Dodger Prospect #18 - OF Xavier Paul

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 #18, OF Xavier Paul.

The Dodgers felt they had picked up a gem in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. Outfielder Xavier Paul was a second-team High School All American after hitting .391 with nine homers; had hit .444 for Team USA at the 2000 Pan-American Games and was with the 2001 Junior National Team that won a gold medal at the World Championships.

He was also a superior pitcher in high school, one who threw in the mid-90's, and seriously considered a scholarship to Tulane but his future lay in the outfield as far as L.A. was concerned.

He won the Dodger Dugout Rookie of the Year Award with a big season at Ogden, hitting .307 with seven homers and 47 runs batted in over 69 games. He tied for the league lead with six triples and led Dodger short-season teams in at bats, runs, hits, triples, home runs, total bases and walks.

Raptor aficionados spoke in awed tones about the monster home runs he had struck for the Ogden entry in the Pioneer League.

Baseball America rated him the Dodgers seventh best prospect and had the best arm in the system as he opened at Columbus in 2004.

For the first month of 2004 at Columbus, it was more of the same hitting .361 in April that included three home runs, two triples, four doubles and 20 runs batted in over 21 games. He was considered "the" prospect in the Catfish outfield, despite the presence of Matt Kemp.

But then it happened, a sequence of events that would have battered an average young player to the point he might have considered dropping out of the game.

He caught a persistent, nagging cold that seemed to verge on pneumonia and defied antibiotics. For he knew the trouble and applied

"I couldn't see the ball well," he told Bill Shelley. "It seemed like every time I was up, there was an 0-2 count because I couldn't pick it up. I had worn prescription lens previously but had started the year with contacts that seemed to work well. But, after awhile, they weren't helping."

He abandoned the contacts and went back to the lens that he'd used previously. They didn't seem to help that much, either. There were times when he had success but compared to what he'd done before and what he (and the Dodgers) expected of him, they weren't there often enough.

Xavier, or "X", as he's called by most finished 2004 at .265-9-73, nothing like the exceptional year he'd had as a rookie.

After the season, the Dodgers sent him to an eye specialist who examined him thoroughly and finally told him he was half-blind in his left eye. The prescriptions lens he'd been using all season weren't the cure for the problem so he was fitted with contacts that solved the problem.

Then a back injury slowed him and Hurricane Katrina wiped out his home in Louisiana so his family spent the winter in Tallahassee.

He seemed rejuvenated in 2005 and although he wound up at only .247 with seven homers for Vero, he was much sounder at the plate, banging line drives. He's even too aggressive at times but has quick wrists and strong hands. He showed promising power.

In 2006, "X" started slowly. Then, good things began to happen. He began the year buried near the bottom of the Vero batting order but the hits started coming so he began moving up. He ended up in the leadoff spot, not your prototypal guy perhaps for he still has a slashing style at the plate but he began getting on and displaying speed, another asset he possesses.

The difference this time? "I was healthy," he said. "My back doesn't bother me. And I'm playing every day. Last year after my injury, I'd play a day, then sit. Can't get anything going that way."

He responded with a .285-13-49 season with 22 stolen bases and He seemed to have worked himself into prospect status again.

He topped that in 2007, playing 118 games at Jacksonville and slashing out 34 extra base hits, knocking in 50 and stealing 17 bases. It seems as if, at 23, he is again on the fast track after various delays. He should open at Las Vegas in 2008 and after that, can Los Angeles be far behind?

His record:
Xavier Brooks Paul, Jr.  bl  tr  6-0  200
Born-February 25, 1985 in Slidell, LA
Obtained: Selected in fourth round of 2003 draft

year	team     ave    obp    g   ab   r   h   2b 3b hr  bi  sb   
2003	Ogden   .307   .384   69  264  60   81  15  6  7  47  11
2004	Colum	.262   .341  128  465  69  122  26  6  9  72  10
2005	VBeach	.247   .328   85  288  42   71  15  3  7  41   1
2006	VBeach	.285   .343  120  470  62  134  23  3 13  49  22
2007	Jack	.291   .366  118  422  64  123  21  2 11  50  17      

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