People complain when teams go on ridiculous spending sprees because it’s unfair to the small market clubs who can’t afford such things. Frankly, I’m just happy the Dodgers did what they did last year, because it took a lot of attention off of the Yankees. The Dodgers got off to a shockingly slow start last year, which led to everyone making fun of them for spending so much on players, but they turned it around with a fury, finishing 54-27 in their last 81 games and winning the division by 11 games. If they can avoid the slow start this year, they might win 105 games. They’re stacked again.
Too Many Men on the Field
The Dodgers outfield has one of those “good” problems, where there are too many good players and not enough spots. They have Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and the great Yasiel Puig out there, and they all probably deserve to start every game. Unfortunately, this isn’t pick up softball rules, and there’s no DH in the NL, so someone’s going to have to sit. Kemp has lost a lot of time due to injury the last couple of seasons, but he’s probably the best player on the team, and has already stated his desire to not be a fourth outfielder. Fortunately for LA, Kemp will begin the year on the DL, which will give the Dodgers more time to make this decision. Frankly, I think Ethier should be the odd man out. The lefty has dipped considerably since signing his big contract a few years ago, and he might be on his way to becoming a platoon guy… on another team. Whoever sits, it certainly shouldn’t be Puig. The brash youngster went crazy upon his call up last year, and finished with a triple slash line of .319/.391/.534 with 19 homers, 42 RBI and the Rookie of the Year in just 104 games. He’s had his off-field troubles, but he’s a special player. Butts will be in the seats to see him follow up.
The infield won’t be much easier on opposing pitchers, as Hanley Ramirez, who hit .345 last year despite battling injuries, and Adrian Gonzalez (22 HR, 100 RBI) are both back and healthy. The Wild Card is another Cuban, Alexander Guerrero, whom the Dodgers signed to a free agent deal this past winter. He’s a bit of an unknown, but is believed to be solid at the plate (I hear his defense might be suspect, though). The only problem I see for this team is Juan Uribe at 3B. Although Uribe had an OK season last year, he’s 33 going on 45, and is definitely not he down swing of his career. That being said, I think the Dodgers will be OK with Crawford, Puig, Kemp, Gonzalez and Ramirez in the lineup. Scary bunch of guys.
Lots of Pitching
I wouldn’t say there are many glaring weaknesses on the Dodgers pitching staff. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, which is always nice to have in your pocket. Zach Greinke seems to be a bit of a head case, but he can afford to be that way with a 2.63 ERA. Korean import Hyun-jin Ryu, who came to the bigs under questions about his weight and conditioning, put up a 3.00 ERA last year, and looks to be a real deal solid pitcher for this Dodgers team. Dan Haren was brought in this off-season to be the fourth starter. Haren has been plagued by the long ball the last two years (56 allowed over the last two seasons), but he was once one of the best arms int he league, and the Dodgers could do a lot worse for a fourth. For example, look at their fifth starter, Josh Beckett. What does Beckett have left in the tank? He only made 8 starts last year, and most of them were bad. He might be done or he might bounce back, I can’t call it either way. Luckily, for the Dodgers, they have a couple of guys waiting in the wings, namely prospect Zach Lee.
The bullpen should be solid once again. Hard throwing Kenley Jansen will be the closer after striking out 111 guys in 76.2 innings last year, and guys like J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow and the eclectic Brian Wilson will be there to back him up. The Dodgers let Wilson keep his stupid beard, so he signed with them. They even let him bring the family of pigeons living in his face, so that’s nice.
I finally understand how other fans feel watching the Yankees spend all that money and contending every year (note: they didn’t spend last year). I want the Dodgers, and their giant payroll, to fall flat on their faces. However, I think they are head and shoulders above the other teams in their division, so they’ll have to flop in the playoffs to satisfy me. I feel bad, because my childhood hero, Don Mattingly, is their skipper, but I just hate them.
Can’t go wrong with Gonzalez, Ramirez and Puig. Matt Kemp is too good not to be drafted, even with the outfield logjam in Los Angeles. If he goes 40/40 again, no one will even remember who Andre Ethier is. Don’t draft Etiher, by the way. He’s bad at baseball now. On the mound, Kershaw should be the first pitcher taken in everyone’s draft, but leave him to the idiot in your league who takes a pitcher in the first or second round. Wait a few more rounds and pick up Greinke or Ryu. They are must owns as well. Everyone else you can play “wait and see” on, except for Jansen, who is a relief beast.
Featured image courtesy of: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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