1. Manny being Manny
-Breathe easy, Hollywood. Manny is back and hopefully better than ever. After a rousing first act with the Dodgers in 2008, Manny returns as the superstar and the face of the Dodgers. Like so many things in Hollywood, this has pros and cons. Manny is of course Manny...and thus will tear the cover off the ball as long as he is healthy and motivated. But still, Manny is Manny, and is prone to cancerous and curious antics that tend to divide and hurt teams. Which Manny will the Dodgers get? Very interesting sub plot.
2. Can Jason Schmidt be a useful pitcher again?
-So far, it looks like a big, fat no. Since signing with the Dodgers three years ago to a 3 year/$45 million dollar contract, Schmidt has missed most of the past two seasons with serious arm issues. He has resembled nothing of the ace that the Dodgers paid handsomely for thanks to his serious arm injuries. 2009 represents Schmidt's last shot to show the Dodgers what he can do. But will he? Not right away (probably won't start the year in the majors), but Schmidt could make a major difference for the Dodgers down the stretch if he is healthy.
3. Development of Clayton Kershaw
-Clayton Kershaw is an absolute monster. This guy has all the makings of an ace and has absolutely fantastic stuff. A dominating fastball. Check. An overwhelming curveball. Check. The 21 year old has the potential to be a top of the rotation strike out machine and look for Kershaw to develop further in 2009.
4. Broxton the Closer
-If there was any guy who was made to be a closer in the big leagues, it's Broxton. He's got the 1970s faded, ridiculous sideburns to go along with his dominating and overwhelming fastball. The Dodgers have handed the ninth inning over to Broxton for good this season and it will be interesting to see how his persona and fastball translate when the pressure is on. I think Broxton will be a fantastic and potentially dominant closer...in time.
5. A healthy Rafael Furcal
-Make no mistake about it, Furcal is the key to the Dodgers offense. When Furcal is healthy and productive, the Dodgers offense is as good as any in the majors. Furcal can hit for average, get on base, steal bases, and yes, he does have surprising power. If Furcal can stay healthy for the entire season then the Dodgers offense could put up some huge numbers and all but guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs.
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