In 2012, Luis Cruz was by far the biggest surprise of the season. Though some may try to argue that, it’s hard to argue a .297/.322/.431 batting line that included 6 home runs, 40 RBI, and 20 doubles in 296 plate appearances. Hopefully the 29-year-old can build on that performance and establish himself as the Dodgers starting third baseman.
So who will it be in 2013? I got some ideas. Sure it’s probably a bit early for all this, but I can’t think of one reason not to get this out in the open. After all, I figured it was about time to have some fun around here again.
Juan Uribe, don’t laugh I am being serious. Okay, I can’t even help but laugh. But in all seriousness, Uribe may surprise us all in 2013. Granted it wouldn’t take a whole lot since our expectations for him have all but evaporated. I’ve looked around at some of the stat projectors in the business, apparently it’s going to take a miracle. Could that miracle be Mark McGwire? McGwire known for focusing very little on mechanics and purely on approach, maybe McGwire can help Uribe regain some of that magic he had in San Francisco. Uribe is set to play all infield spots this spring to get him some regular looks. Mattingly recently said that he plans to have Uribe learn first base this spring. Interesting. Clearly the Dodgers haven’t given up on Uribe.
Kevin Gregg, the ten year veteran has a lot to prove in 2013. The non-roster invite is hoping to prove he can be a force in the Dodgers bullpen this season. Gregg, 34, has been fairly useful over the last six seasons, averaging 28.6 saves from 2007-2011. Gregg didn’t post any saves in 2012 so I am not qualifying that into the equation. His production certainly took a turn on downward spiral in 2012, but if he can get back to the 2007-2011 form, the Dodgers may have found a solid option for the 2013 bullpen. Gregg certainly has the tools and proven success, now the rest is up to him.
Dee Gordon, nobody has more potential on the Dodgers roster than this kid. Probably the early favorite for the biggest surprise in 2013, but unfortunately the deck is stacked heavily against him. Hanley Ramirez has already been announced as the starting shortstop, and why not? He’s among the league’s elite shortstops. That leaves Gordon all but destined to begin the season in minors to get more seasoning. After all, sitting on the bench isn’t going to do the youngster any good. The once superstar in the making suddenly has found himself on the outside looking in, but what’s the solution? Well Gordon was obviously rushed to the big leagues, but Ramirez assuming he stays at short is still under contract for 2014, not good for Gordon. Long term options are simple, trade him, bury him a bit in the minors, or teach him a new position. Will Gordon do enough to force Hanley back to third? I doubt it.
Carl Crawford, 31, is returning from August Tommy John Surgery. He is progressing ahead of schedule and has already begun hitting in the cages. Crawford wasn’t long ago one of the elite outfielders in all of baseball. Crawford’s career got derailed in Boston as he never really got things going. I’m picking Crawford to be the biggest surprise and I am even going to go out on a limb and call him the 2013 NL Comeback Player of the Year. I am projecting a line of .297/.331/.452 with 16 homers and 28 stolen bases. If he can get his wheels under him, I can see him snagging his second Gold Glove.
Zach Lee, one of the potential sleepers for the 2013 season. He might do some really good things in 2013 but I don’t think it will be for the Dodgers. Yup, I still have him pegged to be traded to San Diego for Chase Headley. I’m not wavering on that until I hear something new to go off of. If he stays in Los Angeles you can bet we will see him at some point, especially if Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, or Ted Lilly are shipped out of town.
Skip Schumaker, the Dodgers new second baseman? Perhaps. I could see him beating Mark Ellis out of the starting job in Spring Training. Still, while I have tons of hope, my expectations remain very low. Schumaker certainly has a lot to prove. I believe he is up for the challenge. Wait, so that could leave him with the biggest opportunity to surprise…interesting indeed.
Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers former closer, is all but destined to start the season as the primary set-up man for Brandon League. I will argue until I am blue in the face that Jansen is better than League in every part of the game. His repertoire, his athleticism, his passion for the game, it all screams future All-Star. I project Jansen to earn his closer job back, not just because he is more dominant, but because he is just a better pitcher. Of course there is the heart issue that Jansen has been dealing with for quite some time. Hopefully that issue has been dealt with properly and Jansen can get back to being one of the best closers in all of baseball.
There it is. Time to post your thoughts and votes for the biggest surprise in the comments section. If I omitted someone you think is capable of out surprising the aforementioned, let’s hear it.