2010 Los Angeles Dodgers Preview

Chad Billingsley, RHP
Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Hiroki Kuroda, LHP
Vicente Padilla, RHP
James McDonald, RHP

Closers and Setup
Jonathan Broxton, RHP
George Sherrill, LHP

Starting Lineup
Rafael Furcal, SS
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Manny Ramirez, LF
James Loney, 1B
Casey Blake, 3B
Ronnie Belliard, 2B
Russell Martin, C

Player in Decline
Rafael Furcal was a down-ballot MVP choice in 2006 when he had a 119 wRC+. But he’s had two years below 95 since then surrounding an injury-shortened 2008. Now 32, he may never sniff 15 homers or 37 steals again.

Player on the Rise
Clayton Kershaw broke out in every way except wins last year, as he posted an 8-8 mark. With better run support he could double his wins total this year.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Matt Kemp – Elite
Jonathan Broxton – Elite
Manny Ramirez – Elite
Andre Ethier – Average
Clayton Kershaw – Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Devaris Gordon, SS
2. Ethan Martin, RHP
3. Andrew Lambo, OF
4. Josh Lindblom, RHP
5. Chris Withrow, RHP
6. Scott Elbert, LHP
7. Aaron Miller, LHP
8. John Ely, RHP
9. Trayvon Robinson, OF
10. Allen Webster, RHP

Overall team outlook: The Dodgers organization has made it to the NLCS in back-to-back years and features a team of exciting youngsters, bolstered by productive veterans. But there is a cloud over the team due to the bitter divorce of owner(s) Frank and Jamie McCourt, which leaves the immediate future of the club uncertain. The organization did not offer arbitration to any of its free agents and has not made any impact additions to the team in the offseason.

The Starting Rotation: Despite losing two pitchers to free agency, the Dodgers still have a nice rotation. Youngsters Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw lead the staff. Billingsley won nine of his first 12 decisions before running into trouble with the gopher ball, as he allowed 14 homers in his final 103.2 innings. Kershaw had a 2.27 ERA in the second half of the season yet managed just one win after the All-Star break. It was a tough year for Hiroki Kuroda, who suffered from an oblique strain early in the year and then got hit in the head by a line drive in mid-August. But when he was able to pitch, batters still had trouble with his fastball-slider-splitter repertoire, which led to an excellent 32.8 O-Swing%. That would have been the best in baseball if he had enough innings to qualify.

One move the Dodgers did make this season was to re-sign late-season pick-up Vicente Padilla, who pitched very well for them until Game Five of the NLCS. In eight games during the regular season for Los Angeles, Padilla had a 3.17 K/BB ratio. The fifth starter’s job is up in the air. James McDonald flopped in his four starts last year but was very effective in the bullpen. The Dodgers like his arm, and he should get another chance to make it as a starter. If McDonald falters, Eric Stults could get some starts like he did last year, and the Dodgers have a trio of former high draft picks in the upper minors who could get a shot.

The Bullpen: After three years as one of the top set-up men in the game, Jonathan Broxton excelled in his first year as the full-time closer. He averaged 97.7 mph with his fastball and complemented that with a wicked slider, a combination which led to a 13.50 K/9 and 36 saves. The Dodgers added Orioles closer George Sherrill down the stretch last year, giving them a strong eighth-inning option. Sherrill was fantastic for the Dodgers, as he allowed just two earned runs in 27.2 innings.

The Starting Lineup: The Dodgers club will feature the same lineup it did during the playoffs last year. Rafael Furcal leads off and he is followed by slugging outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez. Kemp won both the Gold Glove award and the Silver Slugger last year and should challenge for a 30-30 year. Ethier set a career high with a .237 ISO last season. Ramirez had a tough year, with first the suspension and later a hand injury, but he still posted a 148 wRC+ to lead the team. James Loney has not developed the home-run power the club hoped for, but he has back-to-back 90-RBI seasons. Casey Blake had a .320/.442/.563 line against LHPs last year and is a consistent .275 hitter with 20-homer power.

Ronnie Belliard took over for Orlando Hudson at second base down the stretch and the Dodgers chose to bring him back instead of Hudson, who had just a .707 OPS in his final 114 games. Belliard hit for both average (.351) and power (.636 SLG) in his brief time with the Dodgers last year. Belliard has a weight clause in his contract where if he reports to spring training at more than 209 pounds, the club can release him. In that case, Blake DeWitt would become the starter. Russell Martin struggled at the plate last year and hopes to improve upon last season’s .285 BABIP and 5.4 HR/FB rate.

The Bench: The Dodgers brought in Jamey Carroll to complement DeWitt for infield depth, although DeWitt may start the year in the minors if he does not grab a starting job. Doug Mientkiewicz signed a minor league deal and will likely be the back-up first baseman. Brad Ausmus returns as the second catcher. With the trade of Juan Pierre, Jason Repko becomes the primary outfield reserve. The bench is not a strong point of the club.

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