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A preseason high school All-American in 2007, Lambo fell from a possible supplemental first-round pick to the fourth round because of makeup concerns. At Cleveland High in Reseda, Calif., he got suspended as a freshman for missing classes, then got caught smoking marijuana under the bleachers as a sophomore. Though there were no further incidents in his final two years after he transferred 35 miles north to Newbury Park (Calif.) High, scouts still thought he was immature. But Dodgers area scout Chuck Crim pushed for Lambo, and Los Angeles took him in the fourth round. He had grown up a Dodgers fan, and they signed him away from an Arizona State commitment for a slot bonus of $164,250. Lambo won the Guy Wellman Award as the Dodgers' best first-year player in 2007, when he ranked second in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in on-base percentage (.440) and third in hitting (.343). He played in the low Class A Midwest League all-star game in his first full season last year. As one of the few bright spots on a bad Great Lakes club, Lambo ranked among the MWL leaders in several categories when he was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville in late August, just two weeks after turning 20. Los Angeles made the move so he'd be eligible to play in the Arizona Fall League, but he handled the jump well, hitting safely in all eight games he played. Lambo capped his year by hitting .313 in the AFL, where he was the youngest player. Lambo has plus raw power and bat speed, with an ideal swing path and mechanics. For a big player, he has a short and direct path to the ball, and he's very consistent with his stroke. He shows mainly gap power now, but he has the big frame to provide leverage for more homers in the future. He hangs in well against left-handers, hitting .323 against them in 2008. Though he hasn't been a pro for long, Lambo has the confidence that makes him feel he can hit any pitcher. After playing right field and first base in his pro debut, he played a solid left field last season, about on par with Andre Ethier. If he returned to first base, his main position in high school, he'd be an above-average defender. Lambo has put his off-field problems behind him and has started to grow up. Lambo's stroke is very level, and he may need to make some adjustments to add loft and produce more power in the future. Despite his textbook swing, he fanned 119 times in 2008 and will need to tighten up his strike zone. While he was a successful high school pitcher, his arm is just adequate, which prompted his move from right field to left. He's a well below-average runner, though he compensates on defense by reading balls well off the bat. Lambo projects as a middle-of-the-order bat, someone who can hit .285-.300 with 25 or more homers in the big leagues. His AFL performance reinforced that he has advanced hitting ability and gives the Dodgers confidence that he can handle a full-time assignment to their new Double-A Chattanooga affiliate in 2009. He could make his big league debut toward the end of 2010.
McDonald's father James Sr. played college basketball at Southern California and then made the Los Angeles Rams as a tight end. James Jr. is also a cousin of former big leaguers Darnell and Donzell McDonald. He made a name for himself in last year's postseason, striking out seven Phillies in 51/3 scoreless innings in the National League Championship Series. McDonald can add and subtract velocity from all three of his pitches--fastball, curveball and changeup--and has strong command. His best pitch is his 11-5 curve, which ranges from 69-77 mph, and his changeup is a plus offering with sink. When he pitched in relief in the majors, his fastball jumped up to 93-94 mph. He pitches from a high arm angle, using his height to deliver the ball on a downward plane to the hitter. He also shows great composure and feel for pitching. His first postseason pitch, with the bases loaded in the third inning of Game Two of the NLCS, was a changeup to Pat Burrell for a swinging strike. He's a terrific athlete who spent 2004-05 as an outfielder when he came down with a sore arm. McDonald's fastball is very straight, and when he pitches as a starter it has fringy velocity at 87-91 mph. However, his secondary pitches help compensate for his fastball's shortcomings. His curveball can be inconsistent at times. The Dodgers' 2009 rotation is unsettled thanks to free agency and Chad Billingsley's broken leg. McDonald will make the Opening Day roster in some capacity, with a good chance of earning a job as a starter. He projects as a No. 3 starter or late-inning reliever.
As a high school quarterback and star third baseman/pitcher in high school, Martin never suffered a serious injury. He won BA's 2008 High School Player of the Year award, went 15th overall in the draft (he was the first prep pitcher taken) and signed for $1.73 million. Then at the Dodgers' postdraft minicamp, he tore the meniscus in his right knee when he slipped covering first base during a fielding drill. He returned in instructional league but has yet to make his official pro debut. A good athlete who could have been drafted in the second round as a slugging third baseman, Martin stands out most with his arm strength. His fastball ranges from 90-96 mph, sits at 92-94 and has bat-breaking run and sink. He has the makings of a power curveball with depth, tilt and hard rotation. Due to his past as a hitter, Martin remains raw as a pitcher and missed needed development time thanks to his knee injury. He must clean up his delivery and his changeup also needs a lot of work. Martin needs lots of innings to close the gap between his current ability and his potential as a frontline starter. He has a good chance to make his debut in low Class A and could advance quickly once things start coming together.
