Thursday, August 25, 2011

Most surprising 2011 Dodgers' hitters and pitchers

In the second of a four-part series, I look at the most surprising Los Angeles Dodgers' players. Yes it's only Aug. 25, but there isn't much left to be optimistic or happy about, so here's something to boost your spirits.

There are just a few candidates (literally, I'm having trouble coming up with three in this dismal season, but there have been some pleasant surprises.

Yesterday's list: Most surprising 2011 Dodgers' prospects

Most surprising position players

1. Matt Kemp
- We all know Kemp was good, but he's gone to another level this season. That, coupled with the fact he struggled mightily in 2010, makes him the clear-cut choice for No. 1 on this list. He has a legitimate shot at NL MVP this season, but the Dodgers' overall performance will probably prevent him from grabbing the award.

2. Aaron Miles
- Miles was a non-roster invite and somehow mad the team. Who am I kidding? He made it because he was scrappy and hustled -- you know, standard adjectives used to describe "small" ballplayers. His .287/.312/.370 line isn't overly impressive, but he's filled in admirably at second- and third base for the injured Juan Uribe and Casey Blake.

3. Juan Rivera
- The guy has only been on the team since July and his acquisition was not met with enthusiasm by myself, yet he makes this list. That should tell you how depressing and disappointing this season has been for the Blue. Rivera is one of only three players with an OPS greater than .800 (Kemp, Trent Oeltjen, in 66 plate-appearances). He starts at first base often against left-handed pitchers and has established himself as Kemp's protection in the lineup. He could be back next season, allowing Jerry Sands to play first base in James Loney's wake.

Honorable mentions: None

Most surprising pitchers

1. RHP Javy Guerra
- Guerra was second on yesterday's list and tops today's list. He's been one of the most consistent pitchers out of the 'pen and stepped up when Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo forgot how to pitch. He also stepped up when Kenley Jansen had a couple bad outings. He probably isn't as good as his numbers right now, but he could be a consistent, solid reliever in the majors as long as he keeps his control... under control.

2. LHP Scott Elbert
- Elbert has been a top prospect seemingly forever. He's been ranked in the Dodgers' Top 11 by Baseball America since 2005. He's finally put it together this season, posting a 2.88 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and his most impressive stats, 2.9 BB/9 and 3.00 K/BB ratios. He should be a fixture in the Dodgers' bullpen for many years to come.

3. RHP Mike MacDougal
- Like Miles, MacDougal was a non-roster invite and while folks rip him for not being good -- which is legitimate because he isn't -- he's been a surprise. His 2.14 ERA is deceiving because his peripherals are terrible. He has a 1.51 WHIP, 8.9 H/9, 4.7 BB/9 and 1.33 K/BB ratio, which normally doesn't bode well for a pitcher. He's also allowed 37 percent of inherited runners to score, which is actually down from earlier in the season. For what MacDougal is, he's been a nice surprise.

Honorable mentions: Blake Hawksworth, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Josh Lindblom

Next up: Most disappointing 2011 Dodgers' prospects

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