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Roster Competition 2005
2005-03-04 07:00
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Here is an assessment of the competition (40-man roster plus non-roster invitees) in major league camp for the Dodgers. Plus Joel Guzman for flavor.

Locks (19)
Starting pitchers (2): Jeff Weaver, Derek Lowe

Swingmen (2): Wilson Alvarez, Elmer Dessens

Bullpen (3): Eric Gagne, Yhency Brazoban, Duaner Sanchez

Catchers (2): Dave Ross, Paul Bako

Infielders (5): Hee Seop Choi, Jeff Kent, Cesar Izturis, Antonio Perez, Olmedo Saenz

Outfielders (3): Milton Bradley, J.D. Drew, Ricky Ledee

Infielder-Outfielders (2): Jose Valentin, Jason Grabowski

That leaves six spots open: four pitchers, one position player and one wild card.

Trainer's Room (3)
Odalis Perez, LHP: Recovering from weightlifting soreness. Just hedging here.

Jayson Werth, OF: Press reports indicate he should be ready, but it's too soon to be definite.

Brad Penny, RHP: So far, so good. But if he needs an extra week after Opening Day to finish preparing, the Dodgers will give it to him. Los Angeles does start the season with six consecutive games, so no four-man rotation at the outset.

Most Likely to Succeed (1)
Giovanni Carrara, RHP: Loses out on being a lock for the bullpen because a) in 2003, he was a lock that didn't end up making the team, b), his 48 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings with the Dodgers in 2004 were an anomaly for him (career ratio is 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings), c) there are several relief pitchers in Vero Beach who could challenge him and d) today is his 37th birthday. On the other hand, I believe Carrara has a guaranteed contract for 2005.

Starting Rotation Candidates (3)
Scott Erickson, RHP: Erickson is clearly this year's attempt at Wilson Alvarez/Jose Lima magic. At 37, Erickson is several years older than those hale fellows were when they surprised in Spring Training. But he will be given every chance to allow Edwin Jackson more seasoning and render Kazuhisa Ishii irrelevant.

Edwin Jackson, RHP: The Dodgers will play it cool with Jackson, but Los Angeles might be a better spot for him than Las Vegas. Certainly will not work out of the bullpen in April.

Kazuhisa Ishii, LHP: Statistically, Ishii was lucky to do as well as he did in 2004 - not just talking run support here, but with a sharp decline in strikeouts as well (8.6 per nine innings in 2003, 5.2 in 2004). Ishii arrived in Florida saying he had rediscovered his splitter after a mysterious absence of a few years, so we'll see if that helps.

There should be one open spot on the roster from this point on.

Could Be (10)
Norihiro Nakamura: He has said he's willing to play in the minor leagues, and an April in Las Vegas might be just the thing to give Nakamura rhythm and confidence. But he'll get a long look in March.

Mike Venafro, LHP. Inconsistent 31-year-old has the inside shot to be the team's lefty specialist if the Dodgers carry one (Alvarez should be allowed to face righties as well). But Venafro doesn't have that much margin for error, and he has opened Spring Training hobbled by a hamstrain.

Frank Brooks, LHP: Had a hot AA stint in 2003, found it a bit harder, unsurprisingly, at higher levels. This is whom Venafro is looking over his shoulder at.

Kelly Wunsch, LHP: Career ERA of 3.64 with 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings for this third lefty option. His control trouble - nearly five walks per nine innings - has him looking uphill.

Mike Rose, C: Nice darkhorse. No one talks about him. But if offense at catcher is a concern, if you want your 25th man to have a shot at getting on base, Rose's .407 on-base percentage in AAA ball last season is worth a consideration.

By the way, aren't most winners of horse races dark? Who are the dominant light horses?

Dioner Navarro, C: Will get a lot of attention because of the circumstances of his acquisition.

Aquilino Lopez, RHP: Has strikeout potential at age 24.

Brian Myrow, IF: Went off like a firecracker in Las Vegas last season (1.045 OPS in 50 games). A left-handed bat, which the Dodgers might need. Career minor-league slugging percentage of .492. In 511 games, 351 walks vs. 376 strikeouts.

