For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat. If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers. We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.
Los Angeles Dodgers
86-76, second in the NL West
It was Extreme Makeover: MLB Edition. To begin the year, the Dodgers were in limbo, having an ownership battle after years of the McCourt divorce taking its toll. However, in the middle of the year an ownership group fronted by Magic Johnson came in and promised changes.
It didn't take them long to deliver.
Throwing money around like a Congressman with re-election coming up, the Dodgers took on a large part of the underachieving Red Sox, adding Nick Punto, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford just to get their real prize, Adrian Gonzalez. The move almost worked, as they led the second NL Wild Card race with just over a week to go before stumbling and watching the Cardinals pass them.
They didn't sit on their laurels in the offseason, either, competing with their regional rivals for the most headlines. But the question remains, will all of that money and all of that freewheeling provide some October glory this year?
For that answer and others, we turn to our friend Scott Andes of Lasorda's Lair. Scott's the co-editor at that site and can be found on Twitter @formatallan. Stick around to see what he has to say about the pressing issues in Big Blue Country.
LL: If I had to grade the Dodger offseason, I would say it was a success. The Guggenheim Baseball Management (GBM) focused their first winter in power on improving and strengthening the Dodger starting rotation and pitching staff. The GBM did just that by continuing to shock the Baseball world with their aggressive spending. The Dodgers signed two of the top free agent pitchers on the market. They made their first big splash by signing former Cy Young award winner, and Mark "the Bird" Fidrych look-alike Zack Greinke to a record six year 147 million dollar contract. They also signed South Korean all-star lefty Hyun-jin Ryu to a six year 36 million dollar deal. The Dodgers also signed lefty J.P Howell to fortify an already formidable bullpen. The Dodgers also traded for left handed utility guy Skip Schumaker, and hired a new hitting coach, former home run champion Mark McGwire.
LL:The Dodgers are playing things very cautious with Carl Crawford this season. They don't want to rush him back. Crawford is coming off of Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, which he had back in August. He was also battling a wrist injury as well last year. The Dodgers are cautiously optimistic that Crawford should be ready to play by opening day. However recent events have pushed back his recovery time frame. The Dodgers originally were hoping to have Crawford ready to play in games by the first week in March. But recently he reported feeling soreness in his forearm, so the Dodgers decided to shut him down for a few days. Mattingly called it a pause instead of a set-back. Normally position players take around 6-9 months to recover from Tommy John surgery. Crawford might be out until May. But when he does return, the Dodgers are expecting him to be their everyday left fielder, and lead-off hitter. They're hoping that with a healthy season and change of scenery, he can regain his all-star form he had when he was with Tampa Bay.
C70: There's a lot of buzz around Kenley Jansen. Is he the real deal at closer?
LL: There is a lot of buzz around Kenley Jansen for good reason. He is the real deal, but he won't be a closer. Instead he will play a supporting role, set-up and middle relief while Brandon League will be the team's closer.
The Dodgers originally converted Jansen from Catcher to pitcher during his minor league days. Jansen couldn't hit worth a dam, but he had a very strong arm. Jansen is primarily a fastball, slider guy, but he has a great cut-fastball that has late movement, which usually reaches the mid to late 90's. Last season Jansen had to miss some time with a genetic heart condition, so the Dodgers traded for Brandon League to help out. Once the Dodgers fixed League's little mechanical flaw, he was dominating. Almost as dominating as Jansen. Kenley posted a 2.35 ERA, saved 25 games, whiffed 99 batters while only walking 22 guys. That's a 13.7 whiff per nine rate. The Dodgers are still going to have a very strong bullpen with League, Jansen, and nasty Venezuelan set-up man Ronald Belisario. Jansen had surgery in the offseason to repair his heart problem, and he should be healthy and ready to go for the 2013 season. The Dodgers will be using him as a set-up guy in the seventh and eighth innings. Or they could also use him like a fireman, bringing him into the game to stop a late scoring rally. He is that dominating.
C70: What rookie will make the biggest impact in 2013?
LL: Well technically Hyun-jin Ryu is a rookie, even though he has pitched professionally in South Korea for years. He is big, and has great presence on the mound. He'll slot in right behind Greinke as the number three starter in the rotation. There really aren't any other rookies knocking on the door to make the roster. Dee Gordon should be starting the year in the minors while Hanley Ramirez mans the shortstop position. Other top prospects like Zach Lee, Chris Reed, and Matt McGill aren't ready yet. Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig looks strong in spring training, but the club feels he is a couple of years away from the big roster. Perhaps there are only two other rookies to watch this season. One is backup catcher Tim Federowicz, in his first full season. He is the guy the Dodgers got in the Trayvon Robinson trade. The other is outfielder Alex Castellanos (the guy they got from the Cardinals in the Rafael Furcal trade), who the Dodgers were playing at second base in triple-A. If he impresses, it's possible he could make the team as a fourth outfielder.
C70: What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
LL: I'm not sure, but I would think they should win at least 90 games. The Dodgers should be a good team, built with a roster to go deep into October. They're going to have a very strong pitching staff, and starting rotation, a shutdown bullpen, and what appears to be a power packed lineup. They do have some weaknesses though. A weak bench, little to no speed, and several players coming off of injury plagued seasons, including Matt Kemp are a couple of them. However I think I'll go ahead and peg them for anywhere from 90-94 wins. If I had to guess, I would say 92-70. Hopefully that will be enough to win the division.
C70: What one thing from your team are you most looking forward to watching?
LL: That would probably be how the team is able to come together and find that chemistry they were unable to acquire late last season. I can't wait to see if this aggressive spending works. I am looking forward to seeing Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu pitch on back-to-back-to-back days.
Of course I am also looking forward to watching the Dodgers get into the playoffs, and hopefully defeat the evil Giants and bring the World Series Championship back to Chavez Ravine where it rightfully belongs.
While readers of this blog might beg to differ with that final statement, it seems unlikely that this will be a boring season out in LA. With money on hand and the wherewithal to spend it, a team even close to contention might get yet another jolt at the trading deadline. Should be fun to watch!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball