Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Center Field

In the eighth of a nine-part series, I preview the Dodgers' center field outlook for the 2011 season.

The job isn't necessarily a lock for the incumbent.

Matt Kemp
- Kemp is penciled in as the team's starting center fielder and cleanup hitter. The former could change by the end of Spring Training, but I'm not counting on it. Kemp had a bad 2010 campaign, but he did hit a career-high 28 home runs to lead the Dodgers. However, just about every aspect of Kemp's game regressed. His hitting was bad, his fielding was not anywhere close to Gold Glove-caliber and his base-stealing was putrid. Despite all that, folks -- including myself -- have high hopes for Kemp's 2011 season. The addition of Davey Lopes to the coaching staff should help him improve his base-stealing, which needs to be a big part of his game. Aside from Rafael Furcal, Kemp is the most important player to the Dodgers' offense. The team is going to need him to have a huge season if it wants to contend in the competitive National League West.

Tony Gwynn
- I feel like I've written a lot about Gwynn (because I have). But Gwynn is a wild card in the race for the Dodgers' third outfield position. His defensive value is so great in center field that if he produces anything close to Major League-average offense, he could be patrolling center at Chavez Ravine. Such a move would improve the overall outfield defense, as Kemp would shift to right field and Andre Ethier to left field. Gwynn's plate discipline and base-stealing ability could be a plus for the Dodgers. The absolute best-case scenario for the Dodgers this spring is for Gwynn to win the center field job and bat in the No. 2 slot. It isn't that realistic, but stranger things have happened.

Guys in the mix

Trayvon Robinson
- Robinson, who just hit an RBI triple against the White Sox, could benefit from another year in the minors. It would take an unusual amount of injuries for Robinson to make his debut before September. His athleticism and improving plate discipline is encouraging. He needs to reduce his strikeout rate, though. Still, he is the Dodgers' future third outfielder (by my count) and should be the team's third outfielder in 2012.

Others: Gabe Kapler, Trent Oeltjen


This one is between two players: Kemp and Gwynn. Like I said, if Robinson is manning CF before September, things have gone terribly wrong for the Dodgers. That isn't a slight to Robinson by any means. Things boil down like this: If Kemp can regain his 2009 form, the Dodgers will get above-average offense and defense. If he can't, there's a chance the team could get just above-average defense from Gwynn as the center fielder. The smart money is on Kemp with the "8" by his name on the lineup card for the Dodgers. I wouldn't be opposed to Gwynn playing so well that he bumps Kemp to right, but it'd be surprising.

Next up: Right Field

Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Left Field

In the seventh of a nine-part series, I preview the left field situation for the Dodgers.

Let's just say it isn't pretty.

Andre Ethier
- "Wait, I thought Ehtier played right field?" Currently, he does -- and not very well. Since Ethier took over in right field in 2008, his UZR/150 has been atrocious: -11.8 in '08, -14.2 in '09 and a Major Leauge-worst (by far) -19.7 in '10. The bottom line is, Ethier needs to move back to left field, where he's still bad, but it isn't nearly as bad as this. The only way this happens is if Tony Gwynn takes charge of the center field position in Spring Training.

Jay Gibbons
- I wrote about Gibbons in my bench preview and he is the favorite to get the most at-bats as the left fielder. Gibbons has some pop but is bad defensively and probably won't maintain a .500+ slugging percentage, as he did in limited time in 2010.

Marcus Thames
- I was for the Thames signing this off-season, despite his horrific defensive metrics. If you thought Ethier's -19.7 was bad in right, well, it has nothing on Thames' last three seasons in left field: -26.5 in '08, -23.8 in '09 and a whopping -35.6 in '10. Good thing there are significantly fewer left-handed pitchers in baseball than righties, or Thames would be getting a lot more time in the field. Just from the eye test, he cannot be that much worse than Manny Ramirez, but with numbers like this, who knows? Thames will also backup James Loney at first base.

Guys in the mix

Casey Blake
- Blake is a masher against lefties and if the Dodgers had a legitimate backup third baseman capable of starting against right-handers, perhaps Blake would get a look in left. However, he's played just two games in the outfield since being acquired by the Dodgers in July 2008.

Xavier Paul
- Early last season, Paul was my preference to take over for Ramirez in left following the 2010 season. A less-than-impressive showing in the majors and defensive problems caused many to give up on him, including management. Paul's ceiling is as an average No. 3 outfielder, but he does have some value. I highly doubt he makes the team out of Spring Training (barring injury). However, he deserves to be in this discussion.

Trayvon Robinson
- Robinson is one of my best Dodger prospects, but he needs some more seasoning before he gets a legitimate shot at left field (or center field). His strikeout rate is too high for my liking, but the rest of his game is progressing quite nicely. If there are enough injuries, Robinson could make his debut before September. If that happens, the Dodgers are in trouble, unfortunately.

Jerry Sands
- Sands is surprisingly comfortable in the outfield and could take grasp of the left field job come 2012. But like Robinson, Sands needs more seasoning at the upper levels of the minors. As my No. 1 Dodger prospect, Sands needs to show he can adjust to veteran pitchers. All the scouting reports say he has the ability to adjust to breaking balls and is willing to go the other way, so that bodes well for his and the Dodgers' future.

