Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

My Top 10

As many of the regulars have seen, a bunch of people have laid out their Top 10 Prospect lists over the past few days in the Prospect thread, myself included. I thought I'd detail each of my rankings with scouting reports. Let's start at #10.

#1 Scott Elbert, LHP

Background: The consensus top prep lefty in the 2004 draft, Elbert was one of two Missouri high schoolers selected by the Dodgers in the first round (Along with Blake DeWitt). Elbert is listed at 6'2, 185 lbs and is left-handed all the way. His DOB is August 13, 1985.
Strengths: Elbert attacks hitters with a sinking fastball in the low 90s that touches the mid 90s. He also has a slurvy breaking ball with late bite. When his changeup is on, he can be unhittable. Scott is also a great athlete who was scouted as a hitter by some clubs in High School.
Weaknesses: Elbert's control has been erratic, as he's walked about 4.5 batters per 9 innings during his pro career. He tends to leave the ball up in the zone, which is being exploited by Double A hitters. He needs to refine his changeup.
Future: After reaching Double A in only his third pro season out of high school, Elbert seems destined to supplement Billingsley as the Dodgers' future 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. Elbert should stay in Jacksonville as long as his walks are up, though he should be in the majors by mid 2008 at the latest.


#2 Andy LaRoche, 3B
Background: Andy LaRoche seemed all but certain to transfer to Rice for the 2004 season, but Logan White had other plans. After selecting "The Roche" in the 39th round and being impressed with a Cape Cod League showing, Logan White offered LaRoche a cool million dollar bonus and the rest is history. Andy is the son of former ML pitcher Dave and brother of Braves' first baseman Adam. He's generously listed at 6'1, 215 lbs and is right-handed all the way. His DOB is September 13, 1983.
Strengths: Although The Roche played shortstop in college, he profiles as a classic third baseman. His raw power ranks up there with the best third basemen in the minors. His arm strength surpasses them all. He's hit for good average since his breakout season last year, and has drastically increased his walk rate. He's a good athlete.
Weaknesses: Defensively, LaRoche profiles as average. His quickness and range arent great. His speed is below average. He needs to work on using RF, as his power is almost exclusively to the pull side.
Future: After an injury scare, LaRoche seems to be back to normal. If he keeps making a mockery of Triple A pitching and Izturis gets traded, Andy could be the Dodgers' third baseman earlier than most people think. However, I see him spending the rest of the regular season in Vegas, coming up in September and winning the starting job next spring.


#3 Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Background: After entering the 2006 season as a second/third rounder, Kershaw's draft stock skyrocketed along with his velocity. Coming into the year, his fastball sat at 88-92, but in the spring of 2006 he was regularly being clocked in the mid 90s. With Detroit showing interest, the Dodgers were ready to select Bryan Morris with their #7 overall pick this past June. But after Andrew Miller inexplicably fell out of the Top 5, Detroit snagged him up, leaving Kershaw ripe for the picking. Kershaw is 6'4, 210 lbs and is left-handed all the way. His DOB is March 19, 1988.
Strengths: In my humble opinion, Kershaw is the perfect pitching prospect. He has an ideal frame, a clean delivery and power stuff. Kershaw's fastball sits 92-96mph, and he compliments it with a low 70s curve. His slider could become a third plus offering and he also shows feel for a changeup. Aside from his size and stuff, Kershaw gets top marks for his makeup. He's tough, a hard worker and an overall good kid.
Weaknesses: Kershaw should continue to refine his secondary offerings and work on maintaining his mechanics. He just needs experience. He doesnt have any obvious flaws.
Future: Kershaw has shown superb control in his first pro season, boasting an astonishing 21:1 strikeout to walk ratio. His ERA is hovering just over 1. While he could see time in Vero Beach next year, he'll most likely begin the season in Columbus. I see him being the second coming of Elbert.


#4 James Loney, 1B/OF
Background: The first pick of Scouting Director Logan White in 2002, Loney hasnt quite lived up to the expectations given to a first round pick...until this year. Loney is 6'3, 220 lbs and is left-handed all the way. His DOB is May 20, 1984.
Strengths: Loney has a classic lefty stroke, with a great ability to leave the bat head in the strike zone for a long time. He drives the balls in the gaps and uses the opposite field with regularity. He has some power to the pull side. He projects to hit for high average. On defense, Loney could compete for a Gold Glove right now. He has good range, a strong arm and awesome hands. Though his speed is below average, he has good instincts on the basepaths.
Weaknesses: The biggest knock on Loney is his lack of raw power. His believers say he could end up hitting 20-30 HR annually, though he'll likely peak in the teens. He's had some freak injuries in the past, though no lingering effects. 2006 is his first great season since 2002, so there's some question to whether or not this year is a fluke.
Future: If Nomar Garciaparra is lured away in free agency, Loney should occupy first for the Dodgers next year. If Nomar re-signs, Loney has been seeing time in LF and could compete for a spot along with Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Loney could be dealt, as his trade value likely will go down before it gets higher.


