The Los Angeles Dodgers are a big-market team who will now use a small-market approach to their everyday baseball activities. They have had two straight years of record payrolls and big-name acquisitions. While it has worked in the regular season, it has not panned out in the postseason.
The Dodgers added new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman from Tampa Bay. They also signed general manager Farhan Zaidi from Oakland and senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes, who previously worked in San Diego and Oakland.
This trio will bring a ‘Moneyball’ approach to Los Angeles, but the difference is that they actually have the money to keep getting some of the biggest names. Off back-to-back NL West titles and a 94-win season, let’s see if the Dodgers can take that next step in 2015.
Jimmy Rollins (SS) – Was one of only four players in baseball last year with at least 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases while playing for the woeful Phillies. Rollins should be rejuvenated to make another run at a World Series title with his new team.
Carl Crawford (LF) – The old Crawford was back down the stretch last year. He hit .403 over his final 44 games and stole 23 bases in limited action, and now the Dodgers hope he can finally start to live up to his massive contract.
Yaisel Puig (RF) – Puig was off to a huge start last year by hitting 11 homers in his first 48 games. However, he hit none over his next 32, and only five in the final 100 games of the season. He is certainly a Jekyll and Hyde player for them.
Adrian Gonzalez (1B) – The steady Gonzalez is one of only two players to have at least 100 RBIs in seven of the past eight seasons; Miguel Cabrera is the other. He hit .276 with 27 homers and 116 RBIs for the Dodgers last season.
Yasmani Grandal (C) – He is a career .225 hitter as a right-handed batter, so the switch-hitter figures to split duties with A.J. Ellis behind the plate depending who is on the mound. This is the ultimate ‘Moneyball’ approach.
Howie Kendrick (2B) – He hit just seven homers for the Angels last year, but the Dodgers believe his swing suits Dodger Stadium better. He still hit .293 and finished with 85 runs scored, 75 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.
Juan Uribe (3B) – Don Mattingly made Uribe the “manager for a day” in the final game of the regular season last year, which the Dodgers won 10-5. He hit .311 with nine homers and 54 RBIs over 386 at-bats last year for Los Angeles.
Joc Pederson (CF) – With Matt Kemp gone to San Diego, the time is now for Pederson. He had the first 30-homer, 30-steals season in the Pacific Coast League since 1934 last year.
There’s no question that the Dodgers are going to take a step back offensively this season with the losses of Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp. Those are two guys you just don’t replace. However, they believe the 36-year-old Rollins can bridge the gap until top prospect Corey Seager is ready to take over at short. Pederson showed what he’s capable of last year with this 30-30 season in the minors, though he did struggle in his September call-up to the big leagues. Kendrick was a good get as he has been one of the most underrated middle infielders in baseball his entire career. If Crawford can continue his late-season surge, and Puig gets back to being the power guy he is capable of, then the Dodgers should come close to matching last year’s numbers offensively.
Clayton Kershaw (LHP) – Has won the NL Cy Young award three of the past four seasons. Without question, we are already looking at one of the all-time greats in Kershaw. He went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA last year. He also threw 41 consecutive scoreless innings at one point.
Zack Greinke (RHP) – This could be his final year in Dodger blue considering he has an opt-out clause in his contract after this season. Greinke has shined in the National League. He went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 202.1 innings last year.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP) – Nagging injuries, including a recurring sore shoulder, limited Ryu to 40 fewer innings in his second season with the Dodgers. He finished 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA, which are numbers any team would take for their No. 3 starter. Let’s just hope the injuries are now behind him.
Brandon McCarthy (RHP) – The Dodgers are certainly buying low on McCarthy, whose shoulder is now stronger, which has led to increased velocity. He went just 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA with Arizona last year before getting traded to the Yankees, where he would go 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA over 14 starts.
Brett Anderson (LHP) – Los Angeles is certainly taking a gamble on the injury-prone Anderson. The lefthander hasn’t pitched 45 innings in a season since 2011. He went 1-3 with a 2.91 ERA in eight starts last year for the Rockies.
You won’t find a better trio at the top of a rotation in all of baseball than the one the Dodgers throw out there. A disappointing playoff performance against the Cardinals was the only blemish on an otherwise historic season for Kershaw last year. He became the first NL pitcher since Bob Gibson in 1968 to win the Cy Young and MVP awards. He led the majors in ERA (1.77) for the fourth straight season, which is an MLB record. Greinke may be the best No. 2 starter in baseball. Ryu needs to overcome his injuries last year, but when healthy, he is as solid a No. 3 as you will find. McCarthy offers promise, though it will be tough for him to live up to his four-year, $48 million contract. Anderson has barely pitched 200 innings over the past four years combined, but he dominates when he’s out there. A lack of depth behind this group is a major concern.
One of the biggest reasons former GM Ned Colletti was fired was because he spent way too much money on the bullpen. Friedman tore it apart in the offseason and starts fresh. Closer Kenley Jansen (44 of 49 saves) and lefthander J.P. Howell (11.81 ERA in September) were the only two to survive. Joel Peralta, Chris Hatcher and Juan Nicaso were all acquired in trades and will pitch important innings for the Dodgers this season. Nicasio is insurance as a possible starter as well.
Betting Odds (Bovada)
- To Win World Series: 17/2
- To Win NL Pennant: 19/4
- To Win NL West: 1/2
- 2015 Season Win Total: 92.5
Prediction: 2nd Place NL West (89-73 – UNDER 92.5)
The Dodgers are among the favorites to win the World Series this year. It’s easy to see why because they won 94 games last season, and they have one of the best rotations in baseball led by Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu. I still have some concerns with this rotation at the bottom as McCarthy and Anderson have health issues, as does Ryu.
The lineup is sure to take a step back this season with the losses of Kemp and Ramirez. You just don’t replace two guys like that. It will be nice if Crawford can carry over his second-half surge, and you know that Gonzalez is going to be a steady producer. Rollins and Kendrick were solid additions, but they don’t make up for what the Dodgers lost offensively.
I expect Los Angeles to fall short of expectations during the regular season. They are projected to win 92.5 games and to win the NL West, but I have them at 89 wins and in second place in the division in 2015. They will be just behind the Padres, who had the best offseason in baseball.
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