The Dodgers liked Lindblom out of high school in 2005, but the Astros picked him in the third round just as Los Angeles was ready to take him. Lindblom turned down Houston, went to Tennessee and then transferred to Purdue, where he became a closer. He worked just 41 innings as a junior, so scouts didn't see him much, and the Dodgers felt fortunate to get Lindblom with a second-round pick and $663,000 bonus. Lindblom touched 96 mph as a college reliever, and he still pitched with plus velocity (89-94) as a pro starter, with plenty of heavy life on his fastball. His heater bores in on righthanders, his slider has lateral tilt and his splitter is a swing-and-miss pitch. He has a durable body, clean delivery and good mound presence. Hitters can sometimes pick up Lindblom's pitches too easily out of his high arm slot. He tends to favor his splitter over his changeup, which the Dodgers want him to use more often. For now, the Dodgers will leave Lindblom as a starter, knowing he always can go back to relief. He finished his first pro summer in Double-A and will head back there to open 2009. He should be the first member of Los Angeles' 2008 draft class to reach the majors--perhaps sometime this year.
A 2004 first-round pick who signed for $1.575 million, Elbert had scar tissue removed from the labrum in his shoulder in 2007. The shoulder issues also forced him to spend much of the past three seasons in Double-A, but when he jumped to the majors last August, he struck out five of the first seven hitters he faced. He spent 2008 as a reliever because the Dodgers wanted him to work his way back more slowly. Elbert still has a live arm, and his fastball was back up to 90-94 mph in 2008. He has a hard, two-plane curveball at 83-86 mph and runs it under the hands of righthanders. His changeup is also a plus pitch at times. He usually operates in the bottom of the strike zone. A former all-state running back, Elbert has a football mentality on the mound, resulting in a high-effort delivery and a tendency for his front side to fly open when he rushes. Missing most of 2007 didn't help his mechanics, and there's some thought he may not be able to go back to starting because he can't repeat his delivery. He pitches away from contact, leading to erratic control and command. If Elbert makes the Dodgers out of spring training, it will be as a reliever. If not, he'll probably return to starting at their new Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate. If he can't reassert himself in that role, he'll still be valuable as a late-inning reliever, perhaps even a closer.
The son of the former big league shortstop by the same name, DeJesus stood out much more with his defense than his offense before 2008. Then he led the Southern League in on-base percentage (.419) and ranked fifth in hitting (.324). He played in the Futures Game and finished the season with a 23-game hitting streak. DeJesus has an advanced approach, uses the whole field and shows good plate discipline. He has the ability to square up a fastball, and some power could come as he gets older, because he knows which pitches to pull. Defensively, he has solid range and arm strength to go with good actions and instincts. He's an average runner with savvy on the bases. His bilingualism, leadership skills and personality help make him a positive clubhouse presence. DeJesus has a tendency to be too flashy on defense, especially with his throws, and otherwise gets careless mentally. Some SL observers thought he looked more comfortable at second base. He won't be a big home run or stolen base threat. For now, DeJesus will stay at shortstop, where the Dodgers have a greater need. He could get a chance to replace free agent Rafael Furcal in the big league lineup, but more likely is headed to Triple-A.
A son of big league reliever Tom Gordon, Devaris originally attended Southeastern (Fla.) before transferring to junior college to become eligible for the 2008 draft. He didn't play at Seminole (Fla.) CC because of a grade mixup, so scouts couldn't see him in game action last spring. As a Royals farmhand, Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson once roomed with Tom Gordon, who tipped off Watson about his son. Los Angeles liked what it saw in workouts and signed him for $250,000 in the fourth round. Gordon is a pure athlete who can cover 60 yards in 6.3 seconds and dunk a basketball despite standing 5- foot-11. He sprays the ball from gap to gap and showed little rust by ranking fourth in the Rookie-level Pioneer League batting race with a .331 average in his pro debut. He has plus range to both sides, a solid arm and the actions of a big league shortstop. Despite his big league bloodlines, Gordon is raw and the time off last spring didn't help. With his size, his power potential is limited. He must learn to play more under control so he can be a more consistent defender. Gordon will move as fast as he can mature, with his next test to come in low Class A. If all goes well, he could blossom into a leadoff hitter and plus defender.