#5 Joel Guzman, IF/OF
Background: Guzman's career has been turbulent to say the least. After signing for $2.25 million, an international record, Guzman finally broke out in 2004. His 2005 and 2006 season's havent been as impressive, however, and he hasnt dealt with the hardships that come with being a top prospect. After a demotion this year, Guzman pouted and showed some immaturity, which didnt help his relationship with management. If one of these prospects is going to be dealt this year, it would be Guzman. Guzman is 6'6, 250 lbs and right-handed all the way. His DOB is November 3, 1984.
Strengths: Guzman has awesome raw power. He can hit a ball out of any part of any park. His arm strength is also well above average, and should serve him well if he ends up in RF. He's a very good athlete and runs well for a guy his size.
Weaknesses: After moving off shortstop after spending the better part of his pro career there, defense is not as big a problem for Guzman. He'll have to learn to take better routes, and could eventually wind up at 1B. At the plate, Guzman often looks dispassionate and confused. While he doesnt try to pull everything, he could go up with more of a plan of action. His reaction to being demoted didnt endear him to Dodger officials, though he was spoken to and his attitude shouldnt be a problem down the road.
Future: Guzman can play a number of positions, including shortstop, and that should make him attractive to teams looking for a young, power bat in trade. I still believe Guzman will be dealt, but if he isnt, he could compete for any number of positions at the big league level next spring.


#6 Brian Morris, RHP
Background: Originally tabbed as one of the top prep pitchers of the 2005 class, he was a third round selection of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After agreeing to sign, TB's management nixed the deal and Morris went to Motlow St CC where his father is a coach. With an impressive campaign, Morris looked like he wouldnt make it to the draft until the D Rays received MLB's recommended bonus and offered him under $1 million. Morris re-entered the draft and was selected 26th overall by the Dodgers, garnering a bonus in excess of $1.3 million. He's 6'3, 200 lbs and bats left while throwing right. His DOB is March 28, 1987.
Strengths: Morris' bread and butter is his curveball. It was rated as one of the best breaking balls in both the 2005 and 2006 drafts. It has hard, late bite and is a swing and miss pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s, occasionally topping off in the mid 90s. He also has an average slider and an unrefined changeup.
Weaknesses: Morris doesnt have the prettiest delivery in the world. While odd and rushed, it is functional. In his first taste of pro ball, Morris has struggled with his command. He'll need to refine his changeup or slider in order to mix in a third offering.
Future: Despite a rocky beginning, Morris should find himself starting 2007 in Vero Beach's rotation. He should be sped through the minors, in the mold of Chad Billingsley or Justin Orenduff.


#7 Tony Abreu, 2B
Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic, Etanislau "Tony" Abreu has been in the Dodgers' system for the past 5 years. He's 5'9, 185 lbs and throws right while switch-hitting. His DOB is November 13, 1984.
Strengths: Abreu offers a number of tools, starting with his glove. He and Chin Lung Hu combine for one of the most exciting double play combinations in the minors. His hands, range and arm are all good enough for shortstop, though he makes an excellent defender at second. At the plate, Abreu sprays line drives from both sides of the plate. He even has enough strength to flirt with double digit Homeruns. After winning the FSL batting title last year, Abreu has maintained a high average in a terrible hitter's park. He's also improved his walk rate. He's an above average runner.
Weaknesses: Abreu still could use polish in some respects of his game. Though he'll nearly double his walk rate due to his 2006 amount, he still could be more selective. On defense, he should make less careless mistakes as he matures.
Future: With Jeff Kent signed through 2007, Abreu has a clear path to the majors with a stop in Vegas along the way. Scouts love his overall package, and he should make a serious run at the starting second base job in 2008.


#8 Blake DeWitt, 2B
Background: The consensus most polished prep hitter from the 2004 draft class, DeWitt made the transition from the hot corner to second base in his third year of pro ball. He's 5'11, 175 lbs and bats left-handed but throws right-handed. His DOB is August 20, 1985.
Strengths: DeWitt profiles as an offensive-minded second baseman in the pros. He has a smooth stroke with power potential to RF. Early in the season, Vero's batting coach had him hitting the ball on the ground, which led to just 2 Homeruns through the first two months of the season. Come the All Star break, DeWitt reworked his swing and has upped his season total to 15. On D, his arm is adequate for second and he's a good athlete.
Weaknesses: DeWitt's change of approach has eased some concerns about his production, though he could stand to make more contact. He also needs to work hard with the glove, as his defense at second base will likely be average at best. Blake is a below average runner.
Future: DeWitt should see plenty of Jacksonville come next season, a drastic change from Vero Beach. His Home/Road splits raise questions about how good his stats really are, as his Home OPS is .100 points higher. He should challenge Tony Abreu for the starting second base job in 2009.


