In 2010, Ethier was having an outstanding season before getting injured. He still led the team in batting average, hitting .292 while managing to slug 23 home runs and 82 RBI. The Dodgers are going to need him to stay healthy and get more production as the team does not have much power in the middle of the order.
Ethier will have to do a better job against lefties. New hitting instructor Jeff Pentland will have to work with Ethier this spring to make those adjustments.
Matt Kemp, a center fielder loaded with potential, took a giant step backwards in 2010. Even though he led the team with 28 homers and 89 RBI, he only hit .249 while striking out a whopping 170 times.
He was clearly upset at management about his contract and his attitude was poor all season long. Perhaps spending the season with Manny rubbed off on him far more than the team would have liked.
One of the most important tasks for new skipper Don Mattingly is going to figure out how to press Kemp’s buttons and get him to live up to his enormous potential. Mattingly has said that he wants this team to be mentally tough and get better defensively, both traits that Mattingly was known for as a player.
Defense in the outfield is primarily a matter of focus and effort. It will be interesting to see how the new manager handles it if the team’s best player gives less than maximum effort.
The left field situation will be another area that will receive a lot of attention but for far different reasons. The Dodgers have to be hoping that one of the many players coming to camp will rise to the occasion and win the job.
No one is excited about Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn, and Xavier Paul. Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth would have fit in nicely and given the team some much needed offense while creating some buzz with the fans. But sadly the team did not have the money to even make an offer to either player thanks to the mess that is the McCourt ownership.
Mattingly and his staff may decide to platoon Gibbons with Thames or Paul. Chances are not good that the team will be able to significantly upgrade the position so Donnie Baseball will have to make do with what he has available. Whatever the team gets from the left field position will be a bonus as expectations there are practically non-existent.
My best guess would be that Gibbons will make the team as he still has some pop in his bat and he can play first base. Gwynn has a shot to stick because he is an excellent defensive player with some speed.
Paul is an interesting case because he is out of options. This means the Dodgers either have to find a spot on the roster for him, release him, or trade him. This is a crucial camp for him. He will have to hustle and hit like never before to insure he makes the club.
If Kemp and Ethier live up to their potential, the Dodgers can rise to the top of the division once again. Ethier, if his finger is healthy, gives no reason to believe that he will not return to the form that had him challenging for a triple crown. Kemp, if he can get his attitude and effort where it needs to be, could have a monster year.
With Uribe adding a little more offense to the lineup, this team could really surprise a lot of people. If Kemp and Ethier do not produce, eighty wins may be stretch.