Others: Jamie Hoffmann, Gabe Kapler, Russ Mitchell, Trent Oeltjen


Left field was all the talk this off-season for the Dodgers -- and for the wrong reasons. Unless Ehtier plays 140 games in left field or one of the prospects explodes, I don't see the Dodgers getting league-average production -- offensively or defensively -- from the position. The 2012 LF outlook is a lot better than 2011. Paul is a sleeper in all this, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.

Next up: Center Field

Thanks to other Dodger blogs

I just wanted to thank the following Dodger blogs for adding me to their blogrolls. Some have done it recently, some did it a while ago. Regardless, I thank you for doing so.

Lasorda's Lair
Opinion of Kingman's Performance
Plaschke Thy Sweater is Argyle
True Blue LA
Vin Scully is my Homeboy

Thanks much and keep writing awesome stuff about the Blue! If I forgot anyone, please let me know and I'll add you to this post.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jesus Montero: an alternative to Albert Pujols

I'm taking a short break from my 2011 Season Preview series to bring you this, which can be filed under "Pipe Dream."

Since the arbitrary deadline between Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals to sign an extensions passed, people have been analyzing where Pujols could going to end up. Some mention the Dodgers are decent possibilities; some say it's a pipe dream (and with the current ownership situation, it is).

Pujols is far and away the best hitter in baseball. He's the only player to hit 30 or more home runs in his first 10 seasons. If he retired today, he'd be a lock for Cooperstown.

Despite all that, unless the Dodgers have a new owner by the winter, the Dodgers should look elsewhere for a big-time bat.

With the astronomical contract expectations (10 years, $300 million), it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Dodgers to make that kind of investment in a 32-year-old-to-be free agent.

I will admit, when Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract, I said the Dodgers should give the man a blank check. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

Here are the pros and cons of an Pujols 10-year contract with the Dodgers:

  • The best hitter in baseball -- hands-down
  • Gold Glove-caliber defense
  • Teach younger players the nuances about hitting
  • Great for the franchise
  • Best position player the franchise has ever had
  • Will likely pay for himself over the life of the contract
  • Long commitment
  • He'll be 42 when the contract expires
  • The last three or four years would grossly overpay him
  • Financial burden ($30 million/year will do that to a team)
  • Increased injury risk as he gets older
I'm sure I missed some.

So, what should the Dodgers do? Should they invest heavily in one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time, or should they go a different route? I'm thinking the latter.

My choice for the alternative to Pujols: Jesus Montero.

Montero, quite possibly the best all-around hitter in the minors, is a catcher in the Yankee organization right now. As a 20-year-old in Triple-A last season, he hit .289/.353/.517, despite starting the season 1-for-30.

Montero's swing isn't exactly fluid, but scouts drool over the results he's produced at such a young age.

Why would the Yankees trade this guy? Well, they have some guy named Mark Teixeira at first base.

But isn't Montero a catcher?

Technically, he is. However, everyone and their mother sees him ending up at first base. With the Yankees, he won't get a chance to play 1B because Teixeira is one of the best defenders in the game. This doesn't mean the Yanks are just going to give him away, though.

Montero was almost shipped to Seattle for Cliff Lee last summer. He was also mentioned in rumors involving the Royals' Joakim Soria (a former Dodger).

I even proposed a trade in July that had Jonathan Broxton going to New York for Monetero. Of course, that was before they signed Rafael Soriano and before Broxton was just one season away from free agency.

Who do the Dodgers have that the Yanks would want?

Clayton Kershaw? Of course, but he's not going anywhere
Chad Billingsley? Perhaps -- depends how he pitches this season
Matt Kemp? Sure. With his propensity to hit the ball with authority to right field, he could take advantage of that short porch
Andre Ethier? I'm sure they wouldn't scoff at acquiring him

I probably wouldn't deal Billingsley or Kemp straight-up for Montero (not sure the Yanks would either). I'd probably consider Ethier, but a 3-4-5 of Kemp-Ethier-Montero would be awfully intriguing.

As you can see, since signing Soriano to be Mariano Rivera's eventual replacement, the Yankees' interest in Broxton would have likely dwindled. A trade would have to happen before the July 31 deadline, as I don't see Broxton re-upping midseason and the Yanks wouldn't give up their best prospect without getting something of long-term value in return. The teams could explore three-way trade possibilities.

Plus, Montero, albeit unproven, would be a much better financial move for the Dodgers.

If the Yankees get really crazy, they could go after Pujols in the winter and be forced to trade Montero. Montero is going to get a look this season with the Yanks and if they get the right deal, you know they won't hesitate to deal him.

Then again, James Loney could absolutely explode this season and take a firm grasp of the position. That's about as likely as me replacing Bill Plaschke at the L.A. Times (unfortunately).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Middle Infield

In the sixth of a nine-part series, I preview the Dodgers' middle infield for the 2011 season.

