Lizarraga- A Mexican Who Can Play The Field

In over a quarter-century of scouting, all with the Dodgers, Mike Brito's name has always been associated with one of his earliest of finds, the redoubtable Fernando Valenzuela. Know, though, that there's been a lot more to Mike's work than Fernando for in that time he has started some 30 players on their way to the big leagues, a rather remarkable total.

His latest is Joakim Soria on the staff of Kansas City who was originally signed by Mike for the Dodgers who then allowed him to drift away. Soria, like Valenzuela, is a pitcher like almost all the players on Mike's list of signees right down to the latest, righthander Edwin Contreras who's currently in the extended camp.

Not all, of course. There was Karim Garcia who hung around the big leagues for quite awhile even though he never came close to measuring up to what people thought he'd be. But like Ismael Valdes and Antonio Osuna, two other Brito discoveries, the majority have thrown a ball for a living.

There are currently four Brito protégées on the Great Lakes roster. Three are the usual pitchers- Francisco Felix, Jesus Rodriguez and Thomas Melgarejo. For a change, though, one is a position player, shortstop Francisco Lizarraga. And he may well turn out to be one of the better ones.

Lizarraga, a 21-year-old, is currently sharing shortstop duties with Preston Mattingly. That's exactly what the duo did last year with the Gulf Coast Dodgers. However, while Mattingly, is having his troubles demonstrating his fitness for that position (he already has 10 errors), Lizarraga is well-suited for the job.

He has excellent range, a first-class arm and steady hands. What's more he's no disgrace with a bat in his hands. On a team that hasn't been doing much hitting, he definitely has for his .324 average leads them all.

Last year, Lizarraga hit .273 with one home run. That homer was his only one in his four seasons as a pro and there may be a long time before number two for he has a stroke conducive to flat line drives and his slight 6-1, 165-pound build is not likely to generate many more.

He can poke the ball around, though, hits behind runners quite well and doesn't strike out much. Put that together with his ability in the field and he's definitely a player who can help a team.

In time he may well be another Brito signee that makes it to the big leagues. And, one who's not a pitcher for a change.