10 Dodgers prospects to watch
Double-A, A Advanced should field impressive rosters this season
With the 2009 season quickly approaching, MLB.com takes a look at 10 of the Dodgers' most intriguing prospects that you should keep an eye on.
Josh Bell, 3B: There was a lot of excitement at this time last year when Bell came to camp in terrific shape, ready to fulfill his potential. A knee injury shut him down and then it was discovered he had a non-injury-related problem that needed to be corrected with surgery. That ended his season. He's healthy now and again looks ready to go. He's in great shape and he's made great strides with his defense at third. A switch-hitter, he's got above-average raw power which should play well in games once he makes some adjustments to his approach at the plate. Depending on how camp goes, he could go back to Class A Advanced Inland Empire to start the year or make the leap to Double-A Chattanooga.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
Scott Elbert, LHP: Elbert's fast track to the big leagues was derailed slightly by shoulder issues. He pitched out of the bullpen in Double-A last year and made his big league debut in the summer. His stuff is still outstanding, with a plus fastball and hard power breaking ball. He's got a good changeup as well, but he hasn't had to use it coming out of the 'pen. He's in big league camp and while a flu bug has kept him from competing for the last rotation spot, he's still got a shot at being the club's second lefty reliever. If he gets sent down, he'll go back to starting, likely with Triple-A Albuquerque, to re-develop as a starter and wait for a spot in either role to open again in Los Angeles.
Austin Gallagher, 3B/1B: It's been an interesting path for Gallagher, the Dodgers' third-round pick from the 2007 Draft. Coming out of high school, he made his debut in the Pioneer League that summer and performed well enough. Last year, he began the year in extended spring training, then held his own as a teenager in the California League, hitting .293 over 78 games. He's got a solid swing and serious size and strength (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) as well as some legitimate raw power. He'll continue to play both third and first, and the Dodgers like his makeup and work ethic. They think he can have an impact on both sides of the ball. It's possible he could head back to Inland Empire to start the year, with a shot of him leaping to Double-A.
Devaris Gordon, SS: If the last name rings a bell, it's because the infielder is the son of long-time big league reliever Tom Gordon. Despite not being able to play in junior college last year, the Dodgers took him in the fourth round of last year's Draft and he immediately paid dividends. He finished fourth in the Pioneer League with a .331 average and sixth with 18 steals. He's got above-average speed, great quickness and body control. He's got good range and he's improving defensively with his hands and footwork. He's not the biggest guy in the world, so he's worked hard on adding some strength. Class A Great Lakes seems like the most likely destination, and it will be interesting to see how he holds up over the course of his first full season.
Andrew Lambo, OF: After being taken out of high school in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft, Lambo had a very impressive pro debut in the Gulf Coast League. That carried over to a very solid full-season debut for the left-handed hitter. He made the Midwest League All-Star team, finishing sixth in RBIs and slugging to earn a late leap up to Double-A, where he promptly won Southern League Player of the Week honors. He capped it off with a strong Arizona Fall League showing. He made great improvement with his body this offseason, reporting to camp leaner and stronger. He's continuing to develop defensively as an outfielder and the Dodgers like his offensive approach so much, they won't hesitate to let the 20-year-old break with the Double-A club at the start of the season.
Josh Lindblom, RHP: The big right-hander (6-5, 220 pounds) was taken in the second round of last year's Draft out of Purdue. In college, he was a high-octane closer and he definitely has the stuff to handle that kind of role. But the Dodgers think he has more than enough to start, with an excellent fastball, a tight slider, a changeup and a splitter to change hitters' eye level. He's got a good feel for pitching, and he made some tweaks to his delivery during instructs. That, plus Lindblom coming to camp in better shape, have the Dodgers excited about his first full season. He finished the year in Double-A last year and he could go back there, though there would be nothing wrong with getting started in Inland Empire, pitching out of the rotation wherever he is.
Ethan Martin, RHP: A terrific two-way player in high school, Martin's profile as a pitcher jumped when he faced No. 3 pick Eric Hosmer in a tournament in Georgia early last spring. The Dodgers took him at No. 15 overall, the third straight year they'd selected a high school pitcher with their top pick. He didn't get to play because he hurt his knee in a fielding drill during a post-draft workout. He's healthy now, and it's easy to see why the Dodgers took him in the first round. He throws hard and down hill with an above-average fastball. His breaking ball, a power curve, has the chance to be above-average in the future. His changeup lags behind, but should develop with experience. The Dodgers won't rush him, especially after the knee injury, but it's looking like he'll be more than ready to break camp with a full-season club, with Great Lakes a likely destination.
James McDonald, RHP: MLB.com's choice for Dodgers pitcher of the year honors last year, McDonald went from starting in the Minors to making a big impact in the big league bullpen late in the season. He's yet to allow a run in the bigs over 11 1/3 total innings (regular and postseason). He's getting more and more comfortable with his delivery and mechanics and brings a good three-pitch mix to the table. He can add and subtract velocity with his fastball to go along with his breaking ball and changeup. He's in big league camp now and while it was looking like the main focus for him would be a relief role, he could sneak into fifth starter consideration. Worst-case, he'll head to Triple-A and a rotation spot, with a contribution in Los Angeles a seeming certainty this year.
Xavier Paul, OF: Sometimes it can take a little longer for some players to develop. Case in point is Paul, the fourth-round pick in the 2003 Draft. He was a Southern League All-Star in 2007, then hit .316 and stole 17 bases in his first taste of Triple-A ball, setting career highs in a host of offensive categories. A solid Winter Ball campaign has carried over to big league camp, where he's been opening eyes -- both internally and around the game -- with a very strong performance while playing all three outfield spots. He's been working on getting better jumps in stealing more bases and incorporating bunting in his game. He's pushing the envelope and even if he doesn't make the team out of Spring Training, he should help out in Los Angeles sooner rather than later.
Chris Withrow, RHP: The Dodgers' 2007 first-round pick has had some difficulty staying on the mound. He's pitched a grand total of 13 innings in his career, missing nearly all of last season with some elbow problems. The good news is he hasn't needed surgery, and the Dodgers are hoping this is the year he puts in a healthy season. When he is on the mound, he throws an above-average fastball with some hop to it and a good hard curveball. He's looked great this spring and his changeup, which lagged behind, has looked much improved. What he really needs at this point are innings, so he can start refining what's a pretty good package of stuff. When he did pitch briefly last year, it was with Inland Empire and the Dodgers could send him there again, especially if they want to keep him from pitching in the cold of the Midweat League.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.