Jan 31

Best of luck, Rob Neyer

The big news for us writers and fans of baseball writing is that Rob Neyer’s leaving ESPN.com after 15 years, destination to be announced. Tributes have come across the Internet fast and heartfelt, because Neyer was a pioneer in online baseball writing, open-minded, intelligent and fun, and always welcoming to new points of view (including mine in the earliest days of Dodger Thoughts). All my best to him for the future.

It’s funny — coincidentally, my first anniversary with ESPNLosAngeles.com is Tuesday, and I really wanted to thank Eric Neel, Becky Hudson and the whole crew for how well they’ve treated me.  Hopefully, it’s a relationship that will continue for a long time.

Elsewhere …

  • This year’s Dodgertown Classic at Dodger Stadium will take place on March 13 and feature USC and UCLA at 2:30 p.m., preceded by Georgia-St. Mary’s at 10 a.m. Tickets are $7 in advance, $12 on game day, with half-price concessions and free parking. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com notes something different about this year’s event.

    … Last year’s Classic was staged for the benefit of the Dodgers Dream Foundation. While this year’s Classic will instead be a revenue-producing event for the Dodgers, a club spokesman said that change has nothing to do with the fact the Dodgers Dream Foundation, the team’s official, non-profit charitable organization, is presently under investigation by the California attorney general’s office.

    That investigation centers on questions surrounding compensation to the foundation’s former chief executive, Howard Sunkin, who now is employed by the club in a different role heading up the community-relations department, according to multiple reports.

    “It essentially came down to complying with NCAA requirements that an event of this nature had to have a title sponsor attached to it,” said Josh Rawitch, the Dodgers’ vice president for communications. “We were fortunate enough to bring in the Automobile Club of Southern California in place of the Dodgers Dream Foundation.”

    The participating schools — USC, UCLA, the University of Georgia and St. Mary’s College from the Bay Area — won’t receive any of the revenue for the event, also in compliance with NCAA rules. The games will count on the schools’ regular-season records, but the USC-UCLA game won’t count in the Pacific-10 conference standings. …

    UCLA is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN.com preseason college baseball poll.

  • David Young of True Blue L.A. offers this gem: the Los Angeles Dodgers All-Spelling-Bee Team.
  • If Jonah Keri and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs were in charge of drafting players for a major-league All-Star game, Clayton Kershaw and Hong-Chih Kuo would be the two Dodgers chosen.
  • Fun story by Evan Bladh, Sr. at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance about his unexpected connections with Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
Jan 31

The All-Omission-to-the-All-Time Los Angeles Dodger Import Team Team


Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesClaude Osteen had a 3.09 ERA in nearly 2,400 innings after coming to the Dodgers in the big Frank Howard trade.

It wasn’t easy picking the All-Time Los Angeles Dodgers Import Team, as you can now truly see. The following roster includes my leftovers and suggestions by Dodger Thoughts commenters. Keep in mind that players such as Maury Wills were ineligible, even if they left and came back, because I still consider them homegrown Dodgers.

I also went back and forth on whether to include international imports like Hideo Nomo and Hiroki Kuroda … this morning, I decided that I would make them eligible.

Wally Moon at first base is a bit of a stretch, but he did play some there, and it helped out with the ongoing overload of outfielders.  One of the more fascinating revelations of this exercise is how much the Dodgers have gone outside the organization for outfield help, relative to other positions. It’s remarkable how many great seasons the team has gotten from outfielder outsiders – and these lists don’t even include one-season-or-less wonders like Dick Allen, Steve Finley and Frank Robinson.

At positions like catcher and the middle infield, on the other hand, you can see the impact of having longtime homegrown solutions. It’s slim pickings for the best of the imports.

