Young Dodger Second Baseman Blooming In Florida

VERO BEACH, Florida-- To watch Tony Abreu play the game of baseball is to understand why the minor league operations are referred to as "the farm system". For at its best, it's like a farmer sewing his seeds, tilling the soil, nurturing the plants until finally they bloom. For Abreau's story is one of steady growth, a building and maturing of a natural talent until he's become one of the brighter prospects in the system.

He's been underappreciated at times by some, though not by those who work with him on a daily basis.

Ask Dan Radison, the Vero Beach batting coach, about the team's second baseman and he replies, "He'll be up there guarding against breaking balls on the inside half of the plate and still be able to react and hit a high fast ball. Now that takes talent."

Talent, Tony (whose given first name is Estanislao, by the way) has always had. Even though he didn't begin playing the game seriously until he was 14, which is middle-aged by Dominican standards, he quickly caught up with and passed others in his age group. At age 17 in October 2002, he was spotted by the Dodgers' Pablo Peguero, whose legacy of signing premier players may never be equaled.

He showed so much at Campo Las Palmas over the winter that it was decided to start him in the USA rather than undergo the usual Dominican Summer League indoctrination. He came over to hit a solid .294 for the Gulf Coast team. Last year he jumped to Columbus and pushed his batting mark up to .302 and began flexing his muscles for eight home runs.

When Chin-lung Hu went out with a sore arm while playing at Vero Beach toward the end of last season, it was decided to promote Tony to fill the shortstop slot there, even though he' d been a second baseman until then. That he did, playing the position in style. Oh, yeah, he also hit .419 in the 11 games he played.

This year, he's back at second, teaming with Hu to form a particularity adroit double play combination. His range is sometimes spectacular and he has demonstrated sure hands. It's on offense, though, that he gets even more attention for he's currently hitting .329-3-32.

You'll notice that average has gone up every year as he's advanced, a sure sign of his maturation process at the plate. He has 106 hits thus far, which not only leads the Florida State League, it is first in the organization.

If you can find fault, it's that he's reluctant to take a walk (only 14 for the season) but he makes enough contact to retain the leadoff spot he normally occupies. He flashed occasional power and some speed (12 stolen bases)

At 5-11 and about 165 pounds, he's still growing at the age of 20. He's also starting to loom large for the future. He's been following Delwyn Young up the ladder in the system. Young is certainly a hitter of note; however, Abreu shows far more defensive skills .

Whenever other teams talk trades with the Dodgers these days, the names of certain prospects keep popping up. Abreu is one of those for to scout him is to desire his services. Whatever the future holds, he's very likely to just keep prospering until makes his way to the top.