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Los Angeles Dodgers 2015 Team Preview

No team lost more than the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason. Can they win 90+ games again with so many moving pieces?

Clayton Kershaw

No team lost more this offseason than the Los Angeles Dodgers who look like an entirely different team this year.

The team still has an impressive veteran infield and two blossoming stars in the outfield in Yasiel Puig and top prospect Joc Pederson. The pitching is where the Dodgers have a lot more questions with the backend of their rotation highly suspect and their bullpen a banged up mess.

With so many moving pieces this offseason, can the Dodgers win 90 games for the third straight season or are they destined for collapse in 2015?

 

Last Season:

Record: 94-68

Runs: 6th

Batting Average: 3rd

ERA: 6th

WHIP: 5th

 

Off-Season:

Notable Additions: Howie Kendrick, Yasmani Grandal, Jimmy Rollins, Brett Anderson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Adams, Dustin McGowan, Chris Hatcher, Chris Heisey, Joel Peralta, Mike Bolsinger, Juan Nicasio, Sergio Santos, David Huff, Erik Bedard, Ryan Buchter, Brandon McCarthy, David Aardsma, Enrique Hernandez, Joe Wieland, Chad Gaudin

Notable Losses: Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, Matt Kemp, Josh Beckett, Dan Haren, Roberto Hernandez, Brian Wilson, Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Chris Perez, Jamey Wright, Scott Elbert, Drew Butera, Miguel Rojas

 

2015:

1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Van Slyke

Gonzalez batted just .276 last season, his lowest average in a full season ever, but still managed to hit 27 home runs while driving in an NL-best 116 RBI. Gonzalez is as good a first baseman as you’ll find, consistently hitting 20+ HR and 30+ 2B. He also walks a good amount and has a very strong glove at first. At 33, there’s certainly concern over a possible decline but right now Gonzo is as consistent as they come.

Van Slyke is primarily an outfielder who plays some first and gives the Dodgers a versatile fielder with good pop off the bench. In the minors, he showed he could consistently hit for a high average while adding 20+ home runs and 40+ 2B. His .297 BA, .910 OPS, 11 HR and 13 2B in just 212 at-bats last season suggest he can do the same in the Bigs as well. Van Slyke is a guy capable of starting on most teams playing a utility role in this stacked lineup.

2B: Howie Kendrick, Darwin Barney

Kendrick is consistently a .280-.290 hitter with a good amount of extra-base hits and the occasional steal. His .293 BA, 75 RBI, 45 extra-base hits, 85 R, and 14 SB are all around what we’re used to seeing from him, along with one of the best gloves at his position. The Dodgers may miss Dee Gordon’s speed but they’ll love Kendrick’s dependability.

Barney was acquired for his glove, which may be even better than Kendrick’s. He’s not an impressive hitter but he can hit the gaps for extra bases and seldom strikes out, so he doesn’t hurt you that much when he’s in the lineup.

3B: Juan Uribe, Enrique Hernandez

At 36, Uribe no longer has 20+ HR power but he managed to bat a career-high .311 last season while adding 54 RBI. He seldom walks but keeps the strikeouts manageable and is a stellar fielder at third.

Hernandez is trying to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster with three home runs in 40 at-bats this spring. The 23-year-old was acquired this off-season in the trade that sent Dee Gordon to Miami after spending most of his time in the Houston farm system. There, he showed he’s a solid extra-base hitter but struggles to keep his average up. He’s young and still developing and would be better served starting the year in the minors but he’s highly versatile, can play just about anywhere, and has a solid glove.

SS: Jimmy Rollins, Justin Turner

We pretty much know what we can expect from Rollins: a .240-.250 BA with 15+ home runs, 20-30 SB, 60+ walks, and a very strong glove. He may be 36 but he’s still one of the better shortstops in the league both on the field and at the plate and brings a good work ethic and veteran leadership to a locker room with a lot of new faces.

Turner batted an impressive .340 in his first season with the Dodgers while adding 29 extra-base hits, 43 RBI, and 46 R in just 322 plate-appearances. Turner seldom strikes out, draws walks, and plays solid defense anywhere he’s put in the infield. He gives the Dodgers a lot of versatility and is already lighting it up this spring, going 15-for-32 with two homers, four doubles, and seven runs batted in.

C: Yasmani Grandal, A.J. Ellis

Grandal’s first full MLB season last year was hit and miss but the former top-50 prospect did show some promise despite batting just .225. His 15 HR was good for eighth-best among catchers and he finished fourth among backstops in walks with 58. He walks a lot and has solid pop but we’d like to see him get the strikeouts down and the doubles up if he’s going to finally reach his potential. He could use a little more seasoning behind the plate as well.

Ellis has struggled at the plate the last couple of seasons but he is a reliable veteran catcher behind the plate and a good guy to have with a young starter ahead of him.

 

Outfield:

Yasiel Puig didn’t quite dominate as many expected him to but he showed the signs of an increasingly good all-around player as he reached his first All-Star game. He only hit 16 homers after hitting 19 in 200 fewer at-bats the previous season but he added a whopping 37 2B, nine 3B, and 11 steals while driving in 69 and scoring 92 times. His .296 BA is very impressive for a 23-year-old and his 67 walks last season were good for 10th-most among outfielders. He may make mistakes but he’s a true star who, at 24, is only going to get better, which is a scary thought.

Carl Crawford still can’t shake the injury bug and missed time for the fourth straight season but did put up his best year since he was an All-Star in Tampa in 2010. Crawford batted .300 with 23 steals, both his best since that All-Star appearance. He didn’t do much else, hitting just 25 extra-base hits and scoring 56 runs but he’s a solid hitting outfielder and still plays a serviceable left field. Good thing the Dodgers have a lot of depth for when Crawford inevitably goes down.

