Yes I know I'm an Angels fan, but after having a nice little conversation with a friend, I have decided to blog about the Dodgers first.
Last year, the boys in blue finished first in the N.L. West with a pedestrian 84-78 record, a .519 winning percentage. They had their ups and their downs, got a good look at some of their young players, and even got Manny Ramirez for half a season. That being said, they've got one mission before the start of the season. Sign Manny. If they don't, they won't make the playoffs. I promise.
They have some great young players that are set to break out in 2009. Clayton Kershaw has a devastating curveball, and if he can learn to spot his fastball a little better, then he will be a perrenial Cy Young candidate. He was a little disappointing his rookie season, starting 21 games and going 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA. His record is misleading though, as the Dodgers came back to win in 8 of his no-decisions. He is very young and should be a prime candidate to win at least 15 games next season.
Andre Ethier not only led the Dodgers in BA with a .305 clip last year, he also drove in 77 runs and hit 20 home runs. He has quietly been improving year after year and could also be a breakout candidate in his 4th season. A .300 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI season would not be out of the question. The only thing he needs to work on is not disappearing during the post season, where he posted a .188 BA with 0 RBI's and 10 K's.
James Loney started out pretty slow last year, but really picked up when the Dodgers acquired Manny. He finished out the year leading the Dodgers with 90 RBI's. His BA could use a little work as it was pretty average at .289, but that's still pretty good. It seems that hitting behind Manny and Casey Blake really helped (hint, hint).
Russell Martin was a disappointment last year as he only batted .280 with 13 homers and 69 RBI's. The cornerstone of this franchise needs to pick it up a little bit and maybe that could include moving him to third to keep him healthy.
Blake DeWitt was an amazing story last year. Injuries to Garciappara, Kent, and the guy in AAA gave him the opportunity to play in the bigs straight from AA. He didn't disappoint with his stellar defense and his average hitting. His .264 BA may seem low, but for someone who's used to AA pitching, that's pretty damn good. He didn't show very much pop with only 9 homeruns, but still had the ability to drive in runs with 52 RBI's. He is also one of those many Dodger's who disappeared during the playoffs, and he could also improve his ability to take a walk.
All in all, if the Dodgers re-sign Man-Ram then they will win the West outright. If they don't then these players I just listed are going to have to step it up a whole bunch if they want to compete with the Giants (my dark horse contender).
Expected Record: 92-70