Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dodgers acquire Lilly and Dotel

In a baffiling, yet unsurprising move, the Dodgers have acquired LHP Ted Lilly and INF Ryan Theriot from the Chicago Cubs for INF Blake DeWitt, RHPs Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit. The Cubs are picking up $2.5 million of the remaining $4 million of Lilly's contract.

We all knew it was coming and there's ample reason to be upset.

First of all, Lilly, while a solid starter, is not a difference-maker. I've been saying for a while the Dodgers should just stand pat. Apparently Ned Collettii & Co. think Lilly is going to be the guy who helps the Dodgers make up a 4.5-game deficit in the wild card and 7-game deficit in the NL West.

Lilly's velocity is down (86.1 MPH average on his fastball -- sixth-lowest in the majors), but is still posting a 3.69 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, despite a slightly increased BB/9 ratio (1.8 in 2009, 2.2 in 2010) and a decrease in K/9 (7.7 in '09 to 6.8 in '10) and BB/K (4.19 in '09 to 3.07 in '10) ratios.

Theriot is a utility infielder with a decent .284 batting average. And that's about it. He has a 69 OPS+ (league-average is 100) and a negative Wins Above Replacement rate of -0.8. He adds absolutely nothing and does nothing better than the guy he was traded for -- Blake DeWitt.

As if trading DeWitt for Theriot wasn't bad enough, the Dodgers also traded a solid RHP pitching prospect in Wallach. He is the son of former Dodger and current Dodger Triple-A manager Tim Wallach. I had Brett rated in my mideseason top 20 after having him rated No. 26 after last season. A 2009 third-round pick, Wallach was 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in Low-A as a 21-year-old (22 in December). He had a ceiling of a No. 3 starter, or basically what Lilly is right now. He was making a strong push for my top 15, but the Dodgers felt the need to trade him for another middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Smit is enjoying his first bit of success in the minors this season, with a 2.35 ERA between High-A and Double-A (three innings in Double-A). He's 22 and is likely slated for middle relief, if he makes it to the show.

Grading the trade: D
- This is precisely the type of move I did not want the Dodgers to make -- nor did they need to make it. Lilly is a minimal upgrade to the rotation and will not help this team reach the playoffs. And despite being a Type-A free agent after the season, the Dodgers, based on their recent history, are not likely to offer him arbitration, which means no draft pick compensation. The DeWitt-for-Theriot swap makes zero sense and losing Wallach in this trade is not good.

The Dodgers also traded RHP James McDonald and OF/1B Andew Lambo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Octavio Dotel and $500,000.

WHAT?! Are you freaking kidding me?

I'm sorry, but this trade makes no sense. The Lilly/Theriot acquisitions made more sense than this.

Kenley Jansen was the bullpen arm the Dodgers needed -- and they didn't have to give up any prospects to get him.

Colletti has done it again. McDonald has had his ups-and-downs with the Dodgers, but he has been really solid out of the bullpen. Lambo was the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect at the beginning of 2009. While he dropped in the rankings (was No. 6 at the end of last season and No. 11 earlier this month in my rankings), he still has potential and was one of the best pure hitters in the Dodgers' system.

Dotel strikes out a lot of hitters (10.8 per 9 innings), but he has a 4.28 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 3.8 BB/9 (which is actually down from 5.2 in '09). He's a decent reliever, but definitely not worth McDonald and Lambo.

Grading the trade: F
- This trade is atrocious. Dotel is a mediocre reliever who got a premium return in trade. Hell, the Dodgers gave up more for Dotel than they did for Lilly! This is just frustrating. But hey, they got another proven veteran to come out of the bullpen, right? He's going to help the Dodgers make the playoffs. ARGH!

Friday, July 30, 2010

If the Dodgers were sellers...

Let me preface this by saying these absolutely no way the Dodgers end up selling, even though it would be the right move. Here is what I would do if I were the Dodgers. It won't be pretty for the rest of this season, but it would set the Dodgers up for future success.

Untouchable players: Clayton Kershaw
- Other than Kershaw, everyone else is up for grabs. However, that doesn't mean the Dodgers would or should trade the likes of Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley or Matt Kemp.

Deals I would make

To Yankees: RHP Jonathan Broxton
To Dodgers: C Jesus Montero, LHP Jeremy Bleich
- This works because the Yankees are looking for a guy to bridge the gap to Marino Rivera. New York was rumored to have offered Montero for Soria. Broxton is a free agent after 2011 (making $7M next season) and a third-place team should sell high on an elite closer. Broxton is the Dodgers' most valuable trade piece this side of Kershaw.

