Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
As an underclassman in high school, Kershaw had the benefit of pitching on high-profile travel teams, but teammates Shawn Tolleson (now at Baylor) and Jordan Walden (Angels) got most of the attention. Kershaw pitched just four innings out of the U.S. junior team's bullpen at the 2005 Pan American Championships in Mexico, buried at the time behind harder throwers such as Tolleson, Brett Anderson (Athletics) and Josh Thrailkill (Clemson). But it was Kershaw who blossomed into the best high school prospect in the 2006 draft after he gained velocity on his fastball and tightened his curveball. The Tigers were set to take him with the sixth overall pick before Andrew Miller unexpectedly fell in their laps, allowing Kershaw to drop one more spot to the Dodgers. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2006 and in the low Class A Midwest League in 2007. He also pitched in the Futures Game and jumped to Double-A Jacksonville a month later in just his first full pro season. Kershaw pitches off a fastball that rests comfortably at 93-94 mph. He touched 99 a handful of times last summer, including once with Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti in the stands (the Great Lakes scoreboard posted a reading of 101 on the pitch). Kershaw's heater has late, riding life with explosive finish at the plate. His 71-77 mph curveball has hard 1-to-7 tilt from his high-three-quarters arm slot. He made strides with his circle changeup during the year, and it too grades as a third plus future offering. He generates his stuff with a loose, clean arm action. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he has an ideal pitcher's frame that exudes durability as well as athleticism. He eventually should pitch with above-average command, though he didn't show it in 2007. Kershaw is a little slow to the plate, but is cognizant of baserunners. He employs a slide-step effectively and has a good pickoff move. His makeup and competitiveness are off the charts, and he's lauded for his humility off the field. After Kershaw posted a 54-5 strikeout-walk mark in his pro debut, he failed to maintain his focus and delivery during 2007, which led to erratic command. He's working on improving the timing of his shoulder tilt. He tends to load his left shoulder late, causing his arm to drag during his follow-through, a correctable flaw. It makes him misfire up in the strike zone, and when he overcompensates, he begins to bury his pitches in the dirt. Because of the exceptional life on his fastball and the fact it gained velocity in 2007, learning to harness it will be an important step. His focus also wavers at times. The shape of his breaking ball is somewhat inconsistent, and he'll need to continue to work on sharpening his secondary pitches. Kershaw offers a promising combination of front-of-the-rotation stuff and the work ethic to reach his ceiling as an ace. Some in the organization say his stuff is more advanced than Chad Billingsley's and Jonathan Broxton's at the same stage of their development. Now he has to apply the polish. He'll most likely open what could be his last season in the minors in Double-A.
The Dodgers took a 39th-round flier on LaRoche in 2003 and signed him for $1 million after he tore up the Cape Cod League that summer. He's the son of former major league all-star Dave and the brother of Pirates first baseman Adam. Andy entered spring training in competition for Los Angeles' third-base job, but went 11-for-51 without a homer in big league camp and spent most of the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. He had left shoulder surgery after the 2006 season, which might have precipitated his slow start, and he battled back soreness in 2007 as well. LaRoche has plus raw power and a good feel for hitting. When he gets his arms extended, balls fly off his bat to all fields. He lets balls travel deep and has the bat speed to catch up to the best of fastballs. He has advanced pitch recognition and commands the strike zone well when he stays within himself. He's a slightly below-average defender with a solid-average arm. LaRoche's approach was inconsistent last season. He was overly patient at times when he first got to the majors in May, then chased balls out of the zone in his second try with the Dodgers in September. He also gets pull-happy at the plate. He's a below-average runner with unexceptional range defensively. Los Angeles would like to see him take his preparation more seriously. His injury history is more extensive than he or the club would like. LaRoche profiles as an everyday third baseman with the potential to bat in the middle of a lineup. The Dodgers haven't been able to fill the hole at third base since Adrian Beltre left in 2005, and LaRoche should finally get his opportunity this season.
