5 Los Angeles Dodgers Who Will Shine in 2014
5 LA Dodgers Who Will Shine in 2014
The 2013 season was a whirlwind campaign for the Los Angeles Dodgers before they finally found their groove as a team. In the early months of the season, the Dodgers were 11 games under .500 at the halfway point, and the season appeared on the brink of no return. Certainly it was not a good time for the club and the fans voiced their opinions on manager Don Mattingly, calling for him to be fired after an eight-game losing streak to start the month of May.
In June, Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig made his debut and the team never looked back. For the rest of the month, Puig hit .436 and seven home runs. The extra spark was just what the team needed and by August, the Dodgers were 10 games over .500. After suffering through the season with injuries to Matt Kemp amongst others, the Dodgers won the NL West and beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3. After advancing the the NLCS, the Dodgers went on to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games, but the summer flare continued on through the offseason for the team.
The Dodgers enter 2014 with a revamped bullpen and a roster that boasts some of the largest contracts in baseball. Clayton Kershaw signed a $215 million deal this past offseason and should have another great year for the club. In addition to Kershaw, the Dodgers hope that their bullpen will benefit from having three big arms ready to pitch the latter innings, including Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League.
As with any team, the key to success for the Dodgers in 2014 will be how the team meshes and works together. Last season, there seemed to be some locker room strife with the way Puig was handled after his errant throws and on field antics, something Nick Punto was not a fan of. Some may say that money cannot build teams, I think the Dodgers will be arguing that it can by the end of 2014.
In his first 104 games in the majors, Puig hit an unbelievable .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI. Puig provided the spark plug that the Dodgers needed to turn the season around and in 2014, he should be another valuable asset for the club. Puig's strong arm in the outfield and bat at the plate can go a long way, if he can keep himself in check for the entire season. The Dodgers need to keep close tabs on Puig so that he does not think he is better than anybody, especially if his antics start to cost the Dodgers any games. Puig is projected to lead off for the Dodgers, giving them a player that could potentially be the best lead off hitter in the game.
The biggest obstacle for the success of Matt Kemp will be his own health. The last time Kemp played an entire season was over three years ago and he was a monster. In 2013, Kemp appeared in just 73 games as he battled shoulder and ankle injuries. He hit .273 with just six home runs. While his power and speed may be on a decline, Kemp will have a big year if he is healthy. Hopefully, the depth of the Dodgers can help give him a cushion so that he doesn't feel the need to prove himself to anybody. He carries a large contract, but he certainly has the abilities to lead the team into the fall, as long as his health remains a top concern.
For as long as I can remember, I've always been pretty high on Zack Greinke. Sure, he has struggled with control and then there was that whole anxiety episode while with the Kansas City Royals, but other than that he is a stud. In each of the past three seasons, Greinke has won at least 15 games and held his ERA to under 3.50. Last season, his first as a Dodger, he posted a 2.63 ERA with a WHIP of 1.11, not bad for a No. 2 pitcher in the rotation.
If the Dodgers are going to be successful this season, they need Greinke to be on his game. There really is no reason to suspect he won't be able to keep the pace he's been on the past few years either. Greinke is one of the most underrated starters in the NL and after this season, that will no longer be the case.
Another Dodger that suffered from the injury bug in 2013 was Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez appeared in just 86 regular season games but was able to make an appearance in the postseason before fracturing his ribs. During 2013, Ramirez hit a blistering .345 and went yard 20 times. I don't suspect he would be able to keep those numbers up for the entire season in 2014, but he should still be able to produce at a high level. His speed (10 SB in 2013) and his vision at the plate will be a huge part of the Dodgers' success this season. If Ramirez and Kemp can stay healthy for a majority of the season, it will be a long season for the Dodgers' NL West foes.
Mostly because of previous management's love for fellow reliever Brandon League, Kenley Jansen was never given the closing job right out of spring training, even though he deserved it. Jansen debuted on the mound in 2000 and since then, he has struck out 347 batters, second behind closer Craig Kimbrel during that time. In 2013 at the age of 25, Jansen pitched 76 2/3 innings with a 1.88 ERA and struck out 38 percent of batters he faced. With the resigning of Brian Wilson this offseason, the Dodgers have cemented Jansen as the starter, and Wilson approves. So far it seems that Wilson is fine with being the 8th inning setup man and Jansen seems poised for a big 2014 season as long as he can keep focused on the mound.