Second Base

Juan Uribe
- If you've read this blog at all, you know my thoughts on the Uribe signing (it was horrible!). I could have stomached a 1- or 2-year deal at maybe $5 million per season, but GM Ned Colletti was really careless with this contract. Anyway... Uribe had two big postseason hits which helped him to land this deal and will be the Dodgers' every day second baseman. He brings pop and solid defense, but not much else. One of his best seasons (2008) came as a part-time player. There's a reason for that: he's just a part-time player. Unfortunately, we'll have to see this guy at second base for the next nearly 500 games (sounds scary, no?).

Backups: Jamey Carroll, Ivan DeJesus, Aaron Miles


Rafael Furcal
- This is the wild card. As goes Furcal, so goes the Dodgers. It's been that way since he was signed in 2006. If he's healthy, he will perform. If he isn't, he won't and he'll be no better than a replacement player. He had a 4.1 WAR last season in 97 games. If Furcal had kept up that pace, he would have been a 6.5+ WAR player -- putting him in such company with Evan Longoria, Matt Holliday and Carl Crawford. Furcal did steal his most bases in a season (22) since 2007 (25), so that is reason to be optimistic. If he's healthy, he will be the key to the Dodgers' attack.

Backups: Carroll, Juan Castro, Miles, Justin Sellers, Uribe

The backups have been profiled in my preview of the Dodgers' bench.


Furcal's health is of the utmost importance. He and Uribe should make for a nice double play combination. I'm not expecting much from Uribe -- and my hatred of all things Giants plays into that. It doesn't change the fact that he's a career .300 OBP player and had no business getting the type of contract he did. But the Dodgers are stuck with him for the next three seasons, so there isn't much sense in belaboring the point any further. The duo should provide the Dodgers with at least league-average offense, as well as above-average defense. If Furcal plays 130 games and Uribe doesn't perform under his career averages, the offense from the middle infield would be acceptable.

Next up: Left Field

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Corner Infield

In the fifth of a nine-part series, I preview the Dodgers' corner infielders for 2011.

Questions about guys reaching expectations and age lead this preview.

First Base

James Loney
- I'll make no bones about it: I'm a Loney fan. I love what he does with the glove and his potential at the plate. However, this is a make-or-break season for Loney. His performance this season will determine whether he remains a Dodger, is traded or is non-tendered next winter. Loney is coming off the worst season of his career, thanks to a dreadful second-half slump (.211/.285/.331). The sad thing is, Loney's first half was quite promising, as he had an .803 OPS at the break. Much like almost every other Dodger hitter, Loney fell flat on his face after the break. If he doesn't have a breakout season, the Dodgers could consider other options for first base come 2012.

Loney's batting average on balls in play has been relatively consistent with the league average for the last three years, so his 2010 slump wasn't the product of bad luck -- he just didn't perform.

(Click to enlarge)

Backups: Blake, Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames

Third Base

Casey Blake
- Blake surprised many by being as valuable as he was in 2009, posting an .832 OPS and 4.6 WAR. However, things went terribly wrong for him at the plate in 2010, posting a .727 OPS and a 27.1 percent strikeout rate (up from 23.9 in 2009). He has plated surprisingly good defense in his time as a Dodger, but that isn't guaranteed to continue. He is in the final year of his contract ($1.25 million buyout for 2012), and the quicker he can be pushed into a utility role, the better. Failing to sign a left-handed counterpart for him could come back to hurt the Dodgers come midseason when Blake will likely being showing his age. As of now, there is no acceptable platoon partner for Blake with the Dodgers.

Backups: Aaron Miles, Russ Mitchell


Loney is a personal favorite of mine and I want to see him succeed. He gets a lot of crap from some, but he hasn't been nearly as bad as some have made him out to be. The Dodgers know what kind of player he is and it's their fault for not bringing in players to counter. Then when the offense struggles, people need someone to blame. Loney did have a horrific second half, but I'm willing to bet he performs closer to his first-half numbers than his second-half numbers in 2011. Blake is an aging vet who is about ready to slide into a utility role. There's just no one to platoon with him. That could change if Blake struggles mightily early in the season.

The Dodgers aren't going to get league-average offensive production from the corners, but the defense should be solid.

Next up: Middle Infield

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Catcher

In the fourth of a nine-part series, I preview the Dodgers' catching situation for 2011.

This is gonna be rough. With the departure of Russell Martin, the Dodgers' catching situation is a big question mark for the first time since 2007.

Rod Barajas
- Barajas was acquired last August in a waiver-trade deal from the New York Mets. Barajas signed with the Mets on a minor-league deal prior to the 2010 season and, unsurprisingly, didn't hit much (.225/.263/.414). When he came to L.A., though, he turned into Mike Piazza, posting a .939 OPS in 72 plate appearances. Many were not fooled by this anomaly, but Ned Colletti was. That's why Barajas was able to land a $3.25 million deal. Barajas' career slash line of .239/.284/.412 is about all we can expect from him in 2011. He sure as hell isn't going to sniff an .750 OPS.

