Dodgers Report: Josh Hamilton

Stock watch: A-Gon heating up

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
7:53
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Rising

[+] EnlargeAdrian Gonzalez
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAdrian Gonzalez has homered in four straight games.
Adrian's power: Adrian Gonzalez is the most consistent hitter in baseball. He has the same season over and over ... with one exception. His power hasn't been the same since shoulder surgery four years ago, and pitchers haven't been as careful with him, so his on-base percentage has dipped in tandem. Nonetheless, he hits in the clutch and drives in runs, so nobody has complained much. Gonzalez has looked the past year or so like he might be regaining that nice, smooth power stroke to left-center. In the past seven games, he has slugged .931 and he has hit home runs in four straight games, one shy of the franchise record. He's off to a dangerous start.

Dee Gordon: A team could run itself into the ground making player-personnel decisions based on early April results, but the second-base situation isn't working out as badly as some feared. That's because Gordon committed himself in the offseason to the position switch and came into camp physically and mentally ready to win the job. So far, he has even hit lefties a bit (2-for-6), which means he could take over the position full time. He's been a catalyst atop the order, disruptive on the bases and is playing capable -- and sometimes outstanding -- second base.

Dan Haren: This guy gets craftier every year. It's almost as if he spent his entire offseason watching tapes of Greg Maddux. His fastball doesn't top 89 mph, but he throws it where he wants it and he gets late movement with his cutter. His splitter isn't as effective as it once was because he doesn't throw the four-seamer as hard -- and thus doesn't have as much separation -- but it's good enough to keep hitters off balance. Every young Dodger pitcher should watch this guy work. He's been a huge addition so far, especially with Clayton Kershaw down.

Falling

[+] EnlargeDodgers Celebrate
Mark Metcalfe/Getty ImagesKenley Jansen has converted on four of his five save opportunities this season.
Kenley Jansen: It's too early to draw any sweeping conclusions, but the early returns on the closer's reinvigorated fastball -- he has gained a few mph since last year -- are mixed. Jansen was dominant, touching 100 mph Sunday. He also blew a save in a game the Dodgers won Tuesday and was the losing pitcher after giving up a Victor Martinez home run Wednesday. Jansen's greatest asset -- what made him such a swing-and-miss machine last season -- is the late movement on his cutter. You wonder whether the increased velocity has affected that.

Headfirst slides: Both Southern California teams got hit hard by baseball's dumbest play: the headfirst slide into first base. Josh Hamilton severely injured his thumb doing it for the Angels and is out 6-8 weeks. Yasiel Puig got away with a minor thumb injury doing the same thing in a game against the Giants. In Puig's case, he wasn't even avoiding a tag, making it utterly baffling. The early comparisons of Puig to Bo Jackson look better by the day. He often looks like a great athlete learning how to play the game as he goes. Let's hope he picked up this lesson quicker than he learned to hit cutoff men. Making this mistake won't just cost his team a game, it could cost him a career.

Catching and throwing: We thought it was going to be a problem and it is a problem, so far. The Dodgers have made 12 errors in 13 games. They are 26th in baseball in fielding percentage. With Gordon adjusting to a new position, Hanley Ramirez highly erratic at shortstop and Matt Kemp playing on a recovering ankle in center, this could be a problem for a while. Teams should be able to make a good living hitting the ball up the middle, which is easier to do anyway. There is not a real immediate solution to this problem, so Dodgers pitchers might just have to work around it.

The case for Josh Hamilton

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
4:33
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Lately, it's as if all these general managers are waking up and thinking, "Hey, wait a minute! I might be able to afford the most powerful left-handed hitter in baseball."

In recent days, the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox have all been reported to have expressed some interest in slugger Josh Hamilton. How could the Dodgers, baseball's nouveau riche, not at least kick the tires? Frankly, shouldn't they be setting their sights on a player with that much impact? Then, if it doesn't work out, there is a whole army of Plan B's out there waiting to sign deals.

Let's keep it simple, Los Angeles Dodgers fans: Which changes your perception of the team's chances next season more, a rotation that comes at you with Clayton Kershaw-Anibal Sanchez or a middle of the order that goes Adrian Gonzalez-Matt Kemp-Josh Hamilton?

There are some good starting pitchers out there, but even the best free agent on the market, Zack Greinke, is far from a guaranteed difference maker. There were 25 starting pitchers in the majors last season with WHIPs better than Greinke's 1.20. His lifetime ERA is 3.77, worse than Chad Billingsley's.

