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Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Players of the 1st Half

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Los Angeles Dodgers Top 10 Players of the 1st Half

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers have had more than their share of struggles and downfalls during the first half of the 2013 MLB season.

Injuries and inconsistent play from even some of the Dodger workhorses has been the cause of such a rocky start. On the list to come, you will notice several familiar faces missing.

Matt Kemp has struggled to be consistent this season, due in large part to his stint on the 15-day DL right in the middle of the season. The center fielder has still managed a .251 batting average, but his power hitting has been nearly absent, smacking only three home runs so far. The Dodgers anxiously await him getting back on track and hope he can return to his 2011 form in which he had MVP-like numbers.

Last year’s surprise star, Luis Cruz, was unable to repeat his terrific results in 2013 and was optioned to the minor leagues after hitting only .124 and one home run. Subsequently, Cruz moved on to play with the New York Yankees.

Regular pitching staple Chad Billingsley started the season by tripping right out of the gate. The index finger on his throwing hand landed him on the 15-day DL. Less than a month later, Billingsley had season-ending surgery on his throwing arm. The Dodgers will be praying that he rehabilitates well and takes a run at 2014 Comeback Player of the Year.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers have had several standout players shine through the injuries and losing record. There will not be any home run records broken or batting titles won this season, but these 10 Dodgers have given fans something to smile about. So, let’s begin the countdown with No. 10.

Note: All statistics are as of July 3.

Isaac Comelli is a Los Angeles Dodgers writer for Follow him on Twitter @IsaacComelli, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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No. 10 J.P. Howell

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“J.P. who?” J.P. Howell.

Casual Dodgers fans may be unfamiliar with Howell, so let me introduce you to him. Howell is a 30-year-old reliever from Modesto, Calif., who spent the last six seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. After struggling last year, the Dodgers signed him in free agency.

Howell has been a pleasant surprise in the Dodger bullpen despite a couple shaky outings. He has a 2.62 ERA and has thrown 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. With seven holds and no blown saves on the year, Howell has been steady in a bullpen that has fallen apart regularly.

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No. 9 Carl Crawford

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Last year’s blockbuster trade seemed to include injured Carl Crawford as nothing more than a footnote; I was excited about the high-energy outfielder coming to Los Angeles.

Crawford put several excellent years together for the Rays before moving on to the Boston Red Sox in 2011. Known for being super quick on the base paths and able to hit for average with a bit of pop, Crawford was not expected to be able to produce the same results of his early career.

Crawford went to the 15-day DL on June 2, but his performance before that had been excellent, hitting .301 and stealing 9 bases. The Dodgers got Crawford back on July 5 and expect him to get back to his ways immediately.

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No. 8 Juan Uribe

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some of you might be shocked to see Juan Uribe in the No. 8 spot, let alone on this list at all.

Believe you me, the 34-year-old journeyman has struggled over the years, but certainly has given the Dodgers a boost this year. He has played in 62 of the Dodgers’ games this season, often coming off the bench to pinch hit or play as a defensive substitution.

The inconsistent playing time has not distracted Uribe from performing well. After batting just above and below .200 in his first two seasons with the Dodgers, he has raised his average to .270. He has provided his team with some much needed offense with four home runs and 20 RBIs. Uribe gets the job done when he gets the chance to play, a more difficult feat than when playing every day.

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No. 7 Paco Rodriguez

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Paco Rodriguez is essentially a rookie, having only played 11 major league games last year. Nevertheless, he has pitched like a man with years of experience this season.

Aside from a few rough outings, Rodriguez has kept a respectable ERA of 2.73 and a fantastic 0.88 WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched). In his last 13 outings, he has not allowed a single run to score while pitching 9.1 innings in that span. The Dodgers will look to him to keep momentum rolling in the bullpen for the second half.

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No. 6 Kenley Jansen

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Being a former catcher myself, I love the story of Kenley Jansen’s conversion from behind the plate to on the mound while in the minor leagues. After struggling to control his rocket arm, Jansen finally found a groove and pitched very well the last two seasons.

