"It's right on," said Torre. "I not only had heard from Dodger people, but from people with other organizations before I left the Yankees. It's more than I've experienced before, but not more than I expected. I was anxious to get to Spring Training to get a look. I had a taste at our minicamp. I'm very impressed with the work ethic of the kids. You have to remind yourself the maturity comes at different times. You have to keep that in mind during the season. They bring a great deal of energy."
With barely a week to go before Opening Day, Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt were still with the Major League club, having been promoted from Minor League camp. Earlier in the spring, well regarded Minor Leaguers like Lucas May, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Jamie Hoffman and Xavier Paul made an impression when given opportunities in Major League exhibition games.
Assistant general manager De Jon Watson, who runs the farm system, praised his coaches and instructors for Torre's upbeat assessment.
"All the guys have worked so hard to help these players improve," said Watson. "The players haven't been intimidated when they've had their chance. They've been aggressive, run the bases the way they've been taught. It's the style of play we are stressing."
Right-hander Javier Solano, considered the best pitching prospect in Mexico when the Dodgers signed him for $250,000 earlier in the year, is living up to expectations. Watson said he's thrown "exceptionally well" and is "very advanced" for a 17-year-old, with an above-average fastball and curveball.
Scott Elbert, a No. 1 pick in 2004 and the organization's top left-handed prospect until Kershaw appeared, threw a bullpen session earlier in the week and has another planned for Saturday. Elbert is recovering slowly from shoulder surgery last year and figures to remain in Florida for extended Spring Training.
Josh Bell, a fourth-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has been impressive this spring. A switch-hitting third baseman, Bell has lost 30 pounds since last season and his quickness has shown from both sides of the plate. He will probably open the year at Class A Inland Empire.
They're No. 1: Bryan Morris, a first-round pick in 2006, is back on the mound and throwing effectively after missing the entire 2007 season recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Morris threw four innings in a Minor League game this week and was clocked at 93-94 mph with an effective breaking ball, according to Watson.
Class of '07: Jaime Pedroza is a switch-hitting shortstop worth following. A ninth-round pick out of UC Riverside, Pedroza hit .360 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 56 games at Rookie-Level Ogden, which led to a five-game callup to Class A Inland Empire, where the 21-year-old is likely to start the 2008 season. He's the brother of former Dodgers' farmhand Sergio Pedroza.
What they're saying: "This time last year, I had no idea I would have been doing any of this." -- Lucas May, who a year ago was about to play at Class A Inland Empire, after catching nine innings of the first Major League game ever played in China
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less