Ogden Hopes It Has Enough to Compete

The Dodgers love their association with Ogden. Solid ownership, great fan support, fine facilities. For that, LA will always try to provide them with at the very least, a contending team. That might be a challenge in 2007, though.

The Raptors, who open play Tuesday night, are now headed by Jeff Carter, who has solid managing experience in both the Royals and Twins organizations. He's assisted by pitching coach Craig Bjornson, in his second year at this post, and onetime Dodger outfielder Henry Cruz, who's the batting coach. Henry had been a scout for the Indians most recently.

Carter has become familiar with most of his squad, having led them through extended spring training. The Ogden fans will see a few familiar faces from past seasons plus a group making the half-step climb from the Gulf Coast League and the usual scattering of draft choices plus a free agent or two.

Holdovers from 2006 include lefthander Paul Coleman, a relief pitcher then but a starter now along with righthanders Joe Jones and Doug Brooks, dropped back from Great Lakes, plus righthanders Kalen Gearhart and Greg Acheatel. First baseman Rick Taloa is back for his third year with this team while shortstop Justin Fuller and outfielder Jeremy Brown are other returnees.

Coleman is one of only two lefthanders currently on the Raptor roster with Wilfredo Diaz, a Gulf Coast graduate, the other. It's possible that supplemental first round pick James Adkins will be sent here when (if) he signs.

If that happens, he'll be the highest drafted player on the squad . Right now, that's third baseman Austin Gallagher and that's a bit of a surprise for in the last couple of years the Dodgers haven't liked having kids right out of high school debut here in a league liberally laced with players that have pro and college experience.

Their hope is that Gallagher may be able to hit some out in a league that also features high altitudes and some cozy parks, favorable to long ball hitters. The power this team gets should come from the corner infielders in the main. Taloa hit eight homers in 2006 while third baseman Brian Matthews and first baseman Jaime Ortiz, both up from the Gulf Coast, also have pop.

The middle infielders are Elian Herrera, who hit .337 for the GCL Dodgers, Fuller, who hit .230 here, and Jaime Pedroza, a ninth-round draft choice from UC Riverside,who was named a second -team All-American by Baseball America.

The outfield is long on speed but devoid of the long ball although Brown, who hit .244 for the Raptors last year, has some juice in his bat. Jovanny Rosario and Eloy Gutierrez, two more Gulf Coast products, are extremely fast while 10th round draft pick Erik Kanady was a line-drive type at Lamar U. where he was the all-time hit leader.

There's a lot of catcher to choose from- Kenley Jansen, Esteban Lopez, Ivan Naccarata, Alex Garabedian and Jessie Mier are all available. Jansen and Lopez were in the Gulf Coast while Jansen started the year at Great Lakes. Naccarata was signed as a minor league free agent and is a converted infielder. Garabedian is an eighth-round draft choice from the College of Charleston while Mier was taken in the 12th round from Lewis & Clark State.

Then, there's Tycen PoVey, a local kid who tried out and made the team at age 24. He's listed as an outfielder, but can catch, play first or second if needed. His entry into pro ball was delayed by a serious syndrome that caused fainting spells but he's conquered that.

The mound staff includes Jon Haldis and Eduardo Quintana from the Gulf Coasties, Jhonny Caraballo, jumping up from the Dominican League, and some draftees who headed their collegiate staffs, Bobby Blevins (13) from LeMoyne, Gil Stanke (15) from Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and Given Kutz (18) from the University of Portland.

Paul Koss (11) closed at USC and should handle that chore here. Also, Blake Brannon from Texas-San Antonio, has signed as a free agent.

There's enough talent here to be an interesting team but will it be enough to survive in a league that's always highly completive? Stay tuned.

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