The Dodgers are really in a lose-lose situation this season after ballooning their payroll all the way up over $240 million (when including dead money, minor league contract players like Yasiel Puig and Tony Gwynn Jr. and players on the disabled list).
If they are successful, it's because they "bought" a team. If they fail to reach the playoffs, they are endlessly ripped across the media, echoes of "I told you so" and "no team chemistry" bouncing off the walls.
Regardless of whether the Dodgers win 100 games or struggle to reach .500, all of their players—superstars included—will struggle at some point. This team showed it is human in the first series of the year, mustering just seven runs in three games against the Giants, including one home run from ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
So taking into account objectivity and that baseball is a crazy sport with a very long season ahead, here is one prediction for every player on the current 25-man roster.
Which Beckett are we going to see in 2013? Will it be the consistent middle-of-the-rotation guy we saw in a very small sample size last season? Or the Beckett who posted a 5.23 ERA in the first part of 2012 in 21 starts for the Red Sox?
Beckett had a rough spring and got dinged yesterday against the Giants, but I'm not terribly worried. He has transitioned from a power pitcher to a finesse guy better than most players his age and got unlucky on the two home runs he gave up (good spots, better swings).
So my official prediction is not that Beckett will have some crazy, fantastic season, but instead that he will be the beneficiary of something he has hardly any control over.
Prediction: Beckett wins 14 games for the Dodgers in 2013.
The Dodgers couldn't ask for a better seventh-inning stopper than Belisario, who has some of the nastiest movement on his fastball in the league. Since joining the Dodgers 'pen in 2009, Belisario has been in and out of the majors for various reasons.
But when he is in, he brings it. His career 3.05 ERA in the big leagues is impressive but not nearly as impressive as his 2.54 mark last season. I think this is the year that the 31-year-old righty breaks the 1.00 WHIP mark, which would but him in the elite class of relievers.
Prediction: Belisario posts a WHIP in the mid-0.90s.
Cappy had a tough fall from grace between the first half of 2012 and this season. He was a revelation for the Dodgers in those spring and early summer months before plummeting back to earth and landing with a thud. Unfortunately, it didn't get better in the spring, either.
Now, Capuano has been relegated to the bullpen as a long-relief southpaw (I assume J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez will be the primary lefty specialists), but even that might have a short life span. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Capuano rocking new digs before the trade deadline this season.
Prediction: Capuano gets traded before June 1.
You might think I'm just going to buy into all of the hype of the first three games, in which Crawford hit .556 against mostly stellar Giants pitching. You may believe I'm just an eternal optimist who will take the positive route with Crawford and expect a bounce-back season.
Well, you'd be right. I'm not banking on Crawford becoming the guy who kept the Tampa Bay Rays relevant for years, or even a hobbled version of that player. However, I do think he's getting his game back and will play a major role for the Dodgers in 2013. It's something I've been saying all winter long.
Prediction: Crawford hits .275 with 10 home runs and 25 steals.
Here's another guy that a lot of people were counting out prior to the season. But it's hard for me to discount what Cruz did last year, albeit in a short amount of time. He was extremely consistent on both sides of the ball and came up huge in a couple of different clutch situations.
For my money, Cruz is a late bloomer who will have a breakout year in 2013. Of course, he's not going to hit 20 home runs or vie for a batting title, but he will play solid defense and improve his numbers from last year. Just being in this lineup should improve the RBI numbers by default.
Prediction: Cruz hits .290 with 80 RBI in 2013.
A.J. Ellis is another fan favorite for his gritty play, determination and on-base percentage. Last season was his first full year behind the dish, and we could tell he was wearing down as the months went on. But Ellis should be ready for that grind this year, and he has a more suitable backup in Tim Federowicz.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Ellis bump up his average a bit from last year's .270 and increase the home run total of 11 by four or five. As far as a prediction, I'm going to go with something completely opposite—his defense. In 2012, Ellis gunned down 33 percent of runners attempting to steal, which was above the league average. Look for at least 35 percent of those daredevils to be stopped in their tracks this year.
Prediction: Ellis throws out 37 percent of runners attempting to steal in 2013.
A.J.'s brother (just kidding) plays a sweet second base for the Dodgers but isn't a huge threat with the bat. That being said, he brings a nice veteran approach to the plate and knows how to put the ball in play. This is why, as a great situational hitter, I think Ellis will stick in the two-spot in the lineup.
With Crawford due for a bounce-back year in the leadoff spot and four mashers immediately following, some might wish for either Hanley Ramirez or Andre Ethier hitting in the two-hole. That move holds a lot of potential, but there's something to be said for a guy who can sacrifice runners into scoring position with ease.
Prediction: Ellis hits in the two-hole for at least 75 percent of his starts.
Everybody loves Dre, the longest-standing Dodger regular and clutch-hitting machine. But what we don't love is a horrific .222 average against fellow lefties last season. Ethier became an automatic out late in games when the opposing manager saved a left-handed reliever to face him.
