The Los Angeles Dodgers won their second straight NL West title with an overall record of 94-68, but their season was considered a disappointment. The Dodgers failed to make it out of the NLDS, losing 3-1 to the St Louis Cardinals.
For a lot of teams getting the playoffs is considered a success, but that’s not the case when you spend the kind of money that Los Angeles is shelling out. World Series or bust will once again be the them in 2015, as the Dodgers $240 million payroll is easily the most in the league.
The Dodgers have the luxury of having their staff anchored by the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, who won both the NL Cy Young and MVP in 2014. Kershaw put up ridiculous numbers, going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. For most pitchers you would expect a dropoff in production in 2015, but Kershaw is on a different planet. He keeps getting better and better and the scary thing is he turns just 27 in March.
Zach Greinke is the No. 2 starter and would be the ace of most staffs. While he doesn’t seem happy in LA, he’s continued to produce, going 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.15 WHIP last year. This could be his last year with the Dodgers, as he has the option of opting out at the end of the season.
Los Angeles has got got everything they expected and a little more out of lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has won 14 games in each of his first two seasons in the big leagues. The Dodgers decided not to bring back Josh Beckett or Dan Haren, instead turning to free agents Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. McCarthy appeared to get things figured out after getting traded to the Yankees last year and could surprise, but it’s hard to expect a whole lot out of Anderson. While Anderson has nasty stuff, he’s started a whopping 19 games over the last 3 years because of injury.
While the Dodgers have one of the top closers in the game in Kenley Jansen, he was the only reliever LA could count on and maintaining the lead in the 7th and 8th proved to be challenge. That prompted the Dodgers to sign veteran reliever Joel Peralta to take over as the primary setup man. However, that was the only significant move they made, as Pedro Baez, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez all return.
It was no secret that the Dodgers had a surplus of outfielders and would likely part ways with someone in the offseason. The odd man out ended up being Matt Kemp, who was traded to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal. While Kemp’s departure paints a clearer picture, LA still has plenty of depth in the outfield. Yasiel Puig will be the every day starter in right, while top prospect Joc Pederson is expected to take over in center, leaving Carl Crawford, Andre Either and Scott Van Slyke to battle for playing time in left field.
The Dodgers also made some noticeable changes in the infield, parting ways with shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dee Gordon. Filling the voids will be veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick. While both are capable offensive players, they were brought in to improve the defense up the middle.
Adrian Gonzalez hasn’t put up the home run totals that some expected, but he’s one of the most reliable first baseman in the game. Gonzalez, who has played 150 games in each of the last 9 years, can be counted on for 20-25 homers and 100+ RBI, while providing gold glove defense in the field. The big question for LA is whether or not Juan Uribe will be in for a decline. Uribe hit .311 last year, which was the first time he eclipsed .300 since his rookie season in 2001.
Maybe the most underrated move was the addition of Grandal, who should give the Dodgers a big boost offensively from the catcher position. A.J. Ellis provided little to nothing at the plate, as LA got the least amount of offensive productivity out of their catcher than any other NL team. However, Ellis is back and is Kershaw’s go to guy, so he figures to at least see the field when he’s on the mound.
- To Win World Series: 17/2
- To Win NL Pennant: 19/4
- To Win NL West: 1/2
- Win Total: 92.5
Prediction: 1st Place NL West (94-68)
While the Padres are getting all the attention in the offseason and the Giants are coming off another World Series title, I still think the Dodgers are the team to beat in the NL West. LA finished 6-games ahead of San Francisco and 17 in front of the Padres in 2014 and won the division by 11-games in 2013. While some don’t think the moves they made will make a big difference in 2015, I think the Dodgers are even stronger. I would much rather have the trio of Rollins, Kendrick and Grandal, than what they had with Ramirez, Gordon and Ellis.
The most important thing when it comes to success over the course of the regular season, is starting pitching and Los Angeles has the best 1-2 punch in the game with Kershaw and Greinke. Ryu is an above average No. 3 starter and McCarthy has the potential to put up similar numbers. There are some question marks surrounding No. 5 starter Brett Anderson, but if healthy he could easily surpass both Ryu and McCarthy in production. The only real concern is the bullpen, but it’s not enough to keep this game from surpassing the 90-win mark for the third straight year.
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