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LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Overall – 79 points (14th MLB, 7th NL)
Starting Rotation – 32 points (10th MLB, 5th NL)
Line-Up – 32 points (16th MLB, 10th NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 15 points (T-11th MLB, T-7th NL)
Offseason Additions – Andruw Jones, Hiroki Kuroda
Offseason Subtractions – Mark Hendrickson, Randy Wolf, Luis Gonzalez
Biggest Strength– Bullpen
Joe Torre will have to get used to a lot of things moving from NY to LA, but sweating out the 8th and 9th innings will not be one of them. Both their 8th inning (Jonathan Broxton) and 9th inning (Takashi Saiko) guys have dominant stuff, each averaging over 10 K per 9 innings pitched. Saiko established himself as a premier closer with a 1.40 ERA, 39 Saves and 78 K in 64.1 IP. Broxton was unbelievable, falling only 1 strikeout short of 100 for the season. Before they get to these 2, the Dodgers have several reliable guys in Scott Proctor (3.38 ERA after coming over from NYY), Joe Beimel (3.88 ERA in 67.1 IP) and Rudy Seanez (3.79 ERA in 76 IP).
Biggest Weakness– Lack of Power
The Dodgers were 2nd to last in the NL in HR’s last year to only the Washington Nationals, who played in a gigantic ballpark. Their team leader in HR was Jeff Kent, with 20. Their RBI leader was Russell Martin, with 87. To try to solve this problem, they signed Andruw Jones in the offseason, who has hit 50 HR in the past, but had a seriously off year last year with 26 HR and 94 RBI, which still would have led the Dodgers. Jones is only 30, even though he has been in the league since 1996, and should provide the Dodgers with a little more pop this season. If they can get some improved power numbers from their young players (Russell Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier), they should be OK, but for now, it’s an area of concern.
Key Player in ’08– Chad Billingsley
Billingsley has all the makings of leaping up into the elite level of pitchers this year. At 23, he pitched very well last year, going 12-5 with a 3.31 ERA and 141 K in 147 IP. If he is able to improve his control and keep his walks down, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be an All-Star. The Dodgers staff is good, but lacks a true ace. If Billingsley can fill the role that Brandon Webb and Jake Peavy already occupy in the NL West, the Dodgers will make a serious playoff push.
Player to Keep an Eye On– Matt Kemp
Of all the Dodgers young players, it appears that Kemp has the best chance of breaking out in 2008. Like Billingsley, he is 23 and was very impressive during his time in the big leagues last year. In 292 ABs, he hit .342 with 10 HR, 42 RBI and 10 SB. His high batting average was not a fluke. After his 20th birthday, he hit .325 in the minor leagues. Just from looking at the numbers, he looks like Bobby Abreu without the walks. He will hit for average and hit a decent amount of doubles and steal some bases and hit about 20 HR without trying to hit them.
2008 Outlook: 2nd Place, NL West. The Dodgers are an intriguing team to me. If Joe Torre provides some focus, Billingsley steps up, Andruw Jones plays like he did 2 years ago, and Hiroki Kuroda proves to be a solid compliment to Lowe, Billingsley and Penny, this team can absolutely win the Division and even win the Pennant. However, I’m not sold that their offense will have the firepower to get them there. Jeff Kent is running on fumes, Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal have trouble getting on base at the top of the line-up, and they are relying on a lot of unproven young players. Either way, expect them to be in the playoff picture for the entire season.
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