11 Dodgers Who Could Be All-Stars Next Season

Geoff Ratliff@@geoffratliffContributor IIIDecember 22, 2012

11 Dodgers Who Could Be All-Stars Next Season

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers have a 2013 Opening Day payroll that is already over $200 million, so it should come as no surprise that their roster is littered with All-Star talent. With 11 players who have previously made at least one appearance in the Midsummer Classic, the Dodgers should lead the National League in All-Stars next season.

    No one should expect all of L.A.’s former All-Stars to be playing in Citi Field next July, but most of them are still in their primes. Of that group, only Ted Lilly, who turns 37 in January, is definitely beyond his best years.  

    The other 10 players are all 32 years old or younger. All except Josh Beckett have been All-Stars within the past four seasons.

    Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Chad Billingsley are all returning from season-ending injuries. Their ability to earn All-Star votes will largely depend on how many games they miss and how quickly they return to top form.

    Listed in reverse order from least-to-most likely to make the 2013 MLB All-Star team, here are 11 Dodgers who have a very good chance of playing in New York on July 16, 2013.

11. Chris Capuano

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    Dodgers lefty Chris Capuano is the only player on this list to have never made an All-Star game appearance. At 34, he is unlikely to make his first Midsummer Classic in 2013, but he made a strong case for being named to the 2012 team.

    Capuano was easily Los Angeles’ second-best starting pitcher in the first half of the season behind Kershaw. He was 9-4 before the All-Star break, with a 2.91 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and .232 BAA. 

    Capuano faded badly during the second half of the season. If he can duplicate last year’s start, however, he may find himself back in the stadium he called home in 2011 while a member of the New York Mets.

10. Carl Crawford

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    Dodgers fans are anxious to see Carl Crawford make his National League debut in Los Angeles. The four-time All-Star left fielder underwent a season-ending Tommy John surgery shortly before being acquired from the Red Sox.     

    Crawford’s tenure in Boston was marred by injuries, as he only appeared in 161 games in two seasons. But he showed flashes of the player who starred for the Tampa Bay Rays during a brief 31-game sample last season. 

    He hit .282 with 19 RBI, 23 runs scored and five stolen bases in 117 at-bats.

    The biggest deterrent to Crawford’s All-Star candidacy could be more missed games. If he is not able to return to the lineup until early-June—as some have predicted—Crawford won’t play enough games to garner serious consideration even if he is healthy.

9. Josh Beckett

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    Josh Beckett’s 2012 season was one of the worst of his career during his 21 starts for the Boston Red Sox. After arriving in Los Angeles, however, Beckett showed flashes of being the pitcher who made his lone All-Star appearance in 2007.

    In seven starts with the Dodgers, he posted a 2.93 ERA while striking out 38 batters in 43 innings pitched.

    Whether Beckett will perform at that level for an entire season is anyone’s guess, but he’s just a year removed from a very good 2011 season. After an injury-plagued 2010, he bounced back the following year by going 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 30 starts.

    If Beckett can return to his 2011 form, he could very well make the second All-Star game appearance of his career.

8. Chad Billingsley

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    Chad Billingsley was finally starting to fulfill the promise the Dodgers held for him when he made his major league debut in 2006. The hard-throwing right-hander won six straight starts from July 23 on, and he was L.A.’s best pitcher during that stretch. 

    Unfortunately, inflammation in his pitching elbow ended Billingsley’s season during an August 24 start. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day after an offseason rehabilitation program allowed him to avoid undergoing Tommy John surgery. 

    Billingsley made his lone All-Star game appearance during the 2009 season. Although he has teased Dodgers’ fans with his talent for years, he is still only 28. That means Billingsley could just now be hitting his peak.

7. Andre Ethier

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    Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier narrowly missed out on making his third consecutive All-Star game last season.  

    After driving in 20 or more runs in April and May, Ethier lumped badly in June. He hit .218 with just 11 RBI for the month, but he still managed to drive in 55 runs with a .291 average through the first half of 2012.

    Despite what seems to be a new trade rumor surrounding Ethier every week, the Dodgers insist they are not shopping him. Armed with a five year, $85 million contract extension and a spot in the middle of one of baseball’s best lineups, Ethier should make a strong push to return to the All-Star game next summer.

6. Hanley Ramirez

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    Entering his first full season in Los Angeles, shortstop Hanley Ramirez will look to reestablish his place as one of MLB’s best players at the position. 

