Third Base Analysis

For some time now, pitching has been the strong point of the Dodger farm system. That continues true today; however, when you consider the position players, it's hard to find one more stacked with prospects than third base. From top to bottom there are players who may well turn out to be big factors in the Dodger future.

The current cause of excitement is, of course, Andy LaRoche. The 21-year-old son of a former big leaguer (Dave) and brother of a current one (Adam of the Atlanta Braves) is playing for Vero Beach in the Florida State League but you'd have a hard time convincing those who've been viewing him that he isn't in a league of his own. He's leading everybody everywhere with 19 home runs and has driven in 43 while batting. 343. Put that in a package with a rocket launcher arm and the necessary quickness for the position and you see why the Dodgers are expected to waste little time promoting him to Jacksonville.

While there, he may be forced to share some time with 20-year-old Joel Guzman, hitherto the darling of the system who has done little to discourage the notion that he's a force to be reckoned with. He's hitting .294-11-41 for Jacksonville while playing mostly short but being groomed at third more and more. Brian Sprout (.239-4-17) is the current Jacksonville third baseman who may well return to the utility role that he held down at Vero last season where he played five positions.

There's more up higher at Las Vegas. Nori Nakamura, the former Japanese all-star may not have fared well in his first trial in Los Angeles but he's been a terror in the Pacific Coast League (.338-10-24. Dodger General Manager Paul DePodesta assured him when he was sent down that they haven't given up on him and he's responded well. He's also excellent with the glove. Then, there's 22-year-old Willie Aybar (.317-2-27), who plays both second and third so could factor in either place.

Blake DeWitt, a first-round draft choice in 2004, hasn't put up gaudy numbers at Columbus (.253-4-29). This 19-year-old possesses a quick bat and bids to be a power hitter in the future so he, too, is someone to consider down the road.

The extended camp featured a couple of Latin players with promise as well. 20-year-old Venezuelan Eduardo Perez hit .350 in the Dominican League last year and was stinging the ball in camp before fracturing a finger. He's on the mend and is expected to be ready for Ogden when he returns. 19-year-old Carlos Santana is a switch-hitting Dominican who'll probably make his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League. He has shown power and a strong arm as well.

All in all, quite a group to pick and choose from.

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