Dodger Prospect #10 - OF Xavier Paul

The final 10 prospects start with outfielder Xavier Paul, who has experienced enough setbacks to discourage an average man. However, after the best season of his career, he has not only survived, he has flourished and may just be a step away from the Major Leagues.

6-0 200 BL TR
Born-February 25, 1985 in Slidell, Louisiana
Obtained: Selected in fourth round of 2003 draft

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 said. "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. He was named a Southern League All-Star at mid-season and was ranked by Baseball America as having the best outfield arm in the Dodgers' organization for the fourth consecutive year.

His 2008 season was the best of his career: a .316 average, including a .336 mark after the all-star break, .370 in August and September and a .336 average with runners in scoring position, 28 doubles, nine home runs and 68 RBI. He set personal records in average, runs (82), hits (140) and doubles (28).

"He is an above-average runner with a plus, plus arm, Assistant GM. Dodgers Player Development DeJon Watson said, "Being under 6 feet tall and trying to play a corner, I don't know how man of those guys there are out there.

"So we really spent a lot of time with him in center field in 2007 and then he played the entire season at Double-A Jacksonville and played exceptionally well. His routes and his jumps are much better now, but he still has some work to do."

Paul cut down on his strikeouts from 112 to 96 in 2009. He is a line-drive, gap hitter with occasional pop who is capable of hitting for a high average despite the strikeouts. His assists totals have leveled out because most opponents know the strength of his arm.

After pushing the boulder to the top of the mountain each season, only to see it roll back down, it seems as if, at 24, he is poised on the brink of realizing his dream.

His record:

Xavier Paul

year   team    ave   obp   ops    g   ab   r   h   2b 3b hr  bi  sb
2003  Ogden   .307  .384  .875   69  264  60   81  15  6  7  47  11
2004  Colum   .262  .341  .749  128  465  69  122  26  6  9  72  10
2005  VBeach  .247  .328  .720   85  288  42   71  15  3  7  41   1
2006  VBeach  .285  .343  .773  120  470  62  134  23  3 13  49  22
2007  Jack    .291  .366  .795  118  422  64  123  21  2 11  50  17  
2008  LVegas  .316  .348  .841  115  443  82  140  28  5  9  68  17 
 Totals	      .286  .357  .790  633 2347 379  671 128 25 56 327  78   

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