Los Angeles Dodgers: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Los Angeles Dodgers: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Last Year: 80-82, fourth in NL West

Manager: Don Mattingly 

 

PROJECTED LINEUP

C- Rod Barajas (R)

1B- James Loney (L)

2B- Juan Uribe (R) 

3B- Casey Blake (R) (Will probably start season on DL)

SS- Rafael Furcal (S)

LF- Jay Gibbons (L)/ Marcus Thames (R)

CF- Matt Kemp (R)

RF- Andre Either (L)

The Dodgers offense struggled in 2010 ranking 21st in runs scored, and 27th in home runs. Andre Either was the club's most consistent hitter last season, and he has been one of the more consistent left-handed hitters over the last few seasons. 25-30 home runs and a line around .290/.365/.495 are where his numbers should be at the end of the season. Matt Kemp will hit behind Either as the cleanup hitter (checkout key player section below for more on Kemp). 

Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons will platoon in left field after both had good seasons as role players in 2010. Thames hit very well against left-handed pitchers, but his .288 average benefited from a .345 BABIP. If he gets 300 at-bats, Thames should hit hit 15 home runs and a .240-.260 average. Gibbons should put up similar numbers with the same number of at-bats with a .250-265 average and 10-15 home runs. Rod Barajas has some power (15-18 home runs expected), but he hits for a low average and doesn't get on base often. 

Juan Uribe, the only major position player signed during the offseason, should provide some power at the 2B position. He should hit for 20 home runs, and a line of .245/.300/.420. Rafael Furcal will continue to hit leadoff after another steady season in 2010. Furcal doesn't have the same speed, but he should swipe 20 bases with7-10 home runs and produce a line of .285/.355/.405. Loney doesn't have the prototypical first baseman power (10-15 home runs), and his numbers have steadily declined in every season since 2007. Expect a slight up-tick in average back to .285, but the Dodgers need to get more production from the five hole. Casey Blake is battling a rib injury, but if healthy he can produce 15-20 home runs with a .260 average in the seventh spot in the order. 

The Dodgers' defense ranked 25th in UZR rating during the 2010 season. The infield defense was not the problem, and it should be improved with Uribe, who is considered an above average defender at 2B. Rafael Furcal may make some errors at SS, but he has great range to both sides. Casey Blake and James Loney are plus defenders on the corners. Blake has great range, and Loney is very sure handed. Rod Barajas is a great receiver behind the plate, but his caught stealing percentage is below average.

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The outfield defense relies on how well Matt Kemp bounces back from his terrible defensive season. He took terrible routes to balls and was the worst rated center fielder in baseball. Andre Either was also the ranked last among right fielders, and the left field combination of Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames will make the Dodgers' outfield defense the worst in baseball. 

 

BENCH

IF- Jamey Carroll (R) 

IF- Ivan DeJesus (R) 

OF- Jay Gibbons (L)/ Marcus Thames (R)

C- Dioner Navarro (S) (Will miss first month of season)

C- AJ Ellis (R) or Hector Gimenez (R)

IF- Aaron Miles (S)

OF- Xavier Paul (L)

OF- Tony Gwynn Jr.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

STARTING ROTATION 

LHP- Clayton Kershaw

RHP- Chad Billingsley 

LHP- Ted Lilly 

RHP- Hiroki Kuroda 

RHP- Jon Garland (Will start season on DL)  

The Dodgers' rotation, when fully healthy, is one of the deeper rotations in the National League. Clayton Kershaw, the ace of the Dodger staff, is often forgotten as one of the best pitchers in the league. Kershaw lost a little velocity in 2010, but he still averages 92.5 MPH on his fastball and he uses his filthy slider and decent curveball to strike out more than a hitter per inning. He still needs to work on his command, but Kershaw will pitch at around a 3.00 ERA, and still strikeout more than a hitter per inning. Clay Billingsley is a good number two starter behind Kershaw. Billingsley uses a 91-93 MPH fastball, good slider, great cutter, curveball, and changeup. His command can be a little touch and go (should have 3.5-4.00 BB/9), but his groundball rate (49 percent in 2010) and strikeout rate (usually 8 K/9) should leave his ERA around 3.50 for the season. 