Starting lineup (8)
Brett Butler, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Manny Ramirez, LF
Wally Moon, 1B
Todd Hundley, C
Tim Wallach, 3B
Lenny Harris, 2B
Cesar Izturis, SS

Bench (7)
Rick Monday, OF
Kal Daniels, OF
Len Gabrielson, OF
Olmedo Saenz, IF
Alfredo Griffin, IF
Bill Madlock, IF
Chad Kreuter, C

Starting rotation (5)
Hideo Nomo, RHP
Derek Lowe, RHP
Claude Osteen, LHP
Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
Tim Belcher, RHP

Bullpen (5)
Takashi Saito, RHP
Ron Perranoski, LHP
Jeff Shaw, RHP
Terry Forster, LHP
Guillermo Mota, RHP

Jan 29

The All-Time Los Angeles Dodger Import Team


Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesIn his second year with the Dodgers after coming from Baltimore, Eddie Murray led the majors with a .330 batting average.

People like me take pride whenever a homegrown Dodger makes it big in Los Angeles. But for once, I thought I’d turn the spotlight on the outsiders who made it in.

Here are my choices for the All-Time Los Angeles Dodger Import Team, which I’ve decided has very durable pitching but will substitute freely with its outfield:

Starting lineup (8)
Jimmy Wynn, CF
Reggie Smith, RF
Pedro Guerrero, 3B
Gary Sheffield, LF
Eddie Murray, 1B
Jeff Kent, 2B
Rafael Furcal, SS
Tom Haller, C

Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images
Andy Messersmith averaged 37 starts per year with a 2.51 ERA from 1973-75 after coming over from the Angels.

Bench (8)
Dusty Baker, OF
Kirk Gibson, OF
Manny Mota, OF
Shawn Green, OF-1B
Casey Blake, 3B-1B
Derrel Thomas, IF-OF
Mike Sharperson, IF
Rick Dempsey, C

Starting rotation (5)
Kevin Brown, RHP
Tommy John, LHP
Burt Hooton, RHP
Jerry Reuss, LHP
Andy Messersmith, RHP

Bullpen (4)
Mike Marshall, RHP
Jim Brewer, LHP
Jay Howell, RHP
Phil Regan, RHP

There were some tough choices to leave off the team. Who do you think they were, and do you think I made the right decisions?

Jan 28

Dodgers invite Mike MacDougal to Spring Training

Seven seasons removed from All-Star status, right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal has signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers and received an invitation to major league spring training.

MacDougal, who turns 34 in March, reached the 2003 All-Star Game with Kansas City (though he did not play) and as recently as 2009 had a 3.60 ERA in 50 innings with Washington.

Last season, however, MacDougal allowed 15 runs and 36 baserunners in 18 2/3 innings with St. Louis, and compiled a 4.45 ERA with three minor league teams.

Since 2007, MacDougal has allowed more than 16 baserunners per nine innings in the majors. In trying to make the major league bullpen for the Dodgers, MacDougal will have competition from such righties as Jonathan Broxton, Kenley Jansen, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier, Ronald Belisario, Blake Hawksworth and Ramon Troncoso.

Also …

  • “Rachel Robinson has been given Ohio Wesleyan University’s Branch Rickey Award for her contribution and commitment to equality,” reports The Associated Press.
  • Former Dodgers as ESPN baseball commentators not only include Orel Hershsiser and Bobby Valentine on Sundays, but Rick Sutcliffe on Mondays and Nomar Garciaparra on Wednesdays.
  • The Dodgers might need to secure their airspace Opening Day, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
  • The Mets look more excited about Chin-Lung Hu than the Dodgers had been in years, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
Jan 27

Baseball, moist and delicious

Baseball is like the giant, moist blueberry muffin I had Wednesday morning. It’s so grand that you can dive into it with no fear of running out too soon, so full of flavor that each bite from top to bottom is a taste sensation, so generous that you can lose yourself in it, and when it’s finally all gone, you’re somehow satiated … yet dreaming of more. That’s baseball, to me.

Really, it was one heck of a muffin.

