Los Angeles Dodgers Top 5

March 4, 2009
Los Angeles Dodgers Top 5
No.   Player   Pos.   Comments   Age   Lvl
1   Ivan De Jesus   SS/2B   Followed .334 wOBA in A+ in '07 with .371 number in AA in '08; not much power (.099 IsoP)   21.5   AA
2   James McDonald   RHP   Converted OF turned successful flyball pitcher: 27.1% K, 7.8% BB since 2007; 3.87 '08 FIP   24.0   MLB
3   Scott Elbert   LHP   When healthy, he's a great strikeout pitcher who walks a lot of batters; could be a very good RP   23.2   MLB
4   Ethan Martin   RHP   Excellent athlete with a low-to-mid-90's fastball and two other potential above-average pitches   19.4   n/a
5   Andrew Lambo   OF   Proving makeup is merely what people make up about you; solid first full season between A/AA   20.2   AA
Honorables: Chris Withrow (RHP), Josh Lindblom (RHP), Joshua Bell (3B), and Austin Gallagher (3B).        
* Our rankings combine a player's ceiling with the odds that he'll reach it and favor recent production        
** Ages are as of November 1st, 2008        
*** Level is the highest level the player has reached        
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Ivan De Jesus

Ivan De Jesus -- De Jesus has yet to consistently show power. But he did finish the 2008 season with five home runs in August (125 PA). A shortstop with outstanding discipline (13.6% BB in '08) and solid contact  ability (14.5% K) generally has a great chance to be a valuable major leaguer, though the numbers say De Jesus isn't a good bet to stick at the position. The 21-year-old broke out last year in Double-A, as he posted a .371 wOBA as the 19th-youngest player at the level. De Jesus' .381 '08 BABIP isn't likely to be sustainable, as he's an average runner without above-average line-drive rates. Unfortunately, De Jesus broke his left leg in a spring training game earlier this week, and could miss the entire 2009 season. 

James McDonald -- A former minor league outfielder, 24-year-old James McDonald is older than most elite pitching prospects. The lanky 6-foot-5 righthander should be an important factor for the Dodgers in 2009, but whether he's in the rotation or the bullpen remains to be seen. McDonald has had stretches of minor league dominance. He has posted strong K/BB ratios throughout his career (2.85 in 171.1 AA IP, 4.0 in 22.0 AAA IP), and has consistently maintained low home-run rates despite a tendency to allow fly balls (35% in 2008). His arsenal also draws plenty of strikeouts from opposing hitters (27.1% since 2007). McDonald has a combination of above-average upside and a high floor -- solid command (7.8% BB since '07). It's likely that he will be a big league contributor on the mound for years to come.

Scott Elbert -- When healthy, Elbert has dominated opposing batters throughout his minor league career. Major emphasis on the term “when healthy”, as the 23-year-old missed the majority of the 2007 and 2008 season due to shoulder surgery. Despite command issues, Elbert is a high-upside lefthander who could be a staple in the Dodgers bullpen or rotation by 2010, and possibly sooner. A former first-rounder (17th overall in '04), Elbert had back-to-back excellent seasons between Low and High-A (27.5 K%, 261.0 IP combined; '05-'06). He was impressive in his return 2008, striking out 28.2% while walking 12.3% in 41.1 Double-A innings on his way to earning a late-season MLB call-up. Elbert has walked 13.1% of the full-season league batters he's faced over his pro career. Getting a grip on his control and staying healthy will be the major factors in determining the type of role and impact Elbert will have.

Ethan Martin – Not many pitching prospects have a home run derby title under their resume, but that is the type of athlete Martin is. The first high-school pitcher selected in the 2008 draft (15th overall), Martin’s ability on the mound likely will outweigh his power with the stick. Featuring a low-to-mid-90’s fastball, and two other potential above-average pitches, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is certainly a high-upside prospect, although he is untested at the professional level. When you couple the fact that he is already 19 years old with the Dodger’s aggressive promotional approach, Martin could be a rapid riser through the system despite having yet to pitch a pro inning after undergoing knee surgery last summer.

Andrew Lambo – It wasn’t Lambo's bat that scouts questioned prior to the 2007 Draft. His makeup -- immaturity -- was a key reason for why he fell to the 4th round. But Lambo has done nothing but hit since being drafted, and the 20-year-old has already reached Double-A. Lambo is not spectacular in any one area; he’s a lefthander with solid power and decent plate discipline. His value at the next level will be dependent on whether or not he can remain an outfielder and make consistent contact. Lambo raked in the GCL in 2007 (.415 wOBA) before splitting time in Low-A and Double-A last season. He was solid in the Midwest League, walking 8.0% and striking out 21.2% with a .173 isoP and .348 wOBA. His power took off following a late-season promotion to the Southern League (.361 isoP, 38 PA). He could start 2008 in Double-A, where he'd have a chance to really breakout statistically.

Chris Withrow – People are beginning to get anxious to see Chris Withrow pitch over an extended period. The 6-foot-3 righthander has thrown a grand total of 14.1 innings since being drafted 20th overall in 2007. Nonetheless, Withrow’s ability to throw in the low-90’s and potential plus curve are keeping him on the radar. Injuries have followed Withrow in his short career, including a bizarre one -- he cut his hand in early 2008 mishandling a snorkeling mask. A sore elbow followed, and kept him out until August. Withrow ended up facing only 18 batters in 2008. Like Ethan Martin, Withrow is only 19 years old, so there's plenty of time for him to get on track. He could also be a fast riser through the system, and will likely spend a good part of 2009 in Low-A.


Brett Sullivan can be reached at bsullivan@projectprospect.com.