Dodgers midseason report: Grandal, Gonzalez have sparked L.A. to first place

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error ShortstopTake away Jimmy Rollins’ first three months of the season, when he wasn’t hitting the ball to the opposite field, and he’s been Jimmy Rollins. As long as he’s batting leadoff, his 50 percent caught-stealing rate will need to improve.Left fieldAndre Ethier and his career-best 137 OPS-plus stabilized this position once Yasiel Puig was healthy. He could become trade bait (for the hundredth time) after Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list.Center fieldJoc Pederson’s defense alone has justified his place in the lineup. It’s still not clear what place that is.Right fieldYasiel Puig’s defense alone has justified his place in the lineup. It’s still not clear what place that is.Starting pitchingRyan Braun recently called Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Brett Anderson “easily as good as anybody’s (top three starters) in baseball.” Carlos Frias, Mike Bolsinger and Brandon Beachy don’t inspire the same superlatives about the back end of the rotation.BullpenStranding inherited runners has been a problem. That, and the underwhelming performance of Chris Hatcher, are the flies in the ointment for a unit that’s looked much better as the season has gone along.Bench Scott Van Slyke, Alex Guerrero, A.J. Ellis and Kiké Hernandez have had their ups and downs, but all are generally capable in their roles. It’s not clear how Crawford and Hector Olivera (when they arrive) fit into this group.Manager/coachesThat Don Mattingly has used 73 different batting orders in 90 games doesn’t reflect so much on him, or any injuries, or the inconsistency of the Dodgers’ hitters. It’s that the team hasn’t had an ideal leadoff hitter since Day 1 and Mattingly is doing the best with what he’s got.That worked out pretty well for a month before the runs dried up, turning Kershaw and Anderson into .500 pitchers (and keeping Greinke winless for more than six weeks). Since Kenley Jansen came off the DL, the pitching staff has been a couple starters short of dominant. The defense is among the best in franchise history.The problem is the Dodgers’ mish-mash lineup — they can mash, they can’t mish — and a single trade won’t fix it. The lineup isn’t necessarily broken either, it’s just that manufacturing runs isn’t their forte. Last year’s World Series participants did that with aplomb.Credit Mattingly for adapting to a much more analytically driven front office better than some in his position. Third base coach Lorenzo Bundy has been a boon for the Dodgers’ Spanish-speaking players, particularly Guerrero. Hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Valentin recently helped Puig and Rollins recover from slumps. Epic clubhouse disharmony appears to be a thing of the past.Trade windsTop needs: A middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and a left-handed hitting bench piece would be nice additions. Those types usually aren’t hard to find at the trade deadline. A high-OBP leadoff hitter with speed would be nice too, though the demand league-wide comically outweighs the supply.Who could be dealt: Alberto Callaspo, once Olivera is ready. Crawford and Ethier are out of the price range of most teams, but neither veteran would prefer to be the Dodgers’ left-handed bench piece. The real trade bait lies in the Dodgers’ farm system, which is deeper than it’s been in years.Current record, position 51-39, first place in National League WestPredicted finishFirst place in NL West. A case could be made for Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers’ MVP. Not many 33-year-olds have above-average power, plate discipline and fielding skills, and have missed as few games as Gonzalez (one).Second baseHow smooth has Howie Kendrick’s transition to the National League been? His .292/.343/.416 slash line is almost identical to that of his 10-year career (.292/.333/.424).Third baseJustin Turner has gone from super-sub to an everyday middle-of-the-order presence, allowing the Dodgers to trade Juan Uribe. Perhaps most importantly, the Lakewood native has so far avoided his annual trip to the 15-day disabled list.center_img A look at where the Dodgers stand heading into the second half of the season:Catcher Of the five players who changed teams in the Matt Kemp trade, Yasmani Grandal had the best first half by far. His .401 on-base percentage and .526 slugging percentage (as well as improved caught-stealing numbers) resulted in his first career All-Star selection.First baselast_img

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