Stock watch: A-Gon heating up
April, 14, 2014
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Adrian's power: Adrian Gonzalez is the most consistent hitter in baseball. He has the same season over and over ... with one exception. His power hasn't been the same since shoulder surgery four years ago, and pitchers haven't been as careful with him, so his on-base percentage has dipped in tandem. Nonetheless, he hits in the clutch and drives in runs, so nobody has complained much. Gonzalez has looked the past year or so like he might be regaining that nice, smooth power stroke to left-center. In the past seven games, he has slugged .931 and he has hit home runs in four straight games, one shy of the franchise record. He's off to a dangerous start.
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAdrian Gonzalez has homered in four straight games.
Dee Gordon: A team could run itself into the ground making player-personnel decisions based on early April results, but the second-base situation isn't working out as badly as some feared. That's because Gordon committed himself in the offseason to the position switch and came into camp physically and mentally ready to win the job. So far, he has even hit lefties a bit (2-for-6), which means he could take over the position full time. He's been a catalyst atop the order, disruptive on the bases and is playing capable -- and sometimes outstanding -- second base.
Dan Haren: This guy gets craftier every year. It's almost as if he spent his entire offseason watching tapes of Greg Maddux. His fastball doesn't top 89 mph, but he throws it where he wants it and he gets late movement with his cutter. His splitter isn't as effective as it once was because he doesn't throw the four-seamer as hard -- and thus doesn't have as much separation -- but it's good enough to keep hitters off balance. Every young Dodger pitcher should watch this guy work. He's been a huge addition so far, especially with Clayton Kershaw down.
Kenley Jansen: It's too early to draw any sweeping conclusions, but the early returns on the closer's reinvigorated fastball -- he has gained a few mph since last year -- are mixed. Jansen was dominant, touching 100 mph Sunday. He also blew a save in a game the Dodgers won Tuesday and was the losing pitcher after giving up a Victor Martinez home run Wednesday. Jansen's greatest asset -- what made him such a swing-and-miss machine last season -- is the late movement on his cutter. You wonder whether the increased velocity has affected that.
Mark Metcalfe/Getty ImagesKenley Jansen has converted on four of his five save opportunities this season.
Headfirst slides: Both Southern California teams got hit hard by baseball's dumbest play: the headfirst slide into first base. Josh Hamilton severely injured his thumb doing it for the Angels and is out 6-8 weeks. Yasiel Puig got away with a minor thumb injury doing the same thing in a game against the Giants. In Puig's case, he wasn't even avoiding a tag, making it utterly baffling. The early comparisons of Puig to Bo Jackson look better by the day. He often looks like a great athlete learning how to play the game as he goes. Let's hope he picked up this lesson quicker than he learned to hit cutoff men. Making this mistake won't just cost his team a game, it could cost him a career.
Catching and throwing: We thought it was going to be a problem and it is a problem, so far. The Dodgers have made 12 errors in 13 games. They are 26th in baseball in fielding percentage. With Gordon adjusting to a new position, Hanley Ramirez highly erratic at shortstop and Matt Kemp playing on a recovering ankle in center, this could be a problem for a while. Teams should be able to make a good living hitting the ball up the middle, which is easier to do anyway. There is not a real immediate solution to this problem, so Dodgers pitchers might just have to work around it.