2010 MLB Preview: NL West

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

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Last up is the NL West.

1. Colorado Rockies (7)
Before I wax poetically about the youthful Rockies, I have an axe to grind about the television broadcasting crew of Drew Goodman, Jeff Huson and George Frazier. Those three form one of the most biased, nonobjective broadcasting teams in baseball history. I’m not kidding. The Rockies never get the same calls as their opponents do. The Rockies never get the national recognition like everyone else does. The Rockies are the greatest team to ever walk the planet and if they played a roster compiled of Jesus, Moses, God and the 12 apostles, Colorado should win 5-4 in extras nine times out of 10. If not, the Rockies beat themselves, because there’s no way Jesus and the gang were better. Don’t believe me? Just ask Goodman, Huson and Frazier. All right, now that that’s out of the way – the Rockies are a damn fine club and should leapfrog the Dodgers in the division this year. Their core – Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez – are all 27 years old or younger and that doesn’t include 26-year-old stud Ubaldo Jimenez, who is absolutely filthy when he’s on. Throw in key veterans like Todd Helton (a perennial .300 hitter) and Jeff Francis (who could win 15-plus games filling in for the departed Jason Marquis), and Colorado has the tools to make a deep run. The question is whether or not starters Francis and Jorge De La Rosa will keep their ERAs below 5.00 and the young offensive players can move forward in their development and not backwards. But outside of the ultra-annoying broadcast team, I love the Rockies from top to bottom this year and believe they can do some damage in 2010.

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Fantasy owners: Keep an eye on Andre Ethier

In the Dodgers’ 8-2 victory Friday night over the Mariners in Seattle, L.A. right fielder Andre Ethier had his first ever three-homer game, also driving in six runs in the process. It was Ethier’s fifth multihomer game of the season.

For fantasy owners, Ethier’s night was a gift from the FBB gods. Owners relished in Ethier’s start to the ’09 season when he raced out to a .327 batting average and .574 slugging percentage in early May, but then watched as he sunk into fantasy hell after Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games.

A month and a half ago, owners couldn’t give Ethier away as a throw in to a trade. He would still hit the occasional home run, but his batting average was hovering around .260 and he wasn’t driving in any runs. (He couldn’t get on base to score any either.)

While his average could still use some work (he’s hitting just .268), he’s raised his home run total to 14 and his RBI number to 49. With Ramirez set to come back soon, Ethier could be due for a fantastic second half.

If you need more power production in your fantasy lineup, the time to make a play for Ethier is probably now. Granted, his three-homer night might make his owner overvalue his production, but Ethier’s second half potential could justify giving up a little more than you would have liked. Remember that Ethier was scorching before Manny was suspended, so he could still have 15 home runs and 50 RBIs left in him. That said, considering he’s hitting only .268, you shouldn’t have to give up an arm and a leg for a player that his owner would have gladly given up for Mike Cameron and a pat on the back just a couple months ago.

On the flip side of all this, owners of Ethier could cash in big if they play their cards right and wait to deal him once Manny comes back. If Ethier starts raking, he could be a valuable chip in a multi-player deal that nets you three or four significant pieces depending on what else you throw in the mix.

Keep an eye on Ethier’s stat line the next couple weeks before the All-Star break.

Andre Ethier is meeting all expectations


Last year, I wrote an article in praise of Andre Ethier, claiming that, of all the young talent on the Dodgers roster, he is the player likely to become the face of the organization. When I made that claim, I wasn’t positive the Dodgers knew what they had in their talented right fielder. At the end of 2008, there was still the possibility that Ethier would have to platoon with Juan Pierre within a crowded roster of outfielders. The Dodgers were gaga over Manny, so Ramirez’s spot was solidified if they could re-sign him and Matt Kemp had already emerged as their everyday centerfielder. Still, were the Dodgers going to give Andruw Jones another shot and stick with Juan Pierre because of his speed? Thankfully, the Dodgers got rid of Jones, resigned Manny, and, by landing Orlando Hudson, realized they had a lineup full of speed in Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, and their new second baseman. What they needed now was more power – somebody to finish off what Manny started. The Dodgers have looked to Andre Ethier to fill that role. Has he come through?

