Prospect Retro: Paul LoDuca
Paul LoDuca was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 25th round in 1993, from Arizona State University. He was an exceptional hitter in college, named PAC-10 Player of the Year in '93 after he hit .446 to lead the conference, also whacking 14 homers and 24 doubles. Alas, scouts thought he was too short and not very good defensively. But still, you'd figure a guy who led the Pac-10 in hitting would be drafted higher than the 25th round!
LoDuca's pro debut went well: he hit .313 in 39 games at Vero Beach in the Florida State League. Sent to the California League in '94, he hit .316. He hit just six homers, but contributed 32 doubles and posted an excellent 52/49/455 BB/K/AB ratio. I'd have probably rated him as a Grade C+ prospect with a sleeper label.
LoDuca was limited to just 61 games in Double-A in '95, hitting just .246. At this point he looked like just an organization player. Demoted to Vero Beach in '96, he hit .305 and drew 70 walks against only 38 strikeouts in 439 at-bats, outstanding plate discipline. But he was 24 and repeating the league. Grade C.
Moved back up to San Antonio for '97, he hit .327 with a .465 SLG, with a 46/27/385 BB/K/AB ratio. At this point he was starting to draw notice again as a sleeper prospect, although scouts still remained skeptical about him. His defense was turning out better than expected: he threw out 46 percent of runners trying to steal. He obviously had outstanding contact skills at the plate. He even stole 16 bases. I gave him a Grade C in the '98 book, mostly due to his age, but he looked like a very intriguing guy.
Promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque in '98, he hit .319 with a .452 SLG, 30 doubles, 59 walks, and just 40 strikeouts. He threw out 37 percent of runners. I still rated him at Grade C, but he was one of my favorites in that category.
LoDuca split '99 and '00 between Triple-A and the majors, playing well in Triple-A but not so well in the majors. He broke out in 2001 at age 29, earning regular playing time and hitting .320 with 25 homers. Although he hasn't shown that kind of home run power in subsequent seasons, he's proven that he can hit for average. His on-base percentage is highly dependent on his average since he doesn't draw many walks.
He's not a spectacular guy by any means, but he's already had a better career than most scouts expected out of him. His major league track record is exactly what you'd expect given his minor league track record: .280-.300 average, some doubles, occasional spikes of power, mediocre walk rate but very few strikeouts.
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