Dodger Prospect #2 - 3B Andy LaRoche

The company line out of Los Angeles is that Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche are going to compete for the third base job this spring. Don't let that bit of information fool you. The club is hoping that LaRoche will take over the third base spot, and even if he loses out on the job, general manager Ned Colletti has said he'd be playing on the team in some fashion.

LaRoche has plus power, the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the park, and great pitch recognition. His bat speed is also superior, indicating he'll hit for both power and a high batting average. His on-base plus slugging at Las Vegas was an superb .988 and his contact rate was an above average 84%.

While both numbers dropped significantly upon his promotion to Los Angeles (as it tends to do for most players called up from the minors), he was able to maintain an above average .833 batting eye, suggesting that he will be able to raise his contact rate significantly with more experience.

He also had a staggering .280 isolated power percentage (batting average minus slugging average), which also slipped upon call-up, but rest assured, he'll hit closer to that Las Vegas number than the .086 ISOP in LA. And though he tends to get pull-happy at times, he has the ability to be a middle of the order impact bat if given steady major league playing time.

He's got soft hands, his glove work at third base is solid and he has a strong arm. Only his speed is below average. He has been successful playing left field at Las Vegas, and his success depends only on getting plenty of at bats this year. He is a slow starter, and that has hurt him in the past.

Bill James Handbook projection for 2008:

games ave obp ab r h 2b 3b hr bi 139 .275 .367 465 67 128 28 2 19 77

If LaRoche puts up those kinds of numbers in '08, it will be a mega-improvement over the seeming cast of hundreds used last season and should give the offense a real kick-start.

Minor League Baseball asked a panel of experts -- scouts -- who were the top 50 prospects and they came up with a list on which three Dodgers figuring prominently. The only criteria they had to use was that all had to still hold rookie status for next year.

Those that ranked among the best included lefthander Clayton Kershaw (fourth), third baseman Andy LaRoche (33rd) and Scott Elbert (36th).

. There are some who doubt the ability of LaRoche to take over third base in The Show but that doesn't include these scouts who feel he'll hit for both average and power. They also cite his glove work and strong arm at third.

LaRoche had a miserable spring training in 2007, hitting .175 with a single RBI over 57 times at bat and his fielding was pretty much in the same category.

He was assigned to Las Vegas on March 31 where he was hitting .235 with three homers and 11 RBI over 24 games when recalled on May 6. He performed in perfect Andy LaRoche-manner -- being selective at the plate (reaching base 10 of his first 17 times at the plate for a .588 on base percentage). But, surprisingly, he only had a pair of extra-base hits.

Perhaps the lack of power kept manager Grady Little from utilizing him more often. Wilson Betemit, started the season with a flurry of pinch-hit home runs but then fizzled out and was traded. Nomar Garciaparra seemingly lost his way at the plate so Little also used Tony Abreu, Shea Hillenbrand, Ramon Martinez, Olmedo Saenz and Wilson Valdez at third but none of them solved his problem.

LaRoche was returned to Las Vegas on June 2 and had a sizzling July, hitting .411 with 12 homers and 28 runs batted in. He was called to Los Angeles for a second time on September 2, and smacked his first major league homer off former Dodger Matt Herges on September 20. He was .226-1-10 overall for the Dodgers.

He finished his AAA stint in Nevada with a .309 average (sixth among third basemen in the entire minor league system) and was chosen the fourth best prospect in the league by Baseball America.

Following the season he and Delwyn Young played for Team USA in Taiwan and helped the team to the title. Both of them had a pair of hits in the final game, a 6-3 win over Cuba, and LaRoche led the team with 11 hits for the tournament including three home runs and posted a .333 average.

LaRoche turned down a $200,000 draft and follow offer by San Diego and was drafted by the Dodgers in the 39th round of the 2003 draft, luring him away from college with a $1 million bonus. He hit .326 with six home runs and 18 runs batted in while playing in the Cape Cod League but broke his leg and could only serve as a designated hitter for six game at Ogden that summer.

He played for both Columbus and Vero Beach in 2004, collecting 23 homers and 33 doubles plus driving in 75 runs between the teams. He was the winner of the Guy Wellman award as the Dodger Dugout and Rookie of the Year in 2004 when he ripped 23 home runs between Columbus and Vero Beach.

Between Vero Beach and Jacksonville in 2005, he smacked 21 homers for Vero, then was promoted to Jacksonville and helped them win the Southern League title. Between them he had 30 home runs and 94 driven in. This time he earned the Dodger Dugout and Bill Schweppe Award as the Most Valuable Player in the minor league system.

In the Arizona Fall League he added a .353 average, a .393 on-base percentage and knocked in 15 runs to help the Phoenix Desert Dogs top the league.

After LaRoche stroked a single to right in the game against Atlanta in a 2006 spring training game, he rounded first and, as he trotted back to the bag, the Braves first baseman leaned over and whispered, "I was hoping you'd hit a double so I wouldn't have to talk to you."

That first baseman was big brother Adam and the way he really feels about his younger bro was shown in the quick "Way to Go" tap he gave him with his glove just before the remark. Actually, the two had a two-hour get-together before the game in which Andy says, "We talked about everything but baseball. I do that with my dad who's been critiquing me for some time now."

"Dad" is former big league reliever Dave and, while the family is close-knit, his competitive spirit has been inherited for there's a good natured sibling rivalry between the two offspring.

Again splitting his time between Jacksonville and Los Angeles in 2006, he hit .315 with 27 doubles, 19 home runs and 81 runs batted in over 127 games. Falling heavily on his left shoulder making a diving stop on June 15, he suffered a torn labrum and had successful surgery after the season.
Andrew Christian LaRoche  br  tr  6-1  200
Born- Sept. 13, 1983
Obtained- Selected in the 39th round 2003

year 	team     ave   obp  gm   ab   r   h  2b 3b  hr  bi  sb
2003	Ogden   .211  .238   6   19   1   4   1  0   0   5   0
2004	Colmb   .283  .375  65  244  52  69  20  0  13  42  12
	VBeach  .237  .295  62  219  26  52  13  0  10  34   2
2005	VBeach  .333  .380  63  249  54  83  14  1  21  51   6
	Jacksn  .273  .367  62  227  41  62  12  0   9  43   2
2006	Jacksn  .309  .419  62  230  42  71  13  0   9  46   6
	LVegas  .322  .400  55  202  36  65  14  1  10  35   3

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