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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Roster Competition 2004
2004-03-01 09:12
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Spring Training: A event, a time and a place to enjoy - and not take too seriously.

Those of you who were with me a year ago may recall my mixed feelings about March player evaluations. On the one hand, any sight of players on the field is a sight for sore eyes. On the other hand, much of the hyperventilating that comes over who will be the 25th man on the roster - the histrionics over Ron Coomer vs. Quilvio Veras - is energy better spent worrying about more important matters like, say ... diet and hygiene.

Additionally, Spring Training competition brings the tragic overemphasis on exhibition statistics, in which Joe Journeyman builds a .390 average over 50 at-bats and is deemed a Dodger savior. (Last year, guys like Veras, Terry Shumpert and Calvin Murray auditioned as such.)

Nevertheless, here I am, diving into the discussion of who will be Los Angeles Dodgers this season. We do have to pick a roster, after all. So here is a March primer at the outset of March on the candidates to make the Dodger 25-man squad, based on the list of invitees to Spring Training. (Trade rumors not included.)

Locks (19)
Starting Pitchers (4): Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Kazuhisa Ishii, Jeff Weaver

Swingmen (1): Wilson Alvarez

Bullpen (4): Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, Paul Shuey, Tom Martin

Catchers: (2) Paul LoDuca, Dave Ross

Infielders: (3) Adrian Beltre, Cesar Izturis, Robin Ventura

Outfielders: (3) Juan Encarnacion, Dave Roberts, Bubba Trammell

Infielder-Outfielders (2) Jolbert Cabrera, Shawn Green

That leaves six spots open.

Most Likely to Succeed (5)

Alex Cora, IF: He appears on track to recover enough from his broken arm to at least be a benchwarmer.

Jeremy Giambi, IF-OF: His contract is not guaranteed, but few Dodgers have his offensive potential.

Koyie Hill, C: The guy is ready to contribute, Todd Hundley is ailing, and with Lo Duca moving around the field again, a third catcher is an asset.

Edwin Jackson, P: As Dodgers.com pointed out Sunday and as I discussed in February, saying that a spot in the starting rotation is Jackson's to lose offers no guarantees. But unlike Thurston, Jackson doesn't seem likely to take anything for granted.

Darren Dreifort, P: He's upright and on the field. While he doesn't deserve that contract, he does deserve a roster spot when he can pitch. Being Darren Dreifort, however, he is never a lock. At this point, you ignore his salary and just limit him as much as necessary to keep him healthy.

Next in Line (9)
Steve Colyer, LHP: Flame-throwing lefty, 25 years old, at the major-league minimum salary (or thereabouts)? If there were a rookie pitcher that I'd hand a spot on the roster now, it'd be this guy.

Joe Thurston, IF: From the favorite to the underdog. If Thurston has the Spring Training in 2004 that he was supposed to have in 2003, he could himself back in the Dodger plans, at least as a backup. But he really did have an awful 2003.

Jose Lima, RHP: He doesn't strike batters out anymore (32 in 73 innings with Kansas City last season), but otherwise he comes in younger and with better credentials than Wilson Alvarez did a year ago. Despite the success Alvarez had, I still don't see great value in a team like the Dodgers committing to paying Lima for a season. Is he willing to accept Alvarez's 2003 minor-league assignment and serve as insurance if everyone else is healthy in April? Or will he be like Ron Coomer and force the Dodgers' hand?

Jose Hernandez, IF: Had a resurgent 2002 with 24 home runs and a 121 OPS+. Last year, he still hit 13 home runs, but his other numbers were so awful that he fell to a 61 OPS+ - the same as that of Izturis. In particular, Hernandez does not hit right-handed pitchers. I can't believe I'm saying this, but he may be a poorer Coomer than Coomer - just the kind of guy to hit four home runs in March and have everyone buzzing, setting up a season of uselessness.

Olmedo Saenz, IF: Getting no publicity right now as a roster candidate, the 33-year-old Saenz had a 113 OPS+ in 2002 before missing much of 2003. Doesn't hit the home runs that Hernandez does, but sort of resembles Jolbert Cabrera - some doubles, some walks and a disproportionate number of HBP (42 in 1,076 career plate appearances). My official dark horse.

See You Mid-Season? (11)
Todd Hundley, PH: As with Dreifort, Hundley's injuries and contract obscure the value that he does provide when you throw the dollars out. He has power and he draws walks. The contracts are already signed - nothing you can do about it - but at this point, I'd rather have a month of Hundley than a year of Jason Romano and his ilk.

Jason Romano, IF-OF: Late-inning replacement (granted, at many positions) with no offensive value.

Wilkin Ruan, OF: Ten walks, seven HBP and 12 extra-base hits in 461 professional plate appearances last season. I like Ruan more than Jason Romano, but there isn't much rational reason for it, beyond his 42-for-49 stolen base totals.

Troy Brohawn, LHP: Good enough to make the team when healthy, but still in the recovery stage.

Chin-Feng Chen, 1B-LF: Yeah, we know, he can't play D. But you look at his 2003 AAA numbers and they're not that bad: .360 on-base percentage, .530 slugging. His minor league EQA of .294 translates into a major-league EQA of .245. By comparison, Ruan's numbers translate to .208; Thurston's to .210. According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Chen's February visa problems leave him with no chance of making the team - but he deserves to be at least a candidate for the bench if anyone's hurt.

