Valdez, who will be 29 in 2007, has had brief stops with the Chicago White Sox, Seattle and San Diego, and was signed when Jose Flores, who was the infield insurance at Las Vegas in 2006, elected free agency,
Left without a shortstop at AAA, the Dodgers swapped Jarod Plummer to the Royals for Valdez and moved him into the Las Vegas lineup, giving them not only a near-major league quality shortstop but a surprisingly strong bat.
With a MLB career average of .209 over parts of 70 games, Valdez had a solid season, hitting .297 and leading the 51s with 94 runs, 157 hits and adding 24 doubles, 53 runs batted in and 26 stolen bases.
A 5-11, 170-pound native of the Dominican Republic, he knows how to field, runs the bases very well and delivers offensively.
The Dodgers liked his performance so much they put him on the 40-man roster. In the spring, he'll get a chance to be the swing man in the Dodger offense or will be the regular at Las Vegas again and a valuable insurance policy.
Hu, at 5-9 and 152 pounds, has always had to battle the critics who, while praising his fielding, predict that he will never hit enough to start in The Show.
The Tiawanese was the third from his country to sign with the Dodgers, followiing Chin-Feng Chen and Hong-Chih Kuo.
He debuted at Ogden, where he hit .305 with 17 exras base his and 23 runs batted in. He was singled out as the best defensive shortstop in the Dodger minor league system and the best prospect in the league, leading the Pioneer League with 165 assists.
He was chosen for the South Atlantic League All-Star game and on the post-season All-Star team at Columbus in 2004 after hitting .298 and stealing 50 boases, then finished the season hitting .307 at Vero Beach over 20 games. Overall he had 70 runs scored, 122 hits and 56 steals.
Hu became the Dodgers regular shortstop in 2005 at Vero Beach, playing 116 games and hitting .313 (second inn the league) with 38 extra baase hits (including 29 doubles). knocking in 56 and stealing 23 bases.
Again he was chosen for the league All-Star Game and the post-season All-Star team. He was rated the best defensive fielder in the system and the 10th best prospect.
He hit a plateau with Jacksonville in 2006, hitting .256, ws second on the team with 125 hits, and tied for the eam lead in steals with 11.
But his season started in January for the World Baseball Classic, in which he played for Taiwan and hit .417. He finished the season in the Arizona Fall League. Ten months on the go was too much; he just wore down.
For the third year in a row, he teamed with second baseman Tony Abreu to form an absolutely marvelous double play combination and they combined for 153 DPs for the Suns.
He'll have to beat out Wilson Valdez to open the season at Las Vegas, unless Valdez makes the Dodger rosters. In any event, at 24, he is still on track and his many supporters are starting to drownd out his detractors.
Nicholson was the ninth round pick in the 2004 draft out of UCal-Berkely after leading his team with a .357 avrage, 14 doubles, 77 hits, 50 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .483.
Life wasn't that rosey his first professional season at Ogden where he hit .263 with no homers and 12 runs batted in over 41 games.
As a college draftee, he moved up to Columbus (.246-2-28) and Jacksonville (.118-0-1) in 2005
As for his shortstopping experince, it was zero but when manager Travis Barbary asked if he could play short, he said "sure" and moved into the position. Not as a regular, you see, but he was a player looking for a position, moving around all four infield slots.
He played at Vero Beach in 2006 and won the shorstop job over a pair of competitors, displaying a strong bat (.285) and stealing 23 bases.
His fielding must improve (41 errors) or he will be bypassed by the younger, slicker-fielding kids moving up.
DeJesus was the second round pick in the 2005 draft out of the American Military Academy in Puerto Rico. The academy was started a few years ago by Edwin Correa fine pitcher for the Rangers and later a coach in the Dodger system.
Ivan is the son of Ivan, Sr., who played in the Dodger system, played 15 years in the big leagues -- three with the Dodgers, 1974-75 -- and later became a Dodger minor league coach.
Junior is a shortstop just like his father and has so rapidly moved up through the Dodger system has begun to challenge Chin-Lung Hu as the top shortstop prospect in the franchise.
Ivan opened in the Gulf Coast league and banged out a sizzing .339 batting average. Quickly moved up to Ogden, a late slump dropped him to .208 over 24 games.
