The fine folks here at Heading For The Exits were gracious enough to host my team-by-team baseball previews. Look for a new one every day from March 1st through March 30th. We next hop across town to the NL West and visit a team that’s trying to flat-out buy the division away from the Giants.
The Dodgers’ 2012 season was flat-out baffling. Expected to be carried to the postseason on the strength of their line-up, instead they relied on the unheralded position players and the back of their rotation to keep them above water. Only the Marlins, Astros, and Cubs scored fewer runs in the NL, and if it weren’t for the overachieving pitching staff, the Dodgers would really be looking at .500 rather than a narrow playoff miss.
So what’s to like about this year? Well, a lot of key components are recovering from injury or down years. Should Carl Crawford return to being the Carl Crawford of old, the Dodgers will have an outfield to rival just about any in the MLB. They took some big risks to bring on some new talent in the rotation, and the glut of back-end options means they’ll have their pick of the litter and can act fast if any pitchers falter. The bullpen should continue to be reliable as well with an elite setup and closer combo. Really, considering the realistic competition for the 5 playoff spots includes less than half of the NL, the Dodgers have as good a shot as any recent year to make the playoffs.
How’d The Offseason Go?
Probably the biggest move was signing free agent pitchers Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu… these two guys slide into the #2 and #3 spots in the rotation immediately and will be expected to perform at an elite level. I believe I speak for everyone who has ever trusted Zack Greinke when I say “good luck with that.” Of particular note is the Dodgers bidding $25,737,737.33 in transfer fees just for the opportunity to sign Ryu. That’s 80% of the Astros payroll they ended up paying to the Hanwha Eagles.
They also signed my favorite Braves reliever Peter Moylan, the Tweetin’ Aussie, so they can go straight to hell for that.
To round out the offseason with a whimper, this winter they signed a wealth of middling free agents including barely serviceable relievers Kevin Gregg, Mark Lowe, and Sean White. Quantity over quality doesn’t seem like the best strategy for building a baseball roster team what with the roster limit and all, but maybe they’ll get lucky and hit on a few gems in this celebration of excess. I’d stake my roommate’s car on Jesus Flores not being one of them, though.
The Dodgers Will Make The Playoffs If
They hold Skip Schumaker to a career low in plate appearances.
The Dodgers Will Miss the Playoffs If
The shrapnel from Matt Kemp’s shoulder exploding when he runs into the outfield wall yet again kills Hanley Ramirez instead of Carl Crawford.
How The Season Will Go
How’s The Farm?
The Dodgers have a wealth of starting and relief pitchers that will be ready for the majors over the next few years, meaning a flurry of moves mid-season and next offseason could involve the current back of their rotation and their middle innings guys. Players they’ll want to make room for this year are Matt McGill in the rotation and Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow in the bullpen, all guys who have above average ceilings in their respective roles. Should any of the offseason acquisitions this year not work out, they’ve got a couple potential rookies for 2014 who will audition to fill the void in the rotation. Zach Lee and Chris Reed are both lanky starters with a plus fastball-slider arsenal that are an out-pitch away from backing up Clayton Kershaw.
On offense? The guys nearest the majors are all outfielders, meaning when Carl Crawford pisses off yet another fan-base, there are immediate options to fill the void. Alex Castellanos and Yasiel Puig are the closest to the majors. Puig in particular is considered a long-term solution with a similar profile to Yoenis Cespedes, while Castellanos is thought of more as a fill-in option, no exceptional skills but no holes in his game either. Expect to see Castellanos come up first first, Puig sometime in 2014.
Your Brief Fantasy Preview
There is potential for a lot of fantasy value on this team, and there’s also potential to waste a lot of resources drafting Dodger duds. Who can you trust on this team? Clayton Kershaw, of course. He’s as near a lock as there is to return to the top 10 of starting pitchers this year. Hanley Ramirez is an elite player at a shallow position, and dual-qualifying at third and shortstop adds a bit of versatility. The only question is can he return to pre-2011 form and match, if not exceed, his draft-day value. My money says sure.
So who else? Matt Kemp says he’s not worried about his shoulder, but we’ll need to see how he performs during the season. His spring has been underwhelming at best. Adrian Gonzalez was, frankly, a disappointment last year even with topping 100 RBIs. He’s still commanding basically a top 5 first baseman value this year, so you’re gambling on a resurgence if you sign him. I won’t be. Andre Ethier has disappointed so much that he’s undervalued at this point, considering he’s a good bet for 80-20-80 and a .290 average. If you’re in need of a backup outfielder, you can have him with a late pick. Carl Crawford is currently valued alongside Shane Victorino and Carlos Gomez… a little too high for me to gamble on. As for Luis Cruz, Mark Ellis, and AJ Ellis? Let someone else deal with them.
Other pitchers? Zack Grienke has barely any spring ball experience, only 5 innings as of today. I don’t trust him even when he’s healthy, so I’ll be steering clear come draft day. Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley are iffy at best after struggling with injuries, and Josh Beckett, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano inspire no confidence should they gain a roster spot. Lastly, there’s Hyun-Jin Ryu. Yu Darvish he ain’t, so let someone else spend their hard-earned draft pick on him. The adjustment period in the MLB is brutal on everyone who comes from overseas and can last all year.
For relief pitching, Kenley Jansen is worth owning even if he doesn’t get the closing opportunity, which he should. If you’re drafting Brandon League, he’s not considered a top saves option due to not being the best closer on his team, but he can be had for a song to get some early saves.
Projected Finish in the NL West?
2nd, but with a wildcard spot. The Giants, as always, will prove insurmountable. The rest of the NL? Not so much.
Oddly Apropos Futurama Quote
“Oh, put down the binoculars, Fry. The wall of that strip club isn’t going to collapse twice in one day.”
Body By Bacardi has been making bad sports jokes on Twitter since 2010 and on Deadspin since 2011. If you’re not tired of reading things he’s written, you can follow him on Twitter at @wineaccguy.