Former Dodgers in 2008 World Series

Although the Dodgers fell a bit short of a World Series appearance, and we would have accepted a second-place finish in the National League when Spring Training got underway, there will be a tinge of Dodger Blue on both rosters as they go mano a mano tonight in the first game.

The favored Rays have Willy Aybar, Edwin Jackson and Dioner Navarro on their roster. The Phillies have pesky Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Rudy Seanez available.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

Willy Aybar has a story that would make a great movie. When he signed with the Dodgers he received a then-record $1.5 million and made his profession debut in Great Lakes at age 17 in 2002. He led the franchise's short-season clubs in games played, doubles, hits and run batted in.

He had a solid season at Wilmington in 2001, hit a slight glitch in 2002 at Vero Beach after being selected the Dodgers No. 2 prospect by Baseball America, then set career highs at Vero in batting average, hits, doubles, home runs, and RBI. Moving to Jacksonville in 2004 he switched from third to second base and was chosen to play in the Southern League All-Star Game.

In 2005, still only 22, he hit .297 at Las Vegas and was promoted to Los Angeles where he played 26 games and hit .326 with a .448 on-base percentage. On September 17 he hit his first major league home run of Jason Schmidt of the Giants.

However, in July of 2006 he was traded to Atlanta, along with Danys Baez, for infielder Wilson Betemit and then Aybar ran into personal and physical problems that resulted in spending three months rehabbing from substance abuse. Upon his return, he broke the hamate bone in his right hand.

Many considered his career over but Tampa Bay took a chance on him but in February of 2008, after being charged with domestic violence in the Dominican Republic (the charges were later dropped).

He seemed to recover as a part-time infielder for the Rays, and when Evan Longoria went down with an injury in August, Aybar started 30 consecutive games and returned to his former self, posting an OPS of .898.

He has been spectacular in the post-season, posting a .988 OPS (11 for 30, two doubles, two homers). He went 4-for-5 in the Rays' Game 4 victory in the American League Championship Series, and in the pennant-deciding Game 7, he doubled, homered and scored two runs in a 3-1 win.

All Dodgers fans hope his recovery on all continues.

Edwin Jackson
Once rated the top prospect in the Dodgers organization, he had the misfortune of being called up to The Show in 2003 to face Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks. He started on his 20th birthday, the third youngest starter in L.A. history, and allowed one run on four hit over six innings in a 4-1 win. He dropped his next start 2-0 to Arizona and beat San Francisco in late September to post a 2-1, 2.45 record.

Ranked the best prospect in baseball by Baseball America in 2004, he went 6-4, 5.68 for Las Vegas and 2-1, 7.30 for the Dodgers. In 2005 he was having control problems and in January, 2006 the Dodgers gave up on him, trading him to the Rays, along with Chuck Tiffany, for RHP Danys Baez, and LHP Lance Carter.

The youngster struggled, working in relief in 2006 and became a starter in 2007, posting a 5-15, 4.52 record over 31 starts. In 2008, now 24, he was 14-11, 4.42 with Tampa Bay.

Dioner Navarro
GM Paul DePodesta was enamored with the young catcher, overlooking a converted third baseman by the name of Russell Martin in his own farm system, and, along with pitchers William Juarez, Dan Muegge and Beltran Perez, handed over outfielder Shawn Green and a rumored $10 million for the catcher he wanted.

It was only a year later the Dodgers sent Navarro and outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the New York Mets for pitchers Jae Seo and Tim Hamulak.

He hit only .227 the first year for Tampa Bay but posted a .297-7-54 mark in 2008.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Shane Victorino
Victorino, a sixth round pick in 1999 known for his speed, stole 188 bases in nine seasons in the Los Angeles farm system but displayed little power and was lost in the Rule V draft to the San Diego Padres in 2002, returned in 2003 and then was lost in the Rule V draft again, this time to Philadelphia in 2004.

He has spent parts of five seasons in the majors and has been a regular for the past three with the Phillies where he has collected 72 doubled and 150 runs batted in. He has stolen 37 and 36 bases in 2007 and 2008 while being caught just 15 times.

Jayson Werth
Werth was obtained from Toronto in 2004 in a trade for RHP Jason Frasor. He was a spectacular success, hitting 16 homers and knocking in 47 runs in only 89 games for the Dodgers (a projected 29 home runs, 86 runs batted in over a 162-game season).

He was penciled in as the starting left fielder in the spring of 2005 but was hit on the wrist by a pitch in the first exhibition game of the season and never fully recovered from the injury. He was granted free agency in 2006 and signed with the Phillies where he has become a valued regular, hitting 24 home runs and knocking in 67 runs in 134 games in 2008.

What Might Have Been
The thoroughness of the Dodgers scouting department shows up again in a pair of draftees who they selected but were, unfortunately, unable to sign.

David Price, a 23-year-old phenom who nailed down Tampa Bays' Game 7 victory over the Boston Red Sox for his first major league save, originally was drafted by the Dodgers. Price, the 568th player taken in the 2004 draft, played three seasons at Vanderbilt before the Rays made the left-hander the No. 1 pick in 2007.

Chase Utley, the Philadelphia infielder who has hit .298 with 130 home runs and knocked in 492 in his career, was drafted by the Dodgers in 1997 but could not come to terms and went to college. He was then selected by the Phillies as their first round pick inn 2000 and has blossomed since.

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