L.A. Dodgers: Breaking Down the Dodgers Position by Position

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaCorrespondent IIFebruary 22, 2012

L.A. Dodgers: Breaking Down the Dodgers Position by Position

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    The 2012 MLB season is quickly approaching, and for the Los Angeles Dodgers it couldn't come any faster. Team depth charts are beginning to come together, and this breakdown will give fans a sense of how their team stacks up with the rest of the league at each position.

    Players like Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are some of the best at their positions and will be strong points, but the other spots on this team are not so fortunate. Finishing three games above .500 isn't going to cut it in the National League West, and overall balance will be vital to winning games. If one position struggles then the whole team will struggle.

    The Dodgers have a lot of veterans on this team so inexperience will not be an issue, but only a small percentage of their aging players are capable of playing well toward the end of their careers. It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers can prevent 2012 from becoming a rebuilding year.

Left Field

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    Position Grade: Average

    Left Field is an average position due in part to the fact that Juan Rivera is a one-dimensional player. In a successful season, Rivera is capable of a little more than 20 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .300 batting average, but he's consistently had up-and-down seasons since 2006.

    Judging from the trend in his stat sheet, Rivera is due for another big season at the plate even at the ripe age of 33.

    In terms of his defense, let's just say Rivera won't be winning a golden glove anytime soon. Fly balls and line drives hit directly to him won't be a problem, but Rivera doesn't have the speed to cover a lot of ground in the outfield and he doesn't have a strong enough arm to throw out baserunners at home.

    If defense becomes a problem, the Dodgers will probably turn to the quicker Tony Gwynn, Jr., who plays the field well but isn't a threat at the plate.

Center Field

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    Position Grade: Above Average

    Kemp is arguably the best center fielder in baseball right now, and he's motivated to build off his success from last season. Falling short of the National League MVP was disappointing to Kemp considering the type of numbers he put up, but don't be surprised if he's a favorite for the award in 2012.

    Kemp is the complete package, with prolific power at the plate and top-notch defense in the outfield. He will more than likely be the NL leader in home runs, RBI and average with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder out of the picture.

    Barring a sudden injury, Kemp will have one of the best seasons of his career and be the biggest contributor on this team.

Right Field

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    Position Grade: Above Average

    Despite having one of his worst seasons, Andre Ethier still ranked near the top among right fielders. Assuming last season was just a fluke, Ethier should return to his power-hitting ways in 2012.

    From 2008 to 2010, Ethier was a nightmare for opposing pitchers and hit a career-high 31 home runs during the 2009 season. Last season wasn't a total loss, though. Ethier did manage to win his first gold glove patrolling the right field corner.

    When Ethier is at his best he's one of the top right fielders and a valuable part of the Dodgers' offense.

Third Base

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    Position Rank: Average

    Third base could be an above-average position if Juan Uribe could stay healthy in 2012. Last season, Uribe was plagued by injuries and was frequently placed on the disabled list before finally being diagnosed with a sports hernia.

    Uribe has had only few below-average seasons in his career, and his World Series experience makes him a welcome addition to any team. When he's healthy, Uribe can be a big contributor on offense capable of hitting for a .250 average and more than 20 home runs.

    Playing the hot corner at 32 years old may be a little tougher, but Uribe should be able to hold his own. If Uribe can't stay on the field in 2012, the Dodgers will likely have to turn to journeyman Adam Kennedy who is an aging player with lackluster offensive skills.

Shortstop

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    Position Rank: Average

    Watching Dee Gordon in his first full major league season will be a treat for Dodgers fans interested in getting a glimpse of a future star.

    Gordon's 24 stolen bases was tied for the most among rookies last season even though he only played in 56 games, and I wouldn't be shocked if he led the NL in stolen bases next season.

    The Dodgers have been looking for a leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal was traded, and Gordon could be the answer to their problems. Gordon is still developing as a hitter so he won't have big numbers next season, but most of his damage will be done on the basepaths.

Second Base

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    Position Rank: Below Average

    Second base is one of the weakest positions on this team and it all starts with 34-year-old Mark Ellis. The longtime Oakland Athletics veteran is nothing to brag about on offense and his defense is decent.

    Ellis is nothing special and he ranks considerably lower than most second basemen, but if he can play some defense and get a hit every now and then, he will have done his job.

    Behind Ellis is Jerry Hairston Jr. who, like Ellis, is just another below-average second baseman. Neither guy will be any help on offense so I'm guessing they'll be depended upon to just play defense, but even that may be a challenge.

First Base

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    Position Rank: Average

    James Loney hasn't fully reached his potential yet, and time may be running out for that to happen. Loney hasn't had power numbers, and compared to the marquee first basemen around the league, he's just average.

    Surprisingly enough, though, Loney had more hits and a better average than guys like Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard. There's still hope for Loney to become a slugging first baseman, but if he doesn't then at least he's solid defensively.

    Loney should hit close to a .300 average and hit another 12 home runs next season in front of Kemp in the lineup, or possibly batting cleanup.

Catcher

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    Position Rank: Below Average

    A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor will probably split time at the catcher position and neither player will be expected to contribute much on offense.

    Ellis played 31 games last season for the Dodgers and Treanor is coming over from the Texas Rangers. Ellis only allowed 11 stolen bases on defense while Treanor allowed 42.

    Catcher is yet another weakness on this team, and little production will come from it. I expect Ellis to get most of the playing time and do his best to keep runners at bay. He's still a young player and could possibly develop more later in the season.

Starting Rotation

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    Position Rank: Average

    Clayton Kershaw alone is an above-average player but I have concerns about the depth behind him.

    Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are all good pitchers but they're past their prime. These guys don't throw lights-out innings, but they are very experienced. Chad Billingsley is the other young guy in the rotation but his numbers have decreased in past seasons.

    I'm not saying this rotation is bad, but it's just average. Kershaw will have another Cy-Young performance and get his 20 wins, but the rest of the rotation will be a big question mark.

    Signing the veterans definitely improved the starting rotation, but it may not be enough to get this team into the postseason.

Bullpen

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    Position Rank: Average

    The Dodgers' bullpen is a very diverse mix of young and old, and leading this group is 24-year-old Kenley Jansen. The big man struck out 96 batters and had an ERA of 2.85 last season in relief. Jansen is an imposing guy on the mound with good stuff, and he could be called on a lot in relief next season.

    The position of set-up man is up in the air right now with Mike MacDougal and Matt Guerrier picking up 14 and 13 holds last season. Both are veterans and decent options, but worse than the league average.

Closer

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    Position Rank: Average

    Javy Guerra did a fine job replacing Jonathan Broxton as the closer last season, and it will be exciting to see what he can do with a full season in the role.

    Guerra led the team in saves with 21 and had a 2.31 ERA. What's more impressive is the fact that Guerra only blew two saves. Guerra could be a star if he continues to pitch well, and there's no denying he has big shoes to fill.

    The Dodgers' closer role has seen its share of stars, and Guerra could be the next Eric Gagne at the rate he's going.