When Will Soon Be Now??

Pitchers and catchers, please pick up the white courtesy phone and report to Vero Beach, FL. Please, for everyone’s sake. On a personal note, this will be the first time since 2004 I won’t be attending a spring training at Dodgertown; if only I’d known that last year was going to be my last.

But, on a brighter note, 2008 beckons with a good deal of hope for the Blue (despite what may be the toughest and most competitive division in baseball). To that end, let’s take an in-depth look at the upcoming season’s roster with an MSTI first – a guest post by the illustrious and handsome CeyHeyJay, in what will certainly annihilate the MSTI record for “most words in a post”. Take it away, Jay!

Starting Pitching: Our pitching staff is pretty close to set with the signing of Rudy Seanez, although I’m not sold that it’s a foregone conclusion he’ll make the team. He got a ML roster spot, but his contract isn’t guaranteed. I figure he’ll have to show at least a little something in spring to save his spot. I see him being someone who will likely make the opening day roster, but with his age and use last year, along with year-to-year inconsistencies, I expect Seanez will be good for a while and somewhere around June or July start to fall apart, at which time he may get released and replaced with one of our many young pitchers ready to contribute.

The rotation is set at 4 spots without question.
Penny
Billingsley
Lowe
Kuroda

I don’t like Schmidt’s chances at starting the year in the rotation. In fact, I think we are likely to see a new trend started this year with the Dodgers leading the way.
There are a number of free agent pitchers, who like Schmidt, are returning from major injuries. Most of those haven’t been signed yet. I think several will be, and teams will try to do what I expect the Dodgers to do, use the pitcher returning from injury for “depth.”

I think Schmidt will start the year in extended spring training, especially if Loiaza does reasonably well in the spring. I know many are down on Esteban; in fact, many are already comparing him to Tomko. I don’t think that’s fair. Loiaza’s numbers over the years have shown he’s good one year, bad the next, good the next, bad the next. When he’s had a good year, he’s been mostly good that entire year. I think he’s just under 50-50 in the chances that he’ll be good this year.

I think Loiaza gets the 5 spot in the rotation to begin the year with Schmidt and Kuo in extended spring training. If Loiaza shows early that we’re going to get Bad Esteban, then Schmidt or Kuo will be “rushed,” depending on which one is more ready.

Jon Weisman at DodgerThoughts had an interesting take on Kuo. He seems to think the Dodgers will use him as a reliever and just let him pitch until his arm falls off, which will invariably happen. I think there is something to that, but he’s just not done well as a reliever. They could use him as a long guy, making sure he gets plenty of time to warm up and only starts innings, but while that concept sounds good, it never seems to work out. I say send him to extended spring training and see what happens from there. Bottom line, you can’t count on anything whatsoever from Kuo. If we get anything at all, it’s unexpected manna from heaven.

Relief Pitching: As for relievers, Weisman seems to think Loiaza will fill the long man role, and like I said above, I disagree. Everyone can agree we have four spots set.

CL Saito
Set-up Broxton
LH Beimel
RH Proctor

I am thrilled with each of those four returning in the roles they have. Beimel’s a beast against LH, while Proctor is the definition of a workhorse. Broxton is too, but he’s still young and should not have been abused in the fashion he was last year. Little simply used him in situations he didn’t have to and we paid for it late in the season. If he’s used correctly, and I know Torre doesn’t have a reputation for using relievers correctly, Broxton will continue to turn into the beast he’s destined to be. I expect he’ll get some saves this year as Sammy isn’t getting any younger. In another year or two, I think Broxton will be battling Paplebon for the title of best relief pitcher in baseball. I expect this year, he’ll be the best “non full time” closer in baseball as well.

If we accept the notion that Seanez is a lock, which isn’t that faulty of a notion, then it’s a matter of who gets the last spot. One thing to keep in mind is the schedule works pretty well in our favor in April and May. There are plenty of days off, pretty well spaced out, so carrying 12 pitchers shouldn’t be a necessity until June or so.

I like the idea of Brazoban getting the spot. Yhency is at a point in his career where it’s time to find out what he is. Of course, he’s got to be healthy to find that out, but I’m still intrigued by him. Remember, when we first got him, he soared through the system and looked like a very good set-up guy. Then the Gagne injury pushed him into the closer’s role in 2005 and he failed miserably. I don’t think he’s got what it takes to be a closer, for whatever reason, but I think it’s quite possible he could still turn out to be a pretty solid set-up guy. Whatever the case, we need to find out.

However, Brazoban still has options, which sort of complicates things in my mind. I like depth, and as much as I like it, Colletti likes it twice as much. So, we could go with someone like Mike Myers or Tom Martin for the final spot, giving us two LH, and have Yhency in Vegas waiting for Rudy Seanez to fall apart. That seems like the most logical thing to see happen.

So, I’ll start the season with:
SP Penny
SP Billingsley
SP Lowe
SP Kuroda
SP Loiaza
RP Saito
RP Broxton
RP Proctor
RP Beimel
RP Seanez
RP Myers or Martin

Starting Line-up: While the line-up seems quite set, there will be debate about what line-up to use. However, especially in these parts, the choice seems obvious.

SS Furcal
C Martin
1B Loney
CF Jones
RF Kemp
2B Kent
3B LaRoche
LF Ethier

Debate Kemp or Loney in the 3 hole, debate what order Kemp or Loney bats in relation to Kent. Put Kent in the 5 hole if you must. But, however you do it, that HAS to be our starting 8, doesn’t it?

