We’ve taken a look at the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies already. We aren’t quite to the cream of the crop in the NL West, as there is one more “also-ran.”
Los Angeles Dodgers
The biggest question for the Dodgers heading into 2012 is the ownership situation. Who will it be? Well, nobody knows right now. There are seven groups of bidders seemingly in the hunt. Current owner Frank McCourt is required through his sale agreement with Major League Baseball to identify a buyer by April 1 and complete the sale by April 30. Once that whole fiasco is solved, the Dodgers could (and should) become major buyers with an increased payroll.
Currently, the Dodgers have the best position player and best pitcher in the NL West in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and he’s going to be the favorite to win it again in 2012. Kemp finished second to Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun for the MVP award in 2011. With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder having departed to the AL, Kemp is even more primed to stay in MVP discussions for years to come.
Who is going to hit with Kemp? Outfielder Andre Ethier has the potential, but he has been pretty average since going on a tear in the first half of 2010. Shortstop Dee Gordon hit .304 in 54 games last year. At age 23, is he ready to be an everyday player? He’s a star in the making and he’s going to need to get on base for Kemp and Ethier because the Dodgers’ lineup is relatively average.
Hiroki Kuroda is a huge loss, but the starting rotation should still be solid. Kershaw is obviously a stud and Ted Lilly is as steady as they come. Chad Billingsley is going to need to improve on his 2011 season. He walked 4 guys per 9 innings and had a WHIP of 1.45. Those numbers are unacceptable, especially in the NL where the lineups are clearly weaker.
The back end of the bullpen ended up being a problem last year. Jonathan Broxton wasn’t effective in the closer’s role because of injury. Broxton is gone, and Javy Guerra is primed to take over. He saved 21 out of 23 in 2011. A bullpen that had the third highest ERA in the NL should be improved.
The Dodgers aren’t ready to compete for a division crown yet, but once the ownership situation is settled, Kershaw and Kemp obviously make great building blocks for the future.
Position players: C A.J. Ellis, 1B James Loney, 2B Mark Ellis, 3B Juan Uribe, SS Gordon, LF Juan Rivera, CF Kemp, RF Ethier
Bench: INF Adam Kennedy, C Matt Treanor, OF Jerry Sands, Tony Gwynn Jr., Jerry Hairston Jr.
Starting rotation: 1. Kershaw, 2. Billingsley, 3. Lilly, 4. Aaron Harang, 5. Chris Capuano
Bullpen: Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert, Ramon Troncoso, Todd Coffey
Projected finish: 82-80, 3rd in NL West