Are the Farm Teams Getting Younger?

    One of the avowed intentions of the Dodger minor league system is to cut down on those rather elderly free agents that seem often to proliferate the rosters, especially in the higher leagues. So, how are they doing? A perusal of those in action this year demonstrate something of a move in that direction but, still, there are any number who have been signed and are out there playing.

     The process usually amounts to a rent-a-player program. They come in, they play for a season or less, then move on. Occasionally one turns out better than that and sticks. Wilson Valdez who's 29, did that and is now up with the Dodgers. But the likes of Aaron Sele, Einar Diaz, Chris Truby, Kelly Wunsch, A. J. Zapp and Craig Brazell have all departed.

  They've brought in quite a few to replace them at Las Vegas. The recent decision of 34-year-old Travis Smith to retire has lowered the average age of the pitching staff somewhat with Joe Mays (31), and  Matt White (29) the newcomers there. Miguel Pinango just arrived from Inland Empire but he's a comparative kid at 24.

  Ex-Oriole Matt Riley (28)  has just come up from Jacksonville. And don't forget Spike Lundberg (29) who, like Valdez was brought back for an encore.

  Larry Barnes (33) was reacquired with the notion that James Loney might well make it to The Show and there would be a hole at first base. James, of course, is still around  although he's playing a lot of outfield these days. Barnes, however, isn't hitting much so when James is in the field, Mitch Jones (29) is likely to be at first.

  The decision to leave Chin-lung Hu in Jacksonville created a need at short with 33-year-old Tomas Perez being picked up. Luis Maza (26) now plays second when Tony Abreu goes to third. The outfield has Larry Bigbie (29) and Choo Freeman (27).

   Catching is where the geriatric brigade takes over with Ken Huckaby (36) and Kelly Stinnett (37) alternating.

   The numbers of the older folks fall off sharply as you go down. At Jacksonville, they've retained outfielder Wilkin Ruan, who's now 28,  and added catcher Alberto Concepcion (26), first baseman John Lindsey (30) and infielders Marshall McDougall (28) and Juan Gonzalez (25).

   Below that  the few free agent pickups tend to get much younger. Inland Empire has outfielder James Tomlin (24) and  pitcher Jacobo Meque (23). There's a couple in the extended camp trying to catch on- infielder turned catcher Ivan Naccarata (25) and just-signed lefthander Yulkin German (23).

   Some of those are still young enough that there still might be hope. And the older ones could wind up filling a need up on top as Sele did last year and 38-year-old Rudy Seanez is doing now.  What's more some veteran presence is considered good leavening for hopefully they can help guide the younger prodigies.

  The idea of youthful teams crowded with nothing but prospects is nice but it's probably an impossible dream. The number of outsiders brought in may be reduced but eliminated? That's not likely to happen.