Checking Dodger Minor League First Basemen

First in a series of looks at how the Dodger minor league teams shape up by position.

When it comes to first base in the Dodger system, it's James Loney and who are those guys? Loney has arrived at Las Vegas right on schedule after a stellar spring in which he led the Dodgers in hitting but, of course, had no chance to dislodge Nomar Garciaparra, who has been assigned to first.

So, James, clearly the organization's top (and, perhaps, only) prospect at this position will be in AAA, trying to hit his way upward. Nick Alvarez, entering his seventh season in the Dodger system, who can play both first and the outfield, is currently on the Vegas disabled list.

(Ed. Note: Garciaparra pulled a rib cage muscle in the final game of he freeway series and probably will be placed on the disabled list. Loney is the obvious choice to replace him).

There's a pair of newcomers for manager John Shoemaker to choose from at Jacksonville- Craig Brazell and A.J. Zapp. Both were once highly thought-of power prospects in other organizations who have fallen on hard times. Both will be backtracking for they were in AAA last year with Brazell playing at Norfolk for the Mets and Zapp at Louisville for the Reds.

Brazell got into only 51 games, hitting just .249 with six home runs. In 2004, he had made it up to New York after hitting 23 out for Norfolk. Zapp also had just six homers while batting .243 at Louisville. His big year was also 2004 when he ripped 29 homers while batting in 101 runs for Tacoma, a Mariners farm team. Both signed as free agents over the winter.

With Cory Dunlap in at least tempoary eclipse because he reported seriously overweight, Jason Mooneyham, who had been only a part-timer at Ogden in his rookie year, has won the Vero Beach job although Jimmy Rohan can play there if needed. Mooneyham was a lowly 40th round draft pick from Chapman University who hit .280 with six homers for Ogden.

Mooneyham had played behind Australian David Sutherland, who was a Pioneer League All-Star for a .336-4-47 year. Sutherland has added some needed muscle for that quartet of homers represented his total output in three professional seasons. He starts the year at Columbus which also has Eduardo Perez, who was the leading hitter in the Gulf Coast League (.352) and who also plays third.

Dunlap has been demoted to the extended spring camp to work off that excess poundage despite a .291-7-77 season at Vero in 2005. He's joined there by big (6-4, 265) Rick Taloa, who was .267-2-9 in just 22 games at Ogden and the recently signed Jesus Gomez from Venezuela. A solid 6-2, 195, Gomez has shown left-handed power possibilities but a visa problem may result in his being sent to the Dominican Summer League eventually.