Previewing Key Los Angeles Dodgers Position Battles in Spring Training
Despite (or perhaps because of) committing $217 million to its roster for the 2013 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers still have a couple of position battles that spring training performances will help decide.
All the money in the world can’t help fill a position when there are no viable options on the free agent market. At the same time, that money can lead to the oversaturation of talent with not enough spots available in a lineup.
The Left Side of the Infield
It hasn’t yet been finalized whether Hanley Ramirez will play shortstop or third base, so we can’t predict which spot is up for grabs. With Luis Cruz and Dee Gordon available for the open slot, Don Mattingly will have to determine a couple of things:
1) Whether he believes Cruz’s hot second half of last season is repeatable.
2) Whether he believes the prospect hype on Gordon is real.
It’s worth noting that Gordon’s bat plays much better at shortstop than it does at third, so if Gordon is deemed a better fit than Cruz, Ramirez may be asked to play third.
With the offseason additions of Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-jin and the trade deadline acquisition of Josh Beckett, the Dodgers have a logjam at the back end of the rotation. Assuming they're healthy, Clayton Kershaw, Greinke and Beckett have locked down the first three spots in the rotation. Ryu is also expected to start in the rotation as Chad Billingsley will likely begin the year on the DL.
This leaves just one spot for one member of the Ted Lilly/Aaron Harang/Chris Capuano trio. While Capuano pitched well last year (12-12, 3.72 ERA), Lilly is making more money ($12 million to Harang’s $7 million and Capuano’s $6 million) and so might get the first shot. Regardless of who ends up getting the job, it’s likely that at least one (and possibly two) will be traded.
Back of the Bullpen
After trading for Brandon League at last year’s trade deadline and re-signing him this offseason, the Dodgers have named him the closer heading into spring training. However, League has been inconsistent in his career, posting a 4.58 ERA in 2009 with the Toronto Blue Jays and a 3.63 ERA last season with Seattle before he ended up losing the closer job.
Meanwhile, Kenley Jansen held the job for much of last year and was quite impressive, posting a 2.35 ERA and 25 saves. While there’s no reason to believe that manager Don Mattingly will back away from using League as the closer, it’s worth noting that he has a more-than-capable backup ready in Jansen should League struggle.