The Washington Nationals finished 2012 with the best record in baseball, yet the L.A. Dodgers continued to snag headlines from the beginning of the season until the end, from Matt Kemp's amazing start to the blockbuster trade in which they acquired Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.
As the calender turns to 2013, all eyes are going to be focused on both of these teams. The Nationals will be looking to prove that they were not a one-hit wonder, and the Dodgers will be looking to turn their investments into gold.
The question arises: Which of these teams has the edge? They are two of the favorites to make it to the NLCS this upcoming season, but who would come out victorious?
Let's start with the outfielders. The Nationals' outfield will likely consist of Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth, with Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore ready to be called upon if need be.
The Dodgers have an All-Star outfield of Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The Dodgers do not nearly have the kind of depth that the Nationals have, however, and with an outfield flooded with players who are oft-injured, the edge has to go to the Nationals.
Assuming that the Nationals do not trade Michael Morse, he will be their Opening Day starter at first base. The Dodgers have the edge with Gonzalez starting at first base, simply because of the potential that is there. Gonzalez now has had time to adjust to L.A. and has become familiar with Dodger Stadium while Morse might be hearing rumors of a trade in the back of his mind.
Second base goes to Danny Espinosa and the Nats. Espinosa is approaching his prime and is coming off of a year in which he hit 17 home runs and 37 doubles while stealing 20 bases. Although Mark Ellis is not to be pushed to the side, he is not likely to have as good of an offensive season as Espinosa.
The Nats take shortstop as well. Which Hanley Ramirez will show up for the Dodgers in 2013? He has not hit .300 since 2010 and appears to be on the decline while Ian Desmond is turning into one of the elite shortstops in the league, posting a .292 average and hitting 25 home runs and 33 doubles with 73 RBI in 2012.
Ryan Zimmerman is the stronger option at third base between the two teams, as the Dodgers appear to have Luis Cruz looking to start on Opening Day. Zimmerman struggled through injuries in the first half of last season but proved to be healthy, as he tore apart the league in the second half of the season. This is an encouraging sign and helps solidify the Nats as the team having the better third baseman.
Thanks to A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers appear to have the edge at catcher, as Wilson Ramos returns from injury this season for the Nats. With the uncertainty of how effective Ramos will be in his return, the Dodgers have to be happy having Ellis behind the plate, as he proved to be a nice addition to the lineup.
These two teams have the two best pitching rotations in baseball. The Dodgers will send Beckett, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Chris Capuano to the mound while the Nats counter with Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler.
The Dodgers might have some concern with Beckett, and we never know how Greinke will react to a new environment and a new team. Haren is the wild card, as the Nationals hope that he can be dominant once again. While both teams are stacked, it appears that if Haren and Detwiler can hold their own, the Nationals will have the better rotation and the overall better team in 2013.