01/29/07 10:00 AM ET
Mailbag: The Kemp-Loney comparison
Beat reporter Ken Gurnick answers fans' offseason questions
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
-- Alejandro C., Boyle Heights, Calif.
I can't speak for the club, but if I had to bet, I'd bet it would be Kemp. Generally, when position prospects are the subject, power is the most precious commodity, and Kemp's seven home runs in his first 18 games gave a glimpse of what he's capable of. Loney also is the closest the Dodgers have to a five-tool player, someone who can handle all aspects of the game -- from average and power to fielding and throwing and running speed. Loney appears to be the more polished hitter, and he looks more comfortable at first base than Kemp does in the outfield. The fact that manager Grady Little compares Kemp to Chipper Jones is a clear indication of where he stands in the debate.
Can you tell me a little about Don Mattingly's son?
-- Jerry G., Huntington Park, Calif.
Preston Mattingly was the 31st player taken in the draft, which was considered a bit of a reach, but Dodgers scouting director Logan White liked Mattingly's make-up and athleticism and figured the player would be gone by the time the Dodgers drafted again at No. 113. The knock on the 19-year-old Mattingly, an effective right-handed hitter, is a lack of a defensive position. Mattingly played shortstop for the Dodgers' Gulf Coast League rookie team and hit .290 with one homer, 29 RBIs and 12 steals in 47 games.
Who are the key players on the Dodgers that will be up for free agency or arbitration after the '07 season?
-- Sean C., Hamburg, N.Y.
Players eligible to be free agents after the 2007 season are Marlon Anderson, Elmer Dessens, Luis Gonzalez and Olmedo Saenz. Dodgers on track to be eligible for salary arbitration after the 2007 season are Joe Beimel, Wilson Betemit, Yhency Brazoban, Mark Hendrickson and Jason Repko. The club has 2008 options on Jeff Kent, Mike Lieberthal, Ramon Martinez, Brett Tomko and Randy Wolf.
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Could Zach Hammes or Eric Hull be a Dodger starter this year?
-- Jeff L., Rowland Heights, Calif.
If you mean on the Major League team coming out of Spring Training, that's not likely. The Dodgers already have about a gazillion starting pitchers reporting to Florida, and none of the three is considered Major League ready. Hammes is a reliever who pitched at Class A Vero Beach last year and had a breakthrough in the recent Hawaii Winter League as a closer. He throws hard with a developing curveball and figures to start the season at Double-A Jacksonville in the bullpen. Hull pitched in relief at Triple-A Las Vegas and was added to the Major League 40-man roster. He's a smallish right-hander who knows how to pitch and could take on a long relief role.
Why haven't the Dodgers tried to acquire Todd Helton?
-- Jason S., Encino, Calif.
There is an obvious $91 million worth of reasons, which is the remainder of his contract, even though the Rockies will probably eat $50 million of it just to move him. And why do they want to move him? Since 2001, when he hit 49 homers and 146 RBIs, his production has gone into a tailspin. And with Nomar Garciaparra, James Loney and even Jeff Kent (if management gets bold), there's hardly a Dodgers need at first base. If the 49-homer Helton was available, the Dodgers would be interested, but then the Rockies wouldn't be trying to trade him.