The soft tossing left-hander, Ted Lilly, will be the number three starter. Lilly uses a good slow curve, slider, and changeup with his 86-88 MPH fastball to get a lot of flyballs and strikeout more than 7 per 9 innings. Lilly will benefit pitching in Dodger Stadium for the entire season, and should pitch to a 3.40-3.60 ERA. Hiroki Kuroda may be one of the more underrated pitchers in the league. His xFIP (3.5&) indicates that his 3.36 ERA indicates his success in 2010. Kuroda features three plus pitches: a fastball that averages 92.5 MPH, a hard breaking slider, and good splitter. Kuroda will strike out close something close to 7 per 9 innings and pitch to a mid 3 ERA. 

The Dodgers will start the season with only four starters until a fifth will be needed later in the month. Jon Garland is on the DL with a strained oblique, but he will be one of the best fifth starters in baseball when he returns. He is a good groundball pitcher, who usually displays good command (2010 was an exception), and should pitch to a 3.90-4.10 ERA when he returns.   

 

BULLPEN

RHP- Jonathan Broxton (Closer) 

LHP- Hong-Chih Kuo 

RHP- Matt Guerrier 

RHP- Kenley Jansen 

RHP- Blake Hawksworth 

RHP- Mike MacDougal 

RHP- Lance Cormier or LHP- Scott Elbert

RHP- Vincente Padilla (On DL until late April) 

Jonathan Broxton comes into the 2011 season on shaky footing after loosing the closer job late last season.Broxton's walk rate increased to 4.04 per 9 innings, but his .366 BABIP inflated his ERA to 4.04. His xFIP indicated he should have been pitching to an ERA in the low 3.00's, so look for Broxton to have a bounce back season. Kuo was one of the most dominant left-handed relievers in baseball last season pitching to a 1.20 ERA.Kuo's mid 90's fastball and good slider make him tough for both right and left-handed hitters to face. His good strikeout numbers and unbelievable home run rate should allow him to pitch at a high level again if he remains healthy. 

Matt Guerrier has become a good setup man over the last few seasons despite lacking strikeout stuff. He uses good control and a starter's repertoire to pitch to an ERA in the 3.40-3.70 range. Kenley Jansen, the converted catcher, showed great stuff in 25 games with the Dodgers last season. Jansen's control can be spotty, but his 94-96 MPH fastball is very heavy, and he has shown a very good slider. He has been able to strikeout more than 13 per 9 innings at every level during the last two seasons. 

Blake Hawksworth looks like he will pitch some long relief to begin the season. Mike MacDougal looks like he will make the roster as a non roster invitee. MacDougal is a groundball specialist with a heavy 94.7 MPH two-seamer and slider, but his command is all over the place. Scott Elbert and Lance Cormier are still battling it out for the last spot in the rotation, but I bet Elbert gets the last spot so Mattingly can have another left-handed pitcher at his disposal. 

 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES 

RHP- Roman Colon

RHP- Lance Cormier 

RHP- Mike MacDougal 

LHP- Dana Eveland 

RHP- Tim Redding 

RHP- Oscar Villareal 

IF- Juan Castro (R)

IF- Aaron Miles (S)

OF- Gabe Kapler (R)

 

KEY PLAYER- Matt Kemp

It is no coincidence that both the when Matt Kemp struggles the entire Dodgers team struggles. Kemp can't hit .249 again if the Dodgers want to make a run at the NL West. In addition, Kemp had the worst UZR among any center fielder, mostly because of bad routes to the ball. Kemp seemed like he was in a daze the entire 2010 season, but he has too much talent not to rebound in 2011. Look for Kemp to hit 25-28 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a line of .285/.340/.485. 

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH- SS Dee Gordon (L)

Dee Gordon has all the tools to be a dangerous offensive weapon in the majors. Gordon does not have much power, but he can hit line drives to all areas of the field. Many scouts project him as a dangerous .300 hitter, but his number one weapon is his speed. He stole 53 bases in AA last season. He does need to work on his defense, but getting a year at AAA will do him well. If everything goes according to plan, Dodger fans could see him in a uniform in September.  

 

PROJECTED FINISH- Third in NL West

The Dodgers should improve over a poor 2010 season, but the offensive holes at catcher and left field are too big to ignore. The team will finish in fourth place again if Matt Kemp struggles, but if the Dodgers could contend if he plays well. Overall, I think the Dodgers will be in it until September finishing above .500, but the Giants and Rockies have better overall teams. 

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