Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Los Angeles Dodgers. Today’s preview was written by David Franco from The Next Level Ballplayer. David is a life-long Dodgers fan who was born in Los Angeles. The opinions expressed by life-long Dodgers fans born in LA are not necessarily the opinions shared by Diamond Hoggers. But we do respect his knowledge of his team.

Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season.

Can Ethier and Kemp carry the offense?
Both Ethier and Kemp have the potential to be dominant on offense. Ethier was slowed last year by a fluke injury and Kemp was slowed by Rhianna (pure speculation.) They are going to have to be studs this year for the Dodgers to be a truly special team.

Gotta have Furcal in the infield
When healthy, Furcal can still be an impact catalyst at the top of the order. If he goes on the DL for any extended period of time this year, it will spell trouble for LA. Jamey Carroll filled in admirably for Furcal when he was out last year, but this year they are even thinner. With Uribe potentially having to fill in for Casey Blake at 3rd, the Dodgers can’t afford Furcal to get hurt.

The Bullpen
If you don’t know, now you know
Kenley Jansen. Remember his name. The converted catcher turned heads last year when he was called up late in the season and proceeded to dominate. Torre even used him in multiple save situations when Broxton was going through his 2nd half struggles. If Broxton struggles again at some point this season, Mattingly will more than likely hand the job to Jansen… This kid should be fun to watch for years to come.

How awesome is the pen?

Very Awesome.
Their pen is so deep, even if Broxton struggles, they will be fine. If Broxton is anywhere near his pre all-star game form from 2010, look out. Games will be shut down in the 7th when teams would have to face Jansen, Kuo, and Big Broxton. Throw in the off season acquisitions of Matt Guerrier (from Twins) and Blake Hawksworth (from Cardinals), and the Dodgers could have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.

Deep Rotation… or is it?
The Dodgers addressed their need for pitching right away last year by signing Lilly, Kuroda, Garland and Padilla, shortly after the 2010 season ended. Adding those guys to Kershaw and Billingsley make for a very formidable rotation on paper that should provide the Dodgers with one of the deepest staffs in the NL. Padilla will be the one who will start in the bullpen unless needed to start for whatever reason. Kershaw HAS TO be the legitimate #1 that he can be, but looks posed to be that guy.

That’s the good part. The “or is it” part is that already this spring, Padilla had minor surgery, and Garland strained his side. Both will start the season on the DL, but should be back quickly. This opens the door for John Ely or Tim Redding to start the year as the Dodgers’ 5th starter. Garland might only miss one start and Padilla is ahead of schedule to return. If everyone is healthy, they will be one of the few teams that will truly have 5 solid starters… And they’ll be throwing in pitcher friendly Dodger Stadium.

Down on the farm
Remember the name, Rubby De La Rosa. Rubby has turned a few heads this spring with his 97 mph cheddar and his dirty change piece. He will most likely start the season in AA, but it’s realistic that he might make it to LA by the 2nd half of the season if pitching help is needed. It will be fun to keep an eye on him.

Season Outlook/Prediction
The Dodgers will win the West. I thought about ending this preview right there, but I will expand on this in case there are some haters out there.
Reasons why they’ll win the West
-Great starting rotation top to bottom
-One of the strongest bullpens in the Bigs
-Ethier and Kemp are ready and capable to lead the offense
-Colletti will go out and get a bat during the season if more offense is needed
-The Giants won’t be able to score runs and won’t go out and get a big bat. Last year they were extremely lucky with Cody Ross turning into Babe Ruth for the last month of the season.

Final Prediction- Dodgers win the west and play the winner of the central (Brewers) in the first round. After beating the Brew Crew, the Dodgers head to Philly for another shot against the Phils for a trip to the World Series… I smell World Series Championship coming back to LA. It’s time.