year-old in 2004 and excelled there in 2005, combining with Jonathan Broxton on a no-hitter in the opening game of the Southern League playoffs. Outside of being a couple of inches shorter than the blueprint, Billingsley is the prototypical power pitcher. He attacks hitters from a high three-quarters arm slot that he repeats well and allows him to pitch downhill. His frame is rigid and durable in the mold of Tom Seaver's. Billingsley made progress with his command, approach and all of his pitches in 2005. His 92-95 mph fastball has good life. Coming into the season, his 85-86 mph slider was considered the best in the organization, but his 82-84 mph curveball gives him a second plus breaking ball and could become Billingsley's primary out pitch. He made strides in 2005 repeating his arm slot on both breaking balls, allowing him to more consistently command them. He works diligently on all phases of pitching. Billingsley has a tendency to overthrow, causing his fastball to straighten out and miss up in the zone. His arm occasionally struggles to catch up with his lower body, which results in a flatter slider. His changeup, which he grips like his fastball except for sliding his index finger to the side of the ball, improved but remains rudimentary. He can improve on his game management, as he occasionally allows the pace of a game to dictate his rhythm instead of slowing down when runners are on base. Billingsley profiles as a No. 1 or 2 starter, something Los Angeles desperately needs. The big league pitching staff is littered with holes, and he'll get a chance to show what he can do in big league spring training. Depending on the philosophy of new general manager Ned Colletti, the Dodgers could start Billingsley in the back of their Opening Day rotation.
LaRoche signed for $1 million as a 39th-rounder in 2003, giving up the chance to attend Rice. Before the 2005 season, he and his brother, Braves first baseman Adam, bet a fishing trip on who would hit the most homers. Andy won, leading Dodgers farmhands in homers and RBIs. LaRoche plays the game with passion to go along with three plus tools. His power comes from a compact, controlled stroke. He turns around the liveliest fastballs. He's a solid defender and owns the organization's best infield arm. His instincts boost his average range and his hands are dependable. LaRoche's speed is his lone below-average tool. Most of his power is presently to the pull side, and he'll need to cover the outer half better as he faces more advanced pitching. His swing can get long at times. The Dodgers have an immediate need for an everyday third baseman, and LaRoche could fill it, though they'll probably ship him to Triple-A after he attends major league spring training.
Signed for a club- and Dominican-record $2.25 million in 2001, Guzman used a breakout 2004 season to rank atop this list a year ago. He wasn't as consistent in 2005, teasing the Dodgers with potential he has yet to fully achieve. Yet he more than held his own and batted .316 during Jacksonville's playoff run. Guzman's hitting ability and power are well-above-average. He keeps his hands inside the ball well and uncorks tape-measure blasts when he makes contact. He's a dangerous low-ball hitter. A good athlete, he has a plus arm and average speed. Guzman's pitch recognition and plate discipline still need improvement, and like most big players he has a hole on the inner half. He lacks first-step quickness and his defensive actions are too long, which eventually will prompt a move from shortstop. He saw time at third base in 2005, but right field is his likely destination. With a strong spring, Guzman could win a cornerinfield job in 2006, though a full year in Triple-A might be the best thing for his development. The Dodgers' signing of Rafael Furcal further reinforced the notion that Guzman isn't long for shortstop.
Area scout Clarence Johns (now with the Rockies) scouted Martin as a third baseman and immediately projected him to catch. Martin has become one of the best catching prospects in the game, thanks to his athleticism and ability to absorb instruction. Martin employs a patient approach at the plate and uses the entire field. His swing is compact and simple, he stays through the ball well and he's a good situational hitter. He's comfortable behind the plate and his blocking and receiving skills are advanced for such an inexperienced catcher. He has a strong, accurate arm, good footwork and an efficient exchange on throws. Martin has yet to show much power, though he can drive balls out of the park when he stays back. Some scouts believe he'll be a 15-20 homer threat in time. He has slightly below-average speed, but he's fast for a catcher and isn't afraid to take an extra base. Martin is similar to former Dodgers catcher Paul LoDuca, with better defensive skills and slightly less offensive ability. He'll probably begin 2006 in Triple-A but could reach Los Angeles in the second half.
