Guzman Not a Prime Prospect ? I Beg to Differ

I see where a number of respected members of the media are saying the Dodgers worked their deadline deals without having to give up a prime prospect. Au contrair. True, Joel Guzman had slipped a bit from the lofty perch he occupied in the spring and in the previous year but he'd hardly descended down into the depths.

No, Guzman was not the number one prospect that some had anointed him before but as far as offensive potential is concerned, he certainly belonged up with the elite, probably fourth on the list behind Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche and James Loney. And that's more than high enough to rate him a premium minor league player.

His fall from grace this year has been attributed to two main causes. One is a production decline, the other, his attitude. True, he wasn't having any sort of a breakout year but, actually, he was playing his best ball when sent to Tampa Bay, rather to the Tampa farm team in Durham for he hasn't had a major league callup from them - yet.

But his final marks at Las Vegas were .297 with 11 homers and 55 RBI. Not at all shabby.

As for attitude, anybody even casually connected with him has long known about that for it isn't of recent vintage. He's been known to sulk from at-bat to at-bat. He's also mercurial in that respect for his highs can occur often as well.

What Guzman has long been is a 6-6, 250-pound, tremendously strong individual who's like an atom waiting to be split. If you can harness that energy, you have an explosion waiting to happen. Oh, he has a holes in his too long swing, particularly up-and-in which smart pitchers regularly exploited. But he can hit the ball into the next area code, too.

So, the Devil Rays hope they're the ones who can refine, then unleash him. The Dodgers, who made him into a left fielder this spring with the idea that he'd soon occupy that position in L.A. got off his merry-go-round when Andre Ethier proved more than ready at that same job.

How he'll turn out is still very much in question but at age 21, the last chapter in this saga has yet to be written. Whatever the case, it will be in colors other than Dodger blue.

As for Sergio Pedroza, he left the organization leading in home runs with 24. He hit 21 of those with Columbus, then moved up to Vero Beach where he sent one out in his first game, then slumped before he ripped two in one game last week.

He certainly has a quick bat that generates power but his weaknesses were exploited unmercifully by Florida State League pitchers for his average was only .154 at Vero. The strikeouts were piling up, too, for after 91 at Columbus, he fanned 18 more times in 13 games with Vero.

At best, Pedroza is a fringe prospect. You can't ignore the power but he has a lot of batting weaknesses.

As for the player received from Tampa Bay, Julio Lugo (whose brother Ruddy, used to toil in the minors for the Dodgers), he may turn out very well.

An American League observer commented, "You'll love this guy. He might not rank up with those offensive shortstops in the American League (like Derek Jeter) but he's close.

He runs very well, hits for both average and power and plays hard. He's a good leadoff type who can help the Dodgers."

Of course, the surplus of infielders that will be created when Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra get back is an issue the Dodgers will have to address. They may be happy to do that.

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