Posted: Tuesday May 16, 2006 12:11PM; Updated: Tuesday May 16, 2006 8:30PM
Rookie catcher Russell Martin has seven walks in nine games since making his big league debut on May 5.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers' roster has been like a runway at LAX, with players flying on top of each other in ways only an air-traffic controller could love. The past hasn't left yet, but the future is arriving. They're in the air, they're on the tarmac, and they're headed ... somewhere.
Even though it's only the middle of May, the Dodgers already have used nine rookies or second-year players who are 25 or younger -- with the expectation of more to come this summer. Check out any Dodgers game this week and you're likely to see three rookies in the starting lineup and another one or two coming out of the bullpen. And for the most part, the biggest names in the Dodgers' farm system have yet to arrive.
With injuries playing an ongoing role in the Dodgers' season, a team that features such former All-Stars as J.D. Drew, Nomar Garciaparra and Rafael Furcal will depend heavily on youngbloods such as Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton. So far, the signs are encouraging. Though L.A. has blown seven leads of three or more runs this season, the Dodgers are 20-19 and two games out of first place in what has surprisingly been the strongest division in baseball this year, the National League West. (NL West teams are a combined 103-91 and have a 56-44 record against the rest of the NL, compared with 39-51 for the East and 57-57 for the Central.)
Here are five kids who have made immediate contributions.
Martin, the 23-year-old catcher called up after only a few weeks in Triple A when starter Dioner Navarro (himself only 22) suffered a bone bruise, has an OPS of .819 and has struck out only twice in 34 plate appearances. Martin's park-adjusted Equivalent Average, or EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus, is .295 (.260 is average).
Though he has suffered some defensive lapses, Navarro has a .759 OPS (.272 EQA) and was on a 12-for-28 streak when he got hurt. He can return from the disabled list later this week, forcing Dodgers manager Grady Little into a delicate clubhouse decision.
Jason Repko, no longer a rookie but still only 25, played center field for most of KennyLofton's time on the disabled list and had an OPS of .914 (.316 EQA) with eight extra-base hits and eight stolen bases. In true Dodger spirit, he has also landed on the DL.
Broxton, 22, recalled the day after reliever Lance Carter allowed the Padres to begin a five-run ninth-inning rally, has allowed one run in six innings while striking out seven.
Acquired in the Milton Bradley trade with Oakland, Ethier, a 24-year-old outfielder, has a .786 OPS (.267 EQA) and has reached base in seven of eight starts.