The Los Angeles Dodgers front office made plenty of checkmarks on its offseason to-do list. Kenley Jansen, re-signed. Justin Turner, re-signed. Rich Hill, re-signed. Bullpen help, arrived. And a new second baseman is town after a trade.
Now it’s time for the Dodgers roster to chase down the item that’s been on its to-do list since 1988 — win another World Series.
The Dodgers look every bit like a title contender entering 2017. We’re talking about a team with Clayton Kershaw at the top of its rotation and Corey Seager still getting better. The Dodgers won 91 games a year ago, grabbing the division title and advancing to the NLCS — and that was despite putting a record 28 different players on the disabled list.
The question marks are in their rotation, where Kershaw, Hill and Kenta Maeda hold down the top three spots. For the final two, L.A. is hoping Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy can return to form after injuries and Julio Urias can get close to the hype. Alex Wood and Scott Kazmir linger too. If the Dodgers can pull together a solid rotation out of all that, they’ll be tough to beat.
But then comes the big question: When October rolls around, when the games matter more, can the Dodgers win it all?
ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS
Additions: Logan Forsythe, Sergio Romo
Subtractions: Howie Kendrick, Brett Anderson, Joe Blanton
The Dodgers made modest upgrades to an already strong club this offseason by dealing for Logan Forsythe and picking up Sergio Romo from the rival Giants. Forsythe didn’t fully hold on to his gains from 2015, but moving to Dodgers Stadium should help. He’s a strong leadoff hitter and should score a ton of runs with that lineup behind him. Romo had a tough year with home runs, but still posted an excellent 2.64 ERA with great peripherals. While both players will help, the Dodgers’ biggest boost will come from better health. The team somehow managed a playoff appearance despite breaking the record for most players put on the disabled list last season. With everyone healthy and ready to go, the Dodgers are a major force to be reckoned with in the NL West. (Chris Cwik)
In Corey Seager’s first full season in the majors, he played 157 games, made the All-Star team, batted over .300, hit 26 home runs, won a Silver Slugger, finished third in NL MVP voting, and unanimously won the NL Rookie of the Year award. That’s a huge list of accomplishments for just one year. And now the challenge is trying to follow that up. The thing is, Seager can do it. He was a highly-touted prospect who came to the majors and actually succeeded. Year Two might not be as splashy and exciting as year one, but don’t be surprised if it is. (Liz Roscher)
PROJECTED LINEUP & ROTATION
1. Logan Forsythe, 2B (.264/.333/.444, 20 HR, 52 RBI, 76 R)
2. Corey Seager, SS (.308/.365/.512, 26 HR, 72 RBI, 105 R)
3. Justin Turner, 3B (.275/.339/.493, 27 HR, 90 RBI)
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (.285./349/.435, 18 HR, 90 RBI)
5. Yasmani Grandal, C (.228/.339/.477, 27 HR, 72 RBI)
6. Joc Pederson, CF (.246/.352/.495, 25 HR, 68 RBI)
7. Yasiel Puig, RF (.263/.323/.416, 11 HR, 45 RBI)
8. Andrew Toles, LF (.314/.365/.505, 3 HR, 16 RBI)
1. Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA, 149 IP, 172 K)
2. Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48 ERA, 175.2 IP, 179 K)
3. Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 ERA, 110.1 IP, 129 K)
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-1, 11.57 ERA, 4.2 IP)
5. Brandon McCarthy (2-3, 4.95 ERA, 40 IP, 44 K)
The Dodgers finally get over the hump. The talent has been here for awhile, as evidenced by their NL West dominance. But maybe this will finally be the year it all comes together, leading to that elusive World Series championship. They’ll have to overcome some really good teams, like the Cubs, Nationals and Giants, but a healthy Dodgers team can hang with anyone. (Mark Townsend)
The common theme with the really good teams is that they need to avoid injuries. You don’t have to tell the Dodgers twice after last season’s dubious injury record. The good news is they were good enough to make the postseason then, and should be again this season regardless of circumstances. The bad news is they were overwhelmed by the Cubs in the NLCS, and probably wouldn’t get through a potentially loaded NLDS if short-handed again. (Townsend)
PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
Is Rich Hill the biggest X factor in fantasy baseball?
For my money, he is. Once a promising young lefty coming up with the Cubs, Hill nearly flamed out of baseball altogether because of command issues – after the Cubs cut him loose following four up-and-down seasons, Hill combined for 131.1 (mostly lousy) innings pitched over the next six seasons while donning the uniform of four different MLB clubs. But, something clicked in his second tour with the Boston Red Sox in ’15 when, after being forced to advertise his talents with the Independent League Long Island Ducks during the summer, Hill delivered a 1.55 ERA and 36 strikeouts to just five walks over 29 innings pitched in four starts to close out the season with the BoSox. Last season as a member of Oakland and then the Dodgers, he picked up where he left off, combining for a 2.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 129 Ks in 110.2 IP.
In other words, since late ’15, Hill has been an ace-level fantasy starter. And the Dodgers bought into this transformation in the offseason, giving him a three-year, $48 million contract. Sure, it’s not an exorbitant contract given the price that quality established starters are going for these days, but it’s a fair amount of guaranteed money being allocated to a soon-to-be 37-year-old with a history of injuries and command issues who had fallen so far that he was forced to showcase himself to MLB teams in the Independent League less than two seasons ago.
To say it’s been a long, strange trip would be an understatement. Travis Sawchick of FanGraphs did an excellent job a few weeks back of summarizing Hill’s journey, one in which Hill calls himself a “role model for failure.” Hill has risen from the ashes of his MLB career to become a student of the game, using the knowledge he’s gained from the Sabermetric side to help shape who we see today.
Hill’s past 139.1 innings pitched is not only elite, it’s Kershawian (2.00 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 10.7 K/9). I think we have to accept that Hill, who has always had special swing-and-miss stuff, has figured things out. He may not be able to replicate what he’s done over the past two seasons in ’17, but it’s reasonable to think he can deliver an ERA in the low 3s (or less) and a K/9 rate of 9-plus. What is not reasonable to expect is more than 150 innings pitched considering he’s logged more than last season’s 110.1 IP just one other time in his MLB career – you should probably set expectations for something in the 125-150 IP range.
Hill is going No. 31 overall among SPs in average Yahoo drafts, which looks like a bargain when you consider that he was the No. 15 overall starter in the Yahoo game last season. Even if Hill regresses a bit from last season, he’s still very likely to outperform his ADP if he can surpass his ’16 innings pitched total even if only by a small margin. (Brandon Funston)
Yasiel Puig started a foundation in the offseason, and there is also now #babypuig.
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) February 3, 2017
Puig is always, always worth a follow just in case he finds more Puig hashtags. But even if he never does, #PuigYourFriend is still the best thing ever. (Roscher)
BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
L.A. is a well-known tourist destination, and it’s easy to find things to do in the city. The area near Dodger Stadium may not be all that exciting, but if you’re willing to venture farther, you can check out the Hollywood sign or Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Since those are popular places you already know, we’re going to recommend you try and get to the team’s April 5 game against the Padres. That night, the team is giving away replica Fernando Valenzuela jerseys. You can’t really go wrong with a classic. If you somehow miss out on that, try to grab a Vin Scully Microphone statue May 3. The team will hold a ceremony for Scully that day as well, so tickets are going to go quickly. Probably good to order a Dodger Dog while you’re there. Just to check it off the list. (Cwik)
ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs
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