Know Your Foe: Los Angeles Dodgers Preview or Does The Commissioners Trophy Go Hollywood?

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The Dodgers came up one game short of a World Series title in 2017, falling in seven games to the Houston Astros. They got to the Series by beating the Cubs in five games in the NLCS. Los Angeles is primed for another run at a championship in 2018. The Dodgers were unusually quiet in free agency this winter. The only significant move was trading Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Charlie Culberson to the Braves for Matt Kemp. The goal of the move was shedding salary to get under the luxury tax threshold. Yu Darvish, acquired for the postseason run last year, moved on to the Cubs in free agency. So can the Dodgers get over the hump and win a championship in 2018?

Projected Starting Rotation

1. Clayton Kershaw (L)

2. Alex Wood (L)

3. Kenta Maeda (R)

4. Rich Hill (L)

5. Hyun-Jin Ryu (L)

Kershaw had another amazing year going 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 2017. For the second consecutive year the three-time Cy Young winner missed significant time with a back injury. It has to be a concern entering his age 30 season. Alex Wood had by far his best MLB season in 2017, going 16-3 with a 3.23 FIP. Wood might be due for some regression as his BABIP was 30 points lower than any other year of his career. He is only 27 so perhaps this is the new normal, but keep an eye on it. Maeda was in and out of the rotation last season serving as a swing man between starting and bullpen duties. With Julio Urias out at least until May after shoulder surgery and Brandon McCarthy traded, he should stay in the rotation this year. Rich Hill was effective but fragile in 2017, pitching well in only 135 innings. The 38-year old curveball specialist has only pitched 275 innings the last five years. Hyun-Jin Ryu made 24 starts a year removed from shoulder surgery in 2016. Ryu makes it four left-handed starters in the LA rotation in 2018.

Projected Starting Lineup

1. CF - Chris Taylor (R)

2. SS - Corey Seager (L)

3. 3B - Justin Turner (R)

4. 1B - Cody Bellinger (L)

5. RF - Yasiel Puig (R)

6. LF - Matt Kemp (R)

7. 2B - Logan Forsythe (R)

8. C - Austin Barnes (R)/Yasmani Grandal (S)

Cody Bellinger is now firmly entrenched at first base after his explosive rookie year. Chris Taylor came from nowhere in 2017 to become the mainstay at the leadoff spot. Corey Seager is just 23-years old with lots of ceiling still to hit. Justin Turner had an incredible year last season and carried it through the playoffs. The much maligned Yasiel Puig hit a career-high 28 home runs in 2017. The Dodgers tried to dump Matt Kemp after acquiring his contract, or should I say re-acquiring the deal they signed, but found no takers. Kemp has played well this spring and looks like he will be starting left fielder at least to begin the season. Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes look set to platoon at the catcher position.

Projected Bullpen

1. CL - Kenley Jansen (R)

2. RP - Josh Fields (R)

3. RP - Ross Stripling (R)

4. RP - Tony Cingrani (L)

5. RP - Scott Alexander (L)

6. RP - Pedro Baez (R)

7. RP - JT Chargois (R)

8. RP - Adam Liberatore (L)

The pen is obviously built around Jansen who may be the best closer in baseball. The rest of the bullpen has a lot of promising if not proven performers. With Brandon Morrow on the Cubs, hard-throwing Josh Fields becomes the likely set-up man. Human rain delay Pedro Baez struggled late in the year after a strong start. Tony Cingrani was outstanding after his trade from the Reds and will be the primary lefty reliever. Scott Alexander had an excellent year for the Royals in 2017. Keep an eye on JT Chargois acquired from the Twins this offseason, he has battled injuries, but hits the high 90's when he's right. Tom Kohler, added from the Marlins, was going to be a key cog before suffering a shoulder injury.

Projected Bench

1. OF/IF - Enrique Hernandez (R)

2. IF - Chase Utley (L)

3. OF - Andrew Toles (L)

Going with eight bullpen arms the Dodgers will only have a four man bench, one of which is the backup/platoon catcher. Enrique Hernandez will get a lot of playing time especially against left handers. Speedy Andrew Toles has earned another bench spot as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. Inexplicably, the Dodgers resigned Chase Utley to fill out the bench bumping Joc Pederson to AAA. Both players had a similar OPS in 2017, but Pederson is 14 years younger and is a season removed from hitting 25 homers.

