Kershaw leads impressive pitching crew

McDonald, Elbert, Adkins among other Dodgers hurlers making strides

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw made the leap to Double-A Jacksonville in his debut season. (Jerry Hale/

By Jonathan Mayo / | March 21, 2008 6:00 AM ET

The future success of every Major League team lies in its Minor League system. With that in mind, each preseason, takes a top-to-bottom look at all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent draft picks.

The Dodgers' 2008 Major League roster isn't exactly over the hill. With a bunch of young 20-somethings establishing themselves and leading the way, the Baby Blue should be competitive in the NL West for a long time.

It'd be easy to assume that with all the young talent up in the bigs, there wouldn't be much down on the farm. But you should never assume, it only makes an ... well, you get the point.

Led by one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, there is still a ton of talent in this system. There are a few bats listed below, but it's the vast quantity of projectable young arms that really jumps out at you when examining the system. Projecting pitching prospects is always a risky business, but if there's safety in numbers, the Dodgers' future on the mound should be intact for a long, long time.

10 Spot
Ten prospects to watch out for in 2008:

James Adkins, LHP
The Dodgers thought so much of their first-round supplemental pick from last June that they sent the University of Tennessee southpaw straight to full-season Great Lakes for his pro debut. Making 11 starts spanning 26 innings (most were two- or three-inning outings) and posting a 2.42 ERA and .181 batting average against while striking out 30 and walking just 10, he's now firmly on the fast track.

Adkins is a pitchability lefty who has a good idea of what he's doing on the mound. He's shown three pitches he commands well -- fastball, curve, power slider -- as well as a good feel for a changeup. He goes right after hitters and has shown excellent poise. He looked good early in camp, and if that continues, he has an outside shot at landing in Double-A Jacksonville's rotation to start the season.
Audio: Adkins records career-high fifth K

Josh Bell, 3B
If you want to pick one player in the Dodgers organization to have a breakout season, Bell might be your guy. The 2005 fourth-round pick showed up to camp 30 pounds lighter and with a much greater sense of maturity.

Here are a few players on the brink of breaking into the Major Leagues:

Chin-Lung Hu, SS -- There's a lot of competition for a utility role this spring. Even if he starts the year at Triple-A Las Vegas, Hu and his glove should find their way to LA soon.

Andy LaRoche, 3B -- Off to a terrific start and likely headed to the starting third base job, LaRoche suffered a thumb injury that will keep him out for two months. Hopefully, he can pick up where he left off and reclaim the job when he's healthy.

Jonathan Meloan, RHP -- Though he was reassigned early, the big reliever is sure to make a major contribution in 2008. Look for better command this time around from the future closer.

Delwyn Young, OF -- He hasn't had a strong spring, but his ability to play multiple positions seems to have secured him a spot as a utilityman.

The weight loss has enabled Bell to show a lot more agility, both offensively and at third base. He didn't have a bad 2007, but was clearly overmatched in 20 games with Class A Advanced Inland Empire. He was the youngest player at the Dodgers' winter development program for their prospects, and he clearly has dedicated himself to getting better. He'll begin the year where he finished last season, with Inland Empire, and he could put up some huge power numbers in the California League.
Audio: Bell goes deep for Great Lakes
Audio: Bell plates two for the win

Ivan DeJesus, SS
His dad played in the big leagues for 15 years and Ivan Jr.'s game does have some similarities to his dad's. DeJesus is outstanding defensively at shortstop, with everything you want from a middle infielder glove-wise.

His father hit just .254 during his big-league career, and it's possible his son is headed for the same good-glove, light-bat career. But there's also some things that suggest more offensive upside than dad had. He's a little more well-rounded and makes good, hard contact consistently with his swing. He's got excellent plate discipline and isn't afraid to take a walk, posting a .364 OBP in his pro career to date. He won't turn 21 until May 1, and with a good spring, he'll celebrate it with the Jacksonville Suns.
Audio: DeJesus collects fifth hit of the game

Blake DeWitt, 3B
The Dodgers took DeWitt at the end of the first round in 2004, and they believe he might be starting to turn the corner. The third baseman got off to an awful start with Inland Empire last year, hitting .211 in April, but then he started to figure things out.

He was up to .298 by the time he got promoted to Jacksonville in early July. He kept on hitting, and despite a bit of a swoon at the end of the year, he set career highs in a number of offensive categories. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and performed well. The keys to his success have been improving his approach and using his hands better in his swing, something that's enabled his power to develop. He's likely headed back to Jacksonville to start the year, but he has an outside shot at making the leap to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Audio: DeWitt drills a go-ahead homer for the 66ers
Audio: DeWitt plates a run for the Suns

Scott Elbert, LHP
Considered one of the top left-handed pitching prospects heading into the 2007 season, Elbert got shut down after just three starts for Jacksonville with a shoulder problem. That led to surgery that ended his season before it really began.

