GLENDALE -- MLB Network was in Dodgers camp at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday to film segments for their "30 Clubs in 30 Days" series. The Dodgers episode debuts during "MLB Tonight" Tuesday night at 7 p.m. PT, and I had a chance to chat with the network's Dan Plesac for a few minutes about the team.
Overall, Plesac was impressed with the Dodgers.
"It's hard to find a weakness on this team. Pitching, starting pitching is rock solid. I love the bullpen depth. Kenley Jansen has developed into one of the top closers in baseball," Plesac said. "The lineup is great. I think they're a rock solid team.
"If Matt Kemp comes back and is healthy and is the player that he was in the past, they have to be hands-down the favorite to get the World Series. You don't like to put a tag on a team, but if you asked 10 people, seven or eight would say the Dodgers are the favorites to win the whole thing."
With just 12 days before the Dodgers board a plane for Australia, their second base job is a bit of a toss-up, with $28 million man Alexander Guerrero and converted shortstop Dee Gordon dueling. The club could use a mix of players at the position, including utility men Justin Turner and Chone Figgins.
"The only question, and I don't even know if it's a question, is second base," Plesac said. "and that's really picking with a fine-toothed comb."
Kemp is just beginning to increase his baseball activities and hasn't yet been cleared to play in games, so his availability in the early part of the season is questionable at best. But Plesac is high on the Dodgers outfield, especially once Kemp is back, and doesn't see the four outfielders for three spots being a problem.
"I've been on teams where there has been a logjam in the infield, but I have never seen a team with four outfielders of that quality," Plesac said. "Sometimes you have four outfielders fighting for three spots, but two of the four you're not really sure if they are everyday players. But you could make a case for all four of these. if you look at the back of their baseball cards, these are All-Star caliber players."
Plesac's area of expertise is on the mound, especially in relief. He pitched in 1,064 games in his 18-year career, including 1,050 out of the bullpen, and saved 158 games. Plesac was high on the Dodgers closer.
"It makes it hard when you see a guy like Kenley Jansen, who was a converted catcher. He's still learning about himself as a pitcher," Plesac said. "He has all those strikeouts, he cut his walks down. It's not that easy, but he makes it look easy."
Plesac also praised Jansen's primary setup man.
"I couldn't have been more impressed with what I saw in late September and the postseason than what I saw with Brian Wilson," Plesac noted. "I was more impressed knowing what Wilson went through, with not one but two Tommy Johns - and you never know how you'll come back from the second one - and he was throwing great. He was the number one option from the right side in getting the ball to Jansen, and that's saying a lot because two months earlier he was without a team."
Brandon League began 2012 as the Dodgers closer but ended the year in mop-up duty and off the playoff roster. Plesac thinks League, who has two years and $15 million remaining on his contract, will rebound.
"This guy still has the stuff to pitch at a high level," Plesac said. "He wouldn't be the first reliever to have a bad year and bounce back with a terrific year. That's the fickle life of the bullpen. "I always have been, and I'm more a firm believer now than ever that if you have the confidence you can get away when your stuff is short if you think good thoughts and you believe that when you go out there something good will happen. It's easier said than done. It's a volatile life. One year everything goes right, the next year you hit a couple bumps in the road."
Finally, Plesac touched on the Australia trip the Dodgers. It's nothing quite like he experienced as a player; the closest he came was a trip to Puerto Rico with the Blue Jays in 2001 to open the regular season.
"The only distraction it is is for players, because players are creatures of habit. They know what time they have to be at the ballpark, what they are going to work out and how they are going to work out, and your body gets used to the routine and schedule," he said. "Is it an inconvenience? In some ways it probably is, but it's really good for the sport."