Prediction

The NL West had three playoff teams in 2017 and the Giants are looking to rebound from a last-place finish. Still, it's hard to believe the Dodgers don't win the division again with Kershaw, Jansen, and a stacked lineup. The rotation is weaker without Yu Darvish and it is still injury prone. If Kershaw had to miss significant time it could cost them the division, but barring that it looks good. It just feels like this ends with the Cubs facing the Dodgers in the postseason again. Of course baseball could always baseball.

UPDATE

After writing this article, but before it came out Justin Turner suffered a broken wrist after he was hit by a pitch. Early estimates are he will miss 6-10 weeks. Wrist injuries can be tricky for hitters, it's likely that Logan Forsythe will take over third and Enrique Hernandez may play second in Turner's absence.

Filed under: MLB, Uncategorized

Tags: Los Angeles Dodgers, mlb

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  • I guess the D'backs and Rockies could always go on a tear, but I think the Dodgers could suffer a couple of bad breaks and still win the NL West. If everything is working, they'll be tough (again) in the playoffs, but that's a big "if."

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    A hbp just broke Turner's wrist. He'll be out 6+ weeks. Wrist injuries are always tricky, and can sometimes hamper a player's swing the entire year.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    We've seen a few recently with Zobrist and Heyward, but I always remember Derrick Lee. I don't know that he ever fully recovered.

    Of course the Dodgers could just give Pedro Baez the start on opening day. Turner should be all healed up and ready to go by the fourth inning.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Sorry, Derrek. I knew that was wrong when I typed it. I just took a peek at his career numbers and he had a couple good seasons after the broken wrist, it just seemed like forever.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Remember a guy named Ian Stewart, too...

    Randy Hundley/Javy Baez more days. :o)

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Don’t forget Sanberg. He was also never the same after breaking his wrist in spring training. I know the Dodgers are our biggest rival, but I hope he recovers fully and completely.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I make a concerted effort to forget some things. Thanks for reminding me, buddy! :(

    I agree, I like the news as a Cubs fan, but I'm more bummed as a baseball fan. I never enjoy seeing good players get injured, and wish him a full and speedy recovery.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    My idol as a child and I misspell the name. Well done :/

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I noticed, but I had just misspelled "Derrick Lee", so I remained silent.

    In 2003, I worked on a penthouse co-owned by Leigh Steinberg and Alex Rodriguez. My broke ass would work every day and these relatives would visit to check on the progress. All these little kids would walk around wearing authentically-signed gear by major sports stars. One 4-year-old boy was sporting a retro, signed Sandberg jersey. I complimented him and his parents on it, but secretly wanted to rip it off his back and keep it for myself. I didn't, I kept my job, and didn't go to jail. But damn I wanted that jersey!

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I have an autographed ball that I got at a memorabilia shop in the loop that I trusted. It's one of my prized possessions.

  • There is something about that Dodgers team that does not say 'Champions'. Teams are often better than the sum of their parts. This one seems less than. The Bums put it to the Cubs last year, but I look for them come up short this time. Puig is a problem for one thing. He has champagne talent with cheap beer results.

  • I've been saying this for awhile now but I think the Dodgers take a significant step back in 2018, whether that loses them the division race remains to be seen. I was leaning towards picking Arizona over them in the race but with Greinke's woes I'll probably still go with the Dodgers but with something like 90 wins. I think this is a bit of a transition year for them and they know it. Their clear purpose in FA was not to get better but to get under the tax and "reset the clock". Given where they are I think that was wise. They're certainly good enough to compete in teh NL and they have three studs coming in RHP Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez plus Alex Verdugo who should come up and play RF for them for years, but with the possible exception of Buehler those guys are a year away. Add those guys to their young core of Bellinger, Seager and Urias though and that's kind of scary. This year though they fall prey to some regression.

