It’s incredible how things can change so quickly in sports and the Dodgers return to the NL West chase is proof that the baseball season is a marathon. About a month ago I wrote this piece about a Dodgers team that had just finished getting swept in Atlanta and losing two of three to the Diamondbacks at home.
The Dodgers were 27-36 and were destined, like the Lakers, to be arguably the most expensive and disappointing team in sports history.
However, one Yasiel Puig promotion and a Hanley Ramirez surge has the Dodgers at 47-47 and just 2.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tomorrow they resume play in Washington D.C. before heading to Toronto and then home to face the Reds for four games.
Now, I fully expect the Dodgers to continue their torrid play and I hope that break allowed players like Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp a chance to catch their breath and realize they will be depended on to help the offense.
With Kemp and Carl Crawford both sidelined by injuries, there’s virtually no scenario I envision that management would trade Ethier.
2.5 games back at the All-Star break was more than anyone could’ve asked from them, but the time is now for them to make their move and push ahead of the Diamondbacks atop the NL West standings.
Here are three predictions for the final two and a half months of the season:
1. The Dodgers will win the NL West
It’s not the boldest prediction in the world, but I do believe that the Dodgers are the best team in the division. Led by a potent offense that will only get deeper once Kemp and Crawford come back, the Dodgers will win the NL West by at least four or five games.
The bullpen will remain the weakest unit of the team, but Kenley Jansen closing games will make the ninth inning less scary and the rotation has found its groove.
Zack Greinke looks like the pitcher the Dodgers thought they were getting while the addition of Ricky Nolasco will help round out the entire rotation.
2. The Dodgers will make a significant trade
I know it’s a cop-out to not specify a player the Dodgers will acquire, but it all depends on how certain teams adjust their asking price for veterans.
A scenario I could envision is the Dodgers acquiring Cliff Lee and/or Chase Utley, but Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has been reluctant to admit the team won’t make the playoffs.
There is also chatter about a trade for Aramis Ramirez that could also net the Dodgers one of John Axford or Francisco Rodriguez. A scenario I could envision is the Dodgers adding Twins lefty closer Glen Perkins to give them another solid bullpen arm.
Third base, second base or bullpen seem like the positions that Ned Colletti and Stan Kasten are looking to upgrade ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
3. Yasiel Puig will win NL Rookie of the Year
While he didn’t make the All-Star team, Puig will be the Dodgers catalyst as they win the division and he beats out Cardinals starter Shelby Miller and Marlins starter Jose Fernandez for NL Rookie of the Year.
Puig won’t continue to hit in the .390’s, but keeping his batting average above .330 with the power and speed he possesses, coupled with the Dodgers on field success should net him the award.
The Dodgers have a special talent for years to come and baseball is continuing to realize his immense talents and abilities on the baseball field.