Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 2006 Finish:  88-74, tied for first with San Diego, wild card representative, lost in the NLDS to the Mets

Manager:  Grady Little, 2nd season with the Dodgers

Comings:  RHP Jason Schmidt, LHP Randy Wolf, CF Juan Pierre, Mike Lieberthal, LF Luis Gonzalez, RHP Joe Mays, RHP Chin-hui Tsao

Goings: RHP Greg Maddux, RHP Eric Gagne, OF Kenny Lofton, SS Julio Lugo, RF J.D. Drew

Rotation:  The deepest rotation in baseball with four players who have been staff aces and one youngster who soon will be.  RHP Chad Billingsley made his debut as being hyped as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.  Though he struggled at times, he ended the year 7-4 with an ERA of 3.80.  RHP Derek Lowe led the team in innings and went 16-8 with an ERA of 3.63. RHP Brad Penny started for the NL in the All Star game but struggled down the stretch.  LHP Wolf was brought in from Philadelphia.  He went 4-0 in limited action last year coming of injury.  RHP Schmidt was considered the top rightie on the free agent maket.  San Francisco’s former ace was 11-9 with a 3.59 ERA.  LHP Mark Hendrickson was brought over from the Devil Rays but struggled.  If he does not adapt to the bullpen he will be traded.  LHP Hong-Chih Kuo made five starts down the stretch and was impressive, and going 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA.

Bullpen:  RHP Takashi Saito proved to be a very capable replacement for Gagne, posting 24 saves and a 2.07 ERA.  Rookie RHP Jon Broxton and his high 90’s heat arrived to the majors, posting a 2.59 ERA and stiking out 97 in 76.1 innings.  LHP Joe Beimel had a career year appearing in 62 games and posting a 2.96 ERA.  RHP Brett Tomko will provide innings as well as probably Hendrickson and Kuo.

Offense:  CF Pierre was brought in to be a catalyst for this Dodger offense.  Him and SS Rafael Furcal should cause a lot of havoc on the bases.  1B Nomar Garciaparra drove in 93 and hit over .300.  2B Jeff Kent had a down year with only 68 RBIs.  Wilson Betemit and Andy LaRoche are battling for the 3rd base job.  OF Andre Ethier had a good rookie year by hitting over .300.  LF Gonzalez was brought in as a solid veteran presence.  He still has gap power, 52 doubles last year is proof.  C Russell Martin shined in his first big league action.  He hit .282/.355/.436 with 10 HRs and 65 RBIs while providing great defense behind the plate.  Rookies Matt Kemp and James Loney excelled at times and showed they are going to be solid big leaguers.  Loney hit .390 at Triple A and hit .284/.342/.556 in 48 games with the Dodgers.

Prospects:

 Scott Elbert-LHP-First of the Missouri high schoolers selected in the First Round of the 2004 First Year Player Draft by the Dodgers.  Number 31 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.  Has a fastball that sits 90-92 that can touch 96.  Has an advanced curveball with a sharp break.  His changeup still needs work.  Was devastating against lefties last year, yielding a .156 BAA.  Was 5-5 with a 2.37 ERA at high A before being promoted to Double A where he was 6-4 with a 3.61 ERA as a 21 year old.  Struck out 173 in 146 innings combined.  Will probably start the season back at Double A.

Clayton Kershaw-LHP-Number 24 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.  The Dodgers First Round Pick of the 2006 First Year Player Draft out of high school in Dallas, number 7 overall.  He controls the corners with a fastball that sits 93-94 that can touch 96.  His curveball is already a plus pitch.  His changeup is still a work in progress but early reports are that it too could be a plus pitch.  Went 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA striking out 54 in 37 innings in the Gulf Coast League.  Could start 2007 at high A.

Andy LaRoche-3B-Number 19 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.  Brother of the Pirate’s Adam.  Hit 30 HRs in 2005 and proved himself as one of the true power prospects in baseball by hitting another 19 last year between Double A and Triple A.  Quick hands that are very strong and enable him to let the ball get deep in the zone.  Walked more than he struck out last year, 67 to 64.  Playing some outfield this spring to improve his versatility, but is a strong contender to start the year in L.A.

3B/2B Blake Dewitt-First round draft pick (28th overall) in the 2004 First Year Player Draft from Sikeston, MO. Should start the year at Double A Jacksonville.  Hit 19 HRs last year split between High A and Double A.  Played in the revival of the Hawaii Winter League.  Will have a more in depth look at Blake later.

Analysis:  Many analysts preseason pick to make the World Series.  They have the  best pitching depth in baseball.  The bullpen depth concerns me, but this team is deep everywhere else.  If this team can stay healthy and the kids pick up where they left off, I think they will be playing well into October.

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