A Tale of Three Players

To paraphrase the old television promo, "There are a million stories in baseball and this is one of them." Those who watch closely will find the rosters of the Dodgers, and of their seven minor league clubs are constantly in a flux, with players being signed, placed on the disabled list and released.

Along those lines, we would like to point out a story of three of them; one of them coming up (Pedro Baez), one of them hanging on to keep from going down (Mitch Jones) and one of them in a sort of baseball holding pattern (Scott Elbert) whose future could be decided very soon.

Pedro Baez
Dodgers third base prospect will be the organization's lone representative in the 11th annual XM All-Star Futures Game.

The game pits the best Minor League prospects from the United States against the best from the rest of the World and will be held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on All-Star Sunday, July 12.

It is a great honor that the 21-year-old Baez, who will play for the World team, will be among the best minor leaguers from each Major League team and is in a battle with Josh Bell for the title of the best third-base prospect in the Dodgers' system.

The 6-2, 195-pound native of the Dominican Republic who skipped the Dominican Summer League completely, signed at age 19 and had the look of someone who could well become special almost from the start.

The ball rocket off his bat when he hits and he has an arm that can be measured among the best in the organization. He has the talent to do it all except for swiftness.

Longtime Dominican instructors favorably compared him to Adrian Beltré when he was just beginning and that's high praise, indeed. Logan White first worked him out in the U.S, stashed him away, then took him back to the Dominican where he was signed.

One scout had this comment: "Maturely built youngster with bat speed and strong wrists that make him capable of plus power. Lacks pitch recognition, not rare in young hitters, so his average may fluctuate. Possesses plus arm strength and soft hands in providing above average defense."

If the stars align as expected, Baez will easily become a major league regular at third, and has the talent to make many more All-Star teams.

Mitch Jones
Mitch Jones can crush a ball. He opened his first Major League spring training by hitting the ball out of Camelback Park in all directions. But this guy is no rookie, he's 31-years-old now and recently got the call to Los Angeles and played in his first big league games.

In 2004, he hit 39 out in the Eastern League. With the Dodgers over just over 100 games, he has hit 37 in two different minor league half seasons. He has hit 221 home runs in his 4,215 times at bat n the minor leagues, but on the down side, he's struck out 1,097 times in 1,016 games, including 104 with Las Vegas and Albuquerque in 2008 and 2009.

Power like that is something you don't find hanging on your Christmas tree and it is almost always payed for in the form of strikeouts.

A case could easily be made that if given a full shot at a major league job, Jones would certainly hold his own. Worse players have roster position in The Show right not.

But the opportunity must be available.

He had little chance to crack the Dodgers roster in the spring with Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier already on board. But Manny was suspended, Xavier Paul was called up but was injured. Jaime Hoffmann was given a shot but it's just a bit too soon in his career.

So Jones finally heard the call and he has a very narrow window to show the Dodgers and any other Major League team looking for a little pop in their outfield became Ramirez is due back early in July and that will shut the door on Jones.

"He works hard and he's improved his play in the outfield," Torre said. "He's a threat at the plate. It's not easy to hit home runs, but he has that threat."

Jones, one of the truly nice guys in baseball, told LADugout during spring training that he if didn't make the club, he would go where they sent him and, hopefully, demonstrate that he could help some club somewhere.

It is hard to impress someone when you are playing out of desperation, and Jones knows that. But he also knows that real big league chances are extremely scarce and with a player in his position, he can only wonder if this might be his last one.

Scott Elbert
Left-hander Scott Elbert, the Dodgers #1 selection in the 2004 draft, was recently promoted from Double-A Chattanooga to Triple-A Albuquerque and showcased for both the Dodgers brass and a team or teams not named who wanted to see him pitch against more veteran players.

He wowed the biggest crowd in Albuquerque history who were waiting to see Manny Ramirez perform but taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning before allowing his first hit.

He has struck out seven in the six innings before rain washed the rest of the game out.

Apparently, Elbert could be traded for a veteran major league pitcher if he performed well. But the Dodgers apparently also wanted to take one more look before committing to any such deal.

His performance must have put some doubt in the Dodgers mind about swapping a young, possible first line pitcher for an older starter as the Dodgers charge toward the half-way mark in the National League race.

Elbert moved up through the franchise quickly, showing outstanding talent at each level, going 8-5. 2.66 at low-A Columbus; 5-5, 2.37 at Vero Beach and 6-4, 3.61 at Double-A Jacksonville at age 20 and was named the #3 prospect in the system.

He opened strong at Jacksonville in 2007 but was shut down after three starts with an ailing shoulder. He opened 2008 in extended spring training after surgery and opened at Jacksonville after not having pitched in 14 months and at age 22 limited Southern League hitters to a .157 average, .126 over his last 11 starts, before being called up to the Dodgers.

He struck out eight and walked four while allowing nine hits and eight runs over his six innings of work.

He had another three-game shot this season, with about the same results: six innings, 10 hits, five runs.

Returning to Chattanooga, he had a 3.90 ERA over 12 games (11 starts) and allowed 59 hits in 62 innings while striking out a franchise-leading 87 while walking 30.

This sort of situation makes a club's general manager earn his money. If you lose a top-line prospect and don't get value received, you are blasted by the media.

Through the years of confusion, a line of Dodger general managers refused to move their young players for an instant fix.

Ned Colletti swapped a young, outstanding catcher in Carlos Santana, for a 34-year-old third baseman Casey Blake.

It looked like a bad move but Blake has helped the Dodgers move into an eight-game lead in the N.L. West.

Conversely, the Los Angeles trade that sent Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany to Tampa Bay for Dannys Baez and Lance Carter was a washout.

So, put these three players —Baez, Jones and Elbert— on your "to watch" list and the next time you criticize a player move, remember they involve real, breathing human beings and it is probably one of the most difficult things in the world to do successfully.

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