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Dodgers' young nucleus growing fast

Dodgers' young nucleus growing fast

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The future success of every Major League team lies in its Minor League system. With that in mind, each preseason, MLB.com takes a top-to-bottom look at all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent Draft picks.

The Dodgers made it to the National League Championship Series in 2008 and there's no questioning the impact the club's farm system had in that run. With established homegrown talent (Loney, Martin, Billingsley et al) and new big-time contributors (DeWitt, Kershaw), the nucleus is still young and on the rise.

spring training 2009
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Add in some late 2008 additions like James McDonald and Scott Elbert and there's hope even more help is along the way in 2009. In back of those upper-level types, there's a nice layer of talent, highlighted as always by some seriously high upside young arms from the last couple of Drafts. It's hard to predict when some of those players will click, but the Dodgers don't hesitate to push them up to get to LA quickly.

Coming Soon

Scott Elbert, LHP
He's battled a bad flu bug in big league camp, knocking him out of contention for the fifth starter's spot. He's still competing for the second lefty role out of the 'pen.

James McDonald, RHP
He's in big league camp and while he's been looked at primarily for a relief role, he could sneak into the fifth starter conversation eventually.

Xavier Paul, OF
He's getting a good long look this spring and making the most of it, hitting .425 over 17 games. Even if he doesn't force his way into the outfield to start the year, the Dodgers won't hesitate to call on him for help during the season.

Under the Radar

Tony Delmonico, C
The sixth-rounder from last year's Draft was an infielder at Florida State, but the Dodgers have moved him behind the plate. He has done some catching in the past, so it's not completely foreign. He's got an advanced bat and if he can take to the new position, he could take off.

Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
An 11th-round pick in last year's Draft, the right-hander out of a Texas high school had Tommy John surgery in his junior year. He bounced back, looked extremely good in his brief tastes of the Gulf Coast and Pioneer Leagues last summer, then made even more strides in instructs. He could be ready for a full-season gig.

Jordan Pratt, RHP
It's been slow going for the 2003 fifth-rounder as he hasn't been able to get out of A ball. But he's got a plus fastball and two power breaking pitches. The problem has always been command and the Dodgers feel they may have found something in his delivery to help him progress.

Draft

Top Picks

2008: Ethan Martin, RHP
It wasn't exactly the start anyone was hoping for, but he's healthy now and Midwest League fans should to see what he's all about in 2009.

2007: Chris Withrow, RHP
Health has been the key for him too, as he's not been able to get much mound time. The stuff is all still there, so if he can stay healthy, a full season would help considerably.

2006: Clayton Kershaw, LHP
That's worked out well, hasn't it? He just turned 21 and is locked into the Dodgers rotation. Look for big things from this big lefty in 2009.

2008 Draft Recap

OF Kyle Russell (3) showed just what there is to like and where there's concern during his pro debut. He hit 11 homers and slugged .534 (fifth in the league) for Ogden in the Pioneer League, but he also struck out 82 times in 61 games. ... Tony Delmonico (6) hit .340 with 11 homers in 35 games for Ogden for a 1.159 OPS in 141 ABs. He played second then, but is now learning to catch. ... LHP Cole St. Clair (7) appeared in 12 games for Ogden, saving five of them and posting a 3.18 ERA and 22 Ks in 17 IP. ... 3B Austin Yount (12) is Robin's nephew and started making a name for himself by hitting .301 over 33 games with Ogden.

Predictions

Hitter of the Year -- OF Andrew Lambo
Not really going out on a limb here, but after starting to really put things together last year, he'll head to Double-A to lead the organization in homers and RBIs while hitting for average and stealing some bags to boot.

Pitcher of the Year -- Josh Lindblom
It was tempting to go with one of the first-round high school arms here, but instead we'll go the college route. He'll continue showing he can handle starting and move closer to being big league-ready.

Notes of Note

Ivan DeJesus Jr. would have definitely been on the "10 prospects to watch" list if it wasn't for his unfortunate injury in Spring Training. Once he recovers from his broken leg, look for the shortstop to jump back on the track that had him being close to helping out in Los Angeles.

Quotable

"For me, I'm looking to see how our overall depth continues to develop. We should be deeper in multiple areas. I like our corner bats and I like some of our pitching depth. Depending on how the big club is set up, the question is how does that trickle down? It should be an interesting dynamic how the flow of players effects how we structure our depth from an organization standpoint. I'm looking forward to seeing how we line them up. There are a lot of young kids knocking on the door. It should be a fun year to watch these kids continue to develop." -- De Jon Watson, assistant general manager, player development

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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