Dioner Navarro
- I previewed Navarro a little in my bench preview on Tuesday. Navarro got $1 million to back up Barajas and he's not likely to put up numbers worth that contract. Navarro hit a robust .194 last season with a .270 OBP. As the prize from the Shawn Green trade following the 2004 season, Navarro hasn't quite lived up to expectations. He made the AL All-Star team in 2008, but that was by far his only good season in the majors.

A.J. Ellis
- Unless the Dodgers release Navarro before the season, Ellis will -- again -- start in Triple-A. Ellis had a decent September, leading many to believe he'd be the Dodgers' backup backstop in 2011. That likely won't be the case. He's the team's third catcher.

Guys in the mix

Hector Gimenez
- Gimenez spent the last two seasons in the Pirates' organization, failing to make a big-league appearance. He had a small cup of coffee with the Astros in 2006 (two at-bats). He hit .305/.384/.916 in Triple-A last season -- as a 27-year-old. He has a career 34 percent caught-stealing rate in the minors, so I guess that's a positive. He's on the 40-man roster, so I thought I'd include him in this preview.

- This is a sad bunch. The Dodgers wisely did not waste money on A.J. Pierzynski, who was minutes from being a Dodger, or Jason Varitek. However, what they ended up with could be just as bad. And there are no hot-shot minor-leaguers coming up through the system to even be excited about.

There are a couple positives: Barajas has power and is not horrible behind the plate, despite being 35 years old. The Dodger catchers will likely bat in the No. 8 spot in the lineup and not produce up to the major-league average. As long as league-average defense is played, it's kind of hard to complain; but I'm sure I'll find a way sometime this season.

Next up: Corner Infield

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Bench

In the third of a nine-part series, I'm previewing the 2011 Dodgers. This installment will preview the bench.

While some of these guys will be platoon players and/or start a fair share of games, they will still be included in this preview.

INF Jamey Carroll
- The Dodgers' team MVP last year, Carroll returns for his second season. When he signed last winter, I was unimpressed. He turned out to be a consistent player for the Dodgers and filled in admirably for Rafael Furcal, as he missed 65 games in 2010. Carroll should fill the same roll this season. With the addition of Juan Uribe, it frees him up to play more second- and third base, as Uribe is probably the team's top backup at shortstop. Carroll should be able to put up comparable numbers to his 2010 season.

OF/1B Jay Gibbons
- Gibbons made a comeback last season and OPS'd .819 in 80 plate appearances. His slugging percentage (.507) accounted for the high number, as he smacked five home runs. However, it's unrealistic to think he'd maintain that number, even as a part-time player, as he only OPS'd higher than .482 one time before 2010 (2002 with Baltimore). Gibbons splitting time with Thames and giving James Loney the occasional day off at first base looks to be the plan.

OF Tony Gwynn
- Gwynn was somewhat of a surprise signing this off-season. He hasn't hit much in his career, though, his .350 OBP in 2009 with San Diego was encouraging... until he had a .304 OBP last season. Gwynn's game is speed and defense, which is what the Dodgers need from him. He's in the mix to be the team's third outfielder, mainly because his defense in center field would be a massive upgrade over Matt Kemp's (subsequently moving Ethier back to his stronger positon, LF). The best-case scenario is Gwynn hits enough to be the Dodgers' everyday CF, making Gibbons and Thames true bench players.

C Dioner Navarro
- Navarro signed for $1 million this winter, which was an overpay by GM Ned Colletti. Triple-A catcher A.J. Ellis could have put up comparable -- if not better -- numbers than Navarro for the Major-League minimum. But I digress. Navarro was traded in 2006 to Tampa Bay and made the American League Al-Star team in 2008. However, his last two seasons have been horrific, posting a slash line of .212/.263/.306/.569. A .569 OPS! Bottom line: don't expect much from Navarro. The Dodgers are shaping up to have one of the worst catching duos in the majors -- and possibly Major League history (save the 2004 Dodgers after the Brad Penny-for-Paul Lo Duca trade).

OF/1B Marcus Thames
- Thames was the most recent signing of the Dodgers' bench mob and brings some much-needed power potential to a group that lacks it. However, he's currently slated to be a part-time left fielder, which isn't good news for Dodger pitching. He is one of the worst outfielders in baseball over the last few years, and it will show. But he should only play against lefties, which means Gibbons, who isn't much better, will play the rest of the time.

Then we come to the fifth/sixth member of the bench. As of right now, the Dodgers have no surefire last member of the bench. Here are some guys contending for the spot.

INF Juan Castro
- I'm really tired about writing Castro's name. I mean, there's no way he should get this much from me or anyone else. Yet, here we are. Castro is a good defender, but he is atrocious with the bat. I mean, you can probably pick five random guys off the street and one of them would be able to hit better than Castro. Here's hoping he stays in Albuquerque or is outright released.

2B Ivan DeJesus
- DeJesus has the most talent of anyone competing for the sixth spot, but the leg break he suffered in 2009 is still haunting him. He wasn't a "can't-miss" prospect before the break, but he was regarded a lot higher then than he is now. He likely starts in Triple-A.

