Dodger Minor League Strength Chart - 1B

Dodger minor league first basemen are led by one of the top prospects in the entire system, James Loney. And while there are solid players below him they will scramble for spots in the top four teams in the system. We will take a statistical look at each position during this series, and will start with the initial sack.

James Loney won the batting title in the Pacific Coast League and, in fact, led all minor leagues in hitting during the 2006 season, despite three different callups to the big club. He hit .225 in the first over 40 at bats, .250 in the second and then blossomed, hitting .328 in the final two (20-for-62) with four homers and 15 runs batted in.

Many compare the left-handed hitter to John Olerud, Mark Grace, and Wally Joyner for his line drive swing and fielding aptitude at first base, but some question his low home run totals.

I suppose the same thing could have been said about Ty Cobb.

Loney hit five in rookie ball with Great Falls in 2002. Jumped to high-A Vero Beach he hit seven and followed that with four at AA Jacksonville in 2004. Last season he clouted 11 in 138 games and 504 at bats.

Part of the low total comes from suffering a broken bone in his wrist late in his first season after jumping from Great Falls to Vero Beach. A broken finger in his first season at Jacksonville also slowed his progress because the injury didn't allow him to maintain his usual workout schedule.

History shows that power is the last thing to arrive in most players; Stan Musial hit a single home run each of his first three seasons in the minor leagues before completing a remarkable career with nearly 500 dingers.

Bill James Handbook has no trouble with the perceived lack of power, predicting a .305/.360/.460 major league season for him in 2007, although the signing of Nomar Garciaparra will probably impede his progress as he learns to play the outfield in the major leagues.

Hardball Times Annual projects that Loney has a 31% of becoming a star by age 25. What that means is that over 30% of players with comparable performances at Loney's age went on to achieve offensive production that would qualify them as one of the top-third of all regular first basemen in baseball during their prime.

Backup infielder Ramon Martinez suggested that Loney change his grip on the bat during his second tour with Los Angeles. When Loney returned to the National League in September, and he launched three home runs during the final week of the regular season, knocking in an L.A. record nine runs (including a grand slam) against Colorado on Sept. 28.

If the Dodgers can remain patient with Loney, he should become an excellent-fielding first baseman with plus on-base skills and strong power production.

After Loney, the list drops to a quartet who played at Vero Beach in 2006: Cole Bruce, David Sutherland, Jason Mooneyham and Cory Dunlap. With a pair of big boppers, Jacksonville's Craig Brazell and A.J. Zapp opting for free agency, the field is wide open for advancement.

Cory Dunlap
Cory Dunlap's 2006 performance may have come one general manager too late. Paul DePodesta doted on players with high on-base percentages and Dunlap fits that bill perfectly.

The bulky (6-1 - 230) 22-year-old hit .351 at Ogden with seven home runs in 71 games and followed that with a .291 average and seven more dingers in 121 games for Vero Beach in 2005.

Last season he disappointed many by hitting .261 although he increased his power numbers with 14 home runs. However, while playing in only 89 games he walked 88 times and posted an on-base percentage of .435, highest in the system.

While that figure would be excellent for a middle infielder, but given the lack of power and the fact that his weight has slowed his mobility, he may play in Class A another season to see which Dunlap shows up.

Jason Mooneyham
Mooneyham was a 40th round draft choice and players taken that low have to dance on the table and shoot out the lights to get noticed.

Playing at Ogden his rookie season (2005), he had six homes and knocked in 27 over 182 times at bat while hitting .280. Adequate numbers but not spectacular unless you notice his .405 on-base percentage.

He worked out religiously in the off-season, dropping 40 pounds and appeared at spring training with a quicker bat and more mobility.

He boosted his OBP to .434 at Ogden but hit only .247 with a single homer and 27 RBI. Boosted up to Vero the second half of the year, he hit .279 and got extra playing time when the Dodgers released Dan Batz, who he had shared time with in Columbus.

Cole Bruce
Bruce, 25, an undrafted free agent, out of Houston University, hit only .233 with Ogden in 2004, He moved to Columbus and posted a .304 average with five homers in 22 games and quickly was boosted up to Vero where he showed some power, hitting 6 homers in 56 games while hitting .247.

Last season he hit .284 with 10 homers in 85 games for Vero Beach and got a brief look at Jacksonville. He will be 25 in 2007 and will get a long look but time is running out.

David Sutherland
Sutherland, a native of Australia, hit only .236 in his rookie season but boosted that to .301 in 2004 and zooming to .336 -- tied for first in the system -- in 2005 at Ogden. He also posted a .422 on base average and led the league in fielding percentage.

Last year, at age 22, he had a .268 average over 119 games and added six home runs and 43 runs batted in.

Jamie Ortiz
The young (18) Puerto Rican spent his rookie season in the Gulf Coast League in 2006 and had a couple homers and 22 RBI in 50 games.

Kyle Orr Orr, the Dodgers No. 4 pick in the 2006 draft, signed late and saw no action during the season.

A 6-5, 205-pounder who will initially work at first base, he has a smooth, left-handed swing that the Dodgers thing has power potential.
                  ave   ab  r  h  2b 3 hr bi sb 
J. Loney       LV .380 366 64 138 33 2  8 67  9
C. Dunlap      LV .250   4  0   1  0 0  0  1  0
A.J. Zapp      Jx .223 269 29  60 16 0  8 33  0
C. Brazell     Jx .247 421 56 104 26 1 21 91  1
C. Bruce       VB .284 313 43  89 23 0 10 34  0
J. Mooneyham   VB .279  68  5  19  3 0  0  2  0
Cory Dunlap    VB .261 284 43  74 15 0 14 47  0
J. Todd        VB .167  48  4   8  2 0  2 16  0
D. Sutherland Col .268 447 58 120 20 0  6 43  1
J. Mooneyham  Col .247 255 41  63 10 0  1 27  4
R. Taloa       Og .271 247 35  67 13 0 11 48  0
J. Ortiz 1b    GC .232 181 21  42  5 1  2 22  1

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