Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Trayce Thompson, Joe Blanton
The big mystery this off-season is what the Dodgers are going to get out of Maeda. He is coming into his first MLB season at age 27 after coming over from Japan. He doesn’t have the hype of someone like Yu Darvish, or Tanaka, but has shown to be a strong pitcher, and posted mostly better stats than Hisashi Iwakuma. It shows he can more than likely translate his skills into the MLB, but most likely not in the way to replace a Greinke. Maeda and Kazmir combined can be a bandaid for a guy like Greinke, but in seeing that, Hyun-jin Ryu is to miss the majority of the season, and the pitching more than likely will look worse this year.
- Joc Pederson/Keke Hernandez/Trayce Turner
- Howie Kendrick
- Yasiel Puig
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Jacob Turner
- Corey Seager
- Yasmani Grandal
- Carl Crawford/Scott Van Slyke
The Dodgers lineup is the most confusing and toughest to sort out in the National League. To start, they essentially don’t have a lead off hitter. You could make a case for anyone except Gonzalez and Grandal for the lead off spot. Pederson did a lot of his power damage last year in the lead off spot, and may get that chance again, but in his second half last year hit under .200 which really is not playable in the MLB. Andre Ethier will miss the majority of this season, but that leaves opportunities for Hernandez, and Thompson who may have more upside. Both have a decently high OBP, making them leadoff candidates and both are 25 or under. Both are more than likely better defensive options than Pederson as well. Thompson will get the most time in center if Pederson is out. Puig will take on right field, and Crawford will split time with Van Slyke in left. Van Slyke can play first as well to spell Gonzalez, giving Hernandez a shot at more time in the outfield if Thompson joined a platoon with Pederson. Pretty confusing right?
That is without mention of Chase Utley, who can platoon with both Turner and Kendrick in the infield. Utley only hit .212 last year, but one thing is for sure is that this team is as deep with MLB potential as any team in the MLB.
However, from Pederson and his bi-polar rookie year, to the unknown of every other outfield position including Puig, who was injured most of last year to Turner who had a strange breakout last year to Seager who will be a rookie this year there are so many questions on this team. They are one of the most volatile teams in recent memory due to the questions and unknowns of not only the lineup, but where these guys play in the field.
The Dodgers starting rotation is a little easier to decifer, mainly due to the injuries of Ryu and Brett Anderson. It gives Lee an easy in to the rotation, and gives a former first round pick a chance to prove himself. Lee had been sliding down the prospect list, but is only 24 as he makes his first start on an MLB roster. If Lee is to sturggle he may see his time slowly taken away by the Dodgers current top prospect, Julio Urias. The thought would be that both Lee and Urias can take a step forward, and the Dodgers would have an expendable veteran, but as of the this moment Lee is the biggest starter in question. Wood should be penciled into the rotation, and is a perfect guy to have as your 4th or preferably 5th pitcher. He is a contact type of pitcher, but has good command and usually is able to give at least six innings. Kazmir would be the most likely to see a lack of starts this summer when Urias is ready, mainly because he is on the back end of his career. He has shown a big drop in velocity, and while he isn’t reliable on his velocity, it is a concern due to the fact that he is 32 years old. Maeda is obviously a huge question mark, and may find himself out of the rotation, but if all went right for the Dodgers, him and Ryu would be competing for back end spots with a duo of Kershaw and Urias moving forward.
One good thing about a guy like Wood, or even Lee is that they can be shifted into long relief if needed. Blanton is in a long relief spot now and is solid in that role, but the pen could use a few more horses. They can fill out and have a strong closer in Kenley Jansen, but there is a reason this off-season they were shopping for relief. They didn’t necessarily fill it, and the pen will be one of the teams bigger weaknesses.
If you had to grade the Dodgers right now it would be an incomplete. We don’t know who will leadoff, heck we don’t think they even have a lead off hitter. They then have questions and a five or six man rotation in the outfield. One of them can platoon at first, but that is their most stable bat in Adrian Gonzalez. In the infield they added Kendrick, who had a nice year, but it looks more and more like they sent off Dee Gordon for him too early. They have a rookie at short stop, and an improbable breakout of Turner at third. Their pitching features a rookie from the minors, a rookie from Japan and injuries forcing an injury prone Kazmir signing. They should spend their first few months shuffling this group and find out what they have. The lack of a consistent day to day lineup may have a bigger effect than you realize. Add to that this team looked like they were on a downward trajectory before losing a guy like Greinke and it is hard to say that things will be as good or better than last year.
3rd in the NL West