LA Dodgers Predictions
The Los Angeles Dodgers have made it clear that they are going to do whatever it takes to put a World Series contender on the field. The Dodgers spending spree started last season when they made a couple of trades to acquire the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. It wasn’t enough to get them in the playoffs. Los Angeles finished up at 86-76, leaving them eight-games back of division leader San Francisco and tw0-games back of St Louis for the final Wild Card spot. The Dodgers have added even more talent to their superstar roster this offseason by singing former Cy Young winner Zach Greinke and Korean starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. Here’s a quick look at LA’s projected rotation, bullpen and lineup, plus my predictions on where they finish the year inside the NL West.
Projected Starting Rotation
Clayton Kershaw (L) – It’s hard to believe that Kershaw will enter the 2013 season at the age of just 25. He’s been one of the elite starters in the game over the last four seasons. Had the Dodgers offense been able to give him something to work with, he would be coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons. He ended up going 14-9 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 33 starts. During his 2011 Cy Young season he went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over the exact same amount of starts. He’s not posted four straight seasons of at least 30 starts with an ERA under 3.00.
Zack Greinke (R) – It’s not often you get two Cy Young winners on the same staff that are under the age of 30, which is why so many experts feel like the Dodgers have the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Greinke went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 34 starts between the Brewers and Angels last year. He’s yet to regain that magical touch from 2009, which he went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, but this could be the year he returns to form.
Josh Beckett (R) – Beckett looked like the ace of old after coming over in that trade from the Red Sox. In seven starts with the Dodgers he posted a 2.93 ERA, which was drastically better than his 5.23 ERA he compiled in 21 starts with Boston. Beckett should benefit from a full season in the National League and pitching the majority of his games in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. The former 20-game winner is only 32 and could be in for a monster season if he can stay healthy.
Chad Billingsley (R) – Billingsley was on his way to another strong season before suffering a torn elbow tendon that limited him to just 25 starts. He was 10-9 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. His elbow is reportedly fully healed and ready to go, but he’s struggled to stay healthy. He’s going to have to pitch well to keep his spot in the rotation, as the Dodgers have capable starters in Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang available.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (L) – The Dodgers shelled out nearly $62 million to land Ryu this offseason and it’s hard to believe they would spend that kind of money and not have him in the starting five to open the year. The 26-year-old Korean was dominant in his two seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, posting a 2.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
The Dodgers went out and traded for closer Brandon League during the middle of last season and were quick to sign him to a 3-year deal once the season was over. League saved 37 games with a 2.79 ERA and 1.08 WHIP for a not so good Mariners team in 2011, but managed just 15 saves with a 3.13 ERA and 1.36 WHIP last year. If he shows any signs of not being able to get the job done, the Dodgers won’t hesitate to turn the reigns over to elite setup man Kenley Jansen, saved 25 games last year and has an eye-popping 14.9 career K/9. Ronald Belisario is another strong setup man, but he has had some issues with staying out of trouble. If everything goes as planned, Los Angeles should have one of the top bullpens in baseball.
Carl Crawford (RF) – Crawford was limited to just 31 games last year and will be entering the 2013 fresh off Tommy John surgery. His two seasons in Boston were a complete disaster. Not only did he struggle to stay healthy but he wasn’t anywhere close to the player they thought they were getting. In his final season with the Rays, Crawford hit .307 with 19 homers, 90 RBI, 13 triples and 47 steals. The Dodgers still feel like he has something to offer at 31 and plan on hitting him leadoff. If he’s anywhere close to the player that he was with Tampa Bay, Los Angeles will have quite a bunch at the top of the order.
Mark Ellis (2B) – Ellis should benefit from hitting at the top of the order, but don’t expect a whole lot from the veteran. He doesn’t hit for much power and his speed is declining. While he hit just .258 last year, he did have a solid .333 OBP.
Matt Kemp (CF) – Injuries kept Kemp from living up to his monster season in 2011, when he hit .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBI and 40 steals. He had played in at least 155 games in each of the previous four seasons, so there’s plenty of reason to expect a bounce back in 2013. If he can stay on the field and the Dodgers live up to their lofty expectations, Kemp has a great shot at winning the NL MVP.
Adrian Gonzalez (1B) – Gonzalez suffered a surprising drop in power last year, hitting just 18 homers over 159 games between the Red Sox and Dodgers. He’s shockingly hit just 45 homers since leaving the Padres, where he put together four straight seasons with at least 30 home runs, including a career-high 40 in 2009. He still managed to hit a respectable .299 with 108 RBI, but his OBP dropped from .410 to .344. He turns just 31 in May, so there’s plenty of reason to believe he can be a force in the heart of the Dodgers lineup.
Hanley Ramirez (SS) – Ramirez tore a ligament in his right thumb that will keep him out at least the first month of the season, which will likely force Cruz to move over from 3rd. After coming over from the Marlins in the middle of last season, he showed some promise by hitting .271 with 10 homers and 44 RBI. A lot of people are writing Ramirez off, but he’s only 29 and just two years removed from hitting .300 with 21 homers, 76 RBI and 32 steals.
Andre Either (RF) – Either hit .281 with a .351 OBP to go with 20 homers and 89 in 149 games last year, despite posting a .218 average with a .270 OBP against left-handed pitchers. Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers start to sit him more against lefties this year, as long as the drop in playing time doesn’t hurt his production. Hard to sit a guy that can give you 20+ homers and close to 100 RBI.
Luis Cruz (3B) – Cruz will eventually be the every day 3rd basemen once Ramirez is healthy. In the mean time, look for veteran Juan Uribe to fill in at the hot corner. Cruz is known more for his defense than his bat, so don’t get all that excited about the fact that he hit .297 over 78 games last year.
A.J. Ellis (C) – Ellis showed enough promise in his first full season as a starter to secure the job heading into 2013. He hit .270 with 13 homers and 52 RBI, while posting a solid .373 OBP. Whether he will be able to hold on to the starting job for the entire season is a different story. If he struggles at all, Los Angeles won’t hesitate to turn to youngster Tim Federowicz.
Odds to Win the World Series: +1,000
Odds to win the NL Pennant: +425
Odds to win the NL West: -115
If the Yankees have taught us anything over the last 15+ years, money can buy you a lot of success during the regular season. New York hasn’t won fewer than 85 games since the early 90′s. The Dodgers 2013 payroll will exceed $230 million, marking the first time someone other than the Yankees have spent the most on players since the Orioles back in 1998. The two big concerns for LA is how the team will handle the hype, something the Angels really struggled with last year and whether or not they can stay healthy. While it’s hard to bet against the Giants, my money is on the Dodgers to finish 1st in the NL West.
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