Bell lost 30 pounds before the 2008 season and was playing well at high Class A Inland Empire until a knee problem shut him down in late May. Surgery revealed a small divot in the cartilage near his kneecap which, if left untreated, could have expanded and threatened his career. Bell has the most raw power in the system and combines it with good leverage in his swing. He has a good approach at the plate, swinging mostly at strikes and using the whole field. He has an above-average arm at third base. His noticeably improved dedication to his career does give Bell more of a chance to stay at the hot corner, but his lack of speed and range still may force a move. He has a thick lower half--earning the nickname "Baby Kemp" for his resemblance to Matt Kemp--and could wind up at first base or an outfield corner. Bell was scheduled to resume baseball activity in December and take part in a winter development program at Dodger Stadium in early January. He still has a high ceiling with the bat and should make his first trip to Double-A in 2009.
Withrow, whose father Mike pitched professionally and coached him in high school, signed for $1.35 million as the 20th overall pick in the 2007 draft. He has pitched just 13 innings since, however, missing most of 2008 with a tender elbow. He managed to get back on the mound for four innings in August and took part in instructional league. Withrow hit 98 mph with his fastball in the 2007 Gulf Coast League championship game and sat at 92-94 mph in 2008. He has a power curveball and a clean delivery. He's a solid athlete who would have been a two-way player at Baylor if he hadn't turned pro. Because he was away from pitching so long, Withrow needs to regain his command of the strike zone. While he has shown a feel for a changeup, it's not reliable yet. He hasn't had a serious injury, but his health has to be a concern. The Dodgers remain high on Withrow but also will continue to monitor his workload closely. They may have him open 2009 in Inland Empire so he can avoid the cold climate of the Midwest League. Getting in a full, healthy year would be a step in the right direction.
After Tommy John surgery in May 2007, Eovaldi rushed back to pitch as a high school senior, returning to game action 11 months after surgery. Committed to Texas A&M, he scared clubs off with his signability. But area scout Chris Smith didn't give up, and the Dodgers signed Eovaldi in the 11th round for $250,000. Eovaldi projects as a classic Texas power pitcher. His fastball already had climbed back to 91-93 mph in the spring, and in his final outing of the summer, he didn't throw a pitch under 94 and hit 96 mph 20 times. He has a strong body, a decent delivery with good downhill plane and an aggressive approach on the mound. Eovaldi's hard breaking ball was inconsistent before he got hurt and he didn't try to throw it as a high school senior. The Dodgers helped him develop a tighter, sharper curveball in instructional league and think it can develop into a solid-average pitch in time. He has little experience using a changeup. While he will need innings to polish some rough edges, Eovaldi could move fast because of his live arm. He should open 2009 in the Great Lakes rotation, looking to grind through a full pro season. The development of his changeup will help determine if Eovaldi remains a starter long-term or moves to the bullpen.
Taking his size, makeup and the fact he and succeeded offensively in high Class A at 19 into account, Gallagher has established himself as a potential middle-of-the-order bat. He comes from athletic bloodlines; his father Glenn (Austin's actual first name is also Glenn) played football and baseball at Clemson and was the Blue Jays' third-round pick in 1981. He later became a Division II and Division III college baseball coach, and his son has some of the savvy that goes with growing up around the game. Gallagher began 2008 in extended spring training but went to Inland Empire after Josh Bell got shut down in May with a knee injury. Despite long arms and a big build, he stays inside the ball and can drive the ball to the opposite field as well as pull it. His plate coverage and discipline are impressive for a large-body hitter. He has plus bat speed and could develop from a line-drive hitter into a power threat thanks to the leverage in his swing. If the home-run power doesn't come, however, Gallagher may not fit the profile of an everyday major leaguer, since he isn't quick or agile and will probably have to move across the diamond when he grows too big to play third base. He's already played some first base and needs work at both infield corner spots to become an average defender. Despite his strong offensive season, he's likely headed back to high Class A at least to start 2009.
