Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 NL West Preview: Second Base

1. Freddy Sanchez – Giants
2. Ronnie Belliard – Dodgers
3. Clint Barmes – Rockies
4. Kelly Johnson – Diamondbacks
5. David Eckstein – Padres

By far the weakest position in the division, most of these guys can be interchanged. But, I’ll go with Sanchez in first, mostly because of his steady bat. He battled injuries last year, but hit .296 with the Pirates and .284 after being traded to the Giants.

Belliard might not even be the starter, but has to be the early favorite. After being traded to the Dodgers last year at the deadline, he was great. In 21 games, he hit .351 with five homers and 17 RBIs. If given the chance, he can be a pretty good hitter.

Barmes had good power numbers last year with 23 homers and 76 RBIs. But, his .245 average and .294 OBP were terrible. He also struck out 121 times. But, if the Rockies can live with his all-or-nothing approach, he’ll have a spot in the lineup.

Johnson is coming off a down year with the Braves, hitting a measly .224. When healthy, he’s capable of 10-15 home runs and 60-70 RBIs. He doesn’t seem to have the best glove at second, though.

Eckstein is definitely on the downside of his career, as his numbers are pretty much nonexistent anymore. A low OBP and no steals makes him no threat at all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Padilla will start the first spring training game

Vicente Padilla will get the call when the Dodgers start spring training action on March 5. Joe Torre stopped short of saying who will get the Opening Day nod in April.

What we do know, however, is that Padilla will be followed by Eric Stults, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuorda to start the spring.

The most interesting case is Stults, who's out of options. Simply put, if he doesn't make the team out of spring training, he most likely will end up elsewhere. So, it appears as if Torre is going to give him every chance to be the fifth starter.

The article mentions that a fifth starter won't be needed in the regular season until April 11, then the home opener is April 12. But, the real schedule says that home opener is April 13, so I'm guessing the article has a typo. Plus, with an off day after the first game April 5, the Opening Day starter can come back on normal rest in the fifth game on April 10.

So the bottom line is, I'm not sure when a fifth starter would be needed. The Dodgers have off days on two straight Monday's (April 12 and April 19), so according to my calculations, they can go with a four-man rotation until Saturday, April 24 in Washington, when a fifth starter would be needed.

Yes, it's confusing, and I could be wrong about all of this, but I'm taking educated guesses based on off-days. It's very possible a fifth starter could be used much earlier to give the other arms an extra day of rest.

2010 NL West Preview: First Base

1. Adrian Gonzalez – Padres
2. Todd Helton – Rockies
3. Adam LaRoche – Diamondbacks
4. James Loney – Dodgers
5. Aubrey Huff – Giants

While the other four are pretty close, Gonzalez is clearly the top choice. He continues to defy the stadium he plays in, and is pretty much the only reason to pay attention to the Padres these days. Here’s how good he is – he hit 40 home runs last year. Here’s how bad the rest of his team is – he only had 99 RBIs. Still, he continues to mash and prove to be one of the game’s best players.

In a close call, I’ll still go with Helton in second. A rebound last year is a big reason why, as he hit .325 with 15 homers and 86 RBIs. The days of 40+ homers are gone, but steady hitting and excellent defense remain.

LaRoche just edged Loney based on power numbers. LaRoche hit 25 homers between three teams last year, his fifth straight year of 20+. He won’t hit .300, but plays great defense.

Loney can still rise up the list, but is more of a gap hitter than home run hitter at this point. Two straight years of 90 RBIs is really good for a guy who only hits 15 homers. Like the others in his division, his glove at first is really good.

Huff isn’t a bad pickup by the Giants, but sure looks like someone on the decline. He shocked everybody two years ago with a monster season in Baltimore with 32 homers and 108 RBIs, but went down to 15 and 85 last year. He got traded to the Tigers in late August last year and proceeded to do nothing. Still, the Giants need offense, so he’s worth a chance.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

2010 NL West Preview: Catchers

With the baseball season slowly coming up, today I will start my series of previews for the NL West. Each day I will post a new position preview. The first one up is catchers.

1. Miguel Montero – Diamondbacks
2. Russell Martin – Dodgers

3. Bengie Molina – Giants

4. Chris Iannetta – Rockies

5. Yorvit Torrealba – Padres

Montero has quietly turned himself into a fine catcher. Entering June of ’09 with a .225 average, he saw a steady rise thereafter, reaching .306 at one point and .294 for the season. A .337 July and .326 August were the reasons why, where he also combined for nine homers and 34 RBIs. He’s one worth watching.

