Before the 2007 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.
In 2006, the Los Angeles Dodgers received much-deserved acclaim for not only developing one of the deepest and richest farm systems in the game but being able to mine that talent into the Major Leagues, resulting in a postseason berth. And, as we said in our preview, if you can't translate that talent to big-league production when needed, what is it good for?
Outfielder Andre Ethier, catcher Russell Martin and pitcher Chad Billingsley were among those who made good in '06. In 2007, outfielder Matt Kemp (.333 in 92 games) and first baseman James Loney (.331 in 90 games) were part of the next wave of talented prospects along with infielder Tony Abreu (.276).
There seems to be more top prospects on the way to the Majors for the Dodgers. But it's hard to say if they'll get the same chance to make an immediate mark as their predecessors did. A new regime, led by long-time New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, takes over in 2008, with the turnover due, at least in some part, to a clubhouse rift between the veterans, most of whom are nearing the end of their careers, and the players of the future.
How that plays out also may determine how quickly the rest of the prospects are funneled into the big leagues.
Organizational Players of the Year
Delwyn Young, OF: Young heads back to Las Vegas to roam the outfield for a second season. Sure, Loney, Kemp and Andy LaRoche could be the ones to put up Player of the Year numbers with a full season at Vegas, but any or all of them could -- and probably will -- spend significant time in the Majors. Young, on the other hand, puts up better-than-legit numbers every year, but there seems to be no spot for him in Los Angeles yet. Indeed, the converted former second baseman put up his usual awesome numbers yet again at Vegas. He hit .337 with 17 homers and 97 RBIs, and his 54 doubles ranked second in the Minors. The 2002 fourth-round draft pick saw a bit of Major League action and finished his fall leading Team USA to Taiwan for World Cup play. He was among the Pacific Coast League leaders in runs scored (first with 107), hits (fifth, 165), extra-base hits (first, 76) and ranked second in the system in average and RBIs.
Video: Young blasts his second homer
Audio: Young goes deep twice
Scott Elbert, LHP: Coming off a season in which he combined for 173 strikeouts and a 2.90 ERA between two Minor League stops, Elbert certainly was the top upper-level pitching prospect coming into the season. However, a torn labrum interrupted his campaign three games into April at Double-A Jacksonville, and he will not return to the mound until the spring. A 2004 first-round pick, hopes are still high for Elbert, but his injury undoubtedly was the biggest blow to the Minor League system in 2007.
Audio: Elbert fans his ninth
As chosen by the author, not the organization
Delwyn Young, OF: See preseason predictions.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: We predicted the 19-year-old southpaw, selected with the seventh overall pick in 2006, would be a fast mover, but we couldn't have expected he'd climb the organizational ladder this quickly. Kershaw combined to go 8-7 with a 2.95 ERA between Class A Great Lakes and Double-A Jacksonville, striking out 163 in 122 innings while scattering 89 hits. The Midwest League Prospect of the Year is a hard thrower with good mechanics, a plus-curve and circle change. He has displayed remarkable poise and command for his age.
Audio: Kershaw's seventh K
Video: Kershaw interview
Climbed the Ladder
James McDonald, RHP: We can't feel too badly about not having had McDonald in our preseason package. Few could have expected this converted outfielder to zoom from off the radar to top pitching prospect in a deep Dodgers system. But he did. McDonald, an 11th-round pick in 2002, led the system in wins and strikeouts, going 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 134 2/3 innings. He walked only 37. A first baseman-turned-pitcher-turned-outfielder-turned-pitcher again, his out pitch is a plus curveball. McDonald's 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fourth in the Minors among starters, and he improved his stats with his move from Class A Advanced Inland Empire to Jacksonville, going 7-2 with a 1.71 ERA following the promotion.
Audio: McDonald rings up an 11th K
Audio: McDonald strikes out the side
Tony Abreu, 2B: In our preseason "Under the Radar" section, we wrote, "Blake DeWitt may be the Dodgers' top draft pick at this position, but Abreu has quietly put himself very much on the map as the prospect to beat at second base." Indeed, DeWitt has moved to third base, while Abreu made his big-league debut with the Dodgers, seeing time at second base, shortstop and third. At 40, veteran second baseman Jeff Kent certainly won't be around much longer and Abreu appears to have inherited the role of heir apparent. The switch-hitter was up with the parent club between mid-May and mid-July and again in September. He hit .271 in 59 games for Los Angeles after batting .355 with Las Vegas. A switch-hitter, Abreu won the Florida State League batting crown in 2005 and hit .287 at Jacksonville in '06.
