Los Angeles Dodgers’ Starting Day Fielding Positions

After last year’s mixing and moving between AAA and the majors, Corey Seager’s discovery and the almost impending loss of Howie Kendrick, only to be brought back by new manager Dave Roberts and his staff, this year’s opening day lineup will be an interesting but mostly similar to last year’s.

Changes will come through out the season with some bench players from last year such as Guerrero, Hernandez and maybe even mixing time between Andre Ethier and the overpaid Carl Crawford, all pushing for a job come mid season and the late season playoff push. But for April 4, we should see a very solid defensive lineup with batting strung through out and Clayton Kershaw holding it down off the rubber.

(All statistics are from the 2015 regular season)

Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, 16-7, 2.13 ERA.

Clayton will be looking to push for another Cy Young worthy season and, if the Dodgers are lucky, an MVP quality outing every time their ace goes out on the mound. With the loss of Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks announced over winter, Clayton’s role becomes all the more useful for LA. No longer does the 27 year old have the luxury of a back up or someone to pick him up tomorrow if he makes a bad start.

However Kershaw does have the luxury of another lefty, Hyun Jin Ryu making his comeback from injury after missing all of 2015 and will slot into what should be the number two role for 2016. For Clayton however nothing short of a big year is expected and after all that is what LA pays him to do, go out and get wins.

Catcher: Yasmani Grandal, .234/.353/.403 

Although lacking a bit in the offensive numbers in 2015 and with Grandal not being the player they hoped in the trade with Matt Kemp and the Padres, what the Dodgers did get in return was a solid defensive catcher who knew how to handle a bullpen. Not taking anything away from AJ Ellis here but he is getting older now and in the front office’s mind this was the right thing to do. However, AJ and Yasmani did almost the exact same on the offensive side of the ball, the only difference being amount of extra base hits, Yas with 28 and AJ with 16.

In fact in just under half the games played for AJ his defense was a little better too, with him nabbing base runners at 45% compared to Grandal’s 29% and AJ never making an error along with assisting in 3 double plays. So why Yasmani now? Simple, AJ is 34, 8 years older than the newest catcher in town, the man if similar age to Matt Kemp when he was traded. Will his numbers improve this year for Yas? Dave Roberts and the baseball operations office would hope so but after all you don’t buy a catcher for the homeruns, rather the catching.

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, .275/.350/.480

What can you say about Adrian, his start of the year was record breaking, he never seemed to be getting out, unlike balls he hit which went out of parks 28 times over 2015, the most of any Dodger and in his 156 out of 162 games the 33 year old is reliable as ever. As well as leading LA in homeruns and games, he led in doubles, RBIs and hits, with more than 20 over Howie Kendrick, the next best hitter. His defense is on point as always, a solid first baseman with some good range for a big guy and not much downside in his game.

Although having a minor slump in the middle of last year the veteran can always call on his experience to snap out of it and get over whatever was the problem and he did that very well for when it really mattered. Not only is he an expert baseballer but Gonzalez’ knowledge and guidance to the younger guys like Joc Pederson and Corey Seager will be invaluable for them come the stage of their career that Adrian is and there will always be more to learn from this first round draft pick and 5 time All Star.

Second Base: Howie Kendrick .295/.336/.409

The latest Dodger to be resigned will be looking to keep improving after joining the team in Blue last summer after a long stint with the cross-town rivals, the Anaheim Angels.

Howie flourished for LA last year at 2B, locking down the position after Dee Gordon left a gaping whole in the line up. Although he shared time with Justin Turner and Kike Hernandez, Howie was the main man on the right side of the infield and the partnership up the middle with Jimmy Rollins was a, well seasoned, but still functioning double play combo. Although the Dodgers have now let go the 38 year old Rollins, the new combination with Seager will be hard to beat in the Majors.

The .295 BA and 54 RBI helps Howie’s cause even further with him being a key to the Dodgers’ line up, especially stepping up into the number 3 spot for most of the time that Gonzalez had his slump. Then moving down to 4, or up to 2, Kendrick proved he could produce anywhere and have quality at bats most of the time. The only minor worry with Howie is his age; at 32 he is now considered a little bit older than what he should be but not that it will affect him into the 2016 season. The only stat that may go down is his stolen bases but going 6 from 8 last year, that shouldn’t be a worry.

