Although September 1 marks the day that all MLB teams may expand their rosters up to 40 players, the Los Angeles Dodgers are passing on the opportunity—at least temporarily.

According to the team’s website, Los Angeles isn’t expected to call up any top prospects for the remainder of the season, however they will recall catcher A.J. Ellis and one unnamed infielder on Friday. The Dodgers may also opt to call in one arm for the bullpen at some juncture, but they plan to leave the normal starting rotation intact down the final stretch of the season.

“At this point it doesn’t look like we’re going to bring up a starter,” manager Joe Torre said on Wednesday.

If not offered arbitration by the Dodgers this winter, Vicente Padilla, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ted Lilly, all members of the current rotation, may be lost to free agency.

With ownership of the team in question, it’s difficult to speculate the budget parameters for 2011. And with the possibility of this year’s rotation being dismantled, now would be the perfect time to see if John Ely really has what it takes to pitch in the bigs, or if Charlie Haeger has finally rediscovered his knuckle ball.

The Dodgers infield could also use a taste of youth for the sake of looking toward the future. The current infield of James Loney (26-years-old), Ryan Theriot (31), Jamey Carroll (36), Casey Blake (37), and Rod Barajas (35) isn’t getting any younger, yet there are several players on the Dodgers’ farm who seem to be ready to make an immediate impact. 

Russ Mitchell, who was the Albuquerque Isotopes’ (Triple-A) 2010 Player of the Year, is having the most productive campaign of his career. In 122 games this season, Mitchell has a .322 average, 23 home runs, 86 RBI, 37 doubles, and 95 runs scored. At only 25 years of age Mitchell’s primary spot is third base, but he also has the ability to cover at second base and first base if needed.

Shortstop Chin-lung Hu, second baseman Ivan De Jesus, and first baseman John Lindsey round out the list of infielders on the Isotopes’ squad who may be key contributors to the Dodgers in the future.

Shortstop Dee Gordon and first baseman Jerry Sands, both members of the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts, could possibly benefit from a few games of Major League service as well.

In the outfield, Albuquerque’s Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann are very much Major League ready, and Chattanooga center fielder Trayvon Robinson is easily the most gifted pure athlete in the Dodgers’ entire farm system.

Seemingly the most troubling dilemma for Los Angeles in calling up any of these players is meeting the salary requirements. Depending on when the player is activated, each player’s salary is calculated at the League minimum, but it’s also prorated based on the number of games while actually on the Dodgers’ roster.

With the budget cuts in regards to payroll, a very expensive 2010 draft, and the questionable money managing of owner Frank McCourt, it’s difficult to imagine there’s much left to spend on player development for the remainder of the season. 

Most of the players named above will play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League in October, yet there’s no comparable or more beneficial experience parallel to Major League service.

Coincidentally, the Desert Dogs will be managed by current Dodgers batting coach Don Mattingly.

Nevertheless, considering the number of players that seem able to perform at the big league level, the Dodgers may be shooting themselves in the foot by not providing these future stars the opportunities to develop their skills.

Depending on what transpires in the courtroom over the next month between owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, the top names in the farm system may be a large part of the roster in 2011.


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