As we close the books on 2011 and enter into 2012, the hot stove is heating up, and the start of spring training is getting closer and closer by the day. It appears the Dodgers may have shut their wallets for the winter. With the impending sale process unfolding in the background, the Dodgers have now filled their 40 man roster. So with that, let’s take a look at how we think the 25 man Dodger roster will look like for 2012. I will also present some projected starting lineups as well. Let’s get to it.
the starting rotation
- Kershaw(Cy Young)
- Eovaldi/De La Rosa/Eveland
With the failure to resign Hiroki Kuroda, the Starting rotation will be watered down in 2012. Basically it won’t be nearly as good, still there is reason for optimism. The guys above are definitely capable, and the Dodgers should still have decent pitching. The 2011 NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw will lead the rotation as staff ace. You thought Kershaw was great last season? Whoa boy just wait til next year. He may not lose at all. Billingsley has to slot up to the number two spot. With Kuroda leaving, Bills has to step up next year. Rotation regular Ted Lilly returns as the number three starter. After Lilly it gets a bit dicey. Newly acquired Chris Capuano slots in as the number four guy. The number five spot should be a revolving door for two or three pitchers. Until Rubby De La Rosa returns from surgery, we should see rookie Nathan Eovaldi share time with journeyman Dana Eveland. Remember the number four and five spots in most teams’ rotations see a lot of turnover, but I’m beginning to wonder if we will ever see a whole season with one pitcher in the number five spot. The Dodgers now have three lefty starters: Kershaw, Lilly, and Capuano. The rest of the starters are all righty. Can Billingsley put together two good halves? Will Lilly continue to use a new slider grip we saw him use last year? Can Capuano keep the ball in the park? Will Rubby De La Rosa come back from Tommy John surgery? The Dodgers will face all these questions in 2012.
With the rotation considerably weaker, we’re going to have to make up for it with a strong bullpen. Over the last couple of years the Dodgers bullpen has been a major source of heartburn for Dodger fans. Once formidable, it was ravaged by injuries as the Dodgers were forced to fill holes with bums. As injuries, retreads, and ineffectiveness took over the Dodger bullpen, phrases like meltdown, and “no lead is safe” became regular parts of a Dodger fans daily vernacular. However once the bums were DFA’d, the Dodgers finally handed over the bullpen to the kids.
Guerra, Jansen, Elbert, and Lindblom will all be returning. Guerra will be the closer, and Jansen will resume setup duties. I would rather Jansen be closer to be honest. While Guerra had a very solid rookie year, Jansen was overpowering. overcoming an irregular heartbeat and a sore shoulder to post the best strikeout per nine rate in MLB history. Still I don’t see the Dodgers changing anything unless there is a reason too. It also gives Mattingly the option of using Jansen as an “out man” like he did last year, bringing him into situations in the 7th or 8th innings with men on base, when the game is really on the line. Scott Elbert returns as a situational lefty. Lindblom will share some of the 8th inning duties as well. Matt Guerrier is under contract. Nothing we can do about that. Although I don’t think Guerrier is terrible, just mediocre. Dougie is up for arbitration, so I think the Dodgers will bring him back. He was decent last year, and the Dodgers asked a lot out of him. I’m fine with him returning to the back end of the pen. As long as Mattingly stops bringing him in with runners on base….The Dodgers will need someone to be a spot starter/long man/occasional situational guy. Basically its the Jeff Weaver role. Eveland could slot into that role quite nicely. Hawskworth and Kuo I wouldn’t bring back. Hawk is too inconsistent, and Kuo’s arm is toast. We will miss Kuo.
The Starting Lineups
VS. Righties VS. Lefies
- Gordon6 Gordon6
- Loney3 Sands3
- Kemp8 Kemp8
- Ethier9 Rivera7
- Sands7 Ethier9
- M.Ellis4 M.Ellis4
- A.Ellis2 A.Ellis2
- Uribe5 Uribe5
- Pitcher9 Pitcher9
Ok so the idea is to have one lineup against righties and one versus lefties. I like Rivera, but I don’t like blocking Jerry Sands. I think Sands has done all he can do in the minors, and needs to get playing time. The Dodgers might not be sold on him yet. He is still very young, but after his final month hot streak I think he should get the left field job. What the Dodgers could do is platoon Sands and Rivera. Normally I don’t like platoons, but this one might work. Rivera smashes lefties, so you can play Rivera against lefties, and stick Sands at first base, resting Loney against lefties. Bison in center, and Dre in right. The infield will be Uribe at third base, Gordon at shortstop, newly signed Mark Ellis at second, and Loney at first. With Big Rod’s departure, A.J. Ellis will finally get a shot behind the plate. Dee Gordon is going to have to learn to get on base more and draw more walks. Loney hopefully will continue to use his new and improved swing as the de facto second hitter. Mattingly learned last year that Kemp should be hitting third. Rivera and Ethier can switch off batting cleanup and fifth. The Ellises will bat sixth and seventh, and Uribe will be setting up residence at the bottom of the Dodgers lineup. One of the Dodgers biggest problems last year was their lack of power, and losing Big Rod’s 16 homers is going to hurt. However the Dodgers might be ok, with internal options like another MVP year from Matt Kemp, a healthy and productive Andre Ethier, and hopefully a revived Uribe. If we can get 20 homers out of Ethier and 15 homers from Uribe and Sands, we could be ok. We can only hope that everyone can stay healthy, and that should lead to more power and run production.
The last part of the roster is the bench. Often overlooked but very important for a National League team. The Dodgers must have versatile players who can come off the bench in the late innings and get pinch hits. Unfortunately we’re looking at another weak bench. The Dodger bench has seen a lot of turnover over the last few years. It seems as if the Dodger bench is where useless aging automatic out laden vets come to retire. Looks like this year won’t be any different.
- Gwynn Jr.OF
Generally most teams have five players available on the bench before each game: two infielders, two outfielders, and a backup catcher. Sellers should make the team for his slick glove, but he can’t hit and neither can Adam Kennedy, who should be the other infielder after the Dodgers just signed him to an 800,000 dollar contract. Both players are pretty versatile though. Sellers can play second, short, and third. Kennedy can play first, second, and third bases. Kennedy can even play the outfield if needed. If there are any injuries, Albuquerque is always a phone call away, and in that event we should see the likes of Russ Mitchell or maybe even Ivan Dejesus. Don’t count on those two providing much. Dejesus is a failed prospect who never panned out. I don’t see much of a future for him with the team. Mitchell is a 30 year old career minor leaguer not likely to see anytime beyond an emergency and or the obligatory September call up. Their ceilings aren’t likely to change, and the Dodgers know this. The outfield should see the return of Tony Gwynn Jr. He is a terrific outfielder and if you remember made two game saving flying catches last year. Rivera and or Sands should grab the other outfield bench spot. Matt Treanor will backup A.J. Ellis. Kennedy and Gwynn are the only lefties.
There you have it, that is how the Dodgers roster might shape up for 2012. The lineups above are projections of possible examples. It is still possible the Dodgers could make more moves before the off season is over. There are many questions entering the 2012 season. Can Kemp, Ethier, Kershaw, and Loney lead the Dodgers back to the postseason? In due time we will tell. Spring training is right around the corner! Go Blue