There’s Not Much Roster Intrigue Left

I know Joe Torre and Ned Colletti are trying to play it cool with us, of course. Torre says he wants to wait until he gets back to California before he names the starting 2B and 5th starter, and he claims that he still hasn’t decided on the last relievers. It’s nice of him to say that for the sake of the remaining veterans in the final spring games, but it’s become pretty obvious what the the roster is going to look like, and it’s going to be this:

Batters (14)
Starters (8): Martin, Loney, DeWitt, Blake, Furcal, Manny, Kemp, Ethier
Bench (6): Ausmus, Carroll, Belliard, Green, Johnson, Anderson

Pitchers (11)
Starters (5): Kershaw, Billingsley, Padilla, Kuroda, Haeger
Relievers (6): Broxton, Sherrill, Troncoso, Weaver, Monasterios, Ra. Ortiz

Russell Martin played in a major league spring game today. Since that would reset his retroactive disabled list date, he seems assured of making the Opening Day roster. DeWitt hasn’t been named the winner at 2B yet, but he basically has to be. I’ve heard the thoughts from others saying that DeWitt still has minor league options, yet he did nothing but impress this spring. There’s no way he doesn’t get the job. I hate, hate, hate the idea of Nick Green making this club, because A) I’d rather have held on to Eric Stults as the 12th pitcher for a few weeks and B) there’s nothing Green can do that Chin-Lung Hu can’t, but that decision seems to have been made. (Temporarily, at least, since the pitching staff will almost surely swell to 12 when Ronald Belisario and/or Hong-Chih Kuo are ready to return). 

On the pitching side, the first four starters are obvious and Haeger looks to have locked up the #5 job, especially with Stults gone. Beyond the solid top three in the pen, Ken Gurnick reported that Jeff Weaver is on the team, and the eagle-eyed Eric Stephen noted Ramon Ortiz’ #35 bag in the clubhouse truck being packed for Los Angeles.

That leaves the final spot on the staff, and though Russ Ortiz, Josh Towers, Justin Miller, and Luis Ayala are theoretically still in play, there can’t be any question it’s going to Carlos Monasterios. Miller and Towers each have opt-out clauses in their contracts which don’t hit until May 1 (Miller) and June 15 (Towers), so they can be sent to AAA without being lost – and they will be. Monasterios, as you all know by now, would be lost as a Rule 5 pick if he doesn’t make the roster. Would you rather keep the 24-year-old with a 1.93 spring ERA, the 32-year-old in Ayala who was cut or DFA’d three times last year alone (when he’s not being an epic douche or putting up a 5.68 ERA for four teams in the last two years), or the 35-year-old Ortiz, who gave up another homer today and is Russ Ortiz?

There’s just no question there, because there can’t be. Nor is there any question left regarding the roster. Remember, the 25 men who make up the Opening Day roster are somewhat overrated, because due to injury or performance, you’re going to be seeing at least 10 other players this year, if not more. You’ll see Belisario. You’ll see Kuo. You’ll see Scott Elbert and James McDonald. You’ll probably even see an Xavier Paul or A.J. Ellis or Josh Lindblom at some point, plus whomever comes and goes in trades. So don’t get too worked up over the roster on April 5 (it’s the only way to think about seeing Nick Green in Dodger blue, after all), but also don’t hold your breath that the roster you see in Pittsburgh is going to be any different than what’s outlined above.

Update: speaking of someone who’s not going to be on the roster now or at any point in the future, smartest man in baseball Brian Barton was released today.

Mid-March Oddsmaking: #5 Starter

It’s amazing how tidy the batting side of the 2010 roster has turned out to be, isn’t it? What was expected to be a three-way battle for 2B looks to be Blake DeWitt’s job to lose, and the job of lefty bat off the bench is a nice clean (if not sexy, or interesting, or correct) choice between Garret Anderson and Doug Mientkiewicz. Yet with a flurry of moves and interesting performances in the last few days, the fight for the last few pitching spots has really started to heat up.

