The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
Who will be the team’s offensive MVP this year?
An interesting question, considering my stance on the team’s offense overall. If for no other reason besides lack of variables, it’s most likely going to be Adrian Gonzalez.
The contenders of course will be the returning Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and of course, Hanley Ramirez. But with each of them, there are massive questions, each of which we’ve more or less covered in depth in our 20 Days of Thinking Blue preview:
- How much does Matt Kemp have left in the tank? Have injuries taken too much of a toll?
- Will the rest of the league take advantage of Puig’s weaknesses and immaturity?
- Can Ramirez stay healthy enough to make an impact?
- Even if he’s healthy, is Andre Ethier any more than an above-average player?
It’s a bag of questions for so many players, each of which is a fairly solid bet to surface this year. Ramirez hasn’t had a healthy season in a couple years, which isn’t likely to change much with age. Kemp is a complete wild card, especially considering the radical nature of his ankle surgery. Puig already looks like he hasn’t made much progress in his offensive weaknesses… or his massive brainfarts.
This leaves Gonzalez as the team’s likely offensive MVP, even as his numbers have declined from his peak while in San Diego. Rather than being the 30 homer, .900+ OPS threat he was years ago, Gonzo has now morphed into a watered down version of that guy, hitting 18 and 22 homers the past two seasons with an OPS just above .800. He’s still a potent bat that’s good for around a .300 batting average and about 100 RBIs, but his days as an absolutely elite, MVP-caliber player may be gone.
That being said, he’s still, very, very good with a sweet lefty stroke that’s filled with power. Gonzalez is still fit to hit in the middle of the Dodgers batting order, especially with table-setters like Crawford and Puig in front of him and Ramirez, if healthy, directly in back of him. He’s earned the distinction of my preseason offensive MVP largely because he’s likely to be the healthiest out of the lot and thus, the most steady. He doesn’t have the massive upside of say, Puig, Kemp and Ramirez, each of which could easily win the NL MVP given a performance commensurate to their ability.