Dodger Prospects Retrospective - 2006

Dodger Prospects Retrospective - 2006

Taking a look at the Dodgers farm system in 2006, when Chad Billingsley and Andy LaRoche ruled.

We continue the series in 2006, when the Dodgers ranked as the best minor league system in baseball.

1. Chad Billgsinely, RHP

Continued: Billingsley finished the 2005 season, his age 20 campaign, by posting a 3.51 ERA in Double A. He struck out more than a batter an inning and allowed opposing batters to hit just .215 against him.

In 2006, Bills would begin the year with Las Vegas and eventually make his major league debut. This would be Chad's final prospect list, as he'd graduate from the minors with 90 innings pitched.

Where He Is Now: Recovering from Tommy John surgery.

2. Andy LaRoche, 3B

Continued: Andy dominated Vero Beach for a little over two months before heading to Jacksonville. In total, he hit 30 home runs and 26 doubles with an OPS over .900.

Coming into 2006, he was rated as the 19th best prospect in MLB by Baseball America. He'd split that season between Jacksonville and Las Vegas, but wouldn't make his major league debut for another year.

3. Joel Guzman, SS

Continued: After his breakout campaign in 2004, Guzman put up another strong showing in Double A at just 20 years old. He batted .287/.351/.475 with 16 home runs for the Suns.

In 2006, he ranked as the 26th prospect in baseball and made his major league debut. He even batted .297 in 85 games with the 51's. However, the club wasn't pleased with how he handled his promotion and subsequent demotion and shipped him off to the Devil Rays along with Sergio Pedroza for Julio Lugo. Joel would get just 39 more plate appearances in the majors before settling in as a career minor leaguer.

Where He Is Now: He's currently in the Mexican League, batting .281 in 17 games.

4. Russell Martin, C

Continued: Russ continued his on-base getting ways in 2005 by hitting .311 with a .430 OBP with the Suns. He hit nine homers and stole 15 bases with the club many call one of the best in minor league history.

The following season, after just 23 games in Las Vegas, Russell would make his major league debut with the Dodgers and never look back. He'd man catcher for the Dodgers for the next five years.

Where He Is Now: Manning catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

5. Jonathan Broxton, RHP

Continued: Believe it or not, Broxton was originally a starter when he was drafted and during his first few years in the minors. In 2005, after Dodgers closer Eric Gagne suffered an injury, the organization decided to move Broxton to relief. In his first game out of the pen, in front of front office brass, he touched 100mph. He would make his major league debut that year. The next season, Broxton started with Las Vegas and pitched 11.1 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts. He'd come up for good on May 1.

Where He Is Now: In the Reds bullpen, setting up uber-closer Aroldis Chapman.

6. Scott Elbert, LHP

Background: Selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, Elbert made his debut with Ogden in 2004 and struggled with his control in 49.2 innings. In 2005, he would absolutely dominate Low A Columbus, posting a 2.66 ERA in 115 innings for the Catfish with 128 strikeouts.

In 2006, he rated as the #55 prospect in all of baseball. Splitting the season between Vero Beach and Jacksonville, he combined for a 2.90 ERA in 146 innings, striking out 173 batters along the way.

7. Blake DeWitt, 3B

Background: The other first rounder in the 2004 draft, DeWitt got off to a much better start than his southpaw counterpart. Blake hit .284/.350/.488 with the Raptors. In 2005, he'd hit a more modest .291/.339/.439, though he'd collect 34 doubles and 12 home runs between Low and High A.

The next year, DeWitt was pushed further up the ladder and his numbers dipped again. Between Vero Beach and Jacksonville, he'd bat .251/.320/.399 with 19 doubles and 19 home runs, though nearly all of those were in High A.

8. Matt Kemp, OF

Background: The 2003 sixth rounder was seen as a basketball player on the diamond in his first few years of pro ball. He was finally recognized before the 2005 season as a prospect and got his props as a top guy. In 2005, Kemp batted .305 with 27 homers and 23 steals for Vero Beach.

The following year, Kemp split time between Jacksonville and Vegas, hitting .346 between the two stops and making his major league debut. He'd exhaust his prospect eligibility and become a full time regular in 2008.

Where He Is Now: Physically, he's on the Dodgers, but he isn't playing like himself. In an attic somewhere, there's a portrait of him hitting home runs.

9. Etanislau "Tony" Abreu, 2B

Background: Tony was signed out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent in 2002. He took a few years to get going but finally caught on in 2004, making the Dodgers' Top 30 prospects list in 2005. That year, he hit .327 in 96 games with Vero Beach before finishing the season hitting .250 in Jacksonville.

He'd spend all of 2006 in Jacksonville, batting .287 with 24 doubles, six home runs and eight stolen bases. He played sparingly at shortstop and spent a little time at third base. It would be one more season until he'd make his major league debut.

10. Chin Lung Hu, SS

Background: Signed out of Taiwan in 2003, Hu was always seen as a slick glove man who couldn't hit. In 2005, he took advantage of a friendly home park and batted .313 with 29 doubles and 23 stolen bases in Vero Beach.

In 2006, Chin-lung fell back to Earth in Jacksonville, hitting just .254 with a .660 OPS and 27 extra base hits. His breakout season would have to wait one more year.

Others of Note:

-James Loney fell out of the Top 10, placing 11th.

-Fellow 2004 draftees made quite an impact. Supplemental first rounder RHP Justin Orenduff would rate 12th, with current Dodger prospect RHP Blake Johnson ranking 17th, first baseman Cory Dunlap checking in at 21 and Anthony Raglani coming in at #30.

-Oft-injured lefties Hong-chih Kuo (#12), Chuck Tiffany (#13) and Greg Miller (#18) also made the list.

-Some key players who made the organizational depth chart but not the top 30 include Scott Van Slyke, Trayvon Robinson, Cody Ross, Javy Guerra, and guys who would reach their peaks with other clubs: Joel Hanrahan and Carlos Santana.

Conclusions

The Dodgers have struggled to develop hitters. They've struggled with early picks, though finding guys like Russell Martin and A.J. Ellis late has helped a great deal. Pitching continues to be a strength, though injuries are always a concern.

It's surprising how many of these rankings coincide with friendly offensive environments. Always take the home park and league into account. Hitting in Vegas or Albuquerque is not the same as hitting in Chattanooga or Great Lakes.

Next up, the system takes a hit with a rash of promotions, but gains a superstar in the making.

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