To Rays: OF/DH Manny Ramirez
To Dodgers: LHP Jacob McGee
- I alluded to this in an earlier blog posting. The Rays are looking for a bat, as they've been rumored to be after Adam Dunn. The sticking point here would be Ramirez's inability to play. Ramirez has been on the disabled since early July and hasn't proved he's healthy. However, that doesn't mean a trade couldn't be reached after the July 31 deadline. McGee might be too much to get in return, but I'm aiming high.

To Red Sox: SS Rafael Furcal and C Russell Martin
To Dodgers: INF Jed Lowrie, RHP Manny Delcarmen, 1B Anthony Rizzo, C Luis Exposito
- Furcal is riding quite the hot streak and if the Dodgers were ever going to trade him, they'd do it now. He's owed $12 million next season with a $12 million club option for 2012 (vests with 600 plate-appearances in 2011). With Montero, the Dodgers could afford to move Martin, who is firmly entrenched in a three-year slump. He still has solid on-base abilities and is a decent defender behind the dish. The move would allow the Red Sox to put Victor Martinez at 1B (when he comes back) and move Youkilis over to 3B. The Dodgers would get Lowrie, who would bridge the gap to Dee Gordon, a bullpen arm in Delcarmen, a solid 1B prospect in Rizzo and catching depth in Exposito.

To Twins: 3B Casey Blake, cash ($1.25M to cover 2012 buyout)
To Dodgers: 1B/OF Chris Parmalee
- The Twins were the Dodgers' only other competitior for Blake's services in the winter of 2008. Minnesota currently has 25-year-old Danny Valencia playing at 3B. He's doing well, but he's a rookie. Blake would provide them a veteran at the corners (infield & outfield) in case some younger guys falter. Parmalee is a big kid, but hasn't quite lived up to his potential (Twins' 2006 first-round pick). A change of scenery could work for him.

To Cardinals: RHP Hiroki Kuroda
To Dodgers: LHP Sam Freeman, C Bryan Anderson
- The Cards are looking at Jake Westbrook, but Kuroda would be a much better acquisition. Kuroda can be a free agent after the season. A 1-4 of Wainwright-Carpenter-Garcia-Kuroda could do some damage in the playoffs. There's no guarantee he's going to stay in the states, so the Dodgers should look to get something for him. Also, the minor league catching depth has been addressed in these trades. Freeman is strictly a reliever. Looks like a potential LOOGY.

Like I said, it wasn't going to be pretty. The Dodgers would be moving a bunch of quality veterans and replacing them with unproven youngsters. But that's what rebuilding is all about. Not only that, the Dodgers would free up some money, which would make McCourt happy, but could also lead to more activity in the free agent market (perhaps a run at Carl Crawford in the winter).

Not only that, but it strengthens a weak minor league system (ranked No. 24 by Baseball America coming into the season).

You might be saying to yourself, "This is something Royals or Pirates would do, not the Dodgers." The reality is, the Dodgers aren't much better than the Royals or Pirates as an organization right now. The owner and general manager are treating this time like it's in a small market. This is the sad, sad reality.

So, to totally go against what I just wrote, the Dodgers will likely waste resources (prospects) on a Ted Lilly or Paul Maholm and a reliever in the next 21 hours.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oswalt traded to Philadelphia

Houston's RHP Roy Oswalt was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies today for LHP J.A. Happ, OF Anthony Gose and SS Jonathan Villar. The Phillies are also getting $11 million to cover the remaining $23-$24 million left on his contract.


The return is about as bad, if not worse, than what the D-Backs got for Dan Haren.

What did the Phillies do to deserve all this good fortune? Why are teams willing to bend over backwards to get a trade done with Philadelphia, but they ask for the world from the Dodgers (i.e. Kemp, Loney, etc.)?

So the Phillies traded an overrated LHP in Happ and two Class-A prospects for one of the best pitchers available this trade season. Wow.

The media always throws the Dodgers' farm system under the bus for not having quality prospects at the higher levels, yet these other teams can trade Class-A prospects and people don't think twice about it? Give me a break.

Not only that, the Astros are sending $11 million. You're telling me the Dodgers couldn't somehow make this work?

I guess my trade scenarios for Oswalt were a bit much on the Dodgers' end, considering what Houston is getting in return.

I'm thinking a package of RHP John Ely/James McDonald, SS Ivan De Jesus and OF Trayvon Robinson or virtually any other OF in the Dodgers' system could have competed with the Philadelphia package. De Jesus and Robinson are far more advanced than the Phillies' prospects, but Ely/McDonald aren't as valued as Happ. Seems like a decent comparison, though.

The Phillies acquire a third ace in the last year and the Dodgers are left to pickup the leftovers (Lilly, Maholm).

I just don't know what to make of it sometimes. I mean, how can a team sit there with a straight face and ask for a Matt Kemp or James Loney in a package for Oswalt and then get this return?

