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2013 Los Angeles Dodgers Preview

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers made some of the biggest moves at the trade deadline last season, landing Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez for a second-half push but it would not be enough and the team finished with an 86-76 record, good enough for second in the National League Western Division and missed the playoffs. This season, the Dodgers look to improve by four games or better and take the division and given the additions to their already potent line-up, they just may have the pieces in place to do so.

The Dodgers have an incredible line-up on paper with potential .300 hitters in Gonzalez (.299) and Crawford (.282), as well as third baseman Luis Cruz (.297), center fielder Matt Kemp (.303), and right fielder Andre Ethier (.284). With a full Spring Training to readjust to the Dodgers’ offense, expect to see Crawford and Gonzalez post big numbers for the club this season, and Ramirez should also improve on his .257 average from last season as well. The rest of the line-up consists of catcher A.J. Ellis (.270) and second baseman Mark Ellis (.258). Given that no hitter finished last season with an average below .257 must have skipper Don Mattingly salivating at what his line-up might be able to do with a full season at their disposal. The health card will be a major issue for the club, as they have little-to-no depth at most of their positions with much of their bench made up of veteran players who are just looking to hang on for one more go-around with a winner, but if they can stay healthy they will set the bar high in the National League offensive categories.

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The Dodgers added right hander Zack Greinke and lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu to add some stability to their starting rotation. They have a fantastic ace in 24-year old lefty, Clayton Kershaw (14-9, 2.53) but were lacking a strong pitcher to follow him up in the rotation last season. With Greinke (15-5, 3.48) they will get just that. Last season, Greinke logged 200 strike-outs in 212.1 innings of work and made more starts (34) than any other pitcher that will make-up the Dodgers’ rotation this season. Ryu (9-9, 2.66 for Korea) is one of the top foreign pitchers that was available this offseason, and the Dodgers landed him to give them a strong fourth starter to play stop-gap between veterans Josh Beckett and Aaron Harang. Ryu has had six solid seasons for the Hanwha Eagles and hopes to bring his 210 strike-outs in 182.2 innings pitched to the United States this season. Beckett and Harang are both experienced pitchers who are trying to rebound from so-so 2012 seasons which saw the two combine for a 17-24 record and an ERA that averaged around the 4.00 mark. If either of them struggle this spring, the Dodgers have Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly in camp to compete for one of their spots in the rotation.


The Dodgers’ bullpen should be strong as well with closer Brandon League (15 SV) and set-up men Kenley Jansen (25 SV) and Ronald Belisario back in the fold. Jansen did a fine job as a closer for the club last season, but his heart issues were cause enough for the ball club to try to find another viable option for the role. They found it in League and the two should work very well together in the 8 th and 9 th innings to give the team a great chance of holding any lead that they have that late in the game. The Dodgers signed free agent J.P. Howell this offseason to replace Jamey Wright and Josh Lindblom as their middle-reliever and with Matt Guerrier back and healthy, the two should combine to do a fine job in their absence. Javy Guerra will be the club’s other middle-reliever and one of the men competing for a spot in the rotation will likely make the club as their long-reliever.

The Dodgers line-up looks strong from one through nine and their pitching staff looks to be very, very good as well. Beckett and Harang are question marks, but if they can give the ball club 20 wins between the two of them, their efforts will be considered a success. With the addition of Greinke, the Dodgers have solidified their top rotation spots and should have no problem cleaning up the mistakes made by Ryu, Beckett and Harang with a very strong bullpen. If they can stay healthy, there is no reason that this team should not win 90 to 92 games this season and take the NL West. They will have stiff competition in the playoffs from St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington, but they certainly look like they have the stuff to be playing in the NLCS come the end of the season. Whether or not they can finally get to a World Series again remains to be seen, but this team has the talent to do it if they can just keep themselves healthy and focused all season long.

 

 

By Robert Gonzalez
MLBcenter.com Staff Writer

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