It All Boils Down to Dee

With the Dodgers position players having reported on Friday morning, spring training 2013 is now officially underway. And while many things are pretty much set in stone, there are several everyday positions that are definitely up for grabs.

Every indication is that Mark Ellis will be the Dodgers everyday second baseman in 2013, but this is one of the positions that I wouldn’t consider being in stone. This is not to say that Mark won’t come out of spring training as the everyday second baseman, but it is also a position that lacks an heir-apparent (I’ve always hated that term in baseball) and a position that figures to see quite a bit of platooning throughout the season to give the 35-year-old Ellis (36 in June) an occasional day off – and probably two or three days off per week. Granted, I anticipate that Ellis will get the majority of the starts at second, but I also expect to see Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and perhaps even Luis Cruz get a few starts at the position and will probably be used as late-inning replacements for Ellis as well.

Although Mark Ellis will most likely emerge from spring training as the Dodgers everyday second baseman, the 35-year-old will probably be given one or two days off per week. (Photo credit - Jeff Gross)

Although Mark Ellis will most likely emerge from spring training as the Dodgers everyday second baseman, the 35-year-old will probably be given one or two days off per week.
(Photo credit – Jeff Gross)

While there are many who have concerns about left field for the Dodgers, at least at the beginning of the season, I am definitely not one of them. In my opinion, Carl Crawford is the guy – lock, stock and barrel. I believe that he will be the Dodgers Opening Day left fielder and that he will not relinquish the position at all during the entire 2013 season. Granted, I anticipate that Mattingly will be extremely cautious with Crawford at the beginning of the season, but by May, I expect to see Carl play nine everyday. What excites me most about Crawford is that the Carl Crawford that we will see on Opening Day is only going to get better as his surgically repaired shoulder heals. In fact, on MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley, show co-host Jim Douquette picked Crawford as his number one choice to be comeback player of the year in 2013; an opinion that I agree with wholeheartedly.

For the most part, everything else will probably play out as expected. A.J. Ellis is a lock at catcher, Adrian Gonzalez a no-brainer at first base, and Kemp and Ethier in center and left respectively. This, of course, brings up the burning question: Who will be the Dodgers everyday third baseman and shortstop?

I can pretty much assure you that there is no one who wants to see Luis Cruz as the Dodgers everyday third baseman more that I, but I’m now not as convinced that this will happen as I was on the final day of the 2012 season. And the sad part is that it actually has absolutely nothing to do with Luis Cruz. Instead, it has everything to do with Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon – and believe it or not, more so Dee than Hanley.

Hanley Ramirez is going to play every day, make no mistake about that; and he should play every day. A team simply cannot allow a 25+ home run hitter to sit on the bench – period. The question of course is, will it be at shortstop or third base? Unfortunately, the World Baseball Classic may be as much of a determining factor as is Dee Gordon.

As much as I love the WBC, it could very well be what keeps the Dodgers out of the World Series this season. Face it, Hanley Ramirez needs work and he needs work with the Dodgers, not team Dominican Republic. He needs to work with Mark Ellis (and the others) up the middle every day at spring training, not just the final couple of weeks. Hanley is not a Derek Jeter or a Troy Tulowitzki. In other words, he is not automatic or a shoe-in at shortstop. In fact, he isn’t even close. Offense aside, Hanley needs to prove that he is the best choice at shortstop based on talent, not salary.

Whether Dee Gordon knows it or not (and I am pretty certain that he does), his very future as a Dodger will be determined in the next six weeks. If he struggles even slightly this spring, he will begin the season in Albuquerque and will have an extremely difficult time getting back to the Bigs. It’s as simple as that.

Dee Gordon's future as a Dodger could very well be determined in the next six weeks. (Photo credit - Doug Pensinger)

Dee Gordon’s future as a Dodger could very well be determined in the next six weeks.
(Photo credit – Doug Pensinger)

On the other hand, if Dee has the best spring training of his young life, and I’m talking an outstanding spring training both offensively and especially defensively, Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly will have no choice but to return Hanley Ramirez to third base. And while Luis Cruz may be better defensively at third, the Dodgers simply cannot keep Hanley’s bat out of the line up.

So there you have it in a nutshell – it all boils down to Dee.

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8 Responses to “It All Boils Down to Dee”

  1. CRANBROOK MIKE says:

    I agree with you Ron. The one bonus for those going to ST, is that we will get to see Dee play a ton, and see how it unfolds for him!

  2. OldBrooklynFan says:

    I see the Cruz, Ramirez, Gordon situation the same as you do Ron. It’s quite a delemma at the moment. The more I think of it the more of a puzzlement it is. But as I usually do, with almost everything, I’ve decided to sit back and just let the situation play itself out.

  3. MFGRREP says:

    IMO, because Gordon still has options I think the Dodgers will use up what time they can with him in the minors, at least in the beginning. Hanley will have to do really bad early on to be worked out of the SS position. It could happen but I think it’ll take more time then just ST for that to happen.

    What I’m more inetrested in is when will the Dodgers pull the plug on Uribe ?? That roster spot is quickly becoming too important to entrust it to him.

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      Good question – Uribe. I expect he will stay with the team for the duration of ST as possible third base back up.

      I also expect Dee will go to AAA as there is little for him to gain by sitting on the bench with the Dodgers. Hopefully he will be smoking hot in ST and force the team to make some decisions.

  4. Jonny-TAFKAJ says:

    Hi… I actually commented on Dodger Thoughts about the Brandon Belt story. I see that Ron wrote a piece on Belt’s comment that “You can’t buy chemistry.”
    ….
    Ron: I’ve been a Dodger fan my entire life…
    However, Brandon Belt is absolutely right.
    Trying to nit-pick the Giants free agent signings and take shots
    at Brandon’s lack of experience and numbers cannot hide one thing
    which is most important…..

    The Scoreboard.

    Our Dodgers can spend all the money they want, but it is the Giants
    who have won the World Series 2 of the last 3 years. Personally, I
    have more angst towards our over-priced, under-achieving ball club
    than I do the Giants. They’re better than we are right now. Period.
    IMHO.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Great comments, Jonny – Thanks.

      My article was actually nothing more than having a little fun ragging on the Giants and their fans. This entire Brandon Belt chemistry comment thing is really nothing more than a little smack talk and making something out of nothing. I mean really, what is Brandon Belt supposed to say at their own Fan Fest, right? It is really no big deal to me and I was just screwing around with it. (I’ve been trying to work that old ‘hummingbird ass’ quote into an article for months – haha!)

      As Evan Bladh noted, Brandon Belt is a very good ball player and actually had good numbers last year except against the Dodgers and in the World Series (my guess is that he was pressing). But in reality, this means very little (e.g. A-Rod’s career post-season numbers, etc.). Belt made some incredible defensive plays at 1B during the WS and had a clutch triple that was a crushing blow to the Tigers.

      That said, if the 2013 Dodgers fire on all cylinders and remain healthy (especially the pitching staff), I believe that they are the better team right now.

      • Jonny-TAFKAJ says:

        Thanks so much, Ron.

        I’m with you. Let’s hope that Donny Ballgame can get this 2013 edition of the Dodgers to live up to their level of talent and expectations.

        Personally, I look for Matty Kemp to take on more of a leadership role this season…based on the things I’ve read. I like what I’m seeing so far.

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