SS Joel Guzman -- Prospect #3

Latest in a series on the top Dodger prospects as we count down among the very best.

Position- Shortstop
Residence- San Pedro de Macoris, D.R.
DOB-Nov. 24, 1984
Ht- 6-6
Wt- 230
B/T- R/R
05 Club- Jacksonville (AA)

This should be the season when Guzman arrives at a couple of destinations that long have been predicted for him. One is the big leagues; the other, a position that isn't shortstop.

Guzman's enormous power potential, which often lurks beneath the surface emerging in tantalizing bursts, has carried him to the brink of the bigtime with only a bit more polish needed to push him there.

However, it's been obvious for sometime that he simply isn't built for the middle infield. He lacks initial quickness with too many ground balls getting by to be relied upon at that locale.

So, whither Guz? They began using him at third for times in 2005 but that experiment was pretty well abandoned when Andy LaRoche arrived in Jacksonville.

He played both third and first in winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Each slot is favored by some although there's a solid contingent that believes right field is his ultimate best shot.

Certainly that classy arm could be well utilized there. So, there will be work for him in the field at perhaps several different locations.

In the meantime, there's that hitting. 2005 was a solid year -with 16 bombs, 31 doubles and 75 RBI delivered among a .284 average. It gained him the Southern League All-Star nod as, for the first time in his four professional seasons, he stayed with one club for the entire year. Not overwhelming but encouraging.

His long arms allow excellent plate coverage although he's still vulnerable up and in. He probably never will hit for high average as he goes upward; because of a long swing and early commitment. He still is learning pitch recognition, of course.

The shots he hits, though, evoke memories of Frank Howard for they're often of the majestic type. Importantly, along the way he seems to be acquiring maturity for, previously, he's always been known as a mercurial sort, exultant when things go well, sulking when they don't.

Now he seems to play with more equanimity, even becoming something of a leader for the Latin players. He's always been better educated than most, speaking English when he first arrived.

An outstanding spring could bring temptation to keep him with the big club but it's more likely that he'll be sent to Las Vegas to drill at his new position.

The dry desert air should mean some drives to the far distance that will tend to hasten the time when he begins paying off that $2.25 million bonus he got to sign in 2001.