Dodger Rookie of the Year Candidates

Rookie players in the Dodger system are eligible for the Guy Wellman Award given each year to the first-year performer who put up the most impressive numbers. It should be noted that there's another caveat that sometimes comes into play -- in what league did he do it.

Consider the winner in 1994 -- pitcher Chan Ho Park. He compiled a 5-7, 3.55 mark. Not all that impressive at first glance but consider that he did this in AA ball. Then you cam see why he was selected. Last year's winner, third baseman Andy LaRoche hit 23 home runs -- 13 at low Class A Columbus and 10 more after moving up to high A Vero Beach.

There's something else that came into consideration in LaRoche's case that may well factor in this year as well. He actually had played in the year before (2003) but only in six games so 2004 was in effect his rookie season under the game's definition. This time it might apply in the case of outfielder Anthony Raglani, who spent most of last year rehabbing a hand operation but who did get into six games at the end of the season for the Gulf Coast Dodgers.

This year, then, is considered his true rookie year, one he's beginning at a higher level than the norm, playing at Vero. There's he's currently .292-15-64, numbers that would make him a candidate at any level but particularly so at this one.

There's another who's doing quite well in a more advanced league. Righthander Chris Malone signed as a free agent too late last year to play that season. This year, he began at Columbus where he's 9-5, 3.55 with 112 strikeouts (and only 37 walks) in 124 innings.

Other first-year players who could wind up the winner include outfielder Sergio Pedroza, who presents some interesting figures. A third-round draftee, he began at Ogden in the Pioneer League but was quickly whisked up to Columbus after batting an even .500 with four home runs in just 12 games. With the Catfish, it's almost been a case of extra-bases or none at all. He has added eight more homers plus seven doubles since joining that team. However, he has only eight singles with a .213 batting average as a result.

The top candidate at Ogden would appear to be lefthander Brent Leach, who's 4-3, 2.65 with 61 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. Shortstop Ivan DeJesus is currently batting .292 with the Raptors after hitting .339 in the Gulf Coast League. Other members of the Raptors who could earn consideration with a closing rush are outfielders Adam Godwin (.322) and Drew Locke (.274 - eight home runs) and infielder Shane Justis (.310).

With DeJesus moved up, third baseman Josh Bell (.296) seems to be the leading candidate with the Gulf Coast Dodgers.

The Santo Domingo Dodgers of the Dominican Summer League are also considered with first baseman Alexis Marte (.320) and lefthander Carlos Figueroa (4-2, 2.66, with opposing batters hitting only .195) appearing as the frontrunners down there.