    Even before the injury I didn't think Turner would duplicate his 2017 season. I just don't see him as a 5.5 WAR player for a third year in a row and now of course a wrist injury pretty much guarantees that. I also don't see Yasiel Puig, chris Taylor or Alex Wood putting up anywhere close to the numbers they did last year. Also I'm not sure that Kershaw and a bunch of MOR starters really gets it done two years in a row. Doesn't mean they won't be a good team, I just see regression. As I said I might have picked Arizona to win the division before Greinke's issues but as it is while I will likely pick the Dodgers to win the division I see them as a distant third in the NL behind Washington and the Cubs.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I can envision some Dodgers regression this year, but like us they'll pick up many cheap inter-divisional victories. I believe the Cubs win the NL this season, and I can't bring myself to predict anything less than another WS Championship. But with Friedman running a large-market organization and the payroll that comes with it, I see the Dodgers as our main competition for years to come.

    You mentioned L.A. resetting their luxury-tax penalties in anticipation of spending next year, but the near-certain Kershaw opt-out should consume many available dollars, possibly giving us a leg up on landing Harper or Machado. I think the next half-decade or so will be a battle between L.A. and the Cubs for NL supremacy, and whichever team lands one of those two players could have the scales tipped in their favor.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And I almost forgot... congratulations "Sir" Ringo!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Part of the regression in wins, and the reason I don't think there will be a 100 game winner in the NL, is because every team in the league except Miami and Pittsburgh, will likely be better and I'm not even writing off Pittsburgh for improvement with guys like Marte, Bell and Taillon still improving.not to mention Austin Meadows. Even if they are worse though that's two teams worse and a lot of improvement from the likes of Cincinnati, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, St. Louis, San Diego and even San Francisco even if I think their incremental improvement is foolish. Looking at it Miami will probably lose 100 games but the next worse team might not lose 90. That's going to make a difference. As far as the Cubs I still put them a hair behind Washington but both teams should win 95 plus.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Addendum: I suppose the Rockies could be worse as well. Tough to see them improve on 87 wins.

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    I updated the article with the Turner news. A little behind the scenes, I wrote the article yesterday afternoon. It was set to go this morning, obviously the Turner injury happened in between. The question isn't will he back this season, he will, just what kind of hitter will he be? We'll see.

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    In reply to Sean Holland:

    Wrist and hand injuries are always scary for good hitters. It isn't impossible that he heals and comes back and is basically the same. But there is always a chance that he will never be the same. Which is sad. He is a very good hitter.

  • Kershaw and Wood are really the only Dodger starters that scare you anymore. And Roberts does use his bullpen an awfully lot. What Dusty did to starters here with the Cubs Roberts is doing with relief pitchers in LA, he burned out Baez by the end of the season . Colorado frankly looks like a scarier option if they get any kind of starting pitching. Dodgers had several career years last year and Id be surprised if they can replicate them. One other thinh. Buehler will be on there staff by mid May if healthy. Same with Urias.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    No love for Rich Hill? He’s seemed a pretty good #3-4 the last couple of years. Maybe he’s found something w/the Dodger pitching coaches...

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Hill always had the solid curve - just also had a tendency to lose his feel for it and either walk people in bunches, or to have to use his far more average and more hittable fastball instead.

    When he's been healthy since his re-emergence with the Red Sox a couple seasons back - he's generally managed to keep his feel for his curve. Hill's biggest problem is still that he's not been able to hold up under a stiff workload. Last season he made 25 regular season starts, and he's only done better than that once,... 2007 as a Cub before he lost his touch for a bunch of years.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I'll always remember Hill's 12-6 curve in his younger years with the Cubs. His health issues have been mostly due to blisters. As was mentioned here a couple days ago, maybe he needs to "man-up" and try the Moises Alou method of hand conditioning.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Yes. But he’s seemed to be doing pretty well with the Dodgers. Maybe it’s partially experience, the the team around him & the coaching staff, but it’s sort of brought back memories of what he was supposed to be w/the Cubs. I’ve always liked him.

    I liked Barney for what he was also. Defense 1st, converted from short stop. He had a nice errorless run, if I remember right.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    It looks like Urias will be used in the pen though and not penciled into the rotation. As for Buehler, I don't know. The kid has 93 innings pitched in pro ball and looked completely overmatched in his short call up last year. He's going to be a stud. Let him get 100 minor league innings in and if he's great call him late.

  • And in other former Cub news.... Darwin Barney was released by the Rangers & lefty Brett Anderson was signed by the A’s.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I'll always have a soft spot for Barney - that 2012 season he was one of the few guys on the Cubs roster that played a decent & solid full season. Yes - he was fairly pathetic on offense - but he was damned good on defense and fun to watch.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I have a soft spot for Dan Vogelbach. I was hoping the DH came to the NL and Dan could fill that spot. He is doing OK in ST.

