Despite Losing, Vegas Delivered the Players

When the Las Vegas squad was first assembled you couldn't blame anybody that looked at all the talent and declared this to be the finest team in the minor leagues. Might well have been that, too, except many were ready for the big leagues and were taken away as the season progressed.

Look at the players who went up to stay- Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, Aaron Sele, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Billingsley and Joe Beimel. Hong-Chi Kuo came back down and did so well as a starter that he, too, was sent back up. James Loney and Tim Hamulack floated back and forth between Vegas and L.A. Giovanni Carrara was signed, got ready and was promoted.

Then, there were the players who were key figures in trades- Joel Guzman, Willie Aybar and Dioner Navarro. You could make up an all-star team of those who passed through .

The departures were felt considerably although there seemed to be plenty of first-rate players left behind. And others were sent down to help out - Lance Carter and Franquelis Osoria, while several key members were brought up from Jacksonville like Andy LaRoche, Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan and Mark Alexander.

All in all it was team in transition for most of the year. To illustrate that, 30 different pitchers were used in the course of the season. And the team suffered, sliding from first place, down, down to finish 67-77, 24 games out in the Pacific South.

Despite all that losing there was still more right than wrong about the 51's. Loney hit .380 to lead all the minor leagues while playing his usual superb first base. Matt Kemp, who had jumped from Jacksonville to the Dodgers, came here to hit .368, albeit with only three homers.

In fact, there was nowhere near the number of long balls expected from this assemblage. D.Y. Young did the best slugging, driving 18 out of the yard plus 42 doubles. Guzman hit only 11 before his trade while Loney hit eight. Aybar hit 10 before he was traded, the same number contributed by LaRoche after his call-up.

Wilson Valdez, a journeyman minor league shortstop acquired at the beginning of the campaign, proved very valuable, playing well in the field and hitting .297.

Jeff Duncan, a free agent pickup, hit .299 and provided speed at the top of the order. Eric Riggs, a onetime Dodger farmhand who had drifted off to independent ball, was resurrected to play all over the infield and hit .300.

LaRoche hit .322 after his call-up while Oscar Robles, another who was sent back down from L.A., played three positions in the infield and hit .287. Edwin Bellorin took over the catching after Martin and Navarro departed but managed only a .234 mark.

The pitching as usual suffered the general PCL syndrome of inflated ERA's. Lefthander Eric Stults was the steadiest at 10-11, 4.23. D. J. Houlton went through mechanical difficulties but came on to finish 9-11, 5.60. Hanrahan arrived to contribute at 4-3, 4.48.

Justin Reid seldom was with it, compiling a 2-7, 5.43 mark. Osoria, who had stood out in 2005, didn't this time (2-2, 4.35). Eric Hull (2-4, 4.19) had some good innings in relief while Carter came back to become the closer with 13 saves. Miller had command problems but finished 3-0, 4.38. Kuo had the same problem while used in relief, then found himself as a starter for a 4-3, 3.06 mark.

William Juarez was 4-5, 4.08 but went home to Nicaragua for personal reasons and never did return. Alexander was 2-1, 3.14 in his brief stay before going back to Jacksonville. Harold Eckert suffered for the most part (5-10, 7.49). Physical problems limited Kelly Wunsch to 11 games in which he was ineffective (1-1, 8.31)

So that splendid season became just wishful thinking. But the minors exist to prepare players to contribute in The Show. And that they did at Vegas, so there really can't be too many complaints.

Team Leaders:

Average-Loney .380
Hits-Valdez 157
HR- Young 18
RBI- Young 98
SB- Valdez 26

Wins- Stults 10
ERA-Hull 4.19
Innings- Houlton 162.1
SO- Houlton 132
Saves- Carter 13

Biggest Surprise- Valdez wasn't supposed to hit they way he did. And Riggs came from nowhere to add a lot to the team.

Biggest Disappointment- Although Carter did well enough, he didn't gain a trip back to L.A. Neither did Osoria .

Best Prospect- There were a lot to take your pick from. Kemp has the talent to be a bigtime performer in LA.

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