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L.A. Dodgers: Will the Boys in Blue Live Up to $223 Million in Expectations?

The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ record-breaking annual payroll of approximately $223 million shows how much the Guggenheim Partners group desires to resurrect the franchise. However, the product that appears on the field on Opening Day will be less than stellar.

New season. New players. New enthusiasm. A beautifully renovated stadium. For the first time in four years, hearts are thumping in anticipation amongst Dodgers’ fans everywhere.

The problem is, those fans may be dealt a heavy dose of disappointment, at least in the early stages of the season.

A great place to begin the analysis is in the outfield, which potentially could be the finest baseball has seen in years.

A healthy and productive Matt Kemp will be the backbone of the Dodgers’ run production in 2013. And a resurgent Andre Ethier will complement the offensive output. If Kemp can come anywhere close to his .324 average, 39 home runs and 126 RBI from 2011, the Boys in Blue may soar.

Ethier hopes not only to get back on track in the power department but also to improve his performance against left-handed pitching. Andre poked 31 homers and collected 106 RBI in 2009. If he shows the ability to approach those numbers, he would exceed most expectations.

Left fielder Carl Crawford is the X-factor early on in the season. If his recovery from Tommy John surgery progresses nicely, this may be an exceptional outfield. Nobody expects him to live up to his banner year of 2006 when he hit .305 with 18 bangers, 16 triples, 77 RBI and 58 stolen bases, but again, anything on the radar of these figures would be beautiful.

The biggest problem with Crawford right now is his arm strength, and if anything should affect his health in the coming weeks, the only other options in left are Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr.

And this is where it gets ugly, at least on the offensive side.

Adrian Gonzalez at first base anchors the infield, both with his glove and at the dish. Just for reference, it was only 2011 when he hit .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBI for the Boston Red Sox.

Outside of Gonzo, and considering the thumb injury to Hanley Ramirez at the World Baseball Classic, the remainder of the infield looks bleak.

Thirty-five-year-old Mark Ellis is set to man second base on a daily basis, despite his continuing struggles to hit right-handed pitching. Luis Cruz, a career minor leaguer up until last year, is poised to produce at short. The third base spot may be a rotation of Juan Uribe, Nick Punto and Hairston Jr.

Not one single Dodgers fan across the land expected Uribe to hang around this long.

A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz will handle the duties behind the dish. Ellis had an impressive year in 2012, but many are skeptical if it can be duplicated. “Fed-Ex” is tremendous with the glove but is continuing to develop his skills with the stick.

The starting pitching staff still has a ton of question marks. Clayton Kershaw is the rock and the ace and hopes to carry the load. If Zack Greinke’s elbow is healthy and loosens up, he may prove to be a formidable No. 2.

Hyun-Jin Ryu has thrown effectively this spring, and despite his unwillingness to throw extra bullpen sessions as scheduled, he could be solid for Los Angeles moving forward. Ryu pitched four innings on Thursday, allowing no hits or walks while striking out four batters.

Josh Beckett has had a solid spring and has been productive since arriving in LA. Many hope that Chad Billingsley can return to his All-Star form of 2009, although his finger injury this spring and elbow problems last year may impact his performance.

With the surplus of starting pitchers still on the roster, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly may either be forced to move to relief duties or endure a stint on the disabled list.

As for the pen, Brandon League, to the chagrin of many fans, is poised to be the closer. Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario are expected to be solid set-up men. League practically imploded Friday night, surrendering two hits, a walk and an earned run before being bailed out by Steven “Paco” Rodriguez.

As for management, skipper Don Mattingly will certainly begin the season on the hot seat. Despite the injuries the Dodgers have suffered early on, president Stan Kasten will expect Donnie Baseball to produce wins.

Even with the injuries and the holes in the infield, the Boys in Blue have the potential to perform well. However, as reflected above, there are many “ifs” that need to go positively for this to work. If Mattingly can gather his troops and create some chemistry, the Dodgers could be a contender.