While high-profile Pacific Rim signees Chin-Feng Chen and Hong-Chi Kuo didn't pan out for Los Angeles, Hu has persevered and developed into a valuable prospect. After a poor offensive season in 2006, he came to camp 10 pounds heavier and produced the best numbers of his career. He was the MVP of the Futures Game, the Dodgers' minor league hitter of the year and a September callup. A line-drive hitter with good barrel awareness, Hu cleaned up mechanical flaws in his swing and improved his plate coverage and ability to make hard contact. He has a tendency to step in the bucket with his front foot, but when he remains closed he hits the top half of the ball consistently and uses all fields. He likes fastballs early in counts, but shows good pitch recognition and plate discipline. His well-above-average defensive package--with the arm strength, footwork and hands of a Gold Glover--always will be his best asset. He has slightly above-average speed and runs the bases well. He's a hard worker with strong makeup. Hu had a career .397 slugging percentage entering 2007, and even with the improvements, his power grades as below-average. Avoiding bad habits with his swing will be vital to his ability to produce against more advanced pitchers. Rafael Furcal is entering the final year of his contract, so Hu will compete with Tony Abreu for a utility-infield job in spring training. Hu could spend most of the season in Triple-A and will be poised to take over in 2009 if he can replicate his offensive success.
Elbert entered 2007 among the minors' elite pitching prospects, but he made just three starts before being shut down with a shoulder injury in April. He had surgery to remove scar tissue from his labrum in June and missed the rest of the season. He was throwing at 75 percent up to 70 feet off flat ground by November. A talented athlete who was an all-Missouri running back in high school, Elbert has outstanding arm strength and two plus pitches. When he's healthy, his fastball sits at 90-92 mph and touches 96. His two-plane curveball has the spin, shape and deception of a legitimate wipeout pitch against both lefties and righties. His work ethic and competitiveness should aid in his recovery effort. Elbert's delivery has some effort and his mechanics may cause stress on his shoulder. He has a tendency to rush through his windup, which causes his arm to drag and contributes to below-average command. His secondary stuff is inconsistent, and he needs to improve the feel of his changeup. He had displayed durability in the past and his mechanical flaws are correctable, so there's reason to believe Elbert will recover his status. He profiles as a No. 2 or 3 starter, and he could wind up as a top-flight closer if moved to the bullpen. If he's healthy, he'll begin 2008 in Double-A.
DeWitt followed Scott Elbert as the second of two first-rounders the Dodgers drafted out of Missouri high schools in 2004. After a season at second base, DeWitt moved back to third base in 2007 and got back on track offensively. He hit .281/.354/.404 in the Arizona Fall League following the season. DeWitt has a smooth, repeatable, lefthanded swing that creates consistent hard contact and enables him to keep his hands inside the ball. He can let balls travel deep and get enough extension to drive them out of the park. His pitch recognition and plate discipline also contribute to his above-average feel for hitting. He's an adequate defender with a solid-average arm. He has an even temperament and good makeup. Some scouts don't see DeWitt developing the power to play third base every day in the big leagues. He's streaky as a hitter and his approach vacillates. He can get himself out by expanding the strike zone, though it's usually by hitting pitcher's pitches as opposed to swinging and missing. He has 35 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale but runs better once underway. DeWitt's supporters cite the development of James Loney, who also didn't consistently hit for power in the minors. If he continues to improve, DeWitt could compete for a major league role in 2009 and develop into a .280-.290 hitter with 15-20 homers per year.