After being added to the 40-man roster and going to big league camp for the first time, Troncoso made Los Angeles' Opening Day roster out of spring training. After six appearances in April he was sent down to Triple-A when Nomar Garciaparra came off the disabled list. Troncoso lost his mechanics and command for a while at Las Vegas but came back up in late June and stuck through the end of the season. With a funky arm action, Troncoso gets good sink on his 92-95 mph fastball (he induced six double plays in 38 big league innings) but his velocity wavers. He throws a slider that can be above-average when he doesn't get under it. Troncoso made three starts for Azucareros in his native Dominican Republic in November to work on throwing changeups to lefties and closing down his front side to get a consistent release point on his slider. He threw well, walking only one in 15 innings of those starts and limiting lefthanders to a .200 average. If he can throw his power sinker consistently for strikes he can be a very good big league reliever, and figures to be part of Los Angeles' bullpen again in 2009.
The Dodgers had hoped the toolsy Baez could hold his own in the low Class A at 20 years old and in his first full pro season. But he started out 2-for-28 and the Dodgers decided the league was too fast for Baez, sending him down in mid-June. He wound up leading Ogden in homers and RBIs after being sent down, and ranked as the Rookie-level Pioneer League's No. 11 prospect. Lanky but strong, Baez has as many tools as anyone in the system, with power and a plus arm (clocked at 95 mph across the diamond), average hands and the ability to make dazzling plays at third, though his footwork can get sloppy. He can get pull-happy and out of rhythm at the plate at times, getting himself out on breaking balls, and the power will play in the majors if he learns to use the middle of the field. Having skipped straight to the U.S. after signing, he has to learn to handle the competition and daily grind; he tended to get down on himself during his struggles at Great Lakes and showed inconsistent focus. If third base doesn't work out, he can always try pitching, but the Dodgers intend to be patient with a hitter who shows such power. Baez will give low Class A another try in 2009.
Tampa Bay drafted Schlichting, a high school teammate of John Danks, with the first pick of the fourth round in 2003--as a lanky infielder. He played third base in the Rays and Angels systems (he was traded for Josh Paul) and eventually tried as a pitcher for five games in rookie ball 2006 before being released. He signed on with the independent Kansas City T-Bones as a pitcher and was spotted by the Dodgers. Scouting director Logan White remembered seeing Schlichting pitch once as a high schooler, and after Texas area scout Chris Smith worked out Schlichting, the Dodgers signed him in November 2007 to fill in at Double-A. There he established himself as a prospect, earning a spot on the 40-man roster this fall. Tall and strong, Schlichting throws 90-94 mph with heavy armside, bat-breaking sink from a three-quarters arm slot. He complements his fastball with an 84-86 mph slider that can have tilt and bite. His slider lacks consistency and his fastball lacks command, For a converted player, especially, he is aggressive and confident on the mound. He went to the Arizona Fall League to accelerate his development as a pitcher and work on adding depth to his slider and picked up the first three saves of his career. He's intriguing as a potential future closer though he most likely fits into a middle relief role.
Johnson's father Dave pitched 77 games for Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Detroit in 1987-93 and is a broadcaster for the Orioles. After a solid Hawaii Winter Baseball performance in 2007, Johnson repeated low Class A and earned the start in the Midwest League all-star game. He was leading the league in wins when he was promoted to the California League in late June. Despite struggling there, he led the organization with 12 victories and ranked third with 112 strikeouts. Johnson has a high-effort, aggressive delivery and gets under the ball at times but shows smarts and desire on the mound, compensating for stuff that isn't eye-popping. His velocity bumped up at Inland Empire, to 90-93 mph at times, but command can be an issue. Johnson also throws a get-it-over, overhand curve, a slider with some depth and bite and an average changeup. He projects as a big league reliever or back-end starter. He'll head back to the Cal League for 2009.
The youngest player in the Dodgers' big league camp last spring, Paul hit .347 in Triple-A after the all-star break and up having his best season since his 2003 pro debut. He was a high school infielder and pitcher but was moved to the outfield as a pro and to center field in 2007. Built like Jay Payton, Paul's defense in center has improved, although he still rates mediocre overall with a plus arm. Because he won't hit enough to play a corner, unless Paul's defense in center improves, he projects as a fourth outfielder and role player. Paul has some strength and can drive the ball from gap to gap, resulting in a solid-average hit tool. Although Paul shows above-average speed in the field, he needs to improve his basestealing, running more often and with a better success rate. He was gaining needed experience facing plenty of breaking stuff in the Mexican Pacific League, where he ranked among league leaders in batting and runs scored. While Paul is on the 40-man roster, he's ticketed to return to the Pacific Coast League thanks to Los Angeles' glut of outfielders.