Jan 27

Will James Loney turn his doubles into home runs?


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJames Loney hit 19 homers in his first 446 career at-bats. He hit 10 in 588 at-bats last season.

This excerpt from Tony Jackson’s piece for ESPNLosAngeles.com today on James Loney, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier got me thinking about Loney:

The lefty-hitting first baseman has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season and hit only 10 of them in 2010, but he had a career-high 41 doubles and drove in 88 runs, his third season in a row with at least that many RBIs. Still, general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly continue to insist that Loney is a potential power hitter, and they remain determined to get him to reach that potential.

But Loney has now spent five seasons in the majors, enough to make an outsider wonder if this is simply who Loney is: a gap-to-gap, line-drive, doubles hitter who manages to drive in a lot of runs and still be reasonably productive without going deep very often.

My initial reaction is that I’ve never really expected Loney to become much more than what Jackson describes in that last sentence. Mark Grace has often been cited as the best-case scenario for Loney, and Grace never hit more than 17 homers in a season — and that’s with playing half his games in Wrigley Field.

But for curiosity’s sake, I used Baseball-Reference.com to pull the list of 27-and-under players who, since 1990, have had at least 40 doubles in a season without hitting more than 15 home runs that same year. I then looked to see what their career highs in home runs were or are.

Here’s what I found — take it with several grains of salt as a mere conversation starter: Continue reading

Jan 27

Should we envy the Kansas City Royals?

Matt Meyers of ESPN Insider notes that while the Royals may have the No. 1 farm system in baseball, they might not even win 60 games this season. That’s in part because of trading players like Zack Greinke to boost their future.

As Dodger fans, would you be willing to live through a 100-loss campaign if you had these kinds of hopes for the talent coming up from the system?

On the one hand, it was not long ago that the Dodgers had this kind of talent coming up, when names like Billingsley, Kershaw, Martin and Kemp were all new, and you can see that’s no guarantee of a World Series title. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for having another crack at it.

I’d vote for keeping things the way they are, not because I’m afraid of one 100-loss season, but because I don’t think the potential of the current Blue Crew is tapped out.

Jan 26

Mid-day dabblings


The clip above is brought to you by Celebuzz via Franklin Avenue.

  • The Dodgers rank 22nd among organizations in minor-league propsects, according to Keith Law of ESPN.com.
  • Tom Hawthorn of the Toronto Globe & Mail writes about Allan Simpson and the story of how Baseball America was founded.
  • True Blue L.A. offers a guide to visiting Camelback Ranch.
  • Teenage Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the top minor-league prospect in baseball by MLB.com.
  • John Sickels looks back at the top 50 hitting prospects of 2006 at Minor League Ball. Shed a tear for Joel Guzman.
  • Pitcher and used-car salesman Brandon Webb will take that old clunker off your hands, he tells the Dallas Morning News (link via Baseball Musings).
  • Webb’s former Arizona teammate, Micah Owings, has returned to the Diamondbacks, who might use him as a true two-way player, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
  • Rob Neyer of ESPN.com questions whether, after decades, he is still a Royals fan.
Jan 26

Garland has starting role over Padilla, but why?


US Presswire/Icon SMIJon Garland had a 2.72 ERA in six late-season starts with the Dodgers in 2009, but Vicente Padilla took his spot in the postseason.

Ever since Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla signed/re-signed with the Dodgers, nothing has been said to indicate that Garland’s spot in the Dodger starting rotation is anything but guaranteed, or that Padilla will have a shot at the starting rotation unless there’s an injury.

I know why this is – I just wonder why this is.

The first “why” is a combination of theories that Padilla is a) better suited for relief work  – in fact, might even excel in the role, b) has health issues that would benefit from being in the bullpen and c) simply isn’t as good as Garland.

