DODGERS SCORE BIGWITH YOUNG TALENT
Since moving toLos Angeles in 1958, the Dodgers have led the National League in runs scored ina season only twice, in '74 and '78, yet they were atop that category at week'send despite a spate of injuries to their regulars and no one among the top 27qualifiers in the NL batting race. The explanation: L.A. is copying the 2005Braves--contending while at the same time revamping their lineup with youngplayers from a flush farm system.
Third basemanWilly Aybar, 23; catcher Russ Martin, 23; outfielder Andre Ethier, 24; andinfielder Joel Guzman, 21, look like keepers (combined stats: .298 battingaverage, 10 home runs, 60 RBIs), while power-packed outfielder Matt Kemp, 21,has the highest ceiling of all. Kemp belted six home runs in his first 13 majorleague games--including two on Sunday that led the Dodgers to a 6--5 win overthe Rockies--while slugging .829. Though Kemp (left) hadn't played above ClassA until this year, he might never see the minors again.
Now the Dodgersare looking for a starting pitcher and even more offense, with Nationalsoutfielder Alfonso Soriano (.302, 23 HRs, 47 RBIs) at the top of their list ofimpact hitters.
MARTINEZ MISSINGTHE TARGET
Sure, Indianscatcher Victor Martinez (right) can hit--his 43 RBIs were second among AmericanLeague backstops--but he throws so poorly that he will always be dogged bycritics who say that he should change positions and play first base instead.This season Martinez had thrown out only five base stealers in 48 chances. Saysone AL scout, "He's the next Mike Piazza. He's that bad[throwing]."
•The joy of six:On 6-6-06 the eight major leaguers wearing number 6 who played that day hit acombined .412. Among the group, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard had the bestday, going 3 for 4 with two doubles. Only Brewers shortstop Jeff Cirillo wenthitless.
•With quick feetand an equally quick release, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is the rarerighthander with a wicked pickoff move. He's nabbed five runners already andallowed only one stolen base in three tries over 78 innings.
•Adrian Beltre'sexplosive 2004 season for the Dodgers, which helped him get a five-year, $64million free-agent contract from the Mariners, is looking increasingly like oneof history's most anomalous seasons. Through Sunday, Beltre (above, left) had a.336 slugging percentage, compared with .629 in '04, and he was the majors'worst hitter with runners in scoring position (.141) among those with at least50 such at bats.
Extra Mustard byBaseball Prospectus
DRAFT PICKS ATWHICH POSITION WILL MOST LIKELY PROVIDE IMMEDIATE HELP? Pitchers who can workas short relievers, such as the Giants' top pick in the June 6 draft,righthander Tim Lincecum, have had the most success recently in making a quicktransition from campus to major league clubhouse. Because the job of a shortreliever--a specialist who uses his best pitches at maximum effort for a briefperiod of time--requires little adjustment from college to the majors, pitcherssuch as Lincecum (who was primarily a starter at Washington, but he made fiverelief appearances for the Huskies this season and is expected to work out ofthe bullpen in the majors) and Nationals righty Chad Cordero are more likelythan starters and position players to make the jump in a few months. Of theseven players who made the majors in their draft year since 1996, four wereshort relievers: Cordero and righthander Ryan Wagner (Reds) were drafted andcalled up in 2003, and righties Joey Devine (Braves) and Craig Hansen (Red Sox)did it last year. The Giants hope Lincecum, the No. 10 pick, follows inCordero's footsteps (1.64 ERA in 11 innings in '03 and a career ERA of 2.40with 74 saves through Sunday).
> More fromTom Verducci and Baseball Prospectus at SI.com/baseball.
LARRY GOREN/ICON SMI (KEMP)
JOHN BIEVER (MARTINEZ)
LARRY GOREN/ICON SMI (BELTRE)