Los Angeles Dodgers State Of The Union: 2014 Preview
By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner): Follow @chuckbooth3024
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The Dodgers are beginning year 2 of potentially a half-dozen years of dominance. They have a team filled with ALL – Stars, superior Starting Pitching, and have deep pockets to seal the deal with necessary changes.
The NL West might be stronger this year with more competitive rosters from the D’Backs, Rockies and Giants, yet I still think the Dodger Blue will pulverize the competition, particularly in their own division.
Our Chief Writer Hunter Stokes wrote a great article on the Dodgers taking the 1st few series of the year not as seriously as the rest of the year here.
I fully agree with his stance, yet I don’t think it will make much of a difference.
Injuries aside this team is ready to take down the National League.
Los Angeles was 58 – 23 in their last 81 games, and managed a 42 – 8 (50 game stretch) between the June and July months.
If those 58 wins were to be duplicated over a full season, they could challenge the 116 win clubs of the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the early 20th century Chicago Cubs.
I don’t believe this squad will win 116 in 2014, but I do believe they will win their Division going away.
Lets face it. Clayton Kershaw is the best player in the National League, and not just the best Pitcher. Zack Greinke isn’t far off, and I expect these guys both to win 20 games this year.
Hyun-jin Ryu is a solid #3 starter, Dan Haren is a competent #4 guy, and you have to think Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Paul Maholm should provide enough Innings to compliment the top 4 starters.
The Bullpen features 5 former current and former Closers in : Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson (fully expect to be the stopper by Post Season), Chris Perez, Brandon League and J.P. Howell, while their specialists of Chris Withrow and Paco Rodriguez also featured ERA’s of 1.71 and 2.32 respectively during their work in 2013.
This facet of their game is strong, and with the rotation lugging enough Innings, this will only help the success off the relief core in the latter portion of their games.
Zack Greinke is 30 – 9 (.769) over his last 2 years, with an ERA just north of 3.00, with his last year mark of 2.63 in Chavez Ravine.
I fully expect 40+ wins out of him and Kershaw. Ryu and Haren could combine for another 25 victories. The 5th starter just needs to total a .500 clip.
Ryu could be way higher on most clubs, as he was 14 – 8, with an even 3 ERA.
Dan Haren has averaged 14 wins per full year, and I expect him to take his second half progression ( 6 – 4, 3.52 in 13 GS), into a hitter friendly Division of the NL West, to have a solid year.
Billingsley also features .570 Career Win Pctg. while hovering around .500 the last few years, however most of those starts were without a potent offense like will be seen in 2014.
I am not sure Beckett can pitch a full year, but he was 2 – 3, with a 2.93 ERA in his starts for the 2012 Dodgers, before he was plagued with injuries all last year.
If Beckett can’t return to form, the team will quickly move on to other candidates.
Paul Maholm is a great swing guy in either the Bullpen and Rotation, and should be able to provide a mid 4 ERA with a near .500 record as he did with Atlanta last year (10 – 11, 4.28 ERA), in his 153 IP worth of work.
As stated above, I think Wilson will be so dominant this year that he will beat out Jansen for the Closers role.
The most important note is that the ‘Weird Beard’ is filthy in the playoffs, having yet to surrender an Earned run in 17.2 IP worth of work.
Jansen has to battle his blood ailment every year. and with the Dodgers winning a lot of the games, I am not sure he can take the lionshare of the Closers Innings, and still be left standing at the end of the year.
Yasiel Puig is going to leadoff, and I think he should hit .300/.360/.490 – and will start being a threat on the basepaths once he slims up a little bit from his 26 LBS over report weight.
I would not be surprised to see him challenge Rickey Henderson‘s record for HRs to lead off a game this year.
i would hit Carl Crawford 2nd. He can lay down some bunts. still has decent speed, and could clearly move along Puig to the next base.
Even if CC only plays 120 GP this year. I look for a .290/.330/.750 this campaign with about 20 SB.
Hanley Ramirez should hit 3rd in this lineup, and I am thinking he is poised to have his best power year for his career in 2014.
I expect Han-Ram to be a serious NL MVP candidate, club 30+ HRs, knock in over 100 RBI, and hit .300/.365/.525.
With Ramirez in a walk year for his contract, the 30 Year Old should be well motivated to put forth a fantastic season.
I would rather hit Ramirez 3rd then Gonzalez (especially if CC hits 2nd to go RHB/LHB/RHB/LHB in the 1st 4 hitters), although you may see Mattingly choose to rotate the guys in the 3rd and 4th slots.
Adrian Gonzalez had a nice 2013 season. This man has had 7+ years of 99+ RBI, including 100+ in 6 of those campaigns.
The former Padres and Red Sox 1B is consistent as they come in California. He is a professional hitter, and will produce greatly in this lineup.
I sincerely think he will smack 60 – 65 XBH, plate 100+ RBI, and play a great First Base.
