Leading up to the start of the 2017 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of baseball’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Los Angeles Dodgers. Stay tuned until Opening Day as Diamond Hoggers previews every team one by one until the beginning of the 2017 season.
Last season was a magical year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Vin Scully’s final year, the Dodgers won 91 games and won the National League West going away, doing it without Clayton Kershaw for a good chunk of the season. They gave Scully as magical a send-off as a Hollywood Script could have written. They gave the Cubs a pretty good fight in the 2016 NLCS after knocking out the Nationals in five games in the 2016 NLDS. Corey Seager won National League Rookie of the Year and finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting. Dave Roberts won the National League Manager of the Year. Everything seemed to come up Dodger blue.
The calendar has turned and they enter the 2017 season with enormous expectations. They’re no longer the hunter but will now be the hunted in their division. The Dodgers must be in the middle of any conversation that features serious title contenders for this upcoming year.
Major Off-season Moves:
The re-signing of Hill, Turner, and especially Jansen will serve as major shots in the arm for this organization. Some in the industry expected the Dodgers to scale back with rumors of them being in payroll Hell. But as often it goes with teams in a major market; rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated. They went ahead and brought back Chase Utley to continue serving as Corey Seager’s dad. They signed away Sergio Romo from their hated rivals to throw some late-inning set up appearances. They traded a great prospect in Jose DeLeon to solidify second base and their lead-off spot with Logan Forsythe. The Dodgers couldn’t have done much more to get near an ‘A’ grade for the off-season.
Projected Starting Lineup:
The lineup honestly lacks ‘sizzle’ you would expect of a team that some are talking as a 100-win team. It’s obviously got the lynchpin Seager there at the top, and Forsythe and Turner are probably criminally underrated. From there, some serious question marks linger.
Adrian Gonzalez enters his age-35 season and is coming off a .784 OPS year. This was the lowest total he’s had in a full season as a big leaguer. There is a glut of outfielders, with Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, Brett Eibner, and Franklin Gutierrez (along with Kike Hernandez) all vying for some sorts of time. Toles is exciting but unknown. Puig is probably never going to be elite again and will continue to be exciting but enigmatic. Pederson has been a strange hitter ever since being named an All-Star as a rookie.
We like Grandal to have a huge year and possibly lead the team in home runs. It’s not a bad lineup, but it’s hardly Murderer’s Row West. They should be a formidable group due to the upside of the youngsters and the veteran presences, but they have obvious question marks.
Projected Pitching Staff:
The starting rotation of the Dodgers is really where they can make hay if they have health.
If Kershaw’s back is healed, he’s a safe bet to resume a Hall of Fame career and once again be the best pitcher in the game. Entering his age-29 season, he could easily still put together one of the best years on the back of his card. Do they even still put year by year on the back of baseball cards? They better. Kids today seem too impatient to even appreciate a large number of years or even statistics as a whole on the back of a card. Kids these days!
We love Rich Hill. In fact, Rich Hill has been as dominant as anyone statistically over the past year-plus aside from anyone not named Kershaw. It seems like the Dodgers will be content if Hill throws around 150-175 innings. And with the depth they have as starting pitching, they probably sign up for that right now if he can manage it. The signing of Hill to a three-year deal even at his ripe old age signals that the Dodgers think he has a lot left in his tank.
Kenta Maeda was really a solid contributor as a rookie, going 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA and 179 strikeouts as a rookie. Without him, they don’t hold off the Giants last season.
Scott Kazmir excites no one as the number four, but remember; Brandon McCarthy and Julio Urias are in play for this area of the rotation as well. The Dodgers are going to have someone productive to run out there on days four and five before you’re back to the big fella and his buddy Hill.
The bullpen should be lockdown, with Jansen closing out games to Tupac’s ‘California Love’ and being set up by the likes of Pedro Baez, the aforementioned Romo, and don’t forget about lightning-lefty Grant Dayton either. He’s the next big thing.
They’re going to be a fun team. There’s something great about baseball when the Dodgers are relevant. There’s something great about when the Dodgers win, Randy Newman’s ‘I Love L.A.’ plays on the loudspeakers. There’s something cool about falling asleep to a late night Dodgers game during the week, waking up just as someone gets a walk-off hit only to dose back off and wonder if it was a dream. It will be slightly less cool without Vin Scully on the call. Alright, it will be downright awful without him around.
But the Dodgers are going to be a good team, and we like their manager quite a bit. If there is anyone in the National League with a realistic shot to be a speed bump in the Cubs dynasty plans, it’s this Dodgers group. We think they win between 95 and 100 games and re-match in an NLCS showdown with the Cubs. With a little luck, they’ll be facing off with the American League’s best next October for the crown.
Corey Seager’s heartbeat goes at about 56 beats per minute in 2017, and he has an even better season than he did in 2017. Get ready for the pain, NL West.