New farm director impressed by talent

New farm director impressed by talent

Hot topic: The most important newcomer in Spring Training camp is the new farm director, DeJon Watson, who is taking over for Terry Collins, who left to manage in Japan.

Watson has turned over a handful of Minor League coaches and instructors and said he's impressed by the level of talent the organization has.

"Logan has done a tremendous job with his drafting staff," said Watson, referring to Logan White, recently promoted from scouting director to assistant general manager. "The players are impressive, especially the amount of strong arms we have. There are a lot of players close to the big-league level."

Despite the staff changes, Watson said he will make as few changes as possible in the way his department runs.

"There's nothing wrong with the way it was in the past," he said. "We won't re-create the wheel. We're taking the program in place and making sure it's consistent with what they are doing on the big-league level."

On the move: Watson said that Preston Mattingly, the son of former Yankees standout Don Mattingly, will remain at shortstop until officials decide he can't play there. A former basketball star, Mattingly's primary baseball skill is hitting and some observers feel he lacks the throwing arm for shortstop.

On the pine: Justin Orenduff, in Major League camp last Spring, is throwing again after having shoulder surgery. He should be ready for the start of the season.

Names in the game: Longtime Major League player and coach Dave Collins was hired to manage the Dodgers' new Class A affiliate in the Inland Empire. Collins spent the last four years as first-base coach of the Colorado Rockies and is entering his 29th season in professional ball. He previously managed Class A Salem to the Carolina League championship in 2001.

They're No. 1: Scott Elbert, the No. 1 pick in 2004, is in his first Major League camp and earned the praise of manager Grady Little after his first bullpen session. Elbert went 11-9 with a 2.90 ERA splitting time between Class A Vero Beach and Double-A Jacksonville in his third professional season.

Class of '06: Clayton Kershaw, who doesn't turn 19 until next month, is the lone pick from the 2006 draft invited to the Dodgers' early Minor League spring camp. Kershaw, a left-handed pitcher and the first-round pick out of Highland Park High School in Texas, is considered with Elbert to be the two best pitching prospects in the organization.

What they're saying: "It wasn't my time." -- Andy La Roche, on not getting a September callup last year.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.