Audio: Abreu rips a game-winning single
Audio: Abreu delivers a clutch double
Jonathan Meloan, RHP: He gave Kershaw and McDonald a run for their money in the Pitcher of the Year department and was named MiLB.com's Double-A Reliever of the Year after going 5-2 with 19 saves and a 2.18 ERA for Jacksonville. The right-hander walked only 18 and struck out 70 in 45 innings, limiting Southern League hitters to a .170 average with a fastball in the low 90s and a plus-slider. The 2005 fifth-rounder, who finished the year with a little taste of the big leagues, mirrored those numbers in 2006, when he fanned 91 in 52 innings, walking 16 and limiting opponents to an .095 average.
Audio: Meloan fans the side
Chin Lung Hu, SS: The Taiwan native cemented his spot as shortstop of the future and earned Futures Game MVP honors along the way. Hu's defense has always been beyond question, but in 2007 he also showed he could hit. After batting .254 at Jacksonville in 2006, he combined to hit .325 with 15 homers and 40 doubles between Jacksonville and Las Vegas. He was the Suns' lone Southern League All-Star and also made his big-league debut during the season.
Audio: Hu hits a two-run shot
Cody White, LHP: The non-drafted free agent from 2004 was among the top pitchers in the system, going 10-8 with a 3.14 ERA in 143 2/3 innings between Class A Great Lakes and Inland Empire. It wasn't just White's first full season in the Minors but his first year as a full-time starter. The results would lead one to believe he may stay in that role.
Audio: White whiffs seven
Josh Bell, 3B: One of the top power prospects in the organization, the 20-year-old Bell hit .289 with 15 homers and 62 RBIs at Great Lakes in his first full season. He'd batted .312 in two short-season campaigns since being drafted in the fourth round in the 2005. A switch-hitter with power from both sides and a strong arm, Bell finished ninth in the Midwest League batting race and ranked fourth with a .470 slugging percentage.
Audio: Bell blasts one
Kept Their Footing
Andy LaRoche, 3B: LaRoche, whose older brother, Adam, is the starting first baseman in Pittsburgh, continued to be slowed by shoulder trouble that also plagued him in 2006, forcing offseason surgery. But he was healthy enough to join Team USA this past month. Overall, LaRoche hit .309 with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs in 265 at-bats at Vegas and .217 in 29 games during his big-league debut in Los Angeles.
Audio: LaRoche launches one
Xavier Paul, OF: A fourth-round pick in 2003, Paul has consistently shown good, if not off-the-charts, tools across the board. After hitting .285 with 13 homers and 22 steals at Class A Advanced Vero Beach in '06, he did well during his first taste at Double-A as well, batting .291 with 11 homers, 50 RBIs and 17 steals at Jacksonville.
Audio: Paul comes through in the clutch
Blake DeWitt, 3B: A 2004 first-round pick, DeWitt had been inconsistent with his bat, but he had a fine season in 2007, batting .298 with eight homers and 46 RBIs at Inland Empire and .281 during a taste of Double-A at Jacksonville. He'd seen time at second base in the past but played almost exclusively at third this year.
Audio: DeWitt drills a long ball
Preston Mattingly, SS: The supplemental first-rounder from 2006 had a disappointing year in his first full season, batting just .210 with three homers and 40 RBIs at Great Lakes. Mattingly drew only 22 walks while committing 30 errors between shortstop and second base -- the latter of which would appear to be his new position. But his bloodlines would indicate a better bat down the line as his father, legendary Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, will be a Dodgers coach in 2008. Preston is a raw baseball player, having concentrated on basketball in high school, but is an excellent all-around athlete.
Audio: Mattingly wins it with a double
Slipped a Rung
Greg Miller, LHP: The 2002 supplemental first-rounder had been the club's top pitching prospect since 2003, when he posted a 2.49 ERA at Vero Beach and a 1.01 mark in four starts at Jacksonville. But he missed the next two seasons with shoulder trouble and has never quite been able to regain his stuff. Control issues plagued Miller this year as his 89 walks between Jacksonville and Vegas led the Minors. He posted a 7.85 ERA and walked 46 in 28 2/3 innings at Triple-A.