Joc Pederson is Baseball America’s No. 8 top prospect entering the season and offers Dodgers fans and fantasy owners a ton to get excited about. In 441 games in the minors, Pederson showed that he can consistently hit for a high average and hit as many as 33 home runs in a single season while stealing 30+ in each of his last two. He walks a ton (100 BB last season!) and has a solid glove. He’s already killing it this spring with four homers and nine RBI in just 44 at-bats. Between Puig and Pederson, the Dodgers outfield is going to give pitchers nightmares for years to come.

Andre Ethier has fallen out of favor the last couple of seasons in LA and saw a career-low 380 plate appearances last year. He didn’t make the most of his opportunities either, batting a career-low .249 with a meager four home runs, 17 doubles, and 42 RBI. At 33, he’s a far cry from the 20+ HR and 30+ doubles hitter we saw just a couple of seasons ago and he’s shown no reason for us to expect a turnaround this season.

Chris Heisey has been brutal at the plate the last two seasons, batting just .237 and .222 with Cincy. He’s not going to intimidate any pitchers (he’s already batting a sad 2-for-30 this spring) but he has a solid glove and can play anywhere in the outfield.

Alex Guerrero has been mentioned in a lot of trade rumors but the Dodgers would be best suited to keep the Cuban utility man. After signing from Cuba where he consistently hit ~20 home runs in 80-game seasons, Guerrero played 77 minor league games last season and didn’t miss a beat as he batted .333 with 17 HR, 42 extra-base hits, and struck out just 50 times. He’s already batting .364 with two homers and seven RBI in 33 at-bats this spring. Though he’s been playing in the pros since 2007, he’s only 28 years old.

 

Starting Rotation:

Clayton Kershaw is bar none the best pitcher in the game, winning three Cy Youngs in the last four seasons (while finishing second in 2012) and taking home the MVP award last year. Kershaw has led the league in ERA and WHIP each of the last four seasons and also led the league in K/9, K:BB ratio, complete games, and wins last year. Look for the Dodgers’ $215 million man to make another Cy Young run in 2015.

Zack Greinke has been stellar since coming to the Dodgers. After he led the NL in winning percentage in 2013, going 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, he improved last year to 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 207 K to 43 BB. Greinke gives the Dodgers a tremendous one-two punch atop the rotation but there’s definitely concerns behind them.

Brandon McCarthy has struggled with injuries the last few seasons but, more importantly, he’s struggled with pitching. He owns a 4.24 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over the last two seasons while giving up a home run every nine innings. He rarely walks anyone but he gives up a ton of hits and is often burned by the home run ball. He’s a mid-3.00 ERA pitcher at best but, more typically, he’s a mid-4.00 ERA guy.

Brett Anderson can’t stay healthy. Sure, he posted a 2.91 ERA in eight starts with the Rockies last season. And, yeah, he had a 2.57 ERA in six starts with the A’s two seasons ago. But this is a guy with 19 starts since 2011 and one that has struggled with consistency on top of the many injury woes. Don’t expect Anderson to suddenly heal up in sunny Southern California.

Joe Wieland is likely to start while Hyun-Jin Ryu recovers from a shoulder issue and is having a very strong spring, allowing just one earned run while striking out nine and walking three in nine spring innings. He only has 39 MLB innings under his belt but the former top-75 prospect, who was acquired in the Matt Kemp trade, was impressive in his minor league run, posting a 3.27 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 8.4 K to 1.6 BB per nine innings. There’s a lot to like, even after Ryu returns.

Hyun-Jin Ryu saw his season cut short by a shoulder injury last year but has put up two very nice years with the Dodgers, going 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 293 K to 78 BB. He almost never gives up home runs, is very frugal with his walks, and is still growing as a Major League pitcher. Ryu is expected to miss the first two to three weeks of the season.

 

Bullpen:

Kenley Jansen is expected to miss about a month after undergoing foot surgery which is a huge blow after the flame throwing closer saved 44 out of a possible 49 games and struck out 14 batters per nine innings last year. Jansen has been as good as any closer in the league the last three seasons and there’s no reason not to expect him to light opposing lineups up once he returns.

Joel Peralta is also dealing with an injury but is expected to be ready by Opening Day. After putting up four strong seasons with the Nats and Tampa, Peralta fell off last season with a 4.41 ERA, giving up 1.3 HR/9. He allowed a lot more hits than we’re used to seeing from him last season and it’s not unfair to ask if, at 39, he’s pitched his best innings. Of course, there’s also the chance that he ends up the Dodgers’ closer for the first month of the season which is a risky endeavor for an old and injured pitcher dealing with an injury.

Juan Nicasio is terrible, so his acquisition is quite the head-scratcher. He has put up a 5.24 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over the last three seasons with the Rockies and has already allowed four runs in seven innings this spring.

J.P. Howell has been great since coming to the Dodgers, putting up a 2.19 ERA and 1.09 WHIP the last two seasons. He walks more than four batters per nine innings which is a concern but he keeps the ball in the park and strikes out close to nine batters per innings so he can get out of jams.

Brandon League is expected to start the season on the DL with a shoulder injury and may miss an extended period of time. After struggling in 2013, League had a strong season last year with a 2.57 ERA. This injury is another big blow to the Dodgers pen.

Chris Hatcher looked solid in his first full season with the Marlins last year, putting up a 3.38 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 56 innings. He throws hard and strikes a lot of guys out but manages to keep his walks low. He was a candidate for the temporary closer’s job but has struggled this spring, giving up six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

 

Grades:

Offense: B+ to A-

Defense: B+

Starting Pitching: B- to B

Bullpen: C+ to B-

Overall: B+

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