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The new Dodgers owners didn’t waste any time trying to make good on their $2 billion investment. They are currently looking at a $210 million payroll to start the season with plenty more tied up for the foreseeable future. With plenty of new faces joining a team that already saw plenty of new faces mid-season, let’s take a look at what the Dodgers will put out there after nearly doubling their 2012 opening day payroll.
2012 Team Rankings:
Runs: 26th Overall
Batting Average: 16th Overall
ERA: 3rd Overall
WHIP: 8th Overall
Catchers: A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz – Grade: B-
In his first full season, Ellis looked very solid behind the plate and batted .270 with 13 homers and 52 RBI. He won’t blow anyone away but he’s better than all the other catchers the Dodgers have used since Russell Martin. Federowicz is expected to serve as the back up despite only batting three times last September. He did put up a .294, 76 RBI season in 115 games in Triple-A last season.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Van Slyke – Grade: A-
Although he didn’t have the same power as we had seen in previous years, Gonzalez still batted .299 with 108 RBI last season. He only hit three homers in 36 games for the Dodgers after being traded in August but hopefully a winter to recover from a messy Red Sox season and a move back to the NL East can help him get his stroke back. While playing in San Diego, he averaged 32 home runs per year in impossible-to-hit-in Petco Field. Meanwhile, Van Slyke only played a month last season but batted .327 with 18 homers and 67 RBI in 95 Triple-A games.
Second Base: Mark Ellis, Skip Schumaker – Grade: C-
The Dodgers have not one but two second basemen over 32-years-old on the decline of their careers. In 2012, Ellis batted .258 with 62 runs while Schumaker batted .276 with 37 runs. That’s about right for them and I wouldn’t expect much more this season.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon – Grade: B+
His glove won’t blow you away (although it’s still probably better than the mess that is Dee Gordon’s defense) but Hanley is as good an offensive shortstop as you will find. His .257 average isn’t what it once was but with 24 homers, 92 RBI, 79 runs and 21 steals you will be hard-pressed to find a better hitting middle-infielder. Gordon is a bust, but a bust with great legs and will get plenty of pinch running and steal opportunities.
Third Base: Luis Cruz, Juan Uribe – Grade: C+
Cruz has the potential to be better than a C+ infielder, but it’s hard to gauge with just 78 games last season. He did bat .297 with 20 doubles and 40 RBI in those 78 games—so that has to make you optimistic for a full season. Uribe couldn’t have been worse if he had tried last season, I don’t expect much from him in 2013.
Outfield: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Skip Schumaker, Jerry Hairston Jr. – Grade: A
If Matt Kemp stays healthy, there is no reason he won’t make another MVP run. With plenty of lineup protection, Kemp is as good as any player in the bigs.
There has been a lot of talk about the Dodgers moving Ethier and his salary, but they’ll be fine if they keep him. The 30-year-old outfielder stayed healthy all season and batted a very solid .284 with 20 HR, 89 RBI, and 79 R.
With just 31 games last year for the Sox (and a miserable season in his first year in Boston) it’s hard to predict what Crawford will do or if he will even manage to stay on the field. The Dodgers expect him to be ready for opening day, I expect him to get back to a near .300 hitter with okay pop and good legs if he stays healthy.
Starting Rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, Hyun-Jin Ryu – Grade: A
No, you didn’t miscount. That’s eight starting pitchers the Dodgers are bringing to spring training and they’re owed a combined $78 million in 2013. And that’s the low-end of Greinke’s, Kershaw’s, and Ryu’s contracts.
We know Kershaw will be there and with a 2.53 ERA, 229 K, 1.02 WHIP season in 2012, there is no doubt he will once again be one of the league’s best.
We know Greinke will be there after inking a six-year, $147 million deal. He went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA, 200 K, and 1.19 WHIP. I’d expect about the same this season regardless of whether a three-and-a-half ERA pitcher is worth as much as a mid-sized corporation.
We know Beckett will be there and despite a rough go of it in Boston, Beckett looked good down the stretch going 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 38 K in seven games for the Dodgers. I’d expect something in the neighborhood of 12-13 wins, 4.00 ERA, 170 K if he stays healthy.
We know Ryu will be there, mostly because Scott Boras made sure his contract prohibited the Dodgers from sending him down to the minors. This one could go either way but I am never optimistic when it comes to Asian pitchers not named Hiroki Kuroda.
That leaves Billingsley (10-9, 3.55 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), Capuano (12-12, 3.72 ERA, 1.22 WHIP), Lilly (5-1, 3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), and Harang (10-10, 3.61 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) for the final spot. That can only be called an embarrassment of riches. My guess would be Billingsley for the last spot but with his and Lilly’s injury issues it can just as easily go to Capuano.
Bullpen: Kenley Jansen, Brandon League, Ronald Belisario, Javy Guerra, Matt Guerrier, Scott Elbert, Stephen Fife – Grade: A-
They probably aren’t as good as the Giants’ bullpen but they are definitely close. Jansen looked fantastic with 25 saves, a 2.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 99 K in his first year as closer. The ERAs around the pen weren’t any worse – Elbert: 2.20, Belisario: 2.54, Guerra: 2.60, Fife: 2.70, League: 3.13. It’s a great mix of veterans and young guys that should complement the great starting rotation perfectly.
Team Grade: A-
Fearless Prediction: 98-64, 1st Place NL West
Washington Nationals 2013 Preview
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