teams have reported to 2010 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year.
You know it’s a tight division when I have the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have ruled the National League West the last few seasons, slated to finish third. Before you call me crazy, let me tell you why.
These guys have holes in every facet of the game.
On offense, the Dodgers certainly have a few studs. Matt Kemp has emerged as one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball. He has a strong arm, plus good power at the plate and speed. He’s the driving force of this offense. Andre Ethier has quietly developed into a top-notch clutch hitter, reminiscent of Big Papi’s heyday in Boston because of his ability to come up with the big hit – often a walkoff – late in games.
Along with Kemp, he gives L.A. two 100-RBI guys in the middle of the order.
If Manny Ramirez rediscovers himself, the Dodgers will really start scoring again. But Manny wasn’t 100 per cent healthy last year and struggled after sitting 50 games over PED use. At his advanced age, he’s no sure bet to recapture his magic.
The rest of the lineup has a few capable but underwhelming bats, such as James Loney and Casey Blake, and Rafael Furcal can still be a good leadoff man during the rare moments when he’s healthy.
Overall, though, this isn’t a particularly deep lineup. If catcher Russell Martin can be an All-Star again instead of the easy out he was in 2009, it will go a long way.
I said it last year and I’ll say it again: the Dodgers shouldn’t have let Derek Lowe walk. He was a consistent, stabilizing presence in the middle of the rotation and things got shaky without him last year.
Clayton Kershaw is now the ace and deserves that title thanks to his outstanding curveball and strikeout ability, but his awkward delivery could cause a major injury at any moment. Chad Billingsley brings many of the same skills to the table but he lost his control last year.
If he doesn’t bounce back and play 1B to Kershaw’s 1A, the Dodgers could have the weakest rotation in the division.
Apologies to Vicente Padilla – I know he was great upon arriving in L.A. midway through last season – but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and just not that talented. I think his success in 2009 was an anomaly. Hiroki Kuroda is an efficient pitcher but he can’t stay healthy. Who does that leave? Russ Ortiz? Eric Stults? James McDonald doesn’t appear ready for the bigs, so the Dodgers rotation looks flimsy.
I can’t imagine what an injury to Kershaw or Billingsley would do to them.
Hey – we all know Jonathan Broxton is an absolute monster in the ninth inning, perhaps the top closer in the game at this point. But what happens if the Dodgers can’t get to him with a lead? The rest of their bullpen is anything but safe.
Ronald Belisario is battling visa problems, Hong-Chih Kuo has elbow soreness and George Sherrill, while effective, is better suited as a lefty specialist.
The Dodgers can still win the NL West if everyone stays healthy and ManRam shows he has something left, but I don’t see it happening. There are too many leaks to plug and both the Rockies and Giants are young teams on the rise.
The Dodgers may have missed their shot at the World Series in 2008 and 2009.
Dodgers Prediction: Third, National League West
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