Los Angeles Dodgers 2015 Preview

31
Mar

2014 Record – 94-68, 1st in NL West

Key Additions

2B Howie Kendrick, SS Jimmy Rollins, C Yasmani Grandal, SP Brandon McCarthy, SP Brett Anderson

Key Departures

SS Hanley Ramirez, OF Matt Kemp, 2B Dee Gordon, SP Dan Haren

Projected 2015 Lineup

  1. SS Jimmy Rollins
  2. LF Carl Crawford
  3. RF Yasiel Puig
  4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
  5. C Yasmani Grandal
  6. 2B Howie Kendrick
  7. CF Joc Pederson
  8. 3B Juan Uribe
  9. Pitcher

Projected 2015 Starters

  1. LHP Clayton Kershaw
  2. RHP Zack Greinke
  3. LHP Hyun-jin Ryu
  4. RHP Brandon McCarthy
  5. LHP Brett Anderson

Breakdown

After another NL West title in 2014, the Dodgers season once again ended in disappointment after they lost 3-1 in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, the Dodgers have made the postseason six times since 2008, but have only advanced to the NLCS three of those times. Of those three NLCS appearances, they haven’t won a single one. While the Dodgers have been big spenders, their investments haven’t paid off with a World Series. At least not yet.

While their NL West rival the San Diego Padres had the most active and exciting offseason, the Dodgers retooled their whole team as well. After dealing with a four-man outfield for a couple of seasons now (and actually still do), they decided to deal Matt Kemp to the Padres. They also let Hanley Ramirez walk and dealt Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Marlins. As a result of all their trades, they eventually wound up with their new middle infielders Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins.

They key pieces remain on this Dodgers’ team (i.e. Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Zack Grienke, and Adrian Gonzalez), but the rest of the team has had a makeover. No more Hanley and Dee Gordon turning double plays. Enter Kendrick and Rollins. No more Kemp roaming (or the lack thereof) the outfield. Enter Joc Pederson. The Dodgers also added Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson to the back end of their rotation, as well as Yasmani Grandal behind the plate. The Dodgers needed to make some moves and the new President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman made sure that happened.

X-Factor – Yasiel Puig

Ever since Yasiel Puig put on a Dodger uniform, he has been in and embraced the spotlight. While he’s had many great moments, he’s mixed in a few boneheaded plays as well. At 24 years old and in his 3rd year in the league, this is the season Puig must take over this team and lead them deep into the playoffs.

We almost all know about Puig’s success in the Majors. When he first broke onto the scene in 2013, Puig hit .319 with 19 HR, 42 RBI, 21 doubles, and 11 steals in only 104 games. Then in 2014, he continued his success, hitting .296 with 16 HR, 69 RBI, 37 doubles, nine triples, 11 stolen bases, and had a .382 OBP. Very impressive stuff. The only ugly stat to mention are his postseason numbers. In his first postseason series, Puig hit .471 in 17 AB against the Braves back in 2013. But in the two following series, both against the Cardinals, Puig was only 8 for 34 (.235), struck out 18 times, and dealt with an embarrassing benching at the end of the series against St. Louis last season.

With his first two Major League seasons out of the way, it’s time for Puig to take the reigns of the Dodgers’ lineup. He is surrounded by older players like Rollins, Crawford, Kendrick, Uribe, and Adrian Gonzalez. For the most part, their time has come and gone. Then there is Grandal and Pederson, who aren’t expected to lead the team this season. It’s all on Puig. The offense and success of their lineup will revolve around Puig. Obviously the rotation is built around the best pitcher in baseball Clayton Kershaw, but the lineup needs its hero now.

Most To Prove – Yasmani Grandal

Yasmani Grandal was the 12th overall pick back in 2010 by the Cincinnati Reds. In his first full minor league season with the Reds in 2011, Grandal started in High-A ball and eventually worked his way up to AAA. He hit .305 with 14 HR, 68 RBI, 31 doubles, and boasted a .401 OBP in 105 games. In that offseason, Grandal was dealt with Edison Volquez, Yonder Alonso, and Brad Boxberger to the Padres for pitcher Mat Latos.