Because of his powerful fastball-slider mix, dogged demeanor and husky frame, Broxton long has been targeted as a future closer. When Eric Gagne went down for the season, the Dodgers moved Broxton to the bullpen in Double-A and called him up five weeks later. Albert Pujols was his first strikeout victim. Broxton's heavy, sinking fastball climbed from 92-94 mph to 96-98 and he touched triple digits when he moved to the bullpen. His filthy slider sits near 88 mph with good tilt. He'll flash a two-seamer against lefthanders. His delivery is fluid. He pounds the strike zone. Broxton is still learning how to pitch and set up hitters. As a reliever, he didn't use his changeup often. It's a fringe-average pitch that could help him against lefties. He's a big man and will have to watch his weight closely. Gagne is expected to be ready for spring training and the Dodgers have a strong complement of relievers with more experience than Broxton. Nonetheless, he should win a job in their bullpen out of spring camp and become Gagne's eventual successor as closer.
As a running back, Elbert amassed 2,449 rushing yards and scored 36 touchdowns as a junior before giving up football. The first prep lefty drafted in 2004, he signed for $1.575 million. After getting knocked around in his pro debut, he rated as the No. 1 prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2005. Elbert's stuff, body and makeup resemble Billingsley's, plus he's lefthanded. Elbert isn't as polished, but he has a live 88-93 mph fastball, a two-plane breaking ball and future-average changeup. He still was touching 94 in instructional league after his first full pro season. He has outstanding mound presence and an aggressive approach. Elbert's breaking ball, which lies somewhere between a curve and a slider, has inconsistent break. He tends to rush his lower half during his delivery and yanks his arm across his body, getting around and under the ball. He's still refining his circle changeup. While some scouts envision Elbert's power repertoire profiling best at the back of a bullpen, others believe his athleticism will allow him to repeat his delivery and become a frontline starter. He'll open 2006 at high Class A Vero Beach.
The consensus best high school hitting prospect in the 2004 draft class, DeWitt has justified the hype since signing for $1.2 million. A career .289 hitter, he finished his first full season by hitting .419 in high Class A and adding a homer in the Florida State League playoffs. DeWitt's classic lefthanded swing is smooth and controlled, and he repeats it easily. He sets his hands with a good load and generates good bat speed and leverage, the main ingredients of his plus raw power. He shows a feel for the strike zone, though he can improve his pitch recognition and ability to use all fields. He has a slightly above-average arm. DeWitt's swing gets loopy when he doesn't trust his hands. He tends to drift on breaking balls from lefthanders. He's a below-average runner and an adequate defensive third baseman. With Andy LaRoche ahead of him, DeWitt got a look at second base during instructional league and fared well. His instincts and aptitude should allow him to handle the move if necessary. He'll continue his development at third base in high Class A in 2006.
Coming out of high school, Kemp was known mostly for his prowess on the basketball court, but the Dodgers liked his potential and signed him. He made as much improvement as anyone in the organization last season. He broke Adrian Beltre's Vero Beach franchise record for homers, though 22 of his 27 came at home. Kemp has big-time raw power and an aggressive approach. He has strong, quick hands and good bat speed. He kept collapsing on his back side early in 2005, causing him to pop up balls, but he adjusted and later hit the top half of the ball consistently. He shows good instincts in the outfield, above-average speed and a plus arm that plays in right field, where he likely will play more often as he fills out and loses some quickness. Kemp's pitch recognition is rudimentary at best. He's a dead-fastball hitter early in counts, making him vulnerable to changeups. He has a tendency to stride off the ball. Kemp's ceiling is considerable and he could develop into a .275 hitter with 25-30 homers annually. He'll continue refining his game at Double-A in 2006.