But the second “why” offers this: Padilla was one of the best Dodger starting pitchers of 2010 when healthy, and his health issues aren’t as career-threatening as, say, Hong-Chih Kuo’s, but rather closer to those of someone like Hiroki Kuroda. Padilla might simply be a better starting pitcher than Garland – certainly, the Dodgers came to think so in 2009, when Padilla ousted Garland from the Los Angeles starting rotation and then shined for most of the playoffs.

Ultimately, this question might be moot – sadly, odds are at some point in the season that an injury to another Dodger starting pitcher will put Garland and Padilla in the Dodger rotation at the same time. And the Dodgers seem to be pretty clear about the pecking order for when all the starting pitchers are healthy. But I still think it’s interesting that Garland is considered an automatic. They tried these guys together once before, and Garland was the one who was pushed aside.

Jan 25

Ivan DeJesus, Jr.: How close is he?


The fifth in a series of at least five, on how close selected Dodger prospects are to the majors …

Ivan DeJesus, Jr.
Vitals:
SS-2B, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, turns 24 on May Day.

Summary: For the first time in this series, we’re talking about a prospect who is trying to bounce back instead of one who is ascending. Two years ago, the son of 1970s Dodger Ivan DeJesus was coming off a year in which he delivered an impressive .419 on-base percentage to go with a .423 slugging percentage in the Double-A Southern League while still 21. To compare, Dee Gordon had an inferior .332/.355 in the same league at age 22.

But a broken leg suffered on an ill-fated slide in Spring Training wiped out DeJesus’ 2009 season. Then the Dodgers bumped him up to Triple-A as he started his comeback in 2010, and DeJesus only managed to go .335/.405 while in hitter-friendly Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League. DeJesus still is on the young side, but his future is unclear.

For comparison’s sake: Chin-Lung Hu comes to mind, because Hu is the most recent Dodger middle infield prospect to excite with a strong Double-A season (.380/.508 in 2007), then disappoint in subsequent years. Spending the next three seasons in Triple-A, Hu couldn’t break .800 in OPS. (In 191 scattered major-league appearances, Hu’s OPS is .524.) Long after they had given up on him, the Dodgers finally dumped Hu this offseason for Mets minor-league journeyman pitcher Michael Antonini. So yes, Hu got promoted, but it didn’t mean a lot.

For a more off-the-wall comparison, how about James Loney?  Different position, but same track record of having but one minor-league season with an OPS over .800. In his final minor-league action, Loney was reduced to a .345 on-base percentage and .382 slugging percentage with Albuquerque in 261 plate appearances over the first half of the 2007 season. But then Loney was promoted to the majors anyway and produced at a .381/.538 clip the rest of 2007. Say what you will about Loney as a first baseman, but if DeJesus came in at those numbers as a second baseman, people would be quite satisfied.

But as you can gather, the comparisons don’t help much.

X factor: Tales of bad vibes emerged in early September when Ken Gurnick of MLB.com wrote a short piece about DeJesus failing to earn a callup when rosters expanded. “DeJesus was drafted in the second round in 2005 as a shortstop, but he played second base this year, and scouts say his range and footwork around the bag need improvement, perhaps the after-effects of the injury,” Gurnick said. “Sources also claim that DeJesus … is in the doghouse because he has yet to grasp some of the subtleties of teamwork and game approach.”

Gurnick found more positive words about DeJesus earlier this month from Don Mattingly, who managed DeJesus in the Arizona Fall League: “He swung the bat well,” Mattingly told Gurnick. “I know since the injury, they say he’s a step slower here or there, but he’s prepared to hit at the major-league level. He has a good feel for how pitchers try to handle him. I thought he was really good offensively. Defensively, I didn’t see him as much as I’d like to because of the restrictions on who plays where. Offensively, the kid is ready to hit and produce. Where he fits, who knows?”

How close is he? Keeping in mind the usual caveat that the Ned Colletti Dodgers almost never hand a rookie a starting job in April, there’s a job in Spring Training that can be won. The team has a roster opening for an infielder, and if DeJesus came out like gangbusters, the Dodgers might consider pushing Juan Uribe to third base and Casey Blake to the left field squad.  DeJesus could also contend for a backup infield role.

