Prospect #3 Scott Elbert - Career Interrupted

Scott Elbert, selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, performed as a first round pick should, moving up the franchise quickly, showing outstanding talent at each level, and setting himself up to slip into The Show in 1-2-3-4 order -- Ogden, Columbus, Vero Beach and Jacksonville. Then a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to Los Angeles.

At age 20, the Dodgers didn't want to expose the young righthander to the difficult pitching conditions in the Pacific Coast League until he had more innings on his resumé, so he opened 2007 with the Suns. He had been bothered by shoulder pain at the end of the '06 season and was held out of he Arizona Fall League and given the off-season to rest.

He started three times for Jacksonville and was overpowering, allowing six hits in 14 innings and had struck out a whopping 24, holding Southern League batters to a .128 average. But then the pain returned, worse than before, and he was sidelined.

The diagnosis was tendinitis and the cure for that is exercises and therapy, trying to avoid surgery if at all possible. Elbert rehabbed under the guidance, Dr. Frank Jobe and Stan Conte, director of medical services. It was eventually determined that an operation was necessary and he missed the rest of the season.

However, when the regular season ended, a group of 20 scouts were asked to list the top 30 players in order that they believe rate at the head of any list. The only criteria they had to use was that all had to still hold rookie status for next year.

Lefthander Clayton Kershaw was fourth, third baseman Andy LaRoche is 33rd and Elbert was 36th. The inclusion of Elbert among the top group was quite a distinction for he pitched in only three games in 2007 before his shoulder went out. Yet he was impressive enough in those appearances to rate inclusion.

Elbert seems to be ready for the 2008 season, but the Dodgers are going to take it slowly with their remarkable prospect. The scouts ane enthusiastic about his stuff but that he sometimes has command problems. However, he gets so much out of his moving mid-90's fast ball and curve that he can overcome that.

When a running back leads his state in rushing yardage and touchdowns as a junior you just know he's picking out the college where he'll play. Instead, Elbert gave up the sport entirely in his senior year to concentrate on baseball. He was that good on the mound. And upon signing with the Dodgers, he quickly became one of the best lefthanded prospects in the minors.

Seneca, Missouri, is a town so tiny (population 1,885) that when it produces an athlete of special skills, his reputation may grow to legendary proportions. Scott Elbert is that kind of athlete. He led the state in rushing (2,249 yards) and touchdowns (36) in his junior year of football. But baseball was his game of choice and he was so good at that that he couldn't risk getting hurt and ruining his future.

He did play basketball and starred in that, too. Then came the spring when he went 6-2 with an 0.52 ERA, 114 strikeouts against only 14 walks in just 54 innings. The only question anybody had was how did he manage to lose two. Opposing batters just went up and flailed at his fast ball and curve. A changeup was out of the question; that would have been relief to the undeserving.

The Dodgers made him their first choice in the 2004 draft and considering themselves fortunate that they were able to claim him in the 17th slot overall. In pro ball, though, things didn't come so easily. Sent to Ogden in the Pioneer League where kids fresh from high school often find it rough, no matter how talented, he was humbled by a 2-3, 5.26 mark but still struck out 45 in 49.2 innings.

In the fall of 2005 he was at the back of the learning curve. "I just went out there and threw the ball," he admits. "I didn't know a thing about pitching." But he quickly adjusted -- and prospered.

His record at Columbus was 8-5, 2.66 and that doesn't begin to tell how well he's mastered matters. Over the last half he was virtually unhittable, and if there hadn't been pitch counts, he could have easily won in double figures. In his last eight starts, there were five no decisions, all of which he left with a lead.

Everything improved. "I was throwing my fast ball 87-88 last year," he said. "It moved up to 94 at Columbus." He had a more than decent curve before but that was junked in favor of an even sharper slider. And he gained the feel for a changeup, too.

He was still a work in progress for there were too many walks -- 57 in 115 innings. He struck out 128, though, and held opponents to a .211 batting average.

Moving up to Vero Beach in 2006, Florida State hitters managed only a feeble .193 against him; those in the Southern League, where he spent the last part of the season, actually fared worse with a .187 mark. Lefthanders couldn't hit .150 against him. In 146 innings, he struck out l73 batters.

Elbert was promoted from Vero Beach with a bland 5-5 record but had been a victim of non-support most of the season while posting a 2.37 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 83.2 innings. He threw a one-hitter -- and lost, so bad has the Vero offense been in the majority of his starts.

But he's averaged over four walks a game as a pro, and over six with the Suns. He'd get behind on counts and sometimes tryed to throw the perfect pitch with batters zoning in. Home runs can result. He threw 15 in 2006 (while walking 85) between Vero and Jacksonville.

It's obvious that he has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues but honing in on the plate is be the factor that might hold him down longer. He will probably begin again in Jacksonville, attempting to make up for lost time. Only 21, if he gets his command together, he could rise up quickly.

His record:
Timothy Scott Elbert  bl  tl  6-2  190
Born- Aug. 13, 1985 at Senica, Missouri
Obtained- Drafted in first round 2004 

year	team   w-l   era  gm  gs    in   h  bb   so
2004	Ogden  2-3  5.26  12  12   49.2  47  30   45
2005 	Colm   8-5  2.66  15  24  115.0  83  57  128
2006	VBeach 5-5  2.37  17  15   83.2  57  42   97
	Jack   6-4  3,61  11  11   62.1  40  44   76
2007	Jack   0-1  3.86   3   3   14.0   6  10   24

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