Abreu got off to a slow start until hitting coordinator George Hendrick and Vero Beach hitting coach Dan Radison moved him off the plate, which made Abreu less pull-conscious. He won the Florida State League batting title, thanks in part to a .438 average in June. Abreu has a live body and good tools across the board. His excellent hand-eye coordination allows him to make consistent sharp contact, and he has the strong wrists and bat speed to hit 15-plus homers annually in the big leagues. Defensively, Abreu has outstanding actions, soft hands, good range and enough arm to play shortstop. He is an above-average runner. Abreu needs to shorten his swing from the right side. He also has a tendency to get his front foot down a tick late when he swings. He must become more selective and get stronger. If the Dodgers move Blake DeWitt to second base, they could be faced with a difficult decision in 2008, as both he and Abreu profile as solid everyday players who should require no more than two more seasons in the minors. Abreu is headed to Double-A for now.
One scout described Vero Beach's double-play combo of Hu and Etanislau Abreu as "the traveling circus show" because of their penchant for defensive highlights. Hu finished second to Abreu in the Florida State League batting race, then hit .343 for Taiwan at the World Cup tournament following the season. While Abreu is a plus defender, Hu is off the charts. He's slightly undersized but wiry strong with outstanding body control and has pure shortstop actions. His range is extraordinary, as are his hands, and his arm and speed are both above average. Hu made an adjustment at the plate, curtailing his leg kick, which improved his balance and prevented him from flying open during his swing. He has surprising pop, uses the whole field and has a feel for the strike zone. Hu has a tendency to bail on good breaking balls and he needs to become more selective. His small frame doesn't lend considerable room for projection. Hu should be a .270 hitter with 10 home runs annually in the big leagues. Ticketed for Double-A, he should reach Los Angeles by the end of 2007.
Following three seasons marred by wrist and finger injuries, Loney finally stayed healthy in 2005, leading the Southern League in games. But he hit just 11 homers, and scouts continue to wonder if he'll have enough power to be a regular first baseman in the big leagues. That's really the only question about his game. Loney has a good feel for the strike zone, patience, excellent hand-eye coordination and the willingness to uses the entire field. He shows raw power in batting practice, enough for his boosters to project that he'll eventually hit 25 homers on an annual basis, but it has yet to translate in games. Loney's swing gets long at times and he has a tendency to collapse his back side. If the power doesn't come, he could be a Mark Grace type, hitting for high average and playing Gold Glove defense at first base. Loney is athletic for his position, and as a two-way star in high school--he led Elkins High in suburban Houston to the 2002 national title--he drew more interest from pro clubs as a lefthanded pitcher. He has exceptional hands, plus arm strength and average range. He doesn't have a lot of speed but compensates with good instincts on the basepaths. Moving up to Triple-A in 2006, Loney will play in a Las Vegas ballpark conducive to homers.
The Dodgers received two compensation choices in the 2004 draft when the Yankees signed Paul Quantrill. Los Angeles used the first one on Blake DeWitt and then popped Orenduff five picks later. At 33rd overall, he was the highest-drafted college pitcher by the Dodgers since they took Ben Diggins 17th overall in 2000. Orenduff was tired and had a lackluster pro debut but rebounded to reach Double-A in his first full season. His slider is his bread and butter. He tends to overuse it, as he throws it for strikes more consistently than his other pitches, but it has sharp bite at 82-84 mph when he stays on top of it. His fastball sits near 91-92 mph with boring action. His changeup has some late fade, though he doesn't have great feel for it. Orenduff's delivery is smooth and he's at his best when working from a three-quarters arm slot. He drops his arm angle at times, hindering his overall command. He experienced shoulder inflammation late in 2005, and Los Angeles would like to see him improve his stamina. He has a ceiling as an innings-eating, middle-of-the-rotation starter and could open 2006 in Triple-A.