But much more likely is DeJesus returns to Albuquerque to play the keystone opposite Gordon and work on his game, with an eye toward a midseason promotion if he shows progress. With a year of Triple-A already behind him, DeJesus’ destiny is largely in his hands at this point. Whether he can become more than Hu is up to him.

Did you know? DeJesus’ dad led the National League in runs in 1978 with 104, one more than Pete Rose.

* * *

Some links:

  • The Dodgers are staging a minicamp for pitchers in Arizona, from Clayton Kershaw to Luis Vasquez, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Jerry Sands is interviewed by John Parker for MLB.com.
  • Scott Podsednik’s decision to decline his 2011 option with the Dodgers looks worse and worse, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Former Dodger Andy LaRoche signed a minor-league contract with Oakland.
  • A list of remaining free agents is provided by Hardball Talk.
  • Update: Joe Posnanski has a column on Dodger national crosschecker John Green for SI.com, then discusses the column here. And Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has a rich feature on the fate of the man who invented defense-independent pitching statistics, Voros McCracken.
Jan 24

The 2011 National League West: A first look


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesIn 2011, Juan Uribe will be trying to bring at least a division title south to Los Angeles from San Francisco.

With so much attention locally focused on what the Dodgers are or aren’t doing, it’s easy to lose perspective of where they stand relative to their rivals in the National League West. Realizing that we all have higher goals than a division title, let’s nonetheless check in on the coming division race and see where the competition stands heading into spring training.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Brad Mangin/MLB Photos/Getty Images
Justin Upton

On Aug. 30, 2008, Arizona hosted the Dodgers with a 4 1/2-game lead in the NL West and the combination of Dan Haren and Brandon Webb starting the next two games. Since that moment, the Diamondbacks have gone 152-204 and have been by far the worst team in the division. Arizona had a flat-out ugly 2010, finishing 65-97, 15 games behind the fourth-place Dodgers and 27 behind the division-winning Giants. The offense was mediocre, punctuated by 9.4 strikeouts per game. The pitching was worse, with an adjusted ERA of 89 (100 being average) that was 14th in the National League.

Hopes for a turnaround in 2011 are pretty limited, based on an offseason that has only brought names the caliber of Henry Blanco, Willie Bloomquist, Geoff Blum, Zach Duke, Aaron Heilman, Melvin Mora, Xavier Nady, Willy Mo Pena and J.J. Putz. Plus, at least last year they had Haren (and Edwin Jackson) for more than half a season, not to mention 57 homers (and 383 strikeouts) from departed corner infielders Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche.

Putz, though he’s about to turn 34, should help last year’s disastrous bullpen, and at age 23, Justin Upton (like his Bison-like counterpart in Los Angeles), could easily bounce back from the setbacks of last season, when his OPS dropped from .899 to .799. Daniel Hudson, acquired at midseason, will try to build upon his 11-start, 1.69-ERA debut. But overall, it’s going to take more than strategically placed eyeblack to make Kirk Gibson a winning manager in his first full season at the helm.

Colorado Rockies

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Troy Tulowitzki

A popular pick to win the NL West entering the 2010 season following their spirited near-miss in 2009, Colorado fell out of the lead on the second day of the season and never returned. They did make a late charge, pulling within a game of the division lead after making up 10 games in the standings in 26 days, capped by a 12-2 thumping of the Dodgers on Sept. 18. They then took a 6-1 second-inning lead against Clayton Kershaw the next afternoon. But if you’ll recall, the Dodgers rallied to win that game in 11 innings, handing the Rockies the first of a stunning 13 losses in their final 14 games of 2010.

