It was last season in late June and early July, and we were in Las Vegas sitting in a sportsbook at the Belagio when it hit us: why don’t we take some money out of our emergency savings, and plunk it down on the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the whole damn thing? It almost seemed too easy. The Dodgers were just starting to get on a roll but the oddsmakers really weren’t onto them just yet. A lot stood to be made if someone had the gusto to plunk down the bet.
And as a wise gambler once told us; this is exactly why you do not bet. Luckily, we talked ourselves out of it and stayed away from it. But it was maybe only because we had a marriage to worry about if things didn’t work out for the Dodgers in the postseason.
Los Angeles would soon thereafter go on a 46-10 roll. National League pitchers seemed to figure out Yasiel Puig, but not entirely. The Dodgers ran into a buzzsaw of a team in St. Louis whose rotation got hot at just the right time, and looking back that St. Louis team excelled at all the small things that the star-power Dodgers did not. Small execution, great defense, and exceptional pitching helped the Cardinals prevail.
We were happy to see the legendary Dodgers succeed. We would have been fine with them taking the title last year. It’s good for baseball when the Dodgers are good. In our opinion, they play in America’s most enchanting city, in a gem of a stadium in the sunshine, with the grandfather of baseball calling their games late-night in the Midwest all by himself.
They have an eclectic roster and a charismatic ownership group. Their GM looks like a guy who could have you whacked. There are a lot of things to love about this team heading into 2014.
Major Off-season Moves:
Signed Clayton Kershaw to a 7-year, $215 million dollar contract.
Michael Young retired.
Signed Don Mattingly to an extension through 2016.
Signed Jamey Wright.
Signed Chris Perez.
Re-signed Juan Uribe to a 2-year, $15 million dollar contract.
Signed Alexander Guerrero to a 4-year, $28 million dollar contract.
And you’re damn right we’re bullish on the Dodgers. Did 2013 scare us off a little bit with the way they eroded in the NLCS? Absolutely not. We started with this team because we’re picking them to win the whole damn thing in 2014. As we have been so often in life (and sometimes not enough), we were just a year early on the Dodgers. They’re a year better, a year wiser, and they’re going to still come into your town and stomp your team and probably drink all the tequila your city has to offer this season. Click through the jump to learn more about our projected 2014 champions.
Since we’re fantasy baseball nerds, we’ll be running down as much of a commentary as we can prior to your March fantasy drafts. If you’re having a draft before then, you’re violating a major man-law. Don’t do it. You’ll inevitably draft some guy who breaks his nads installing a hardwood floor or something. Here are our top-20 Outfielders for fantasy baseball 2014. We’re running this down similar to the guys at Razzball, though we could never pretend to be of the legendary status they’ve achieved.
1. Mike Trout: Until the younger bull knocks the old bull off the hill (Trout is the old bull in his age 22 season, didn’t you know?) you have to keep putting this guy here and leaving him alone. We just hope you were one of the lucky bastards who snagged him late and were able to keep him after that lackluster cup of coffee in 2011. That was so, so long ago. We figure Trout finally wins that MVP award, hits 30 homers, drives in around his career-high 97 and steals close to 40 while hitting around .320 again. No regression in sight.
2. Andrew McCutchen: There’s just no reason to move an MVP much when he’s entering that magical age-27 season. He wasn’t as Heavenly as his 2012 last season, but he was still remarkable and helped owners win a lot of leagues. What is there to say that hasn’t been said (that’s what we hate about these rankings at the top, everyone has these guys up here). McCutchen is a Ferrari, get him in your garage if you can.
3. Carlos Gomez: This is the guy we’re pretty proud of. He was our major sleeper heading into 2013, and he finally put it all together. What we love about Gomez is he’s a guy who seems to want those stats for you. He steals bases when his team is up big, he challenges for the extra base, he isn’t happy settling with that three-hit night. He plays the game hard and we think the power could enjoy another slight up-tick in 2014. The only thing about Gomez that sucks is when he takes away home runs from your other fantasy players playing center field. He owes Jay Bruce several.
4. Giancarlo Stanton: Big Mike struggled last season hitting .249, but he’ll enter 2014 with major motivation: play so well he can escape Miami for greener pastures and a mega-deal soon following. This will be the year that he eclipses 40 home runs if anyone does in the National league. This will be a .900 OPS season. This will be the year he finally plays like a first rounder. As they say on eBay, bid with confidence.
