The Los Angeles Dodgers made major strides last season including winning the NL West and beating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The Dodgers were just two wins from making an appearance in the World Series. This season they look poised to go ever further in the post-season. If they can stay healthy, the Dodgers have a great chance to play for the World Series.
The biggest departure for the Dodgers this year is the loss of second baseman Mark Ellis. Speedster Dee Gordon and newly acquire Cuban Alex Guerrero are battling to decide who will be the starting second baseman on Opening Day. Guerrero has spent seven sevens in the Cuban League and he has batted for a .325 average in his last three years down there. Guerrero hasn't dominated during Spring Training which leaves Gordon penciled in as the current starter. Hanley Ramirez will play short stop and he dealt with some major injury issues last season which limited his action to just 86 games. Ramirez was an important part of turning the Dodgers around after they started 30-42 in their first 72 games. He is arguably the Dodgers most consistent player and he needs to stay healthy for Los Angeles to dominate the NL West in 2014. The starting first baseman will be Adrian Gonzalez who was not as powerful in 2013 as usual. Gonzalez launched just 22 home runs but led the team in RBIs with 100 while hitting for an outstanding .293 average. Juan Uribe rounds out the Dodgers solid infield at third base. He is coming off of a 12 home run and 50 RBI year hitting .278.
The outfield is where the Dodgers show just how much depth they've got. Los Angeles has four all-star caliber outfields who will each be pushing each other for playing time. Starting in right will be Yasiel Puig in his sophomore season. Puig had an electric rookie year and he is largely attributed with turning the Dodgers season around. He hit for a .319 average with 19 home runs and 43 RBIs during his rookie campaign. It will be interesting to see what Puig is able to do in his encore season. Hopefully, Puig has matured and makes better decisions running the bases and in the field. Puig also hit .214 in his final month and the Cardinals shut him down during the NLCS. Matt Kemp should be the Dodgers center fielder on Opening Day after missing most of the 2013 season. Kemp was only good for six home runs last season but if he can stay healthy, he could easily be an all-star in 2014. Kemp was the runner-up for the NL MVP in 2011 and he can make a big impact for the Dodgers. He is projected to hit 30 home runs and average over 90 RBIs if he can remain healthy. Carl Crawford rounds out the Dodgers starting outfielders in left. Crawford is a solid defender and hit for a .283 average last season. The Dodgers also have Andre Ethier waiting in the wings and he played great when Kemp was injured. Ethier hit 12 home runs, 52 RBIs and batted .272.
The catcher for Los Angeles will be A.J Ellis once again. Ellis provides great defense and consistent hitting. He is good for about ten home runs and 40 RBIs per season.
The Dodgers have one of the best rotations in major league baseball. Clayton Kershaw is their ace and he won his second NL CY Young in the past three years in 2013. Flanking Kershaw will be Zach Greinke who would probably be the number one on most major league staffs. Greinke went 15-4 last season with a 2.63 ERA. In the three spot will be Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu who had an outstanding rookie campaign, going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA. Ryu has some nasty stuff and he can easily improve on his previous numbers. The fourth spot in the rotation will go to Dan Haren who had a disappointing year last season. Haren is now 33 years old but he has been an all-star three times. He had a tough season in 2013 but trended back to normal in the back-end of the season. Haren's velocity has gone down and he has had to adjust his other pitches to complement his new speed. We expect a bounce back year for Haren and he could prove to be a reliable big-time starter for the Dodgers. In the fifth spot is Josh Beckett who has also been an all-star three times. Beckett has had some injury issues and he only made eight starts last season for the Dodgers while posting around a five ERA. If Beckett falters or becomes injured again, Los Angeles has serious rotation depth. They've got Chad Billingsley who should return from Tommy John's surgery at some point this season. Stephen Fife can provide a spot start when needed and prospect Zach Lee is Baseball America's 95th top prospect. LA's pitching staff should be able to will the Dodgers into post-season play. NL West hitters beware.
The Dodgers bullpen will be one of the best in 2014. They didn't hand Kenley Jansen the closer spot until late June last season and he went 4-3 with 28 saves and a 1.88 ERA. Jansen could reach elite levels this season. The Beard returns as the set-up man for LA and Brian Wilson was solid in limited action last year. Wilson went 2-1 with a 0.66 ERA. Chris Perez is the former closer for the Cleveland Indians and also has made an all-star appearance. He can also be utilized as a set-up man. J.P Howell and Paco Prodriguez are coming off of solid seasons. Jamey Wright was signed to a one year deal and provides even more depth to LA's stout pen. The Dodgers will not have 19 blown saves in 2014.
The Dodgers have a behemoth of a team and they've spent money like crazy to get to this point. Anything other than a World Series win is going to be a disappointment for this club. Los Angeles will need to avoid injury issues and answer some questions like their starting second baseman as well as Yasiel Puig's second year production. However, the Dodgers pitchers are among the league's elite and should be able to shield them from the terrible start they had last season. Los Angeles is a World Series contender and should provide the City of Angels with plenty of excitement in the 2014 season.
Projected Record: 94-68
Odds to Win World Series: +650