Russell turned down a reported $800,000 offer from the Cardinals as a fourth-round pick in 2007, when he led NCAA Division I with 28 homers as a draft-eligible sophomore at Texas. He hit 19 homers as a junior, giving him the Longhorns career record of 57, and Los Angeles signed him for $410,000. Long, lean and athletic, Russell is a high-risk, high-reward pick. He has long levers and generates tremendous raw power but has many holes in his swing. He had significant struggles throughout his amateur career when using wood bats, from the Area Code Games in high school to summer college circuits such as the Cape Cod League (where he struck out in more than half his at-bats in 2006). He also gets pull-happy at times and will probably never hit for a high average. With a narrow build, he tends to use his quick hands and not his body, but more strength may come in the future. His swing is short despite his long arms and he hangs in well against lefty pitching. Russell is already a major league-caliber defender in right field and can play center if needed, with good instincts in the outfield, an above-average arm and average speed. Russell should begin 2009 in low Class A.
Redding attended Lowndes County High, the same south Georgia school that produced J.D. and Stephen Drew. Redding pitched two seasons at Florida CC, earning first-team all-state and conference pitcher of the year honors as a sophomore, going 8-5, 2.02. He had accepted an offer from Louisiana State, but he signed with Los Angeles as a fifth-round pick for $178,000 and went to the Pioneer League, where the Dodgers opted to limit his innings after a heavy juco workload (125 innings, including five complete games). His fastball sits at 90-92 mph with good movement and touches 94. The Dodgers like his slider, although he needs to get a consistent release point with that pitch. His curve is hard, 77-79 mph, and he has the beginnings of a changeup. Redding's greatest strength is that he repeats his delivery and his arm action is clean, allowing him to throw strikes consistently. Redding also shows competitiveness, strength and athleticism. Despite his excellent juco season, he wasn't a consensus fifth-round talent due to his college commitment and shorter frame. His command could enable him to move quickly through the system and top out as a No. 3 starter in the majors.
The 2008 draft was the first time teams had a chance to select Delmonico, who enrolled at Tennessee as a freshman a semester early, graduating high school in December. That gave him a chance to play for his father Rod, who was the head coach of the Volunteers for 18 years, but he was fired after Tony's sophomore season. Father and son both headed to Florida State, Rod as a volunteer assistant coach and Tony as a shortstop--even though Tony had lost the shortstop job at Tennessee. Scouts long have sought to try Delmonico, an intelligent and scrappy player, at catcher for years. After signing him for $150,000 as a sixth-round pick, the Dodgers gave him a chance to stay in the infield at Ogden, but after 10 errors in 30 games at second base, Delmonico began the conversion to catching in instructional league and impressed the Dodgers with how well he handled it. He has the arm for the position and showed good hands, an ability to call a game and leadership skills in his first weeks behind the plate. But he has to work on his footwork, pitch-blocking skills, setup and exchange on throwing out runners. His offensive approach is sound--aggressive but with strike-zone judgment--as he uses the gaps and shows raw pull power. Delmonico's future and timetable all hinge on his ability to grasp his new position. He'll have to make defensive progress to earn a spot in low Class A this season.
Also a right fielder in college, Miller caught the Dodgers' eyes just before the draft when he hit 93 mph in relief, and did it again with seven shutout innings in a start against they Yankees in the Gulf Coast League playoffs. He became Great Lakes' Opening Day starter last year. Miller came within two outs of a no-hitter in August, a game the Loons eventually lost 3-2--typical of Miller's season. Despite an awful record, he ranked fifth in the organization in ERA at 3.99. Miller's two-way background has left him somewhat raw an inexperienced as a pitcher--he threw just 18 innings in juco ball--yet he makes up for it by being a good athlete with tough makeup. He features a heavy 88-92 mph sinker and throws a groundball-inducing slider, and got 2.77 groundouts for every airout in 2008. He can be inconsistent with his arm slot as he continues to learn proper mechanics, and that inconsistency led to an ugly 74-82 walk-strikeout ratio. Miller's changeup has come a long way but is still a work in progress, although he has shown a feel for it at times. If it all comes together, he could be a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but because of his lack of experience on the mound he may not develop quickly.
