At First the Promise Is The Lower Levels

Now that James Loney has made it up with the idea that, at last, his minor league days are behind him, a look at the first basemen still down there reveals that while there doesn't seem to be immediate help at that position, the group in the lower minors is very promising.

Loney's spot at Las Vegas was taken over by John Lindsey who has been doing a more than adequate job. The problem is he's 30 and while there's an occasional individual of that advanced age who goes up at long last- think Chris Coste with the Phillies- it's unlikely that Lindsey has any future any higher.

There was a time when Cory Dunlap was highly regarded as a prospect but that time is past. At Jacksonville he seems to have settled into the pattern he's made for himself the last few years as a rather routine player.

Inland Empire has Russell Mitchell, a former third baseman. He's got some pop but there's considerable doubt that he has the consistency required up above. Great Lakes has two first basemen. One- the tall Australian, David Sutherland- is not having a particularly good year at all and seems rather to have stalled out.

The other, though, is Eddie Perez and he is doing quite well. He's hitting for average and showing promising power.

There's also a pair at Ogden. Rick Taloa is in his third year there- not a good sign. He's big and strong but he can be pitched to- even at this level. Jamie Ortiz, on the other hand, seems to be getting better. He, too, is a long ball threat and the promise for more out of him is there.

The Gulf Coast Dodgers have no fewer than three first basemen. Kyle Orr is doing well. He, too, can hit the ball a long way and is learning how to hit different kinds of pitching. A former outfielder/pitcher, he's adapted well to the position.

Chris Jacobs is strong enough to be a member of the Fantastic Four but he's a very raw beginner with a lot to learn. Jesus Gomez has shown flashes but right now is the forgotten man who sits and watches others play.

Down in the Dominican, there's Jose Arias, a rookie who is still another who could be a long ball threat. At 6-3, 200, he's another with good size and strength.

The nice thing here is that, barring a trade, Loney seems set in Los Angeles for the next few years, giving them time to sort out those who'll develop into solid contenders from the wanna-be's.