Los Angeles Dodgers preview: World Series or bust!
Attention, Los Angeles Dodgers fans! I would like any Dodgers fans who are not excited about the upcoming 2014 MLB season to raise their hands.
Now, all of those fans with said raised hands have an assignment. Before reading any more of this article, you must download the song “#Selfie” by The Chainsmokers and listen to it until you get nauseous … in other words, once.
This season is the first in a long time when the question about the Dodgers’ success isn’t “if,” but “just how much.” The 2013 season was a success for the Dodgers. Winning the NL West was huge. Beating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS was huger (don’t look it up … it’s only for effect!). Coming within two wins of a World Series appearance was encouraging for Los Angeles.
However, that won’t be enough in 2014.
On the Dodgers’ official website – www.dodgers.com – the 2014 marketing slogan at the top of the home page is “Live. Breathe. Blue.” In case you don’t know Dodgers linguistics, it really means this: “World Series or Bust!”
Following last season’s 92-70 record, the Dodgers didn’t do a whole lot this offseason; but they didn’t have to.
Keeping it in the family was the offseason theme for the Dodgers, for the most part. The biggest outside additions were pitchers Dan Haren, Paul Maholm and Chris Perez. Infielder Alex Guerrero was also brought in to (hopefully!) take over at second base for the departed Mark Ellis.
To Kemp, or not to Kemp? That is the question for the Dodgers. LWOK – Life Without Kemp – wasn’t a total disaster in 2013. The fragile Matt Kemp missed most of the 2013 season and only gave the Dodgers six homers and 33 RBI.
However, thanks to electric Cuban sparkplug Yasiel Puig, all was forgiven in Los Angeles. Puig is reckless and needs to mature, but his 19 homers, 42 RBI and .319 average in only 104 games was refreshing.
Andre Ethier played admirably to offset Kemp’s absence and added 12 homers, 52 RBI and a solid .272 average. With Kemp still not ready to play every day for at least the first month of the season, Carl Crawford (.283, 6 HR, 31 RBI) will be counted on in left field, along with Ethier and Puig.
TGIG – Thank God For Gonzalez – at first base for the Dodgers. Adrian Gonzalez was lighter in the homer department than normal with 22, but he led the team with 100 RBIs and posted a stellar .293 average.
With Hanley Ramirez healthy at shortstop (.345, 20 HR, 57 RBI in only 86 games) and Juan Uribe back at third base (.278, 12 HR, 50 RBI), the Dodgers have a solid infield. The only question mark in the infield is at second base.
Replacing the departed Mark Ellis and his 6 homers, 48 RBIs and .270 average are the speedy Dee Gordon and Cuban free-agent Alex Guerrero. Gordon can run like a deer, but he also unfortunately hits like he has deer hooves for hands. The 27-year-old Guerrero remains an unproven commodity, although he hit 60 homers and had a combined .325 average over his last three Cuban League seasons. Catcher A.J. Ellis isn’t flashy or terribly entertaining, but he handles the pitching staff well and posts solid numbers (.238, 10 HR, 52 RBI)
Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. Enough said. Let’s move on to the next category. Nasty and nastier.
Adding Hyun-Jin Ryu, free agents Haren and Maholm and a healthy Josh Beckett gives the Dodgers one of the top rotations in the game. Don’t forget about Chad Billingsley, who is set to return from injury early in the season.
Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA), Greinke (15-4, 2.63) and Ryu (14-8, 3.00) head up the starting unit for Los Angeles.
The bullpen should also be a strong point for the Dodgers in 2014. Closer Kenley Jansen returns from his 4-3 record, 28 saves and 1.88 ERA. The eighth inning belongs to “The Beard” Brian Wilson and his 2-1 record and 0.66 ERA.
Other key bullpen arms are former Cleveland closer Chris Perez and lefties J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez.
Opening day lineup
1. Yasiel Puig, RF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Hanley Ramirez, SS
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Andre Ethier, CF
6. Juan Uribe, 3B
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Alex Guerrero/Dee Gordon, SS
Although he is still several years away, Corey Seager is the 44th-rated prospect in MLB. The 19-year-old shortstop looks like the heir-apparent to Ramirez. Playing alongside Puig in center field in the very near future should be 21-year-old Joc Pederson. The past two minor league seasons, Pederson has averaged 20 homers and 64 RBIs, with a .296 average. Twenty-two-year-old Zach Lee is at least a year away from a spot in Los Angeles. Lee went 10-10 with a 3.22 ERA at double-A Chattanooga in 2013.
Last year when the TTFB crew performed a hostile takeover of Steve Bortstein’s Fox Sports 1340 AM radio show in Farmington, NM, I was asked for a Dodgers prediction. I told Steve the Dodgers would win the NL West and make some playoff noise.
After being asked if TTFB performs drug testing, I stuck by my prediction. Until June, it looked like I needed that drug testing. However, the Dodgers made their second-half run and my prediction looked brilliant.
Why am I telling you this? So you will heed this prediction: Barring a serious injury to the Big 5 – Kershaw, Greinke, Gonzalez, Ramirez and Puig – the Dodgers will win the NL West and advance to the World Series in 2014.
Live it. Breathe it. Blue it!