The Los Angeles Dodgers are arguably the most stacked team behind the Cubs in the majors. 2017 looks to be yet another successful year for the Boys in Blue. The big question: Can they exorcise their postseason demons? They certainly have the roster and the manager to do so.
Record: 91-71, 1st NL West (Lost NLCS, 2-4)
If you looked at the amount of roster shuffling manager Dave Roberts had to deal with last year, you wouldn't think this team finished just two wins short of a World Series berth. With a record 28(!) different players to hit the DL last season, including ace Clayton Kershaw for two months, the Dodgers still took the division from the collapsing Giants. In the playoffs, Dave Roberts did what Don Mattingly couldn't do: manage his pitchers correctly. After stretching closer Kenley Jansen in game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, Roberts called on Kershaw to earn his first career save. The Dodgers had a chance in the NLCS against the eventual champion Cubs, but the Cubbies proved too potent for the taxed bullpen. The offense wasn't affected by a down year from Adrian Gonzalez, thanks to career numbers from Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal. The future looks bright, with Corey Seager taking home Rookie of the Year honors and finishing third in the MVP vote.
Key Offseason Moves
Subtractions: Jose De Leon, RHP; Joe Blanton?; RHP, Chase Utley?, 2B; Vin Scully, GOAT
Additions: Logan Forsythe, IF; Sergio Romo, RHP
Re-signings: Justin Turner, 3B; Kenley Jansen, RHP; Rich Hill, LHP
The Dodgers dominated the offseason rumor mill. Most of that was about the potential Brian Dozier trade. In the end, the Twins wanted too much and the Dodgers turned to Tampa Bay for Forsythe. It’s tough to say goodbye to De Leon, who showed flashes of being a really good big league pitcher, but it made sense to get a solid 2B, who could also play first and third if needed. The key to the offseason for LA was re-signing Turner, Jansen, and Hill. All three players were key to the Dodgers’ NLCS run in 2016. Turner could've been replaced if he signed elsewhere (Longoria may have been available), but Jansen and Hill would have been big holes in the roster. Once again, the biggest question marks coming into the season are the bullpen before Kenley, and Yasiel Puig.
The biggest bugaboo for the Dodgers the last few years has been the bullpen before Kenley Jansen. Surprisingly, last year’s edition was the best in the majors in terms of ERA, but logged the most innings, which hurt the Dodgers in the playoffs. Joe Blanton was a central cog in that system, but faltered in the postseason. The signing of Sergio Romo is interesting. Andrew Friedman seems to have pulled from Ned Coletti’s playbook in signing the former Giants closer. Hopefully he works out better than the likes of Chris Perez and Brian Wilson, the latter being Romo's predecessor in SF. Overall the core is the same. My biggest ask is that Pedro Baez hurry the hell up on the mound.
Seems like every general story about the Dodgers has some mention of Puig. I’m sticking with my mindset of the last couple years. Let’s see a full, healthy season from him before passing final judgement. He shows flashes of brilliance, but that damn injury bug always seems to get him. If he struggles in a full season, then it’s fine to part ways. But let’s not say he is a total detriment to the team citing possible locker room issues. His trip to the minors last year seemed to do him good and hopefully his newborn can help him rein himself in. But I still love his Cuban flare, mostly because it pisses Madison Bumgarner off so much. He’s been in the show for three and a half years and hasn't lost a division race yet, so maybe he's not that bad of player.
Prospect to Watch: Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, AAA
This kid can straight rake. He’s a lean 6’4” lefty with lots of power. I saw him in High-A and he was absolutely pummeling the ball. His skills at first base are solid and he should be the successor to Adrian Gonzalez. But if he cant be held back before A-Gon leaves, it sounds like his outfield adjustment is going well. I’m glad the Dodgers stayed strong and didn’t give him up for a guy like Dozier. Cody Bellinger is the (near) future for the Dodgers.
Why the Dodgers Will Win the World Series
This is not a prediction, but more of an outline on what needs to happen for the Dodgers to bring a title back to Chavez Ravine for the first time since 1988.
The Dodgers lineup is potent. They'll score plenty of runs. If Turner, Grandal, Forsythe, and Seager perform anywhere near their 2016 numbers, the Dodger’s lineup may be the scariest in baseball. Add in a possible bounce back from Adrian Gonzalez, improved on-base and sustained power from Joc Pederson, and a solid year from whoever the corner outfielders will be, you've got yourself a World Series lineup right there. On the other side of the ball, Kershaw just has to keep being Kershaw, Hill has to keep his blister under control, and the 3-4-5 combo stay the same for most of the year. Kenta Maeda needs to be strong enough to perform throughout the year. Maybe Julio Urias can be a key player in the rotation. The bullpen just has to get the ball to Kenley. Do that in the regular season and the playoffs, and a Dodger Blue parade will hit the streets of LA in 2017.
Who Could Prevent the Dodgers from Winning the World Series
The Giants are the biggest regular season obstacle for the Dodgers. If the Giants take the division, they'll force the Dodgers to earn a wild card spot where the race always seems to be tight. If the Dodgers win a wild card spot, the extra game they play could hurt them, though the Giants and Royals were both wild card teams when they faced off in the 2014 World Series.
In the postseason, other than a possible matchup with the Giants, the Cardinals and Cubs pose the biggest threats to a Dodgers championship. The Cardinals just seem to have the Dodgers’ number and the Cubs have a young, dynamic roster managed by Joe Maddon. Those three teams have the rosters and history to stop the Dodgers’ run to a World Series.
93-69, 1st NL West
This Dodgers team is built to win a fifth straight division title. The Giants have bolstered their bullpen, which cost them the division last year, with Mark Melancon. But question marks abound on offense, in the outfield, and the rotation behind Bumgarner and Cueto. The Dodgers have also won the division in different ways: comeback (2016), runaway (2014/15), comeback into a runaway (2013). Unless injuries - which didn't seem to affect them too much last year - and multiple down years happen, the Dodgers will win the National League West for an astonishing fifth straight year.