Playing Pepper 2015: Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s one of the annual traditions here at C70 At The Bat, our trip around the majors in blog form.  Since 2009, I’ve been asking bloggers from other teams about what’s going to happen with their squad in the coming season.  It’s always fun to see what the opposition is thinking and how optimistic some of their most devoted and intelligent fans are.  This year, the Pepper series is brought to you by Out of the Park Baseball 16, coming soon for PC.  Preorder this outstanding baseball simulation today!

Los Angeles Dodgers
94-68, first in the NL West, lost in the NLDS

For the second straight year, the Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw on the mound with a chance to extend their season to a deciding game.  In 2013, it was the NLCS, last year, the NLDS.  However, I don’t have to tell regular readers of this site how that turned out for them.  Those memories–of Matt Carpenter’s prolonged at-bat two years ago, of Matt Adams’s “Big City Leap” this past October–are burned into the collective memory of both Cardinal fans and Dodger fans (though, of course, with different emotions associated with them.)

I guess I should be lucky that my friend Scott still would step into this arena.  If the Dodgers had been such a thorn to the Cardinals, I might be hesitant to help out a LA blogger.  No such reticence from Scott, who writes at Lasorda’s Lair and can be found on Twitter @formatallan.  You can follow the blog, which is part of the Fansided blog network, on Twitter @LasordasLair.

C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?

LL: I think they got a lot of what they wanted to get done, but I’m not sure if they did what was needed. It’s natural for new ownership and new front offices to want to mold the roster into their own visions and bring in their own people. That’s what the new Dodger brain trust did this offseason during their massive roster overhaul.

Baseball President of operations Andrew Friedman and new GM Farhan Zaidi have a very unique vision for the Dodgers, and this was another phase completed. They were not interested in purchasing free agents on huge contracts and did most of their moves via trades. I think the biggest driving force was improving the club’s dreadful defense.

The Dodgers were one of the worst clubs defensively in the league last year (rated 23rd) and the new brain trust wanted to bring in players that would strengthen the defensive unit. Specifically they wanted to improve their up the middle defense. Trading for Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick and switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal will definitely improve the up the middle defense. As will super prospect Joc Pederson, who should take over in center field this year while Yasiel Puig is moved back to right field.

As for the pitching staff, modest returns and cost effective hurlers were the main driving force behind the flurry of acquisitions. Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson could end up being steals if they can stay healthy and produce like the numbers project them too. The club has a hodge podge of relievers in camp, but notables include right hander Chris Hatcher, veteran Joel Peralta, and non roster invites such as left hander David Huff, Sergio Santos, David Aardsma, and Erik Bedard. Any one of those guys (not counting Bedard, who is a starter) could fill in as closer for the injured Kenley Jansen who is recovering from foot surgery.

The club also was able to pick up several talented prospects as restocking the farm system continues being a top priority.

C70: Clayton Kershaw’s numbers are just ridiculous (except against the Cardinals, of course). What is in store for him in 2015, in your opinion?

LL: Probably another Cy Young award. Maybe even another MVP as well, depending on the competition. If he can finish developing that changeup he was working on last spring, then the rest of the National League is going to be in for big trouble.

We already know that Kershaw is the best pitcher in Baseball. Here’s the thing that some people outside of Los Angeles haven’t figured out. He keeps getting better and better every season. Look at his numbers. His numbers last year were even better than his 2013 Cy Young season. His numbers from 2013, were a slight improvement over his numbers from his first Cy Young season in 2011, and on and on and on. My guess is that Kershaw improves yet again, even if it’s just a slight improvement. He’s only 27 years old, and guess what? The Cardinals won’t beat him in the postseason forever. He’ll eventually defeat the Cardinals in the playoffs. I think he’ll win several more Cy Young awards before his peak years are done.

C70: Will Yasiel Puig take a step forward this season?

LL: I don’t like this question because it insinuates that Puig had a bad year last year, or took a step back. He didn’t. The guy had an OPS of .863, batted .296. His OBP was .382, and he slugged 16 home runs. He posted an OPS+ of 145, and collected 165 hits in 2014. How can those numbers be considered a step back?

The media loves to vilify him because he’s so good and beats everyone. He’s an incredibly gifted yet controversial player. Remember though, last year was his first full season in the majors. Not only that but we saw his walk rate greatly increase by nearly a 2-1 ratio. He doubled his walks from 36, to 67, and walk rate increased from 8.5% to 10.3%

With improved patience and more maturity I think Puig could put up MVP numbers in his third season. The Dodgers are planning on moving him back to right field where they feel his strong arm plays better. Puig is just a good natured goofy kid from Cuba, that is having a blast playing Baseball in Los Angeles. And we love him. Puig is the child of Los Angeles. You know sometimes your kids make the wrong choices and you must discipline them. But you always love them no matter what. He’ll grow up. It will take some time though.

I think Puig will continue to grow as a baseball player and a young man as he continues to have a lot of fun playing in Dodger Blue.

C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?

LL: I think that’s going to be Hyun-jin Ryu. The Dodgers’ Korean left handed starter is poised for a true breakout season. If he is finally healthy for an entire season he could win 20 games.

C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?

LL: I think if everyone stays healthy, and health is the key. I think we’re looking at a 90 win club that should at the least make the playoffs. I’ll pick the Dodgers to win the division again. The Giants and Padres should provide competition, but I still think the Dodgers are the best club in the NL West.

C70: What do you like best about being a Dodgers fan?

LL: In one word….EVERYTHING. I’ve always said that Dodger fans are the chosen ones. We’re blessed to have the greatest broadcaster in sports history, the greatest pitcher in Baseball, and of course the best ball park.

Vin Scully will be blessing us with another year of his wonderful voice. Every game we hear Scully’s beautiful voice is a true gift from the baseball gods. A reward for Dodger fans’ fanatical loyalty throughout the years.

Now if we could only get everyone access to Dodger games on television……. But that’s another story. Go Blue!

There truly is a lot to be excited about in Los Angeles.  My thanks to Scott for sharing some of that with us!

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