Leach, who had Tommy John surgery in college before transferring from Southern Mississippi to NCAA Division II Delta State, also has to deal with hyperhidrosis, a medical condition in which a person sweats excessively and unpredictably. He gets treatment with mild electric shocks to his hands. He's overcome both maladies to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. Limited in 2007 by a torn lat (side) muscle, Leach--who led the Pioneer League with a 2.43 ERA in 2005--began last year by repeating high Class A, but he earned a promotion just a month into the season and took over as closer in Jacksonville. Leach throws a 90-92 mph fastball with an average curve and a changeup that improved last year to where it can be considered a plus pitch. He also has an excellent pickoff move. His weakness is command, which is the result of an inconsistent delivery, and it continued to be an issue in the Arizona Fall League. If Leach can improve his control, he has the stuff to reach the majors as soon as 2009.
An eighth-round pick of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes in 2003 with a linebacker's body, Hoffman nearly went to Colorado College to play hockey before signing with the Dodgers. He homered in his only at-bat in big league camp in the spring but started last year 2-for-22 with Jacksonville. He rallied and earned a spot in the Southern League all-star game. Hoffman can play all three outfield positions--center field capably--with a throwing arm and speed that grade out as average or a tick above, and he gets good jumps and runs good routes. He remains one of the Dodgers' best defensive outfielders. Mostly a gap hitter, he has some power but has an open stance and sometimes loses his timing in his swing. When he's out of rhythm, his swing gets long. An overachiever who does a lot of things well but not great, Hoffman went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit safely in 10 of the 11 games he played. If he learns to hit lefthanders with more authority-- he has just 21 extra-base hits and three homers off lefthanders the last four full seasons--he could hit enough to be a regular. The Dodgers love his desire, drive and grinder mentality, likely earning him a trip to Triple-A for 2009.
After Rondon spent three years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and then excelled in 2007 in the Gulf Coast League, the Dodgers pushed him to a full-season league for the first time. Rondon opened in the Midwest League, but after getting knocked around and moved to the bullpen, he was sent down to Rookielevel Ogden for the final month to pitch in relief. There he held hitters to a .207 average, adding 41⁄3 scoreless innings in the playoffs. Rondon has an electric arm, throwing 92-96 mph with good movement on his fastball and complementing it with a sound, power slider. He continued to improve in instructional league. Rondon stays around the plate but can be immature on the mound at times, getting stubborn about pitching up in the strike zone, making him easy to read at times for hitters. His progress will be a matter of getting innings in and maturing. He'll give low Class A another shot in 2009.
After seven years with the Astros organization and just 26 appearances in full-season leagues, Garate finally experienced success in pro ball after switching organizations. The Dodgers acquired him in the Triple-A portion of the 2007 Rule 5 draft for $12,000. By mid-May he moved into the low Class A rotation, striking out 12 in one July start. He was promoted to the high Class A California League on July 22 and by the end of the season led Dodgers farmhands in ERA (2.79) and strikeouts (150). No full-season pitcher who threw more than 100 innings in 2008 exceeded Garate's average of 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Aggressive and competitive, he throws 89-92 mph, harder than he did with Houston, with good finish from a low-three-quarters delivery. His lack of athleticism leads in part to below-average command. The fastball moves in on lefthanders and his sweeping slider, while flat at times, can be effective against lefthanders. He also throws a changeup. The gutsy Garate, who spent the winter as a reliever in Venezuela, projects as a poor man's Brian Fuentes. He should move up to Double-A in 2009.
During a second straight season in high Class A, Guerra made progress in 2008. Still rounding into form after 2005 Tommy John surgery, he moved to the bullpen, better suited for his aggressive power arsenal, and made a solid impression in Hawaii Winter Baseball, where he had one of the league's harder fastballs. A bit undersized, Guerra has a quick arm that produces a hard but straight fastball at 89-93 mph, occasionally hitting 96. His command was off last year as he had a delivery flaw with his lead leg, and his mechanics have been a work in progress since removing crow hop he had in his motion as an amateur. He has a slider, a changeup and a curveball that can be above-average at times, but he needs to improve his control of all his pitches, his feel for pitching and his maturity. At times in the past he hasn't taken the game as seriously as he needs to. Guerra passed through the Rule 5 draft unscathed and should head to Double-A in 2009.