This year, he's off to a good start in that department, hitting .400 in five at-bats. That number is likely to drop, but I'm hoping he took some tips from Adrian Gonzalez (and his .299 career average against left-handed pitchers) in the offseason. I'm going way out on a limb here and predicting that Ethier boosts his average against lefties significantly.
Prediction: Ethier hits .275 against LHP in 2013.
The backup catcher was basically a black hole last year, as Matt Treanor failed to make an impact with the bat. I highly doubt the Dodgers expect huge numbers out of that position, but there is a reason that "Fed-X" got the job this season.
In the minor leagues, Federowicz mashed his way to promotion after promotion (between Boston and Los Angeles systems) on the strength of about 30 doubles and 60 RBI at each stop. His career .348 on-base percentage in the minors makes him a nice little apprentice to Ellis, who they are hoping will help Federowicz grow in 2013.
Prediction: Don't expect much, but .260 with seven to eight home runs isn't out of the question.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Adrian Gonzalez will be the most important hitter on this team in 2013. He likely won't hit as many home runs as Matt Kemp or walk off as often as Ethier or even drive in as many runs as Hanley Ramirez. But Gonzalez will be the most consistent bat in the lineup.
Pegging Gonzalez to repeat his 2011 in Boston (.338, 27 homers, 117 RBI) is a bit ambitious, but to see him land somewhere in the middle of those numbers and the ones he put up last season in a "down" year (.299, 18, 108) is reasonable. My money is on Gonzalez hitting over .300 and eclipsing 25 homers and 100 RBI.
Prediction: Gonzalez hits .315 with 26 home runs and 122 RBI in 2013. Yep, those exact numbers.
This will be a tricky one. I do like Greinke and have been writing about how he'll do just fine in Dodger Stadium this year, but the spring training elbow injury scares me. Apparently it's no big deal, but I cringe just imagining him getting bad news during a check-up.
Did the Dodgers overpay for Greinke? No doubt. Is he merely an average pitcher? Definitely not. While Greinke may be a fringe ace, this is not an issue for a Dodgers team that already has Clayton Kershaw anchoring the rotation. So barring injury, I do see Greinke having a big year. But don't expect Kershaw-esque numbers out of the guy.
Prediction: Greinke has a 3.40 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 215 strikeouts in 2013.
Matt Guerrier had a couple of very good seasons as a reliever for the Minnesota Twins. That was also three and four years ago. Since joining the Dodgers, he has been up and down, hobbled by a home run-serving addiction and various injuries.
So while I do like Guerrier's stuff in and of itself, I'm not sure he'll stick with the Dodgers through the whole season. He's in the final year of a three-year deal, and if he begins to struggle, the front office might just let him loose or put him on the trading block. Either way, I think he'll be unseated by an arm in Triple-A.
Prediction: Guerrier finishes the year on a different team.
I know the front office gave Juan Uribe an ill-fated three-year deal after 2010, but they are way too infatuated with letting him play every couple of days. This all comes at the expense of a more talented, diverse player in Hairston Jr.
Uribe has to be on a short leash, and I imagine that as the strikeouts and pop-ups pile up, Hairston will become the primary reserve at both corner infield positions. In this role in 2012, Hairston became a fan favorite in Los Angeles and hit .273 in 78 games. I'm not sure he'll get more playing time, but he will be the go-to guy when Luis Cruz needs a rest.
Prediction: Hairston Jr. hits .280 as the team's go-to backup.
Harang, like his 2012 two-year deal counterpart Capuano, has been relegated to the bullpen after a sneakily successful season. Harang put up very good numbers for a fifth starter last year and was promptly rewarded with a demotion to long relief.
It's not really his fault, as the Dodgers just had too many pitchers for a five-man rotation. That being said, I don't trust the health of the starting five or Ted Lilly, and I think Harang will be the first to get a call if they need a spot starter for a few weeks. Look for him to stick with the club and make a few very important starts down the stretch.
Prediction: Harang starts 12 games in 2013, including three in September.
The Dodgers' biggest offseason bullpen addition made his first appearance count, striking out one en route to two perfect innings against the Giants. He's had big-time success in Tampa Bay previously, though he can also be maddeningly inconsistent.
However, he seems primed to be the "normal" lefty out of the pen, as Capuano will be saved for long relief and Paco Rodriguez will be the specialist. When, not if, Kenley Jansen becomes the closer at some point this season, I think Howell will be promoted along with him.
Prediction: Howell will split time as a setup man with Belisario in the second half.
If you've been following along, you probably know what's coming on this slide. I truly believe Kenley Jansen is the answer at closer. Of course, this means Brandon League will have to falter pretty significantly to even give the job back to Jansen.
That's a risk I'm willing to take. Jansen's insane strikeout-per-nine rate is going to serve him well in the ninth inning, and he will quickly master the mental side of the role as well. With offseason heart surgery behind him, nothing can take down the big, hard-throwing righty in his quest to become the full-time closer.
Prediction: Jansen becomes the full-time closer by July 1.