Martin was the top dog for a couple years, but really took a hit at the plate last year. Over the last three years, his average has tumbled from a .293 to .280 to .250. His power numbers and steals have done the same. Dodger fans can only hope he’s not another Paul Lo Duca – someone who started red hot and quickly fell.

Molina remains a steady hitter. While his average was down last year, 20 homers and 80 RBIs made up for it. He’ll be 35 entering the season, so one would think he’d slow down at some point. But so far, it hasn’t happened.

Iannetta never got going last year, which was a surprise. The Rockies still gave him a new three-year deal, so they’ll expect much better numbers this year, especially with Torrealba no longer there.

Torrealba is instead with the Padres, and he’s a nice addition. He took advantage of a starting role in September to hit .313 with 15 RBIs. He’s not a power hitter at all, and his .291 average was uncharacteristically high. Still, he was a big part of the Rockies’ success late in the year, and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Monday, February 22, 2010

One for the road: Manny will exit LA after this season

Manny Ramirez made some news today by declaring this year to be his last with the Dodgers. Upon the conclusion of the 2010 season, he'll likely retire or return to the AL as a designated hitter.

The reasons are simple. One, this is the last year of his two-year, $45 million contract. Unless something crazy happens, it's highly unlikely the 37-year-old outfielder will get a deal like that again. Two, as just stated, he's in his upper 30s, and his knees aren't getting any younger. Playing DH would give him the rest he needs while still contributing.

This may be big news to some people, but it's not to me. Honestly, what else do people expect him to do? Especially after last year's debacle of being busted 50-games for ster... er, "violating the drug policy," then coming back a shell of his former self. The writing is on the wall.

Of course, this doesn't stop him from having a big year this season. The Dodgers can't expect to win if he doesn't. They don't need the scorching hot Ramirez that came here at the trade deadline of 2008, they just need a big bat.

In a perfect world, Manny will have a big year, help the Dodgers get a ring, and ride off into the sunset. Of course, reality can be so much different. Let's just hope he gets back to being the impact player he was brought there to be.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gagne eyes a return to LA

*** UPDATE ***

Gagne is back. He has signed a minor league contract and will fight for a spot on the big league roster. He'll earn $500,000 if he makes the majors, and has an out clause if he doesn't.

The Dodgers have a history of reclamation projects for pitchers, so let's hope this is the latest example.


An old face wants to make a comeback with the boys in blue.

Eric Gagne has recently expressed a desire to be a Dodger again. He hasn't played since being released from the Brewers in Spring Training last year.

It's no secret that he's the best closer in the history of the Dodgers. His numbers from 2002-2004 are just absolutely sick. He had 52, 55, and 45 saves (152 total) while only blowing six. He set an all-time MLB record with 84 straight converted during that stretch. He was also an All-Star all three years and the 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner.

Then... it all went downhill. Elbow and back injuries derailed his 2005 and 2006 seasons, making only 16 appearances for nine saves. He then left the Dodgers for Texas in 2007 as a free agent.

Oh, and there's that whole steroid thing. Not surprisingly, he was one of the key players on the Mitchell Report in 2007. So that pretty much tainted his whole legacy.

His last two stops in Boston (traded during the '07 season) and Milwaukee ('08) were complete disasters, as he failed to regain any of the momentum he once had.

So the questions is, What kind of an impact can he have? He pitched in some no-name independent league in 2009, putting up a 4.65 ERA as a starter. The Dodgers are loaded in the bullpen, so he'd have to take a minor league contract.

Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman seems to think the Dodgers are where he'll likely end up, but the Rockies are close as well. He did throw for the Rockies recently, but it wasn't described as being anything impressive.

Part of me would like to see Gagne come back and make a contribution, but I'd be very surprised if that happened. We shall see.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Despite ties to Torre, Dodgers pass on Wang

Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman has tweeted that the Dodgers will no longer pursue Chien-Ming Wang. Ned Colletti and assistant GM Logan White watched Wang throw off of flat ground today, but were apparently not impressed enough to sign him.

Wang was a back-to-back 19-game winner with Torre and the Yankees from 2006-2007. So naturally, when Wang became a free agent after last season, the Dodgers became a likely destination. Add in the Dodgers' desire for a fifth starter, and it looked like a good fit.

