While many Dodger fans are moaning that we are a horrible team without Manny Ramirez, The Sporting News 2009 Baseball Yearbook picks the Dodgers to win the NL West Title. Now, I don’t put that much stock in a tabloid rag and the fish hacks who write it , but it does show that some people think we can win. Today, I’ll discuss our team without Manny. However, for the record, I think that the Dodgers will sign him by the 28th of February! Here’s what a rival team’s scout had to say about this years version Dodgers, sans Manny:
“The Dodgers have good young players and they are going to get better. What they went through last September only shows them what they are capable of. Yes, Manny Ramirez was a factor, but he was there the month of August too, and that didn’t make a difference. What happened with this team was that Jeff Kent was removed from the equation. He got hurt, wasn’t with the team and the young kids finally relaxed and found the game fun again. Once they did that it became misery for everybody they were playing.
The offense has potential as guys like Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney develop. This can aslo become a plus defensive team. What’s important for the lineup is that Rafael Furcal stays healthy. He is as dangerous a leadoff htter as there is in the big leagues right now. He disrupts the game when he is on base, and he has enough power to change the direction of the game if a pitcher makes a mistake.
Furcal is also the stabalizing point for the defense. While their center-field situation is a mess, the only other spot where the defense can be ranked average, at best, is third base with Casey Blake. The thing about Blake is he is a “try-hrader guy.” He gives you so much effort that you tend to overlook his shortcomings.
The Dodgers decided to go young with the pitching staff. They can afford to do that because they have the good young arms.. Are they going to be ready this year? Only time will tell. But what you do know is that this year or next year, at the latest, this is a rotation that win dominate. The jury is still out on Broxton as a closer…”
Let’s analyze the makeup of this team without Manny:
1B- James Loney is quietly becoming a force at 1B. He will win a Gold Glove soon and should be a .300 hitter with 20 HR and 100 RBI. That puts him near the top at his position.
2B- Blake DeWitt will be the official starter, but Mark Loretta will start against tough LH pitchers. I predict that this platoon will produce a BA of .270/20 HR and 70 RBI from the #8 hole.
SS- If Rafael Furcal stays healthy, he is one of the top impact players in the game.
3B- Casey Blake provides a very important mental toughness which will help his young teammates. The versatility of DeWitt (2B, 3B) and Blake (3B, 1B, LF, RF) allows Joe Torre to “rest” Russell Martin at 3B on certain days. Blake could also see some time in LF.
LF- Andre Ethier will be a year better and I project him at .300/25/100. He is an excellent LF as well, with a very good arm. He’s not as soft as he once was.
CF – Juan Pierre has to play here. He’s not the greatest CF ever, but he covers more ground than Kemp and has more experience. He needs to play there if Manny is not signed.
RF – Matt Kemp is possibly the offensive key to our season. If he continues to improve, and realizes more of his potential (he reported with the pitchers and catchers to Spring Training), he will not be just be the Bison, but he’ll also be the Monster. I expect him to hit near .300 with 25-30 HR and 110 RBI from the Cleanup Spot. He will also have about 15-20 Outfield Assists.
C- This will be the year that Russell Martin distances himself from most other catchers in baseball. His hitting and defense will be elevated, but most importantly, he will become the Dodgers captain.
This would be the lineup:
- Furcal SS
- Pierre CF
- Ethier LF
- Kemp RF
- Loney 1B
- Martin C
- Blake 3B
- DeWitt/Loretta 2B
That’s not a bad lineup, but even Ray Charles can see that it would be much better with Manny in LF and Pierre on the bench, with Kemp in CF and Ethier in RF. I do think we’ll sign Manny before February, 28th. However, what will make or break this team, regardless of whether we sign Manny or not, is what happens with our pitching staff. Our bench should also be more than adequate with Asumus at C (great clubhouse guy), Loretta (ditto the clubhouse part) and Young as pinchhitters and with Hu, Abreu, Castro, DeJesus, Luna and Maza fighting for 2 spots at most. In the OF, we have Xavier Paul who gets better by the year and Jason Repko, who I would not be surprised to see traded. With Martin slated to play 3B occassionally, I would not be surprised if we kept 3 catchers, although Delwyn Young is working out there and could be the answer.
We will absolutley live and die by our pitching. Unless Manny can pitch, he won’t help there. I am going to go out on a limb here and make this statement: If Jason Schmidt continues his comeback, I would not be surprised to see him be our opening day starter. Yes, that could happen, and it would be a fitting reward to a guy who was signed as an Ace and battled back to become one. I do believe our starters will be Schmidt, Billingsley, Wolf, Kuroda and Kershaw (in no particular order), with the pen being composed of Wade, Troncoso, Mota, McDonald, Elbert, Kuo and Broxton. Vargas, Estes, Stults and others are also in the mix.
Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Nomar Garciparra are all gone. Lowe didn’t want to be here, but was the only one of the five who leaves a void, a void we have filled with Wolf and the healthy Jason Schmidt. The scout quoted above values Jeff Kent’s absence as much as he values Manny Ramirez’ presence as the key to the Dodgers offensive success. That may be true, but Manny will certainly help us.