LOS ANGELES -- On June 15 last year, the Giants were in third place. Three years ago on June 15, the Dodgers were seven games below .500.
A rough start didn't mean those teams wouldn't go on to successful seasons. The Giants rallied to win it all last year. The Dodgers of 2008 poured it on after the arrival of Manny Ramirez to win the division and sweep the Cubs in the National League Division Series to reach the NL Championship Series.
And a rough start in 2011 doesn't mean it won't happen again. The Dodgers have survived an injury siege, and now that many of their key players are -- or soon will be -- back from the disabled list, the Dodgers are just starting to learn what they are capable of.
Do they have enough to challenge the Giants and the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks? Will they be able to make necessary moves to replenish the roster at the Trade Deadline in spite of the front-office drama?
The Dodgers haven't had an MVP since Kirk Gibson in 1988, but they have a legit contender this year in Matt Kemp, who is having a Triple Crown season and figures to make his first All-Star Game appearance next month.
Speaking of All-Stars, they have one of the most deserving stealth candidates in Jamey Carroll, who has elevated his game beyond the role of utility man to rank among league leaders in batting average while seeing more playing time than starting infielders Casey Blake or Rafael Furcal. Carroll plays the game the right way and doesn't get the credit he deserves.
The Dodgers have the makings of a legitimate starting rotation ace in Clayton Kershaw, who has the raw physical tools as well as the competitive intangibles to be a franchise foundation.
And while they've been rebuilding on the fly in this year of the disabled list, the Dodgers have added some excitement at the top of the batting order in rookie shortstop Dee Gordon, who has taken the bloodlines of his pitching father, Flash, and applied them on offense and defense.
Gordon brings speed to the batting order and a rare athleticism on the defensive side. While he still makes mistakes on the simplest of plays, he gets to balls most shortstops can't and he has his father's throwing arm to finish the spectacular play.
Speaking of spectacular arms, consider the initial impact of rookie pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and his 100-mph fastball. De La Rosa was the top pitching prospect in the organization last year, so his talent was no secret. But he has demonstrated a poise and professionalism not usually seen from someone without any Triple-A experience. He's stepped into the rotation with the injury to Jon Garland and has shown no signs of giving back the job.
While Jerry Sands struggled in his callup, the Dodgers have received unexpected boosts in the bullpen from rookie relievers Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom.
And even with Vicente Padilla out indefinitely, there's hope for a return soon by relievers Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen, as well as Furcal.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.