5. Carlos Gonzalez: 2010 seems so long ago when he finished third in MVP voting. Since then he’s missed time each season but was still spectacular when he was on the field. The only question with Gonzalez is health, if you believe he can stay healthy he will be stellar and steady. He’s not going to go out there and hit .260 at Coors Field. It’s just not going to happen. A solid first-round guy if he can play in 140-150 games.
6. Adam Jones: He’s in a great lineup, he’s in a nice hitter’s park, he’ll be just 28, and he’s baseball’s closest present-day version to Eric Davis. What we like most about Jones is his games played the past three years: 151, 162, 160.
7. Bryce Harper: Someday soon the nagging injuries that drive fantasy owners like us nuts will end, and Bryce Harper will have the biggest numbers of his young career. It’s not too much to ask for a player like Harper to post an average in the .280-.290 range with upwards of 35+ home runs and over 100 RBI and runs scored. We don’t look for him to steal many more than 10 – he’s bulked up – but that power is coming in a big way. He hit .344 and 9 HR in April last season. If he can put that together over a full year like he’s going to try to do……
8. Jacoby Ellsbury: We don’t like that he’s turning 30. We don’t like that he misses monstrous amounts of time about every other season. We do like that he is in that hitter’s park in the Bronx and think he offers 20-50 potential. Solid bet to be very good in the near-term. I want no part of him in a year or two though.
9. Jay Bruce: The Reds are going to have an average year. Jay Bruce is going to have a career year. He’s entering his age-27 season. He’ll get as close to 40 home runs as he has yet and he’ll hit around .275, and with Bruce what you’re buying is the consistency. A lock for 30+ home runs and 150 games played. His slumps will make you want to drown kittens. His hot streaks are other-worldly.
10. Ryan Braun: He’s really not going to miss a beat when he returns from his little hiatus in 2013. He’ll be the same old Braun, which is video-game numbers. It won’t be his career year, but short of that you’re getting one of the top sluggers in baseball with some steals, albeit a few less steals and probably a few less homers. All things considered, a guy we would love to have; even with the cheating!
11. Justin Upton: So now the world knows that he’s not the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr., and that’s okay! What Upton is, is just a pretty good player. And he’s going to be more comfortable in his second season in Atlanta. Something about Upton worries us a little bit; but when we think about it it’s just the poor taste he left in our mouth in 2012. Even then, he was pretty solid. He’s deserving of this high ranking.
12. Shin-soo Choo: He’s going to score a lot of runs out in that Texas heat and don’t be surprised if his numbers improve across the board in a lineup full of threatening hitters.
13. Yasiel Puig: There will be no in between for Puig in 2014. He does not simply maintain; he either becomes full-fledged fantasy superstar or completely collapses in his sophomore campaign. We’re talking .240 or .315ish with power and steals again. Either way, it’s going to be VERY entertaining. Biggest risk factor of anyone in these rankings.
14. Jose Bautista: He may be quickly approaching his decline. He is at an age where it is reasonable for a lot of players to lose bat speed and miss time to injuries. But we believe enough in Joey Bats’ skills to say he will provide one more glorious summer in the sun for fantasy owners. A return to the 30’s in HR, 100 RBI, and an OPS in the .900s for those that believe.
15. Jason Heyward: We don’t really plan to target him – which is why he’ll inevitably break out. If that’s not a good enough reason, keep in mind he’s playing for a monster contract. If you believe what the scouts originally said about Heyward back entering 2010, that huge year is coming this year or next.
16. Allen Craig: The guy with two first names always wrecks shit when he’s in the lineup. He’s a .300 hitting machine in a baseball town where everything seems to line up nicely for that organization. He’ll probably have a DL stint included, but if you can weather that storm you’ll get a .300 average, 20+ homers, near 100 RBI, and peace of mind rotating him between OF and 1B.
17. Matt Kemp: Another guy we don’t want to own, in part because his risk is not worth the overpay it will take to land him on draft day. If for some reason the bargain exists in the middle rounds – take a flier on the guy. The decline might only be a season or two away, but for now Kemp has something to prove and will be taking the field for a team with World Series expectations. It should be a nice year for the back of his baseball card.
18. Starling Marte: A lot of people out there will shy away from putting Marte in their top-20 because it’s too out on a limb. His power numbers should improve and he’ll be a realistic possibility for a 20-40 season. His average should not dip much further than .280 because speed like his doesn’t slump. An .800 OPS player who will be 25. The soon to be Pirates outfield of Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco could be a lot of fun.
