2013 Los Angeles Dodgers

As I did with the Padres last week, I have selected the players I think will get the most playing time in their respective capacity for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. Many choices are obvious. I will spend time on the more interesting ones. So if you came to read about how bomb-ass dank-ass the Dodgers are going to be this year, I would advise you check CBS. They will happily indulge your hunger for things you could have written yourself.

The 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers

Position Players

C – AJ Ellis
1B – Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Mark Ellis
3B – Luis Cruz
SS – Hanley Ramirez
LF – Carl Crawford
CF – Matt Kemp
RF – Andre Ethier

It’s obvious who is going to play all eight of the starting positions for the Dodgers in 2012. The most interesting situation, and perhaps the name penciled in most precariously, is Luis Cruz at third. While a lack of walks prevents him from being much more than average offensively, he was defensively marvelous at the hot corner (a crazy UZR/150 of 22), and has played his share of short, should Hanley prove inadequate there as the season goes on. If Cruz proves inadequate at third, Jerry Hairston will see time there.

You may notice that Dee Gordon has been left out of the picture here. In fact, you won’t count him among my bench selections either. 2013 will be spent in Reno, his latest chance to learn to play baseball.

Here is your reality check on Dee Gordon. He created runs at 58% the rate of an average offensive player last year, despite stealing 30 bases in half a season. If he had continued playing defense as poorly as he did in 2013, for the entire season, he would have cost the Dodgers nearly 10 more runs (-26) than the worst qualified player in the game (Curtis Granderson -17.6). If you are hoping he will be the Dodgers’ shortstop one day, knock it off. It’s depressing, and you deserve to dream better dreams than that.

Starters

1 – Clayton Kershaw
2 – Zack Greinke
3 – Chad Billingsly
4 – Hyun-Jin Ryu
5 – Josh Beckett

A potentially very top-heavy rotation. Reports on Billingsly are that he is healthy, but he’s always been inconsistent; fine enough for a number three starter. Ryu is totally unproven, coming from the KBO. It should be noted that Josh Beckett’s performance and numbers took a sharp, positive turn when he made the move to the NL West. But this was largely due to a spike in his ground ball rate. Either when he got to L.A. he made a conscious effort to induce more ground balls, or he had a flukey stretch. We’ll find out soon.

The Dodgers may opt to have Ryu open the year in the minors, to get a feel for his role, should Spring Training prove inconclusive. But they paid him like a starter, and one would think they’ll make a serious run at justifying that judgement.

Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, and Ted Lilly are all rostered, should Ryu fall short, but once they figure out how Ryu fits in, a move is likely. Capuano seems the most plausible trade candidate, as his value is the highest of the three. Ted Lilly is healthy, and as with Capuano, there would seem to be matches all around the league. Harang was mister lucky last year, outperforming his xFIP by nearly a run and a half, and his value probably won’t go much lower unless he gets injured. It wouldn’t shock me if he were released before the Dodgers finish up in Glendale this spring.

Bullpen

CL – Brandon League
SU – Kenley Jansen
SU – Matt Guerrier
RP – J.P. Howell
RP – Javy Guerra
RP – Ronald Belisario

This is one of the best bullpens in baseball, one through six. The fact that the Dodgers have installed League as their closer means they actually understand the value in having your best reliever work as the setup guy. League is dependable, but Jansen is dominant.

Health issues for Jansen, Guerrier and Guerra all seem resolved. Scott Elbert (left hander, not on the above list) has been effective, but the underlying numbers are ominous and it seems the Dodgers are aware of that, given the J.P. Howell signing. Meanwhile the young and effective Paco Rodriguez, though ready for the majors, will start the year on the farm. But given Ronald Belisario’s constant behavior and visa issues, I feel the least confident in selecting him for a larger share of innings than Rodriguez, as compared with the others listed above.

Bench

C  – Tim Fedorowicz
UT – Jerry Hairston
UT – Skip Schumaker
UT – Elian Herrera
UT – Nick Punto
IF – Juan Uribe

The Dodgers are sure to lead the league in utility men. Hairston and Punto have played all but catcher and pitcher in the majors. Herrera is right behind, playing all but catcher, pitcher and first base just last year. Schumaker pitched an inning in 2011, and has played 2B, LF, CF, and RF outside of that. This, along with Carl Crawford’s ability to cover center field, gives the Dodgers extreme flexibility when somebody needs a day off, or in the case that an injury wipes out a star.

Tim Fedorowicz (25) is the backup catcher now, but most certainly won’t be in 2014. He has essentially the same skill set as A.J. Ellis (32), and the Dodgers won’t bring him up to rot. He’ll get a decent share of the playing time, so the organization can see what they really have.

Unfortunately, Juan Uribe.

The Outlook

The Dodgers have spent a lot of money, and not all of it wisely, but with one of the thinnest systems in the league, it was really the only way to build a winner in the near term. They’ll get back into the playoffs, but I don’t think they have what it takes to top the Nationals, Braves or Reds for the Pennant in 2013. Those clubs are built better for the future as well, and I think this version of the Dodgers will come up empty in terms of World Series trophies. If I were a Dodgers fan, I would enjoy watching the much improved team in place now, but I would be far more interested in what the club does to continue to strengthen their farm system. The greatest era of Dodger baseball will be the next one.

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About ra_rowe

A long suffering Padres fan who grew up in San Diego, and moved to Pasadena, Rowe works as a Junior Product Manager and writes poetry in addition to knowing everything about baseball.

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  1. 2013 Arizona Diamondbacks « N[ationa]LWest Blog - February 9, 2013

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