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2013 Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Following a disappointing season in 2012, the expectations in 2013 are higher than ever. Will the Dodgers contend for a World Series or continue to disappoint?

The Dodgers hope to do this in October 2013
The Dodgers hope to do this in October 2013
Jeff Golden

Notable Numbers

232,330,951: Reasons why the Dodgers should be winners in 2013. In actuality, that is the Dodgers' payroll commitment following a $111M commitment in 2012. Although nearly $11 million of the total is dead money from Jason Schmidt and Manny Ramirez, it is a massive payroll that the new owners are expecting will fuel a World Series run. Anything short of a World Series appearance would be a massive disappointment for ownership (Guggenheim) and the Dodger faithful. Oh, and it's only the largest payroll in history. No pressure!

.112: ISO (SLG - AVG) for the Dodgers last season -- ranking them last in the league. The Dodgers had mostly a make-shift lineup for a good portion of the season while Kemp, and at times Ethier, rehabbed from injuries. In addition, they had Juan Rivera, Scott Van-Slyke, and Bobby Abreu in the heart of the order for a good chunk of the season. Expect the ISO to be on the rise with a healthy Kemp, Gonzalez, Ethier, and eventually Ramirez (out through middle of May) for nearly a full season. This team will at least pack a lot more pop.

5: The number of home runs Matt Kemp hit between the end of April and the beginning of September. After a crippling hamstring injury in May, which forced him to miss two months, Kemp was not the guy who hit a monstrous 12 homers in April. That was a big blow for the "Boys in Blue" as Kemp was the heart and soul of the Dodger lineup, one that featured little firepower beyond the Kemp and Ethier combo. A healthy Kemp will be an immense improvement in the four spot behind Gonzalez.

2012 Season in Review

The Dodger season started with a bang. With the Guggenheim group purchasing the team, the Dodgers were given a reprieve from the daily drama present during the final year of the McCourt era. The fans were quick to take to the capacious checkbooks of the new ownership group, led by public figurehead, LA icon, and the always smiling Magic Johnson. And boy, did the Dodgers grab ahold of this new start, winning nine out of the first ten games en route to a league best 30-13 record by May 22nd. Led by a monumental April from Kemp, who who hit . 417 with an on-base percentage of .490 and a slugging percentage of .893, the Dodgers seemed to be a lock for a playoff run.

But then disaster silently struck in the form of a hamstring injury, one that kept Matt Kemp out from the end of May to the middle of July. A makeshift lineup including Scott Van Slyke, Dee Gordon, Bobby Abreu, Elian Herrera, Juan Rivera, A.J. Ellis, Mark Ellis, and Andre Ethier failed to keep the magic rolling. By July 13, Kemp returned to a Dodger squad that sat in second place, a measly seven games above .500. The Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez on July 25th, and swept the Giants in Hanley's first full series with the club, tying them a top the NL West. Then on August 25, following a blockbuster deal between the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez joined the club as the Dodgers sat two games behind their rivals for 1st place. But by September 14, the Dodgers found that their newly revamped lineup would fail to gain any ground on the hot Giants, later falling 11 games back on September 22nd.

Key Offseason Moves

Dodgers sign Zack Greinke to a 6 year 147 million dollar deal on 12/9/12

The Dodgers hope Greinke will serve as a legit number two behind Clayton Kershaw. Greinke is infamous for never pitching to his peripherals, but moving to a spacious Dodger Stadium and a relatively weak hitting NL West, Greinke could see his ERA match what his FIP skill tells us. The Dodgers are slated to have an above average defense with the additions of Crawford in left and Gonzalez at first, which should help Greinke prove the value of his contract.

Dodgers sign Hyun-Jin Ryu to a 6 year 36 million dollar contract on 12/10/12

While the overall talent level of Ryu remains unknown, his strong spring is at least promising. The 6'3'' 220 pound pitcher offers great control of his fastball and a plus changeup that has fooled righties this spring. He offers a nice repeatable delivery with some noticeable deception and impressive over the top arm speed. Ryu is to be slated somewhere in the four to five spot in a rotation that expects to be one of the better starting fives in the entire league.

2013 Depth Chart

The Dodgers expect to roll out a similar lineup to the one they had at the end of 2012 season. Hanley Ramirez will be out six to eight weeks with a thumb injur, so at shortstop expect to see the slick fielding Luis Cruz with a rotating door of Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Juan Uribe at third base. Meanwhile, Carl Crawford is expecting to make his Dodger and National League debut when he takes left field on Opening Day against the Giants. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will field their familiar positions in center and right with Elian Herrera and Skip Schumaker acting as backup outfield/infield types. The reliable Adrian Gonzalez will play first base with Mark Ellis playing regularly to his right. A surprisingly solid A.J. Ellis will take the reps behind the plate with Tim Federowicz -- Fed-Ex for short -- playing backup catcher.

The rotation looks to be one of the best in the league with Clayton Kershaw serving as the indisputable ace and number one in front of Greinke, Beckett, Billingsley, and Ryu. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are carrying eight major league quality pitchers, with Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, and Chris Capuano looking from the outside in. Expect one of the back-up starters to be traded sometime soon to a team in desperate need for innings eaters.

The bullpen figures to be a deep one capable of imposing fear in opposing teams. With fireballers Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario and Brandon League, the Dodgers have late inning flexibility. Jansen offers a 95-100 fastball, with late cutting movement, while Belisario and League wield heavy, heated sinkers. Behind that trio, J.P. Howell and Kevin Gregg expect to be on the periphery of the bullpen, adding much need depth with Matt Guerrier and one of the extra starters (Lilly/Harang/Capuano) getting reps in middle-to-long relief.

Check out the Dodgers' Depth Chart at MLB Depth Charts

2013 Outlook

The Dodgers have expectations of a deep playoff run fueled by the largest payroll in the history of baseball. Along the way, the "Boys in Blue" will have to cope with the immense pressures and expectations that the LA media and fan-base will create. The Giants and Dodgers will battle it out all season in a very competitive NL West and a revamped National League.

Check out the Dodgers' 2013 ZIPS projections at Fangraphs

Bold Prediction

Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez produce the most WAR of any 3-4 in the league. Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke do just the same on the mound. A.J. Ellis and Luis Cruz prove that 2012 was not a fluke, and Carl Crawford returns to form at top the Dodgers lineup. The rest of the rotation is solid and the bullpen provides above average relief with Jansen taking over the closer job soon after Brandon League blows his first few saves. And, undoubtedly, Vin Scully will lead the entire league in broadcaster WAR -- for the 64th year in a row.

Chavez Ravine will be buzzing all year long as the Dodgers narrowly beat out the Giants for the NL West crown. The Dodgers pose a legitimate threat to take home the big prize in October.

Freeway Series anyone?