Dodger Prospect #5 Scott Elbert

Scott Elbert was the #4 prospect in the Dodgers organization after the 2006 season but then shoulder miseries closed him down and he only pitched 46 innings in 2007 as they eased him back into action. Pitching mainly in relief in 2008, he became the top rated reliever in the franchise and another solid performance in 2009 puts him right in the mix for the coming season.

Left-hander Scott Elbert and shortstop Dee Gordon were named the Dodgers' Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively, after the 2009 season.

Elbert earned the honor by going 4-4 with a 3.84 ERA in a combined 20 appearances (18 starts) at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque. He struck out 125 batters and walked 44 in 96 innings.

Elbert was selected to play in the Southern League All-Star Game, but he didn't play because he was called up to Triple-A.

After pitching primarily in relief in 2008, the Dodgers were searching for starting pitching and he was switched back into the starting mode in 2009 and led all Dodgers minor league starters in strikeouts per nine innings (11.72).

He spent the final month of the season with the Dodgers, finishing with a 2-0 record and a 5.03 ERA in 19 appearances, striking out 21 Major League batters over 19.2 innings.

"It's awesome because the experience of just being around and seeing the guys go through the pressure of a pennant drive for a playoff berth and asking them questions about how the do it and how they approach the game. You learn from that, too, not just by playing in the game," he said.

Solid Reputation
A running back who leads his state, in this case Missouri, in rushing yardage and touchdowns as a junior would allow him to pretty much pick the college of his choice, but Elbert gave up the sport entirely in his senior year to concentrate on baseball. He was that good and the Dodgers agreed so they picked him in the first round, 17th overall, in 2004.

His home town, Seneca, is a town so tiny (population 1,885) that when it produces an athlete of special skills, his reputation grows to legendary proportions. He led the state in rushing (2,249 yards) and touchdowns (36) in his junior year of football. But baseball was his game of choice and he was so good at that that he couldn't risk getting hurt and ruining his future.

Then came his final high school spring when he went 6-2 with an 0.52 ERA, 114 strikeouts against only 14 walks in just 54 innings (a dazzling 19 strikeouts per nine innings). The only question scouts asked was "How did he managed to lose two?" Opposing batters went up and flailed, with little success, at his fast ball and curve. A changeup was out of the question; that would have been relief to the undeserving.

The Dodgers considered themselves fortunate that they were able to claim him in the 17th slot overall but in pro ball things didn't come so easily. Sent to Ogden in the Pioneer League where kids fresh from high school often find it rough, no matter how talented, he was humbled by a 2-3, 5.26 mark but still struck out 45 in 49.2 innings.

In the fall of 2005 he was at the back on the learning curve. "I just went out there and threw the ball," he admits. "I didn't know a thing about pitching." But he quickly adjusted and just as quickly, prospered.

His record in 2005 at Low-A Columbus was 8-5, 2.66 and that doesn't begin to tell how well he'd mastered matters. Over the last half he was virtually unhittable, and if there hadn't been confining pitch counts, he could have easily won in double figures. In his last eight starts, he left five games leading but had to settle for no decisions.

Everything improved. "I was throwing my fast ball 87-88 the year before," he said. "Then it moved up to 94 at Columbus." He had a more than decent curve before but that was junked in favor of an even sharper slider. And he gained the feel for a changeup, too.

He was still somewhat of a work in progress for there were too many walks -- 57 in 115 innings. He struck out 128, though, and held opponents to a .211 batting average.

Moving up to High-A Vero Beach in 2006, Florida State hitters managed only a feeble .193 against him; those in the Double-A Southern League, where he spent the last part of the season, actually fared worse with a .187 mark. Lefthanders couldn't hit .150 against him. In 146 innings, he struck out a whopping l73 batters.

Elbert was promoted from Vero Beach with a bland 5-5 record but had been a victim of non-support most of the season while posting a 2.37 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 83.2 innings. He threw a one-hitter -- and lost, so bad has the Vero offense been in the majority of his starts.

Then his world turned upside down.

At age 20, the Dodgers didn't want to expose the young righthander to the difficult pitching conditions at Triple-A Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League until he had more innings on his resumé, so he opened 2007 with the Suns. He had been bothered by shoulder pain at the end of the 2006 season and was held out of he Arizona Fall League and given the off-season to rest.

He dominated the Southern League, starting three times for Jacksonville and was overpowering, allowing six hits in 14 innings and struck out 24, holding Southern League batters to a .128 average. It seemed as if his only problem was where he should stay when he arrived in Los Angles. But then the pain returned, worse than before, and he was sidelined.

The diagnosis was tendinitis and the cure for that was exercises and therapy, trying to avoid surgery if possible. Elbert rehabbed under the guidance, Dr. Frank Jobe and Stan Conte, director of medical services. It was eventually determined that an operation to removed scar tissue from his labrum was necessary and he missed the rest of the season.

Elbert seemed to be ready for the 2008 season, but the Dodgers were took it slowly with their remarkable prospect. The scouts are enthusiastic about his stuff but that he sometimes has command problems. However, he gets so much out of his moving mid-90's fast ball and curve that he can overcome that.

Using him carefully, averaging less than two innings per game, he recorded a 2.40 earned run average, the best mark by a receiver in the system, and also led all relievers with a skimpy 4.82 hits per nine innings. His strikeouts dropped from the spectacular to the exceptionally good, nailing 46 in 31 innings (10.10) while cutting down on his walks per inning.

"I may not be throwing as consistently hard as I was before the operation, but I feel more effective and I'm throwing more strikes and that is a positive for me," he said.

He has a brief shot with the Dodgers in the final weeks of the season, working six innings over 10 games but he was tagged for nine hits and a resulting 12.00 ERA. He did give the Dodgers a glimpse of the future when he struck out eight in his six innings while walking four.

It's obvious that he has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues if that is what the Dodgers choose to do with him. In 462 minor league innings he has struck out 10.10 per nine innings. Some projections place him in the pen, but with the tail-end of the starting rotation seemingly empty at the present time, that is where he may wind later in the year.

He's only 24, and perhaps this is the year that the stars begin to line up properly for him.

His record:

6-2 190 BL TL
DOB- Aug. 13, 1985 in Joplin, MO
Obtained- Selected in first round of 2004 draft

year     team  w-l   era  gm  gs    in   h  bb   so
2004	Ogden  2-3  5.26  12  12   49.2  47  30   45
2005	Colm   8-5  2.66  25  24  115.0  83  57  128
2006	VBch   5-5  2.37  17  15   84.1  57  42   97
	Jack   6-4  3.61  11  11   62.1  40  44   76
2007	Jack   0-1  3.86   3   3   14.1   6  10   24
2008	L.A.   1-0 12.00  10   0    6.0   9   2    4    
	Jack   4-1  2.40  25   1   41.0  22  20   46  
2009	L.A.   2-0  5.03  19   0   19.2  19   7   21  
	Alb    2-1  2.74   8   7   33.2  34  14   38    
   	Chat   2-3  3.90  12  11   62.1  59  30   87 
 MLB totals  3-0  6.68  29  0   25.2  25   9  25  
 MiL totals 29-23 3.27 113 77  462.0 338 246 529    

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