Posted on March 3, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite winning five straight division titles, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been unable to win their first World Series since 1988. Last year, they finally reached the World Series but came one game short against the Astros. Of course, on paper, the Dodgers remain one of the top teams in baseball. Will this finally be the year that the Dodgers bring a world championship to Chavez Ravine?
Los Angeles had the best rotation in baseball last year, and while it’ll be difficult to repeat that, the Dodgers should have a quality rotation. They still have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, and as long as Rich Hill can keep his blisters under control, he and Kershaw make for a dominant 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.
The biggest question for the Los Angeles rotation is whether Alex Wood can repeat his sensational 2017 season in which he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA. Those numbers weren’t exactly in line with Wood’s track record. While the Dodgers are obviously hopeful, there’s no guarantee Wood will be the same pitcher he was a year ago.
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Fortunately, depth doesn’t figure to be a problem. Hyun-Jin Ryu came back strong last season after just one start over the previous two seasons. Kenta Maeda is also much better than most back-end starters. The Dodgers also have top prospect Walker Buehler waiting in the wings. Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart will also provide rotation depth if needed. Julio Urias could also provide an unexpected boost later in the season if he comes back healthy after shoulder surgery.
In the bullpen, the Dodgers are in safe hands in the 9th inning with Kenley Jansen, who’s one of the top closers in the game. However, the Dodgers did lose Luis Avilan and Brandon Morrow, two of their top setup men, during the offseason. This year, they will be more reliant on Pedro Baez and Josh Fields, as well as Tony Cingrani from the left side.
With Jansen anchoring the bullpen, the Dodgers will be in good shape. However, they seem to lack the depth they had last season, especially without someone like Morrow as a lock-down option in the 8th inning. The Los Angeles bullpen should be one of the best in the National League, but it’s unlikely they’ll be at the same level as last season.
The Dodgers were good but not exceptional offensively last season. However, there should be room for improvement if the team can stay healthy in 2018. Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe both missed time, while Corey Seager struggled down the stretch amidst elbow trouble. With Cody Bellinger added to the group, the Dodgers should have a formidable middle of the lineup.
Things are a little less clear in the Los Angeles outfield. Chris Taylor is penciled in as the everyday center fielder after an exceptional 2017 season. But he had minimal big league success prior to that, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can replicate his .288 average and .850 OPS. Yasiel Puig is penciled in for right field, and while he had a productive season in 2017, he’s had his ups and downs, as Dodgers fans know all too well.
Meanwhile, left field is wide open for the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Matt Kemp, and Andrew Toles. All of those options have potential, but all have questions as well. Fortunately, the Dodgers have at least half a dozen outfield options, which should provide them with enough depth in case players like Taylor and Puig can’t repeat their production from last season.
The Dodgers are undoubtedly favorites to win the NL West for the sixth straight season, but that doesn’t mean they’ll match the 104 wins they had in 2017. As long as the rotation remains strong and they stay relatively healthy, look for the Dodgers to finish 92-70 and win the NL West. However, they may not be the obvious choice to reach the World Series out of the National League.