Third Base: Justin Turner .294/.370/.491

Justin Turner was revelation for LA in the past two years, finding his feet in the big leagues after being a bench player for sometime with the Mets before getting released and happily snatched up by the Dodgers. In his recent time with LA he has been a star when needed, been clutch off the bench and has showed his worth to play most days when being rotated with Kike Hernandez and Alex Guerrero.

His big break was when Juan Uribe went cold and Don Mattingly put Turner in and he did what the club needed, went on a streak and almost pushed Uribe out of the club only for him to confirm that selection by outing up career best numbers. 16 home runs beat his previous best of 7, 60 RBIs beat 51 and his .294 batting average topped the previous best of .260 with the Mets.

Justin should have another huge year to almost lock out the infield all year, only sometimes being rotated with the 2 bench players who are just as capable.

Shortstop: Corey Seager .337/.425/.561

Although his numbers are a little inflated after a short stint with the club once the roster extended in September, Corey excelled at shortstop and 3B with some smooth plays under pressure and him not being fazed by the big time one little bit. At 21 now he will be looking to be the next name of Dodgers shortstops after Hanley Ramirez and more recently Jimmy Rollins.

Watch out for Corey in 2016 as his numbers could fluctuate and he could be the next thing for LA or he could just find his feet. But for me, Corey is ready and he showed his in spring training and again when it mattered down the stretch. Only making 5 errors and fielding .955 is impressive for any shortstop, let alone a first year player. This could be the year of Corey and with the lineup featuring him and also Adrian Gonzalez we could be in for a treat.

Left Field: Carl Crawford .265/.304/.403

Carl would be considered an almost failed investment from the Dodgers after acquiring him from the Red Sox in 2012 after only playing 31 games due to an injury. LA gave him 20 million a year for the next 4, up 5 million from the 15 million the Red Sox offered and in my opinion; I wouldn’t have signed him for 10.

Crawford has been plagued by injury, he’s never really clutched up for the Dodgers and his highest average for the team was only .283 back in 2013. For an 80 million dollar investment I would expect up around the .290 mark consistently for the time, not dropping it to say maybe .263 like he did last year. And if you’re a contact hitter like Carl, with out the homeruns this isn’t good enough for an injury prone outfielder.

His arm isn’t even there anymore, and now at 34, this could be a problem out in left field as one of the weaker links for LA. However the Dodgers haven’t been able to sign anyone to cover for him, the closest being Trayce Thompson coming over from the White Sox who should see himself as a bench player and the 5th outfielder behind Ethier.

Centre Field: Joc Pederson .210/.346/.417

With 170 strike outs from the leadoff spot and only hitting 54 RBIs this once phenom has not ever become the hype he has been, but at only 23 there is time to improve but 2016 would have to be the year. Joc did manage to draw walks from the leadoff spot and his .346 on base percentage shows it wasn’t all-bad. However down the stretch in September and October there were plenty of times when walks weren’t enough and hits were required and they just didn’t come.

His fielding is okay and his arm is fine but the one thing Joc needs to do this year is hit. The fielding will be okay, his speed helps him there and his stolen bases number needs to rise from 4 from 11 to over 20, after all he is a leadoff and I mean that’s just not good enough for LA’s standard. There isn’t much more to say for him, he may not be a Dodger after 2016 if the numbers don’t improve.

Right Field: Yasiel Puig .255/.322/.436

If you were to ask anyone about Yasiel’s year in 2015 I think you would get the same answer every time, not very good. This is only as we were treated to something really special in his first two years of hitting an average of .305 with some 31 home runs. This was on the track to be something really special in all of baseball, however last year put Puig back down to earth and stopped some of that momentum.

Right from the start of the year with his arrests and his speeding fines, it seemed to be a bad year already for the Cuban native. This only continued a couple weeks into 2015 with his first injury, which kept him, sidelined for a month or so and it is safe to say LA missed him out in field and with the bat.

Locking down the number 2 spot most matches he will be in the lineup and right field with his stellar glove, Yasiel will look to put together 140 plus games this year and be a force once again. The homerun numbers should rise, to help is batting average to get back up to around .270-.280 as most scouts suggest, this could be another year to propel Yasiel into stardom or keep him back on earth.

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