Russel Martin (C):
Written by Bjoern Hartig
Published: 16 February 2008
Russel Martin is probably the only catcher in baseball right now who is a sure bet to put up double digits in stolen bases, making him a rare specimen of the five-tool catcher. Last season, he swiped 21 while hitting .293/.374/.469 with 87 RBI and 19 Home Runs. He is still only 24 years old and although he wore down a little in September, age related improvement should compensate a potential slight decrease in playing time.
Takashi Saito (CL):
When Saito came to the US in 2006, he surprised everyone with a stellar 24 saves, 2.07 ERA, 0.91 WHIP season. He was even better last year, saving 39 games with a 1.40 ERA, 78 Ks in 64.1 innings and a ridiculous 0.72 WHIP. The only drawback is that Saito will be 38 when the season starts. As always with closers, it never hurts to have their set-up man on your team, too.
Jeff Kent (2B):
Kent is already 39 years old and he won’t give you any stolen bases unlike most other second baseman, but he can still hit. Unless he completely falls apart somehow, he should be good for a .280-.300 average, an OBP aound .370 and 15-20 home runs plus around 80 RBI. That’s not Chase Utley, but still pretty solid.
Rafael Furcal (SS):
Kent’s double play partner still has lightning speed and unlike Juan Pierre, he also has a little pop and knows how to take a walk. He should get you around 15 home runs, 110+ runs and around 60 RBI with a .280+ average, but his real worth obviously lies in the bases he steals. 60 steals should be a given after he got 78 last season, but it remains to be seen how often he gets the green light from Torre.
Chad Billingsley (SP):
Billingsley pitched very well when he got the call to the rotation and he may very well be the best Dodgers starter next season. He nearly struck out a batter per inning (141 in 147) and finished with a 3.31 ERA. He is a bit wild sometimes, but his control should only get better as he matures. Since he only pitched 147 innings last season, the Dodgers might have to limit his innnig to less than 180, which limits his value somewhat.
Brad Penny (SP), Derek Lowe (SP):
Both right-handers should be able give you around 200 innings, a sub 4.00 ERA and 140 strikeouts and give up a hit per inning. Lowe is probably the slightly better choice, because he has been more consistent lately while Penny is the bigger injury risk and he also walks more batters, although he does have more upside.
Matt Kemp (RF):
It looks that Kemp finally has secured the everyday job in right field, and he is in better condition this year, too, so he should be able to put up 20+ in home runs and stolen bases. His RBI should also increase as he will probably rise up in the batting order. However, don’t expect him to repeat his .342/.373/.521 line from last year because that was paced by a ridiculous high rate of ball in play dropping in for hits (.411).
Andruw Jones (CF):
Jones had to endure the worst season of his career in 2007, hitting only .222, although he still managed to jack 26 balls out of the park and drive in 94. If he can get back on track, he should get his average up above .250 again and hit 30+ home runs. 100 RBI should also be possible, although he might not get that many chances with a weaker lineup around him.
James Looney (1B):
Looney hit .331 last season with 15 home runs in only 344 at bats, so he should see action in the middle of the order in 2008. While he does not steal any bases, he should hit .300 with around 25 home runs. That is not elite territory, but if you fill other positions early in the draft, he is a solid option at first base later.
Jason Schmidt (SP):
It was just two seasons ago that Schmidt pitched 213.1 innings with 180 Ks and a 3.59 ERA for the Giants. Now he comes back from shoulder surgery after pitching terribly in just six games in 2007. Since Schmidt still has a name, it’s likely someone else will overpay for him.
Hiroki Kuroda (SP):
Kuroda has a 3.69 career ERA in 1700 innings in Japan and he struck out about 7 per 9. His K/BB rate is 2.8, although he improved his controll with the year and last season, he struck out nearly seven times as many as he walked. How is this going to relate into Major League numbers? I have no idea. Given that even Dice-K struggled a bit to adjust to pitching in the US, don’t expect to much from him, but Kuroda might be a good late round pick-up if he gets overlooked.
Juan Pierre / Andre Ethier (LF):
Both compete for the left field job and since Pierre has the name and the contract, I very much expect him to “win” it. But Pierre hit only .293/.331/.353 last year (although with 64 stolen bases), while Ethier authored a batting line of .284/.350/.452, so Ethier might actually be the better choice. If Torre realizes that some day, Pierre might see his playing time decline, so don’t take him too soon, steals or not. Ethier on the other hand will not run much and he could probably hit out 15+ dingers in a full season, but he won’t play that much.
Unless Joe Torre foolishly decides to give Nomar Garciaparra a full time job over Andy LaRoche or James Looney, there are no other interesting position battles going on right now on the Dodgers. However, a few things depend on the final lineup Joe Torre is going to write out every day. Pierre batted second most of last year, which is not a particularly good idea given his poor OBP, so he might be dropped down to eight (or nine), which will hurt his Runs total.
Andy LaRoche (3B):
LaRoche comes with a pretty impressive .901 minor league career OPS and should take over the third base job if he holds his own in spring training. He could reach double digit in home runs without too much hastle if playing regularly, but will Joe Torre give the hot corner to a rookie when he is used to see A-Rod there?