Monday, January 22, 2007

Top 2007 Prospects: Many Dodgers, Few Giants

Bryan Smith, co-founder of Baseball Analysts, has been doing a special on covering the best 75 prospects in MLB for 2007. I was starting to get a little worried after there was no mention of any Dodgers in his first two installments (#46-75), but now it looks like Dodgers have plenty of representation on the list. What's even more amazing is how young all of the Dodgers' prospects mentioned are.

I will update this post if tomorrow's installment of #1-15 mention other Dodgers prospects.

Clayton Kershaw, Andy LaRoche, and Scott Elbert are mentioned at spots #16, 18, and 20:

16. Clayton Kershaw, 19, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2006 Stats (R): 1.95 ERA, 28H/37IP, 54K/5BB

The first high school player taken in one of the draft's most college-heavy crops of all-time, Kershaw has a chance to be the best player chosen. Perhaps overshadowed in his own state by Kyle Drabek, Kershaw is a southpaw with the size of a future innings-eater. Despite his length, Kershaw has a clean, consistent delivery, and the Texan commands his fastball much better than the average teenager. With a power curve and an improving change, Kershaw has two out pitches, but both will need improved command in full-season ball. Star scouting director Logan White's highest draft pick ever, Kershaw has all the makings of a future ace.

18. Andy LaRoche, 22, 3b, Los Angeles Dodgers
2006 Stats (AA/AAA): .315/.410/.514, 9 SB in 432 AB

The Southern League in 2006 was disastrous for hitters, reinforcing the league's reputation as a pitcher-friendly circuit. Still, the Dodgers had to be a bit concerned 31 games into LaRoche's season, wondering if the .240 hitter was in fact merely a one-year wonder. However, LaRoche's walk-to-strikeout ratio was 19-18, indicating bad luck was to blame for the third baseman's struggles. Sure enough, LaRoche's quick bat speed began to knock balls all over the park, and LaRoche lived up to his status as the minors' second-best prospect at the hot corner.

20. Scott Elbert, 21, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2006 Stats (A+/AA): 2.90 ERA, 97H/146IP, 173K/85BB

The Dodgers might always look at Elbert's draft stock and think what could have been -- Californian Philip Hughes was the next prep pitcher taken -- but they still have a future star in Elbert. One of the minors' best left-handed pitchers, Elbert has power stuff with an exploding 92-93 mph fastball and a power breaking ball. However, Elbert's delivery is completely out of whack, leading to some disastrous walk numbers in 2006. Bad habits seemed to get worse for Elbert as the season went on, as he walked less than three batters just twice in his final 13 outings, most at AA.

James Loney slots in at #37:

37. James Loney, 23, 1b, Los Angeles Dodgers
2006 Stats (AAA): .380/.426/.546, 9 SB in 366 AB

All of Loney's career, the term "pure hitter" has followed his every step. The Dodgers drafted him in the first round in 2002 for his bat and he succeeded immediately in short-season ball. But in a story that would give Ryan Sweeney hope, Loney then struggled in full-season ball, posting an OPS below .800 from 2003-2005. His "pure" offensive approach never left, but his power never developed. Until 2006. Loney dominated in the Las Vegas heat, still showing more gap power than home run ability, but mixed with his bat control and defense, it will be enough. Loney hardly profiles as the typical first baseman, but the Dodgers will have no problem employing a pure doubles hitter for the considerable future.

For the record, the only Giant on the list is lefty pitcher Jonathan Sanchez; he slots in at #75. At 24, he is older than all the Dodgers' prospects.

photo of LaRoche: Al Tielemans/SI; photo of Loney: Doug Pensinger, Getty Images


Lasorda said...

Hey, you're stealing my thunder here!

I'm not exactly sure what the criteria is to qualify for the rankings, but that Lincecum kid for the Giants has a higher PECOTA projection than the $126MM kid.

Steve Sax said...

Tim Linecum indeed slots in at #13 for the Giants. No Dodgers appeared in the top 15.
On Linecum:

13. Tim Lincecum, 23, RHP, San Francisco Giants
2006 Stats (SS/A+): 1.71 ERA, 14H/31.2IP, 58K/12BB

In modern college baseball history, no pitcher has been as dominant in a single season as Jered Weaver was in 2004. In his final year at Long Beach State, Weaver posted a 1.63 ERA and struck out 213 batters while scouts nitpicked his game. In 2006, Weaver received his vindication for his overshadowed Golden Spikes season, dominating the Majors as a rookie. There are numerous similarities between Weaver and Lincecum, who had a 1.99 ERA and 199 strikeouts as a junior at Washington. Lincecum has better stuff than Weaver, touching the high-90s with his fastball while featuring a hammer curveball, but his height (he's about 6-feet tall) led to a drop to the 10th overall selection in the 2006 draft. Lincecum's largest pitfall could be the combination of his violent delivery and extreme workload. The Giants will work hard at managing both in 2007, preparing Lincecum to contribute in the majors by 2008.