With Spring Training drawing to a close and Opening Day now under just a week to go, it is time to preview who Donnie Baseball and his crew will send out onto the Dodger Stadium turf to face the Padres and Matt Kemp on April 6.
A number of prospects have impressed during spring, both pitching and batting wise but there shouldn’t be much change to the lineups that were there last year, minus of course the players they’ve lost to other teams.
Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw. How could it not be the reigning NL MVP and twice in a row Cy Young winner, going for another season with a sub 2 ERA and possibly some more trophies to stick on the mantle piece, Clayton has been a key aspect in the Dodgers making the post season these last few years. Although he hasn’t exactly been Clayton Kershaw in them at all he has shown during the regular season he is ready to be one of the al time greats from the mound. So far in Spring he has gone 3-0 with a sub 2 ERA in just 5 starts and 19.1 IP and he hasn’t been impressed. I mean come on Clayton… I would imagine Clayton only gets better this year and goes 22-3 with a 1.85 ERA, almost where he has been but you can’t really get lower than his 1.77 of last year.
Catcher: Yasmani Grandal. A few things have been said about Clayton having a personal catcher in AJ Ellis and him not wanting AJ to leave but the new signing as part of the Kemp deal, Grandal will look to learn Kershaw’s stuff when it really matters. He has already caught to him in ST but there is more to learn for Yasmani. Clearly he brings something to the offensive side, not much of an upgrade but it is a little more than AJ and that is what Donnie will look for on opening day. The change of scenery will take a while to get used to for Grandal but he should end up going around .230 with 17 or 18 HRs and 50+ RBIs, solid from a man who will be batting lower down the order.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez. Adrian almost doesn’t get the recognition he deserves at first; he is a solid defensive player, with only 6 errors and a .996% fielding average. He also contributes with the bat too of course with his Major League leading 116 RBIs last year and some 27 home runs, he is a great contributor in the 3 hole for LA. He will play almost every game like he is used to, somewhere in the vicinity of the 155-160 mark and you can count on him getting a solid batting average, most likely up around .285 with his 25 HRs and 100+ RBIs again. The only blight on his record is the age but at 33 there is still some pop left in El Titan’s bat.
Second Base: Howie Kendrick. At 30 years old Howie Kendrick was one hell of a pick up for the departing Dee Gordon. Maybe the speed isn’t there that Dee had and the 50 or so stolen bases wont be made but Howie can show off in the field too and his bat more than makes up for it. Perhaps leading off this year for the club, Kendrick knows what to do around the major leagues. He just popped out of his shoes last year and was even got 75 RBIs batting with 181 hits, this year though Howie should keep up that new found average and hit for .290 with his 65 or so RBIs and maybe the home runs wont be up there but his stolen base total will need to be up more than 14 from 2014 to make up for Dee so expect to see him in motion a little more than his 19 last year with around 25 stolen bases but from about 35 attempts.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins. Another veteran in the big leagues, the 36-year-old Jimmy Rollins will be key to the Dodgers’ success in the league this year. Replacing Hanley Ramirez at short for LA is probably going to be a good deal for them with his glove looking like a star compared to Han-Ram’s and the bat is there too to back it up. Looking at another 150-160 game season, Jimmy needs to hit around .250 to prove a good replacement for the now Boston Red Sox left fielder but I can only see him going around .235. Not that this will have a negative impact too much as the bats around him should pick that up for the team. He wont exactly hit All Star numbers but we should see around 45 RBIs and 15 HRs, enough to hold down the position.
Third Base: Juan Uribe. Juan isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore at 36 years of age but the man from the Dominican has been a great addition to LA’s roster in the past 5 years or so. Although he only played 106 games last year due to injury, Juan will be there on opening day at third over the likes of Justin Turner. Not to say that JT doesn’t deserve the spot and boy did he show he did last year but Uribe should be there until he feels the body says that’s enough and Justin can come in for a few games. Even if they rotate it so that it is 2 to Uribe and then 1 to Turner, that will be okay as both players know how to hit for home runs and the average. In my mind I see Uribe going .285 with another 12 HR and 55 RBIs in his 110 games or so that he plays. If he can produce that the Dodgers will be in a strong position after Pop Tart plays his bit too in the infield.
Left Field: Carl Crawford. Perhaps one of the only weak spots in the Dodgers’ lineup and if that is the case then boy are we lucky. It isn’t like CC can’t play baseball, the man is good at it but he isn’t the best. With Kemp gone and no one really pushing their name up there for left field, I guess it falls to Carl by him just showing up. He should see around 120 games this year and hit about .280 with 50+ RBIs and even helping out Howie with 30 or so stolen bases, if he does that I doubt anyone will be complaining about his defence or anything else that will hinder him for people’s eyes.
Centre Field: Scott Van Slyke. Yep. That’s right, I’ve gone for SVS over Joc Pederson. Hate it all you want but Joc isn’t ready for an every day starters role in the MLB. Scott has shown he can hold it down and hit for a high average but I have no doubt that Pederson will be cut down of any playing time. I imagine SVS will start around 90 of the games and the rest will fall to a mixture of Joc and Yasiel Puig with a bit of shuffling in the outfield but with no Kemp it will be interesting to see how Donnie manages it. Joc for now needs to understand he is still young and his time will come, most likely next year. For SVS though I see him going .260 with 15 home runs and 50 or so RBIs, that is enough to hold Joc off for now.
Right Field: Yasiel Puig. Would it really be anyone else? Ever since Puig came up he has been amazing for LA both with the leather and the bat. He has hit for consistently high numbers and been there in talks for Rookie of the Year and by some for MVP, I must admit that MVP talk is a little out there but hey who knows what the future holds. Puig should find himself playing somewhere around 140 games and improving still on his home run and RBI numbers by hitting .305 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs, maybe we even see Yasiel take Joc under his wing and show him how it is done, even transform himself from the image he has at the moment, we’ll see what happens.