Alert the media! Matt Kemp started the season 0-for-10! The apocalypse is upon us! Now that we got that nonsense out of the way, can we focus on the player who, in his past 1,000 or so at-bats, is hitting .315 with 62 home runs and nearly 200 RBI?
Kemp is coming off of major surgery in the offseason and is still trying to pinpoint specific flaws in his approach at the plate that are holding him back. That being said, he's put good wood on the ball so far and those hits will be falling very soon. In fact, if he avoids the DL, I think at least 35 of those hits will clear the fence.
Prediction: Kemp hits 38 homers in 2013.
What more can I say about a man who pitched a complete game shutout against the team’s biggest rival and hit a go-ahead homer to boot? The 2011 Cy Young winner looked sharp in his first outing and will likely continue to look sharp for the remainder of this season.
Not only is Kershaw the favorite to win his second Cy Young in the National League this year, but he may also become the second pitcher ever (after Justin Verlander’s recent extension that could top more than $200 million) to sign a contract over the $200 million mark. I think both things will happen.
Prediction: Kershaw wins his second NL Cy Young award and signs a $200 million-plus extension before the All-Star break.
The Dodgers went out and assured themselves of a full-time closer by inking Brandon League to a hefty three-year deal over the winter that guarantees him $22.5 million. Unfortunately, League’s spotty history as a reliever doesn’t bode well for his fate in this writer’s predictions.
I think League will be an above-average member of the Dodgers bullpen when all is said and done, but his habit of giving up big homers late in games (keep that sinker DOWN, Brandon) is going to cost him the closer’s role by July. As mentioned earlier, I think Jansen steals the job and keeps it for the 2013 campaign.
Prediction: League loses his job by July 1.
Nick “Shredder” Punto is a great clubhouse guy who works his tail off when he gets the rare chance to play. However, making any sort of worthwhile prediction for him is difficult given his low level of actual importance to the team.
Is it fair enough to predict that he will hustle on every play and dive headfirst into first base at least 10 times this year? Can I just predict that he will play pretty good defense at a multitude of infield positions? Surely I can come up with something more exciting than that.
Prediction: Why not? Punto will hit a walk-off single in a division-clinching game for the Dodgers in September.
I hate to do this to Paco, because he’s earned himself a spot in the bullpen. I have the utmost faith in his game, but he’s not an overpowering guy. I think that when Scott Elbert returns from injury, and before they trade Chris Capuano, Rodriguez will be back in the minors for a stretch.
This is one of those unfortunate deals in baseball where a mini-slump, if you’re playing a stacked position, will end in demotion. Rodriguez will hit his rough patches, as all young pitchers do, and when one of those slumps couples with Elbert’s return, we will see the 2012 draft pick in Albuquerque.
Prediction: Rodriguez spends at least three weeks in the minors midseason, uninjured.
Though Hyun-Jin Ryu wasn’t exceptional in his first start, he showed us again why the signing can pay potential dividends. Ryu was able to work out of jams all night long on Tuesday against the Giants and had some pretty nasty strikeout pitches working for him.
I’m not expecting a monster season out of Ryu, but an ERA in the 3.50 range would be extremely believable. I don’t see the crop of rookies in the National League as being an incredibly talented bunch, so my prediction is that Ryu falls just short of his own personal goal of winning Rookie of the Year.
Prediction: Ryu finishes a close second behind the Mets’ Zack Wheeler for NL Rookie of the Year.
Skip Schumaker was always a handy-dandy utility man in St. Louis, and I expect nothing less of him in Los Angeles. He can swing the bat a little bit and is valuable off the bench because he can play almost every position. For the time being, it seems he will spell Mark Ellis at second base and any outfielder who needs a day off.
But what can Dodgers fans expect out of our new signee? He usually hits around .270-.280 with little power, but in his best year with the Cardinals, he hit .302 with eight homers and 46 RBI. Schumaker will get on base at a decent clip and make some things happen for this team, much in the same mold as Punto—only better.
Prediction: Schumaker hits .290 for the Dodgers in a backup role this year.
Is everybody still upset that Sellers made two errors against the Giants in Tuesday’s game? Did they forget about this catch so quickly? Sellers really is a good defensive player, two bad throws in the second game of the season be damned. That being said, the kid can’t hit a lick.
It’s for this reason that I believe Sellers will be demoted rather quickly. Not because of the rough game two nights ago, though—I want that to be clear. Sellers needs to learn how to hit or he will always be a defensive replacement. I’m giving him an expiration date of April 30 with the big league club.
Prediction: Sellers is back in Triple-A by April 30.
Save the best for last, right? Uribe's decent spring gave me a tiny bit of hope that my belief in his original signing (back in the 2010 offseason, before 2011) being the worst of all time might be only 99 percent true. But then I watch him actually swing and that belief is justified all over again.
No matter the adjustments the coaches make to Uribe's swing, he will always be a terrible hitter until he goes back to basics on his own. I don't foresee that happening in the third and final year of his contract. However, I do see the front office finally coming to its senses and either selling him for scrap metal or cutting him before August.
Prediction: Uribe is shipped away or released by July 31. Hallelujah!
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