Javy Guerra, RHP: The Dodgers love the young right-hander's stuff and upside, but he has come back slowly from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 6.27 ERA at Inland Empire, where opponents hit .296 against him. While his 121 strikeouts were third in the system, his 80 walks ranked fifth in the Minors. Next year will be a big one for him.
Ivan DeJesus Jr., SS: The 2005 supplemental first-round pick has been passed in the shortstop sweepstakes by Chin Lung Hu, at least for the time being. He has a live bat but no power or speed and committed 30 errors at Inland Empire. DeJesus had been slated for Arizona Fall League action, but a broken finger, which didn't heal properly, forced the club to scratch him and give the coveted spot to Hu.
Mark Alexander, RHP: Alexander was the organizational Pitcher of the Year in 2006, when he collected 26 saves and posted an 0.96 ERA at Jacksonville. But the right-hander had a 2007 to forget, logging a 14.25 ERA in 12 innings at Vegas before a return to Jacksonville. He had a 4.41 ERA and five saves for the Suns.
On the Radar
Lucas May, C: Drafted in the eighth round in 2003, May was moved to the outfield and eventually to catcher in 2007. At Inland Empire, he hit .256 with 25 home runs and 89 RBIs, splitting time between catcher and designated hitter. He committed only four errors behind the plate.
Audio: May mashes one
Alfredo Silverio OF: In his first season stateside after three years in the Dominican Summer League, the 20-year-old not only won the Gulf Coast League batting crown with a .373 average but led all Minor Leaguers in that category -- if you count short-season players. His 46 RBIs also led the GCL, and he added a little pop with six homers.
Daigoro Rondon RHP: Like his Gulf Coast League teammate, Silverio, Rondon came to the U.S. after three seasons in the DSL. The 21-year-old right-hander went 7-2 with a 2.77 ERA and walked only four while striking out 59 in 65 innings.
Matthew Berezay, CF: The 21st-round pick from 2006 had a strong first full season, batting .276 with 13 homers, 64 RBIs and 34 doubles at Great Lakes. He ranked third in the Midwest League with a .471 slugging percentage and doubles.
Audio: Berezay slugs a grand slam
John Lindsey, 1B: Age notwithstanding, the 30-year-old first baseman enjoyed a career year, to say the least. He hit .317 with 30 homers and a Minor League-best 121 RBIs between Jacksonville and Vegas. Originally drafted out of high school by Colorado in the 13th round in 1995, Lindsey hit .286 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs with the Suns and .333 with 19 homers and 88 RBIs in only 77 games with the 51s.
Audio: Lindsey's walk-off blast
2007 Draft Recap
Christopher Withrow, RHP: The high school pitcher from Texas, taken with the 20th overall pick, has good mechanics, throwing a sinking fastball in the low 90s, a good curve and a changeup with potential. In his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League, Withrow posted a 5.00 ERA and 13 strikeouts over nine innings.
James Adkins, LHP: The 6-foot-6 southpaw, taken out of Tennessee with the 39th overall pick, has great command of an outstanding slider -- his bread-and-butter pitch. He made his pro debut at Great Lakes, posting a 2.12 ERA in 11 starts, though he never went more than three innings. Adkins struck out 30 in 26 innings and limited Midwest League foes to a .181 average.
Audio: Adkins Ks a career-high five
Michael Watt, LHP: A second-round pick out of high school in California, Watt posted a 3.00 ERA in 10 games in the Gulf Coast League, walking six while striking out 18 over 21 innings. His breaking stuff is especially good.
OTHERS OF NOTE: 3B Austin Gallagher, an opposite-field hitter drafted out of high school in Pennsylvania, hit .284 with four homers and 17 RBIs at short-season Ogden. ... 1B Andrew Lambo batted .343 with five homers and 32 RBIs in the Gulf Coast League, adding a .440 on-base percentage that ranked second in the league. The left-handed hitter is a good defensive first baseman. ... Switch-hitting SS Jaime Pedroza out of Cal-Riverside batted .360 with eight homers and 40 RBIs, maybe the best season of any '07 draftee in the Dodger system. ... OF Erik Kanaby out of Lamar hit .338 at Ogden, where his .427 on-base average led the Pioneer League.