One thing about having an almost entirely set 25-man roster -- you can start figuring out what the daily lineup is going to look like. Even if it is still December.
The Dodgers’ heavy off-season work, or at least their modest lifting, is all done. Unless you’re still the kind that holds out hope of an unexpected Prince Fielder signing.
But if no significant additions are coming, it’s not hard to visualize the Dodgers’ main daily lineup, at least against right-handers:
Shortstop Dee Gordon (L), second baseman Mark Ellis (R), right fielder Andre Ethier (L), center fielder Matt Kemp (R), left fielder Juan Rivera (R), first baseman James Loney (L), third baseman Juan Uribe (R) and catcher A.J. Ellis (R).
And let the rest of the National League tremble in its wake.
This is not necessarily a terrible lineup, though it’s dependent on a lot of things going right. Probably way too many things, but then the same can pretty much be said for the rest of the National League West.
Gordon hit .304 with 24 stolen bases in his 233 plate appearances of his rookie season. But he had only seven walks, leaving him with a .325 on-base percentage. Still, that’s a fairly small sample size at a young stage in his career. He figures only to get better, and is such lightning on the bases, he has to be given the leadoff spot. Anyway, there’s really no one else in that lineup to bat leadoff.
Mark Ellis split his time last season batting second and seventh, but hit .297 in the two spot, as opposed to .215 hitting seventh.
The Dodgers are gambling that a trio of hitters returns to form next season -- Ethier, Loney and Uribe. Ethier, 29, will be key. Coming off minor knee surgery, he has the most upside. And the Dodgers will need it if they bat him third.
All they want from Kemp is more of the same, which is the same thing as asking for everything. Kemp, who came in second in the N.L. MVP voting, could have a slight drop-off and still be one of the game’s premier hitters.
[Update: In the orginal post I had a brain cramp and wrote Kemp started the season batting third and late in the season was moved to fourth, which is actually reverse from what happened. My my No.1 fan, Benjamin Villarreal Camacho, ever-so kindly pointed out my mistake. Kemp actually hit slightly better in the cleanup spot (.647 vs. .569 slugging), so it remains to be seen which way Manager Don Mattingly goes in 2012.
Batting Rivera hitting behind Kemp was given credit for Kemp’s strong finish, so wherever Kemp bats, Rivera is likely to follow. Kemp hitting third, Rivera fourth and Ethier fifth only happened nine times in 2011.]
Mattingly could bat Uribe sixth instead of Loney, but he seems to like alternating his left-right bats in the lineup.
Uribe is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in Dodgers history. He has a lot to prove, and at age 33, not much time to prove it. The Dodgers are counting on Loney being the hitter he was the second half, which is understandable but difficult to depend upon. Anything offensively from A.J. Ellis is a bonus.
Against left-handers, Mattingly could choose to sit Loney and play Rivera or Jerry Sands at first. Ethier, too, could get spelled if he doesn’t improve against lefties (.220 last season).
Outside of Gordon and Kemp, it's a lineup devoid of speed. It could have decent power, but after Kemp, that's no lock either. There are plenty of "maybes'' with this group, but that could prove a season's theme.
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-- Steve Dilbeck