Which is a more worthwhile investment, $90 million for Sanchez or $115 million for Hamilton? Of course, there are a whole host of reasons to object and obstacles to such a move, so let's explore some:

The risk

Hamilton's well-publicized addiction issues, some very public lapses and his occasionally flaky behavior last season (blaming a slump on caffeine use, among others) have led a lot of people to wonder about the wisdom of giving him a mega-deal akin to those signed by Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

That market uncertainty is the best thing the Dodgers and other teams have going for them.

It's otherwise not that easy to sign a 32-year-old coming off a 43-home run season, five straight All-Star appearances and with an MVP trophy in his living room. A USA Today report indicated that the Texas Rangers aren't prepared to offer Hamilton a deal exceeding three years. ESPN.com's Jim Bowden estimated somebody will give Hamilton five years and $115 million, which seems about right.

It's potentially the best opportunity for a team to make a below-market signing since Vladimir Guerrero hit free agency coming off a bad back (and won the MVP the next season).

Ever since the Dodgers were linked to Hamilton shortly after the ownership change, there have been whispers that playing in Los Angeles would be a bad fit for Hamilton. Too many nightlife temptations. Too many snooping paparazzi. But you know what else Southern California has: a lot of people living really healthy lifestyles. Plenty of stuff to do during the day, a lot of places to get organic food, tons of support groups.

And, yeah, it has churches, too, just like Texas, and more celebrity rehab centers than any place on earth. If Hamilton lapses in L.A., he'd have plenty of places he could go to get anonymous help.

Clearly, this new front office is not risk-averse. Which is riskier, spending nine figures on Hamilton with his personal struggles or owing nine figures to a player, Carl Crawford, coming off elbow reconstruction surgery?

The glut

But wait, don't the Dodgers already have three every-day outfielders for the next four or five years? Why, yes, in fact they have three pretty good every-day outfielders. But teams solve these kinds of problems all the time. Last season, the Detroit Tigers asked the best hitter on earth, Miguel Cabrera, to switch positions to accommodate Fielder.

A position change probably wouldn't solve a glut in the Dodgers' outfield (hard to imagine Kemp playing third), but the trade market could. Already, there have been rumblings that the Dodgers would consider parting with Andre Ethier. They might have to cover some of the $71.5 million they still owe him, but they could certainly get some useful pieces in return -- maybe even the starting pitcher they're seeking.

The need

General manager Ned Colletti has said he views pitching as the team's greatest need. He's probably right, of course. Getting everybody together starting in spring training figures to help with offensive chemistry and to ease some of the pressure on guys like Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. It's hard to imagine the Dodgers finishing 13th in the league OPS again with the names Don Mattingly is going to write on his lineup card.

But where does it say you can only work on your weakness over the winter? Aren't pitching/defense and hitting/baserunning just mirror images of one another? Improve one and you've taken pressure off the other. If things go well on the health front, the Dodgers could go into next spring with six healthy, proven starters without doing anything in free agency.

Colletti has said it over and over. These owners have given him license to think boldly. There's really only one signing out there that qualifies as truly bold.

Dodgers and Torii Hunter look like a perfect fit

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
10:26
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His career in the United States has just begun, so take it for what it is, but Yasiel Puig is playing like a man who doesn't plan on spending his early 20s in the minor leagues.

[+] EnlargeKemp and Hunter
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp and Torii Hunter already have a close relationship, and it could only blossom if Hunter were to come to the Dodgers next season.
The Dodgers' $42 million Cuban prospect is batting .394 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in his first two stops in the minors, the Dodgers having just promoted him to Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

No matter how many extra-base hits Puig piles up in this dwindling minor league season, though, the Dodgers know he isn't going to be ready to play left field for them next April. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound outfielder is 21, five years younger than his former teammate Yoenis Cespedes, who started his U.S. career in the major leagues. It's a pretty good bet Puig will spend much of next season at Rancho Cucamonga and, if things go well, visit Double-A, putting him on target for 2014 or 2015 in Dodger Stadium.

That leaves the Dodgers with a two-year hole to fill in left field, a swampy patch of underproduction for them all season until general manager Ned Colletti traded some minor league pitchers to land Shane Victorino last month.

Victorino and Josh Hamilton will be two of the best free-agent outfielders on the market coming this November, and you could make an argument for the Dodgers' chasing either player. Victorino wants to play here and solves their leadoff problem. Hamilton solves their power problem and gives them a right-left combination in the middle of their order, along with Matt Kemp, that would be the best in baseball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Zack Greinke
WINS ERA SO IP
11 2.73 127 118
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .307
HRA. Gonzalez 14
RBIA. Gonzalez 58
RY. Puig 51
OPSY. Puig .912
ERAJ. Beckett 2.26
SOZ. Greinke 127