The Dodger infield will field two returning players and two new players. Last year’s opening day infield only played together twice the entire season. The Dodgers will need the infield to stay healthy if they’re going to get the production they need to compete in 2012. Now that Blake and Furcal have moved on, let’s take a look at the Dodger infield for next season…..
First Base-James Loney
2011- .288/.339/.416 12 HR 65 RBI 42 BB 67 SO .755 OPS
2012-projections- .283/.345/.415 12 HR 76 RBI 47 BB 79 SO .764 OPS
Loney came into 2011 with high expectations after a disappointing second half of 2010. After hitting .210 in the month of April, we all accepted the fact that Loney was going to be non-tendered in the winter, and we would have to figure out who would be playing first base in 2012. Loney perked up a bit, batting .293 in May and .337 in June, although with little to no power. Loney had a horrible July batting .176, and again we mentally prepared ourselves to start mulling over other options. Once we had all but written poor Loney off, we witnessed one of the most amazing comebacks we had ever seen. Loney batted .367 29 for 79 in August, and he hit .348 32 for 92 in September. Under the guide of new hitting coach Dave Hansen, Loney changed his stance, opened his hips, and started driving the ball with more power. Loney slugged eight home runs over the last two months for 12 on the season and 65 RBI. After Loney’s phoenix from the ashes resurrection, his numbers were more towards his career averages.
There’s concerns with Loney. His righty/lefty splits are atrocious (.213 against lefties). This could be Loney’s last year with the team if he doesn’t produce. His 2012 projections look a lot like his career norms. Our options at first base were limited. Since we’re not signing Prince Fielder, it was either bring back Loney or troll the free agent market for a Carlos Pena or a Derrek Lee or someone like that. I’ll take my chances with Loney thank you.
Second Base-Mark Ellis
2011- .248/.288/.346 7 HR 41 RBI 22 BB 75 SO .634 OPS
2012 Projections- .255/.314/.369 8 HR 49 RBI 30 BB 65 SO .683
Jamey Carroll signed with the Twins, and the Dodgers had a hole to fill at second base. They signed Mark Ellis to a two year 8.75 million dollar deal to be the starting second baseman. Ellis, who has always been a plus defender, is no longer a productive hitter anymore. Injuries have prevented him from playing full time over the last few seasons, but he once hit 19 home runs for Oakland. He finished up last season in Colorado and played well. His projections for 2012 are nothing spectacular. A .255 average, .314 OBP, 8 home runs, and another below average OPS. He is very solid defensively, recording a +12 total zone, total fielding runs above average. Don’t expect much offense from Ellis, but he will play a fine second base.
2011- .304/.325/.362 0 HR 11 RBI 7 BB 27 SO .686 OPS 24 SB
2012- .270/.301/.320 1 HR 62 RBI 31 BB 83 SO .679 55 SB
Rookie phenom Dee Gordon will enter his first full season as the Dodgers shortstop. Now that Rafael Furcal has moved on, it’s his job to lose. Gordon has amazing athletic abilities, but there is two main complaints against him. One is that he needs to improve his plate discipline. He only drew 7 walks last season, and his OBP was rather low at .325. If the Dodgers want him to develop into the speedy lead-off guy they hope he will be he needs to draw more walks and get on base, and he needs to make use of his game changing speed. The other knock is his defense. He made 10 errors last year and had a -10 on defense. He’s very flashy and makes a lot of great plays, but because of his inexperience he messes up many routine plays.
Gordon is going to have to learn on the job. 2012 projections has him hitting .270, driving in 62 runs, stealing 55 bases, and scoring 72 runs. That’s pretty solid for a rookie shortstop. Gordon is going to make mistakes next year, that we know, because he is a very raw prospect. However he has a great arm, runs like a track star, and has the ability to use his amazing speed to win games. We saw that last season. The sky is the limit for this young speedster.
Third Base-Juan Uribe
2011- .204/.263/.293 4 HR 28 RBI 17 BB 60 SO .557 OPS
2012- Projections- .240/.298/.394 9 HR 37 RBI 19 BB 57 SO .692 OPS
Unfortunately Juan Uribe will be returning to play third base. I say that because he was a complete and utter disaster last season. He hovered around the Mendoza line all year, only hit 4 home runs, and ended up having to bow out early because of a hernia.
On opening day last year Uribe was slotted at second base because Casey Blake was playing third base. Now with Blake gone, and literally no one else available to play third base, we’re stuck with Uribe.
Uribe is a very good defensive player. He can play second, shortstop, and third, and could even see a few games at shortstop to spell Dee Gordon. Third base is his best position though, where he plays better because of his strong throwing arm. He only committed three errors last year, and was a +6 at third base. I have no problem with Juan Uribe in the field.
At the plate is another story, oh man is it another story. He was signed to bring some power to the Dodgers lineup, but only hit four home runs and drove in 28 runs. Most disappointing. Most disgusting was his 17 walks and 60 whiffs. I don’t know what it is with some of these Dominican players, but they swing at everything. Uribe swung at the world, and normally missed. His 2012 projections don’t look very good at all. His batting average will even out according to the projections. At .240, still not good, but a lot better than his meek .204 performance last year. His OBP is low, but we already know that. What worries me is his projected 9 homers and only 37 RBI. If he’s not hitting home runs and driving in runs, he is basically useless, just a glove. He is supposed to be a low-OBP guy who hits 20 homers, and plays solid defense. If his power is gone then were going to have to find someone else to play third base. I think the Dodgers should give him a very short leash. A good start is very important, If he is sucking by May then were going to have a problem. I’m giving him one month to redeem himself, if not then we need to start looking for a way to get rid of him and his expensive contract.
The Dodgers will have Adam Kennedy, and Jerry Hairston jr. on the bench, but there will be several other players competing for a bench spot in spring training. Justin Sellers is someone we will eventually see at some point in the season, and Russ Mitchell, career minor leaguer should get his yearly token September call-up. I still like Mitchell though, he’s versatile, and has a little pop. Sellers can play all over the infield as well, and is a slick infielder. You can throw Ivan Dejesus jr. into the mix as well, but I don’t expect him to last long in Blue. As I’ve said before, he failed to impress during a short stint last season, and was so bad defensively, wasn’t allowed to play through it in hopes his bat would come around. Reports of his poor attitude will likely spell the end of his run with the Dodgers in the near future, but you never know. Jerry Sands, and Juan Rivera might see a few games at first base. There is probably about a half dozen randoms given spring training invites. Those guys will get a look too.
What we learned from last season was that the Dodgers needed younger healthier infielders. The problem I see is they are still pretty old in this area. Other than Gordon and Loney, four of the six infielders are age 30 plus. The Dodgers are going to have to keep the older players healthy, if they’re going to get any kind of run production from the infield. The defense should be pretty good, but runs will be at a premium. We can’t have another punch-less infield, otherwise it might be another long season.