Moving to Columbus at age 19, he hit .277 and led the Catfish with 126 games and 134 hits adding 17 doubles, 15 stolen bases and knocking in 44 runs.
A compact 5-10, 175, he'll probably never be a home run hitter but he gives the Dodgers a quality prospect at shortstop.
Rivera, from the Dominican Republic, was signed as a free agent in 2003 at age 16, receiving $400,000 for his autograph on a contract.
He didn't play until the following season in the Dominican Summer League where he hit .243 withh only six extra base hits and the slightly built youngster (145 pounds) wore out before the season ended.
He spent the winter back home, bulking up and improved to .251 at Ogden, a much tougher environment, and was named one of the top prospects in the league mostly on his fielding ability.
Quickly growing into the job, he opened dthe 2006 season weighing 165.
He continued dazzling the staff with his glove although he split time at Ogden (.202-1-6) and at Columbus (.256-6-15) where he ran into the rapidly-improving Ivan De Jesus.
He needs to improve his hitting to realize his ambition of playing in the Major Leagues but the kid is young and that just might happen.
Rivera, drafted in the 17th round out of Tennessee, was a second baseman in college and debuted at Ogden where he played second and shortstop.
He hit .253 over 21 games, with seven extra base hits and stole 10 bases.
Preston Mattingly Mattingly, the son of famed Yankee Don Mattingly, was drafated out from under the noses of the Red Sox and Yankees in the supplimental round of the 2006 free agent draft, when Dodger scouting director Logan White called his name and left the other two teams waiting at the altar.
He promptly justified the Dodgers' interest in him by hitting .290 over 47 games with 54 hits (fifth in the league) and adding 12 doubles, three triples, his first professional home run and knocking in 29.
He played 30 games at shortstop and served as designated hitter. Shortstop may not be his position but at the tender age of 18, he acquitted himself very well.
Lizarraga signed as a free agent in 2002 and played two years in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .302 and .246. Then he was loaned to the Mexico City Reds and then sent to a league that isn't recognized by Major League Basesball and seemingly disappeared into a black hole since no statistics were available.
But he surfaced, none the worse for wear, in the Gulf Coast League and pretty much drew a blank stare from the coaches. Dave Anderson admitted to Bill Shelley, "All I know is that he's a Mexican and played down there."
But Mike Brito knew of him and reported the kid hit .345 with four homers so the front office sent him a ticket to the instructional camp.
The youngster turned up, not only with a bat, but with a glue-filled glove and a strong arm, drawing approval from minor league boss Terry Collins.
He played three infield positions for the Coasties in 2006 and hit .273, fourth best among players with 100+ times at bat.
Shelley noted, "It's rather like reaching into the pocket of a suit jacket you haven't worn in awhile to discover a $20 bill you'd forgotten." We seem to have found something much more valuable and one who is worth watching.
Dodger shortstop stats:
ave gm ab r h 2b 3 hrbi sb Eric Riggs, LV .300 90 303 33 91 14 2 9 45 3 Wilson Valdez, LV .297 137 528 94157 24 1 6 53 26 Chin-Lung Hu, Jx .254 125 488 71124 20 2 5 37 11 Dave Nicholson, VB .285 106 361 54103 16 5 1 29 23 Shane Justis, VB .278 24 79 10 22 3 1 3 36 0 Jimmy Rohan , VB .271 21 70 9 19 4 0 1 26 0 Adolfo Gonzalez,VB .248 59 202 29 50 12 0 6 19 3 Shane Justis, Col .389 39 121 17 36 3 0 4 12 2 Ivan De Jesus, Col .277 126 483 65134 17 2 1 44 16 Juan Rivera, Col .256 40 129 13 33 4 0 2 43 1 Jesus Mora, Col .213 22 89 11 19 5 0 1 27 2 Brandon Carter,Col .194 17 62 9 12 5 1 1 22 0 Jesus Soto, Og .309 56 223 32 69 11 1 7 38 6 Mike Rivera, Og .253 51 174 28 44 6 0 1 9 10 Justin Fuller, Og .230 39 122 24 28 4 2 0 13 4 Pres. Mattingly,GC .290 47 186 22 54 12 3 12 9 12 Fran. Lizarraga,GC .273 47 172 25 47 9 0 1 20 5 Yos.y Garcia, GC .243 33 111 17 27 7 1 3 19 3