The good news is he's making progress and is on a closely monitored throwing program. He's in great shape, and the Dodgers feel he's right where he should be. There's still no timetable for his return as the organization is going to be understandably cautious with the 22-year-old. Once he gets his feet back under him, it wouldn't be surprising to see him back in Jacksonville at some point.
Audio: Elbert notches ninth strikeout

Clayton Kershaw, LHP
If you want to see Kershaw, the Dodgers' first-round pick from 2006, pitch in the Minors this season, you better go soon. It's becoming abundantly clear that the young southpaw is not far from being ready for a big-league role.

In his first full season, Kershaw made the double-leap from the Midwest League to Double-A and didn't miss a beat, finishing the year with a combined 163 strikeouts in 122 innings to go along with a .201 batting average against and 2.95 ERA. Now 20, Kershaw came to camp in better physical shape, and when he got moved over to big-league camp, he showed he belonged by allowing just one run and striking out seven over seven innings.

Improved command and a better feel for his changeup should help him pitch deeper into games and prepare him for his eventual move to the front of the Dodgers' rotation. The plan was to have him start the year back in Jacksonville, but it will be interesting to see how much his strong spring has pushed up his timetable.
Video: Kershaw's appearance on Around the Minors
Audio: Kershaw earns another K

James McDonald, RHP
Almost every organization has at least one guy who is proof positive that it pays to be patient in the player development world. Originally selected as a draft-and-follow in 2002 and signed just prior to the 2003 draft, McDonald was an outfielder who made the permanent transition to pitching in 2006.

He showed arm strength and the ability to strike out hitters from the get-go, but it was last year that really put him on the map. He began the season in the hitting-friendly California League, then moved up to Double-A Jacksonville and dominated in 10 starts to finish with a 3.07 ERA and 168 strikeouts (vs. just 37 walks) in 134 2/3 innings. The big leap forward is due mostly to terrific fastball command, though he also commands his curve and above-average changeup very well. He's added some strength to his frame this offseason and could be ready for a huge 2008 campaign. He'll probably start the year back in Jacksonville, but don't expect him to stay there all year.
Audio: McDonald snaps off a curve
Audio: McDonald strikes out the side

Bryan Morris, RHP
After nabbing Kershaw with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2006 draft, the Dodgers took another arm -- shocking as it may seem -- selecting Morris from the junior college ranks with the No. 26 pick. He struck out 70 over 60 innings in his pro debut. Unfortunately, an elbow injury led to Tommy John surgery not long after the end of his first summer as a pro and forced him to miss all of the 2007 season.

Turning 21 on March 28, he's 100 percent healthy and ready to resume his climb up the Dodgers' ladder. He threw well in instructs, and that has led to more positives this spring. His fastball velocity is all the way back and he's got a nasty curve and a feel for a changeup that will improve as time passes. Morris' biggest knock was his delivery, something that many feel led to the elbow injury. He's improved his mechanics considerably and will put them to good use in Great Lakes or perhaps even Inland Empire.

Josh Wall, RHP
When the Dodgers took Wall out of his Louisiana high school in the second round of the 2005 draft, they knew the 6-foot-6 right-hander would be a bit of a project. Indeed, he's moved slowly but steadily, spending his first summer in the Gulf Coast League and 2006 in short-season Ogden before making his full-season debut last year.

It was a mixed bag, though he came on in the second half, posting a 3.14 ERA over 66 innings. He's got a really live arm, a good breaking ball and a developing changeup. The biggest thing he needs to work on is his focus on the mound and his maturity. The stuff is there, it's just a question of the 21-year-old learning what to do with it. His spring was likely going to determine whether he'd start the year back with Great Lakes or up a level with Inland Empire.
Audio: Wall picks up first career save

Chris Withrow, RHP
That's right, another exciting young arm entering the Dodgers system. Withrow was the Dodgers' first pick last June, taken No. 20 overall in the draft. The Dodgers love projectable high school pitchers and Withrow fits right in.

He barely got his feet wet last summer, but Withrow has already shown a fastball that can sit in the 92-94 mph range, with more velocity in there as he matures. He's got a good curve and a feel for a changeup. His dad pitched in the White Sox organization and served as his son's pitching coach in high school, so Withrow has a very clean and repeatable delivery.

There's no need to rush him, and the Dodgers will pace him accordingly. He showed up to camp with a few more pounds on his frame (a good sign here), and the Dodgers were just looking forward to getting him innings this spring. He's got a shot to make the Great Lakes rotation, but there'd be nothing wrong with hanging back in extended spring training and then pitching for Ogden.