    He finished second to Albert Pujols in the 2009 NL MVP voting, but Ramirez’s reputation—and numbers—have steadily declined since. After escaping the toxic environment in Miami though, he showed flashes of returning to his All-Star form in 64 games with the Dodgers.

    Ramirez hit .271 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in Los Angeles last season.

    He may never return to his 2009 form, but Ramirez will be just 29 on Opening Day, so he has two to three more prime years ahead of him. It is not a stretch to think that he will make his first All-Star appearance since 2010 next season.

5. Brandon League

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    Although Brandon League’s transition to the National League was not initially a smooth one, he thrived for the Dodgers once he assumed the closer’s role. If he can carry his late-season performance over into 2013, League will become an All-Star for the second time in his career.

    League filled-in admirably as L.A.‘s closer when Kenley Jansen missed a month due to a recurring irregular heartbeat. League was six-for-six in save opportunities last September, with a 0.63 ERA and .111 BAA. 

    League earned his first All-Star nod in 2011 when he saved 37 games for the Seattle Mariners. The Dodgers believe that he can repeat that success in Los Angeles, as evidenced by the three-year, $22.5 million contract they gave him this offseason.

4. Matt Kemp

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    You could easily make a case for Matt Kemp being No. 1 on this list were it not for two major injuries that derailed a fantastic start to his 2012 season. Unfortunately, the latter of the two injuries—a torn labrum in his left shoulder that required offseason surgery—could delay Kemp’s effectiveness early in the season. 

    He is expected to be able to begin swinging the bat again sometime in January, but there’s no question that the surgery has severely altered Kemp’s offseason preparation. Even if he is able to start on Opening Day, it will be difficult for him to duplicate last year’s hot start. 

    Kemp followed up his 2011 NL MVP runner-up campaign by hitting .417 with 12 home runs, 25 RBI and 24 runs scored last April. 

    A hamstring injury suffered in May caused Kemp to miss 53 games last year, preventing him from having a historically-great season. If he is fully healthy and gets back into a groove early in 2013, a third* All-Star nod is likely. 

    *Kemp was voted in as a starter for the 2012 game, but was unable to play because of the hamstring injury.

3. Zack Greinke

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    Now that Zack Greinke has the money, power and respect that he sought in free agency this offseason, he can focus on justifying his six-year, $147 million contract.

    There is no question that the 2009 AL Cy Young award winner is one of the most talented pitchers in Major League Baseball. Greinke, however, has struggled to make that talent translate into consistent results on the field. 

    Ending his free agency as a member of the Dodgers has put Greinke in an ideal situation to succeed. He has the luxury of following staff ace Clayton Kershaw in the rotation in a market that he is familiar with following his brief stint with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    Greinke will also benefit from pitching in one of the most pitcher-friendly home stadiums in the majors, while being supported by one of the best lineups in the game. 

    If he can take advantage of favorable circumstances, Greinke will make his first All-Star appearance since his 2009 Cy Young-winning campaign.

2. Adrian Gonzalez

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    Despite hitting a home run in his first at-bat with the Dodgers, Adrian Gonzalez got off to a slow start once he arrived in Los Angeles. Once he settled in, however, the Southern Californian proved that he could be right at home with his new team.

    Gonzalez hit .319 in 116 at-bats in September and October last season. He is also back in a division that he dominated for five seasons while a member of the San Diego Padres

    With a full offseason to get comfortable in his new surroundings, it won’t take long for Gonzalez to get back to terrorizing NL West opponents. His run of four consecutive All-Star appearances ended in 2012, but expect Gonzalez to start a new streak in 2013.

1. Clayton Kershaw

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    Short of a significant injury, there is no reason to believe that Clayton Kershaw will not be making his third straight appearance in the Midsummer Classic for the Dodgers next July. The 2011 NL Cy Young award winner—and runner-up for the 2012 award—has quickly established himself as one of the best pitchers in the majors.

    Still just 24 years old (Kershaw turns 25 on March 19), the lefty just completed his third consecutive season of at least 32 starts, 200 innings pitched and 212 strikeouts or more. Kershaw posted an ERA of 2.91 or lower for the fourth straight year.

    He had a bit of a scare late last season with a hip injury that threatened to end his 2012 campaign, but Kershaw managed to miss only one start, and he also avoided surgery that may have affected his availability for the start of next season.

    With a clean bill of health and his best years still ahead of him, Kershaw is the closest thing to an All-Star lock on the Dodgers’ roster.