Signed for $787,500 in 2007 after becoming Tennessee's all-time strikeout leader, Adkins actually pitched better after a late-July promotion to Double-A in his first full pro season last year. Limited to short outings in his first pro season because of his heavy workload in college, he shied away from using his below-average fastball and as a result didn't throw enough strikes. His big 11-to-5 curve and slider both have a chance to become plus pitches. But Adkins is tall, awkward and unathletic. Comparable to Brian Tallet, Adkins needs to work on using his fastball, even though it has below-average 87-89 mph velocity, and commanding it in the strike zone. He just hasn't thrown enough fastballs to learn to command the pitch yet. He does throw downhill and earns high marks for his improved work habits and good competitiveness. With improved strength and endurance, Adkins profiles as a back-end starter in the Doug Davis mold. If that fails, his pair of breaking balls makes him a potential relief specialist. He's headed back to Double-A in 2009.
A year after leading the Gulf Coast League in average (.373), hits (72) and RBI (46) in 2007, Silverio seemed on the verge of a breakout season. He began 2008 in extended spring training due to a tender shoulder, as the Dodgers held him back from the cold of the Midwest League. He then joined Great Lakes in early May and found tougher sledding than he had in Rookie ball. He was at his best down the stretch, hitting .304 with 15 RBI over his final 25 games. As a free swinger who rarely walks (53 in 291 career games), he remains a project who is still a long way away from the majors. Silverio, who has drawn physical comparisons to George Bell, has a chance to hit for power if his approach improves. And while his arm is well above-average, the rest of his defense needs work. The Dodgers sent him to Hawaii Winter Baseball with an emphasis on quality at-bats--working the count and getting a good pitch to hit. He held up fairly well under the long grind. The Dodgers see Silverio as a strong, physical corner outfielder, and that projection depends mostly on his plate discipline. He's headed to high Class A in 2009.
After moving from shortstop to outfield in 2005, May converted to catcher in 2007 and was added to the 40-man roster in 2008. After a big season in the California League he spent time in big league camp but surprised the organization when he struggled with Double-A pitching, offensively and defensively in 2008. May's inexperience shows behind the plate; he is still learning how to handle a pitching staff and how to call a game. Like a smaller version of Michael Barrett, he has the athleticism, arm strength and agility but his catching and throwing, while improving, still need sharpening. He committed 24 passed balls last year after 31 in 2007, and threw out just 29 percent of basestealers last season. His athletic ability has helped him make some adjustments, and while the Dodgers love May's makeup, he has lost weight and needs to work on maintaining his strength at his new position. May, who played against Blake DeWitt in their high-school days, has good bat speed and very good power potential but doesn't make adjustments at the plate and gets power-happy, chasing breaking balls away. He'll return to Double-A searching for more consistency in all phases of the game this season.
Maturity has been an issue for Wall, who signed for $480,000 after he was drafted between Kevin Slowey and Yunel Escobar. Wall is tall and rangy, built like Aaron Sele, and while he can hit 95-96 mph with good arm action he sometimes sits at 88-91, just major league average. He has a curve that has some tilt and depth that long has been his best pitch, another facet that earns him comparisons to Sele. He also throws a slider and a changeup. Some days Wall is unhittable; some days everything is over the plate. He was pushed to high Class A at 19 last year and wasn't aggressive enough in the strike zone. Wall is still learning the nuances of being a professional, such as having a between-starts routine and how to study hitters. If Wall matures physically and mentally, he could be a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation starter, and to this point, his best asset has been durability, as he's thrown more than 250 innings the last two seasons combined. He's most likely headed back to Inland Empire for 2009.
Pratt has yet to progress past Class A and passed through the Rule 5 draft unscathed, yet the Dodgers remain excited about his potential. He was the No. 2-ranked player in Oregon in the 2003 draft behind fellow prep righty Dallas Buck, who went on to star at Oregon State. Pratt signed out of high school and has made slow progress harnessing his electric arsenal. His fastball runs up to 94 mph, and it features natural cutting action that makes it a buzzsaw against lefthanders. They posted a .589 OPS against Pratt in the hitter-friendly California League with two extra-base hits, and he held them to a 2-for-35 mark in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Pratt also has a power curveball and short, sharp slider that grade out as average to above-average as well. The problem is command, as he ranked third in the Cal League in walks even while making only one start, and his 21 wild pitches led the league. Scouts who saw Pratt in Hawaii said he showed better control there by being more consistent keeping his front shoulder closed. He tends to over-analyze his mistakes rather than making quick adjustments. The Dodgers hope to push him to Double-A in 2009.
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