But, with all the holes and question marks, this squad certainly isn’t worth $223 million.

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MLB Trade Ideas: 7 Teams That Could Pursue Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp

When many teams around MLB contact the Los Angeles Dodgers front office about the possibility of a prospective trade, the first player usually brought up in any conversation is outfielder Matt Kemp.

In the weeks prior to the trade deadline last season, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was adamant that Kemp wasn’t available for trade, but that didn’t stop other teams from inquiring. It could be a different story this year. Kemp’s current contract expires at the end of this season, and owner Frank McCourt may very well base the decision to retain Kemp on his production during the first half of the 2011 campaign.

If Kemp isn’t extended for more than two years, he will become a free agent for the first time after the 2013 season. Considering he will earn $6.95 million this year, his salary demands could easily reach eight figures as he enters his final year of pre-arbitration.

Like many of his teammates, Kemp’s 2010 statistics saw a significant decline from his Silver Slugger and Gold Glove year in 2009. Despite the fall in production, we already examined why many expect Kemp to significantly improve in 2011 here.

The following slides show seven teams that may pursue Matt Kemp in the months leading to the 2011 trade deadline, and even if the Dodgers decide that Kemp’s best future is in Los Angeles, Colletti will once again find himself in a position of entertaining dozens of phone calls before July 31.     

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L.A. Dodgers: Which Minor League Prospect Will Be Called Upon First in 2011?

With Opening Day only one week away and the list of injuries seemingly growing, fans across Dodgertown are left wondering if a door may open for one of several minor league prospects within the organization.

The track record of general manager Ned Colletti suggests that he much rather prefers middle-of-the-road veterans over the youngsters, however a handful of the farmhands have already shown positive value over the course of Cactus League play this spring.

There are still at least two to three roster spots wide open, and considering that Vicente Padilla, Jon Garland and Casey Blake may not be ready for the opener against the San Francisco Giants on March 31, management may indeed turn to one of the youngsters early.

The following slides show seven current minor league players who may be called upon much earlier than anticipated, offer a brief background on each, as well as offer a short summary on how each performed during their opportunities this spring.

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Los Angeles Dodgers: 10 Under-the-Radar Spring Training Storylines to Follow

With spring training now at its peak and Cactus League play in full gear, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in the national spotlight of the sports media in regards to a number of popular storylines.

Team ownership is obviously at the forefront, as Frank McCourt was anticipating a $200 million cash advance from Fox until the transaction was blocked by MLB commissioner Bud Selig late last week. It’s unclear exactly where the overall finances of the club lie, but the fact that McCourt was involved in plotting such a deal doesn’t sound encouraging.

In the meantime, the divorce ordeal between Frank and Jamie continues to trudge along. Frank’s gun is loaded with the intention of new trials and appeals, while Jamie continues to express interest in gaining some type of control of the organization. However, the team, the fans and Major League Baseball itself would love nothing more than to see this tedious affliction become resolved.

As for player news, the absence of reliever Ronald Belisario from his third consecutive spring training start also captured its fair share of headlines. While Belisario continues to offer excuses about being separated from the team, he still remains in his native Venezuela. Most analysts around the league seem to agree that he’s already seen his last days wearing Dodger Blue.

Vicente Padilla, re-signed by general manager Ned Colletti to bolster the bullpen and provide insurance to the starting rotation, has already been under the knife to fix a recurring wrist injury that has been bothering him for more than a year. According to various opinions, Padilla may begin throwing again in as little as three-to-four weeks.

The passing of Dodger legend Duke Snider, who could arguably be known as the greatest player the franchise has ever seen, brought a somber moment of sadness to Dodgers fans far and wide. Without a doubt, for his contributions to the Dodger legacy, the Duke will be remembered for eternity.