OF Jamie Hoffmann
- The biggest thing working against Hoffmann is the signing of Thames and Gwynn. The Dodgers are probably looking for an infielder to fill the last spot. However, Hoffmann could be the first guy called up if the Dodgers need an outfielder.

INF Aaron Miles
- Miles was just signed last week and brings his weak bat and decent defense with him. He has a couple things working in his favor -- he can play shortstop in a pinch (as well as the other infield positions) and he isn't Castro with the bat (but he isn't much better). If I had to wager, I'd say Miles makes the roster out of Spring Training.

1B/3B/LF Russ Mitchell
- Mitchell came up last season and hit two home runs in 43 plate appearances. Unfortunately, that's about all he hit. Mitchell had a nice 2010 in the minors, but he seems like nothing more than a Four-A player.

OF Xavier Paul
- Paul has some MLB experience and has done all he can at Triple-A (at the plate, at least). He's out of options and unless he lights it up in the spring and there's an injury, he's likely going to be placed on waivers. It's unfortunate, but he'll catch on somewhere.

SS/2B Justin Sellers
- I stated my case for Sellers winning the 25th spot on the roster. I don't think he's going to get it, but stranger things have happened.

INF/OF Eugenio Velez
- Velez, the former Giant, is just not a good baseball player. He doesn't do anything well. For a guy who should flourish as a speed/defense guy, those are probably his worst qualities. He's a long shot at best.

Guys in the mix

C A.J. Ellis
- Ellis showed some flashes of on-base ability late last season and was primed to be the Dodgers' backup catcher. However, Navarro signing eliminated that possibility. If/when Barajas or Navarro gets hurt, Ellis will get the first call.

SS Dee Gordon
- Gordon is the heir apparent to Furcal and should be ready by 2012. He won't make his debut until September (if that), provided there aren't a lot of injuries.

OF Gabe Kapler
- Kapler was a super prospect with the Tigers back in the late-90s. However, he never amassed to much and will struggle to get a call up with the Dodgers -- assuming he makes the Triple-A team.

1B/LF John Lindsey
- Lindsey finally broke through in 2010 and earned a trip to the majors. He went 1-for-12 with one hit-by-pitch. He then suffered an injury and missed the rest of September. Unfortunately for Lindsey, he's about eighth or ninth on the call-up list.

OF Trent Oeltjen
- Oeltjen had a cup of coffee with the Dodgers last season. He's an outfielder who doesn't stand much of a chance of making the team out of Spring Training.

OF Trayvon Robinson
- My No. 3 prospect, Robinson's lack of seasoning at the upper levels is about the only thing holding him back. After a full (or nearly full) season at Triple-A, he should be ready for primetime come 2012.

OF/1B Jerry Sands
- Sands is in the same boat as Robinson, but he has even less experience as Double-A. Sands has big power potential but needs to show he can hit advanced pitching in the minors. He could succeed Loney at 1B if he struggles in 2011.


The bench looks to be in OK shape. It's going to be much stronger if Gwynn shows he can handle the everyday CF job. If not, it's going to be weaker than the Dodgers had hoped. The sixth member of the bench (because I'm counting the potential LF platoon of Gibbons/Thames as part of the bench) isn't going to have a great impact on the team. The prospects listed have virtually no chance of making the team out of Spring Training, but they could be ready to contribute as starters come 2012.

Next up: Catcher

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Rotation

In the second of a nine-part series, here is my preview of the Dodgers' starting rotation for 2011.

LHP Clayton Kershaw
- Kershaw is the unquestioned ace of the Dodger staff and is the best young left-handed starter in all of baseball. Kershaw followed up his breakout 2009 season with arguably a better 2010. Kershaw lowered his BB/9 from 4.8 in '09 to 3.6 in '10, and his K/BB increased from 2.03 to 2.62. He threw 204 1/3 innings as a 22-year-old and things will only improve from here. The addition of a slider really helped him improve. He should make his first All-Star team in 2011.

RHP Chad Billingsley
- Billingsley is a polarizing figure amongst Dodger fans and media. People love to focus on his poor starts against Philadelphia in the playoffs and a poor second half in 2009. People overlook the good -- like his second half of last season. Despite going 5-7 in the second half, he had a 3.00 ERA (4.14 in the first half), 1.17 WHIP while giving up one home run. In fact, Billingsley set a career-low in HR/9 with 0.4. The biggest improvement overall was his control and willingness to pitch to contact. His H/9 increased slightly from '09-'10 (7.9 to 8.3), but his BB/9 decreased (3.9 to 3.2) and his K/BB improved (from 2.08 to 2.48). And after leading the National League in wild pitches in '09 with 14, he reduced that number to four. He's not trying to strike every hitter out. He's becoming a pitcher, which is scary for the rest of the NL West.

RHP Hiroki Kuroda
- Kuroda had his best season in 2009. Many thought he was destined to return to Japan after some success in the big leagues, but the Dodgers gave him a 1-year, $12 million contract to pitch in 2011. While he isn't as durable as many would like, he did set a career-high in innings pitched (196 1/3) at age 35. If he's healthy, he could conceivably reach the 200-inning plateau. Kuroda is a solid vet and a perfect fit as the Dodgers No. 3- or 4 starter.