The Dodgers' pursuit of a difference-making starter at the deadline is ended by the Phillies for a second consecutive year. And for a third consecutive year, the Phillies found a way to beat the Dodgers, even if they don't meet in the NLCS this year.

UPDATE: The Astros have traded Gose to Toronto for 1B Brett Wallace. That is an absolute steal for Houston. I'm not sure what the Jays are thinking with this trade. It makes the trade a lot better for Houston, but it doesn't excuse them bending over for the Phillies.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dodgers acquire Scott Podsednik for two prospects

The Dodgers acquired Scott Podsednik from the Kansas City Royals for C Lucas May and RHP Elisaul Pimentel.

Podsednik has put up solid numbers this season: .309/.352/30 stolen bases (caught 12 times). He isn't much with the glove, but he certainly couldn't be any worse than Manny Ramirez in left field. He should be the Dodgers' starting left fielder for the forseeable future. Podsednik also has an affordable 2011 option at $2 million ($100,000 buyout) which voids at 525 plate appearances. If he voids the contract or the Dodgers don't pick up the option, he could be offered arbitration. As a Type-B free agent, that would net the Dodgers a supplemental first-round pick if another team signs him.

I had Pimentel rated in my top 20 midseason prospects list. He just turned 22 years old and is in pitching in the Midwest League.

This is the second time the Dodgers have traded a Pimentel to Kansas City, as they traded Odalis Perez, Blake Johnson and Julio Pimentel for Elmer Dessens in 2006.

May is a fringe prospect at 25 years old (26 in October) who has put up solid numbers in his last two years in the minors. He had a solid 2007 season at High-A Inland Emipre before busting in Double-A the next season. The Dodgers' catching depth gets thinner, but the team still has A.J. Ellis in Triple-A.

So why did the Dodgers feel a need to add Podsednik? Well, maybe they believe Manny Ramirez won't be able to offer much help the rest of the season. The Dodgers were also rumored to be interested in Tigers' outfielder Ryan Raburn, which could lead to a Garrett Anderson release.

Grading the Trade: B
- The Dodgers didn't give up any impact prospects for a guy who can help the team as a starter and reserve for the rest of the season. I made a post stating the best move for the Dodgers would be no move. However, since no great prospects were traded, this isn't the worst deal in the world. Also, the Dodgers are paying all of Podsednik's remaining salary -- perhaps the biggest shocker of all.

I'm still holding out hope for a Roy Oswalt deal in the next couple of days, but hope is diminishing each day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do the Dodgers trade Manny Ramirez?

Following the 2008 season, the notion of Manny Ramirez reverting to his Boston ways rarely crossed Dodger fans' minds.

Ramirez came to Los Angeles and promptly hit .396/.489/.743 in two months for the Dodgers -- Godlike numbers for an aging slugger. In May 2009, Ramirez was busted for taking a banned substance. Since that time, he hasn't been the same -- on the field and off the field.

While he put up respectable numbers last season (.290/.418/.531), but not the numbers the Dodgers expected. However, the good will Ramirez had built was long gone after the 50-game suspension.

Ramirez now finds himself on the disabled list for the third time this season. His 38-year-old body cannot take the wear-and-tear of playing left field in the National League. This will undoubtedly be his last season as a Dodger and National Leaguer, which is why the Dodgers should consider dealing him now.

Ramirez will be a Type-A free agent after the season, but with the McCourts' financial issues, it would be hard to imagine them offering Ramirez arbitration, even though he'd reject it. That is the main reason why trading him right now makes sense.

Ramirez has landed on the disabled list three times this season -- twice for a right calf strain and once for a right hamstring strain. That does not bode well for Ramirez returning to left field.

While the Dodger offense would take a hit, it would also be a time for the young veterans to step up and prove they can carry a team, something they'll have to do in 2011 and beyond. Also, it'd be nice to see the Dodgers get a return on their investment.

The Tampa Bay Rays have been rumored to be interested in Jayson Werth, but the Phillies' asking price is quite high. The Dodgers should jump right in by making Ramirez available to the Rays. His contract is definitely affordable, as he's making $5 million this season with $15 million in deferred payments over the next three years.

What exactly could the Dodgers expect in return? Well, not much.

One guy I'd really like to have a look at is Jacob McGee. The 23-year-old had Tommy John surgery in June 2008. Before that, he was rated as the Rays' No. 3 prospect as recently as 2008 (No. 9 in 2009 and No. 8 in 2010), according to Baseball America. He's a left-handed starter who is pitching well at Double-A. I don't even know if the Rays would be willing to trade him. But if their attemps for Werth don't work out, Ramirez could be an option.