Hitting 5th maybe Matt Kemp. Man, if this guy comes back to form that saw him finish 2nd in 2011 NL MVP Voting, this Division will be a sure fire lock.
Coming back from a litany of injuries to the arms and ankle, the doubts may be cast early. If Kemp could manage somewhere near his career OPS of .844, this will be acceptable.
I think that Mr. Kemp can play about 120 Games this year. I think 20 HRs, 60 RBI and an OPS of .770 – .800 is not to far off what he will do.
If he can’t put these forward, Andre Ethier might be able to salvage the OF. The Dodgers having 4 good OF is a nice problem.
I think barring injury, Puig will be out there for 150 Games. This leaves 330 Games divided by the 3 other players beyond the grass.
With Kemp and Crawford battling health, and Ethier struggling against LHP, you could see an equal amount for each guy.
If all 3 are healthy, I place Ethier on the bench until the 1st injury arrives. The About to be 32 Year Old, touted an .854 OPS versus RHP in 2013 (337 AB) – as oppose to a .613 OPS (145 AB).
Should the team experience health all year, the bench becomes deep with Ethier being able to be used in a pinch hitter role. I could also see him go in as a defensive replacement for Kemp early.
The Dodgers will also have 10 games where they can use one of these players as the DH in AL Parks.
Ethier had his worst campaign as a pro last year, although he still managed a 3 slash of .272/.360/.423, which is less than his career mark of .288/.362/.470 however his OBP was still only 2 PTS behind his lifetime average.
However Donnie Baseball decides to place his offense, the top 5 guys all yield lifetime averages hovering around .290/.360/.475 at the minimum – with the top end even more prominent.
A.J. Ellis should be good for an OPS of around .700 – .725, plate 50+ RBI and probably hit for double digits in HRs. His backup will be Tim Federowicz. He will probably hit 7th.
Juan Uribe carried a nice .769 OPS amidst his 12 HRs and 50 RBI In 388 AB during the 2013 year. The problem is he rarely has back to back seasons where he plays well for the same team.
If he could just play to his career 3 slash of .253/.299/.420 – with an occasional big hit, the club would take it in a heartbeat.
With Dee Gordon and Alex Guerrero either hitting 8th, this position could get ugly quick. With the rest of the batters 1 – 7, the team could probably suffer lowers numbers out of the 8th slot.
Gordon has no power at all, but has swiped 66 bases in just 621 AB in his life at the big league level. With his totals, include 81 Runs Scored.
The unfortunate part is a low walk rate, and OBP. There is also no power to be had, with just 26 XBH in that time frame.
Guerrero may start the year in the MInor Leagues, to effectively work on his less than stellar defense at the new position.
Included in the realm of possibilities may also be Chone Figgins.
Once used in 6 different positions on a regular basis, Figgins was once the best Utility player in MLB.
3 brutal seasons in Seattle saw him hitting in the .180’s at the end of his tenure. and he was bought out and served his walking papers.
He was a near .400 OBP player after he left Anaheim in 2009. His ability to play so many different positions may keep him around with the team, or perhaps be a September callup.
Also in the mix is Justin Turner. The former Met, and 29 Year Old, has a 3 slash of .260/.323/.361 in 841 lifetime AB.
My bet is completely on Dee Gordon to start. He can produce runs with his speed, and may have some upside on the Batting Average. Plus his defense will better than all suitors.
Others on The Bench
OF Scott Van Slyke: He clubbed 7 HRs and 8 Doubles in just 129 AB for the 2013 campaign. This is decent production, and you could see this player be 2nd up to the extra OF as a PH.
You will have a back up Catcher in Federowicz, one of the OF, Turner, Van Slyke, the 9 starters and possibly 12 pitchers on the 25 man roster.
Injuries will occur, and then you have Figgins, Guerrero – and maybe even a prospect like Joc Pederson early on the injury taxi – squad.
This teams top end talent should propel them to one of the three best records in baseball this year. The club should win from 93 – 99 games this campaign
I am only not giving them a chance to win 100 because I think they will lock up the division too early.
Just a little note here. I am not officially predicting the regular season and playoffs until 3 weeks from now, I am leaning on picking the Dodger Blue to make their 1st World Series since 1988.
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Posted on March 5, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions and tagged 1988 World Series, a.j ellis, adrian gonzalez, alex guerrero, andre ethier, arizona diamondbacks, bill russell, boston red sox, brandon league, brian wilson, carl crawford, chad billingsley, chone figgins, chris perez, Chris Withrow, dan haren, davey johnson, dee gordon, don mattingly, hanley ramirez, Hyun-Jin Ryu, j.p Howell, jamey wright, Joc Pederson, josh beckett, juan uribe, kenley jansen, los angeles dodgers, matt kemp, national league, ned coletti, nl west, nlcs 2013, paco rodriguez, paul maholm, rickey henderson, Ron Cey, san diego padres, steve garvey, Tim Federowicz, yasiel puig, zack greinke. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.