All of that is exciting, though it doesn't necessarily mean much to those who care most about how it will help the big league club in 2011. While the upper-level affiliates didn't perform quite as well as those below, that doesn't mean there weren't players who stepped up and got to the point of being ready, or nearly ready, to contribute in Los Angeles in the near future.
The biggest name on that map is shortstop Dee Gordon, who was challenged with a double-jump from the Class A Midwest League to the Double-A Southern League and responded by hitting .277 with 53 steals (good for ninth in the Minors) and representing the Dodgers in the All-Star Futures Game. First baseman Jerry Sands made the same double-jump, but in-season, and ended up having the best year in the organization.
They come in right behind players like Ivan DeJesus, back and healthy, and Jamie Hoffman, the returned Rule 5 pick who lead the Pacific Coast League in hits and got added to the 40-man roster as a result. Russ Mitchell has been with the Dodgers for a long time and finally made it up to the big leagues, as did catcher-turned-reliever Kenley Jensen.
Sure, these are not marquee or elite prospects knocking on the big-league door. But they are knocking and are in line to contribute as some of the success stories from the lower levels make their way up the ladder.
"I thought it was a productive year," Watson said. "We had some productive kids step to the forefront. "As a whole, there are a lot of very strong parts to our Minor League system. It was a great showing by our kids."
Organizational Players of the Year
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
He took this honor in 2009 and the thinking was he'd move up to the California League, hit for average, steal a ton of bases and start tapping into his raw power. Instead, the Dodgers sent him to Double-A, and he more than held his own, hitting .277 with 53 steals. The power hasn't come yet, but the Dodgers certainly aren't concerned as he'll be just 23 for the 2011 season and knocking on the big league door.
Aaron Miller, LHP:
The Dodgers' top pick in 2009 was making his full-season debut and the former two-way star from Baylor looked ready to take off as he focused solely on pitching. Things started that way as he posted a 2.77 ERA over his first 74 2/3 innings pitched with Inland Empire in the California League. He earned a bump up to Double-A Chattanooga, but after he went 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA over six starts, he went back down to Inland Empire. Still, his 3.68 combined ERA was third in the organization. He also struck out nearly a batter per inning and held hitters to a .227 average.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
The 25th-round pick in 2008 started the year as a slightly old for his level outfielder in Great Lakes. After 69 games and a .333/.432/.646 line, he was sent up to Double-A. He continued to hit, especially for average, and finished the year a combined .301/.395/.586. His 35 homers not only topped the organization, but placed him tied for third in all of the Minor Leagues. His 93 RBIs were second in the organization, and he even went 18-for-20 in stolen-base attempts.
Allen Webster, RHP:
The 2008 18th-round Draft pick has moved slowly, but certainly enjoyed a banner full-season debut in 2010. Webster led the organization with his 2.88 ERA and tied for the system lead with 12 wins. He held Midwest League hitters to a .239 batting average and was a Midwest League All-Star as a result, all at the age of 20. He now has a 2.76 ERA and 8.4 K/9 ratio in his brief career.