LHP Ted Lilly
- Lilly was signed to a 3-year deal. In hindsight, the Dodgers probably overpaid for his services a bit -- but it wasn't a gross overpay. Lilly was good with the Dodgers in 76 2/3 following the July 31 trade, posting a 3.52 ERA and minuscule 0.99 WHIP. However, he gave up a lot of home runs -- 13, good for a 1.5 HR/9 rate (tied for highest on the team). His mark of 1.4 HR/9 in his career doesn't lead me to believe he's going to suddenly decrease his home run rate. So, he's just going to have to keep guys off base. I wish Lilly threw harder, but the Dodgers could do a lot worse for a No. 4 starter.

RHP Jon Garland
- Garland was a surprise signing this off-season. The Dodgers usually go with a retread or rookie as the No. 5 starter, but Garland is coming off one of the best season's of his career (partly due to playing in San Diego's pitcher-friendly pet shop). His WHIP was a little higher than ideal -- 1.31 -- but that certainly isn't terrible. Garland's been touted as a ground-ball pitcher, but his career rate (45.2 percent) would lead you to believe otherwise. He did tally a career-high 51.9 percent ground-ball rate in 2010, but that isn't exactly a trend. Like Lilly, the Dodgers could do a lot worse for a No. 5 starter.

Guys in the mix

Barring injury, the Dodgers' rotation is set, but these guys will be considered (after Vicente Padilla) if the Dodgers need a starter in 2011.

RHP John Ely
- Elymainia struck last year, but not nearly as hard as Fernandomainia did in 1981 (that's an understatement). However, Ely flashed some ability. In his first eight games, he was 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 3.9 K/BB ratio. Things went to hell after that, ultimately resulting in him ending up in Triple-A, where he was absolutely rocked. Ely could be a decent No. 4- or 5 starter in the bigs, but if he isn't locating his pitches with pinpoint accuracy, he's going to get roughed up. It's that simple. He'll start at Albuquerque.

RHP Tim Redding
- Redding was signed to a minor-league deal and apparently spurned better offers from other teams. Redding pitched for the Rockies' and Yankees' Triple-A teams last year, going 8-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. That's nothing to get excited about, as the 33-year-old (today is his birthday, by the way) last pitched in majors in 2009 for the Mets (3-6, 5.10, 1.43). He'd probably get the call before Ely if the Dodgers needed a seventh starter because of his "veteran" goodness -- but that doesn't make it the right decision. He'll join a solid Albuquerque rotation.

RHP Carlos Monasterios
- Monasterios was the Dodgers' Rule 5 pick last winter and to much surprise, made the club. He had his struggles while starting, posting a 5.91 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 4.9 K/9 and a 1.45 K/BB ratio. He had a few decent starts, but threw five or more innings five times in his 13 starts. He also gave up 12 home runs in 53 1/3 innings as a starter (2.02 HR/9), which won't cut it. He performed much better as a reliever (2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 2.56 K/BB). That is where he'll make his name in the majors. If the Dodgers need an emergency starter, he could handle it, but he'll make his name as a reliever. He'll begin the season in the Triple-A rotation and could be one of the first pitchers called up to fill a bullpen need.

RHP Jon Link
- Link (as well as Mike MacDougal, Travis Schlichting and Oscar Villarreal) probably should have been in my bullpen preview, but the Dodgers are going to try Link as a starter -- at least in Triple-A. Link didn't have the greatest debut with the Dodgers and he'd be an absolute last resort as a starter (assuming he doesn't flourish in his new role).

RHP Rubby De La Rosa
- If Link was a last resort, De La Rosa is an absolute long shot. While his fastball is electric, his breaking stuff needs work. The only way De La Rosa makes the rotation at some point in the season is if there's a ton of injuries and he is absolutely lights-out in the minors. I don't doubt his ability, but there's no need to have unnecessary expectations for De La Rosa.


The rotation is setting up nicely. I mean, when guys like Lilly and Garland are your No. 4- and 5 starters, that bodes well for your team's success. With Padilla to back them up, the Dodger pitching staff as a whole looks to be in great shape. Kershaw is on his way to superstardom and Billingsley aims to shut his critics up. While the Dodgers were interested in Zack Greinke, I don't really see them making a move for a starter this season unless things go horribly wrong.

Next up: Bench

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview: Bullpen

In the first of a nine-part series, I preview the Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen heading into the 2011 season.

RHP Ronald Belisario
- I made a post about Belisario nine days ago, saying I think he'd have a bounce-back season. He could end up being an important 6th- or 7th-inning reliever for the Dodgers. His stuff is nasty and his ability to get ground balls (58.5 percent for his career) is crucial when the Dodgers need a double play.

RHP Jonathan Broxton
- We all know Big Bad Jon struggled mightily after June 27. He still made the All-Star team and closed out the win for the National League. We all know what happened in the World Series. Anyway, I'm one of the only people left in Broxton's corner, it seems. He's the No. 1 scapegoat of all the Dodger pitchers -- even more than the "gutless" Chad Billingsley (love ya, Chad!). I haven't made many predictions, but I'm predicting Broxton gets back to his 2006 through the first three months of the 2010 season. He will make folks forget about the horrific 29 2/3 innings last year. He will re-establish himself as one of the game's best closers.

