FoxSports' Mike Harmon (no, not the UCLA quarterback from "Summer School") is quite the prolific guy, releasing position-by-position rankings for all of MLB. Though the rankings are from a fantasy baseball perspective, they are still interesting. Here's the Dodgers highlights, recapped in easily digestible format.
At catcher, Russell Martin slots in at #9:
9. Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
Martin emerged as another young star at the catcher position in 2006, producing 40 extra-base hits in his 121 games played with 10 stolen bases in 15 attempts. More impressively, Martin demonstrated a tremendous eye in his debut season, walking 45 times against 57 strikeouts. The fact that Martin also hit 75 points higher at Dodger Stadium than on the road with eight of his ten home runs is also encouraging for the 23-year old emerging star. A high doubles total is a predictor of future home run glory, and this youngster has a chance to be a five-tool player for years to come.
18. Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers
Garciaparra contributed a phenomenal comeback season in his first year with the Dodgers. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 93 runs in spite of the fact that he missed 40 games. That's the reason he lands so low on this particular list. He has played in 122 or fewer games in three consecutive seasons. The possibility for a big year is still there if he can avoid the injuries that have plagued him the last several seasons. Garciaparra possesses a lifetime .318 batting average with seven 20-home run seasons. The Dodgers' lineup should offer him opportunities to plate runs. He'll just need to stay healthy.
5. Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kent was limited to 115 games in 2006 with two extended stints on the disabled list, one for his wrist and another for a strained oblique. His 14 home runs and 68 RBI marked his lowest power output since 1996. Kent changed his hitting M.O. during the final two months and worked primarily to put the ball into play instead of his normal deep flies. He hit .348 in the final month of the season, but hit only one home run. Kent spent the off-season working with a conditioning coach to try and return to form. Remember, Kent had hit at least 22 home runs and driven in 93 or more runs in nine consecutive seasons before last year's injury-shortened campaign. Given last year's injury concerns, some owners will point to his birthday (he'll turn 39 in May) and stay away on draft day. If this conditioning regime works, those taking a chance on Kent may get a bargain.
7. Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Furcal thrived in new surroundings after shifting to the West Coast in 2006. He played in a career-high 159 games and established new career highs in RBI (63) and batting average (.300) and tied his career high with 15 home runs. Additionally, Furcal scored 100 runs for the fourth consecutive season and swiped 37 bases. Stolen bases have been Furcal's calling card for years with seven consecutive seasons with at least 22 steals. But, it must be noted that Furcal has reached double-digit home runs in four consecutive seasons as well, and that 12 of his 15 home runs in 2006 came at Dodger Stadium. He also hit at a .333 clip in the home park. That portends to another big season in 2007 as Furcal has now reached his hitting prime.
At third, the Dodgers have no mention of Wilson Betemit, who is not in the top 20. Garrett Atkins of the Rockies is at #5, and the Diamondbacks' Chad Tracy is at #17. Oh yeah, and Adrian Beltre is at #16 with the M's.
In the outfield, only Juan Pierre slots in at #21. #7 Matt Holliday of the Rockies is the only other NL West player above Pierre. But no mention of Andre Ethier or Luis Gonzalez in the top 50 is a little harsh.
21. Juan Pierre, Los Angeles Dodgers
Pierre remains one of the game's top speed producers, having averaged 53 stolen bases in his last six seasons. He has posted four 200-hit seasons and owns a strong .303 career batting average with 96.8 runs scored per season. Pierre has been a durable player during his career. In fact, he's played in every game for four consecutive seasons. It's far from Cal Ripken, Jr., but it offers some level of security on draft day. Expect more of the same from Pierre this season, great production in three categories.
Pitchers' assessments come soon.