As all the aforementioned news made headlines nationwide, a number of storylines which are critical to the club’s success continue to fly under the radar. The following slides highlight 10 such stories, as well as offer a brief commentary about each topic shown.

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Clayton Kershaw and the 10 Best Lefty Starters in Dodgers History

Clayton Kershaw is not only quickly becoming the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, but he’s also arguably on the fast track to being one of the premiere starters in all of baseball.

Among the larger criticisms of the Dodgers pitching staff is the lack of a true ace, however Kershaw’s performance during his first full two years of service indicates that it’s only a matter of time before he fills that void.

Kershaw, who will turn 23 in March, finished the 2010 season at 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA and 212 strikeouts in just over 204 innings of work. His number of wins could have easily been much higher if it weren’t for the Dodgers’ sluggish bats, who incidentally provided the lefty phenom with a mere 3.9 runs per game of offensive support.

One of his most impressive performances of last season came on May 9 when he outdueled Colorado Rockies’ ace Ubaldo Jimenez to lead Los Angeles to a 1-0 victory. Earning the win, Kershaw threw eight innings of shutout ball while striking out nine, having only surrendered two hits and three walks. Notwithstanding, he topped that effort with his first career complete-game shutout against Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants on September 14. During that affair, Kershaw yielded no walks and only four hits as the Dodgers clinched the 1-0 win.

Although he doesn’t yet have the track record to prove so, some fans across Dodgertown have already began discussions that rank Kershaw among the greatest left-handed starters in Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers history. It may sound absurd, but Kershaw may become known among the Dodger lefty greats sooner than many would expect.

Surprisingly, amidst the Dodgers’ rich pitching heritage that spans 127 years, very few southpaws have experienced any type of dominating, consistent success. It’s not difficult in the least for the common Dodger enthusiast to list upwards of 35 right-handed starting pitchers who have proven to be elite, however the task of naming only 10 lefties is extremely challenging.

The following slides highlight 10 of the most successful southpaws in Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers history, as well as offer a bit of commentary regarding their careers as Dodgers. For those reading this piece who know of any die-hard Dodger fans who claim to be historical scholars or statistic addicts, feel free to challenge them to name 10 starting left-handed starting pitchers who deserve to be among the Dodgers elite—the task can certainly make even the most well-informed Dodger enthusiast seem feeble-minded.

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Los Angeles Dodgers: The 10 Best Opening Day Performances of the Past 25 Years

With spring training set to begin in a few short weeks and Opening Day less than two months away, fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers can’t help but feel a tingle of anxiety knowing that baseball season is only just around the corner.

The struggles of 2010 are now in the past.

Headed by skipper Don Mattingly, the 2011 coaching staff is almost entirely brand new, while multiple moves made by general manager Ned Colletti have filled several gaps in the roster. Although a small number of fans still remain pessimistic as Frank McCourt barely holds on to his regime as owner, the majority see 2011 as a fresh opportunity for the Boys in Blue to become contenders once again.

The home opener in 2009 was truly something special. Second baseman Orlando Hudson impressed the entire baseball world by hitting for the cycle in his first home game as a Dodger. Chad Billingsley was brilliant on the mound, surrendering only five hits and one earned run while striking out 11. The remainder of the Dodgers lineup had an offensive field day against future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, as Los Angeles routed the San Francisco Giants, 11-1.

Despite all the glory, Dodgers fans were forced to wait an entire week from the beginning of the season to see their beloved club take the field at Chavez Ravine.

Moving into the 2011 campaign, Dodger Stadium will play host to Opening Day for the first time in three years. And what’s more fitting is that Los Angeles will battle long-time rival and 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants. The sellout crowd on-hand will promise to be nothing short of electrifying.

As a prelude to the clash with the Giants on March 31, the following slides highlight the 10 best individual Opening Day performances by Dodgers players over the past 25 years. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy a quick ride through a quarter-century of Dodgers history.

