The season didn't go the way we hoped but it is going to end on a good note. After peculating all year, either in AAA, or on the bench, the Dodgers put together the lineup that might be the future. Youth movements only work when the talent is there. This group my friends has a boatload of talent and we shouldn't be afraid of it.
It all started with the 2002/2003 draft which culminated when many players of that draft played on the Jacksonville team of 2005 which was considered one of the best minor leagues teams of the last 20 years. Add Matt Kemp who was only playing High A at the time and one little trade for Andre Ethier who played in AA in 2005, and you have the making of the future Dodgers.
While watching the game today you couldn't help but be excited for the future unless you're a tired Los Angeles Media person whose day has already come and gone, or a veteran on his last days who hates to lose what playing time he has left to the young and restless talent. This talent is not only on par with the 1973 group but I think it is even better.
Let us start right off with the biggest failure. Juan Guzman headed into 2005 was the guy who got all the attention. He was a 20 year old SS who had slugged over 500 as 19 year old in Jacksonville in 2004. Going into 2005 many expected him to use the 2005 season as another step onto a great career with the Dodgers. Even then everyone knew he wouldn't be playing SS at 6'6 but it was expected that he would have no trouble moving to 3rd or a corner outfield position and that his power would carry him no matter where he played. Not everyone pans out. Turns out his 2004 season at age 19 would be as good as it gets for him. Ned Colletti traded him in 2006 and while he's now made it to the big leagues, the man who was once considered the top talent in Jacksonville is now an afterthought. Given that he was born on my birthday we should have known he'd turn into a slacker.
Russ Martin arrived on May 5th, 2006 a year sooner then anyone expected. Back in 2005 he displayed plenty of talent but I don't think to many would have picked him to be the best player from that Jacksonville team. He is already an all-star, and is destined to equal and maybe surpass many of those who wore the tools of ignorance before him. Year in and year out the Dodgers have usually had a quality backstop from Campy to Roseborro to Yeager & Fergy to Scoscia to Piazza, and finally La Duca.
Jonathan Broxton beat the number one pitching prospect Chad Billingsley to the team by being shifted to the bullpen in 2005. He had a cup of coffee in 2005 and then emerged as an outstanding setup man in 2006.
Chad Billingsley arrived on June 15th, just after Russ Martin and while he struggled in his 1st year, he is now living up to the hype of being the Dodgers top pitching prospect headed into the 2006 season.
James Loney made the opening day roster in 06 when Nomar came up with a rib injury. Ned didn't trust him headed into 2007, as he inked Nomar to a two year deal but luckily for everyone, Nomar failed to impress and Loney came upto stay on June 10th of this year. He started out hot, but has even been better in Sept. Whether it is Big Game James, or Crazy Eyes Loney, Or Crazy Legs Loney, one thing is certain, this kid is going to be our 1st baseman for the next 4 years.
Andy La Roche took his time getting in the mix. Even now we don't know what his future is, but in 2005 at the age of 21 he was a key member of the Championship Sun team. Hopefully Ned won't waste time blocking Andy like he did with James Loney.
Delywn Young was more advanced then all of the above players when 2005 started. He was already 23 years old and was the only one to get promoted to AAA during the season. After 1-½ lackluster AAA seasons, and a defensive switch from 2nd to the outfield, Delywn went off in 2007, and was the best minor league hitter in the organization. This earned him some spotty playing time but he did garner his 1st hit on Aug 4th. Right now the Dodgers don't have a spot for him but his bat will play somewhere.
Tony Abreu joined the team after leading the FSL in batting average and while he didn't set the Southern League on fire like he did the FSL he was the starting 2nd baseman when they blew through the playoffs.
Eric Stults also saw some time on that team and while he does not have the pedigree of the above players he has shown enough that he should be pitching on somebody's major league roster.
Eric Hull was a starting pitcher back in 2005 but has now migrated to the bullpen. He should be competing for a middle relief role in 2007.
Hong-Chi Kuo coming back from his arm surgery blew through the FSL and the Southern league with 84K's in 54 innings. After a great Sept in 2006 it was hoped he'd be in the 2007 rotation but injuries sidetracked his 2007 season. Will he be a factor in 2008?
Greg Miller was also coming back after missing the 2004 season and most of the 2005 season. He only pitched in 30 innings and still is not close to being what he was in 2003, when he was the Dodgers top pitching prospect.
All that from one minor league team in 2005.
As Jon Weisman said, all we need is a Jimmy Wynn, but instead of going outside for our Toy Cannon, I think Matt Kemp will be the Howitzer and we won't have any need of a Toy Cannon. Matt Kemp may not have played on the Jacksonville Sun championship team of 2005 but he wasted no time in leapfrogging many of them to the big leagues when he debuted on May 28, 2006. He then proceeded to hit 6 home runs in his 1st 45 at bats to give us a hint of the gunpowder his bat produced when it goes off. After hitting a slump he went back to AAA to refine his game and in 2007 has been one of the teams most consistent producers when allowed to play.