Overview - The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the National League West the last four years, yet have not appeared in the World Series during that streak. They have gone 28 years since their last World Series win. Their counterparts in the division, the San Francisco Giants have won two World Series in the last five years. The Dodgers pay roll has ballooned to the largest in baseball and with that comes a large luxury tax. Management is trying to pare down this mountain of a salary structure, limiting their free agent signings to their own players. They resigned Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Justin Turner and hope that will be enough for them to win the division. They also hope to have Hyun-Jin Ryu return healthy to the rotation.
Strengths - The biggest strength for the Dodgers is their ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Despite missing two months of the season Clayton finished 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA, falling just 28 whiffs short of 200. With all his Cy Young winnings it is hard to believe that Clayton is only 29. The starting pitching should continue to be a strength with the return of Ryu, the resignings of McCarthy and Hill and Kenta Maeda on the mound. Julio Urias could have the potential to be another Kershaw in the making. The Dodgers should get a full season from him, though his innings pitched will be controlled. The pen will be bolstered by one of the top closers in the game. Kenley Jansen finished the 2017 season with 47 saves. The Dodgers also have the rookie of the year at short in Corey Seager. Some argue his defense is better suited for third base, but his bat with his 26 homeruns is not in question. Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez filled the corner positions with 90 RBIs each. For Gonzalez it was a down year and at 35 years old the Dodgers should start looking for a replacement as his production goes down. The acquisition of Logan Forsythe to play second gives them a power packed infield. Last year Forsythe hit 20 homeruns for the Rays. That would give them an infield where all their players have the potential to hit 20 or more homeruns.
Weaknesses - There was a time when the Dodgers had more quality outfielders than they had positions in the outfield. Now they would like to see more production from their disappointing outfielders. Yasiel Puig has seen his numbers drop each year from his rookie season. His OPS for last year was .739. Joc Pederson tends to strike out too much but he has the ability to hit the long ball. Last year he hit 26 homeruns. Andre Ethier was injured much of last year giving an opportunity for Andrew Toles to show what he has got. Toles struggled against lefthanded pitching and Etheir also hits lefthanded so expect Trayce Thompson, Enrique Hernandez or Franklin Gutierrez to compete for those righthanded at bats.
NonRoster Invitees - It’ll be tough for any of these players to make the roster out of spring training. Brandon Morrow is an interesting name, but he has not had the ability to stay healthy.
Break Out Prospects - This is a veteran team so it will be tough for any rookies to make this roster. If Adrian Gonzalez gets injured for a significant part of the season expect the Dodgers to call up their top prospect Cody Bellinger. He is a potential gold glove fielding first baseman that has the power to hit 30 plus homeruns. Alex Verdugo is a solid outfielder who could put himself in the outfield mix by mid season. The lefty hitter is a solid corner outfielder with a little bit of pop. Willie Calhoun at 5′8″ is a powder keg, hitting 27 homeruns at AA. His defense is not strong at second base so the Dodgers may try him in left field. A weak arm makes that the only viable position for him besides second base. Austin Barnes could make the roster as a catcher/utility player. Despite his lack of speed he was able to steal 18 bases in 21 attempts. Andrew Toles still qualifies as a rookie outfielder and based on his 2016 performance (.314 average) should see some time in left field. A good spring training would cement that position for him.
Prospects to Watch - The Dodgers have not had a lot of luck with their Cuban signings, shelling out large bonuses for little production. Yadier Alvarez could change all that with his fastball that hits three digits. He still needs to improve on throwing the pitch across the plate for strikes. Yusniel Diaz is a Cuban outfielder the Dodgers paid $15.5 million. He shows a good bat with the potential to hit for power. His speed is a fit for centerfield and his arm can take a move to right. Yasiel Sierra is another right handed pitcher who throws in the mid 90s but at 26 there is not a lot more projection for him. The Dodgers signed him for $30 million for six years. A lack of command and under development of his secondary pitchers created struggles for him in his first season in the United States. Non-Cubans to watch are Gavin Lux, the Dodgers first round 2016 pick. The shortstop played well in his first season, hitting .296 in over 200 at bats, though none of his hits went over the fence. Walker Buehler was the Dodgers first round pick in 2015. Tommy John surgery prevented him from pitching that season and he only got in five innings in 2016. This is a big year to see if his mid-90s fastball is still alive.
Expected Finish - The Dodgers should win this division though the Giants will again give them a battle.