LA Dodgers Predictions

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LA Dodgers Predictions

If we needed a reminder that money can buy success, the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers proved just that. After making several big time trades and huge free agent signings, the Dodgers lived up to the hype and went on to win the NL West by 11-games with a record of 92-70.

What’s impressive is this team got off to a bad start last year. They were 12-games under .500 on June 21 and were sitting at just 47-47 going into the All-Star break. Whatever they did during the break worked, as they went 25-3 over their next 28 games.

While the Dodgers weren’t all that active in the offseason, they did add in a couple of veteran starters in Dan Haren and Paul Maholm, who could prove to be key pieces with Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett both recovering from serious injuries.

There’s no question the talent is there for this team to reign on top the division for several years to come, but they still have to show they can duplicate their success in 2014. Let’s take a closer look at what Los Angeles will be sending to the field this year.

Projected Rotation

Clayton Kershaw (L) – I think it’s pretty safe to say that Kershaw is hands down the best pitcher in the game today. On his way to his second Cy Young in the last three years, Kershaw went 16-9 and posted new career-bests with a 1.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He now has a ridiculous 2.60 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over 182 career starts. What’s scary is that Kershaw will be just 26 when the 2014 season starts, leaving reason to believe that he can get even better. The only thing that could keep him from another dominant season is an injury, and that’s unlikely given he’s made 30+ starts in each of the last five years.

Zack Greinke (R) – Greinke was able to go 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 28 starts, which is pretty impressive considering he had to spend some time on the DL after an altercation on the mound with Carlos Quentin in April. Greinke had a 1.85 ERA in the second half and was brilliant in the playoffs. He would be the ace of most staffs, giving the Dodgers arguably the strongest 1-2 punch in baseball.

Hyun-Jin Ryu (L) – Los Angeles has to be more than pleased with what Ryu brought to the table in 2013. The South Korean went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 30 starts. The big question is will Ryu continue to improve or suffer a decline in his second go of things. We have seen a number of these overseas pitchers thrive early only to fail to live up to expectations. On the bright side, the decline typically doesn’t happen for a couple year and Ryu turns just 27 in March.

Dan Haren (R) – The Dodgers are taking a gamble on Haren and hoping that the veteran can give them a couple of strong seasons at the back of their rotation. Once considered one of the top pitchers in the game, Haren has fallen off considerably over the last two years with an ERA north of 4.30. While it seems unlikely the 33-year-old will bounce back with a dominant 2014, there’s reason to be a little optimistic. He still generates enough strikeouts (8.0 K/9 in 2013) to go along with excellent command (1.6 BB/9) that we could see him potentially put up something similar to his career numbers of a 3.74 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

Josh Beckett (R) – Injuries derailed Beckett’s 2013 campaign, as he made just eight starts. What was initially thought to be just a groin strain, ended up leading to doctors finding nerve irritation in his neck. When it was all said and done, Beckett had to undergo surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He’s expected to be available to pitch in spring training, but that’s the same procedure that Chris Carpenter failed to recover from just a few years back. Luckily for the Dodgers, they have plenty of depth, including two very capable starters waiting in Maholm and Billingsley.

Bullpen

Kenley Jansen (R) – Jansen is coming off a sensational year, where he finished with an impressive 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 13.0 K/9. Opposing hitters finished with a mere .136 average, .176 OBP and .192 SLG against him. Another performance like that in 2014 and Jansen will solidify himself as one of the elite closers in the game today. The only way I see the 26-year-old failing to put up similar numbers is a major injury.

Brian Wilson (R) – Wilson didn’t make his 2013 debut until late August, as he spent the previous 16 months recovering from Tommy John surgery. The former closer of the San Francisco Giants, was quickly inserted as the Dodgers primary set-up man. While it was only a brief period, Wilson posted a 0.66 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 18 appearances. While I have some concerns with how he will hold up for a full 162-game schedule, Los Angeles trusted the 32-year-old enough to give him a $10 million contract for 2014.

Projected Lineup

Yasiel Puig (RF) – To say Puig made a lasting impression in his first stint in the big leagues, would be an understatement. The 22-year-old Cuban hit .319 with a .391 OBP and .534 SLG after a June 3 call-up. He ended up with 19 homers 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases in just 432 plate appearances. He may be too cocky for his own good, but you can’t deny his performance on the field. There is some concern with his free-swinging mentality leading to a decline, plus you can pretty much bank on him not matching last year’s .383 BABIP. I could see 2014 going in either direction.

Carl Crawford (LF) – Crawford ended up hitting a respectable .283 with a .329 OBP and .407 SLG, which wouldn’t be all that bad if the Dodgers weren’t paying him $20 million. Once considered one of the elite stolen base artists in baseball, Crawford managed just 15 steals over 116 games in 2013. A far cry from the 50+ he averaged from 2003 to 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays. His name far exceeds his value and there’s major concerns whether his aging body will be able to hold up. Crawford hasn’t played in more than 130 games in three years.

