What does the future hold for the Dodgers’ infield?
In the midst of this magical Los Angeles Dodgers season, I got curious. You know the old C&C Music Factory song, “Things That Make You Go Hmmm,” right?
I began to go “hmmmm” thinking about the Dodgers’ not-too-distant future. We obviously know what the Dodgers look like right now. We even have a good idea of how the team will look in 2014.
However, what might the lineup at Chavez Ravine home games resemble in two years? What names will be emblazoned in blue on the Dodgers jerseys once the dust settles after this season? Maybe I’m just too much of a Dodgers nerd and nobody else cares what happens to the team beyond this season.
Well, that’s alright because you’re not writing this article, I am! Come with me, if you will, on a journey to look at the Los Angeles Dodgers position-by-position, now and beyond. First, let’s start with the infield …
First Base – Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP of the Dodgers for 2013. Gonzalez is only 31, so he should have plenty of good years left in the tank. So far this season, he has hit 16 homers, driven in 80 runs and posted a .297 average. Even when Gonzalez had no protection around him in April, May and most of June, he still produced for the Dodgers. Gonzalez is signed through 2017, so unless the Dodgers trade him, he’s going to be entrenched at Chavez Ravine for a while. That’s a good thing, too, because the Dodgers don’t really have much to speak of in the minors at first base.
Second Base – Mark Ellis has performed solidly for the Dodgers in 2013, with six homers, 41 RBIs and a .278 average. Ellis is also steady in the field and lends a veteran presence to the team. Ellis is no spring chicken, though. He’s 36 years old and is only signed through this season. The Dodgers do have a team option on Ellis for 2014 that won’t cost them too much ($5.75 million), so there is a possibility he will return. The Dodgers have 19-year-old Jesmuel Valentin at second base, but he’s only at single-A and is probably at least two years away from Los Angeles. The Dodgers aren’t exactly bursting at the minor-league seams at second base. Elian Herrera is at triple-A Albuquerque and Rafael Ynoa is at double-A Chattanooga, but neither prospect is very memorable. The 27-year-old Herrera has hit .287 with seven homers and 43 RBIs in 2013, while the 25-year-old Ynoa is hitting .268 with five homers and 29 RBIs.
Shortstop – While he is never going to be confused with Ozzie “The Wizard of Oz” Smith in the field, Hanley Ramirez (if he can stay healthy!) has finally given the Dodgers an offensive threat at shortstop. You probably have to go back to Pee Wee Reese to find a shortstop in the Dodgers’ lineup who was more than a defensive contributor. When the Dodgers picked up Ramirez from the Miami Marlins in 2012, naysayers viewed it as a risky trade because they said he was a malcontent who was a clubhouse cancer. No one has missed Nathan Eovaldi in Los Angeles as Ramirez has posted a .345 average with 13 homers and 42 RBIs. Along with rookie Yasiel Puig, Ramirez has sparked the Dodgers this season. Ramirez is signed through 2014, but look for the Dodgers to extend him once they get Clayton Kershaw’s extension wrapped up with a bow. Dee Gordon has been waiting in the wings at shortstop for the Dodgers for two years now, but he isn’t much more than a speedster with a glove and a questionable arm. It’s time for the Dodgers to trade Gordon while he still has some value so that the 29-year-old Ramirez can be the unquestioned fixture at shortstop for the Dodgers for years to come.
Third Base – The black hole known as third base for the Dodgers has been better the second half of this season thanks to (I’m having to swallow my pride as I write this!) … Juan Uribe? Yes, the guy I used to make fun of for being an overweight $21 million cancer has solidified the hot corner in Los Angeles. Uribe is having a solid season at .273 with seven homers and 36 RBIs. The 34-year-old Uribe is only signed through this season, and it’s doubtful he will return to Los Angeles. If that happens, do the Dodgers have any internal answers at third? The third baseman of the future is Corey Seager. However, Seager is only 19 years old and hasn’t played above the single-A level. At single-A in 2013, Seager has hit 16 homers and has driven in 69 runs, but how many 19-year-olds do you see playing third base in the majors? Other than Seager, there is no exciting minor-league answer at third for the Dodgers. Two retreads platoon at third for triple-A Albuquerque (Ian Stewart and Brian Barden), while two nondescript guys (Elevys Gonzalez and Osvaldo Martinez) share duties at double-A Chattanooga. After looking at these options, perhaps it isn’t too crazy to think of the Dodgers bringing back Uribe for another season?
Catcher – He may not ever make the All-Star squad, and he’ll most likely never be a triple crown candidate, but A.J. Ellis is a rock behind the plate for the Dodgers. Ellis has posted a .250 average with six homers and 43 RBIs this season. One thing that is reflected in his .332 on-base percentage is the fact Ellis works counts better than almost anyone in the Los Angeles lineup. Ellis is solid behind the plate and also helps to make opposing pitchers go deep in the count. The 32-year-old Ellis won’t become a free agent until 2017, so it looks like he’ll be back to split time with Tim Federowicz next season. Federowicz has hit a pedestrian .232 in 2013 with three homers and 13 RBIs. Unless they make a trade or sign a free agent, look for Ellis and Federowicz to man the backstop in Los Angeles for the next several years.