First off, let me apologize to my readers for a not-so-good week. I only made two posts, and one was my complaining on a Cubs loss. I know bitching about a playoff team losing falls to a lot of deaf ears, but I needed to put it on paper. I have a lot of potential things going on with this site in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. I'm sorry Red Sox fans, I know how you feel. And to the Dodger fans? Read on...
Los Angeles Dodger Minor League Report
On the Major League level, the Dodgers are a lost franchise. The team lacks an owner (for now), so Dan Evans has been left clueless if he's employed. The team will pay Darren Dreigort and Kaz Ishii one-sixth of their payroll in 2004, and don't get me started on Todd Hundley. But while the team is bearish in Los Angeles, Evans has created a good minor league system. The team matches good drafts with international signings well, and have a very good group of top prospects.
It all starts in the pitching department, where the team owns two of the Majors top three pitching prospects. Edwin Jackson spent the entire season pitching for Jacksonville (AA) at 19 years of age, and held his own. He then got a September call-up and pitched fantastically, even beating Arizona ace Randy Johnson. The other prospect is Greg Miller, an 18-year old southpaw. Miller started the year in the Florida State League, before a mid-season promotion to AA. He dominated the Southern League, allowing 15 hits in 26.2 innings, while striking out 40. He will likely start at the same level in 2004, but could move very quickly if he continues pitching so well. In 2005, the Dodgers will have 21-year-old Edwin Jackson and 20-year-old Greg Miller pitching in the same rotation.
The other two great players in the system are hitters,and both spent much of the year in Vero Beach (high-A). Franklin Gutierrez broke out in 2003, becoming one of the Majors' top five OF prospects. He hit 24 home runs during the regular season, batting near the .290 range, and has a big arm. He finished the year in AA, hitting .313/.387/.597 in 67 at-bats. James Loney struggled this year, due to a big wrist injury. First base prospects all across the minors dealt with this problem in 2003, from Stokes to Adrian Gonzalez to Loney. Much of his loss in power is due to that, but his solid average of .276 should be the monitor of success. He'll be a 20-year-old in AA next season, after being one of the nation's best prep players before the 2002 draft. Both Loney and Gutierrez should have everyday jobs in 2006, and the Dodgers offensive problems will be subsequently gone.
Beside Jackson, Los Angeles will likely employ two other rookies next season. Joel Hanrahan was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year before a late season call-up to the PCL. He is a sinker/slider pitcher in the same mold as Kevin Brown, and will likely benefit from his advice. Hanrahan should join the rotation next year, bumping either Dreifort or Ishii (Dreifort) to the bullpen. The other rook is Koyie Hill, whom is a top 10 catcher. Hill lacks real weakness, and reminds me of a young Brad Ausmus. He won't be the first to play in any All-Star games, but he'll help his team behind the plate. It's possible Hill will move Paul Lo Duca to either first or left, as the Dodgers value his bat highly. With three touted prospects entering rookie status next year, don't be surprised to see a Dodger pick up the NL Rookie of the Year.
The rest of the talent in this system is in the low levels, where Evans has really got some interesting players. He has the middle infield stocked, although shortstops are very difficult to project. The best middle infield the Dodgers have isn't a shortstop, he's a second basemen. Delwyn Young hit fantastically in the South Atlantic League, although his defense is sub-par. He reminds many of Victor Diaz, the prospect the team dealt for Jeremy Burnitz. Some say Evans was actually staking his bet on Young becoming a better player than Diaz. The other big middle infield prospect is Chin-Lung Hu, a Taiwanese prospect whom debuted in the Pioneer League. Hu already has Major League defense, and hit over .300 with the Ogden Raptors. But, he's only 5-8, so his doubters wonder if that bat will continue to progress as he moves through the system. The other middle infielders are Reggie Abreu (2B), and Joel Guzman (SS), whom are both very raw. The only other real hitter in this system is Reggie Abercrombie. He is an outfield prospect with all the right tools, but can't put it on paper. He has the speed, the power, and the arm to make it in the Majors, but he will be in the PCL next season. If he learns to play center as well as he can right, and he shortens his swing, he'll join Miller in the 2005 Dodger class.
The rest of the pitching in the Dodger system is intriguing as well. Chad Billingsley, the team's first-round choice, is the best, as his fastball and curve were more refined after he was drafted. Brian Pilkington is a former top-five draftee whom put up solid numbers in the FSL this season. Mike Megrew is a big leftie teenager in a similar build to Greg Miller, although he doesn't throw nearly as hard. The team has chosen to put Marcos Carvajal in relief his first season, and he struck out 50 in 38 innings. He's a good prospect, but it's hard to hype a pitcher before he reaches full-season ball.
What's really interesting about this system is that I could see the 2004 ROY go to Jackson, Miller in 2005, Gutierrez or Loney in 2006, Young in 2007, and Billingsley in 2008. Keep your eye on Dodger blue!
Top 12 Prospects
1. Edwin Jackson
And no folks...I don't want to hear about curses ever again.