We’ll be swamped with stories about Pierre starting and hitting 2nd, but I’m still holding out hope, like everyone else around these parts, that he’ll be sent to the White Sox or somebody. If not, I’ll hold out hope all the way to the bitter end, they he’s no more than our PR specialist. I know what some are are probably thinking, I thought you were a Pierre fan. Don’t believe the hype. I said it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Ethier was traded and Pierre was kept. That had more to do with what Ethier should be worth and could net in a trade than it ever did with Pierre’s value. Pierre in LF, sharing time with Delwyn Young, while we got some really, really good value for Ethier, would not have been the end of the world. Pierre starting, hitting at the top of the order, while Ethier only spot starts and Young rarely starts at all, that’s no good, no good at all!

What has worried me more lately is hearing Torre talk about how Pierre would be hitting at the top of the order if he does play. The problem that presents is we have too many impact hitters to waste a spot with Pierre at the top of the order. Seriously, who would he move to the 7 hole? Martin???? Loney???? Kemp???? Each of those guys has a chance to make a huge impact on our line-up and they all could benefit from having both Jones and Kent hitting around them, providing protection. NONE of those three should be hitting 7th.

And Andy LaRoche’s development will be a big story as well. Think of this, LaRoche has always hit in the middle of the order in whatever line-up he’s been in, probably ever since he picked up a bat in T-Ball. It will be a bit of an adjustment hitting 7th, but how is he going to develop hitting 8th. Actually, he did almost what you want an 8th place hitter to do last year, when forced into that spot. Be patient, make the pitcher throw you pitches, take a lot of walks and get on base. That’s what we want out of the 8th spot, but that’s not what we want from Andy LaRoche. We want him looking for pitches to crush, which he should be able to do hitting 7th. That’s a much more difficult task hitting 8th and we shouldn’t be doing anything to make it more difficult for Andy LaRoche to develop into what he can become.

Trade Pierre! Sit him. Do whatever you have to, but don’t let him disrupt our young players. And I say all that without even getting into the fact that Andre Ethier will probably be a .300/.365/.430 guy with around 18 HR, give or take, if he gets a full season of ABs as a starter.

The choice IS obvious. Do the right thing Torre/Colletti!

Bench: As for the bench, it doesn’t seem that we are done yet. There is still talk of Mark Sweeney and Tony Clark, and I would guess we’ll add a LH bat off the bench at some point in the next week or so.

Bennett is set as the back-up catcher, hopefully a spot Torre uses a little more frequently than Little did. The fact that our line-up is deeper may lend itself to doing that. The main thing I want to see is what Russell Martin can do if he’s rested properly. Was it just me or did it seem every time he was rested, the next day he had 2 or 3 hits and did something spectacular? If he gets enough rest I think he’ll hit over .300 with a .400 OBP and a SLG closer to 500 than 400. I think he could hit close to 25 home runs and steal that many bases.

I really really like the idea of Nomar being a super utility guy, and not just because I want LaRoche to start so badly. I just think the fit could be perfect for both Nomar and the Dodgers for years to come. I think he can provide adequate defense at 3 or 4 positions to be the guy not only to come off the bench and give you starts or a great PH, but also be a guy you can use in case of injury. If he can learn to play a decent 2B, he could fill in if Kent goes down for a few weeks. If LaRoche or Loney went down for a short time, he could fill in there. He probably could learn to play the outfield well enough to help out there for a couple of weeks.

What Nomar could do is avoid us being in a situation where we have to make a trade because of an injury. Those sort of trades can really hamper your long-term planning. If Nomar is able to fill in at a number of spots, he could provide depth as our “9th starter.” It could be an asset that could make him worth $5 million a year going forward, and he seems at this point in his life to be a lot less worried about making money and a lot more concerned with being in a comfortable position. He’s loved by Dodger fans, and if he takes this sort of role on, he could continue forward as one of our most beloved players.

As for the other spots off the bench, it seems very likely that Delwyn Young will be the 4th outfielder, and he seems very ready for that role. In fact, HE might be the one to push Ethier for playing time. Also, I would not expect Kemp or Ethier to be ready to play anywhere near 162 games at this point in their careers, so Young should get a fair share of starts to keep him from getting rusty. He just seems like a guy who can flat out hit, so I think he’d been fine as a pinch-hitter, better than what you would expect from the average young kid.

Abreu will likely take the utility infielder role, which will be a more important role considering Kent’s age and the fact that the addition of Jones means we don’t have to keep Kent’s bat in games as much late in games. Abreu might play 120 games and only have 200 or so ABs. He’ll play a lot of late inning defense, but I figure he’ll also get a fair share of starts as well.

In reality, we don’t even need Pierre for the bench as Jason Repko provides everything Pierre can provide off the bench, along with being twice the defender Juan is. However, Pierre could provide depth, so he may be kept around with Repko still having options, meaning Jason could provide depth by being in Vegas.

C Bennett
IF Garciaparra
IF Abreu
OF Young
OF Pierre
PH Sweeney

What I have done is a combination of what I would do and what I expect Colletti will do. For instance, I would sign Clark for the PH role, but it just doesn’t seem to me that’s likely to happen. I figure Sweeney’s more Colletti’s guy. I’d also trade Pierre for whatever I could get at this point, but I figure Colletti will keep him around. Actually, I fear Pierre will start the year hitting 1st or 2nd and starting in LF. If that happens, I hope Martin bats 8th as he’s the one hitter of all our young hitters who is completely developed and wouldn’t be hampered by hitting that low in the order. However, if we waste Martin’s bat hitting him 8th, somebody should be slapped.

Thanks for pinch-hitting, Jay. I look forward to your upcoming page-a-day calendar, 365 Reasons Why Juan Pierre Sucks.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg