Latest Predictions for the Winner of Each Key Dodger Position Battle
Finally, the time is here. Spring training games kicked off this past weekend. And with that, it’s time to take a peek at the Dodgers’ top question marks. A month ago, I previewed the positional battles we had to look forward to. Although we’re still not very far into the spring, some clarity has emerged.
Third Base: Luis Cruz
Hanley Ramirez has been solidified as the shortstop for the 2013 season, which means that there is finally a semblance of an answer as to what will happen on the left side of the infield.
With Ramirez at short, third is the only available spot, which ends Dee Gordon’s hopes of being in the Opening Day lineup. Although there are still questions about Cruz’s ability to repeat his second half of 2012, the alternative is Juan Uribe and his .542 OPS (per Baseball-Reference.com).
So, even if manager Don Mattingly isn’t sold on Cruz, there are no other viable options at this point.
Back of the Rotation: Ryu Hyun-Jin, Chad Billingsley
The Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches in the starting rotation. Behind presumptive top three starters Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett, Ryu Hyun-jin, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano are in contention for the last two spots.
Ryu has made a good impression in camp already, having lost 15 pounds and preparing to make his first start soon. As a big-money and high-upside addition, he will get every opportunity to begin the season with the Dodgers.
Billingsley will be entering his eighth season, and he has been productive in his first seven, so he has a leg up on Harang, Lilly and Capuano for the fifth starter spot.
The main concern with him is an injury that he had that shut him down at the end of August, but he made his first start as scheduled against the Cubs on Monday. Assuming health, his good run of games (per Baseball-Reference.com) at the end of last season means that he is the favorite to begin the year in the rotation.
Closer: Brandon League
Mattingly and the Dodgers signed League to a three-year deal this offseason, and his impressive performance (six saves) after Kenley Jansen went on the DL meant that when the Dodgers re-signed him, they let him know that he would be the closer.
Nothing has happened so far to change Mattingly’s opinion on League. The Dodgers are still set on him as the closer, and at this point, there’s no reason to expect that to change.
Left Field: Carl Crawford
Crawford is a big-money outfielder, and there’s no doubt that he’ll get the first shot at the starting left field job. However, it’s worth noting that Crawford is getting closer to playing in a spring training game, so he should probably be ready for Opening Day.