Dioner Navarro 2006 (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
In spring of 2006 the future seemed extremely bright as the members of the greatest collection of Dodger minor league talent since 1968 was about to ascent toward the Dodgers. When 2005 quickly became a forgetful season, those who followed the team started to pay attention to a collection of names that they hoped would integrate with the current team and push the 2005 season out of their minds.
Dioner Navarro- 21 year old switch hitting catcher would be the starting catcher after getting his feet wet in 2005. On base, defense, some power.Would make the memory of Jason Philips disappear quicker then a fastball to Hee Sop Choi.
Willy Aybar - 22 year old switch hitting 2nd/3rd baseman who had put up an OPS of .901 in Sept 2005
Delwyn Young - 23 year old switch hitting 2nd/Outfielder who sat poised at AAA, after slugging his way up every step of the minor league ladder.
Tony Abreu - 20 year old switch hitting infielder who had hit .357 for the Vero Beach Dodgers before getting promoted to the hallowed Jacksonville franchise.
Joel Guzman -20 year old right handed slugging SS who had posted a slug% of .522 in 2004 as a 19 year old in AA.
James Loney - Didn't wow in 2005 like everyone else, many were already saying he did not have the power for a 1st baseman. Still he was only 21 in AA, maybe the power would come?
Russell Martin - 22 year old Catcher who had come faster than anyone expected after being converted from a 3rd baseman. Many felt he was already better then Navarro.
Andy LaRoche - 21 year old 3rd baseman hit 30 home runs between Vero Beach and the Suns. You wanted power from a corner infielder, he looked like the real deal.
Matt Kemp - The 20 year old center fielder hit 27 home runs for the Vero Beach Dodgers but among all the other prospects he was getting lost until the fall of 2005. The AFL team the Dodgers put together had Kemp, LaRoche, Loney, Abreu, Oaklands Andre Ethier, and Tampa Bays James Shields. Kemp was younger than all of them . He was also better then all of them.
Chin-Lung Hu - the 21 year old shortstop was already starting to draw rave reviews for his glove work.
Guess we should not forget the pitching:
Chad Billingsley - was possibly the best pitcher in the Southern League. He was going to be in the rotation in 2006 the only question was when and how good would he be.
Big Jon Broxton - was doing just fine as a starter in 2005 when they put him in the bullpen and made him a monster. He progressed so fast in the bullpen he got a late season call to the Show and struck out the best hitter in baseball for his first major league strikeout.
I'm not even going to mention the tandem of Edwin Jackson / Greg Miller. I can only afford so many tears.
Not included in this mix was Andre Ethier, not home grown but acquired over the winter from the A's. He would slot in nicely as a fourth outfielder if he made the team.
With hopes like this the Dodgers entered the 2006 season.