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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Season Preview: LA Dodgers

2008 Record: 84-78  .519

Run differential: +52 (6th)

2008 payroll: $118,588,536

Last season’s Dodger squad was one marred with injuries and disappointment.  Rafael Furcal, Brad Penny, Nomar, Jason Schmidt, and Andruw Jones all failed to live up to expectations and missed substantial playing time.  This necessitated the Dodgers to make some bold moves to strengthen their roster during the stretch run.  Acquisitions of ManRam, Casey Blake, and Greg Maddux helped give them to the division crown for the first time since 2004.  Strong pitching allowed them to sweep past the Cubs and move to the NLCS where they lost to the eventual champion Phillies.

This season’s squad is unlikely to have the same injury luck but if lightning strikes twice it is doubtful there is enough depth to keep the team on top.  Brad Penny and Derek Lowe are both gone from last season’s rotation.  Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald are both ready to step in but there is reason to expect they’ll tire with the number of innings they will be needed to pitch.  The oft-injured Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf are also expected to be contributors.  If these three things work out then the Dodgers may be the best team in the league but it’s most likely only one will.

Offensively the Dodgers are set.  The lineup is a blend of power and speed and is evenly balanced with left and right-handed hitters meaning runs will come in bunches.  James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Rafael Furcal are good bets to improve on last season’s performance and though Manny won’t hit .396 again, having him in the cleanup spot for a full season will pay huge dividends.

This is a Dodger team that has championship expectations and rightly so, but if the rotation has issues it could be a rough summer in Dodgerland.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Russell Martin $3.9 M Drafted 17th rd 2002
C Brad Ausmus $1 M Signed as FA 1/26/09
1b James Loney $.411 M Drafted #19 overall 2002
2b Orlando Hudson $3.38 M Signed as FA 2/20/09
3b Casey Blake $5 M Acquired in trade w/ Cle 7/08. Resigned 12/08
SS Rafael Furcal $6.5 M Signed as FA 12/05. Resigned 12/08
LF Manny Ramirez $25 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/08. Resigned 3/09
CF Matt Kemp $.406M Drafted 6th rd 2003
RF Andre Ethier $3.1 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak
Inf Mark Loretta $1.25 M Signed as FA 12/10/08
Inf Blake DeWitt $.39 M Drafted #28 overall 2004
Of Juan Pierre $10 M Signed as FA 11/06
Of Delwyn Young $.39 M Drafted 4th rd 2002
SP Chad Billingsley $.5 M Drafted #24 overall 2003
SP Hiroki Kuroda $10 M Signed as FA from Japan 12/07
SP Clayton Kershaw $.39 M Drafted #7 overall 2006
SP Randy Wolf $5 M Signed as FA 2/6/09
SP Jason Schmidt $12 M Signed as FA 12/06
Cl Jonathan Broxton $1.83 M Drafted 6th rd 2002
SU Hong-Chih Kuo $.392M Signed as amateur FA 1999
RP Cory Wade $.39 M Drafted 10th rd 2004
RP Claudio Vargas $.4 M Signed as FA 12/31/08
RP Greg Miller $.39 M Drafted #31 overall 2002
RP Eric Stults $.39 M Drafted 15th rd 2002
RP Guillermo Mota $2.35 M Acquired in trade 11/07. Resigned 1/14/09

Payroll obligations to former players: Andruw Jones, Esteban Loaiza

Say hello to: Mark Loretta, Orlando Hudson, Randy Wolf, Brad Ausmus, Claudio Vargas

Wave goodbye: Greg Maddux, Scott Proctor, Nomar Garciaparra, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Derek Lowe, Chan Ho Park, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, Joe Beimel

Rookies: James McDonald

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Shawn Estes, Yhenzy Brazoban, Eric Milton, Ivan DeJesus, Doug Mientkiewicz

Potential breakout: Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw

Welcome to Earth: Hiroki Kuroda

Likely to rebound: Rafael Furcal missed most of last season due to injury.  He is apparently healthy this season.

Strengths: Infield defense.  Strong, balanced offense

Weaknesses: No depth in the rotation.  Jason Schmidt, who did not pitch last season and only threw 25 innings in 2007, is penciled in as the #4 starter

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

SS Furcal B  .357/.439/.573  5, 8  .347

C Martin R  .280/.385/.396  13, 18  .288

RF Ethier L  .305/.375/.510  20, 6  .310

LF Ramirez R  .332/.430/.601  37, 3

1B Loney L  .289/.338/.434  13, 7  .274

CF Kemp R  .290/.340/.459  18, 35  .282

2B Hudson B  .305/.367/.450  8, 4  .281

3B Blake R .274/.345/.463  21, 3

Prediction: 2nd place NL West


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