Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Offseason Plans - Part 1

I know I'm getting into this a little late, but I thought it would be fun to take a look at the Dodgers, position by position, and try to figure out what they have and where, or how, they could improve. I thought about doing one big, long post but I figured it would be less time consuming and easier to read if I only did a few positions at a time. So, without further ado, I bring you my plans for the Dodgers' 2009-2010 offseason.

- Russell Martin

Russell is coming off of a rough year, in which he batted just .250 with a mere 26 extra basehits. And while the power did start to come around after the all star break (5 of his 7 home runs were hit after the mid-summer classic), his OPS actually dropped from .687 to .670 due to a significant drop in walks.

A deeper look at his numbers implies some bad luck may have had an effect on his production. Martin's BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was .285, .017 points lower than league average. Add to that the fact that he hit line drives 20.5% of the time and you have a player who's making good contact but not reaching base. His walk rate was strong at 12% and he still has good speed, so Russell's numbers should improve as his luck regresses to the mean. His power numbers have decreased over the past 3 seasons, but even if he doesn't hit .300 with 20 home runs, the Dodgers' lineup is deep enough to compensate for his offensive shortcomings. Martin did post a career high in Fielding Percentage and a career low in passed balls, while throwing out more than 30% of attempted basestealers, so he's shown he still has plenty of defensive value.

Now, it appears as though Brad Ausmus is ready to hang up his chest protector and call it a career. I'd personally like to see the Dodgers offer him a coaching job in the minor leagues, possibly grooming him for a future managerial stint in LA. To fill his vacancy on the roster, I'd like to see AJ Ellis get the nod (although there are rumors of him being dealt to Kansas City for infielder Alberto Callaspo). If Ellis is gone, the Dodgers could find a cheap alternative on the market such as Mike Redmond or Brian Schneider.

First Base - James Loney

Loney's season was similar to Martin's, in that he was saved from utter disaster by a strong walk rate. In fact, James accomplished the impressive feat of drawing more walks than strikeouts. And he did manage to show up in the playoffs, batting .310 with a pair of home runs in the Dodgers 8 post-season appearances. But it wasn't enough to hide his glaring lack of power during the regular season, as J Lo accounted for a measly 40 extra basehits in 652 plate appearances.

Again, as was the case with Martin, Loney appears to have been the victim of some bad luck. His line drive percentage was 22.3, which is above league average, but his BABIP was a pedestrian .301. So assuming that his numbers will improve simply by the cosmos re-aligning in his favor isn't completely out of the question. Defensively, James showed his usual proclivity for digging bad throws and a little range to boot. All in all, the Dodgers can afford to continue letting him progress at first.

It looks like backups Mark Loretta, Doug Mientkiewicz and Jim Thome will be either finding a new homestead or riding off into the sunset, so a backup will be needed. Minor league journeyman Mitch Jones seemed to be a fan favorite, but his Pedro Cerrano-esque aversion to breaking balls would limit him to blowouts and beer league softball games. The free agent market doesn't offer a whole lot, though Eric Hinske would be a fantastic addition to the bench if he doesn't re-sign with the world champs.

Second Base - Player To Be Named Later

Orlando Hudson looks like he'll head out of LA after losing his starting gig late in the season to post trade deadline acquisition and buffet enthusiast Ronnie Belliard. And you can't really blame the guy for wanting to move on, given the fact that he was a gold-glove winning all star this year.

Hudson's season wasn't overwhelmingly successful, as he managed a .774 OPS, which was his lowest mark for him in 4 years. Still, getting benched for the playoffs (and reportedly not hearing from Torre about the decision) is a slap in the face to a player of Orlando's experience and reputation. His defense was below average, though it should surprise no one that Gold Glove awards have far more to do with offense and reputation than actual defensive contributions.

Rumors have been floating in for about a week now regarding the Dodgers' trade interests in middle infielders, from Alberto Callaspo and Luis Castillo to Dan Uggla and Brandon Phillips. Were Callaspo acquired for 4A catcher AJ Ellis, I'd support the deal. But the other 3 would require too much in trade or salary to justify blocking Blake DeWitt. Give the job to the kid and let him keep it warm for Ivan DeJesus.

Stay tuned for Part 2, looking at the left side of the infield and the outfield.


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