#9 Chin-Lung Hu, SS
Background: Signed out of Taiwan as an 18 year old in 2003, Hu was the starting shortstop for the World team in the Futures Game this year. He's listed generously at 5'9, 150 lbs and he's right-handed all the way. His DOB is February 2, 1984.
Strengths: With Hu, it's all about the glove. His hands and range are great, with an above average arm and good quickness. His actions are natural and he looks like he was born to play the position. He profiles as a future Gold Glover. While his stature is diminutive, his strength allows him to drive balls into the gaps and over the fence every once in a while. He should hit for enough average at the next level to not be labelled an offensive liability. Like DeJesus, Hu has shown impressive plate discipline this year; a drastic change from his first 3 years of pro ball. Hu's speed is above average.
Weaknesses: Another middle infielder without great power, Hu's size hinders his long-ball capabilities. His batting average is low this year, though coming into the year his career mark was over .300.
Future: After Furcal's contract expires, the Dodgers' shortstop job should belong to you know Hu. Vegas looks like the expected destination for Chin-Lung in 2007.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


#10 Ivan DeJesus Jr, SS
Background: The son of a former major leaguer, DeJesus was selected in the second round of the 2005 draft out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. He's 5'11, 180 lbs and right-handed all the way. His DOB is May 1st, 1987
Strengths: At the plate, DeJesus has a line drive stroke with the strength to shoot doubles into the gaps. He projects to hit for good average. What's surprised me most about DeJesus is his plate discipline. Through July 21st, he has collected 46 walks in 88 games. He has above average speed on the bases and has stolen 14 of 18 bases. With the glove, DeJesus projects above average with good range and reactions. His arm is average.
Weaknesses: DeJesus doesnt project to hit for much power, as his IsoP this season is under .070. On defense, he tends to try too hard at times, forcing throws and committing careless errors. However, it's not unheard of for young players to get flashy at times.
Future: With a very successful first full season, DeJesus will begin 2007 as Vero Beach's starting shortstop. However, the odds are stacked against him. With Rafael Furcal signed through 2008 and Chin Lung Hu on the verge of reaching the majors, DeJesus must be patient or hope for a trade to a team without a certainty at short.

Friday, July 21, 2006


What Penny Did Wrong

Now, I wasnt sure why Penny hadnt been throwing his splitter. Lucky for me, Chris Duncan answered that question in a very definitive way.

Dont ask me what the count was, because I dont remember. Penny tried to throw a splitter down in the zone to get Duncan to swing over it. It was a good idea, though he hasnt been throwing it much since the beginning of the year. Well, he missed in the dirt, which is where you'd like to miss if at all. So what does he do next? He throws the splitter again. Here's the mistake. A lot of pitchers will overcompensate in that situation; they'll try too hard to get the ball up higher, which is exactly what Penny did. His splitter breaks down and away from lefties, but this next one broke right over the middle of the plate, belt high to Duncan. And he punished it. Vinny said it was 431 feet.

Onto the next mistake. Walking Duncan before Pujols to lead off the 6th inning.

Duncan crushed a splitter but hadnt been catching up to Penny's fastball all night. He also looked uncomfortable swinging at Penny's curve. So what does Penny do? Try to paint the corners with his fastball. Sure, if you're Maddux, you can afford to go 3-1 and get the guy to swing at a few bad pitches. But, while Penny has had superb control this year, you dont fuck around with Pujols on deck. This isnt a mechanical issue, it's just lack of confidence. Give him a goddamn fastball over the inner half. I dare Duncan to swing. But no, he gets too careful and ends up bringing Pujols up with a man on and no outs.

After Pujols, Lofton shows off his gun (And smarts) with a throw that was cutoff by Furcal. Now, the throw had a very slight chance of getting Duncan at third, had the ball bounced perfectly and not slowed down too much. But who the hell does Lofton think he is, Vlad Guerrero? Throw the damn ball into second! You arent going to get anyone but the Flying Molinas with a throw to third from that deep in center.

Since the board has become more of a hassle than a convenience, I'll be submitting content in this forum more often than I have over the past month or so. There are a few posters over there that are keeping discussion as juvenile as possible, and I need to get away from that. If you're on that board and want to comment here, go ahead and use your username. But for guys like dodgerguru (LPA?), dont bother, I'll just delete your posts.