Happy New Year, everybody. With the dawn of 2016 now upon us, we are done with 2015 reviews and can now start looking forward. But how far forward? It's difficult enough trying to predict 2016 performance, let alone a few years beyond that.
But just for fun, let's see how well we can map out the next five years. The existence of Clayton Kershaw makes the pitching side seemingly easier than position players, so we'll deal with pitchers later. For now, let's think about the offense.
To predict the next five years, let's first look back at the last five years, and what we might have thought in January of 2011. Matt Kemp was coming off a relatively rough 2010 season that saw him quarrel with both manager Joe Torre and coaches Bob Schafer and Larry Bowa, but also hit 28 home runs in a "down" year and was heading into his age-26 season.
Kemp, like Andre Ethier (heading into age-29 season) and James Loney (27) were all starters for at least the previous 3½ seasons and seemed like safe bets if we're looking five years forward. Dee Gordon was the club's top Dodgers prospect per Baseball America, heading into his age-23 season, with incumbent shortstop Rafael Furcal's contract up at the end of 2011.
That quartet would have likely been the choices if we were to try to pick the choices for the top-performing Dodgers from 2011-2015. Ethier is the only one of the four to have remained on the major league roster that entire time.
Then again, looking so far into the future, even with a freshly-signed long-term contract, is just asking for trouble.
But who were the actual leading position players of the last five seasons for Los Angeles?
WAR (Baseball-Reference): Adrian Gonzalez 12.3, Kemp 12.1, Ethier 11.5, Yasiel Puig 11.3, Hanley Ramirez 9.6
WAR (FanGraphs): Ethier 12.7, Kemp 12.5, Puig 11.0, Gonzalez 10.3, Ramirez 9.8
The only teams with a lower fWAR leader from 2011-2015 than the Dodgers were the Astros (Jose Altuve led with 11.5 WAR) and White Sox (Alexei Ramirez at 11.9). The Twins, with Joe Mauer at 13.0 as their WAR leader, came close.
Home runs: Kemp 93, Gonzalez 80, Ethier 61, Puig 46, Ramirez 43
RBI: Gonzalez 328, Kemp 317, Ethier 298, Ramirez 172, A.J. Ellis 161
Runs scored: Kemp 301, Ethier 283, Gonzalez 240, Puig 188, Gordon 173
Hits: Ethier 632, Kemp 543, Gonzalez 534, Puig 359, Gordon 335
Total bases: Ethier 983, Kemp 948, Gonzalez 892, Puig 595, Ramirez 508
Stolen bases: Gordon 130, Kemp 66, Carl Crawford 48, Tony Gwynn Jr. 35, Ramirez 31
Walks: Ethier 243, Ellis 209, Kemp 188, Gonzalez 176, Puig 129
Games played: Ethier 698, Gonzalez 508, Kemp 490, Ellis 435, Juan Uribe 407
It is pretty telling just how much roster turnover there has been in the last five years. The leader in games played averaged just shy of 140 games per year, and these five were the only ones to play in even half of the Dodgers' 809 regular season games from 2011-2015.
In other words, good luck in predicting the next five years.
Drilling down even more, here are the Dodgers leaders in games started at each position over the last five seasons:
Catcher: Ellis 406, Yasmani Grandal 100, Rod Barajas 85
First base: Gonzalez 481, Loney 215, Juan Rivera 61
Second base: Mark Ellis 206, Gordon 139, Howie Kendrick 112
Third base: Uribe 320, Justin Turner 137, Luis Cruz 68
Shortstop: Ramirez 248, Gordon 147, Jimmy Rollins 128
Left field: Crawford 218, Scott Van Slyke 88, Gwynn 74
Center field: Kemp 367, Joc Pederson 140, Ethier 130
Right field: Ethier 402, Puig 249, Kemp 59
As you can see, the last five years haven't been the most stable for the Dodgers, with tons of turnover in both the roster, front office, coaching staff and ownership chairs.
Ideally the next five years will be more secure at the top, and with the stated desire to funnel more young talent through the organization there is a chance at more long-term stability in the roster as well, though perhaps not beginning immediately.
Forced to pick one position player to be the most productive Dodger from 2016-2020, I would select Corey Seager, the organization's best prospect and one of the very best prospects in baseball, even with all of one month of major league experience under his belt. But I would bet on Seager being very productive from ages 22-26.
Puig, entering his age-25 season, is the next-best bet, though he is eligible for free agency after 2019. Gonzalez has been the most steady and durable of Dodgers since his arrival in Los Angeles, and he still has three years remaining on his contract, though he turns 34 in May.
Other long-term candidates include Pederson (24 in 2016, five years until free agency), Grandal (27, three years until FA), and if they are able to lock down regular playing time, the trio of Kiké Hernandez (24), Austin Barnes (26) and Trayce Thompson (25).
Digging even deeper, Cody Bellinger (20) and Alex Verdugo (20) could definitely impact the next five seasons, though perhaps not starting until 2018.
Just to have something on record that I can be completely wrong about, here are my guesses at the Dodgers leaderboard for 2016-2020:
Home runs: Puig
Total bases: Puig
Games played: Seager
First base: Gonzalez
Second base: Hernandez
Third base: Manny Machado*
Left field: Thompson
Center field: Pederson
Right field: Puig
*I had to pick somebody not currently in the organization. History suggests I probably should have guessed more than just one player.
Who are your picks for the Dodgers' position player leaders of the next five seasons?