As you can see from the NRI list at the right, we’ve lost a few hopefuls over the last few days, including NRI’s Eric Gagne, Scott Dohmann, & Francisco Felix – plus minor-league guys like Scott Elbert & Kenley Jansen and Rule 5er Armando Zerpa. Plus, Ronald Belisario almost certainly won’t be on the Opening Day roster at this point, opening up another hole.

So, let’s take advantage of today’s offday and put some odds to our contestants for the #5 starting gig. We’ll do the back of the bullpen separately. Also, just so I don’t have to repeat it 10 times – yes, I 100% totally agree that it’s insane to place too much importance on spring stats against varying competition when a guy has a much longer track record to review. Of course. Let’s just not forget that A) even though spring stats shouldn’t matter, we all know that they do when it comes time to make the decision, and B) meaningless or not, there’s a pretty big divide between a 20.25 ERA and a 0.00 ERA.

5th starter

Eric Stults. As the only Dodger with a shutout in each of the last two years, he’s at least been able to show Joe Torre he has the skills. The question is whether he can use them consistently. Stults is out of options and would almost certainly get picked up by other teams if he was set free. On the other hand, while he hasn’t allowed a run in camp, he’s also pitched just 2 innings, which makes you wonder how interested the staff is in seeing him. Still, his past success plus option status has to make him the leader unless he implodes. Odds: 60%.

Carlos Monasterios. As a Rule 5 pickup who none of us had heard of when he was drafted, one might think that his odds would be pretty low. Yet for a guy with only 7 innings above A ball, he’s been impressive in his admittedly small sample size, tossing 5 scoreless innings. He’s young, but he’s not that young, as he turns 24 later this week. Obviously the Dodgers selected him for a reason, and if he doesn’t make the club he’d have to be offered back to the Phillies, so that alone gives him a little boost. I don’t think he’s got a great chance, but it’s still a chance. Odds: 15%.

James McDonald. Just like last year, I think we’d all come into camp hoping that McDonald would come away with the job. Who wouldn’t want to see the two-time team Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the rotation rather than the usual crew of retreads and has-beens? Despite McDonald’s failure in the role last year, he did turn his season around with an impressive run out of the pen, leading many (okay, me) to hope that he’d found his groove. Yet he’s been awful so far this spring (6 runs and 8 hits in 4 innings, with just 1 K and 3 walks), and with the extra room in the bullpen thanks to Belisario’s disappearance, he may be needed there. Odds: 10%

Charlie Haeger. Everyone’s favorite knuckleballer probably needed a nice camp showing to grab the job, and so far it hasn’t gone all that well. First, he was dropped from the Taiwan trip thanks to a leg injury, costing him valuable mound time in front of Joe Torre. When he has been able to pitch, he hasn’t been overly impressive, putting 8 men on in 4 innings. That said, even if he doesn’t get the starting gig, he could still be a part of the team, according to Torre:

Torre on C.Haeger: “He will have the opportunity to be a reliever because he can pitch everyday.” Also said he’s an option for 5th starter.

Like Stults, Haeger is out of options and would likely get picked up by another club. So while I don’t think he’s winning the #5 job, I do think he makes the team. Odds: 10%.

Ramon Ortiz. Ramon’s been the darling of camp for the last few days thanks to his 9 scoreless innings and 11/2 K/BB ratio. DodgerThoughts and Memories of Kevin Malone wisely caution against falling in love with a guy with such a lousy track record who hasn’t even pitched in the bigs since 2007, and they’re right to do so. Still, Ortiz is saying all the right things about how the tight Japanese strike zone taught him how to be more of a pitcher than a thrower, and at some point all those spring zeroes start to add up. I don’t believe it’s going to be enough to win him the job, but it might get him a shot as the last arm out of the bullpen. Odds: 5%.

Russ Ortiz. I know that he’s not allowed a walk or a run in 5 innings, and I do not care. I refuse to live in a world where Russ Ortiz – Russ Ortiz! – can win a rotation spot on a team with playoff dreams. Since his last decent season in 2004, his MLB line is 10-28 with a 6.56 ERA. He is, quite possibly, the worst pitcher in baseball, and he’s about to be 36. No amount of spring training niceties should be able to undo that. Odds: 0.0000001%

If you’re wondering why I’m giving slightly more hope to one busted R.Ortiz over another, it’s because Ramon has thrown nearly twice the innings Russ has in camp – and because I’ll be the first to admit I have an irrational hatred of Russ Ortiz. The Giants and D-Backs connections, the huge contract, the total flameout, the age – I don’t want any part of it.