To lure Tiffany away from Cal State Fullerton, it cost the Dodgers $1.1 million, the second- highest bonus given to a second-rounder in 2003. He began the 2005 season with five dominant starts, but it wasn't until he was roughed up that he started to maximize his advanced feel for pitching and utilize his secondary pitches. Tiffany features a fastball, curveball and changeup that are average to slightly above average, and they all play up because of his command. His fastball ranges from 85-93 mph. He spots it on both corners of the plate, will elevate it in the zone, and adds and subtract velocity. His breaking ball ranges from 74-78 mph with tumbling break, similar to a splitter but with curveball rotation. He likes to back-door it against righthanders. He also has good feel for his changeup, which he'll throw in any count. Most scouts believe Tiffany's ceiling is as a No. 4 or 5 starter, and give him a high probability of attaining it. Maturity and experience are his biggest needs. He'll continue to move one level at a time and spend 2006 in Double-A
Kuo's comeback was one of the minors' most remarkable stories of 2005. The first Taiwanese player to sign with a U.S. team out of high school, he blew out his elbow while striking out seven of the 10 batters he faced in his first pro game in 2000. After Tommy John surgery, he returned in June 2001 but made just 14 appearances before requiring the operation again in 2003. When he came back in 2004, he lasted six innings before needing more surgery to clean out scar tissue. Vero Beach pitching coach Marty Reed encouraged Kuo to push himself to recover and his work paid off. Kuo stayed healthy throughout 2005, reaching the majors on the strength of an 89-98 mph fastball that rises and runs. His smooth, simple delivery enables the ball to get on hitters quickly. He's aggressive and challenges hitters up in the zone. His breaking ball ranges from 78-83 mph and has a 10-to-4 break. It's in between a curveball and slider right now but has the makings of an average pitch. Understandably, Kuo lacked feel for his breaking ball and rudimentary changeup last year. Though he struggled with his command in the majors, he still struck out 10 of the 26 batters he faced. If he remains healthy and throws strikes, he could open 2006 in Los Angeles.
Young got his first taste of the upper minors in 2005 and did what he always had done in his first three pro seasons--rake. When he reached Triple-A in July, he collected 10 hits in his first 25 at-bats, and he put together a 17-game hitting streak in August. An aggressive hitter from both sides of the plate, Young is up there looking to hack. He hits from an open stance and feasts on fastballs early in counts, lashing line drives to all fields. His swing can get long at times and he needs to improve his plate discipline. Young has hit for power throughout his career and he'd make a good offensive second baseman--if he could play second base. He's slow and heavy-footed, and his hands are shaky. He does have a strong arm, which will serve him well when he makes a necessary move to the outfield. That could come this year in Triple-A, because the Dodgers already have Jeff Kent at second base and will use Cesar Izturis there when he returns from Tommy John surgery.
Signed for $70,000 as an outfielder, Pimentel wasn't hitting much at the club's Dominican academy when his athleticism, frame and arm strength prompted a move to the mound. He surprised the Dodgers with an outstanding spring training in 2004, and followed up with an impressive full-season debut that summer. He stagnated last year and got shellacked in his final five starts. Like many raw Latin pitchers, Pimentel developed the bad habit of overthrowing and flying open with his front side in his delivery. Without staying closed in his delivery, he lost deception and command, leaving his pitches up in the zone. His fastball topped out at 93 mph, at times showing boring and running action, but late in the year he pitched at 88. He flashes a 75-77 mph slurvy breaking ball with late, downward break. Pimentel's 80 mph changeup has potential to be an above-average offering and is a tick ahead of his breaking ball. When he got hit hard, he lost confidence and regressed mechanically. He needs to improve his strength and mental approach, and he has the makeup and work ethic to do it. He likely will return to high Class A to begin 2006.
Johnson was considered one of the top high school pitchers in the nation after a good showing at the 2003 Area Code Games, but a dip in velocity the following spring caused his stock to slip. He struck out 12 during a dominant performance at the National Classic tournament in Anaheim, with Dodgers special adviser Tommy Lasorda and other Los Angeles scouts in attendance. The Dodgers took him in the second round in 2004 and signed him for $600,000. After a lackluster pro debut, Johnson was much improved in his first full season last year. He's athletic and projectable, with a sturdy if underdeveloped frame in the mold of John Smoltz. Johnson pitches from a high three-quarters arm slot that allows him to get downward plane on his three-pitch repertoire. His fastball sits near 90 mph. His mid- 70s curveball has depth, tight spin and sharp downward tilt. His changeup is his third pitch and presently fringe average. Johnson has decent command but tends to cut his fastball too much. Columbus pitching coach Glenn Dishman tried to get him to stay inside the ball and drive it down and in on righthanders instead. Johnson wore down late in the year, and his stuff and velocity tapered off. The Dodgers want him to get stronger and to show more energy and fire. He should start the season in high Class A.
