Columbus Catfish Reviewed

Columbus in the South Atlantic League was another Dodger affiliate with a decided losing record- 57-79, to be exact. Those defeats don't quite total up to Las Vegas' 86 but in a way are more disappointing for Vegas was practically devoid of top prospects while Columbus was liberally laced with them.

In this case, though, there are extenuating circumstances which in all fairness should be pointed out.

(1) Inexperience. The Catfish were the youngest team in the league and their youth betrayed them at times, particularly in the first half.

(2) Two pitchers counted on to be mainstays of the staff -- Jesus Castillo and Javy Guerra -- both suffered arm injuries very early on and both went out for the year. And their best reliever, Carlos Alvarez was pushed up to Jacksonville in mid-season.

(3) In the second half, with the team having moved into contention to the point that a good run could put them in first, their main offensive weapons were promoted. One by one, Jamie Hoffmann, Travis Denker and finally Blake DeWitt were sent up to Vero Beach, gutting the heart of the Fish order. It's no accident that they limped home with nine straight losses that doomed them to their lowly finish.

It's rather strange but heartening that despite all this adversity, most of the top prospects added to their luster . Those promoted and some that were still there at the end -- notably pitchers Scott Elbert, Blake Johnson and Chris Malone all did nobly. A pair of outfielders, Ryan Carter and third-round draft pick Sergio Pedroza came up to provide some sock.

The most pleasant surprise had to be Malone, an undrafted free agent signed late last summer who began the year in the bullpen, moved into the rotation when Castillo went out to finish 9-7, 3.88 and place his name on the prospect's list.

Biggest disappointment? Actually, there were two -- pitchers also. Both Zach Hammes and Brandon Weeden were returnees who, it was hoped, would have breakout seasons commensurate with their latent ability. Alas, Hammes was 3-4, 4.81 and Weeden, 2-9, 5.70 with both being relegated to the pen.

Team leaders in key departments:

Games- DeWitt, Dan Batz 120
Runs- Denker 65
2B- DeWitt 31
3B- Hoffmann 9
HR- Denker 21
RBI- Denker 68
SB- Hoffmann 10
Ave- Denker .310
OBP- Denker .417
Slug- Denker .556

Innings-Malone 141.2
Wins- Malone, Johnson 9
ERA- Elbert 2.66
Saves- Albenis Castillo 10
SO- Elbert 128
OBA- Elbert .211