BY: SHANE NEWELL
Los Angeles Dodgers:
2013 summary: After starting off the year poorly, the Dodgers shocked many skeptics by turning their season around and winning the National League West Division. With hot players like outfielder Yasiel Puig and shortstop Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers were able to easily market themselves as the favorites to win the National League crown. Following their loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers proved that success does not come easily. Despite great pitching, the Dodgers hitting woes ultimately cost them in the St. Louis series.
Offseason pickups: Resigning right-handed pitcher Brian Wilson was one of the smartest moves the Dodgers could’ve made. After succeeding in his role as reliever (2-1, 0.66 ERA), Wilson’s performance could lead the Dodgers to another postseason run. Picking up starting pitcher Dan Haren is also a sign the Dodgers are committed to a long postseason run. Adding a couple more bats off the bench wouldn’t hurt the Dodgers either.
Keys to success: If the Dodgers are to succeed and possibly contend in the playoffs, they must do a few things right. Keeping the bats alive is key. The Dodgers should not rely on ace pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke to pitch them out of a batting slump. In addition, the Dodgers need to establish a strong starting pitching rotation that will not lean too heavily on Kershaw and Greinke. Keeping players healthy and committed is also key.
Prediction: The Dodgers seem to be the favorites to win the NL West Division. The competition, however, is likely going to be much more difficult. Don’t count out the Giants, who won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. The Diamondbacks, who finished second last year, could also endanger the Dodgers’ playoff hopes.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
2013 summary: To say the Angels underperformed in 2013 is to put it mildly. Finishing third in the American League West at 78-84 wins, the Angels fell below people’s expectations. With lackluster performances from outfielder Josh Hamilton, the Angels were unable to catch up to the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics.
Offseason pickups: Snatching third baseman David Freese from the St. Louis Cardinals could turn out to be a smart move on the Angels’ behalf. Anchoring the far side of the infield could give the Angels an extra bat, should Freese improve his lifetime batting average. Although sending Mark Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks may be unpopular, the benefits of clearing out Trumbo could outweigh the current drawbacks.
Keys to success: The key to the success of the Angels is starting pitching. C.J. Wilson had a productive year while ace Jered Weaver missed nearly a dozen starts. As long as the Angels do not retain another pitcher like Joe Blanton, the chances of them out-pitching their opponents will increase. The excellent performance of outfielder Mike Trout should carry the team to September, where anything could happen.
Prediction: It goes without saying that the Angels are in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball. With second baseman Robinson Cano signing with the Seattle Mariners, the odds are stacked against the Angels. Still, the Angels could defy critics and pull off an upset. As long as the Angels do the basics right, they stand a chance.