Herrera, Lizarraga Rising On the Charts

Every year there are players who slip in under the radar. They arrive unheralded, then proceed to play with a flourish that demands attention. It was the same in 2006 so let's examine a few starting with two who played for the Gulf Coast Dodgers.

Elian Herrera certainly didn't come to the United States with any sort of a reputation as a hitter. He'd spent three years playing in the summer league in his native Dominican Republic, averaging only .253 over than span. However, he did show enough promise to earn a trip here, though he didn't particularly stand out during spring training.

As a result, he was on the bench at the beginning of the Gulf Coast League season but everybody gets a chance to play down there. When his time came, he displayed a penchant for getting on often enough that he soon was in there on a regular basis, usually hitting in the No. 2 slot in the batting order because of his ability to move runners along.

He wound up hitting a surprising .327, which actually matched the best average in the league but he didn't have enough at-bats to qualify for the league lead. He's not big being listed at 5-11, 169 so don't expect a whole lot of pop from him and he managed only a single home run.

In the field, he showed range and an arm very adequate for second base, the position he normally plays. His errors usually resulted from impetuosity, a youthful indiscretion in which he'd made unnecessarily hurried throws. However, he has quick hands and feet. He has better than average speed.

Turning 20 on Oct. 1, the player he reminds you the most of is Tony Abreu. If he continues on his learning curve, he could factor in.

Another Latin infielder of note was Mexican Francisco Lizarraga. He'd spent two years in the Dominican Summer League where averaged .275, then a year in Mexican minor league ball where he says he hit about .345. We'll have to take his word for that because you can't find stats for these leagues which are beyond the pall of organized ball.

In any case, he showed to advantage in the Instructiuonal League last fall, particularly in the field where he displayed excellent range and a strong arm at shortstop. With Preston Mattingly playing short for the GCL club, he had to move around a bit and did nicely enough at both second and third. Down the stretch, though, he took over at short while Mattingly mostly D.H'd.

He was no slouch at the plate, hitting .273 with a number of the hits coming in clutch situations when he seemed to respond. He has above average speed, stealing five of eight bases.

He, too, is 20 years old, ands at 6-1, 170, could fill out some more and show additional punch. Right now, he's a doubles hitter.

Both crowded their way up into fringe prospect status and that's certainly a land they didn't occupy at the beginning of the year.

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