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Tom Verducci's View
Tom Verducci
June 19, 2006
DODGERS SCORE BIG WITH YOUNG TALENT
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June 19, 2006

Tom Verducci's View

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DODGERS SCORE BIG WITH YOUNG TALENT

Since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, the Dodgers have led the National League in runs scored in a season only twice, in '74 and '78, yet they were atop that category at week's end despite a spate of injuries to their regulars and no one among the top 27 qualifiers in the NL batting race. The explanation: L.A. is copying the 2005 Braves--contending while at the same time revamping their lineup with young players from a flush farm system.

Third baseman Willy Aybar, 23; catcher Russ Martin, 23; outfielder Andre Ethier, 24; and infielder Joel Guzman, 21, look like keepers (combined stats: .298 batting average, 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 major league games--including two on Sunday that led the Dodgers to a 6--5 win over the Rockies--while slugging .829. Though Kemp (left) hadn't played above Class A until this year, he might never see the minors again.

Now the Dodgers are looking for a starting pitcher and even more offense, with Nationals outfielder Alfonso Soriano (.302, 23 HRs, 47 RBIs) at the top of their list of impact hitters.

MARTINEZ MISSING THE TARGET

Sure, Indians catcher Victor Martinez (right) can hit--his 43 RBIs were second among American League backstops--but he throws so poorly that he will always be dogged by critics 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. Says one AL scout, "He's the next Mike Piazza. He's that bad [throwing]."

THE RUNDOWN

?The joy of six: On 6-6-06 the eight major leaguers wearing number 6 who played that day hit a combined .412. Among the group, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard had the best day, going 3 for 4 with two doubles. Only Brewers shortstop Jeff Cirillo went hitless.

?With quick feet and an equally quick release, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is the rare righthander with a wicked pickoff move. He's nabbed five runners already and allowed only one stolen base in three tries over 78 innings.

? Adrian Beltre's explosive 2004 season for the Dodgers, which helped him get a five-year, $64 million free-agent contract from the Mariners, is looking increasingly like one of 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 least 50 such at bats.

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