  • In reply to John57:

    Yeah - I've seen a few of his highlight clips this spring - looks like it might be starting to come together for Vogel'bomb' with Seattle.

  • In reply to John57:

    Same here. Always liked his hitting.

  • In reply to John57:

    Vogelbomb is hitting .400/.518/.867 this spring. Yeah, that’s pretty OK. ;-)

    I hope this is the year he sticks in the majors.

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    In reply to seattlecub:

    Good Luck to him. I was never so happy for a player to be traded. He deserves all the success in the world and I hope this is his year.

    The way I put it to a friend of mine is, "I hope he turns into Ted Williams because I think the Cubs kept Joe DiMaggio."

  • What's up with Justin Wilson? Why are is he taking up a spot in the bullpen? He has big issues to work out. Can we afford to carry him on the roster while he does? I'm asking 'cause I'm clueless.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I haven't done any research, just going off of memory, but I'll try (and correct me if I'm wrong): We have Wilson for this year, and then he is a free agent. He's making somewhere around $6M. I'm not sure if he has options, but he has the service time to refuse a demotion, so a trip to AAA is dicey. I want badly for him to succeed, as his re-emergence could make our pen the best in baseball, but those pesky pen arms are notoriously unreliable. I'm hoping for the best, if for no other reason than not losing Candelario for basically a couple months of Avila.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Paredes is still a teenager, but may turn out to be better than Candy. Probably better hitter, Candelario better fielder. Either way, it may be up there on the regrettable trades list. Neither had a spot on the Cubs before 2022, but could have netted more than a rental and a walk machine.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Just because he had a bad 2 months, doesn’t mean he should be released. No reason he can’t recapture what he had earlier. If so, he becomes a huge piece to the back end of the bullpen. If not, he will be released. But again, he has a track record, have to let that play out.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Did you see his horrid appearance a couple days ago?

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    In reply to veteran:

    Lots of veterans have "horrid appearances" in Spring Training. Especially in Arizona. I saw the blast he gave up to Moustakas. It was a breaking ball that didn't break well. Hardly the first time in Arizona in March.

    I admit I am disappointed in Justin Wilson and thought he would be better than he has been when we got him. But I am not throwing in the towel on him by any stretch. And I am certainly not going to give up on him based on "his horrid appearance a couple days ago."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Because of the cost and the lack of options, the Cubs really have to give him a chance to turn it around this year. The question is, how much of a chance? Early on the team can probably absorb a clunker or two, but if the race is tight after the AS break, I could see him released. I hope he finds his former ability.

  • In reply to veteran:

    He apparently has developed a blister the last few days and that contributed to his poor outing. Could be an excuse, but he was pretty good this spring prior to that, so it could also be true.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Maybe a combination. He was cruising on early spring workload but when they started putting him on more of a regular season workload (i.e., back to back outings against major league caliber opponents) things fell apart. We'll see.

    I don't see any possibility they release him before, say, July though. Given what they gave up to acquire him, they have a lot of faith in his stuff and he's going to get more chances to succeed.

  • Cobb an Oriole....? Wow. Good for him.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    4 years $57 million, not sure what the Cubs offered him.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I remember reading that Cobb turned down the Cubs offer of $42M / 3 years. Proving, once again, that good things come to those who wait :)

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    In reply to Milk Stout:

    Essentially, the Cubs paid 7.5m more per year for Darvish. Seems more than reasonable to me.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Craziness. Why would they have paid him this now? Who was going to give him 3 years at this point? Why go four when you're likely heading into a rebuild? Why sign a pitcher like this when you're best hope is likely finishing fourth in that Division? so odd.

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    In reply to TC154:

    Trade bait?

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think some GMs want to create the illusion that they "did something" in the off-season. It's unlikely to have much of an impact, but at least the fans can't complain that they didn't improve.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Yeah, congrats to Cobb on the contract and not settling for one year like Lance Lynn. It paid off, but after a lot of nervous waiting.

  • In reply to seattlecub:

    You take it on faith, you take it to the heart The waiting is the hardest part...

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