Baseball America honors the Dodgers

Baseball America honors the Dodgers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Further evidence of the success of the Dodgers' player development department came on Monday when Los Angeles was named the 2006 Organization of the Year by Baseball America.

The Dodgers were cited after a season that saw homegrown rookies Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo, James Loney and Eric Stults make contributions en route to a playoff berth. Andre Ethier, acquired last winter in a trade with Oakland, was promoted in May and became the everyday left fielder for much of the second half.

General manager Ned Colletti, taking over in November, also signed free agents Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Kenny Lofton, Bill Mueller and Brett Tomko. He was equally busy making in-season trades that netted, among others, Greg Maddux, Wilson Betemit and Marlon Anderson.

In addition, the Dodgers' international scouting network uncovered Takashi Saito, who went from Minor League contract to Major League closer. The Dodgers, at 88-64, gained 17 wins from the previous year.

This is the first time the Dodgers have been so honored by Baseball America, which began naming an overall organization of the year in 1982. The editors pick a selection based on a franchise's performance during the season with the team, coach, general manager and organization taken as a whole. The award will be presented on Tuesday night at Baseball America's annual awards banquet.

"The Dodgers have always been at their best when they have nurtured young players through the farm system and as we saw this year, the Dodger rookies were outstanding," said Frank McCourt, owner and chairman. "We believe this season marked the beginning of the next great era of Dodger baseball and being named 'Organization of the Year' indicates we have returned to our rightful spot as one of sports' model franchises."

Much of the credit for the talent in the farm system belongs to Logan White, recently promoted from director of scouting to assistant general manager, but also instrumental was former farm director Terry Collins, who left in October to manage in Japan, and vice president Kim Ng, who oversaw the farm system in 2004 after farm director Bill Bavasi left to become general manager in Seattle.

Loney emerged as the crown jewel of the system in 2006 when he led the Minor Leagues with a .380 average at Triple-A Las Vegas. A natural first baseman, Loney might be moved to the outfield for 2007.

"Scouting and player development are the lifeblood of an organization," said Colletti. "So many people contributed to this honor."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.