Once rated as the top lefthanded pitching prospect in baseball, Miller missed all of 2004 and the first half of 2005 with a shoulder injury that required two surgeries. He finally returned last summer and was back in Double-A by August, showing flashes of his old velocity and stuff. He's far from the same pitcher, however, as his shoulder problems have forced him to drop his arm angle. To loosen up, he sometimes throws sidearm before gradually working up to a low three-quarters slot. His fastball ranges from 89-97 mph, and at times he pitched at 94 with good tailing action. He likes to throw a cutter in on the hands of righthanders. Miller owned a slider and a curveball before his injury, but he now works mainly with the curve. It's a two-plane breaking ball at 76-82 mph, a potential plus offering with depth and diagonal tilt. With his lower arm slot, he struggled to get on top of his curve and to command it. Miller also throws an average changeup at 78-81 mph. His stuff plays up because of his remarkable feel for pitching. He's intelligent and mature, and if Miller stays healthy he still could become a front-of-the-rotation starter. The likelihood of that is in doubt, as he was shut down again in October with shoulder soreness after just four innings in the Arizona Fall League.
Wall's story was very similar to Blake Johnson's from a year earlier. Like Johnson, Wall is a Louisiana high school righthander whose stock soared when he excelled at a prospect showcase. He threw 95 mph during a Perfect Game showcase in Florida in January 2005. His velocity dipped to 86-88 mph late in the summer, so Los Angeles was able to take him in the third round, signing him away from Louisiana State for $480,000. A half-brother of former Dodgers farmhand Lance Caraccioli, Wall has a projectable frame and athleticism that bode well for his future. Besides his fastball, which sat at 90-93 mph for much of the spring, he also has a power 82 mph curveball and an average changeup. His curve will become an out pitch once he masters command of it. Wall could develop into a durable middle-of-the-rotation starter with three above-average offerings. He likely will spend his first full year in low Class A.
Signed for $400,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Rivera has the makings of a standout defensive shortstop. He has good actions, sure hands and plenty of arm strength to make plays deep in the hole. His good instincts help him in all phases of the game. He was young for the Rookie-level Pioneer League last year at 18, and he showed a decent grasp of the strike zone for his age. A switch-hitter, Rivera is a natural righty but makes more consistent contact from the left side. He has good hand-eye coordination but still lacks strength and any pop at the plate. He's an average runner. His toolset frequently draws comparisons to that of former all-star and Gold Glover Tony Fernandez. Rivera still needs lots of refinement, especially as a hitter, and will hone his skills at low Class A Columbus this year.
Because he was overweight, Dunlap wasn't drafted out of Encinal High (Alameda, Calif.), where he played with Dontrelle Willis. After Dunlap improved his conditioning and led all California junior college players with a .523 average in 2004, he went in the third round and signed for $430,000. He led the Pioneer League in walks and on-base percentage in his pro debut, then skipped a level and spent 2005 in high Class A. His efficient approach and modest power remind scouts of Tony Gwynn. Unfortunately, Dunlap's body also has been compared to Gwynn's--when Gwynn was at the end of his career. Dunlap's hands work well at the plate and he has good plate discipline, though he has a tendency to swing with his shoulders and lose balance. He added a toe tap that helped him keep his weight back, but his swing remains a work in progress. Until he gains consistent balance, he'll struggle to hit home runs. He does show raw power, especially to the pull side, in batting practice. His bat will have to carry him, because his speed and his range at first base are well-below-average. He does have adequate hands and an average arm. The Dodgers may slow things down for Dunlap a bit by sending him back to high Class A to start 2006.
