2009 MLB Preview: #10 Los Angeles Dodgers

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Offseason Movement: The Dodgers were mostly quiet this offseason outside of adding Orlando Hudson, Guillermo Mota and Randy Wolf. Oh yeah, and after 4,958 days of painful back and forth negotiating, L.A. GM Ned Colleti was able to re-sign outfielder Manny Ramirez to a two-year deal.

Top Prospect: James McDonald, RHP
The Dodgers have a couple of top prospects, including OF/1B Andrew Lambo and INF Ivan DeJesus Jr., but McDonald is the closest to making the big league roster. The club has been in search for a fifth starter all spring and they could tab McDonald for the role if he continues to pitch well in exhibition games. McDonald doesn’t overpower hitters (his fastball only tops out at 92 mph), but he has a nasty curveball and his command is solid as well. It’ll be interesting to see if L.A. gives the 24-year old the fifth spot in the rotation or sends him down to Triple-A for more seasoning.

The Big Question: Is this a postseason-caliber pitching staff?
For as good as the Dodgers’ lineup is, the starting rotation and bullpen looks like a potential mess. The supposed ace Chad Billingsley only has two full years of starting experience, while young sensation Clayton Kershaw hasn’t even seen his 21st birthday yet and there is no clear fifth starter. Hiroki Kuroda is expected to be the Opening Day starter and he went 9-10 with a 3.73 ERA last year. Making matters worse, the bullpen lost a decent piece this offseason when Joe Beimel signed with the Nationals. Closer Jonathan Broxton has a ton of talent, but he’s still inconsistent at this point in his development and if the Dodgers expect to get by with mediocre relievers like Guillermo Mota, then they’ll probably be in for a rude awakening.

Outlook: The good news is that the Dodgers’ lineup is absolutely rock solid from top to bottom. There simply aren’t any holes and if Rafael Furcal can stay healthy, then he gives L.A. one of the best table setters in the NL. Joining Furcal and Manny Ramirez in the lineup is stud catcher Russell Martin, promising outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, as well as quality hitters James Loney, Orlando Hudson and Casey Blake. But the problem with this club lies within its unproven pitching staff, which includes the bullpen. The Dodgers are definitely a postseason contender in one of the worst divisions in baseball and also have a manager that always gets the most out of his players in Joe Torre. But their pitching will likely keep them from making a deep run if they do reach the playoffs and even though many pundits handed the division to them the moment they re-signed Manny, the boys in blue still have to get past a good Diamondbacks team, which boasts one of the best starting rotations in the National League.

Projection: 2nd NL West

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