The Rays do have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and could use a big bat in the middle of their lineup. Provided Ramirez is healthy, he'd be a stabilizing force in the middle of an already solid Tampa lineup.

But this is the Dodgers, a.k.a. one of the most stubborn teams in baseball. The team isn't likely to move Ramirez, even though it'd make a lot of sense.

Trading Ramirez would not be a sign of the Dodgers being sellers or giving up; it would be a smart baseball move.

Should the Dodgers trade Ramirez? Yes.
Will the Dodgers trade Ramirez? No.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Roy Oswalt and the Dodgers

It was about this time last year I started this blog about this same topic: The trade deadline and the Dodgers.

I made a post a couple weeks ago stating the Dodgers should do nothing come July 31 unless the player or players acquired were difference makers.

A report surfaced yesterday that Frank McCourt has given the OK to General Manager Ned Colletti to add payroll to try to improve the team.

I'm still skeptical of this news, but I'm going to run with it.

The Dodgers need a front-line starter more than anything. With Cliff Lee off the market, the Dodgers have effectively set their sights on Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt would likely be pitching for another team already if he didn't have $16 million guaranteed next year and a club option for 2012, also at $16 million (with a $2 million buyout) and a full no-trade clause.

It's said the Astros are looking for one Major League-ready player, two top-tier prospects and a second-tier prospect in exchange for the ace.

Now, just because McCourt is willing to add payroll doesn't mean the Dodgers are going to go crazy. For an Oswalt deal to get done, Houston would likely have to pick up a portion of Oswalt's remaining salary. Oswalt also is believed to want his 2012 option guaranteed before waiving his no-trade clause.

So what can the Dodgers do to acquire him? Let's look at the possibilities:

Houston has one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Its top prospect, Jason Castro, is a catcher, which benefits the Dodgers, as L.A. has no good catching prospects.

The Astro outfield is the deepest part of the team, with Carlos Lee (and his untradeable contract) in left, Michael Bourn (who looked a lot better last season than this season) in center and Hunter Pence (NL All-Star last season) in right. That, unfortunately, hurts the Dodgers, as L.A. has a lot of solid outfield prospects.

The Dodgers might be unwilling to give up Dee Gordon or Chris Withrow in a deal for Oswalt. However, if it's the difference in acquiring the No. 1 starter, it might be worth the price.

Who else might Houston be interested in?

RHP Allen Webster
LHP Aaron Miller
OF/1B Jerry Sands
RHP Ethan Martin
SS/2B Ivan De Jesus
RHP James McDonald
LHP Scott Elbert
RHP Chad Billingsley (though I highly doubt the Dodgers would include Billingsley)

Here are a couple of my trade scenarios for the Dodgers acquiring Oswalt:

To Dodgers: Oswalt, cash
To Astros: Gordon or Withrow, Sands, Elbert, OF Mario Songco/Jonathan Garcia

To Dodgers: Oswalt, cash
To Astros: Withrow, Sands, Elbert, De Jesus, Songco or Garcia

To Dodgers: Oswalt, cash
To Astros: Miller or Webster, Martin, Sands, De Jesus, Songco or Garcia

There's no doubt the Dodgers have the minor league talent to get a deal done. Gordon, Martin and Withrow cracked Baseball America's Midseason top 50 list. Sands is quickly establishing himself as one of the best power hitters in the minors, as he has 27 home runs in 329 at-bats, including nine in his first 86 at-bats in Double-A.

The Dodgers would have to give up young pitching to get the deal done, which could be a sticking point. Of course, the ultimate sticking point is money.

These scenarios can be used in a potential deal for Diamondbacks' ace Dan Haren, who is having an off year. Arizona has deal with the Dodgers in the past, so it's reasonable to expect they could strike a deal again.

Eight more days until the deadline. We'll see if the Dodgers can add the much-needed top-of-the-rotaiton starting pitcher.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Feelin' Kinda Defeated

"That might be the straw that broke the camel's back."

- Vin Scully

Vin Scully has uttered that phrase (or some variation of it) many a time in his illustrious broadcasting career. A lot of Dodger fans and supporters are feeling this way about last night's debacle. I won't go into it, as I'm sure you already know what happened.

This was a season-changing loss. The Dodgers, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, lost to the Giants 7-5. The game turned into a pissing contest when Tim Lincecum, punk, inexplicably hit Matt Kemp intentionally. Kershaw came back in the seventh and hit Aaron Rowand. At the time, I was satisfied to see a Dodger pitcher sack up. However, that probably wasn't the right time to do it.

Hong-Chih Kuo came in and cleaned up the mess for two innings. I would have really rather the Dodgers retaliate against a Pablo Sandoval or Buster Posey today instead of a .238 hitter last night in a 1-run game, but what's done is done.