Hanley Ramirez (SS) – After a couple of mediocre seasons, Ramirez let everyone know he’s still capable of producing at a very high level. While he played in just 83-games, Ramirez hit 20 homers, drove in 57 runs and stole 10 bases with an impressive .345 average, .402 OBP and .638 SLG. It’s hard to get over-excited given his inability to stay healthy and previous poor showings, but he will certainly be motivated to perform in the final year of his contract.

Adrian Gonzalez (1B) – It’s hard to figure out what has happened to the power that made Gonzalez one of the most coveted players in baseball back when he was with the San Diego Padres. Last year he hit a respectable 22 homers, but that’s a far cry from the 34 he averaged over his final four years with the Padres (2007-10). To put it in perspective, his .293 average, .342 OBP and .461 SLG in 2013, where all below his career marks. On the bright side, he still managed to drive in 100 runs and his .315 BABIP was his lowest since 2009. While he’s still an above-average first basemen, he’s not exactly performing at the level of his paycheck (owed $106 million over next 5 years).

Matt Kemp (CF) – Injuries have haunted Kemp and the Dodgers ever since the outfielder signed an eight-year $160 million contract after the 2011 season. He’s injured both hamstrings, an ankle and had two should surgeries. Last year he was limited to just 73 games and didn’t provide anywhere close to the numbers we had seem from the past. There’s concern about whether or not the ankle will be healthy enough by the start of the season, which creates a lot of concern. Kemp is still on the right side of 30, but unless he can stay healthy he’s going to continue to disappointment. He’s one of the true wild cards when it comes to what he will bring to the table in 2014.

Juan Uribe (3B) – The Dodgers are hoping that Uribe’s breakout performance in 2013 wasn’t a fluke. The veteran infielder hit .278 with a .331 OBP and .438 SLG, which was a massive improvement over his last two years in Los Angeles. In 2011 he finished with a mere .204 average and in 2012 he was the below the Mendoza line at .191. The big concern is that Uribe will be 35 in March and unlikely to come close to his .322 BABIP of 2013. That was just the third time in his 13-year career that he finished with a BABIP over .310 (career average BABIP is .282).

A.J. Ellis (C) – Ellis didn’t have a great year offensively, but he continued to play solid enough defense to keep his starting gig. Ellis threw out 44% of runners who tried to steal last year, which was the highest rate among starting catchers. At the plate he managed to hit just .238, but he was able to provide 10 homers and 52 RBI. While he turns 33 in April, there’s reason to be optimistic that he will bounce back in 2014. Ellis had a mere .269 BABIP last year after posting a BABIP over .310 in each of the two previous seasons.

Alex Guerrero (2B) – The 27-year-old Guerrero is expected to make his MLB debut as the Opening Day second baseman for the Dodgers. Guerrero is another product of Cuba that could make a big time impact in the majors. While his defense will be a work in progress, he’s got the tools at the plate to be a force offensively. Having Puig on the team should help ease the transition to the big stage of Los Angeles.

Betting Odds

  • To Win World Series: 13/2
  • To Win NL Pennant: 3/1
  • To Win NL West: 1/2

Win Total: 93.5

Even though the Dodgers won just 92 games last year, it doesn’t come as much as surprise to see their win total listed at 93.5. Los Angles showed what they are capable of during that epic second half run and there’s no reason not to expect this team to get off to a stronger start. While there’s not a ton of value here, I think the over is the way to go.

Prediction: 1st Place NL West (100-62)

Predicting the winner of the NL West hasn’t exactly been easy over the last few years. Three different teams have won the division in the last three seasons. However, I think the trend of uncertainty is no longer an issue. While the Dodgers followed up their 2009 division title with a losing record the following season, I don’t see that being the case in 2014. Los Angeles in my opinion is the best team in baseball and I strongly believe they will be the first team to rack up 100 wins since the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies went 102-60.

The number one reason why I’m so high on the Dodgers is their starting rotation. I mentioned earlier that the combination of Kershaw and Grienke is the best 1-2 punch in the big leagues. Ryu is a quality No. 3, and most importantly they have depth. Throw in a pretty strong 8th and 9th inning combo of Wilson and Jansen and it’s easy to see why this team has the potential to reach the century mark.

While I’ve got my concerns with Crawford, Kemp and Uribe, the Dodgers have the fire-power offensively to produce enough runs to give their starters a chance to win every time they take the mound. On top of that, if Kemp can return to anywhere close to his form of 2011 and early 2012, before the injuries started piling up, Los Angeles could end up with an elite offense.

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