Clayton Kershaw starts season off right, Dodgers prevail 3-1 in opener

MarkTrumboFail

The Dodgers led off the 2014 MLB season with a 3-1 victory over the D-Backs on Opening Day in Sydney, Australia.

Clayton Kershaw gave the Dodgers the quality performance that’s become routine when he takes the hill, striking out seven in 6.2 innings while only allowing one run on five hits and a walk.


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The run given up by Kershaw was his first allowed in 25 Opening Day innings, and his Opening Day ERA is now 0.35.

As for the offense, it started with Adrian Gonzalez, who wanted to walk more in 2014, and he led off the top of the second with a four-pitch walk. Then things got weird, as Mark Trumbo Trumbo’ed a Scott Van Slyke fly ball to left in glorious/hilarious fashion.

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What it would take for Joc Pederson to make the Dodgers

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Soon, but not quite yet.

Joc Pederson is going to be a good baseball player. There’s no denying that. He has a sweet swing, better-than-advertised power and can play good defense in center field (despite letting that popup drop in on Saturday night).

The question many fans are asking is, “Is he going to break camp with the team?” The answer is simply, no. The 22-year-old is plenty talented to start in center field for at least a third of the teams in the majors right now, but there are a lot of things that would have to happen for him to don a Dodger jersey on opening day.

Matt Kemp is going to begin the 2014 on the disabled list. He’s doing more baseball stuff, but he won’t be ready for March 30 — three weeks from today. So, that’s a plus on Pederson’s side. Since Kemp figures to be the center fielder, that spot is technically open. But that spot will also be filled by Andre Ethier, who played a not-terrible center field in Kemp’s absence last year.

Dodgers
Royals
1:05pm PT
Surprise, Ariz.
SS
Figgins
RF
Aoki
LF
Crawford
2B
Infante
RF
Puig
LF
Gordon
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Butler
CF
Van Slyke
DH
Maxwell
3B
Uribe
3B
Valencia
2B
Turner
CF
Cain
C
Ellis
C
Hayes
P
Haren
SS
Escobar

Barring anything unforeseen, Yasiel Puig will play 150-plus games this season, so right field is out of the question. Even Scott Van Slyke has laid claim to the team’s No. 5 outfield spot.

That leaves the left field duo of Carl Crawford and Ethier. Both of them have spent ample time on the disabled list in recent years, but for Pederson to be on the 25-man roster on opening day, Crawford and Ethier would have to be on the DL.

While Pederson is arguably as talented as those two (probably more so), he isn’t going to win a job over them in spring training. We all know spring training stats are generally useless, let’s remember Puig hit .514/.500/.828 last year and began the season at Double-A. Pederson is hitting .250/.423/.600 in 12 games this spring. If he were Puiging this spring training, he might have a more solid case.

The Dodgers’ top three outfielders would have to be on the DL for an extended period of time for Pederson to make the team. It wouldn’t make sense to have him up for only a handful of games, just to send him down to Triple-A.

Pederson will make his debut in 2014, because the likelihood of all four outfielders making it through the season unscathed is minimal. When Pederson comes up, it will be — at minimum — for a 10-15 game stretch in which he plays every day. That will be fun to see.

But until that time, spend the $20 on MiLB.tv and watch him hit in the Pacific Coast League. That will pay for the service by itself.

2014 Spring Training Preview: First base

There isn't much depth behind Gonzalez at 1B. (By: Dustin Nosler)

There isn’t much depth behind Adrian Gonzalez at 1B. (By: Dustin Nosler)

Age BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Adrian Gonzalez 32 2013 .293 .342 .461 .346 124 2.8
’14 ZiPS .282 .339 .453 .335 n/a 3.2
’14 Steamer .292 .358 .486 .362 135 3.7
Scott Van Slyke 27 2013 .240 .342 .465 .353 129 0.9
’14 ZiPS .249 .325 .420 .325 n/a 1.6
’14 Steamer .245 .332 .408 .327 111 0.2
Clint Robinson 29 2013 (AAA) .213 .323 .352 .313 91 n/a
Jamie Romak 28 2013 (AAA) .242 .322 .461 .345 104 n/a
Aaron Bates 30 2013 (Atl. Lg) .306 .397 .411 n/a n/a n/a

If the catcher series could have been titled, “‘Oh please oh please oh please A.J. Ellis stay healthy,’” then the first base series could be titled, “Wrap Adrian Gonzalez in bubble wrap so he doesn’t get hurt because the Dodgers have no viable backup.”

Gonzalez should have no problem playing 150-plus games, as he has never played fewer than 156 games in a full season in his career. He had a 2013 season he could easily duplicate in 2014. He’s not the 30-plus home run threat he was a few years ago, but he’s still a formidable hitter and figures to hit cleanup for the Dodgers.

He provides a consistent bat in the middle of the order — something the Dodgers lacked last season with all the injuries. Gonzalez was a stabilizing force at times and is still among the top third of first basemen in the game.

Van Slyke is probably the Dodgers’ best backup first baseman, even if he profiles better as a corner outfielder. He has improved his bat speed in the last year-plus, so he’s at least decent option for the Dodgers if he has to play extended time. More likely, he’ll give Gonzalez the occasional breather when a tough lefty is on the mound… if he even makes the roster.

Robinson is a career minor-leaguer, but he’s probably third on the first base depth chart (if you don’t count Juan Uribe). He had a few solid seasons in Double- and Triple-A from 2010-12 in the Royals’ system, but he wasn’t ever much of a prospect. He’s almost unplayable against lefties, so if he had to play extended time in the majors, a Van Slyke-Robinson platoon could work, but not for that long.

Romak signed with the Dodgers in November, and his versatility could help him in Triple-A and maybe the majors. He has experience at all four corners (and even two appearances at pitcher) in the minors, logging most of his time in right field. But he also has 242 games played at first base and 150 at third base. He’s a big right-handed hitter not unlike Van Slyke (but the ‘Stache is better).

Bates was signed out of the Atlantic League. You’re probably wondering what league that is. Well, it’s an Independent League team, hence the somewhat impressive numbers. He was originally drafted by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2005 draft by the Marlins. He didn’t sign and was drafted in the third round by the Red Sox in 2006. He’s a righty all the way and, aside from one season in the California League, has never shown the power to play first base. If he plays for the Dodgers this season, something has gone horribly wrong.

Next up: Second base