RHP Matt Guerrier
- In one of the biggest head-scratchers of the off-season, the Dodgers have Guerrier a 3-year contract. The guy is durable, which is a plus. However, if that's his best quality, the Dodgers definitely overpaid. He was consistent in Minnesota. Coming to the National League should help him, but that isn't always the case. He'll be a 7th-inning guy for the Blue.

RHP Kenley Jansen
- Jansen was dominant at every stop he made last season. With an electric fastball and a nasty slider, Jansen will be a key player in the Dodger 'pen. He'll serve as a 7th- and 8th-inning guy for the Dodgers, with the chance to snake a save opportunity from Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton every once in a while.

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo
- Kuo had one of the greatest seasons any Dodger reliever has ever had. He was rewarded with an All-Star berth and the chance to take over for Broxton when he faltered in 2010. Kuo's inability to pitch on consecutive days is the only thing keeping him from being mentioned among the league's best relievers (even though he still is). He could step in as the part-time closer, if needed.

RHP Vicente Padilla
- Padilla re-signed with the Dodgers in the off-season, despite not being guaranteed a spot in the rotation. He was the team's 2010 Opening Day starter (for some reason). Padilla got on a role in 2010. From April 16 to Aug. 10 (12 starts, due to injury), Padilla went 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and a .188 BAA. He was flat-out dominant.

However, he's slated for long relief this season with the Dodgers -- a role in which he could thrive. There's even talk of him getting a save opportunity every once in a while. He has the stuff, but the Dodgers have a few other relievers capable of closing.

Guys in the mix

The 25-man roster is far from being set, so here are some guys competing for the last bullpen spot (assuming the Dodgers go with a 12-man pitching staff, as they're prone to do).

LHP Scott Elbert
- Elbert had a tumultuous season in 2010, which ended when he took a leave of absence from the Albuquerque Isotopes. He had a great Arizona Fall League showing and was primed to lock up the last spot in the Dodger 'pen. However, the signing of Mahay could spell the end of that. Elbert, like Troncoso, will likely begin the season in Triple-A because he has options remaining.

RHP Blake Hawksworth
- Hawksworth was acquired from the Cardinals for Ryan Theriot. At the time, we all knew it was amazing a team gave up anything for "The Riot," but to get a potential decent (which I use loosely) reliever was good for the Dodgers. However, he's out of options and isn't exactly the favorite to win the last opening. If he's to remain a Dodger, he'll have to be lights out in Spring Training or slip through waivers -- neither of which I see happening.

LHP Ron Mahay
- Mahay was signed just last week and could steal the last bullpen spot. He's a veteran LOOGY and had a decent season with the Twins in 2010. I'd bet a large amount of money he's the last guy to make the Dodger 'pen.

RHP Ramon Troncoso
- Troncoso had a decent debut in 2008 before having a better 2009 (though, not as good as some may think) before falling down a little in 2010. He isn't going to blow you away with his stuff, but his ability to get grounders is vital to his success. He had a bout with the home run ball, giving up seven last season. While that may not sound like a lot, just consider he gave up just five home runs in his first two seasons -- combined. His HR/9 rate jumped from 0.3 in 2009 to 1.2 in 2010. He'll likely start the season in Triple-A, as he has an option remaining. He could get a midseason call-up.


The Dodgers are shaping up to have one of the best bullpens in baseball. However, that's contingent on everyone -- or almost everyone -- playing up to his potential. If Broxton returns to form, Kuo stays healthy and Jansen continues his dominance -- Kuo's health being biggest question mark of the three -- the Dodgers could boast the best bullpen back end in the majors.

Next up: Starting Rotation

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dodger doings - Valdez, Miles, Young

I mistakenly omitted this from my last post, because it barely qualifies as news, but the signed former Giant RHP Merkin Valdez to a minor-league contract.

Valdez, at one time, was seen as a potential No. 2 starter or dominant closer when he was an up-and-coming prospect in the Giants' organization.

Last year, however, he put up an ugly 7.91 ERA , 2.03 WHIP and 14.3 H/9 in 58 innings for the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate.

Now you see why this barely qualifies as news. He's minor-league depth -- nothing more.

The Dodgers also inked utility infielder Aaron Miles to a minor-league deal. This was the Dodgers' counter to losing Eric Chavez to the Yankees.


He put up a .281/.311/.317 line in 79 games with the Cardinals last year.

This signing makes no sense. I know it's just a minor-league deal, but really? What can Miles do that a guy like Justin Sellers or Ivan DeJesus couldn't do? I will say, he's a better player than Juan Castro -- but that isn't saying much.

If I had to guess, Miles will win the 25th roster spot out of Spring Training just for the sake of having a veteran presence on the bench -- even if that presence has a .230/.265/.277 slash line over the last two seasons (321 plate appearances). He can also fill in at three infield positions, which is about his only plus. He's nothing more than roster fodder.