That tailspin doesn’t rule out a pennant pursuit in Denver this year. The Rockies return four budding stars in Troy Tulowitzki (26), Carlos Gonzalez (25), Ubaldo Jimenez (27) and Jhoulys Chacin (23, with a second-half ERA of 2.44 and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings) and complements in Dexter Fowler (25 in March) and Ian Stewart (26 in April). But you also haven’t had much of an offseason when your biggest acquisitions are arguably infielders Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez.

This is a team that will contend for the division title, and Rockies management has enough faith in it that their main expenditures, at least thus far, were to richly extend the contracts of Tulowitzki and Gonzalez rather than bring in big outside talent. That might well be the right strategy, especially if last year’s stretch crawl was a fluke, but with 37-year-old Todd Helton at first base and question marks elsewhere, Colorado didn’t make itself an obvious favorite this time around.

San Diego Padres

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Mat Latos

Last year’s guide against wasting your time making predictions, San Diego sat in first place at the end of April, May, June, July and August. Then came the Giants, but even so, the Padres had a chance to tie San Francisco in the 162nd game of the season.

So San Diego was the big surprise team — with Adrian Gonzalez. Can it be without him? Unlike Colorado, San Diego will have lots of new faces, potentially starting Brad Hawpe at first, Orlando Hudson at second, Jason Bartlett at shortstop and Cameron Maybin in center field, almost making July 31 pickup Ryan Ludwick seem like an old-timer. Meanwhile, ex-Cincinnati Red pitcher Aaron Harang will try to help returning starting pitchers Clayton Richard, Wade LeBlanc and most importantly, 23-year-old Mat Latos (2.92 ERA in 2010) absorb the losses of Jon Garland and Kevin Correia.

I’m not going to be the one to argue that the Padres will be better in 2011 after trading Gonzalez for three minor-leaguers and outfielder Eric Patterson (.652 OPS in 179 career games), or that they’ll maintain any of their 10-game advantage over the Dodgers. But I’m also not ready to say they won’t be a thorn in the Dodgers’ side.

San Francisco Giants

Rich Pilling/MLB Photos/Getty Images
Buster Posey

Seven-and-a-half games out of first place and one game over .500 at the midpoint of the 2010 season, San Francisco went 51-30 in the second half to rally to the title and start what I think can objectively be said was a surprising postseason stomp to the World Series title. The Giants went 9-3 against the fading Dodgers in the second half to emphasize their superiority.

Are they still superior? To date, their lone offseason addition of note has been to sign Miguel Tejada (36 in May), and that effectively only supplants the loss of Juan Uribe to the Dodgers. Much like Colorado, San Francisco is putting its faith in the status quo. That status quo, of course, includes their top-flight starting rotation, superb young catcher Buster Posey and third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who has been tweeting photos showing how much weight he has lost this winter. It also includes 30-and-over position players Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand, Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff.

Much of the Dodgers offseason has seemed an unspoken bid to emulate the Giants’ path to the top: Build a starting rotation that’s competitive every night, and try to sneak by with limited offense. For all the concern about who takes residence in Mannywood, Los Angeles still seems to have the better outfield. But the potential of superstar in Posey and a comeback from Sandoval (not to mention a promotion for minor-league first-baseman Brandon Belt) might give San Francisco the edge elsewhere.

Summary
Eight months from October, the Giants look like the main roadblock for the Dodgers, with the Rockies close behind. With serious questions about a) what kind of production the Dodgers will get at catcher, third base and left field, b) the ongoing health issues of Rafael Furcal and c) the bounce-back potential of Matt Kemp and James Loney, it doesn’t seem inappropriate to pencil the Dodgers in for third place at this time, but they should be in the thick of the race for the division title.

Jan 21

Should Dodger fans be jealous of the Vernon Wells trade?

In a world where money doesn’t matter, newest Angel outfielder Vernon Wells is better than anyone the Dodgers will have playing alongside Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in April.