The trouble is that Wang is still on the shelf following shoulder surgery last summer. Early estimates have him back in May or possibly later. If the Dodgers didn't go through the Jason Schmidt debacle, maybe they'd take a chance. But taking a risk twice on starting pitchers with bad shoulders? It just wasn't going to happen.

And rightfully so. The Dodgers need to focus on rounding out the rotation from within. Guys like James McDonald and Eric Stults come to mind right away.

As for Wang, the Nationals are the only other team that have shown serious interest, so that might now happen with the Dodgers out of the picture.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The newest minor league signing: Brian Giles

Add Brian Giles to the list of minor league deals dished out by Ned Colletti this offseason. Giles will compete for a role of backup outfielder and left-handed pinch-hitter.

For those of you who have forgotten, Giles was an All-Star back in 2000 and 2001 with the Pirates. It wasn't just a token gesture either, he was legitimately good. From 1999-2003, he averaged 37 homers and 109 RBIs. So yes, he was good.

Then he went to San Diego, and his production went way down. He was still good in 2004 with 24 homers and 94 RBIs, but that was his last big year. He then dipped down to 12-15 homers between 2005-2008. Granted, it's harder to hit it out of Petco Park, but still.

I guess you could say age caught up to him, causing his numbers to drop. Or possibly it was something else? I'm just saying...

Anyway, an arthritic right knee shut him down in mid-June of last season for good, so his numbers were a measly .191 with 2 homers and 19 RBIs.

It's not out of the question to think he can hit well again, because he was at .306 with a .398 OBP in 2008. A healthy Giles can absolutely be a key pinch-hitter this season.

Who knows if he'll ever get the chance, though. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, should Giles fail to make the big club out of Spring Training, he can be granted his release.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A note to all people leaving comments

There's nothing I'd love to see more than people leaving comments on my post talking about the Dodgers. But lately all I've gotten are these IDIOTS leaving pointless comments and links to their spam websites.

So please, if you're going to leave a comment, don't be a moron. Nobody gives a crap about your virus website, so don't waste my time.

In conclusion, don't be an idiot.

Go Dodgers.

Johnson brings versatility to outfield

Reed Johnson officially signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Dodgers. He's basically Juan Pierre's replacement, assuming the role of fourth outfielder and defensive specialist.

His calling card is obviously his ability to play all three outfield positions effectively. He might as well worry most about left field, as he'll see plenty of time subbing for Manny Ramirez late in games to hold onto leads.

For those of you that don't know much about him, check out the video from the link above. He had one of the highlights of 2009 by robbing Prince Fielder of a grand slam while protecting a 6-2 lead. That happened on the big stage of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

If he hits well, it'll be a bonus. Joe Torre has plenty of options from the right-handed side off the bench, but Johnson has a career .313 average against lefties (and .265 against righties).

With his signing, that will most likely put to rest any talk of getting Garrett Anderson as well.

Weaver among minor league signings

The Dodgers continue on their quest to build up their bench by signing utility man Alfredo Amezaga, and pitchers Jeff Weaver and Ramon Ortiz. All three were signed to minor league contracts, but will have cracks at making the big league roster.

Almezaga is coming off of microfracture surgery in his left knee that limited him to 27 games last season with the Marlins. He's a career .251 hitter with a .311 OBP%. His best year was in 2004 with Florida when he hit .263 with 105 hits and 13 stolen bases in 133 games.

Weaver has signed his second straight minor league deal with the Dodgers. He didn't make the majors out of Spring Training last year, but stayed for good when he was called up on April 30. From there, he had a very effective season, posting a 6-4 record with a 3.65 ERA, and seven starts in 28 appearances.

Ramon "Don't Call Me Russ" Ortiz is a journeyman. He last appeared in 2007 with the Twins and Rockies. He was with the Giants in Triple-A last season, going 5-6 with a 3.05 ERA.

It's always hard to tell how Spring Training will shake out as far as players there on a minor league invite. I would think Weaver will be back in the bullpen based on last year alone. He proved that he can be a spot starter and long reliever.

For Amezaga, his first issue is obviously his knee. He worked out for a handful of teams, and the Dodgers were the ones to nab him. Since he's a switch-hitter, if he impresses enough, he could have a crack at the team to give at least one lefty to pinch-hit.

As for Ortiz, despite putting up a good ERA in the minors last year, he seems like a long-shot to make the team out of the gate. Maybe he'll spend more time in the Triple-A, ala Shawn Estes of last season.