Predicting the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Predicting the Los Angeles Dodgers' Opening Day Lineup For 2014
Last season, the Dodgers were a couple of wins from the World Series and that's because they have the best roster that money can buy. The team has gone on a spending spree in recent years and that has resulted in them having one of the deepest pitching rotations and lineups in all of baseball. In 2014, they figure to be contending for a championship again and that starts with their lineup.
A year ago there were several story lines to follow in the Dodgers' lineup. Matt Kemp continued his long injury history and contributed only when healthy. Young slugger Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene and took the league by storm. Since making his debut, he's become the subject of a lot of debate, but he can flat out hit and that's all that matters to the Dodgers.
This year may see more of a youth infusion, but the core pieces that were in Los Angeles a season ago will be there again in 2014. That's why they are the odds on favorites to win the National League West division again. However, health is a major concern up and down the roster with several players that have proven to be injury-prone over the years. Luckily for the Dodgers, even if injuries do pop up, they have enough depth to patch it up in the short term.
While having depth and a solid bench is extremely important, the guys that are in the lineup day in and day out are the ones that will be the difference between success and failure as the season rolls on. For the Dodgers, anything less than a World Series title in 2014 will be a disappointment. Here are the men likely to be in the Opening Day lineup as they try to live up to lofty expectations.
No. 1: OF Carl Crawford
Crawford gets the nod over Puig for the leadoff spot because he has experience hitting in that spot in the past. Puig needs to be put in a position to drive in more runs, not necessarily run up pitch counts and get on base in any way possible. Crawford still has speed if he can stay healthy and he can be a very solid tone-setter for the Dodgers this season.
No. 2: OF Yasiel Puig
One thing that Puig needs to improve upon from a year ago is driving in runners when given the opportunity. He hit 19 home runs, but drove in just 42. That will have to improve in 2014 and hitting behind Crawford will give him a good opportunity to be able to hit him in on a daily basis. Also, he fits well in the No. 2 spot because of his ability to steal bases consistently.
No. 3: SS Hanley Ramirez
While he didn't play for large stretches last season, Ramirez put up some gaudy numbers when he did play. If he can avoid the injury bug this season, he's going to be in the NL MVP discussion and have a very productive season in LA. How he performs in 2014 could determine whether LA is good or great.
No. 4: Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez is the clear choice here because of his raw power and ability to drive in runs. As a bonus, he's a left-handed hitter so he provides more balance in the lineup that is righty-heavy at the top excluding Crawford. Batting cleanup in this potent lineup should enable Gonzalez to drive in 100 or more runs this season.
No. 5: OF Matt Kemp
Kemp's biggest problem is himself. When he's on the field, he's usually phenomenal. However, he hasn't been on the field much lately. Again he missed time due to injury in 2013 and it's becoming a disturbing trend. He's capable of being an elite run producer and base stealer when healthy, so if he can avoid furthering his injury history in 2014, then the Dodgers will be in great shape.
No. 6: 3B Juan Uribe
A seasoned veteran, Uribe provides very solid defense and a good approach at the plate. He will work some great at-bats and make opposing pitchers work even if he does strike out consistently. Uribe will be a staple between the top of the lineup and the bottom of the lineup, so how well he handles that role will go a long way towards helping decide what type of season the Dodgers have this year.
No. 7: Catcher A.J. Ellis
Ellis is nothing special at the plate, but the Dodgers are just hoping that they can get average power and consistency behind the dish from the 32-year-old veteran. Not much will be asked of him, but Ellis should be able to provide timely hitting on occasion and may be able to extend some rallies if they work their way through the top of the order.
No. 8: 2B Alex Guerrero
Signed to a four-year, $28 million deal out of Cuba this offseason, expectations are going to be high for the rookie. Once they see what they have in him he could move up in the order quickly, but for now letting him see a lot of fastballs in the No. 8 hole seems like the right course of action. He will see a lot of fastballs and probably be able to build a little bit of confidence as he moves up in the lineup.
No. 9: Pitcher Clayton Kershaw
Obviously, this isn't to suggest that Kershaw is going to be in the lineup everyday, but this is technically the projection for the Opening Day lineup and he is a lock to get the ball then. He had one of the better pitching seasons in recent memory last year and he looks to build on this season after signing the largest pitching contract in the history of the league. On Opening day, he will be hitting in the No. 9 spot in addition to pitching.