Grading the Dodgers: The Infield
Continuing the trend, it’s time to take a look at the Dodgers infield. The infield seemed to be a constant state of flux this year (remember that Uribe Guy? Callaspo? Yep they actually played for the Dodgers this year) although that didn’t stop it from being the most functional and productive part of the roster in 2015. Nonetheless, it’s time to get the report card out.
Adrian Gonzalez – A+
In 156 games this year, Gonzalez hit .275/.350/.380 with 28 long balls. He had an OPS+ of 129 and and identical wRC+ meaning that by both measures, Gonzalez was 29% better than the rest of the league. Pair this with Gold Glove caliber defense at 1B and it becomes plain to see just how valuable the first baseman is to the Dodgers. Nearly all of Gonzalez’ offensive numbers were the highest they’ve been since his massive 2011 campaign with Boston and that’s despite being slowed by back problems for most of September.
Gonzalez is under team control through 2018 and should remain a reliable source of production in the middle of the lineup for the duration.
Howie Kendrick – A
Another reliable source of production, Kendrick was a perfect fit for the Dodgers at second base this year. Whilst his defense took a hit this year, it was still better than Dee Gordon’s last season and his steady presence helped solidify a streaky offense. On the year Kendrick hit a robust .295/.336/.409 with 9 home runs and 54 RBI’s at a premium position. Kendrick’s numbers were good enough for an OPS+ of 107 (slightly above league average) and 1.1 WAR. Kendrick may have gotten an A+ here but a late season hamstring injury really hurt his counting stats. Kendrick’s versatility in the lineup was also a big factor as he was able to hit behind Gonzalez, giving him some needed protection or at the the top of the lineup, even leading off in the NLDS.
Howie Kendrick is a free agent this off season and will leave behind some big shoes to fill. Finding someone to take his place in the batting order is going to be pivotal this off season.
Justin Turner – A+
Perhaps the biggest reason for the Dodgers continued success the last couple of seasons has been the emergence of Justin Turner. Originally used as a utility infielder, Turner stole the starting job at 3rd form Juan Uribe and was a force at the plate for most of the year. Even battling a staph infection and loose bodies in his left knee later in the year (read more about that and the subsequent surgery here) couldn’t taint his overall brilliant numbers in 2015. This year Turner slashed .294/.370/.491 good for an OPS of .861 (138 OPS+) with 16 home runs (a career high) and 60 RBI’s. Turner’s performance earned him 3.9 WAR down slightly from 4.2 in 2014.
Turner is arbitration eligible for the last time this year and is projected to earn $5.3M. With Turner going into his age 31 season and no clear alternative at 3rd for the foreseeable future, the Dodgers should seriously consider an extension here.
Jimmy Rollins B-
The Dodgers new all along that at some point phenom, Corey Seager, would be ready to take over at short. However, April was certainly not the time for that and so a move was made to acquire Jimmy Rollins. Rollins was never acquired to be a superstar (which is a good thing because he wasn’t), the Dodgers simply needed a reliable, quality shortstop to hold down the fort and Rollins did just that. The fielding metrics certainly didn’t love Rollins as he posted a -8 defensive runs saved (9 errors) but somehow that was a massive step up from Hanley Ramirez who posted a deplorable -30 defensive runs saved (-12 last year with the Dodgers, 16 errors). Rollins largely struggled with the bat posting a .224/.385/.358 with 13 home runs and 12 stolen bases.
Rollins was basically league average in 2015 but he did what he needed to and that’s give us Corey Seager.
Rollins is a free agent.
Yasmani Grandal A-
Grandal formed the key return in the Matt Kemp deal last off season. Noted for his excellent pitch framing, you could so often see the former Padre stealing numerous strikes for his pitcher. He worked extremely well with Zack Greinke and if he goes on to win the Cy Young, it may be Grandal who deserves a lot of the credit. He also did a fine job with the running game. Blocking is probably the weakest part of his defensive game but is outweighed by those other two elements.
With the bat it was a tale of two seasons for the Cuban catcher. Grandal absolutely raked in the first half en route to an all -star selection. Grandal was a legitimate middle of the order bat and was a strong source of power. Great production from a strong defensive catcher. However, Grandal’s season crashed and burned after a foul tip got his left shoulder which would later require surgery (which was successful and there was no damage to the labrum).
With his shoulder back in one piece fans can look forward to his potent bat back in the middle of the lineup for a full season.
Corey Seager A
2015’s version of Yasiel Puig, Seager put a charge into this lineup upon his arrival as a September call up. The 21 year old was impressive in his first taste of big league ball hitting .337/.425/.561 in 27 games. Seager also managed 4 home runs and an OPS+ of 173.
Seager looks like a perennial all-star at a premium position. He will be under team control for another 6 years and a possible extension candidate if he continues to perform next season
AJ Ellis B-
After multiple productive seasons, Ellis’ bat took a major step back the last two years. After a poor 1st half in which he managed just a .217/.330/.337 line, Ellis responded in the second half by simplifying his approach and was promptly rewarded hitting .255/.376/.459. He wound up hitting 7 long balls and had an OPS+ of 112 – solid production for a back up catcher.
Ellis is a great defender and has a good working relationship with ace Clayton Kershaw and as such is one of the more the best back up catchers in the game.