I'm just going to come out and say it, because it's what we all know already.
The Dodgers' 2009 season, as of right now, depends on Manny Ramirez.
Not since the days of Mike Piazza have the Dodgers (known for excellent pitching) relied on one man to carry the team. The Dodgers will look at Ramirez much like the way they did the second half of last season. A big-time RBI guy who will "be Manny" but loves the pressure situations and will gladly swing the bat with the game on the line. And based on last year's numbers, it's hard to think he'd do otherwise.
In 53 games with the Dodgers last season, Ramirez hit 17 home runs and had 53 RBI, while batting an absurd .396! It's doubtful he's going to mimic those numbers, but he won't be far off. I expect a HUGE full year in Los Angeles from Manny.
As for the rest of the team, the pitching is the only thing that worries me entering the season. Over the offseason, the Dodgers lost critical pieces of their rotation and bullpen, and it'll be interesting to see how the team rebounds.
Gone are Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Greg Maddux, Takashi Saito, Joe Beimel, and Scott Proctor. That is serious talent, which equates to serious holes to fill. Their additions aren't nearly as attractive as the list that left: Randy Wolf, Guillermo Mota, and, as of today, Will Ohman.
The club is expecting the "kids" to develop into the players they hope they'll become, with a rotation consisting of Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Randy Wolf, and James McDonald. This certainly doesn't strike fear into most opposing lineups, but if Billingsley and Kershaw turn the corner and become lights out like the club expects, there's no doubt the Dodgers will be playing in October.
Manny or not.
Then there's the starting eight. I've liked what I've seen from the kids the past few seasons. Andre Ethier, James Loney, Matt Kemp, and Russell Martin all have bright futures, and the Dodgers have held nothing back surrounding them with veteran talent in Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, and, of course, Manny. It was nice to see the team make Manny, Furcal, and Blake a priority to bring back, as well as sign Hudson at an immensely discounted price.
Overall, the club will be just fine. If the pitching doesn't hold up, there are still trades and a ton of free agents in the pool (Pedro Martinez anyone?) Expect the Dodgers to win the National League West this year and make a strong push in the playoffs similar to last year.