Do Dodgers resemble Catrinel Menghia or Lindsay Lohan?
We’ve all seen those candid pictures of celebrities without their makeup. You know the ones – snapped by a paparazzi stalker with a camera where a beautiful movie star is wearing sweat pants and looks nothing like the ones we see on the red carpet.
Well, it’s time to take the makeup off the new-look Los Angeles Dodgers! It’s time to put on our telephoto lens and look underneath the piles of Guggenheim dollar bills that have brought Los Angeles Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-jin this offseason.
Is what we see at the smiling press conferences as good as what we see when the Dodgers are jogging in their sweat pants?
Starting pitching – Makeup or not, this area is by far the Dodgers’ strongest. Twenty-nine other teams would love to have Clayton Kershaw anchoring their rotation. Kershaw had a disappointing year in 2012, yet he still led the club in every pitching category: Wins (14), ERA (2.53), Strikeouts (229) and Complete Games (2). With the addition of Greinke, the Dodgers have one of the best 1-2 punches at the top of their rotation in all of MLB. Hyun-jin isn’t a project; he’s a polished pitcher who will be ready to step right into the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the rotation. Add veterans Josh Beckett and Ted Lilly, along with Chad Billingsley, and the Dodgers are set here. Look for both Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang to be traded by the time spring training opens in February.
Outfield – Even without their makeup, the Dodgers look more like Catrinel Menghia (Google her … it’s worth it!) here than Lindsay Lohan. It wouldn’t suck to start the season with Carl Crawford in left, Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right. If Crawford is healthy, he might be able to stop the left-field revolving door that has plagued the Dodgers for what seems like an eternity. The Dodgers were a train wreck in left last year with a platoon of Juan Rivera, Tony Gwynn and Jerry Sands. The Sands experiment is over, as he was traded to Boston in the megadeal that brought Crawford, Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez (since then, Sands was traded to Pittsburgh). Crawford is the big question mark here. Although he only played 31 games for the Red Sox last season because of injury, Crawford is a guy who averaged 50.2 stolen bases a year over an eight-year period with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2003-10. Over that same eight-year span in Tampa, Crawford also averaged 70.2 RBIs a season. There has been offseason talk about the Dodgers looking to trade Ethier for a leadoff hitter, but don’t look for those rumors to materialize. It will probably be Crawford, Kemp and Ethier in the outfield for the Dodgers in 2013.
Infield – This is the area where the Dodgers look more like Britney Spears in her flaked-out Kevin Federline days, but hope is not lost. The infield can still resemble the new, improved hot Britney for 2013! First, I would like all of you to join me in a moment of silence to all of the weak-hitting first basemen that the Dodgers have paraded around the first bag in the infield since the days of Steve Garvey. We finally have a power hitter at first! Gonzalez is one of the most feared bats at first base in all of baseball, and a full season in Chavez Ravine should be fun to watch. If he can stay healthy for a full season, veteran Mark Ellis is a solid fielder with a steady bat at second base. The challenges arise on the left side of the infield. What to do … what to do! Hanley Ramirez is a power bat at either shortstop or third base, but second-year string bean Dee Gordon is the conundrum here. In only 64 games for the Dodgers last season, Ramirez hit 10 homers, drove in 44 runs and hit .271. Those are numbers that would have been great for Dodgers shortstops over an entire season in past years. The Dodgers have been shopping Gordon this offseason after he struck out an average of once every five times at the plate last year. Gordon did have 32 stolen bases in 87 games, but he also had a .228 batting average and a .280 on-base percentage. Perhaps new hitting coach Mark McGwire can teach Gordon that when your biceps look more like a marble than a baseball, you should swing like Brett Butler and not … well, McGwire! The Dodgers can also look at the option of playing Ramirez at short and handing over the third base keys to Luis Cruz. In 78 games for the Dodgers last season, Cruz hit .297 with six homers and 40 RBIs. The 28-year-old Cruz has only played 134 MLB games in parts of four seasons, but he just might be in line to be the man at third in 2013.
Catcher – This is where the Dodgers resemble that actress you can never remember, but you know she has been in a bunch of movies. A.J. Ellis will never be confused with Buster Posey or Joe Mauer, but he is a solid defender and a steady hitter. In his first full season with the Dodgers in 2012, Ellis produced numbers that are very acceptable – .a 270 average, 13 homers and 52 RBIs. Even more impressive is the .378 on-base percentage that Ellis put up last season.