Sarah's Take: Dodgers depth loaded
Overabundance of talent could make trimming roster tough
The Dodgers have too many talented players in their Spring Training camp. Although all Major League teams want this problem, it can cause nightmares for manager Joe Torre. Having depth on a baseball team is crucial for its success. However, not having places for the correct players on the bench can spell disaster for any team, and this is what the Dodgers face in 2008.
Although the bench should have veteran players, the Dodgers will stock their bench with younger players. A veteran knows what he can do and has confidence in his ability. A young player doesn't have confidence in his ability to play at the Major League level. When he plays only once or twice a week, he can't refine his timing on hitting or fielding. An older player can handle being a reserve player, arguably the most difficult job in baseball, better than a young player.
Therefore, general manager Ned Colletti signed Mark Sweeney and Ramon Martinez, who has a Minor League contract. Although these players are good and have experience as reserves, they are making the situation for Torre more difficult. Sweeney has the most pinch-hits of any active player. After Olmedo Saenz didn't return to the Dodgers this season, the Dodgers didn't have a player who had much experience pinch-hitting, and this worried Torre. A week before Spring Training began, Colletti re-signed Sweeney. Sweeney complicates the situation, but the Dodgers needed a good and experienced pinch-hitter.
For the last two seasons, Martinez has been the Dodgers' utility player. In 2006, Martinez did a fantastic job, especially filling in for an injured Jeff Kent and getting timely hits. Most Dodgers fans understood that the club would have had a more difficult job of making the playoffs in 2006 without Martinez's contributions. However, in 2007 Martinez didn't contribute much because of injuries.
Although Martinez has versatility that many Dodgers don't have, to me the Dodgers don't need Martinez. If Nomar Garciaparra doesn't earn the regular third-base job, he would make a super utility player. Garciaparra is a fantastic athlete, and he can play anywhere on the infield. It is conceivable that Garciaparra can play outfield. Despite coming off a disappointing power season, Garciaparra still hit in the high .280s. If Garciaparra can discover his power stroke again, he would be a huge asset to the Dodgers, whether he is the starting third baseman or coming off the bench.
Every Spring Training, baseball fans hear some player is out of options, and this spring is no different for the Dodgers. Delwyn Young is out of options. If the Dodgers attempt to send Young down to the Minor Leagues, they might lose him to another team. Though he has some defensive shortcomings, Young has hit at every level. I remember when Young made his first Major League start against the Cincinnati Reds last August, and he had three hits. In every Major League game that he has played, Young has hit. Since I have been a Dodgers fan, the offense has been a concern, and this upcoming season is the same old story. Letting Young possibly go to another organization will be a shame if the Dodgers don't have room for him.
Although Young has played outfield since 2005, he is a natural second baseman. The Dodgers have marked Tony Abreu as their second baseman of the future, but Abreu is having difficulty recovering from last October's surgery to repair a sports hernia. With Kent's advanced age, 40 in March, the Dodgers must have a good backup second baseman. Young would provide a decent offensive second-base replacement. Being able to play more than one position is in Young's favor to make the Dodgers this spring.
As I have written in a previous article, the Dodgers have too many outfielders. I don't see Juan Pierre or Matt Kemp sitting on the bench. Andre Ethier is a good hitter and has decent defensive skills. He will be an asset coming off the bench, but he wants to be an everyday player. Will making him a reserve hurt his already fragile confidence?
Jason Repko is an aggressive outfielder. Arguably he has the best defensive skills of any Dodgers outfielder. He has incredible power and speed. He has an enthusiastic attitude for baseball, and this makes him try to catch everything that he can reach. Although it is exciting to watch, Repko's reckless attitude has caused him to injure himself and his teammates. Being on the bench won't make Repko feel that he has an assured place on the team, so will he try to make an impossible catch and hurt himself again?
Having three players who can play outfield on the bench doesn't comfort me. I would like to have two reserve catchers. Though Russell Martin likes to play every day, he needs rest. I think he would be more receptive to play a partial game than taking the entire game off. However, not having catchers on the bench, Torre won't like taking Martin out after the fifth inning because what happens if Gary Bennett, who has a history of injuries, gets hurt? I have seen the Dodgers use three catchers in a game many times. Although the Dodgers usually don't have three catchers, I think they should.
During Spring Training, it will be interesting to see what Torre decides about the bench. If depth is a key to success for a baseball team, the Dodgers will go to the World Series.
Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Sarah's Dodger Place. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.