A year after taking Clayton Kershaw with their first-round choice, the Dodgers went back for another Texas high school pitcher and drafted Withrow at No. 20. Withrow's father Mike pitched in the minors with the White Sox and was Chris' pitching coach in high school. Signed for $1.35 million, Withrow was used sparingly in his debut but touched 98 mph in the Gulf Coast League playoffs while striking out five in two innings. A pure projection pitcher, Withrow steadily gained velocity as an amateur and there's likely more to come. Last spring his fastball sat between 88-92 with good life when it was down in the strike zone. His 74-78 mph curveball has 11-to-5 shape with tight spin. He has feel for his changeup. His crisp, compact delivery is picture-perfect and his arm works easily. He's athletic and would have been a two-way player had he attended Baylor. In his first pro season, Withrow will focus on consistency with his secondary stuff and command. His feel for pitching is rudimentary at this stage of his development. Withrow projects to pitch with above-average command of three solid-average to plus pitches. He won't zoom through the minors, but he can become a future No. 2 or 3 starter. He'll most likely start 2008 in extended spring training but could make his way to low Class A Great Lakes sometime this summer.
A draft-and-follow who signed for $150,000, McDonald's path to prospect status has been an uncommon one. The Dodgers liked him as a two-way player and moved him to the outfield when he came down with arm trouble after his 2003 pro debut, but he returned to the mound at the end of 2005 when he didn't hit. The son of former NFL tight end James and the cousin of big leaguers Darnell and Donzell McDonald, he has athletic bloodlines. McDonald has above-average command of three average to plus offerings. His curveball is the best in the system, with depth and 11-to-5 shape, and he has the feel to throw it in any count. His 87-93 mph fastball plays up because of deception in his delivery and his ability to add and subtract velocity. He effectively sells his changeup, which shows occasional plus sink and fade. He always has had a loose, clean arm action, and has improved his extension, which gave him better command and life on his pitches. McDonald still is honing the consistency of his stuff and his mechanics, and growing into his slender frame. A possible No. 3 starter, McDonald most likely will open 2008 in Double-A with a chance to move to Triple-A at midseason.
After going 27-2 as a starter in his last two years at Arizona, Meloan has become a dominant pro reliever with remarkable consistency. He spent the first half of 2007 dealing in Double-A before climbing to Triple-A and eventually Los Angeles. A ferocious competitor with championship makeup, Meloan has an aggressive approach to pitching, pounding the zone with four offerings. His 89-94 mph fastball and mid-80s slider are his bread and butter. His fastball has occasional plus sink. It shows armside run at times and he can cut it with action away from righthanders as well. His plus slider has tight spin and filthy bite. He also throws a curveball and changeup as complementary offerings. He gets ahead with his fastball and has above-average command. Meloan's tightly bound frame lacks looseness. His delivery has flaws, including recoil. He missed time in 2006 with elbow soreness, and his durability might determine his ultimate value. A potential power set-up man with the consistency managers love, Meloan will report to spring training with an opportunity to win a role in the Los Angeles bullpen. The Dodgers have been pleased with his resiliency, and they've discussed moving him back to the rotation if he returns to Triple-A.
Young's father Delwyn Sr. played pro ball and served as a hitting coach in the Mariners system. He taught his son well, as Delwyn Jr. has hit .303 in the minors and hit .382 during a September callup. He was drafted twice by the Braves before signing with the Dodgers. Young has electric bat speed and an above-average feel for hitting. He lets balls travel deep and they jump off his bat. He'll pepper both alleys with line drives from both sides of the plate. He made strides against lefthanders in 2007, improving his average against them in Triple-A to .365, up from .198 the year before. He has average power, coming more in the form of doubles than home runs. A former second baseman, his defense has improved and his arm is solid-average. Minor holes in his stroke and a free-swinging approach ultimately could make Young an extra outfielder. With below-average speed, he lacks the range to play up the middle. Comparisons range from Matt Stairs to Lenny Harris, but the consensus is that Young will hit enough to have a significant major league career. It's likely as a reserve in Los Angeles, but he could carve out an everyday role with a second-division team down the road.
