Monday Rockpile: Hoping for disaster

Harry How

The LA infield may hold the key to how competitive the NL is going to be in 2014.

I've got to be honest. I love a good schadenfreude.

When you passionately root for a team that's lost an average of 92 games over the last three seasons, you need something comforting to think about to keep your sanity and avoid plunging into a state where you're consistently feeling miserable. So what better way is there to do that than take great pleasure in the failures of the teams and players you don't like?

Recently I've contained some of these emotions on this board as we all have different teams we love to hate, but I figured today is a good day for Denver fans to dream about a disastrous and not completely farfetched scenario that could strike the infield of one of the division rivals.

The picture probably already gave it away, but yes, I'm talking about the Dodgers. The juggernaut in Los Angeles is the heavy favorite to take the division title this season, and for good reason. They've got excellent pitching in both their rotation and bullpen, tremendous outfield depth, a remarkably consistent first baseman, an underrated catcher, and pockets as deep as the Mariana Trench.

Yet, despite all of these positive, there are already warning signs that they might not be quite as powerful as they appear. By mid-season, it's quite possible that the Dodgers could be facing a huge problem when it comes to the rest of their infield.

At second base, the Dodgers are going to be relying heavily on the bat of Cuban star Alexander Guerrero to nail down the position. His production is a huge question mark however as he's already 27, and may have just been an older player mashing inferior competition in the Cuban leagues. His bat translating to the major league level is far from a guarantee, especially this season.

At shortstop, the Dodgers have Hanley Ramirez coming off a monster season at the dish. But much like Troy Tulowitzki, injuries are a question mark, and despite an outstanding 86 games at the plate in 2013, his two prior seasons were very underwhelming. Ramirez is likely to be a key player in predicting LA's fortunes this season as he could be anything from a top ten player in the league, to a guy that misses time, is mediocre with the bat, and a disaster on defense.

Then at third base, the Dodgers are relying on Juan Uribe to repeat the career year he had in 2013. Uribe is one of the hardest guys to figure out in the game, but entering his age 34 season, it seems highly unlikely that he'll even come close to repeating the 4.1 rWAR and 5.1 fWAR campaign he put together in 2013. This is a guy whose career looked finished 12 months ago after batting .199 with a .552 OPS in his for two seasons with the Dodgers.

The bench behind these three players is filled with even more question marks. Mark Ellis and Nick Punto have both departed this winter (to St. Louis and Oakland), and while these were not the sexiest names on the 2013 roster, they both spent significant time in the LA infield and both provided above average value.

If you listen to some of the news coming out of Dodger circles, there's legitimate talk about Miguel Rojas, a guy who has a .589 OPS in the minor leagues making this roster. They've also recently signed Chone Figgins in what appears to be a desperate attempt to strike gold and improve their infield depth.

If you're like me and you love watching the carnage, root hard for this situation to unravel. If Guerrero flops, Uribe turns back into a pumpkin, and Hanley Ramirez starts playing as if he's in a coma again like he did in 2011 and 2012, then this team has a major issue. There is literally nothing behind this first line of fortification, and before you start thinking they will just wave their magic wallet and make this problem disappear, take a look at what the situation looks like at second base, shortstop, and third base for the other major baseball superpower in New York. There's just not enough good players at those positions to go around right now.

This is one of the big under the radar aspects to the Rockies season that hasn't been talked about much this winter. If the infield breaks right for the Dodgers, they are very likely to run away from the division. It's very possible that Guerrero sticks, Ramirez rakes, and Uribe retains much of his 2013 value. However, it's also very possible that Guerrero flops, Ramirez reverts back to his mediocre play, and Uribe is anything but an acceptable everyday bat. If the second scenario plays out, it might take less than 90 wins to grab the division crown.

So if you want the Rockies to have a chance in this division next season, channel all your negative energy towards the LA infield, because that's the one place they are very vulnerable.

Links

We're into February which means pitchers and catcher report this month. WOOT!!! Our own Bryan Kilpatrick has all the important dates for teams in the Cactus League.

Jayson Stark makes a very strong argument as to why Major League Baseball, and not the NFL, is the king of parity among the major American sports.

The battle between the Cubs and the rooftop owners rages on.

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