Then the ninth inning happened, which was like a kick in the nuts from someone wearing steel-toed boots.

Bottom line is, the Dodgers don't seem to have much fight in them. Despite a hot month of May (20-8), the Dodgers are just 29-37 in their other games.

I'm not officially giving up on the season, but things don't look great. We're 10 days away from the non-waiver trade deadline and the Dodgers aren't likely to add anything significant to the roster. Hell, if they keep up their current play, they could be sellers by this time next week.

For the Dodgers to renew the faith of their fans, they need to play with some fire. The team has been lackluster this season. Something needs to spark these guys. If two horrible losses against the Yankees and Cardinals didn't do it and this loss to the hated Giants doesn't do it, then nothing will.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dodger All-Star recap

The National League finally snapped a 13-year winless drought against the American League on Tuesday, defeating the Junior Circuit 3-1.

The Dodgers had four representatives, all of whom had some impact (positive and negative) on the game.

Andre Ethier: He started in right field. He struck out in his first at-bat against Yankees' LHP Andy Pettitte. He singled sharply to right field in his second at-bat against RHP Justin Verlander with a runner on second and one out. The runner was unable to score, though. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Chris Young in the seventh inning against White Sox LHP Matt Thornton. He made one putout in center field.

Hong-Chih Kuo: He started the fifth inning by walking Rays' 3B Evan Longoria after getting ahead 0-2. He then made the game's only error on a comebacker by Twins' catcher Joe Mauer. He grabbed the ball and threw it over Adrian Gonzalez's head, giving the AL runners on second and third with one out. Yankees' 2B Robinson Cano hit a sacrifice fly to give the AL a 1-0 lead. Kuo got Rays' LF Carl Crawford to ground into a fielder's choice, which ended Hunchy's night.

Rafael Furcal: Entered in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement. He walked in the seventh inning in his only plate appearance after Braves' catcher Brian McCann's game-winning 3-run double. He made a nice stretch on the pop fly fielder's choice by Blue Jays' catcher John Buck, which was the second out of the ninth inning.

Jonathan Broxton: He was asked to close the game by the NL. Broxton's first pitch was ripped to right field by Red Sox DH David Ortiz. Broxton prompted to strike out Red Sox 3B Adrian Beltre on four pitches. Then he battled Buck to a full count. Buck swung at ball four and hit a blooper to right field. Cubs' OF Marlon Byrd let the ball drop instead of diving for it, which allowed him to throw out Ortiz at second in perhaps the biggest play of the game (save McCann's double). He then got Rangers' 2B Ian Kinsler to fly out to center field on the first pitch, earning the save.

It was nice to see The Blue represented at the Midsummer Classic. Here's hoping to many more appearances for this quartet and their teammates.

Go Blue!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Midseason analysis and grades

The 2010 season didn't start off great for the Dodgers, as they lost 14 of 25 games to start the season. May was a lot better, as the Dodgers went 20-8 followed by a 14-13 month of June.

The Dodgers finished the "first half" at 49-39, two games back of arguably the most surprising team in baseball, the 51-37 San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers struggled mightily in Interleague play, going 4-11. Granted, they played some really good teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Tigers), but they had some winnable games. They made up for that by going 23-6 within the NL West -- a big reason why they're just two games out of first place.

Dodgers' first-half grade: B-
- Could be better, but still only two games out of first place.

Here is a grade breakdown for each player on the roster with explanations for most (grouped by position).

Russell Martin
- Started off hot and some thought he might get back to his 2007 or even 2008 self, but a .236 batting average combined in May, June and July has led Martin to a .244/.346/.332 first half. He's been decent behind the plate defensively. Grade: D+

James Loney
- Loney has been the most consistent Dodger hitter this season, as he's having one of his best seasons as a pro. At the All-Star break, he has a .309/.361/.442 line with a team-leading 63 RBI, 25 doubles, 104 hits and a surprising nine stolen bases. And he has played Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base this season. Grade: B+

Blake DeWitt
- DeWitt earned the starting job in spring training, but only because the Dodgers didn't have a better option. He started off struggling on defense, but has improved a little as the season progressed. He isn't going to win any Gold Gloves, though. He also hasn't hit for any power (.370 SLG), but he has been one of the more patient Dodger hitters, with an 11.1 BB percentage. Grade: C-

Rafael Furcal
- He is having his best season as a pro, despite spending some time on the disabled list and losing his father on Father's Day. Furcal is the catalyist of this team and as he goes, so go the Dodgers. Grade: A

Casey Blake
- After a solid 2009 (18 HR, 79 RBI, .832 OPS), Blake has regressed. He has a .259/.339/.427 line this season. He has a 109 OPS+, which is still better than league-average, but the Dodgers are probably expecting (hoping) for a little more from "Teh Beard." Grade: C-

