Friday, March 15, 2013

So, Who's Having a Great Spring?

I've heard the complaints about nationally known reporters focused on the negatives surrounding the Dodgers, and frankly I don't blame them.  After all, we've got important leaders on the team coming off injury plagued seasons, and some notable incoming difference-makers hampered by physical problems.  Still, as my music teacher always told me, accentuate the positive.  And fortunately, there are some positives to hang your hat on.

So, which Dodgers' are having a fantastic Spring?

I'll first point out the obvious answer and mention Yasiel Puig- our Cuban sensation who is tearing the cover off the ball.  Through 17 games and 34 at-bats he is batting a robust .412 with an impressive OPS of .988.  He is as big as a ox, with forearms to match.  So far, he has produced 4 extra base hits while driving in 6.  His biggest negative right now is his strike out totals, which is at a team high of 10.  Still, he is certain to have a promising future.  It has already been announced that he will open the season in the minors, but that hasn't stopped the prognosticators from doing some lobbying.
AJ Ellis has also had a fantastic Spring.  Our backstop, the captain on the field, continues to impress with the bat.  He has 6 hits in 17 recorded at-bats for a .353 average in limited play.  His duties are obviously focused as a catcher, so he has had the added burden of learning about some of our new pitchers.  Still, you gotta love the added bonus of a game-calling defensive catcher with the ability to provide some good at-bats.

Luis Cruz has also been impressive.  While in Dodger camp, he was batting .348 in 23 at-bats, and has belted 2 home runs.  As a member of Team Mexico in the WBC, Cruz continued his hitting prowess with a .286 average in a losing effort.  I'll forgive him for his apparent participation in the recent melee against Canada, just because I love the passion it shows.  Something tells me that he'll be just fine as our 3rd baseman.

What can you cay about Andre Ethier?  He has always been a formidable first half hitter, so I'm not surprised that he is batting .333 with an OPS of 1.059 in the early going.  Heck, he even has 2 triples this Spring, so his wheels appear to be in good shape.  The question with him has always been his ability to hit left-handers, and I doubt we can answer that right now.

Is Hanley going to be a burden or a godsend?  So far, the numbers tell us that it's the latter.  He is back, and I couldn't be happier.  In Dodger camp he is batting .333, but had yet to record an extra base hit.  Then, as a member of the Dominican WBC team he belted two home runs; including a highlight reel laser shot that you can watch here.  Hopefully, his enthusiastic play in the WBC will cross over into the regular season.

Nick Punto has been lights out.  Really, he's better than I thought he was.  At Camelback he was batting .385 and is OPS'ing .962, but his WBC play has even been better.  As a leader on Team Italy he was batting .421, and has displayed the kind of grit on the field that reminds of old-school baseball.  He plays hard and slides hard, and if he can bring that passion to the team this season we will reap the benefits.

Pitching is much more difficult to judge during the first half of Spring.  Since I've yet to really watch their form or mastery of pitches in the early going, I can't say with much confidence if their level of play so far is worth noting.  I will say, though that Josh Beckett has been solid.  His WHIP is below 1.00 in 9.1 innings of play, and his 0.96 ERA has me dreaming that he is back to his old form.  Could a change of scenery be all that he needed? 

How about the relief corps?  Josh Wall, Paco Rodriquez and Shawn Tolleson have good numbers, but with a small sample size it's hard to really judge them.

Many other players are also having a great Spring training; like Brian Barden (who is destined for the minors), Mark Ellis, and Alex Castellanos (who has shown good power, but has lacked consistency). 

All photos featured here by Dodgers Photographer Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2013.

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Blog Kiosk: 3/15/2013

Just 17 days til Opening Day.  Excited doesn't begin to explain how I feel.  Pic via the Dodgers on twitter.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey makes note of a bunch of Dodgers' signs popping up all over LA.
  • A redditor named conch9 posted up a great article on Vin Scully on a blog that is well worth a read.  Check it out here at Dodgers Insider.
I was trying to rack my brain, trying to figure out how to end this article on the man I’ve grown to respect and love so much. There was nothing I could think of that would possibly personify the amount of respect I have. Along the same lines, nothing I could ever say would explain why exactly I even decided to sit down and write this. Then it finally hit me. I’ll do what Vin Scully is known so well for doing. Whenever there is a big moment that he’s covering, he doesn’t talk at all. He lets the crowd, and the sounds and images of the game become his voice. 
  • During Hall of Fame Weekend Dr. Frank Jobe will be honored in salute to the game's impact on culture, via the HOF.
The Museum will also recognize Dr. Frank Jobe for the development of the historic elbow procedure, known as “Tommy John Surgery,” that has helped hundreds of major league players past, present and future extend their baseball careers. John, the former left-handed pitcher who won 288 games in his 26-year major league career, will join Dr. Jobe for the special recognition.
Greinke won’t pitch “until he’s ready to actually be able to throw like everybody else who’s going to leave spring training,” Mattingly said. “Kersh (Clatyon Kershaw) and everybody else, he’s going to have to be at that level. It’s not like late in the season, ‘if he can give us 70 pitches, we’ll take it.’ In a sense (Greinke is) just like Carl (Crawford). When he starts I want him to be able to continue on.”
(twitter link: @DylanHernandez)
  • Mark Saxon at ESPN poses one big question for every Dodger player.
  • Kevin Nelson at Sports Collectors Daily rehashes the disgusting tale of the FBI's "Operation Bullpen" forged autograph scandal.  I have to admit that I have one of these fake Joe DiMaggio autographs.  It's embarrassing to say, because I knew almost immediately that I had been had.  It just took me awhile to admit it to myself.
  • Bad, Bad Leroy Brown sung live by Jim Croce.

Video Link:

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Collection: Some 2002 SPx Prospect Autographed Cards

Since we are in the midst of Spring Training I figured there would be no better time than now to show off some prospect autographed Baseball cards in my collection.  Featured here are the Dodgers autographed prospects cards from the 2002 SPx set.  Unfortunately, I am only missing the Kazuhisa Ishii card for completion.  In fact, I don't think I've ever seen one.

The most notable player here is former Dodger catcher David Ross.  He had created a nice home for himself in Atlanta, having played there the past 4 seasons as their backup.  As you would expect, Ross was solid defensively and was more than serviceable with the bat.  After all, if a catcher can provide stellar defense and bat about .270 then they're doing their job.  Seeing that, the Boston Red Sox picked him up as a free agent this winter on a two year deal worth $6.2 Mil. 

Congrats, David!  I'm glad to see a former Dodger farmhand having some success.

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