He has shared the closing role with Brandon League this year, but with League’s ERA inflated to 5.83, Jansen became manager Don Mattingly’s go-to finisher. Jansen has posted a bullpen-best ERA of 2.55 and has only allowed one run per every three and a half games. The Dodgers need him to continue to shut down the 9th inning in order to keep hot.

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No. 5 Hanley Ramirez

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Injuries have been the most prominent story of the Dodgers’ first half and Hanley Ramirez is one of the main contributors in that area. He visited the 15-day DL twice already this season and then stressed his hamstring again after returning. But, every chance he has had to play, Ramirez has been hot.

After his final return from injury, Ramirez’s batting average slumped to .258 on June 16. In the 15 games since then, Ramirez has raised his average to a blazing .412 with at least one hit in every single game. In that same span, he has had six home runs, five doubles and brought home 16 runners. It is unlikely that he will maintain this pace, but Ramirez will continue to be one of the Dodgers’ main offensive threats.

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No. 4 Hyun-Jin Ryu

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hyun-Jin Ryu. HADOUKEN! Get it? (If not, search "Ryu Street Fighter.")

The Korean superstar was paid $36 million this offseason to be a second ace on the rotation. The Dodgers should not be disappointed with their investment.

Ryu sprinted out of the gate to a 6-3 record, boasting a 2.83 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. The lefty’s bag of tricks has earned him 87 strikeouts (HADOUKEN!... I’m trying to make this a thing) and a No. 3 spot. I expect him to be just as impressive in the second half of the season. Hopefully the Dodgers' offense can help him pick up more of the wins he deserves.

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No. 3 Yasiel Puig

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There is not much that can be said about Cuban superstar Yasiel Puig that someone has not already said. In case you live in a cave and just surfaced, let me fill you in.

Puig is a 22-year-old Cuban the Dodgers paid an outrageous amount of money without much to go on in terms of how he would do in the majors. After a hot spring training, Puig was sent to the minors to develop. As a result of all the aforementioned injury trouble, he was called up and got his first start on June 3. There has been no looking back. No one can be sure if Puig is for real or not, but his skeptics lose more and more of their footholds with each passing game.

In his first 28 games, Puig has only gone hitless four times and has eight three-or-four-hit games. He has eight home runs, seven doubles and a triple to combine for an absurd slugging percentage of .743. So sure, the guy has some really nice power, but probably cannot hit for average, right? Wrong. Puig’s batting average is .440.

That’ll do, Puig. That’ll do.

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No. 2 Adrian Gonzalez

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I recently heard someone bash Adrian Gonzalez saying that James Loney would be a better alternative. I could do nothing more than quietly laugh to myself. Gonzalez has been the most consistent player for the Dodgers all year long. Gonzalez has played in 80 out of the team’s 83 games, tied with Andre Ethier for most.

Batting .300, knocking 12 balls out of the park and plating 51 RBIs – the team leader in that category by far – Gonzalez has shown up big in a season where everyone around him has been going down. He has easily been the Dodgers’ offensive MVP to this point.

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No. 1 Clayton Kershaw

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you read my story last week about why Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the NL West or saw my slideshow ranking him as the second leading candidate for the NL Cy Young, you will not be surprised to see him as No. 1 on this list. Let’s remind everyone how he earned this honor.

Kershaw is the workhorse of the Dodgers pitching rotation. He has the most innings pitched this year for any pitcher in the majors, tied with Adam Wainwright. His win-loss record of 7-5 is misleading as Kershaw only receives about three runs of support per game. Too many of his gems have been negated by the Dodgers’ early season ineptitude in scoring runs.

The powerful lefty has 18 starts this year and one third of them have been no decisions. In those games, Kershaw has allowed a grand total of 10 runs. With that in mind, it is reasonable to believe his record should be much closer to 11-5. His 1.93 ERA is the lowest in the majors and a WHIP of 0.93 comfortably lands him in the top five. In fact, Kershaw is in the top five of most of the major categories.

Although the Dodgers’ ace is one of the least surprising players to be at the top of this Top 10 list, he has truly earned it with his incredible play. The Dodgers will need him to continue his dominant performances in order to have a shot at the playoffs.