The Coors Effect

January 21, 2010 7:17 PM

2010 Preview Series: Los Angeles Dodgers

While the Coors Effect is, always has been, and always will be a Rockies-focused blog, the Rockies don't play in a vacuum.  Entering the season, it's important to know just what is going on with the rest of the teams in the majors; hence, we're going to take a day to preview each of the other 29 teams in the league.  Don't worry -- we'll keep up with any Rockies-related news during this time.

The Dodgers won the NL West in 2009, and they're widely expected to repeat in 2010.  Last season, six of the team's eight regulars posted an OPS+ of 104 or better, and, aside from second baseman Orlando Hudson, all of them are back this season.  While Manny Ramirez is the big name on the Los Angeles offense, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier had solid years as well, and those three give the Dodgers arguably the best outfield in the league.  Depth could be an issue; Juan Pierre isn't a great player, but he filled in nicely when Ramirez was out, and he's now gone.  It's now a considerable dropoff from those three to the backups (Xavier Paul and Jason Repko.)  Ramirez turns 38 this year, so it's reasonable to think his career is on the downslope, though he hasn't shown it in recent years.

The infield is a different story.  James Loney doesn't provide the power you'd like from a first baseman, having hit 13 homers each of the past two years.  In fact, after a strong rookie season, Loney has posted OPS numbers of .772 and .756.  At 25, there's still a chance he'll turn things around, but Loney may never develop that much power.  The departure of Orlando Hudson leaves a hole at second, and Rafael Furcal has now been injured or a disappointment for three straight years.  Casey Blake is coming off a career year at the hot corner, but at 36, there's no guarantee that he will continue to play at that level.  Catcher Russell Martin had an off year in 2009, and it's reasonable to expect a bounce-back year; but catchers can tend to have weird aging patterns, so while you would think he's entering his peak offensive years, it's also possible that he's already peaked.

So while the Diamondbacks' offense is filled with a lot of "what-ifs," the Dodgers' offense is filled with a lot of "what-ifs"... going in the other direction.  There's no reason to expect that Kemp and Ethier will be anything but strong offensive players, but Ramirez and Blake are getting up there in years, so while nobody is predicting a dropoff this season, it wouldn't be entirely unexpected, either.  Loney's power might develop, or it might not.  And the Dodgers really have no idea who will be manning the keystone (though Hudson is still on the market.)

The Dodgers have solid depth on the pitching staff and not one, but two potential aces in Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley.  Both still have command issues (particularly Kershaw), and Kershaw is probably due some correction after luck aided him in achieving a 2.79 ERA, but it's hard not to like the top two.  Hiroki Kuroda is a solid number three starter.  While the team will miss Randy Wolf, the Dodgers have done a good job developing young pitchers in recent years and should have no problems finding pitchers to fill the final two spots in the rotation (James McDonald and Josh Lindblom are probably the two best candidates, though the Dodgers could seek a free-agent addition to the rotation.)  Closer Jonathan Broxton is lights-out, and setup man George Sherrill is very good as well.  The Dodgers have also done a good job of developing relievers to bridge the gap between the starters and the back end.  That's especially important since both Kershaw and Billingsley averaged less than six innings per start.

The Dodgers have a solid farm system; unlike the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers have several players in the upper minors who could contribute if needed, in addition to some toolsy players in the lower minors.

While the team enters the season as the favorite in the NL West, they're not an overwhelming one.  The Rockies have solid young talent, and the Giants' starting pitching is easily the best in the division.

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