Dodger Prospect #20 - LHP Eric Stults

Latest in a series on top Dodger prospects as we count down to the very best. While Bill Shelley is on medical leave, take a look at Prospect #20, LHP Eric Stults.

There must be times that Stults thinks about how it might have been if he had been drafted as an outfielder instead a of a pitcher. After all, he hit .408 with Bethel College in Indiana, slugging 14 homers and knocking in 47 runs.

But he had also gone 10-1, 2.15 with eight complete games as a senior and, being lefthanded, the Dodgers took the bat out of his hands and moved him onto the mound.

The Dodgers expected that they'd lose Stults in the 2007 Rule 5 draft but opposing clubs grabbed two other lefties out of the system (Luis Gonzalez, Mike Megrew) and passed on Stults. The club was expecting Gonzalez to be taken, were outguessed on Megrew, but grateful that Stults is still around.

It's not unhappy to be pitching for with the Dodgers, but he is still waiting for a real chance to display his talent. "I thought I might be picked but, well, I wasn't," he allowed. If he had been taken in the draft, it would have meant at a genuine shot at a big league job. Not getting it had to hurt.

But the reality is that there's so many good arms vying for so few open spots in the Dodgers system that there was little room at the top, so it's was back down and Stults has been around enough to recognize the situation.

When L.A. learned they still had possession of his services, they wasted little time inviting the lefthander to the big camp as a non-roster. So, when he got his chance in an exhibition game, he responded nobly, pitching three sparkling innings. His reward? Along with the proper praise for a job well-done, he was told to pack his gear to move across the camp to the minor league clubhouse.

Stults certainly has his backers and Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt heads the list. He well knows his subject for he's worked with him and believes, "He knows how to pitch. He has good stuff, moves the ball around well, has command and hits his spots well."

He's a lefty who throws in the low 90's, complements that with a well above-average curve ball and changeup, throws strikes and has mound poise.

He came on very quickly after being taken in the 15th round out of tiny Bethel College in Indiana (where he was more noted as a basketball player).

He arrived as a virtual unknown 15th-round draft pick, then proceeded to make an impact as few selected that low or even much higher do, shooting up the system from rookie ball through high A to AA in a matter of 18 games. Everybody was agreeing with Honeycutt's analysis of his talents.

In 2003, though, matters changed. His arm ached and he didn't look the same. Elbow surgery followed so he was put on the grueling rehab path in 2004. He made it through- so that last summer, he was back in Jacksonville throwing the ball well. So well that a mid-season promotion to Las Vegas followed.

Which next brought the adjustment to pitching in the House of Horrors that every member of the 51's staff must endure at Cashman Field.

"Everything bad you've heard is true," Stults told Bill Shelley. "I finally got so I just had to tell myself to ignore the stats and just concentrate on the fact that I was throwing the ball well. Still, you make a good pitch and bad things happen, it's not always easy to take."

So, the 3.31 ERA he had posted at Jacksonville became 6.58 at Vegas and that may have contributed to his being passed over up higher. He keeps the faith, though- the faith that led him to give up basketball, the sport he had been recruited for at college to concentrate on his pitching.

With a 10-11, 4.23 record at Las Vegas in 2006, he got the call on September 4. The next day he was hammered (three innings, three runs) in his first appearance at Milwaukee, then drew his first start against the New York Mets five days later.

He held the Mets to a pair of hits and a single run over six innings and earned his first Major League win 9-1. A second start on the final day of the regular season, he worked five innings and allowed two runs but did not factor in the decision.

Overall he finished with a 1-0, 5.60 record, pitching five games and making two starts. Oh, Incidentally, he was 3-for-5 at the plate for a .600 average.

He spent 2007 in Las Vegas, save for a short appearance with the Dodgers n July and August when he pitched quite well, beating Colorado and losing twice before returning to the 51s and finishing 5-7, 7.56 overall. A September call saw him lose a pair of games in Los Angeles and finish the season 1-4, 5.82. National League batters tagged him for a .314 average. better than the .351 he allowed in the Pacific Coast League but not much.

He will be 28 when spring training starts at Dodgertown and it may be at a crossroads in his career. He needs to dance on the table and shoot out the lights to attract some positive attention.

His record:
Eric William Stults   bl  tl  6-3  215
Born- December 9, 1979
Obtained- Selected in the 15th round of the 2002 draft

year	 team    w-l   era    gm  gs     in    h    bb   so
2002	GFalls   1-0   2.25    5   0    8.0     6    3    9
	VBeach   3-1   3.00   13   6   42.0    39   20   40
	Jacksn   0-0   0.00    1   0    1.0     0    0    0
2003	Jacksn   3-4   4.97    9   7   38.0    46   13   14
	VBeach   0-1   6.00    1   1    3.0     6    1    1
2004	Columb   1-2   2.49   12   0   21.2    18    6   16
	VBeach   2-1   2.70    7   0   10.0    11    4    6
2005	Jacksn   4-3   3.31   12  12   68.0    73   14   58
	LVegas   3-7   6.58   15  14   78.0   107   24   60
2006	LVegas  10-11  4.23   26  26  153.1   153   68  128
	L.A.     1-0   5.60    6   2   17.2    17    7    5
2007	LVegas   5-7   7.56   21  17   89.1   134   36   81
	L.A.     1-4   5.82   12   5   38.2    50   17   30

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