Manny Ramirez
- Ramirez started off a little slow this season, even spending some time on the DL between the end of April and beginning of June. He started to heat up in June, putting up a .366/.441/.598 line before injuring his hamstring against the Giants. He is due back immediately following the All-Star break. Grade: B

Matt Kemp
- Kemp started out on fire, leading the majors in home runs at one time. He looked like a lock for the NL All-Star team after May. However, a poor June (.230/.286/.380) got him off-track and prompted many (idiots) in the media to speculate the Dodgers trading the guy with the most potential on the team. Kemp got benched for three games toward the end of June, which seemed to light a fire under him. His baserunning has improved and he looks like the old Matt Kemp in center field. Grade: B-

Andre Ethier
- Ethier was the hottest hitter in the majors until he broke the pinky on his right hand in batting practice on May 15. He was hitting .392/.457/.744 -- which led the National League. He has since returned to Earth (a bit), but he's still hitting .324/.379/.553 with an OPS+ of 152. Grade: A-

Starting Rotation
Clayton Kershaw
- The kid has been the unquestioned ace of the Dodger staff. He leads the team in almost every major pitching category: ERA (2.96), innings (112.1), strikeouts (128), wins (nine), strikeouts per nine innings (10.3) and ERA+ (131). He deserved to be in Anaheim for the All-Star Game, but he could use the well-deserved time off. Grade: A

Hiroki Kuroda
- Kuroda started the season well with a 2.36 ERA in April. He had a rough May (4.42 ERA) followed by a good June (2.67 ERA). He is the veteran presence on the staff will be relied upon to have a solid second half. Grade: B-

Chad Billingsley
- Billingsley started off slow, as he had a 4.85 ERA in April. He had a good month of May (3.00 ERA) followed by a rough June (6.11 ERA), which led to a stint on the DL. He's had two solid starts in July thus far and there's no reason to expect anything else for the rest of the season. He does need to do a better job of keeping runners off base (1.39 WHIP on the season). He seems to be pitching to contact more, as his BB/9IP has decreased from last season (3.9 to 3.2), but his H/9IP has increased (7.9 to 9.3). That might not be all bad. Grade: C+

Vicente Padilla
- Padilla, the Opening Day starter, had a horrific April (6.65 ERA), but has been absolutely nails since returning from the DL. In his last five games, he has gone an average of 6.8 innings with a 2.38 ERA and a terrific 0.76 WHIP. I don't expect him to keep up this pace, but he should be a fixture in the Dodger rotation for the rest of the season. Grade: B

John Ely
- Ely, acquired from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade, like many Dodgers, had a fast start. By the end of May, he was 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA and only six walks allowed in his first six starts. However, he hit a roughy patch. He then had a couple good starts (at Anaheim and San Francisco) before getting smacked around in two starts against the Marlins and Cubs. He was recently sent back to AAA, but he should be back to the majors soon. He is, after all, a rookie. Grade: C

Jonathan Broxton
- Save for a disasterous game against the Yankees, Broxton has been dynamite this season. He is headed to Anaheim for the All-Star Game -- his second consecutive appearance -- and owns a 2.11 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 12.9 K/9IP and 19 saves. He has been great. Grade: A-

Hong-Chih Kuo
- Kuo's talent has never been questioned -- and he was rewarded for it this year with a trip to the All-Star Game. He has a 0.99 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 11.9 K/9IP. He is one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. Grade: A-

Travis Schlichting, Grade: B
Jeff Weaver, Grade: B-
Ronald Belisairo, Grade: C+
Justin Miller, Grade: C+
Carlos Montasterios, Grade: C+
Charlie Haeger, Grade: D+
Ramon Troncoso, Grade: D
Ramon Ortiz, Grade F
Russ Ortiz, Grade: F
George Sherrill, Grade: F
Scott Elbert, Grade: INC
Jon Link, Grade: INC

Jamey Carroll, Grade: B
Garrett Anderson, Grade: F
Reed Johnson, Grade: C
Xavier Paul, Grade: C
Ronnie Belliard, Grade: C-
A.J. Ellis, Grade: C-
Brad Ausmus, Grade: INC
Nick Green, Grade: INC
Chin-Lung Hu, Grade: INC

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Best move for the Dodgers? No move

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, a flurry of action is bound to happen. Cliff Lee, the top prize in this year's trade market, was traded to the Texas Rangers on Friday.

The Dodgers were said to be in on Lee, but the Mariners wanted a package of James Loney or Chad Billinglsey plus prospects. The M's did get a nice return on Lee, acquiring first baseman Justin Smoak and three prospects. That's better than the Indians did last season when Lee was shipped to Philadelphia.