After the Dodgers dropped a then-Dominican record $1.4 million bonus to sign Aybar in 2000, he progressed slowly but surely. Promoted in September to fill Los Angeles' seasonlong hole at third base, he collected seven hits in his first three major league starts and hit safely in 20 of 22 big league starts. The problem is that while he has attractive tools, he doesn't profile well at any position. He uses a patient approach to spray line drives to all fields, and on defense he offers above-average arm strength and sound hands. But he doesn't have the range or agility to handle second base and he hasn't shown the pop teams want at the hot corner, leaving him as a 'tweener. After hitting a career-high 15 homers in 2004, he dropped to five last year at Las Vegas--which features one of the best hitter's parks in the minors. He gets pull-conscious when he's behind in the count. Aybar may get an opportunity to fit into the Dodgers third-base mix in 2006, but he's not the long-term answer.
After Denker's strong predraft workout at Dodger Stadium in 2003, club officials compared him to Ron Cey and Marcus Giles. They were prepared to take him in the seventh round but his bonus demands scared off other clubs, so Los Angeles let him slide until the 21st round and signed him for $100,000. Denker's best tool is his bat. He has a thick, squatty build that gives him good power. He generates good bat speed, drives the ball to all fields and could be a perennial 20-homer player in the big leagues. Where he will play when he gets there is the problem. Denker has poor range, stiff actions and a fringe-average arm. He catches what's hit to him and worked diligently with Dodgers infield instructor Dave Anderson on turning double plays, showing gradual improvement. He's also a below-average runner. He has a strong work ethic and good makeup. Denker could be moved to left field in the future, but should spend 2006 as an infielder in high Class A.
Scouts who evaluated Paul as an amateur might not recognize him if they watched him now. He has changed his set-up at the plate, raising his back elbow and closing his stance. His swing has lengthened, sapping his pop and ability to pull the ball. He missed most of last April with a leg injury, then got off to a 2-for-24 start and never got untracked, making for his second straight lackluster season. Paul's pitch recognition is poor and he presses at the plate. He also struggled mightily against lefthanders, going 9-for-67 (.134), prompting him to experiment with switch-hitting in instructional league. He has been slow to grasp the nuances of outfield defense as well, though some scouts still believe he has a chance to become an above-average outfielder in time. He has two plus tools, his arm and speed. Otherwise, Paul's sound athleticism has not yet translated into on-field ability. He made progress in instructional league and will return to high Class A this year. His brother Matt, also an outfielder, played briefly with him there last July.
DeJesus was the highest-profile Puerto Rican prospect since righthander Luis Atilano was drafted in the supplemental first round by the Braves in 2003. The son of former major league shortstop Ivan DeJesus, Ivan Jr. signed quickly for slot money ($675,000 as a second-rounder) and played well in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. When Juan Rivera strained a leg muscle in August, DeJesus moved up to Rookie-level Ogden but never settled in at the plate. He has good bat control and a level swing that elicits sharp line drives when his timing is on. A switch-hitter, he has a promising combination of wiry strength, a loose stroke and good hand-eye coordination. He needs to improve his plate discipline and pitch recognition. DeJesus can get too flashy in the field, though he has good hands to go along with an average arm. He's a slightly above-average runner with good instincts on the bases. With Rivera destined for low Class A, DeJesus likely will return to Ogden this summer.
Scouting directors selected Bell as a second-teamer on Baseball America's preseason High School All-America squad in 2005, but his mediocre senior season caused many scouts to sour on him. He kept adjusting his approach in an attempt to snap out of it, and he wound up hitting just two homers. Bell flew from Florida to New Orleans for a Dodgers predraft workout, winning over scouting director Logan White with his makeup and plus-plus raw power. Los Angeles took Bell in the fourth round and signed him quickly for $212,000. He held his own in the Gulf Coast League, but he needs to maintain a consistent gameplan. When he widens his stance and remains balanced, his swing from both sides of the plate generates good leverage and loft and he uses the entire field. His swing has some length, though he has a basic understanding of the strike zone and fair pitch recognition. Bell has a thick lower body, and his speed and range already are slightly below-average. He has a plus arm and his hands are adequate, so he should be able to handle third base. The Dodgers could send him to low Class A to begin 2006 if he has a good spring training.
