The only thing we know for sure about the upcoming Dodger season is that it’s going to be interesting.
This will be the first real season with the new owners, Magic Johnson and Co. have embraced their big-spending ways and are settled in for a season with expectations set high. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, Luis Cruz, Zach Greinke, and Josh Beckett will all get their first full season in Dodger Blue. This team has as much if not more talent than anyone else in baseball, especially with cornerstones Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, but they already have plenty of doubters around the league.
Injuries have already sent them back plenty, with Hanley getting knocked out for eight weeks after breaking his wrist during the WBC, Crawford’s nagging injuries, and Greinke’s arm trouble. Honestly, with all these injury concerns and their lack of replacement talent from the bench or minor leagues, the Dodgers aren’t a sure shot to be a powerhouse during the regular season. Somewhere in between 85-90 wins seems reasonable. But that should be enough to get them into the playoffs and that’s where you have to watch out for them.
Their top heaviness will actually end up rewarding them in the postseason. Pitching wins championships, and with the best 1-2 punch in baseball the Dodgers should be in perfect position. Offensively, they can pretty much do anything. They have three players with five-tool talent in Kemp, Crawford, and Ramirez. Unfortunately, Kemp and Crawford have been hampered by injuries, and Hanley’s stats have simply been on the decline. If all three guys were healthy and playing well, the Dodgers would be invincible with Gonzalez playing the slugger and Andre Ethier continuing to knock the clutch hits.
Simply put, the biggest thing the Dodgers have going for them will be the ability to win the games that matter. Even if they weren’t able to secure the NL West from the Giants or a mystery contender, they’d have to be the favorite going against anybody in the elimination game. They’d most likely be able to start Kershaw, who can render any lineup moot. Having Greinke as a second option is pretty great. In crunch time they could manufacture wins with speed or wait on the big hit. They’d certainly have the best playoff rotation (pitchers 1-3) in baseball, making them much scarier to a potential opponent in a spread out best-of-seven series.
Their only deficiency is the bullpen, but it certainly wouldn’t be shocking if they made a midseason move to bolster it. Someone like Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney, on a soon-expiring contract, may be the perfect fit for the Dodgers. The Rays know he’s not getting any younger and would unload him to build for the future, and the Dodgers would take him in to win now. That’s what it comes down to. The Dodgers have everything in place and they have to win now. My money is on them to do just that.