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The bottom half

September 28, 2008

Dodgers Minor Leaguers of the Year

Position player: Ivan DeJesus, ss

DeJesus, who represented the Dodgers in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, emerged this season as one of the Dodgers' middle infielders of the future. His father, also named Ivan, was a good-fielding, light-hitting shortstop who hit .254 with 21 home runs in 15 major league seasons. If this season is any indication, the son might hit. In his first year at double A -- at 21, when many players still are in college -- he hit .324, with a .419 on-base percentage at Jacksonville. He also stole 16 bases, in 18 attempts, and he finished the season on a 23-game hitting streak. The Dodgers used him at second base and shortstop, positions that figure to be vacated by Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal, respectively. However, given that Chin-lung Hu was overmatched on offense when summoned from triple A this season, the Dodgers are not expected to consider DeJesus for a major league job this winter.

Pitcher: James McDonald, rhp

McDonald, 23, selected by the Dodgers as their minor league pitcher of the year for the second consecutive season, started this season at double-A Jacksonville, stopped at triple-A Las Vegas and finished in the major leagues. He went 7-4 with a 3.26 earned-run average, with 53 walks and 141 strikeouts in 141 innings. He struck out 10 in each of his first two triple-A starts, and he has 511 strikeouts in 473 minor league innings. He's a hometown product too, from Long Beach Poly. With Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw jumping nicely from the minor league system into the major league starting rotation, the Dodgers could consider McDonald for their rotation next season. Their track record suggests he would start at triple A, but for now their 2009 rotation includes Billingsley, Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and two openings.

Angels Minor Leaguers of the Year

Position player: Freddy Sandoval, inf

For all the trouble the Angels appear to have in developing outfielders, they have no trouble developing infielders. Sandoval plays everywhere on the infield but shortstop, and the Angels appeared to have the rest of the infield spoken for at triple-A Salt Lake, with Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Wood. But, as the Angels moved those three around the infield, and up to Anaheim and back, Sandoval staked his claim to a spot in the Salt Lake infield and never let go. He hit .335 in his first season at triple A, setting career highs in batting average, doubles (45), home runs (15), runs (92) and runs batted in (88) and earning a September call-up. Sandoval, 26, could carve out a career as a utility infielder, but maybe not in Anaheim, not with Wood, Rodriguez and Brown on the rise and Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick already here.

Pitcher: Anthony Ortega, rhp

Francisco Rodriguez might depart in free agency, but the Angels have a blossoming group of his fellow Venezuelan pitchers lined up behind him. Ortega did not advance past Class A in his first four years in the Angels' minor league system, but he rocketed through double A and into triple A this season. He went 14-7 at Arkansas, with a 3.73 ERA that ranked fifth in the Texas League. The Angels promoted him to Salt Lake for the final month of the season, and he went 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA. Ortega, 23, could climb onto the Angels' minor league depth chart next season, since top prospects Nick Adenhart and Nick Green faltered at Salt Lake. He's not a strikeout pitcher, so he'll go as far as his ability to minimize his walks and maximize ground balls can take him.

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