Prospect No. 7 - Inf Ivan De Jesus, Jr.

The Dodgers 2008 Minor League Player of the Year, Ivan DeJesus, Jr., broke his leg sliding into home plate in a "B" game against Milwaukee at Camelback Ranch and it cost the young infielder most of the season. DeJesus, who was the heir-apparent of the Dodgers' shortstop position was taken to a nearby hospital where surgery was performed.

He managed to return late in the season and played four games with the Arizona Dodgers in the rookie league.

The season-ending play happened in the Dodgers' half of the fourth inning as De Jesus, the second-highest ranked prospect in the organization according by LADugout.com, attempted to score from second on a single.

He crashed into Brewers' Carlos Corporan who was blocking the plate, and De Jesus hit the catcher's shin guards. De Jesus lay at home plate until he was removed from the field on a golf cart and X-rays revealed that he had broken his lower tibia.

Manager Joe Torre reported that the injury would probably cost him the 2009 season. "If not all, probably most of it. That's my opinion just off the fact that there's a chance of surgery. His age will be on his side."

De Jesus, 21, batted .324 in 2008 for Double-A Jacksonville, second in the Dodgers' system and also was second with 150 hits and a .419 on-base percentage. He led all full-season Dodgers Minor Leaguers with 91 runs scored and 76 walks. He finished fourth in runs created (82.16), remarkably high for a shortstop, and he trailed only three outfielders. In addition, he stole 16 bases in 18 attempts.

His father, Ivan De Jesus Sr., was a Major League second baseman from 1974-88 and played his first 88 games over the course of three seasons with the Dodgers.

Like owners of fine horses, the Dodgers know the value of bloodlines and have taken advantage of that by selecting sons whose father played in the big leagues. There's Preston Mattingly, son of Don; Steve Johnson, son of Dave; and Scott Van Slyke, son of Andy, to name a few and all among the better prospects acquired.

And De Jesus, Jr.might be the best of the lot.

"Some people say I'll be a better hitter than [my father] was with more power," said the young DeJesus. "But defensively, his glove was better than mine. I'm learning. I want to be the best of the best of the best."

Senior finished his career with a .254 average and 21 home runs over 1371 games but Junior will in all probability outdo that. He battles pitchers working for a delivery he can drive, moves the ball around and doesn't get fooled often.

"When I come to bat and they say 'Ivan DeJesus Jr.,' I'm proud," he said. "We talk every day, before the game and after the game, every day. The best advice he's given me? 'Come to the field every day and play like I know how to play.'"

He was drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy started a few years ago by Edwin Correa. Edwin was a pitcher of great promise with the Rangers before he blew his arm out and later coached in the Dodger system.

The Dodgers were happy to get him with the second-round draft pick they obtained from the Mariners as compensation for losing Adrian Beltré.

Sent to the Gulf Coast League, he slashed away for a .339 average, second only to teammate Eduardo Perez's league-leading .352 and had a .389 on-base percentage. All this earned him a trip up to Ogden where he immediately stepped into the lineup when Juan Rivera was injured.

Although a late slump there brought him to a .208 Pioneer League average, he contributed.

Moving up a slot in 2006, and with the help of a .313 average in July, he hit .277 at Columbus with 44 runs batted in and stole 16 of 21 bases. He was also ranked as the best defensive infielder in the organization.

He had a eye-opening spring in 2007, hitting .278 against major league competition while filling in part-time for injured shortstop Rafael Furcal. His stock soared with his performance at the tender age of 20.

Then, continuing his march up the franchise ladder, he hit a solid .287 at Inland Empire and started to get some pop in his bat. He banged 22 doubles, three triples and four home runs, knocking in 52 runs. He was rated as having the best strike zone discipline in the Dodgers organization.

He had a career year at Jacksonville in 2008 and started breathing down the neck of Chin-Lung Hu, the Dodger shortstop-in-waiting. It didn't take the Suns manager John Shoemaker to decide that this kid was going to be his field general.

"The ballclub was a younger team, and we didn't have a bona fide team leader, so we asked Ivan in the middle of the diamond to be our team leader," said Shoemaker. "He has that ability the way he plays, and we were trying to just get him to improve in all aspects of team leadership."

Making his debut at AA with the Suns, leading the league with a .419 on-base percentage and fifth with a .324 batting average. He was second in the Southern League with 76 walks and third with 150 hits. Named to the SL's South Division All-Star team, but did not appear because he was selected to play in the XM Radio All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium. At the end of the season he was named as the second baseman on Baseball America's Minor League All-Star Second Team.

In the Dodgers' franchise he was second only to Terry Tiffee's .378 average and second to A.J. Ellis's .436 on-base average. He led all Dodger teams with 91 runs scored and tied for second in hits. He also topped the system with a stolen base percentage of .889 (16 of 28 attempts).

A spray hitter to all fields with solid tools across the board, DeJesus has outstanding strike zone discipline. "His biggest strength for a 21-year-old, without a doubt, is his plate discipline," Shoemaker said. "He doesn't chase pitches out of the strike zone. He makes the pitcher work. He lays off a lot of tough breaking stuff."

He closed out the year with a 23-game hitting streak, batting .420 (37-for-88) with 27 runs scored. He hit .438 (46-for-105) with five homers, 16 RBI, and 31 runs scored in 27 games in August.

DeJesus, along with RHP James McDonald (the pitcher of the year), was honored as the franchise player of the year. in a pregame ceremony at Dodger Stadium on September 20.

A shortstop over his entire professional career, he had played 44 of his 374 minor league games at second base and has recorded a better fielding average (.959 to .948) and a better Range Factor (4.84 to 4.16) at second base, the position most observers feel he will finally settle in.

Ivan will open the season at Albuquerque, probably at second base with the situation there in a flux, but with Rafael Furcal's bad back, he might see the bright lights of Los Angeles before the 2009 season is over.

His record:

SS IVAN DE JESUS
5-11 189 br tr
Born- May 1, 1987
Obtained- Selected in second round 2005

year  team    ave   obp   ops   gm   ab   r    h  2b 3b hr  bi  sb
2005  GCLg   .339  .389  .769   33  121  18   41   5  0  0  11   8
      Ogden  .208  .296  .518   20   72   4   15   1  0  0   3   3
2006  Colmb  .277  .361  .688  126  483  65  134  17  2  1  44  16 
2007  InEmp  .287  .371  .752  121  428  69  123  22  3  4  52  11 
2008  Jack   .324  .419  .842  128  463  91  150  21  2  7  58  16
2009  AZ Rook.200  .308  .608    4   10   1    2   1  0  0   3   0
------------------------------------------------------------------
 Totals      .295  .381  .750  432 1577 248  465  67  7  12  171  54  

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