MLB Sports

2018 MLB preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

2017: 104-58 (first place in NL West)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2017

Last World Series Title: 1988

2017 Recap

The 2017 Dodgers were a few Yu Darvish tipped pitches away from winning a title.

For the first time since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL Pennant. Unfortunately for them, the season did not end as they hoped, as they lost to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series. Their 104 regular season wins was tied for the second-most in the franchise’s history, which dates all the way back to 1884.

Los Angeles was the clear-cut, best team in the National League. Their pitching staff finished first in the NL in ERA, strikeouts, BAA, and walks. Of course, they were led by one of the best left handed pitchers of all-time, Clayton Kershaw. Although he missed time because of back tightness, the 3x Cy Young award winner finished tied for the league-lead in wins with 18. Kershaw also ranked second in ERA and BB/9, sixth in FIP, seventh in H/9, and ninth in SO/9.

Budding superstar, Cody Bellinger (LA Times)

Los Angeles’ bullpen led the NL with a 3.38 ERA, and finished first in the MLB in opponent OBP. Kenley Jansen finished second in the league with 41 saves, while Josh Fields and Pedro Baez each appeared in over 55 games and finished with sub 3.00 ERAs.

The Dodgers offense, which finished third in the NL in OBP, was led by some notable names, but also some surprises. Justin Turner, who was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles, and hit .265 in 301 games for the Mets, finished eighth in NL MVP voting, and was named to his first All-Star team. Turner finished fourth in OBP, fifth in batting average, and eighth in adjusted OPS+. Since becoming a member of the Dodgers, Turner has turned into a superstar.

Speaking of superstars, the Dodgers have a budding one in Cody Bellinger. Bellinger was called up in Late-April, and finished the season with 39 home runs, which was sixth-best in the MLB. His slugging percentage ranked 10th overall, and he joined Mel Ott and Eddie Matthews as the only players under the age of 22 to hit at least 39 home runs, with a .350 OBP and .580 SLG.

Corey Seager cemented himself as the top shortstop in the NL. In 2017, he joined Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Correa, and Cal Ripken, as the only shortstops, under the age of 24, to hit 22 home runs with a .370 OBP and 5.5 WAR.

Chris Taylor, who did even make the Opening Day roster, led the team in doubles with 34. He slashed .288/.354/.496, and was named NLCS MVP (with Justin Turner) after hitting .316 with a pair of home runs and five runs scored.

2018: Around the Diamond 

It’s no surprise that the Dodgers have the best odds out of any NL team to reach the World Series in 2018. Cody Bellinger will be at first for a full season, and Seager is a serious MVP candidate at short. However, they will have to start the season without Justin Turner, after the third basemen was hit by a pitch and broke his wrist on Monday. The most likely candidate to hold down the hot corner while Turner is out would be Logan Forsythe. This means Chase Utley will probably get some starts at second.

The Dodgers will begin the season without star third basemen, Justin Turner (LA Times)

Behind the plate will be Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal. Grandal, a fantastic defensive catcher, hit 22 home runs in 2017, but lost a good chunk of playing time to Austin Barnes during the postseason. Barnes finished 2017 with a .408 OBP.

In 2017, Los Angeles started 12 different players in left field. With Chris Taylor starting in center, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Trayce Thompson, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo will all battle for that corner outfield spot. Kemp, who spent his first nine seasons with the Dodgers, has hit .317 with four home runs and eight RBIs in 15 Spring games.

One of the most polarized players in the game, right fielder Yasiel Puig, will look to build off his sold 2017. After injuries and demotions derailed his 2015 and 2016 seasons, Puig played 152 games last year, and hit 28 home runs with 15 steals. His 11.2 percent walk rate was the highest of his big-league career.

On the Bump

Both Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow signed as free agents with the Cubs. Still, a rotation led by Kershaw is one that will find ways to thrive. Following Kersh, will be Alex Wood, who finished third in WHIP and 10th in wins, Rich Hill, who posted a 3.32 ERA in 135.2 innings, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. All five of these guys spent time on the DL last season, but are ready to go.

There is no reason to think the Dodgers bullpen will not be among the best in baseball. They traded for Scott Alexander, who was great for Kansas City in 2017, and, of course, they still have guys like Josh Fields, Pedro Baez, Ross Stripling, and Tony Cingrani, to make sure Kenley Jansen comes into the game with a lead.

The Future

Walker Buehler (No.12) is the highest rated Dodgers prospect on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect’s list. Buehler, a right-handed pitcher, pitched a little bit out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in 2017. While his control wasn’t great in 2017, he still looks like a top-of-the-rotation type starter.

Alex Verdugo (No.33), who was mentioned earlier in the left field chatter, is hitting .324 with two home runs and six RBIs so far this spring. He had a solid  2017 season in AAA, hitting .314 with an OPS of .825. However, Matt Kemp and Andrew Toles appear to be ahead of him on the depth chart, so look for Verdugo to develop more in AAA.

Los Angeles also has the third best catching prospect, Keibert Ruiz (N0. 52). Ruiz hits for a good average, hitting .315 in 101 games between A/A+, and has good speed for a catcher. He needs to develop more defensively, but could be the catcher of the future in Los Angeles.

2018 Prediction: 95-67

There is a reason why the Dodgers are the NL favorite to reach the World Series in 2018. When Turner comes back, this will be one of the best teams in baseball. As long as the squad stays healthy down the stretch, Los Angeles should, again, be right in the mix for a World Series title.

Featured image by MLB.com

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