Saturday, May 28, 2011

2011 Dodger hitters: Kemp, Ethier and pray that Aaron Miles doesn't play and bat second

The 2011 Dodgers season may be irreconcilably lost by injuries, part of the perpetual outflow of players is by design. If Ned Colletti wasn't trying to win a mid-2000's World Series, they might be younger (read: healthier) team. There are some bright spots but there is a lot of bad.

In general, with all that has gone on in the Dodger organization with the McCourt drama, the fan beating, players dropping like flies, the stadium is catching fire. Thank Christ we still have Vin Scully!

First, the Infield.

James Loney has just been horrible. If he can have two months of solid production, however, he could end up on the Rays. The scary thing is that Casey Kotchman might be better. We could be looking at a player in Loney who may not be in baseball much longer. Juan Uribe has disappointed some fans but he hasn't been healthy all year. I like the player but the contract is just dumb and he may be aging but if he comes back and stays healthy, Dodgers fans probably won't be disappointed. Casey Blake just got hit with some bad luck, Rafael Furcal might have as well but he is, by definition, prone to injury so fate is not all to blame.

The discussion might be over but the 2011 Dodgers had the need for a whole other infield. Jamey Carroll has been slightly better than he was last year. A 1 WAR player is Carroll and his .358 OBP is third to Kemp and Ethier (though his SLG is only a thousandth higher). Carroll is an excellent utility fielder and probably one of the few players that is a good fit for the #2 spot in the lineup. Then, there's the oaf named Aaron Miles. He is a bumbling second baseman and it only gets worse if he plays 3B or SS. At the plate, he has Scotty Pods syndrome, where, like Scott Podsednik last year, it seemed as if he was being productive but his stats are still horrible and he has little value. For some reason, the team brought Ivan DeJesus up but that reason wasn't that he was going to get playing time. As I have written before, IDJ probably won't pan out and is a future Pirate but we KNOW Miles is bad and IDJ could at least be given the time of day.

Rod Barajas has actually been decent. He can still throw guys out now and he will hit home runs. Dioner Navarro is predictably a stupid mistake. As we've seen with the whole Buster Posey incident. the catcher is a position that is not stable and not worth investing in all that much. Still, the Dodgers could have done better.

Now, the Outfield:

So, does Matt Kemp's season thus far make those old, crusty former Dodger coaches look a bit petty for trashing a potential star player? Yes? OK, just checking.  Andre Ethier had a month-long hitting streak and, at present, he could be pulling out of a slump at the moment. He is actually holding his own in right field as well. Hopefully when Trayvon Robinson gets called up, he moves but he is not a liability. Remember, the Dodgers still could have Juan Pierre. He is a mess in the field this year. Speaking of left field, it was going to be a jumbled mess of flyers and AAAA players. Then, Jerry Sands was called up. Get this, an actual prospect was crushing the minor leagues and he actually got called up and is getting regular starts. I know, this is a big deal. He is as advertised: great power, great makeup and he has some speed to boot.

Tony Gwynn Jr. has not earned Donnie's confidence and that is alright because the Dodgers don't need him to come off of the bench all that much. The Dodgers could really use Marcus Thames, even if it's only for pinch hitting.

Closing Thoughts: Perhaps the Dodgers will have Ethier, Robinson and Kemp in the outfield and Sands playing 1B by July. Why not? If Loney doesn't turn it on soon, he will have no value and must be benched by July unless he produces. The rest of the infield is rather tenuous but Furcal could stand to build his trade value if the Dodgers hadn't rushed him back.

This team is playing slightly worse than they probably should but I have little to no expectation that they will exceed their mediocre projection. I will discuss the bullpen another time but the Dodgers having so many 0 or 1 run games is just as much of a problem of the glaring bullpen collapse.

With all that is going on (so many teams having their secondary ticket markets collapse resulting in empty seats and low concession sales), the team would be wise to have the outfield and 1B I suggested by the trade deadline. James Loney's time is running out. This could be like last season, except with a worse start but hopefully less trash added at the trade deadline. There is still time and this is the NL but it's a long way out of Narnia (I don't know what I mean by that either). Whoever is running the team or paying the bills should lock up Ethier and Kershaw. That may be the most important accomplishment for 2011.

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