The Dodgers signed Baez for $200,000 just before his 19th birthday and allowed him to make his pro debut in the United States. In August, he slugged a three-run home run off a rehabbing Pedro Martinez. Baez has four tools that could grade as future pluses, with his power and defense projecting as well-above-average for some scouts. He has a fluid swing with good bat speed and the early signs of barrel awareness. He can launch towering blasts when he squares up pitches. He's a confident, adroit defender with good actions and body control. He has good range to both sides. Los Angeles has clocked his throws across the diamond up to 94 mph. Baez' plate discipline and pitch recognition are in need of improvement. He tends to muscle up during his swing and get pull-oriented rather than letting his hands do the work. He's a below-average runner. Baez will likely spend 2008 in low Class A at age 20.
After a substandard senior high school season in 2005, Bell saw his stock slip and he fell to the Dodgers in the fourth round, where he signed for $212,000. Following 407 at-bats in Rookie ball, he opened 2007 in low Class A where he was batting below the Mendoza line a month into the season. He turned it around and ranked as one of the Midwest League's best power prospects before being promoted to high Class A for the final month. Bell comes to the park with one thing in mind--to hit. He has a loose, lively swing with serious juice. His bat speed is above-average and balls jump off his barrel to all fields. His approach needs fine-tuning, as he falls into free-swinging modes that hinder his batting average. Sixteen of his 17 home runs came from the left side of the plate, as his swing gets long from the right side and he makes less consistent contact against lefties. He's a below-average runner and defender, albeit with a plus arm. His feet are heavy and his range is below-average, but he's a good enough athlete that he could develop into an adequate defender with some determination and hard work. He profiles as a run-producing No. 5 hitter who won't hit for a high average. He'll continue his development in high Class A in 2008.
Originally drafted by the Rays in the third round out of high school in 2005, Morris agreed to a $1.4 million bonus but Tampa Bay's ownership failed to finalize the well above-slot deal. So he elected to play under his father Ricky, a pitching coach at Motlow State (Tenn.) CC, where he dominated, then signed with L.A. for $1.325 million. The knock on Morris as an amateur was his delivery, as he pitched with a stiff front side and threw across his body. Sure enough, he had an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery shortly after the end of his pro debut. Morris missed all of the 2007 season but made it back to the mound by instructional league. Dodgers officials said that his fastball was up to 95 mph there, and they worked on cleaning up his mechanics. During his debut, Morris pitched at 93 mph with good life and cutting action to his fastball. His hammer curveball also graded as a plus pitch with tight, hard spin. He showed some feel for his changeup and mixed in a below-average slider. He could begin 2008 in low Class A and has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
The son of former 15-year major league veteran Ivan Sr., the younger DeJesus has a game that profiled better during his father's era. He's a mature hitter with good barrel awareness and an ability to spray the ball to all fields. His defense is above-average and ahead of his offensive tools. He has easy, natural actions up the middle, terrific hands and body control when making plays on the run. His arm is solid-average and plays up because of his clean, quick exchanges. He's an average runner, and his instincts enhance his all-around game. DeJesus is patient to a fault at the plate. He falls in love with waiting on pitches when he could be more aggressive on balls he can pull. He has wiry strength but projects to hit for no better than below-average power. He'll likely bat at the bottom of an order, but a team that values defense and intangibles enough to live with his modest offense could find an everyday spot for DeJesus in the big leagues. He was unable to attend instructional league because of an injured thumb, but should open 2008 in Double-A.
Based on ability alone, Lambo would have been long gone by the time the Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round last year. The part-Greek, part-Italian three-sport standout found himself in off-field trouble as an underclassman at Cleveland High in Reseda, Calif., where he was caught smoking marijuana in a classroom. He turned up at Newbury Park High for his final two seasons and continued to show the hitting prowess that makes him a prospect. He signed for $164,250 and raked in his debut, ranking second in the Gulf Coast League in on-base percentage (.440) and third in batting (.343). He drew rave reviews from Los Angeles for his showing during instructional league, earning comparisons to James Loney. For a hitter straight out of high school, Lambo has an advanced feel for hitting. He has leverage and the early signs of lift in his smooth lefthanded stroke. He laces line drives from foul pole to foul pole, keeping his hands inside the ball well. He projects to hit for at least average power. He has a plus arm and good hands that would make him an above-average defensive first baseman, but the Dodgers believe he has a chance to handle a corner outfield position. He's a well below-average runner, but reads balls well off the bat and takes proper routes in the outfield. He probably could handle a full-season assignment following spring training.
