The statistics for the Japanese pitcher the Dodgers signed, Hiroki Kuroda, don't look like he's worth almost $12 million a year. What should we expect?
-- Eric E., Beverly Hills, Calif.
In 11 seasons in Japan, Kuroda was 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA. Experts of Japanese baseball, however, point out that Kuroda's home ballpark, Hiroshima's Shimin Stadium, is one of the smallest in the league (300 feet down the lines, 386 feet to center field). Dodgers scouts report that Kuroda has the kind of competitiveness that's comparable to current closer Takashi Saito -- that they both bear down in tough situations. Considering Saito and Hideo Nomo, the Dodgers have been successful with the Japanese pitchers they've imported and an argument could be made that they never saw the real Kazuhisa Ishii after he was drilled in the forehead with a line drive. With Brad Penny and Derek Lowe heading the rotation and Chad Billingsley maturing into a front-liner, Kuroda does not have the expectations of, say, a Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Why would the Dodgers sell Wilson Valdez to Korea? Don't they need the depth he provides with this being Jeff Kent's final season?
-- Sally S., Houston
Kent really has no bearing on Valdez, and vice versa. Valdez was out of options. He was unlikely to make the club out of Spring Training and could have been taken by another club if the Dodgers tried to send him to the Minor Leagues to be an insurance policy, which he was last year. Ramon Martinez was the primary utility infielder last year and has left as a free agent. Tony Abreu is expected to fill that role this year, although Chin-Lung Hu gives the Dodgers two options. The likely replacement for Valdez as the insurance policy is non-roster invitee Angel Chavez, who was originally signed by the Giants and then was in the Yankees' farm system, giving him ties to both general manager Ned Colletti and new manager Joe Torre. Abreu is the heir apparent to Kent.
Will the Dodgers have a preseason caravan as they have the past few years?
-- Jimmy S., Hollywood, Calif.
Yes, it will be Feb. 5 and 6. Details of times and places have not been announced, but it's likely to include Torre, Matt Kemp, Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Andre Ethier and James Loney.
Do you believe the players attending the current mini-camp at Dodger Stadium provide an accurate read on the best prospects in the organization?
-- Juan R., San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Absolutely. Rarely does a club so clearly telegraph its opinion of the top players in the system. The Dodgers have done this with the mini-camp, designed to aid in the transition for players that management believes will appear in the Major Leagues over the next two years. Here are the names of the players involved -- pitchers Mario Alvarez, Scott Elbert, Clayton Kershaw, James McDonald, Jonathan Meloan, Greg Miller, Justin Orenduff, Ramon Troncoso and Cory Wade; infielders Josh Bell, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Blake DeWitt, Hu and Andy LaRoche; catcher Lucas May and outfielders Delwyn Young and Xavier Paul. It's also an indication that players who have already appeared in the Major Leagues -- LaRoche, Young, Hu and Meloan -- have legitimate shots at making the club out of Spring Training. The only omission is Abreu, who attended the Major League version of the prospect program in New York after undergoing offseason surgery for a sports hernia.
Some fans have been condemning Ned Colletti for signing Juan Pierre last year, placing a lot of blame on his throwing. Is there a stat to track how many runners actually did advance because of this throwing inability?
-- Pete L., Temecula, Calif.
Dan Fox of Baseball Prospectus recently wrote a column about a fielding computation system that ranked outfielders based on all-around defensive play, not just throwing arm, but also factoring in range, extra bases taken by runners, stadium variations and the like. Fox had Pierre ranked 21st and last among qualifying Major League center fielders. Andruw Jones was 10th, Aaron Rowand was 15th and Coco Crisp first. Andre Ethier was 11th among right fielders.
Has Rich Donnelly landed anywhere?
-- Charles V., Las Vegas
Donnelly, the Dodgers' third-base coach the last two years, has been hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates to serve as a Minor League supervisor.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.