So what should the Dodgers do to improve the pitching staff? Not a damn thing, unless they're willing to take on money.

However, it's clear Frank McCourt's financial situation will not allow the Dodgers to do so, which makes it all but impossible to land a difference-making starting pitcher. Roy Oswalt would be nice, but he's owed the rest of his $15M salary for this season, $16M in 2011 and a club option for $16M in 2012 (with a $2M buyout). Needless to say, Oswalt won't be a Dodger anytime soon.

Dan Haren would be even nicer. He's signed to a reasonable contract (still too much for the Dodgers to add) and would cost a lot in prospects.

Other than that, there aren't many top-of-the-rotation starters available. The Dodgers should just stand pat with budding ace Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley.

The bullpen has been an issue this season. Last season's deadline acquisition, George Sherrill, has been absolutely dreadful. He currently owns a 7.32 ERA and 2.24 WHIP. Is there any way the Dodgers could have Josh Bell back?

Ronald Belisario just went on the restricted list due to substance abuse. Belisario was a surprise last season, when he had an ERA of 2.04 and 1.15 WHIP. He seemed to be finding his 2009 form before hitting the restricted list.

Ramon Troncoso, who threw 82 2/3 innings of solid relief for the Dodgers last season, has a 5.15 ERA and was optioned to AAA earlier this week.

That leaves two reliable relievers in the pen: All-Star Jonathan Broxton and All-Star snub Hong-Chih Kuo. The Dodgers are reluctant to throw Kuo on consecutive days and Broxton is already being overworked.

Ned Colletti's MO has been to trade for relief pitching near or at the deadline (Sherrill in 2009, Scott Proctor in 2007), but there is really no need to do it this season. Kenley Jansen is lighting it up in AA, while James McDonald and Josh Lindblom could be recalled from AAA to be servicable middle relievers. These guys wouldn't cost the Dodgers prospects or money.

Now if the Dodgers surprise everyone and are able to take on payroll, then go for it. Make a play for Roy Oswalt or Dan Haren. The Diamondbacks are not opposed to trading within the division -- especially with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers acquired Steve Finley in 2004 and came really close to getting Randy Johnson in the same deal. The next off-season, the Dodgers acquired Dioner Navarro and prospects for Shawn Green.

What would it take to get Haren? Well, let's just say no one in the Dodger farm system should be untouchable. The one guy I'd be most reluctant to deal is Aaron Miller. Others would say Dee Gordon, but I really like Miller.

But that's just a pipe dream. The Dodgers should just stand pat and go with what they have. If they make the playoffs, great. Maybe they can make it back to the NLCS or even further. If not, then the Dodgers will be able to focus on 2011.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Midseason Top 15 Prospects

This is my midseason Top 15 Dodgers' prospect list. The numbers in parenthesis are the rankings from my post-2009 season rankings.

1. LHP Aaron Miller (5)
- Aaron Miller is definitely living up to his draft slot. Miller has a 2-5 record, but his peripherals are great. He has a 2.73 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.9 K/9IP and 2.13 K/BB ratio. He started the season at High-A before being promoted to AA.

2. SS Dee Gordon (1)
- Gordon's numbers are down just a tad. His fall from No. 1 is mostly due to Miller's improvement and not Gordon's play. He still projects as a top-of-the-order basestealing threat with good defense at shortstop. He has 30 stolen bases in AA this season.

3. RHP Chris Withrow (3)
- Withrow holds serve at No. 3. He had a slow start in AA, but he's come on as of late. He currently owns a 4.69 ERA and 8.5 K/9IP. He still projects as a No. 2 starter and should be in line for a late-seaosn promotion to AAA.

4. RHP Allen Webster (9)
- Webster is just 20 years old and is dominating at Low-A. He's 8-5 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.6 K/9IP and a solid 2.85 K/BB ratio. He could get the call to High-A Inland Empire before the season ends. If he keeps up his impressive numbers, he has an outside shot of getting a taste of AA.

5. RHP Garrett Gould (13)
- Gould was hurt to start the season and has only thrown three games, so this ranking might be a tad aggressive. However, in 14 innings, he's struck out 12 batters and has a 1.93 ERA. He is only in the Pioneer League, so we'll see how he does when he gets promoted to more advanced leagues.

6. 1B/OF Jerry Sands (NR)
- Sands was drafted in the 25th round of the 2008 draft and had a slow start to his minor league career. He hit .205 in the Gulf Coast League. He followed that up with an impressive .315/.401/.618 line between rookie ball and A-ball in 2009. This season, he has absolutely torn the cover off the ball, hitting .332/.425/.664 between Low-A and AA. He has six home runs in 43 Double-A at-bats. The only reason he isn't getting more hype is because he is 22 and is just getting to AA. He could be a late bloomer. If so, that will only benefit the Dodgers.