But even in a world where money doesn’t matter, volunteering to pay $86 million to Wells for his four years from age 32 through age 35 is a staggering amount, considering that even after slugging 31 homers in 2010, Wells only has a .321 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage over the past four years from ages 28-31. Both that OBP and slugging are less than what Kemp – labeled by some an underachiever – has produced over his past four years (.339/.474) while playing in a pitchers park, and Kemp’s best four years might still be ahead of him.

And since we live in a world where money does matter – where even under selfless ownership, salaries of more than $20 million per year matter – the idea of taking on Wells’ contract is frightening. Count me among the surprised that the Angels will shoulder it.

Unless it’s the difference between winning and losing a title, or unless we’ve been terribly misinformed about Toronto shouldering more of the burden of Wells’ contract, the level of improvement that Wells’ provides over the status quo is not worth the amount he’s being paid (both before or after you factor in sending off players like Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera and their combined $11 million salary for 2011). Do you think he’s the difference-maker for the Angels or would be for the Dodgers? It’s a roll of the dice to say the least.

“Vernon Wells isn’t a terrible player– he’s a solid player with a terrible contract,” Keith Law of ESPN.com aptly says, before adding “he is absolutely the wrong player right now for the Los Angeles Angels, who have made one the worst desperation moves I can remember.” Law offers the following explanation:

The problem is that Wells is now well below-average in center and probably should be in a corner outfield position, where his bat is less valuable, and where he may not profile offensively by the time he’s a free agent after 2014. His power spike in 2010 coincided with a sudden shift in the Rogers Centre’s park factor and a teamwide rise in home runs. He’s a good fastball hitter who’s not very disciplined and tries to pull the ball on the outer half, resulting in a lot of frustrating rollovers to the shortstop.

The Angels have Peter Bourjos and his 70 (or better) glove to man center, and there’s no way Wells will be worth $18 million more than Bourjos this year. Turning Bobby Abreu, a once-great player now showing his age, into a platoon bat/pinch-hitter would make the best of a bad situation. It’s still a bad situation, though, and doesn’t make the Angels much better off even in 2011.

Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com is more sanguine, only by comparison: “You can make plenty of arguments in favor of Friday’s move, but it certainly had the air of desperation.”

We know the Dodgers are desperate for a left fielder, but I’m glad they’re not (or can’t be) this desperate.

(Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez appears headed to Tampa Bay on a simple one-year, $2 million contract.)

Jan 21

More Dodger prospect ponderings

I’m growing increasingly numb to the various lists ranking Dodger prospects. My interest in the prospects themselves hasn’t waned, but more and more, the ordering of them seems to have been generated like letter-number combinations from a Bingo tumbler.

Here are two more lists, from Baseball America and from Fangraphs. As if to thumb their nose at my state of mind, both rank Dee Gordon and Zach Lee first and second, but for example, BA has Trayvon Robinson 10th, while Fangraphs has him third.

I think I just enjoy getting information about the players rather than worrying about what order they should be in. In that spirit, here’s one excerpt: BA’s Best Tools in the Dodger farm system. You can see why BA likes Gordon – errors aside, they rank him as the team’s best defensive infielder.

Best Hitter for Average: Dee Gordon
Best Power Hitter: Jerry Sands
Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Justin Sellers
Fastest Baserunner: Dee Gordon
Best Athlete: Dee Gordon
Best Fastball: Kenley Jansen
Best Curveball: Chris Withrow
Best Slider: Scott Elbert
Best Changeup: Allen Webster
Best Control: Zach Lee
Best Defensive Catcher: Gorman Erickson
Best Defensive Infielder: Dee Gordon
Best Infield Arm: Pedro Baez
Best Defensive Outfielder: James Baldwin
Best Outfield Arm: Blake Smith

* * *

I’m finding the transformation of Dodger Stadium into a supercross arena fascinating, if not a little frightening. I really would be curious to see it for myself. In any case, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News gives us a look and talks to Dodger Stadium head groundskeeper Eric Hansen about his fears.