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Los Angeles Dodgers: Ranking the 10 Most Talented Prospects on the Farm

It’s that time of the year when baseball publications and blogs far and wide weigh in with their opinions as to which players deserve mentioning on their respective teams’ Top 10 prospects lists, and for the Los Angeles Dodgers, those number of listings are seemingly endless.

Periodicals such as Baseball America, Fangraphs, The Hardball Times, and a number of blogs from SB Nation are among only a few who have published prospect lists in the past week alone.

More than a month ago, Dodgers writers here at Bleacher Report compiled their own list of prospects based on their overall tools and readiness as to when their major league debuts will arrive. We’ve even gone as far as composing a slideshow which featured the Top 20 outfielders in the entire Dodgers organization who may make some type of impact in the near future.

In this latest installment, we’ve gone off the radar a bit and put together a list which features the Top 10 prospects in the farm system based on talent alone. While the overall speed, arm strength, power or superior glove work of a player may set them apart from others, sometimes the critical intangibles such as plate discipline, defensive range and overall savvy for the game take a number of years to develop.

Admittedly, most of the published lists themselves are nothing more than a random grouping of the top names on the farm, as each publication is subjective and has its own opinion. However, although entirely opinionated, the following list features a few statistical angles and facts about each player typically not known by the average fan.

Also, feel free to check back at Bleacher Report throughout the course of 2011 for periodical updates on how all of the Dodgers’ top prospects are progressing.

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Los Angeles Dodgers: A Look at Marcus Thames and the Blue Crew Outfield

With their most recent acquisition of outfielder Marcus Thames, the Los Angeles Dodgers not only achieved an addition of power to the roster, but they also balanced the bats in the process. Thames will join a solid corps of outfielders who individually feature power, speed, and reliable defense.

Some fans across Dodgertown have very high hopes for 2011, yet many factors will come into play that determine the level of success during the upcoming campaign. Team chemistry, attitude, and coaching are just several aspects of the game which need polished in order for the Dodgers to be contenders.

Other fans are focusing their attention on the long haul, and based on the high level of talent on the farm, envision a bright future for the Boys in Blue during the years to come.

The outfield is just one of several areas that’s packed full of potential—both from the veterans and the future stars. Spring training will play a large role in determining who plays where and which players see the bulk of action this season. Depending on injuries and the level of production from certain players, a number of new faces may be making their Dodger debuts.

In no particular order, the following slides showcase the top 10 outfielders in the entire Los Angeles Dodgers organization and offer a bit of commentary on each player. Also included is a special bonus slide which features an additional 10 players in the system who range from Single-A farmhands up to several outfielders who have numerous years of MLB experience.

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Casey Blake: Are the Los Angeles Dodgers Thinking Outfield for the Beard?

Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest buzz around the Dodgers camp right now is the uncertainty surrounding which player will see the bulk of action in left field for Los Angeles during the upcoming 2011 campaign.

As absurd as it sounds, one name that continues to crop up is Casey Blake.

Since the evolution of the Internet, the Dodgers’ fanbase has been known for its overwhelming number of fan forums and blogs.

At the present moment, in every direction on each one of these websites are endless discussions about the left field situation, as posters offer their own advice to skipper Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti on how to staff the squad’s roster.

While many believe that Tony Gwynn Jr. may be the best option in left, some have brought up several different platoon situations, most specifically scenarios involving Jay Gibbons splitting time with everyday third baseman Casey Blake.

Other notable bloggers have gone as far to say that Andre Ethier should be platooned, pointing out his ineffectiveness against left-handed pitching.

For the record, it should be noted that several of us here at Bleacher Report believe that Xavier Paul just may surprise everyone in Dodgertown and have a breakout season while substantially contributing to the offense. We’ve also indicated several times that it’s even logical to shift Matt Kemp to right field and Ethier into left in order to optimize the defensive game.

