Los Angeles Dodgers
SLEEPER James Loney's bat will get him into the lineup this season, and when it does, it may not come out the rest of the year.
BUST Andre Ethier's bat found a lot of gaps last season that may not be there this year. He's a prime candidate for the sophomore slump.
HITTER TO WATCH: Andy LaRoche, 3B LaRoche has had some defensive trouble at third this spring, but he can hit, controls the strike zone, and should have average power down the road.
PITCHER TO WATCH: Jonathan Meloan, RHP
Meloan's fastball can be a bit straight, but he has two plus secondary pitches and pounds the strike zone.
MLB Preview 2007
FIXED Each day in camp, new center fielder Juan Pierre "hits 400 balls in the cage before anyone else even gets here," says third base coach Rich Donnelly. "Eddie Murray asked me, 'Does he ever go home?' " He'll go home a lot for the Dodgers this year. Pierre is the No. 2 hitter, a perfect complement to speedy leadoff man Rafael Furcal (37 SBs, 15 HRs). Over the past six years, only Ichiro has more hits than Pierre. In the field, Pierre doesn't throw well, but he'll run down balls in center, where four Dodgers played last year. Mostly, he brings the work ethic and championship background that a World Series contender needs.
NEEDS FIXING After J.D. Drew angered LA by opting out of his deal, GM Ned Colletti missed out on signing Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee. The Dodgers hit the second fewest home runs (153) in the NL last year, and now they're counting on two grizzled vets, 39-year-olds Luis Gonzalez and Jeff Kent, to provide added pop -- even though they combined for only 29 homers in '06. LA had better hope for a power surge from kids Wilson Betemit and Andre Ethier.
Since Adrian Beltre left after '04, Dodgers third basemen have hit just 30 homers. Minor league third baseman Andy LaRoche (Adam's little bro) has jacked 49 since then.
The bad news? After making the playoffs two out of the past three seasons, the Dodgers are hiking gameday ticket prices across-the-board and have raised the cheapest top-deck seats from $6 to $10. Los Angelinos can wash that bitter pill down with the most expensive beer in professional sports ($8). The good? Foodies have a $40 all-you-can-eat section to look forward to in the right-field pavilion.
"The Dodgers have gone from a solid playoff possibility to true World Series contender. If Jason Schmidt stays healthy, Juan Pierre is his usual pesky self and the bullpen is as good as last year then Chavez Ravine will be rocking into late October. Best upgrades of the offseason happened in Los Angeles."