From James McDonald to 18-year-old Dominican Carlos Frias, the Dodgers system is deep in projectable pitchers, one of assistant GM Logan White's most coveted commodities. Wall fits the same mold, and he made as much improvement from 2006 to 2007 as any of the system's young arms. His velocity always has vacillated, which was part of the reason he lasted 74 picks in the 2005 draft. He touched 95 mph early his senior year in high school, but had dipped to the high 80s by the time the draft rolled around. His velocity spiked at 96 mph last summer and sat at 92-93 when his mechanics were in sync. He flashes a plus breaking ball that has hard bite at 82 mph and an average circle changeup. Wall is tall and lean, and his arm works well. He doesn't repeat his delivery and tends to land on his left heel, spinning off the mound to his glove side, leading to below-average command and inconsistent secondary stuff. When he's right, his fastball has good downhill plane with boring action. He made strides with his mental approach to pitching, but he gets frustrated during funks and needs to mature. He'll likely open 2008 in high Class A.
Troncoso capped 2006 with 13 consecutive scoreless innings at high Class A and was scintillating in instructional league, earning a return to the California League to begin last season. He moved up to Double-A and worked as Jonathan Meloan's setup man before inheriting the closer role when Meloan went to Triple-A. Troncoso has a repeatable delivery, loose arm and plenty of arm strength. His fastball ranges from 91-95 mph with heavy sink and late life. He tends to leave it up in the strike zone, and though he has average control, his command is slightly below-average. Troncoso made strides with his secondary stuff last season, and his slider shows occasional plus shape with late bite. He powers through it and gets around it. His changeup is no more than a show-me pitch, though he usually maintains his arm speed when throwing it. With his sinking fastball and durability, Troncoso has a chance to become a middle reliever or setup man. He was added to the 40-man roster and could open 2008 in Triple-A with a shot at a callup at any time.
No prospect elicits the type of satisfaction in Dodgers officials that May does. An athletic grinder who was drafted as a shortstop out of high school in 2002, May moved to third base before converting to catcher during instructional league in 2006. He was added to the 40-man roster after he showed steady improvement in his first full season behind the dish last season. May always had intriguing juice in his bat, and it came alive as he slugged a career-high 25 home runs in 2007, albeit as a 22-year-old in the hitter's haven that is the California League. He generates plus bat speed and can backspin balls with loft and carry, especially to the pull side. He feasts on fastballs, but has a habit of swinging and missing too often against offspeed stuff. His swing plane often causes him to work around the ball. He's a solid-average runner who takes nothing for granted on the basepaths and could steal 8-15 bases a year. May is agile and nimble with good hip flexibility behind the plate. Though he led Cal League catchers with a .994 fielding percentage and threw out 29 percent of basestealers, his 31 passed balls were the most in the minors. His throws have carry and accuracy, with solid-average arm strength that plays up because of a quick release. His receiving is his greatest defensive deficiency presently, but his hands are adequate. May's pull-happy approach might not elicit high batting averages, so his ability to hit for power and improve defensively are the keys to his value. May's status within the organization is at an all-time high, and he'll try to replicate his success in Double-A this year.