Nevertheless, for the casual Dodger fan, all of this speculation can be quite confusing or misleading. Yet that’s all it is—completely hypothetical. This is why players report to spring training six weeks before the regular season begins—anything can happen, and everybody invited has the potential to shine.

Speaking to Ken Gurnick from, Mattingly has offered up a few ideas already and admitted he talked to Blake about the possibility of seeing outfield time.

“Casey understands at this point in his career he might benefit by playing a hair less [in the infield] and might get more production,” Mattingly told Gurnick on Wednesday. “He’s played a lot of outfield, more right field than left.”

Although not a prototypical platooning team, the Dodgers have benefited from several platoon situations in recent history. Even managing great Tommy Lasorda, who never really advocated these types of scenarios, utilized several combinations in the early 1990s that showed a bit of success.

In 1991, Lasorda utilized right-handed-hitting Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter against leftties, while plugging in Mike Scioscia against right-handed pitching. At third base he rotated utility men Mike Sharperson and Lenny Harris based on pitching matchups.

In 2004, Dodger manager Jim Tracy benefited from perhaps his most successful platoon advantage when Alex Cora shared time with Jose Hernandez at second base. Cora hit .264 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI that year, while Hernandez belted 13 HRs of his own while batting .289 with a .540 slugging percentage.

Still, as critical as these hitting matchups seem, they may not be as vital as many people think. As a general rule, most analysts use the typical 2:1 split—on average, teams normally face right-handed pitching two-thirds of the time while seeing left-handers the other third.

For the Dodgers in 2010, it was a bit more lopsided. Los Angeles saw lefty starters in 50 games while they battled right-handed starting pitching in 112 games. In 6,140 total plate appearances, the Dodgers logged 4,454 against right-handed pitching and 1,686 against lefties, which calculates to a 73/27 percent split.

As for the 37-year-old Blake, although he may benefit from more rest than he’s accustomed, the outfield may not be the best option. It was only several years ago when he saw significant outfield time with the Cleveland Indians. However, he experienced his fair share of struggles.

Over the course of 2005-2006 he played a total of 231 games in the outfield but committed a whopping 11 errors. His UZR in right field for the 2005 season was 5.3, while in 2006 he dropped to 0.9, which is considered well below the norm.

In addition, Dodger Stadium, with its vast real estate and treacherous corners in the outfield, isn’t exactly friendly to those who are not so much fleet of foot. Just ask Manny Ramirez.

Regardless, Blake is the type of competitor who will do whatever it takes for the team to win, and if it means playing outfield, first base or being utilized as a pinch hitter, he’s more than up for the challenge. However, with a full five-man outfielding corps already on the roster, it remains to be seen if left field is a spot where he’ll find success.

View B/R’s complete 25-man roster projections for the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers here.

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Los Angeles Dodgers: Complete 25-Man Roster Projections for Opening Day

With spring training quickly approaching, several questions continue to linger in terms of how the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 25-man roster will shape up once the players arrive at Camelback Ranch to prepare themselves for the long journey ahead.

Although general manager Ned Colletti has been very active this winter with numerous new additions to the club, there are still players on the free agent market available who may have the skills or abilities to complete a roster with a few holes.

Right now, the buzz around Dodgertown suggests that the team’s biggest needs are an outfielder with power, a number-two hitter in the lineup, and a left-handed arm in the bullpen. While Colletti may indeed explore free agent possibilities or entertain trade options, the organization is rich with talent and there are plenty of components to assemble a formidable 25-man roster.

Several roster spots may be determined by individual performances during Cactus League play, most specifically the fifth outfielding spot and the sixth arm in the bullpen. While there will be tight competition to finalize these several spots, the new coaching staff will also look to establish chemistry and generate positive momentum heading into Opening Day.

Assuming that the roster stays relatively the same as the season approaches, the following slides project all 25 players who may find themselves on the 25-man roster, show a handful of players who will be in heated battles to earn a place on the big league squad, as well as recommend a starting lineup for Opening Day on April 1.

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