Jason Repko, OF: The papers should be getting around to this story soon. A first-round draft choice six years ago, the right-handed Repko almost fell off the radar screen completely but showed signs of life last year. Has to prove he's not dependent on the Las Vegas ballpark for success. At worst, this year's Bubba Crosby.

Cody Ross, OF: Has 80 professional home runs at age 24. Injuries marred much of his 2004, and he's never OPSed over .900 in the minors. But he's a Paul DePodesta acquisition and that puts him in the game.

See You Midseason? (9)
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: Mainly a starter in the Yankee organization last year, Carlyle could arrive later this season as a long reliever or catastrophe starting pitcher.

Chin-Feng Chen, OF-1B: Express message to the Chin-Feng Chen Marching and Chowder Society, courtesy of Tony Jackson of the Daily News ...

In January, after the Dodgers signed Derek Lowe, re-signed Odalis Perez and acquired Dioner Navarro, they needed 40-man roster spots. (Henri) Stanley, infielder Joe Thurston and outfielder Chin-Feng Chen were taking up three of them. All three were designated for assignment, cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. Any player whom a club outrights after Aug. 31 isn't eligible to play in the big leagues for that club before May 15.

Joe Thurston, 2B: Is it too late for him to have a Lenny Harris career? Or will he end up more like Garey Ingram?

Mike Edwards, OF: Played a full season with Oakland's AAA Sacramento team and had 13 home runs, 76 walks and 41 doubles. Now 28, he's a longshot for much of a major league career, but with three somewhat fragile starting outfielders, the Dodgers may need him at some point.

Jose Flores, IF: Perhaps forever to be remembered, if remembered at all, as the guy who couldn't put a bunt down, he'll hang out in Las Vegas and see if anyone on the infield gets sore.

Henri Stanley, OF: Doesn't seem to have quite enough power or quite enough speed. But he can work at things with the knowledge that he's still younger than Dave Roberts was when he made his major-league debut.

Orlando Rodriguez, LHP: In 2002, Rodriguez allowed no runs in 35 A ball innings and struck out 52! In 2003, he had a 3.75 ERA with AA Jacksonville before injuring himself. He's 24; root for this one.

Derek Thompson, LHP: After missing 2003 because of surgery, Thompson began the road back in 2004 with a 3.72 ERA in AA Jacksonville - which isn't really that impressive. Still, don't give up on a 24-year-old lefty who isn't comatose.

Jon Weber, OF: Need more details on him. He's already 27 but his professional record only dates back to 2003. In that time, he has moved from A ball to AAA with a career OPS of .881.

September Callups (5)
Russell Martin, C: No, he didn't play Artemus Gordon: that was Ross Martin. Martin has shown remarkable plate discipline: 129 walks against 109 strikeouts in 240 minor league games. Of course, Martin hasn't even played AA ball yet, so we'll wait to see how he continues to develop.

Joel Guzman, SS now, 3B later, OF in a while: Impress your friends with trivia - his real first name is Irvin. Beyond that, salivate patiently.

James Loney, 1B: The darling of Spring Training 2004, people are just waiting on the health and the power.

Ryan Ketchner, LHP: Turns 23 on April 19. Career minor-league ERA of 3.11 with 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Willy Aybar, IF: His stats should shoot up if he makes the jump to Las Vegas and forces Thurston into a utility role there. Turns 22 on Wednesday.

Fodder (5)
Tydus Meadows, OF: A good hitter in AA, but that's been his description since 2002. He's 27.

Ryan Rupe, RHP: This year's Tanyon Sturtze.

Oscar Robles, IF: Almost 29, he had some nice Mexican League numbers in 2004. Listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, he is that rare player thinner than me.

Tony Schrager, IF: Had a .777 OPS in AAA Pawtucket last season.

Franquelis Osoria, RHP: A fairly undistinguished 23-year-old reliever.

Check Back in a Year or Two (2)
Joel Hanrahan, RHP: The 23-year-old will need to show something more in AAA, although a 5.05 ERA isn't as bad as it sounds, coming in Las Vegas.

Delwyn Young, 2B: Prospect hit 22 home runs for Vero Beach last season at age 22.

Farewell (2)
D.J. Houlton, RHP: Rule 5 draftee needs to make the team out of Spring Training or be sent back whence he came: odds strongly against it.

Darren Dreifort, RHP: Blue Cross blue plate special.

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