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.
- 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.
Backups: Blake, Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames
- 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