Taking a Look at Next-Generation Prospects

Assistant GM, Player Development De Jon Watson, thinking he would get a good look at the next generation of prospects, invited a number of the best and brightest to an early camp.

Included are pitchers James Adkins, Brian Akin, Marlon Arias, Robert Booth, Jesus Castillo, Javy Guerra, Jacobo Meque, Miguel Pinango, Tim Sexton, Eduardo Sierra, Kyle Smith, Josh Wall and Cody White. Catchers Alex Garabedian, Kenley Jansen, Jesse Mier, Carlos Santana and Matt Wallach.

Infielders Josh Bell, Ivan DeJesus, Blake Dewitt, Kevin Howard, Franklin Jacobs, Francisco Lizarraga, Preston Mattingly and Russ Mitchell. And outfielders Jaime Hoffman, Andrew Lambo, Exavier Logan, Anthony Raglani and Trayvon Robinson.

Watson, starting his second season in charge of the farm system, pointed out "It's an opportunity to get the pitchers in early and get up their pitch counts and a chance to address some things we might have started working on in instructional league at the end of last season."

But Watson is taking no chances on the club's No. 1 picks in 2004, 2006 and and 2004, Clayton Kershaw, recovering Scott Elbert and Chris Withrow. None of the highly thought of pitchers were included in the early call.

Kershaw is just age 19 and Elbert is coming back from shoulder surgery that sidelined him for most of 2007. Withrow pitched only nine innings over four starts for the Dodgers' Gulf Coast League rookie team.

One player of special interest is Franklin Jacobs, a right-handed hitting first baseman from North Carolina. He's 19, 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds and, some feel has Mickey Mantle power.

The young man just turned 19 was scouted by Division I college football teams during his sophomore year but stopped playing because he was determined to be a baseball player.

He set school records in all directions and distance records that continue to grown as days go by, although he doesn't clam any of the stories about past dingers.

Invited to Dodger Stadium, he put on a power display that impressed then-manager Grady Little, hitting eight of the first nine pitches he saw into the left-field seats. The Dodgers recognized the power potential and drafted him in the 17th round. He signed on June 12 was sent to the Gulf Coast Dodgers.

With the Coasties he shared the first base position with Kyle Orr, another big kid (6-5, 205) but both of them struggled, Jacobs hitting .250-2-11 in 30 games and Orr .228-3-19 in 48 games.

Dodger Assistant General Manager, Scouting, Logan White said that Jacobs and Lambo had the most power of anyone in the draft, but the big outfields in the Gulf Coast League gobbled up many of their best shots.

Jacobs is a work in progress but power is a elusive thing for a young hitter and he will be given plenty of chances to develop the rest of his game.

Who's on Third?
After only a couple days into full-squad practice and the question of who will play third base is still a hot topic.

Rookie Andy LaRoche has been at third base with the other three starting infielders: first baseman James Loney, second baseman Jeff Kent and shortstop Rafael Furcal but manager Joe Torre said nothing should be read into that.

Torre is not about to tip his hand on how he is thinking about the position but he did say that six-time All Star Nomar Garciaparra, his other obvious option at third base, would be a good candidate for a bench role because of his versatility and experience.

Perhaps tellingly, Torre also pointed out that he's previously managed players who have transitioned from starter to reserve. He said Bernie Williams adjusted to losing the center-field job in New York by playing right and left fields.

But would not agree it was LaRoche's job to lose.

"No. Nomar's experience plays into this thing," he said. "It's not necessarily Andy's job to lose. We'll decide how it best helps the club. I don't expect Nomar to play 155 or 160 games."

Rotation Projections
With Brad Penny scheduled to start an intrasquad game on Tuesday, Derek Lowe will start a simulated game Wednesday, Chad Billingsley will start the exhibition opener against the Braves at Vero Beach on Feb. 28 and Hiroki Kuroda will start against the Braves in Orlando on Feb. 29, writers on the scene have surmised this will be the Dodger's rotation when the season starts.

Here' Try This Glove
Delwyn Young is still an outfielder, but the club has asked him to oil up his second baseman's glove and he has been taking ground balls in early work with the coaching staff before the day's regular practice begins.