As a 19-year-old, Miller's name was spoken in the same breath as Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir as the minors' best lefthanded pitching prospects. But then he missed the 2004 season and half of '05 with a shoulder injury that required two surgeries, and he never has been the same since. His stuff isn't far from what it was, but a lack of consistency and command are preventing him from reaching his potential. Miller struggled to find the strike zone in Triple-A at the start of 2007, resulting in a demotion, and had a 12.79 ERA with 23 hits and 16 walks in 13 innings in the Arizona Fall League following the season. His arm action is deeper in back than it once was, and though he showed better durability last year, his fastball command was nonexistent at times. He still pitches in the low 90s and touches 95 mph, and his 83-87 mph slider grades as a plus-plus pitch at times, giving him the weapons to profile at least as a situational reliever if he rediscovers his feel for the strike zone. He shows much better command of his slider than he does his fastball. He also throws a curveball, cutter and changeup, but doesn't get to them often because he's too frequently behind in counts. Miller remains on the Dodgers' 40-man roster, and they're optimistic he'll fill a role in their major league bullpen. That will come as soon as he figures out how to consistently throw strikes.
After topping Tennessee's all-time strikeouts list during a terrific three-year career for the Vols, Adkins signed for a $787,500 bonus when the Dodgers made him the 39th overall pick last June. He had shoulder surgery to relieve an impingement before his sophomore season, but logged more than 120 innings as a junior and 350 in his career, one reason the Dodgers limited his outings to three innings or less last summer. Adkins' slider is on par with Greg Miller's as the best in the system. It ranges between 79-82 mph with depth and deception. It would grade as a plus pitch based on its shape alone, but Adkins' knack for spotting it anywhere he wants--in or out of the zone--in any count makes it even better. His 76-78 mph curveball has its moments as well, though it's less consistent. His fastball sits at 88 mph and bumps 91, but as he learns to pitch off his heater, he could add velocity. He also throws a fringe-average changeup. Adkins' arm works well, though he needs to stay online and could improve his extension. He could move quickly and profiles as a durable back-of-the-rotation starter. He could start the season in Double-A with a strong spring.
Los Angeles slowly has amassed a nice stock of power arms from Texas, and while Guerra doesn't have the ceiling of Clayton Kershaw or Chris Withrow, his raw stuff at times is every bit as awe-inspiring. He had Tommy John surgery in 2005, and like so many others who had the operation, his velocity has returned but his command has not. He took the ball every fifth day in high Class A last season and consistently pumped 89-95 mph heat, touching 97 on occasion. Guerra generates his velocity and breaking ball with a lightningquick arm. His 74-78 mph curve has hard, sharp downer action. He'll mix in a slider and changeup that presently grade as below-average. His delivery has been reconstructed from the ground up. He has ironed out the exaggerated crow hop he used as an amateur, but he still struggles to repeat his release point. His command is well below-average, and he's slow to make adjustments in his plan of attack. When he tries to throw harder, his fastball flattens out. He's a long ways from a finished product, but he could develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter or a setup man with two plus pitches if he moves to the bullpen. He's ticketed for Double-A in 2008.
Alvarez could have gotten lost in the mix of Inland Empire's stout pitching staff because of his mediocre performance as a 23-year-old. But his upside was enough to prompt the Dodgers to protect him on the 40-man roster following the season. A converted position player, Alvarez began 2007 in the 66ers bullpen before moving into the rotation in June. His fastball ranges from 90-96 mph, and though he's just 6 feet tall, Alvarez is able to pitch downhill from a high-three-quarters arm slot. His arm is loose and quick. His command is well below-average and he often found himself throwing fastballs in predictable counts. He'll flash the makings of a fair slider, plus curveball and serviceable changeup, but he's inconsistent with all of them. His curve has occasional hard, sharp downer action at 76-81 mph, and easily could become a legitimate weapon if he improves his command and feel of it. He's ticketed for Double-A in 2008, and Los Angeles might opt to move him permanently to the bullpen in an effort to accelerate his arrival in the majors.
