Continuing with our look at the depth charts of the NL West, it’s time to turn our focus to the Los Angeles Dodgers infield. Both first base and shortstop remain locked down by superstars while a lack of a decent free agent market, more or less, forced the Dodgers to stick with what they had. But the team opted to let veteran Mark Ellis leave via free agency and in walks a fresh face over at the keystone. There are likely to be a few question marks, but so far, all seems good in Dodger blue.
Let’s just start with the obvious first…
Adrian Gonzalez will man first base once again. The soon-to-be 32-year old lefty slugger returned to the 20-homer plateau last year, but overall, posted numbers comparable to his 2012 season. With the shoulder work he’s needed, it seems as though his big power days are well behind him, but he has settled in very nicely as a .290 hitter capable of hitting 20 bombs with 100 RBI each season. Obviously it’s not the big, booming power everyone covets, but if you’re considering filling up at other positions first and are willing to wait until the fifth and possibly even sixth round to grab your first baseman, then he makes for a fantastic choice. Be wary of the fact though that panic may hit some owners if the first basemen get plucked real quickly. You may have to think about a fourth round pick here.
Shortstop belongs to none other than Hanley Ramirez who seems to have had a bit of a resurgence and potentially a return to the Hanley of old. OK, maybe not the old, old Hanley, but one capable of being a perennial 20-20 player once again. His 20 home runs and 25 doubles in just 336 plate appearances last year produced a .293 ISO, and while that’s way beyond even the old, old Hanley, it sure as heck looks promising. If he’s 100-percent healthy and in the midst of a long-term negotiation with the Dodgers, then perhaps an explosive 2014 is in the making.
As for third base, it’s more Juan Uribe. Overall, I’m not a huge fan, and neither are very many, it seems. But with a horrible free agent market, the Dodgers were almost forced into bringing him back. His 2013 season was , by no means, terrible given Uribe’s current skill set and performance over the last two seasons, so it’s tough to fault the Dodgers considering their other options. Fantasy-wise, he’s not someone you even think about targeting in drafts and he’s not going to be anything more than an injury-replacement, plug-and-play type of guy. If he has another season similar to last year, then while the Dodgers may have overpaid, they at least did okay for themselves.
Now as for second base, here’s the new kid in town. The Dodgers had success fishing in the Cuban player pool before, so here they go again, this time with Alex Guerrero. Though the job is, technically, not his yet, with a four-year, $28 million dollar deal in place, he is expected to win it outright this spring. He batted .290/.402/.576 in his last season in Cuba, made decent contact and seems to have strong plate discipline, walking more than he struck out during that season. If he can come close to maintaining some of those numbers, providing even just a little bit of offensive punch, and can chip in some solid defense, then he’s already an upgrade from last year.
And finally, behind the plate, there’s A.J. Ellis with back-up Tim Federowicz once again. Ellis showed some real promise back in 2012, but he followed it up last year with a lower average, less power, fewer walks and a weaker on-base percentage. Perhaps much of it could be blamed on his .269 BABIP, but even if his average did pick up, there’s not much more to come from him in the rest of the offensive areas anyway. Without really knowing if he can bring up his OBP, he goes back to being the low-end option he once was prior to 2012.
The primary back-ups in the infield will be Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers. There’s certainly potential to be had, but as we’ve seen over the last couple of years, potential is just something that we’ll never live up to, mostly in our parents’ eyes. Gordon has fantastic speed, plays some good defense, but just can;t seem to hit with any sort of consistency at the big league level. Maybe his opportunities haven’t been steady and/or plentiful, but each time he’s been up, it’s been a letdown. He’s got youth on his side still, though, so there’s still hope. As for Sellers, he’s been used sparingly over the last few seasons, but with very little power, minimal speed, and lacking in plate discipline, there’s nothing there with which fantasy owners need to be concerned.
Fantasy-wise, it all seems pretty simple. Gonzalez makes for a solid option at first, Ramirez has elevated his status again and should be considered a top-three shortstop, Guerrero should make for an interesting late-round option, and Ellis will be useful if he can bring his OBP back up again. As for Uribe, well, as Mike Petriello said, at least the Titanic had music playing when it was going down…