The Dodgers are coming off a season where they went 82-79, having a slightly above average season. Their offense was slightly above average and was led by Matt Kemp’s 8.7 WAR. The Pitching was led by cy young winner Clayton Kershaw and his 2.47 FIP. The Diamondbacks and Giants are the two teams who will be competing for the division, so it’ll be hard for the Dodgers can compete unless they get some luck.
Matt Kemp had by far his best season, and probably should have been voted the MVP. His .324/.399/.586 (171 wRC+) was one of the best in the leagues. His ISO was an usually high .262, compared to his career .203 ISO. He had some help from his .380 BABIP, but his career BABIP is .352. Regression is expected, but it may not be as drastic as some may think. Andre Ethier is another good outfielder that the Dodgers have, he rebounded and posted a 2.9 WAR after a disappointed 2010 season. One concerning thing regarding Ethier is his loss of power the last few seasons. In 2009 he had a .237 ISO, the following year it fell to .201, and last year it declined all the way to .129. One big reason for the loss in home runs is the fact that his FB% dropped all the way to 31% last season, but his 25.3% LD% is a great number, so that’s one positive. He had suffered from a knee injury throughout most of the season, that doesn’t help your power either. If he can get his power back, he could be a 3-3.5 win player the next few seasons. Juan Rivera is scheduled to play left, he offers some power, but not much else. He could split playing time with Tony Gwynn Jr.
James Loney is back for another season at first, but he could be on a short leash. Loney doesn’t offer a ton of power, one of the first things you think of when talking about first basemen. He does play a solid first base though, having a UZR above 1 the last three seasons. Juan Uribe is hoping to put a terrible 2011 season behind him, he was a little better than a replacement level player. Before last season he had two consecutive 2.5 WAR seasons, the Dodgers need much better production from him.
At shortstop Dee Gordon may be one of the fastest players in the league. If he can increase his BB% he will be the prototypical lead-off hitter. His defensive potential still remains a mystery, but first impressions haven’t been great. Mark Ellis will be his double play partner at second. Offensively he doesn’t produce much, but he’s a really good defender. With his defense he could be a 1-1.5 WAR player.
A.J. Ellis will play catcher, but he doesn’t have a ton of major league experience, so it’s hard to say what he’ll do. He won’t give the Dodgers a lot of offense, and according to the Fans Scouting Reports his arm is slightly above average. Catcher may be a position the Dodgers will try to improve either this season or next.
Clayton Kershaw has finally established himself as a top tier pitcher, winnig a cy young award and his 2.81 xFIP and 2.84 SIERA say he is for real. His 27.2 K% was second best behind only Zack Greinke. He also sharply decreased his BB% to 5.9%, something that was a big issue early on in his career. If Kershaw keeps producing big numbers he has the potential to be the best pitcher in the game. Ted Lilly didn’t have the greatest of seasons. He strikes out a decent amount, and does a really good job at limiting walks. His ERA finally caught up with his peripherals, an ERA in the high 3s to low 4s is what he will most likely give the Dodgers. Chad Billingsly didn’t have the greatest of seasons, but it was still an okay season. He saw a decrease in his strikeouts, and an increase in walks. His HR/FB% also saw a sharp increase, he needs to bring that down to his 2010 level when it was 4%. If he can rebound he can be a nice number two pitcher.
Chris Capuano can be a solid back of the rotation pitcher. His 4.55 ERA seems high, but if you look at his 3.60 SIERA and 3.67 xFIP he could actually be much better this season. His main problem though is keeping the ball in the park. For his career his HR/FB% is over 11%. At this point in his career that’s something you just have to deal with. Aaron Harang is scheduled to pitch from the fifth spot, and from the looks of it he doesn’t offer much. He struggles with walks, while also giving up a lot of home runs. An ERA above 4 is to be expected.
Javy Guerra is expected to be the closer, but based on his 4.07 xFIP that may not be for long. He needs to cut down on the number of walks he gives up, and increase his strikeouts. Some other names to look for are Kenley Jansen and Scott Elbert.
Overall the Dodgers may head towards another so-so season. Their pitching can be really good, but besides Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier their offense isn’t that great. The organization is going through a sale right now, and once that is over the club may be primed to make some moves. Until then don’t expect any big names for the Dodgers.