Um, yeah, pretty much. Ethier is sixth in the league in RBIs (26), tied for eighteenth in runs (21), tied for twenty-fourth in hits (33), tied for twenty-sixth in homeruns (6), tied for twenty-fourth in batting average (.327), tied for eleventh in on base percentage (.439), and tied for twenty-sixth in slugging percentage (.574). While those numbers may not impress you since he doesn’t lead the league in anything, with respect to the Dodgers it’s a huge accomplishment. The 3-4 hitting combo of Ramirez and Ethier has propelled them to the best record in baseball. Granted, they have been playing weaker teams and everybody in the lineup is contributing in their own way, but Ethier is truly beginning to shine this year. Ethier is second on the team in runs, second in hits, tied for first in home runs, first in RBIs, second in on base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in batting average. For a first place team, it’s obvious that Ethier has contributed to much of their success.

Along with his bat, Ethier is an above-average outfielder with incredible range, though he hasn’t had enough opportunities this year that would to earn a gold glove. By honing all his tools, he’s finally putting together an incredible year. He’s obviously not going to win the MVP, but it’s fair enough to say that he’s the most valuable right fielder in the National League.

As far as fantasy baseball is concerned, Ethier has proven to be a surprise success. He didn’t go until the ninth round in our draft. Where did he go in yours and how is that working out in your league?

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.

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Introducing Andre Ethier: The New Face of the Dodgers

Andre EthierAfter getting called up to the big leagues in 2005, Andre Ethier was immediately traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Los Angles Dodgers, in exchange for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez. Though the Dodgers gave up a formidable talent in Bradley, they saw something special in the minor-league right fielder. Simply stated, it was potential. When new general manager Ned Colletti was given the reins in 2005, he focused on creating a starting lineup that depended on its youngsters. Since then, he’s been brutally criticized for signing former stars to bulky contracts that have failed to pan out. However, he should be credited for completing what he set out to do way back in 2005. By dipping into his farm system instead of his check book, Colletti has made Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Ethier into everyday players.

At times, it’s tough to be a Dodger fan. Besides the Yankees, the Dodgers make more transactions involving blue chip players than any other organization. Their starting lineup one day may be completely different the next, as a smorgasbord of future hall-of-famers and one-time greats jump in and out of the lineup. Colletti has taken huge risks in spending enormous sums on big-name players. Manny Ramirez is proving to be his first untainted success after the unfruitful acquisitions of Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, and Brad Penny. Colletti is paying each of these guys at least $5 million a year and is hearing about it every day.

Then there’s Andre Ethier. After signing a one-year $425,000 deal for the 2007-08 season, Ethier has quickly matured into the Dodgers’ most economic star. Actually, forget “economic.” He is the Dodgers’ best all-around player and will soon become the face of their organization if Colletti plays his cards right. Keep in mind, Ramirez came aboard more than two-thirds into the season. At 36 years-old, Manny is a future hall-of-famer with only a few years remaining. As much as the Dodgers and their fans would love to keep the free-spirited slugger, his contract is up at the end of the season, and all signs point to Manny in pinstripes.

Ethier is only 26 and just finishing his third professional season. He has an unbelievable arm, can hit for both power and average, and has avoided injury. On a roster that contains five capable outfielders—Ethier, Jones, Kemp, Ramirez, and Pierre—Ethier has undeniably earned a starting slot. He leads the Dodgers in homeruns (20) and batting average (.299), is tied with Matt Kemp in doubles (36), and is second in RBIs (71) and triples (6). Ethier is a free agent at the end of this season and, as these numbers show, he’s proven more valuable than those other cash cows.

The Dodgers are finally breaking away from the Diamondbacks and are running a blue streak towards the pennant. This current success can be found in the bats of the veteran Ramirez and the youngster Ethier. Next year, the Dodgers are likely to look much different. (Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Russell Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Greg Maddux, Chad Billingsley, and Derek Lowe are all up for contract renegotiation.) Hopefully, Ned Colletti will follow those same instincts he had in 2005 and focus on youth by re-signing Andre Ethier.

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