Young originally was a second baseman, but was moved to the outfield after leading the Minor Leagues twice in errors at the position.

A switch-hitter, Young hit .337 at Triple-A Las Vegas with a minor league record 54 doubles and was the team MVP. He hit .382 in a 19-game September callup with the big league club and is in contention for a utility spot.

Take the Day Off, Please
Catcher Russell Martin got the official word from manager Joe Torre that he won't be played into the ground this year. And the young catcher seemingly has agreed with the edict.

Martin tied a club record when he appeared in 151 games last year, starting 143 behind the plate. Manager Grady Little had trouble leaving him off the starting lineup. As a result, Martin hit .306 in the first half, but tailed off to .275 after the All-Star break.

What's the Status Kuo?
Lefty Hong-Chih Kuo throw threw live batting practice and he will be watched closely as the spring unwinds. Recovering from his fourth elbow operation, he is out of options and must either make the club out of Spring Training or risk being lost to another club.

Play Ball!
The Dodgers will play their first intrasquad game tomorrow at about 12:00 noon at Holman Stadium, a five-inning contest pitting Team Koufax and Team Drysdale. The pitchers for Team Koufax include Tanyon Sturtze, Tom Martin, Brian Folkenborg, and Eric Hull. Team Drysdale includes Mike Myers, Jason Johnson, Mike Koplove, and Brian Shackelford. The next intrasquad affair is scheduled for Tuesday, when Brad Penny, Chan Ho Park, and Hong-Chih Kuo are scheduled to throw.

Just For the Record
It's still assumed that Dodger Stadium is a pitchers' park. That was true at one time but the new configurations have evened the playing field, or perhaps the pitching field. Checking park factors, Dodger Stadium was just a tick over the league average in batting average and home runs. From 2005-2007, the park rated dead even in BA and runs and about .11% above average in home runs, according to Bill James 2008 Handbook.

Saturday in Dodger History
On February 23, 1960, demolition of Ebbets Field began in Brooklyn.  Lucy Monroe sang the Nationals Anthem, and Roy Campanella was given an urn of dirt from behind home plate. Monroe, who passed away in 1987, sang ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' at every New York Yankees' Opening Day and every Yankees' World Series between 1945 and 1960.

Quote of the Day-- "They told me I'm going back to starting, and that's what I'm prepared to do. But if they need me to relieve and it gets me to the Major Leagues, I'm happy to do it. Whatever I can do to get there and help." -- Jon Meloan, who made his Major League debut last year as a reliever

Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers signed Japanese catcher Fumimasa Ishibashi, 24, to a Minor League contract. He has played independent ball in the U.S. RHP Yhency Brazoban has been throwing every three days and said he has been throwing at 70% of full effort, and has been pleased with the control of his slider and sinker. "It's been two years of not playing," Brazoban said. "I feel really happy." Brazoban, who has spent most of the last two seasons on the disabled list, says he expects to be ready for opening day. A five-inning intrasquad game is scheduled today (Sunday), with a seven-inning intrasquad to follow on Tuesday. There is a simulated game Wednesday and the Grapefruit League begins on Thursday against Atlanta. ...The Dodgers today came to terms on 2008 contracts with five players on the 40-man roster who are under the club's control: Jonathan Broxton, Chin-lung Hu, Matt Kemp, Lucas May, and Eric Stults.  

: Can you name the three Dodgers now in uniform in Vero Beach who were named Manager of the Year at one point in their careers?

Joe Torre won the American League Manager of the Year Award as a Yankee in 1998 and 1996 (he shared the 1996 honor with Texas Rangers' skipper Johnny Oates).  Tommy Lasorda won the National League Manager of the Year Award in 1983 and 1988. Larry Bowa won NL Manager of the Year accolades in 2001 as the skipper of the Philadelphia Phillies. Bowa, in his first tour as Phillies manager that year, guided his squad to an 86-76 record, two games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves.  That was a 21-win improvement from the 2000 Phillies squad, which finished in last place in the NL East Division.

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