Weighty News & Notes

There’s a lot of small pitching items going on in the worldwide camp that is Dodgers spring training right now, so to recap quickly…

  • Hong-Chih Kuo was scratched from his Taiwain appearance with a sore left elbow (uh-oh).
  • Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios is impressing, having thrown 5 shutout innings… despite not knowing what the Rule 5 draft is.
  • James McDonald is getting beat up, having allowed 6 runs in 8 hits over just 4 innings. More disturbingly, he’s walked 3 while striking out just 1. I’m fine with all the standard “spring training stats don’t count, and either way it’s still early” disclaimers… except that it’s one thing to give up a spring training homer, and it’s another to allow a dinger to Scott Podsednik. McDonald may be pitching himself right out of the 5th starter job, though he’d almost certainly end up in the ‘pen.
  • Both of the undead Ortiz’ (Russ and Ramon) are making cases for jobs, as they’ve put up identical lines of allowing 3 hits over 5 scoreless innings.

Yet despite all that pitching staff minutiae, one story that seems to be a little forgotten is Ronnie Belliard’s battle with weight. As you might remember, his contract only becomes guaranteed if he gets down to 209 pounds at some point during the spring. Since he claimed he was at 210 when he reported, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion, but according to Dylan Hernandez on Twitter, it still hasn’t happened yet:

Still hasn’t made weight, from what I understand. @MikeSciosciasTI Any news on Ronnie Belliard’s weigh-in/guaranteed contract?

Part of me wonders: do we even want him to? Blake DeWitt seems all but certain to win the second base job. Belliard’s presence (combined with Jamey Carroll) was mostly to have two options in case DeWitt flopped – but if he doesn’t, Belliard could be a little redundant, as I said when he was signed:

Except… isn’t this exactly what Jamey Carroll was for? You know, a mediocre veteran who can play some 2nd and 3rd as needed? Because Belliard can’t play shortstop any more than Carroll can, and it was that “lack of a shortstop” issue that led to Nick Green getting a spring training invite.

So if this isn’t to fill that backup shortstop hole (since Belliard can’t do it) and it isn’t to be the 2B/3B backup bat off  the bench (since that’s ostensibly what Carroll’s here for), what the hell is Belliard’s role?

With the roster crunch the Dodgers are facing in terms of difficulties with having a lefty bat and a backup shortstop, having two guys who do basically the same thing seems like it may be a luxury they can’t afford.

Dodgers Buy Carlos Monasterios

Well, at least it’s a signing right? And it even cost money! From Dylan Hernandez, who’s quickly become the go-to guy for Dodger breaking news:

The Dodgers sent cash to the Mets for their pick in the Rule 5 draft, 23-year-old RHP Carlos Monasterios.

I won’t pretend I’ve ever heard of this guy, but here’s what I do know: the Mets had drafted him from the Phillies, and Mets blog Mets Today had already put up a review of him in the 20 minutes or so he was Mets property. Here’s their take:

Monasterios is a 23-year-old righthander (will be 24 in March) from Venezuela who throws a hard sinker in the low 90s. He was acquired by the Phillies in the deal that sent Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, and has performed with mixed results since that time.

Originally a starter, he moved to the bullpen in 2009 — appearing 29 times as a reliever and making 8 starts. Of those 37 games, 35 came for Clearwater in the Florida State League (A). He pitched a total of 7 innings for AA Reading last year. He had two saves and pitched a shutout for Clearwater.

All told, his ERA last year was 3.73 over 89 IP, with 75 Ks, 29 BB, 4 HR and 79 H, for a 1.21 WHIP. You can see his complete stats here.

Hard to judge a guy based on his Single-A stats, but it looks like there’s some talent there. Enough to stick on the MLB roster all year, which he’ll need to do to remain a Dodger? We’ll see. The jump from A ball to MLB is pretty huge, but there’s very little risk involved here.