19. Yoenis Cespedes: Why do I feel like the guy is probably older than his listed age of 28? He’s probably like 34, but these damn Cubans are ageless wonders with their chicken blood voodoo cocktails. If you want a projection on him an average of his first two seasons is fair to expect: 25ish HR, .265-.270, 81 RBI, 12 steals, 70 runs.
20. Domonic Brown: The bottom line is power comes at a premium these days in baseball. Gone are the days where any number of middle infielders slug 27 home runs for you and drive in 80-plus. For that, you’ll need to pick up a guy like Brown who should continue to hit home runs in bunches. If it wasn’t for an injury he would have easily entered the 30-homer club. He’ll be inducted in 2014.
Update: Zack Greinke indeed broke his left collarbone and will be out 6-8 weeks. That is brutal. and Matt Kemp still isn’t happy. Should be very interesting when they meet again on Monday in LA. See tweet below.
In the bottom of the sixth inning on a full count, Zack Greinke came up and in on Carlos Quentin and plunked him on the shoulder. This was enough to send Carlos Quentin, first walking and then sprinting out to tackle Greinke. Quentin has about 50 lbs on Greinke and slammed into him at close to full speed. The brawl was of the benches clearing, bull pen clearing variety and was definitely heated. Earlier Jason Marquis sent a fastball near Matt Kemp’s head and the Greinke pitch probably wasn’t pay back though with a full count and two on. The brawl cooled down and then it started back up again when this happened.
Matt Kemp (I think?) was still pissed and ran across from the Dodgers dugout and the fray started all over again. The biggest news is that Greinke had to leave the game with an apparent injury. That will happen when your shoulder slams into someone much bigger than you. Hopefully for the Dodgers he’s not out for long. GIF of the main collision below.
That’s what I think of the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers as things begin. It’s not a bad thing for baseball if these guys are restored to relevancy.
It would be unrealistic to think that all of these former superstars will put together superstar seasons at the same time. However, if just a few of them manage it while the others become solid contributors, the Dodgers are going to be one tough out in the National League.
Major offseason moves:
Signed SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
Signed SP Zach Greinke to a 6-year, $147 million contract
Traded minor leaguer Jake Lemmerman to St. Louis for Skip Schumaker
Signed RP JP Howell
Signed RP Brandon League to a 3-year, $22 million contract
Of course, let’s not forget all the damn moves they made at the end of last season. They acquired a small army of misfit toys in getting Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett for basically nothing.
After the jump, we’ll take a look at the Dodgers from top to bottom.
Voting has gone the way of the All-Star game, and if you have a twitter account it’s fairly simple. You just have to release a tweet into the cyberworld stating “#MLB13HARPER” to cast a vote for Harper.
It’s already the greatest video game on the planet, let alone baseball game ever made. Producers of The Show have again pulled out all the stops in not only aligning themselves with MLB.com but ensuring that whoever ends up on the cover will assuredly be one of the game’s most rising stars.
And although we wouldn’t mind seeing Cutch, Miggy, Posey, or even Braun on the cover; no one makes more sense from a marketability standpoint than that of Harper.
I’m happy with what I saw of Bryce Harper’s big league debut. The only at-bat I missed last night was his first MLB hit, a rocket double off the base of the wall that would have been out of most parks. But I saw all I needed to see.
The hustle, the look, the grey bat. The incredible bat speed. The rifleman throw from left field that had a runner nailed at home plate if Wilson Ramos would have just hung onto the ball.
I hope this is the first of many memorable games from Harper and I hope he’s up for good. Last night was a memorable atmosphere as a baseball fan with Strasburg on the bump, Matt Kemp slugging one deep into the night, Vin Scully calling the game on my television. It will always serve as the perfect memory for the youngster’s debut.
Here’s a shot of the fluorescent cleats that Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Rick Weeks, and Matt Kemp wore for the derby last night. I’m not real sure why they decided to do this, but it did not translate into any type of extra power. An immensely disappointing night for the NL squad; and Weeks and Kemp were especially nondescript.
In short, Prince you pansy ass. We let you select the squad and in true Brewer fashion you fuck it all up. Joey Votto, Justin Upton or Jay Bruce would have done just fine in this contest. But you selected Rick Weeks who swung so damn hard that he hit more foul poppers (and led off with a whiff swing) than anything.