Entering the 2012 season, Grandal was ranked one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball. He spent the early part of the season with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate, where he absolutely dominated. That prompted the Padres to call Grandal up and give him a shot in the Majors. He delivered right away. In his first game with the Padres, the backstop became the first player in MLB history to homer from both sides of the plate for his first two career hits in the same game. Yes, a mouthful, but extremely impressive nonetheless. The following day, his 3rd career hit was a HR as well and he became the 7th player since 1900 to accomplish that stat. Grandal went on to play 60 games with the Padres and hit .297 with eight HR, 36 RBI, seven doubles, a triple, and once again sported a strong .394 OBP. He was on the fast track to stardom.

Unfortunately, Grandal tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was linked to Biogenesis  in the winter of 2012. He was suspended for 50 games and served those 50 games at the start of the 2013 season. The return was short lived, as he tore both his ACL and MCL early in July. He only played in 28 games and hit .216.

Grandal finally got to play a full season in 2014, but it did not go well. In 128 games, he only hit .225, struck out 115 times, and only walked 58 times. Very un-Grandal like.

Dodger fans and management are hoping a change of scenery is what Yasmani Grandal needs. After a very promising start to his career, it’s not looking good for the 26-year-old catcher if he puts together another bad season. It’s a big year for the kid to prove his talent.

2015 Impact Prospect – Joc Pederson

The Dodgers’ 2015 Impact Prospect was the easiest impact prospect for me to pick out of all the team previews, as Joc Pederson is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, prospect in baseball. Pederson will get his chance to shine after Kemp was traded to San Diego and if his spring training stats mean anything (which they really don’t), he’s the Dodgers’ next superstar.

Pederson was the Dodgers’ 11th round pick out of high school back in 2010. As soon as he started playing minor league ball, he impressed everyone. In his first minor league season in 2011, Pederson hit .323 with 11 HR, 65 RBI, 20 doubles, and 26 stolen bases in only 84 games. Then in 2012, he went on to hit .313 with 18 HR, 70 RBI, 26 doubles, four triples, and 26 stolen bases in 110 games. A repeat performance put Pederson on the map.

In 2013, Joc “regressed” to hit .278 with 22 HR and 58 RBI in 123 games. Many prospects with they could regress to those numbers. His stock didn’t really take a hit and as he headed into the 2014 season, he was ranked one of the top 40 prospects in baseball.

He didn’t let anyone down in 2014, hitting .303 with 33 HR, 78 RBI, 17 doubles, four triples, and 30 stolen bases with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Oh, and had a .435 OBP. FOUR. THIRTY. FIVE. THAT IS NOT A TYPO. Did I forget to mention this guy has a career .405 OBP in the minors in 441 games?

This guy is the real deal. Kris Bryant is getting all the love now, but watch out for Joc. His strikeout totals are a little concerning and his swing might be a little long, but he has had a very good spring – hitting .389 with six HR and 12 RBI in 54 AB. I’m very excited for this guy if you couldn’t tell and he will certainly be given the opportunity to turn into a star this season.

Why They’re Worth Watching

The Dodgers come into 2015 with an estimated $278+ million payroll according to Spotrac. That is absolutely absurd. Ownership has flexed their financial muscles and have spent every single dollar they could on improving this team. And they have. The Dodgers have won their division the past two seasons and are on pace to do the same in 2015. I believe they’ve improved their lineup and if guys like Puig and Pederson can continue to improve, that lineup could be very scary – if it’s not already. Piece that together with a very scary rotation and you have a recipe for success. It’s not necessarily the regular season the Dodgers have their eyes on, but a hopeful deep postseason run is really what their main goal is.

Best Case

This team should win their 3rd consecutive NL West title. Sure, the Padres and Giants should give them a run for their money, but the Dodgers have too much talent and too much salary on their payroll. They have to win. I think a lot will rely on the success of Rollins and Crawford, who are currently penciled in as their 1-2 hitters. They both have quite a few question marks surrounding them and will be relied on heavily to perform. Even if they struggle at the plate, there’s enough talent around them to make up for that. 99-63

Worst Case

I mentioned that Rollins and Crawford will be two guys to watch atop the Dodgers’ lineup. I’m not sure if they will be able to perform at the level many are expecting. That could cause some troubles in LA. Luckily, the Dodgers could always bump Howie Kendrick to the top of the order and depending on how Pederson plays, he is a future 1-2 hitter. I’m not too concerned about the lineup. As for the rotation, the health of Ryu will be something to follow, as are the performances of Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. The only way I could see this getting bad is if there are serious injuries or a locker room blowup. 87-75

Projected Record – 96-66

About the author: Jack Conness

Graduate of UW-Milwaukee. Baseball nerd. Follow him on Twitter! @JackConness