Then there's this whole Mike Young situation. While he looks like an upgrade on the surface, minimal digging will show Young is really not much of an upgrade over Casey Blake, even as Blake's production is declining.

The No. 1 concern is Young's home/road splits. He has benefited greatly from hitting at The Ballpark in Arlington his entire career.

As you can see, the splits are quite drastic. This should be an immediate red flag. Young, while a solid hitter, hits for minimal power on the road.

And his defense is bad. Since taking over as the Rangers' third baseman in 2009, he has put up consecutive years of negative UZR/150: -9.6 and -5.8. He also, somehow, won the American League Gold Glove at shortstop in 2008 with a -4.2 UZR/150.

By comparison, Blake's UZR/150 in the last two seasons are 13.1 and 7.7. While this defensive metric isn't the be-all/end-all, it's quite telling in this case.

Oh yeah, there's also the $48 million owed to Young over the next three years. That, along with the home/road splits, should just about end the Dodgers' interest in Young.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reliever news - Kuo, Mahay

The Dodgers avoided arbitration with left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo yesterday, agreeing to a 1-year, $2.725 million deal, plus incentives.

Tony Jackson of ESPN LA has the details on the incentives. Kuo can earn as much as $700,000 in incentives, but most are for games-finished. If Jonathan Broxton re-gains his pre-July 2010 form, Kuo won't get a chance to cash in on the games-finished incentives.

Kuo's base salary comes in just under the median mark of $2.8125 million.

Kuo is one of the nastiest relievers in the game and at this price, he's well worth it.

The Dodgers also signed veteran LHP Ron Mahay to a minor-league deal today. Jon Heyman reported Mahay could earn $900,000 with the Dodgers.

Mahay's signing spells the end of Scott Elbert's and bid for the second lefty option out of the Dodgers' bullpen.

In 34 innings with the Minnesota Twins last season, Mahay had a 3.44 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.7 H/9, 2.1 BB/9, 6.6 K/9 and a most impressive 3.13 K/BB ratio.

While my preference would have been to see what Elbert could really do as a full-time reliever, this isn't a bad deal -- especially on a minor-league contract. Mahay is a true LOOGY, holding left-handed hitters to a career .232 batting average and .689 OPS.

Mahay is almost a lock to make the Dodgers' 'pen, which leaves the aforementioned Elbert, Ramon Troncoso and Blake Hawksworth on the proverbial roster bubble.

Elbert and Tronocoso have options while Hawksworth is out of options. The Dodgers could try to slip Hawksworth through waivers before the start of the season, but I'm sure there's some team out there that would take a chance on him. He might not throw a pitch in Dodger Blue after being acquired for Ryan Theriot.

Some would say Belisario could be on the bubble, but in my last post, I thought he'd perform well enough to earn a spot in the 'pen.

No matter what, if the pitchers pitch to their capabilities, the Dodgers should boast one of the game's best bullpens in 2011.


Lastings Milledge also signed a minor-league deal today with the Chicago White Sox. Milledge, who had been mentioned in the Dodgers' search for a left fielder, will get $500,000 if he makes the team with no incentives, as reported by Ken Rosenthal.

Milledge on a minor-league deal would have been a lot better than the trio affectionately known as "JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr.," coined by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Which Ronald Belisario will show up in 2011?

Ronald Belisario was one of the biggest surprises for the Dodgers in 2009. He threw 70 2/3 great innings, posting a 2.04 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 6.6 H/9, 8.2 K/9 and a 197 ERA+.

The Dodgers signed him as an minor-league free agent prior to the '09 season. He had decent success in the minors, but nothing like he did in 2009.

Prior to the 2010 season, he had visa problems which kept him in Venezuela for virtually all of Spring Training. After that, he was never able to get on track, posting a 5.04 ERA, 1.29 WHIP (not terrible), 8.5 H/9, 6.2 K/9 and a 76 ERA+.

Belisario has a heavy 92-96 MPH sinking fastball and a decent low-to-mid-80s slider. It's a solid repertoire for a potential late-inning reliever.

He had an outstanding showing in the Venezuelan Winter League. In 18 innings, he had a 1.00 ERA, 15/4 K/BB ratio and 14 saves.

So, which Ronald Belisario will the Dodgers get in 2011?

Odds are it won't be the '09 version, but it probably won't be the '10 version, either.

Ideally, Belisario will be a 6th- or 7th-inning guy for the Dodgers as he and Kenley Janse help bridge the gap to Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton.

The rotation has five guys all capable of throwing 180 innings (barring injury), so that should help to keep the Dodger bullpen fresh and good -- especially down the stretch.

Belisario will be a key component in the 'pen and barring anything unforeseen, he should perform reasonably well. A 70-inning, 3.00 ERA/1.20 WHIP season isn't out of the question.

The Dodgers are setting up to have a really nice bullpen. Another lefty is a must, especially with Kuo's past injury concerns. Scott Elbert could be that guy, if he has his head on straight and the Dodgers are willing to give him a shot.