John Barnes, OF: Not to be confused with Larry Barnes, this outfielder OPSed .323 for Class AAA Nashville in the Pittsburgh organization in 2003. He had the 10th-best major-league EQA - .259 - in the Pacific Coast League. He turns 28 in April. This year's Bubba Crosby/Chad Hermansen?

Shane Victorino, OF: Had a weird year as a Rule 5 draftee from the Dodgers by the Padres. Now back with Los Angeles, the Hawaiian is still only 23 - but like so many Dodger minor leagues, is a singles hitter without much walks or power. Still more promising at the plate than Romano.

Masao Kida, RHP: Could fill same role as last season - spot help for a game or three.

Greg Miller, LHP: To paraphrase Kool & the Gang, "Salivation time - come on!"

Joel Hanrahan, RHP: Had better numbers at Jacksonville last season (2.43 ERA, 130 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings) than Edwin Jackson, but will no doubt start the season in Las Vegas. Somehow, at 22 years old, he's the grandpa of the Dodger pitching prospect triumverate.

Willy Aybar, 3B: Not ready for prime time, but third base is the Dodgers' thinnest position. If Beltre goes on the disabled list, the phone could ring for Aybar, who turns 21 on March 9. Posted a major-league EQA of .200 from his .763 OPS at Class-A Vero Beach in 2003.

September Callups (2)
Franklin Guiterrez, OF: The slugging outfielder cooled briefly after a hot 2003 start at Vero, then played well (.984 OPS) during a short stay in Jacksonville. Even if the plate discipline isn't quite there, at least the power is. Just turned 21.

James Loney, 1B: Ballyhooed, but I have this half-irrational fear his career will be like Todd Hollandsworth's. Some power, some plate discipline, but not enough of both?

Fodder (4)
Bill Simas, RHP: Ah, nothing says "Dan Evans era" quite like the signing of a White Sox retread. Simas, 32, sizzled in Las Vegas in 2003 with a 1.96 ERA in 46 innings and has a career major league ERA of 3.86. Could be on someone's major league roster - just not this one.

Rodney Myers, RHP: In two crucial games, allowed four runs in one inning September 1 and no runs in three innings September 21. Always nice to have that roulette option in the Dodger casino.

Tanyon Sturtze, RHP: Lost 18 games for Tampa Bay in 2002, then went 7-6 in 2003 with Toronto - with ERAs over 5.00 in both places. That qualifies him to make the Las Vegas roster.

Rick White, RHP: Okay, in 2002, allowed two earned runs over 22 innings for St. Louis. Guess that buys you a second look even after a 5.78 ERA in 2003. The 35-year-old's career ERA is 4.20 in 390 career games.

Check Back in a Year or Two (9)
Andrew Brown, RHP: Acquired from the Braves in the Gary Sheffield trade, he struck out 129 in 127 innings with Vero Beach (4.11 ERA) last season. Twenty-two years old and a legitimate prospect, not a throw-in.

Yhency Brazoban, RHP: Acquired from the Yankees in the Kevin Brown trade. With a 2.83 ERA in 28 2/3 innings for Class A Tampa, he's the best player in the world named "Yhency."

Agustin Montero, RHP: In the Dodger organization since 2000, but I've never heard his name until today. Does that reflect badly on me? Maybe. Pattern in recent seasons has been decent numbers at one level, followed by a midseason promotion and ensuing decline in stats. Twenty-six years old, he'll return to Las Vegas.

Jason Frasor, RHP: Career minor-league ERA of 2.92, including 1.85 at Vero Beach (24 1/3 innings) and 2.95 in Jacksonville (36 2/3 innings). Huge strikeout totals in both places, finishing with 86 Ks in 61 innings.

Brian Falkenborg, RHP: ERAs of 2.74 and 2.94 the past two seasons in 26 games (23 starts) with Class AAA Tacoma. He's 26 years old and listed at a Michael Cooperesque 6-foot-6, 195 pounds.

Reggie Abercrombie, OF: Recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, Abercrombie is the all-tools, no-plate discipline mascot. He had a .212 major-league EQA in 2003: hitting for power but walking 16 times against 164! strikeouts.

Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP: Recovering from his second Tommy John operation and third surgery in five years, the Taiwanese Darren Dreifort (Kuo got a $1.2 million signing bonus in 1999) didn't pitch in 2003 and has thrown 36 professional innings since 2000, but still raises hopes the same way Dreifort does. Of course, Kuo is a decade younger.

Orlando Rodriguez, LHP: He's been moving up the organizational ladder despite low innings totals, but might finally see his first return engagement this year, at Jacksonville.

Russell Martin, 3B: We've come all the way down to the bottom to find a home-grown Dodger prospect who knows what ball four means. The 21-year-old Quebec native has 58 bases on balls (against 55 strikeouts) in less than 500 professional plate appearances. Say "Amen!"

Fodder's Fodder (4)
These guys are in fact invitees - otherwise, they really, really wouldn't be on my radar.

Ryan Kellner, C: A minor-league backup catcher, with a .228 batting average and 72 walks to show for his 341-game career, but he gets to spend Spring in Dodgertown - so who am I to criticize?

Edwin Bellorin, C: Vero Beach's catcher last season, Bellorin, 22, has shown little offensively so far.

Ricky Bell, 3B: I'm not even a USC fan, but who else can you think of besides the great Trojan running back? Well, try this fella, who OPSed .629 for Vero Beach last season - and made 47 errors.

Luis Garcia, 1B: For Class AAA Buffalo last season, a .591 OPS.

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