7. OF Trayvon Robinson (10)
- Robinson came on really strong last season and has been solid this season. In AA, he is hitting .298 with a .376 OBP and 25 stolen bases. If he keeps up his current pace, it will be a second consecutive .800+ OPS season for a guy who has never been known for his power. He could solidify himself in the top five if he closes the season on a strong note.

8. RHP Kenley Jansen (28)
- This guy appears to be the real deal. He is dominating at AA, as he has a 1.23 ERA and 15.5 K/9IP ratio since being recalled from High-A. Overall, he owns a 1.35 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 40 innings of work. He could be in Los Angeles before too long.

9. RHP Ethan Martin (2)
- Martin is battling control issues. He is having trouble throwing strikes, as is evidence by his 5.3 BB/9 IP, 1.56 WHIP and 1.53 K/BB ratio. Martin still has some of the most talent and promise in the system and could re-solidify himself as a top-five prospect with a solid second half.

10. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (8)
- I'm a bit higher on Eovaldi than most. He has a mid-90s fastball, but he doesn't get as many strikeouts as he should. He is still developing his off-speed stuff. He is in High-A as a 20-year-old, so he's facing some advanced hitters. Eovaldi has shown his potential by throwing two complete-game shutouts and still has a low home run ratio, giving up just two this season.

11. OF/1B Andrew Lambo (6)
- Lambo started off the season on fire but has cooled off a bit since. He was suspended 50 games for violating MiLB's drug policy. Surprisingly, it wasn't amphetamines or performance-enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, this suspension doesn't quell the concern about Lambo's off-the-field behavior. It isn't a gross offense, but it's something worth keeping an eye on.

12. SS/2B Ivan De Jesus (9)
- It's just nice to see De Jesus playing. He is in AAA hitting .292/.330/.394. He has yet to get back to his 2008 numbers (.324/.419/.423), but he might just need some more time. Also, his fielding has taken a hit, as he's committed 15 errors this season. He still has an outside shot of becoming an everyday player in the big leagues.

13. OF Xavier Paul (15)
- I think Paul could take over for Manny Ramirez in left field next season. A few years ago, this would not have been possible. With the McCourts' financial issues, it almost seems like a certainty. He isn't going to hit 20 home runs or be a middle-of-the-order hitter, but he could be a serviceable third outfielder. At worst, he'll have a long career as a fourth outfielder.

14. OF Blake Smith (16)
- Drafted out of Cal in the 2009 draft, Smith is in Low-A right now putting up some solid numbers (.282/.360/.493). He could be ranked higher if he puts up these numbers against better competition. Many saw him as a pitcher, so he's making the transition to full-time hitter well so far.

15. OF Mario Songco (NR)
-Songco is similar to Smith, except he's a year younger and hitting a little better. Right now, Songco boasts a .309/.374/.498 line. He could be up for top-10 consideration with a strong second half; perhaps in AA?

Next five (in no order): RHP Josh Lindblom (4, AAA), RHP Rubby De La Rosa (NR, Low-A), RHP Brett Wallach (26, Low-A), RHP Matt Magill (NR, Low-A), RHP Elisaul Pimentel (NR, Low-A)

Quick analysis: Lots of right-handed pitching and outfielders, lack of lefties, catchers and infielders.

That's it for now. I'll have another prospect ranking edition following the season. Go Blue!

Monday, July 5, 2010

All-Star thoughts

Ethier to start, Broxton makes second straight team

Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton will represent the Dodgers at the 2010 MLB All-Star Game on July 11.

Ethier was voted to start in right field, while Broxton was selected by the team's manager, Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel.

There were a couple other Dodgers worthy of consideration -- Rafael Furcal and Clayton Kershaw. Furcal has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball for the last month, while Kershaw is anchoring the staff as a 22-year-old.

Surprisingly, Furcal has never made an all-star team. Kershaw will before his career is through.

There was some support for Hong-Chih Kuo, who is perhaps the best left-handed reliever in the majors, but he was beaten out by Arthur Rhodes of the Reds.

If Matt Kemp had not had a horrific month of June, he would have certainly been considered.

There was one huge head-scratcher on the NL side...

How in the world did Omar Infante make the all-star team? Really?

A utility player from the Braves hitting an empty .309 makes the team over some other worthy candidates. That is just a travesty.

This is the process, unfortunately. Guys like Ryan Howard will be chosen by his manager over a more deserving candidate, namely Joey Votto, the NL leader in OPS.

It looks like the AL is going to take home-field in the World Series.