In high school, Hoffmann appeared to have a bright future as a professional athlete--but hockey figured to be his sport. The NHL's Carolina Hurricanes drafted him in the eighth round after he played in the United States Hockey League in 2002-03. Like former all-star catcher Terry Steinbach, Hoffmann had excelled in baseball and hockey at New Ulm High. He was Minnesota's state baseball player of the year as junior and led New Ulm to the state 3-A title as a senior, and signed with the Dodgers as a nondrafted free agent in August 2003. In his pro debut, Hoffmann topped the Gulf Coast League in runs, hits, triples, RBIs and total bases in 2004. He's raw in all phases of the game, but his rugged frame and all-out approach make him intriguing. His plus speed enables him to cover lots of ground and make up for his lack of instincts in center field, where he moved last year after playing third base in 2004, and he also has an average arm. His swing is a little stiff, but he's learning to better incorporate his lower half. Hoffmann makes consistent contact, has gap power and could hit 10-12 home runs annually in the majors as he learns to pull the ball. He has the aptitude to command the strike zone, but presently tends to chase breaking balls out of the zone and gets impatient at the plate. Fastballs in on his hands also give him trouble. Hoffmann opened 2005 with a strong performance in low Class A, then hit the wall after a promotion, meaning he'll return to high Class A this year.
The Dodgers' bullpen was in flux in 2005, and Schmoll was one of the beneficiaries. He pitched just three innings in major league spring training, but broke camp with Los Angeles and spent most of the season there. Schmoll signed before the 2003 draft as a fifth-year senior free-agent for $75,000 after ranking fourth in NCAA Division I with 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He features one plus pitch, a low-90s cutter with rising life. He pitches from a sidearm slot that isn't quite submarine but provides good deception. Major league hitters weren't fooled often enough, batting .275 against him. Schmoll's slider and changeup are average offerings, and he needs to improve at least one of them to complement his fastball. He frequently pitched behind in the count with the Dodgers and must sharpen his overall command. Schmoll will have a chance to secure a spot in the big league bullpen in 2006, but he doesn't have closer stuff and profiles as a middle reliever.
Malone was a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers, as he arrived in spring training without a defined role yet pitched his way into the low Class A rotation by mid-May. The Royals failed to sign him as a 36th-round draft-and-follow in 2003-04, and Los Angeles nabbed him as a nondrafted free agent in 2004 after national crosschecker Tim Hallgren saw him pitch for the Alaska League's Mat-Su Miners. Malone would have attended Tennessee had he not turned pro. He features an aggressive approach and good command of his sinker-slider combination. His fastball sits at 87-88 mph with late, hard sink, inducing plenty of groundballs. He spun back-to-back complete games in May, needing just 91 pitches in one outing, including 80 fastballs. He throws his slurvy slider at 75 mph with a spike grip. He also has a below-average changeup that he often tips off by slowing his arm speed. Malone gets into trouble when he tries to strike out hitters or gets too fine with his pitches. He profiles as a future setup man, and is strong and durable enough to handle the role. He should open 2006 in high Class A.
When the Dodgers took Raglani in the fifth round of the 2004 draft, he became their highest-drafted four-year college hitter since they grabbed Koyie Hill in the fourth round in 2000. Raglani raised his stock in the summer of 2003 by performing well in the Cape Cod League, then hit .333-11-46 as a junior at George Washington despite playing much of the year with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. Signed for $180,000, Raglani jumped to high Class A for his first full season. His best tool is his bat. He deploys an aggressive approach and has a balanced, short swing that produces solid-average power. He gets pull-happy and doesn't work counts as well as his on-base percentage might suggest, but he makes consistent contact. Ragliani isn't overly athletic, as he's a fringe-average runner with a below-average arm. He profiles as a left fielder. The Dodgers envision his ceiling as a Brian Giles with less pop. Raglani should spend 2006 in Double-A.
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