Under the Radar
Justin Miller, RHP
Miller didn't pitch much during his season with Johnson County Community College last year, but the Dodgers saw enough to draft him in the sixth round. Boy, are they glad. Another projectable right-hander, Miller had a 3.57 ERA over 17 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League last summer. He capped things off by coming into Game 2 of the GCL championship series in back of Chris Withrow and tossing seven shutout innings, getting the win and forcing a Game 3. He could very well join Withrow in Great Lakes to start the season.

Jovanny Rosario, OF
The five-tooled Dominican outfielder had a modest U.S. debut in 2006 after three seasons playing in the Dominican Summer League for the Dodgers. He hit .283 in the summer of '06 and didn't do much else. Last year, though, he moved up to Ogden and exploded, finishing 10th in the Pioneer League with a .331 average and second with 22 stolen bases. The center fielder started to show a little pop, increasing his slugging percentage by 80 points. He's ready for full-season ball, and it should be fun to see how he continues to blossom.
Audio: Rosario rips a two-run double

Alfredo Silverio, OF
Another import from the Dominican, Silverio spent three seasons in the Dominican Summer League and showed some ability, though he hit just .257 with little power last summer. His U.S. debut was a different story. Silverio led the GCL with a .373 average and led the rookie-level circuit in three other offensive categories (total bases, hits, RBIs) while finishing second in slugging (.544) and OBP (.406) and third in runs scored (38). He's got tremendous bat speed and a plus arm from the outfield, making him one of the more interesting sleepers in the system.

Cody White, LHP
Drafted way back in 2003, White made his debut for the Dodgers in the GCL in 2004, tossing just 10 2/3 innings that summer. He spent the next two summers in Ogden trying to master that level, pitching out of the bullpen in 2006. He returned to the rotation last year at Great Lakes and Inland Empire, and combined for a 3.14 ERA. He's a pitchability lefty who's not going to wow you with radar-gun readings, but he knows how to pitch and he's got an outstanding changeup. A jump to Double-A would be a real good challenge.
Audio: White works seventh strikeout

2007 Draft Recap
LHP Michael Watt (second round) had a 3.00 ERA over 21 innings in the Gulf Coast League, allowing 18 hits and striking out 18 while walking seven. He started the final game of the GCL championship but picked up the loss. ... 1B/OF Andrew Lambo (fourth round) absolutely tore up the Gulf Coast League, finishing third in average (.343) and second in OBP (.440) and OPS (.960). His .519 slugging was good for sixth. ... SS Jaime Pedroza (ninth round) went from UC Riverside to Ogden, where he hit .360 with a .981 OPS over 56 games before getting bumped all the way to Inland Empire to end the season and going 3-for-7 in the playoffs. He finished second in the Pioneer League in batting average, fifth in OPS and sixth in slugging and OBP. ... OF Erik Kanaby (10th round) was right behind Pedroza, hitting .338 with a league-leading .427 OBP for Ogden. ... RHP Tim Sexton (25th round) went from Miami-Dade Community College to full-season Great Lakes and posted a 3.57 ERA over 22 2/3 frames, walking just five and striking out 25 over that span.
Audio: Pedroza goes deep for Ogden
Audio: Kanaby collects his fifth hit of the game
Audio: Sexton fans six in relief

Organizational Player of the Year -- Blake DeWitt
It came down to a pair of third basemen and the nod went to the more advanced player in DeWitt over the blossoming Josh Bell. DeWitt started turning the corner last year and should round it full speed in 2008 as he starts to show more consistent power to go along with his consistent, line-drive stroke.

Organizational Pitcher of the Year -- James McDonald
Kershaw would have been a natural choice, but it's seeming more likely that he may not be in the Minors long enough to be considered. Besides, McDonald and his ridiculous 4.5 K/BB ratio from a year ago isn't exactly a bad second option. Look for McDonald to continue to refine his pitching skills and use the added bulk to continue moving up prospect lists everywhere.

Comeback Player of the Year -- Bryan Morris
Scott Elbert could snag this if he comes back and pitches long enough, but Morris is ready to go right out of the chute. After missing an entire year following Tommy John surgery, Morris will hit (err, pitch) the ground running and start dominating batters right from the get-go.

Team to watch -- Great Lakes Loons
It's worth it just to check out quaint Midland, Mich., and its beautiful jewel, Dow Diamond. The Loons finished fifth in the Midwest League in attendance in their inaugural season, and that was with a team that went a combined 57-82 (albeit with Clayton Kershaw worth the price of admission every time out). The 2008 squad should be much more exciting, with a host of young arms and even some solid bats from that high-octane Ogden offense. Look for the Loons to hit the postseason for the first time in '08.

"It was nice to watch these kids mature and grow. They're trying to be aggressive and control the strike zone. I'm excited about the 2008 season. We have some great kids in their first full season." --De Jon Watson, assistant general manager, player development

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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