Pure legend next to never will be, Bobby Valentine. Barry, you deserve so much better than to be sitting there with the likes of Bobby V. and we pity that you were there for what probably added up to about 5 hours of Bobby putting his foot in his mouth.
This is Adrian Gonzalez’s spray chart in the final round. He hit 11 in all and most figured that was going to be good enough to win it. But then Robinson Cano came up and started hitting off his daddy and made 12 look easy. Cano easily stole the show last night and about 5 of the bombs he hit were the most impressive. Although I give Big Papi major credit for having the idea to put Adrian in this contest because he has a nice easy stroke that translates well for a Derby.
This past weekend, Mrs. Diamond Hoggers and I took off early Saturday morning for Cincinnati to see Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers take on the Reds. This would be the second time I’ve seen Kershaw pitch live, the first time he definitely got the best of the Reds. I figured it to be a long day. But I also was determined to soak it in and enjoy it as much as I possibly could.
We checked into our hotel room and I climbed out onto the steep balcony. It was a 90 degree day in Cincinnati. It felt good. It was the kind of day in which I wanted a sunburn.
We went to the Rock Bottom Brewery after checking in and dropping our bags. We had a great lunch and really soaked in that there was a good crowd in town to take in this one on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a fair amount of Dodgers fans. They travel well.
After finishing lunch and heading back to the hotel, we drank some Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and Miller Light and waited for our shuttle down to the ballpark. Mrs. Diamond Hoggers and I got a pretty good buzz going as did our friends Megan and Tyler.
You can almost feel the heat coming off the field, can’t you? I am too lazy to check, but I’m almost certain it was over 90 degrees at first pitch. I wanted a sunburn, but after catching a buzz I soon forgot about the fact that I wanted to sit in the sun and settled for some good seats in the shade. I was planning on a long day of Clayton Kershaw dominating the Reds and he began by doing exactly that. He would end up striking out 9 on the day in all, and the Reds didn’t have a hit until there were 2 outs in the bottom of the 4th when Joey Votto lined a single to left field.
The Dodgers held a 1-0 lead and the game continued to fly by until there were two outs in the bottom of the 6th inning. Brandon Phillips blooped a single into right field with a couple of men on to tie the game at 1-1, and it felt like there was some sort of moral victory in just scratching a run across on Kershaw. Lost in this entry is that Johnny Cueto threw a really nice ballgame to match Kershaw.
Cueto is the Reds best pitcher right now. He went 7 innings, allowing only five hits, two walks, and two runs while striking out three and lowering his ERA to 2.27 on the day.
Also pay attention to the man in the bottom of the pic. I would love to tell you this is no accident, but it was a beautiful accident. That man is none other than Larry F’in Bowa.
Oh, the modern miracles that snapping off a random picture can bring. I truly love that man.
A lot to see in this shot.
You’ll notice Matt Kemp, who was a one-man demolition crew on the Reds pitching staff. Kemp would homer as the first batter in the top of the 7th inning to cut the lead to 4-2. I was still feeling pretty comfortable.
Notice that this game was also nationally televised on FOX Saturday Baseball. Pretty cool, I guess. It would have been cooler if Kemp didn’t come up later in the game with the Reds leading 7-3 and hit a grand slam off Nick Masset to tie the game at 7-7.
Kemp is absolutely unbelievable. And he sent me into a 12-beer buzz fueled rage that had me yelling at Carlos Fisher for not only giving up four runs in the 11th inning, but also walking a pitcher, forgetting to cover 1st base, and making a costly throwing error that might have served as the dagger on the day.
If you want to see the boatload of highlights from this one, head over to MLB.com’s video page and take a look.
Jay Bruce went 1 for 5 with a couple of strikeouts on this day. He lashed a nice single off Clayton Kershaw to center field, I believe it was his first hit off the tough lefty. We caught Jay Bruce on a day when he was at the tail end of the best hot streak of his career, and he failed to deliver the long-ball we all so craved. That said, it was good to see him play and face one of the best lefties in the game.
After the game, we walked over to Montgomery Inn for some Ribs and to take a look at all the sweet memorabilia they house at the Boathouse location. Then we headed back to the Garfield Inn & Suites where our friends passed out and Mrs. Diamond Hoggers puked and passed out, leaving me on the couch to watch a Canadian team win game two of the Stanley Cup Finals and pass out cold in my undies on the hotel room couch.
It was a great trip to Cincy, complete with everything except late-game heroics that would have allowed the Reds to win the game and keep on rolling.