Sep. 23, 2016
Los Angeles Dodgers Preview
With the first team in the National League, meaning they are also the first team in the NL West, I will be previewing the Los Angeles Dodgers. They had a good chance of upsetting the Cubs last year and making it to the World Series for the first time since 1988, but they fell short. This year, they look to build on what they accomplished last year and hope that what they did in the offseason is enough to not only beat the Cubs in the National League playoffs, but to still remain the top contender for them.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Scott Kazmir
Obviously, Clayton Kershaw is going to be the top pitcher in this rotation, as he is clearly the best pitcher in baseball right now. Had he pitched in five more appearances, he would have received his fourth Cy Young award before his age 27 season, and definitely could challenge Roger Clemens for the most all time with seven. Re-signing Rich Hill was nice, but not vital as the Dodgers have starting depth, and Kenta Maeda had a good first season. Julio Urias will likely take a step up after quietly having a solid overall rookie season, and Scott Kazmir was effective as an innings eater, and has the potential to be better than a 4.56 ERA starter. Hyun-Jin Ryu is back from injury as well, and the consistently injured Brandon McCarthy could look for a job as well. Top pitching prospect Jose De Leon was traded to boost the infield.
BULLPEN: Kenley Jansen (CL), Luis Avilan, Adam Liberatore, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Alex Wood
I think retaining Kenley Jansen as the closer for this team was the most important move the Dodgers made to keep their World Series hopes alive, because no casual fan can list anybody else in this bullpen. I'm not saying these are bad pitchers, they all had solid or even above average seasons last year, but they aren't nearly as dominant as Jansen. Baez and Liberatore had the most appearances of the players listed, and all of them held a sub-4.00 ERA in the time they pitched last season. Alex Wood is a starter by trade, but with seven pitchers ahead of him look for him to fight for the long reliever position. Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, Vidal Nuno, Josh Ravin and Ross Stripling are all candidates for the bullpen as well.
CATCHERS: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes
Yasmani Grandal has an interesting impact on the Dodgers, for starters he provides a quality bat that AJ Ellis could not over the years. He led the team last year with 27 home runs, and also was effective enough behind the plate to warrant most of the starts. Austin Barnes has held prospect status for a few years now, and without Ellis around or any new additions, he is the clear favorite for the backup job. Kyle Farmer is also on the 40-man roster, but he likely will start the season in Triple-A.
INFIELDERS: Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Logan Forsythe, Enrique Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke
With the upgrade of Logan Forsythe over the aging Chase Utley, this Dodgers' infield might be the best I have seen in a while. Hopefully it is well worth the sacrifice of losing Jose De Leon. Retaining Justin Turner for the third base position was important as well, and not counting an early struggle in the season he was the best hitter on this team. Adrian Gonzalez will continue to hit for average despite potentially losing his power with continued age, and second year shortstop Corey Seager is now a legit MVP candidate. Enrique Hernandez and Scott Van Slyke are solid bench players who can play positions both in the infield and in the outfield. Darin Ruf, Rob Segedin and Chris Taylor will all fight for jobs as well.
OUTFIELDERS: Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Andre Ethier, Trayce Thompson
Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig both have had interesting careers, Pederson was an All-Star his rookie year due to a dominant first half of that season, and since then has seemingly fallen off of the national radar. Puig was considered a future all time great at one point early in his career, but attitude troubles and struggles at the plate led to him falling off a bit too. Both are the keys to this outfield group going forward, but they have solid backups. Andre Ethier is a long time starter for this franchise, and despite his return late in the season they kept the starting left field spot in the hands of Andrew Toles. Toles had a good start to his career, but in my opinion he hasn't earned his spot yet. Trayce Thompson was on a tear before his season ending injury as well, and he will be the fifth outfielder.
LINEUP: Forsythe (2B), Seager (SS), Turner (3B), Gonzalez (1B), Pederson (CF), Puig (RF), Grandal (C), Toles (LF)
When it comes to looking at the Dodgers from an outsiders perspective, they appear to have a very top heavy roster. Looking closer, however, they have tons of depth all over the diamond, and the "others" in the 25 man roster are not slouches by any means. The key to the Dodgers going above and beyond expectations are leaps forward by three players, Urias, Puig and Pederson, into the dynamic forces we expected them to be going through the farm system. Expect the Dodgers to be favorites to win the NL West this year, and contend for a World Series title. I'm going with 96 wins.