Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
We really like James Loney. Wanna know a secret? If you haven’t gotten to know James Loney by now, you will know the name soon. A lot of the talk about this Dodgers team will automatically gravitate towards Manny Ramirez, but its about to go in a different direction. Loney is 25 years old and is about to become the face of this franchise. For the next decade, he’s going to be a guy who gets between 180-210 hits and hits 20 dingers while driving in around 90-100. This upcoming season, he’s going to contend for the batting title and we’d like to pick him to win it.
It’s not like people shouldn’t already know who he is, he was the 19th overall pick in the 2002 baseball draft. But people don’t realize that the guy has under the radar value. This guy is soon to be a legit star in all of baseball. We don’t know if that is because he’s a quiet star in the loud city, or because of Manny Ramirez, or Dodger fans are too concentrated on their jalapeno and hot dog combination or what.
Or it could be because Loney is just a really nice player on a really nice overall team. These Dodgers really do look loaded when you step back and take a look at them. Rafael Furcal leads off, and if he’s healthy he’s one of the truly dynamic lea doff men in all of baseball. Russell Martin is a guy who will be in the top of the order and he’s a fine young backstop with some pop. Then the thunder starts.
Manny Ramirez is back, and while he won’t hit near .400 again, he’ll definitely do some damage. Manny could roll out of bed and hit .300 with 30 homers in the National League. He’ll do slightly more then that. If he stays healthy, he could lead the league in homers even at his age. If he wants to.
Then you’ve got Andre Ethier. Once again, a nice player. He hit .305 last season with 20 home runs. Not a guy we’re real high on but you can’t argue that he’s just pretty good at the major league level. The Dodgers then have one of our favorite players in the game at third base. Casey Blake. The guy is scrappy. Every spring he came to Cleveland with a new arrival to take his job and every year he ended up playing in 150 games and helping the team to a few extra victories. He’s blood and sweat and scrap. Not enough Casey Blakes exist in this game anymore.
Then you get into another young player with almost limitless potential. There is a reason the Dodgers have never traded away Matt Kemp. Maybe that reason is because they believe that he could reach some individuals expectations as a future MVP type guy. Kemp can do it all, which includes hitting video game tape measure shots, robbing home runs, throwing guys out from the track in center field, and generally just being a force altogether. Expect his best season yet.
Blake Dewitt is nothing special but at second base he will definitely round out the bottom of the order for this team.
The starting pitching is pretty solid and is led by new ace Chad Billingsley. Derek Lowe and Brad Penny departed this offseason, leaving Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 ERA) as the No. 2 starter. Then you’ve got phenom Clayton Kershaw as the number three. Randy Wolf and Jason Schmidt should round out the rotation.
Jonathan Broxton will be the closer with the only other notable arm in the pen being Guillermo Mota.
Everyone knows about skipper Joe Torre doing his thing and winning baseball games. These guys are heavily talented and should be the favorite to win the NL West. Some might wonder why the we picked the Giants to beat them out for the division crown, and we even wonder that, but the bottom line is it is a gut feeling and nothing more. You are simply looking at a very good ballclub for 2009.