Many scouts didn't get to see Miller pitch much last spring at Johnson County (Kan.) CC because he threw just 18 innings out of the bullpen while doubling as a right fielder. It didn't help that the Major League Scouting Bureau's video on Miller was a few poor-quality frames of him throwing in a gymnasium. Area scout Mitch Webster liked him all along, however, and when he and assistant GM Logan White saw him touch 93 mph in his final outing of the spring after he had missed a month with a tender arm, Miller was destined to be a Dodger. He signed for $120,000 after going in the sixth round. Clocked from 89-94 mph during his pro debut, he relies heavily on his fastball, which plays up because of its sink. During the GCL playoffs, he induced 16 groundouts and allowed just three hits in a seven-inning relief outing--during which he threw only one breaking ball. He's not polished and looks like a position player trying to pitch, but he has the makings of a second plus pitch in a low-80s slider. He hasn't developed a third offering yet. Miller lands on a stiff front leg and has a habit of not following through completely. He projects to have average command. He has a ceiling as a middle-of-the-rotation starter or a setup man. He'll most likely spend 2008 in low Class A.
Part of Los Angeles' banner draft class of 2003 that included Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp and Andy LaRoche, Paul hasn't moved as quickly as that trio, but he has made strides in his development the last two seasons. He moved to Double-A last season and played his way onto the 40-man roster. He has above-average bat speed and average power with a line-drive swing that's conducive to hard contact. He'll pepper both alleys with line drives, though he drives the ball best to his pull side. His strike-zone discipline is below-average, and a proclivity to swing and miss figures to prevent him from batting atop a lineup. He's an above-average runner who has worked diligently on his defense. He can handle all three outfield positions, but his speed and plus arm profile best in right field. Paul was considered a five-tool talent as an amateur, but his hit and power tools have been the slowest to show up in game action. At the least, he'll have value as an extra outfielder who can steal a base and deliver some power off the bench. He'll keep working on his approach in Triple-A this season.
Sexton transferred from George Washington to Miami-Dade (Fla.) CC prior to 2007 and expected to continue his college career at Charleston before going 8-1, 2.07 with 91 strikeouts in 78 innings last spring. He threw out signing bonus demands of $500,000 that caused him to slide to the 25th round. He spent his summer in the college Valley League before eventually signing for $123,000. Because of an unorthodox delivery and long, thin frame, Sexton draws comparisons to Bronson Arroyo. He has an exaggerated drop-and-drive delivery, in which his right knee almost scrapes the mound before he vaults over his front side. His fastball ranges from 87-91 mph and he pitched at 88 deep into games last spring. His fastball has average life with fair downward plane despite his delivery. He's more polished than fellow 2007 Dodgers juco draftee Justin Miller, showing feel for two breaking balls and a changeup that has occasional plus fade. He needs to pitch off his fastball, as he has a tendency to fall in love with his curveball and slider. His delivery is unconventional but he repeats it, and shows average command with plenty of deception. He's ticketed for high Class A in 2008.
After spending most of 2006 in the Ogden outfield, Santana joined Lucas May in converting to catcher during instructional league following that season. Like Dodgers all-star Russell Martin, who moved from third base, May and Santana are both athletes with agility and flexibility, which bodes well for their longterm futures behind the plate. Santana's bat is behind May's, but he's a better receiver and projects as a better all-around defender. He has good hands and quick lateral movement, with a real knack for blocking balls. Santana has a plus arm and clean release, helping him erase 38 percent of basestealers in his first season behind the dish. A switch-hitter with fair bat speed, Santana doesn't project to hit for a high average, but he can sting balls from gap to gap and could develop average power. His swing gets long and he tends to work around the ball rather than through it. He shows some feel for the strike zone and consistently puts the ball in play, but he just doesn't do it with the impact May does. A switch-hitter, Santana batted just .213 versus righthanders last year. He'll advance to high Class A.
