Hu's Name Once Again Tops the Shortstop List

A year ago, when those supposedly in the know discussed Chin-lung Hu, their heads would wag from side-to-side. Just as they had always predicted he can't handle tough pitching, they would say. And in the winter when the list of prospects came out, he was passed on the depth chart for shortstops by Ivan De Jesus, Jr.

Now heads bob up and down when Hu's name is mentioned and the negative choruses have been muted. For Hu came into camp with a new look, a hardened body and contacts to correct a visual problem that caused his hitting fall-off in 2006. Still, he was reassigned to Jacksonville.

He certainly proved he could hit there and since he's been promoted to Las Vegas, he's demonstrated that AAA pitching is no mystery to him, either. Now, when he's talked about, it's to discuss a possible call-up to the big club as early as September. And nobody rates De Jesus ahead of him anymore, either.

The fact that the native of Taiwan has always appeared so small has been one of the main reasons why people have been quick to downplay his ability with a bat. He's listed at 5-11. 190 but really doesn't seem that large. His glovework has never been in dispute; his arm is more than adequate for short, his range is excellent and his attitude is among the best.

While Hu has climbed back onto the top rung among Dodger minor league shortstops, DeJesus has been pushed back a bit but that's a tribute to Hu's resurgence not because Ivan, Jr, the son of the former big leaguer now a Cubs coach. No, he's having a strong year at Inland Empire, can make the plays as well and hits more than often enough to keep him in consideration.

When Hu was promoted from Jacksonville, Juan Gonzalez, one of seemingly 100 players with that name, took over as the Suns' shortstop. He's a minor league free agent pickup, has done well enough but is not considered a big league prospect.

But you can't ignore Wilson Valdez even though he's 29 now. No, he'll never be a big league regular and he's currently playing the outfield at Las Vegas because of Hu's presence but he's an ideal leadoff man who can play any number of positions well so gets consideration as a utility type if nothing else.

When Preston Mattingly was moved over to second, Francisco Lizarraga became the everyday shortstop for Great Lakes. The Mexican is slick in the field, has a strong arm, good range but just how much he'll hit is in in question.

Hitting hasn't been a problem for Jaime Pedroza, the ninth-round draft pick from UC-Riverside, who is playing at Ogden. However, it's often the case that players with backgrounds in good college ball can excel at this level. He's certainly one to watch but he'll have to produce at a higher level to earn more consideration.

A very nice rookie season for him, nonetheless.

Joe Becker for the Gulf Coast Dodgers has been that team' steadiest player. An undrafted free agent, he has adequate range and arm and seldom makes an error at his position. What's more, he's been a very good leadoff man.

Down in the Dominican, Pedro Guerrero, unrelated to the Dodger star of yore except for the fact that he's his team's best hitter, can and has played both short and third. He could develop very well. Ramon Jean, who moves between hose two positions as well, has some promise.

There is no immediate need at this position up on top as long as Rafael Furcal's in town but if help is needed, it would seem to be a spot well taken care of.

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