|Dodger Prospects Retrospective - 2005|
The year of the mighty Jacksonville Suns, one of the greatest minor league teams in baseball history.
The first installment of this series provided some detail of the rebuilding effort produced by Logan White, the scouting staff and the player development staff. 2005 continued on that road, with the system once again being rated second, this time behind the Anaheim Angels. Many familiar names appear on this list, but some will be foreign to those who don't follow the farm.
1. Joel Guzman, SS/OF
Background: The $2.25 million man himself. Guzman set a Dominican record with his bonus, inked on signing day in 2001. Tall and lanky when he signed, Joel grew into his 6'6, 225 pound body and finally tapped into his power potential in 2004, clubbing 23 home runs between Vero Beach and Jacksonville as a 19 year old. A good athlete, he played shortstop coming up through the system and, while his body didn't allow him sufficient range, he did have a cannon for an arm.
Dodger Career: In a word, brief. In 2005, at age 20, he was sent back to Jacksonville and hit .287/.351/.475 in 122 games. He didn't debut until the following year, on June 1, only to ground into a double play in his first at bat. He got five starts, and while he hit safely in four of them, the club grew impatient and sent him back to the minors after just 23 plate appearances.
Where He Is Now: The club, apparently displeased with his attitude, sent him packing in 2006, along with Sergio Pedroza, to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for Julio Lugo. Guzman would go on to get another 39 plate appearances in the following season for Tampa Bay but nothing more. Since then, he's languished in the minors, spent a year in Japan and is currently playing in the Mexican League.
2. Chad Billingsley, RHP
Continued: In 2005, his age 20 season, Bills spent the year headlining Jacksonville's rotation, posting a 3.51 ERA in 28 appearances. He had problems with the Mobile BayBears if memory serves me. Nevertheless, he was well on his way to getting to the majors.
3. Edwin Jackson, RHP
Continued: 2005 was a doomed year for Edwin, as Jim Tracy gave him the kiss of death by declaring that the club's 5th starter job was "his to lose." And he lost it. Las Vegas overwhelmed him, so Jackson returned to Jacksonville and pitched well.
4. James Loney, 1B
Continued: Loney returned to Jacksonville, his second straight year with the club where he batted .284/.357/.419 with a minor league career high 11 homers. He also hit 31 doubles and stole a base. However, it would be three more years until he would make his home in LA.
5. Andy LaRoche, 3B
Continued: After beating up on Low A pitching, Andy actually struggled after a promotion to Vero. To start 2005, he went back to Vero and killed the ball, prompting a promotion to Jacksonville and ended up hitting 30 homers on the season.
6. Russell Martin, C
Background: Originally a third baseman, Martin was drafted in the 17th round and converted to catcher after signing. He hit well enough in his first two seasons but it was his improvement defensively that prompted his top ten ranking.
Dodger Career: Russell dominated AA in 2005, batting .311/.430/.423 with 9 homers and 15 stolen bases. After just 23 games in 2006, he'd make his debut with the big club and displace Dioner Navarro as the team's starting catcher. He debuted on May 5 and went 2 for 4 with a double and a pair of RBI. He'd finish 9th in Rookie of the Year voting.
Where He Is Now: Martin had his best season in 2007, hitting .292/.374/.469 while garnering All Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger accolades. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there, as he would never slug .400 with the Dodgers again. In 2011, he signed a two year pact with the Yankees. After batting .224 with them, he signed a deal with the Pirates this past offseason and he's currently hitting .274 with six home runs.
7. Greg Miller, LHP
Continued: After missing all of 2004 with a shoulder injury, Miller returned in 2005 as a reliever for Jacksonville. Pitching in 12 games, he struck out 17 in 13 innings, but he also walked 15 and surrendered 14 hits.
8. Blake DeWitt, 3B
Background: Selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, Blake converted from shortstop to third base as a pro, where he became a good defender. In his debut, he batted .284/.350/.488.
Dodger Career: Blake spent most of his with Columbus in the Low A Sally League. He got a brief cup of coffee with Vero to end the season and would begin 2006 there. He struggled offensively in 2006 and returned to High A in 2007. Finally, in 2008, he debuted with the Dodgers on opening day, going 1 for 2 with a pair of walks.
Where He Is Now: DeWitt's value was in his glove, which isn't a great fit at the hot corner. After a few years of hot and cold hitting, he was dealt to the Cubs as part of the trade that brought Ted Lilly to the Dodgers. After spending a year and a half in Chicago, he signed with the Braves this past winter and has accumulated just 10 plate appearances between AAA and the show.
9. Jon Broxton, RHP
Background: A second round pick in the 2002 draft, Broxton was originally a starter. That's right, he wasn't always a hard-throwing reliever. He converted to relief in 2005 after Eric Gagne went down with injury and, in his first outing, in front of a plethora of Dodger personnel, he reportedly hit 100mph on the stadium gun.
Dodger Career: Needless to say, it didn't take long for the club to promote him to the show. The Bull made his debut on July 29 (Chad Billingsley's birthday) in 2005. After that, he was in the majors to stay.
Where He Is Now: Big Jon was one of the most polarizing Dodgers of the 2000s. Some loved him as a hard-throwing closer, others thought he was too soft to pitch late in close games. Be it his mentality or his use at the hands of Joe Torre, Broxton eventually pitched his way out of LA. He became a free agent in 2011, then signed with the Royals. Less than a year later, he was traded to the Reds, where he's been "Plan B" to Arodlis Chapman.
10. Chuck Tiffany, LHP
Background: The second selection of the Dodgers in 2003, Tiffany was a shorter lefty with good stuff who had a good amount of success in the minors. After struggling in his debut, Chuckster posted a 3.70 ERA in 2004 with 141 strikeouts in 100 innings with Columbus in 2004.
Dodger Career: In 2004, during a two-week period, Tiffany combined on a no-hitter and pitched a 7 inning perfect game. Then, in 2005, he went to Vero and continued to strikeout hitters at an excellent rate. Unfortunately, he'd never reach the majors, after being traded to the Devil Rays and missing 2007 due to injury.
Where He Is Now: Out of baseball. He attempted a comeback in 2008 but couldn't stick in Tampa. He then went onto independent ball, pitching parts of three seasons before leaving the game after 2011. Once a promising prospect, he's apparently returned to the real world.
Others of Note
-Just missing the top ten was the other Dodgers' first rounder of 2004, Scott Elbert. The Dodgers' supplemental first rounder that year, Justin Orenduff, placed 24th.
-Chin Lung Hu checked in at lucky #13. Tony Abreu (#21) and Willy Aybar (#25) joined him in the middle infield.
-Matt Kemp finally broke into the Top 30, placing 28th, just two spots higher than Jason Repko and ten spots behind Delwyn Young.
-James McDonald, signed as a draft-and-follow in 2004, is listed as a left fielder. He actually didn't convert to pitching full time until 2006.
The vaunted Suns roster did produce some serious major league talent, as Billingsley, Broxton, Martin, Loney and Hanrahan have all had extended experience at the major league level. Even Hong Chih Kuo had a few good years. However, the top prospects on that club never realized their potential.
Only half of the top ten have had "successful" major league careers. The others, be them high ceiling hitters or talented southpaws, never made the impact that was expected of them. Injury seems to be the biggest cause, though in Guzman's case, perhaps it was above the neck.
Matt Kemp was called a "below average runner down the line and better underway." He was ranked behind relievers like Yhency Brazoban, Steve Schmoll and Franquelis Osoria. Maybe rank the dude with huge tools a little higher.
Next up, 2006.