Posted on March 29, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Dodgers have won four straight NL West titles, which is no small feat. However, postseason success has eluded them in that span, with last year’s season ending in the NLCS. Can 2017 be the year that the Dodgers win their first National League pennant since 1988?
Despite an unfair amount of injuries last season, the Dodgers still put together one of the better starting rotations in the National League. Some injury issues linger, particularly with Scott Kazmir, but if healthy, Los Angeles has a chance to put together one of the best rotations in baseball.
Obviously, it all starts with Clayton Kershaw, who missed significant time with a back injury last year but will be a Cy Young contender as long as he’s healthy. The Dodgers also re-signed Rich Hill, who can be an injury waiting to happen at times, but pitched to a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts last year, indicating how effective he can be when healthy. The Dodgers conclude their triumvirate at the top of the rotation with Kenta Maeda, who was 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA in 2016 and could be even better in his second major league season.
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The rest of the Los Angeles rotation has some injury question marks, but it also has talent and depth. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy will round out the Los Angeles rotation, although Alex Wood is also an option if they need him. Also, don’t forget about Julio Urias, who could be the ultimate x-factor this season. The Dodgers are holding him back at the start of the season to help curb his innings, but the 20-year old lefty came on strong late last season and could become a huge factor for the Dodgers during the second half of the season.
The Los Angeles bullpen had the lowest ERA in baseball last year, in large part due to closer Kenley Jansen, who has been re-signed to a long-term deal. The Dodgers have lost a couple key figures from their bullpen, which could hurt, but Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, and Pedro Baez are still around to give the Dodgers some quality depth. Also, Los Angeles added Sergio Romo to give the team a veteran setup man with closing experience in front of Jansen.
The injury bug hit the Dodgers during spring training, but for the most part, they seem to have avoided any serious, long-term losses. This is good news the Dodgers were middle of the pack in most offensive categories last season, so there’s some room for improvement for a team with championship aspirations.
The middle of the lineup will look a lot like it did a season ago, with young, emerging players like Corey Seager and Joc Pederson mixed in with proven veterans like Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, and Yasmani Grandal. Logan Forsythe should make for a good addition to the lineup at second base, especially with Chase Utley still around as an option coming off the bench.
The biggest question the Dodgers have to answer this season is at the corner outfield spots. Yasiel Puig is still with the team and in line for a majority of the playing time in right field. If the Puig of a few years ago shows up, the Dodgers will have one of the most dynamic players in the game, but there’s obviously no guarantee that ends up happening after his struggles the past couple of years. In left field, uncertainty surrounding the health of Andre Ethier may force the Dodgers to piece things together with Franklin Gutierrez, Andrew Toles, and others.
Depth could also be an issue for the Dodgers, as there’s little about their bench aside from Utley that’s too impressive. Players like Gonzalez and Seager have dealt with injuries this spring, and if key players like that succumb to injury at some point this season, the Dodgers don’t appear to have the depth to handle it.
After winning 91 games amidst a slew of injuries last season, the Dodgers are poised for another big year in 2017. Health will again be a determining factor for Los Angeles, but the team’s rotation is good enough to carry them a long way when healthy.
Look for the Dodgers to finish 94-68 in 2017, a three-win improvement over last year. Offensively, the Dodgers should be solid but unspectacular, but the trio of Kershaw, Hill, and Maeda gave the Dodgers just 59 starts last year, a number that should easily be eclipsed this season. That will lead to another division title, and if those three are healthy for the playoffs, the Dodgers can match up with any rotation in baseball during the postseason.