After setting the career record for strikeouts at Indianapolis' Ripple High, Wade spent three years pitching and playing shortstop at Kentucky Wesleyan. His athleticism, clean arm action and remaining projection had several teams interested in drafting him following his junior season. Wade always had good control and a feel for pitching, but last year his stuff improved enough to prompt Los Angeles to add him to its 40-man roster. He dealt out of the bullpen between two levels last year and then pitched well in a 10-inning stint in the Arizona Fall League. Wade's fastball ranges from 86-93 mph and sits at 88. He can spot it to both sides of the plate, and he complements it with three secondary pitches. Inland Empire pitching coach Charlie Hough helped Wade with his curveball, and the pitch shows occasional plus movement with depth and three-quarter shape. He can throw it for a strike in any count. His cutter and changeup are fringy offerings, but he mixes his stuff and keeps hitters guessing. He might make it to the big leagues as a back-of-the-rotation starter, and at worst he'll have some value as an innings-eating middle reliever. His makeup is outstanding. Wade should open the season in Double-A with a chance to move to Triple-A by the all-star break.
The two pitchers who might have the least exciting stuff yet remain among the system's mix of pitching prospects because of their command and consistency are Orenduff and Steven Johnson. Orenduff suffered from shoulder inflammation in 2005 before missing most of 2006 with a shoulder injury that required surgery that August. He showed signs of recovering in 2007, but pitched past the fifth inning just six times in 23 starts and had a 5.12 ERA after the all-star break. Orenduff can cruise through a lineup once thanks to a fringeaverage fastball, plus slider and average changeup, but the second time through he often had a hard time missing bats. His durability and lack of pure stuff might not allow him to remain a starter in the big leagues. His fastball sat near 88 and touched 92 last season. He has good feel for pitching and solid-average control. Orenduff could develop into a back-of-the-rotation starter if the Dodgers don't make a middle reliever out of him, which could happen as soon as this season.
Despite his bloodlines, Mattingly wasn't a consensus baseball prospect entering his senior high school season in 2006. The son of new Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, Preston was a three-sport star and leaned toward playing basketball in college before Los Angeles popped him with the 31st overall pick and signed him for $1 million. His athleticism hasn't translated on the baseball diamond through 590 professional at-bats, and he batted .157/.204/.196 after the all-star break in a forgettable first full season in 2007. Mattingly's approach at the plate is raw, as he swings and misses, expands the strike zone and fails to make consistent hard contact. He flashes plus bat speed and raw power in batting practice, and Los Angeles hopes his athleticism will help him make adjustments as he matures. Mattingly lacks the range and arm for the left side of the infield, and though he's a solid-average runner underway, his best position might be left field. He held his own at second base last season after playing shortstop as an amateur. He likely will repeat low Class A in 2008 and move up as soon as he shows improvement.
Few young players look the part more than Silverio, who draws physical comparisons to a young George Bell. After three-peating the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, he won the GCL batting title with a .373 average last summer, helping the Dodgers to a league-best 40-15 mark and a berth in the championship series. He's an exciting player with a good package of tools. Silverio has a sound approach at the plate and projects to hit for slightly above-average power. He shows the makings of pitch recognition and plate discipline. Silverio is a 40 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, but better under way. He played all three outfield positions in 2007 and figures to settle into a corner spot. His routes and reads are advanced for his age in the outfield, and he has a solid-average arm. Silverio could begin 2008 in low Class A.
The Dodgers' 2007 Dominican Summer League pitching staff had more than a handful of prospects, the most polished of whom was Aguasviva. He ranked eighth in the DSL with a 1.50 ERA and posted a 2.6 groundout/flyout ratio. Lefthanders went just 3-for-23 against him. Aguasviva has a free and easy arm action and shows good body control over the rubber. There's projection remaining in his 6-foot-2 frame as well as his stuff. He presently tops out at 91 mph with his fastball, and he shows feel for his breaking ball, which projects as a second plus pitch. He toyed with young Latin hitters at times, setting up his curve by hitting both corners of the plate with his fastball. He has shown durability in his two seasons in the DSL, and the Dodgers are contemplating jumping him to low Class A to start 2008.