Dodgers’ hopes may be in the wrists
March 22, 2018 9:43 AM
by Mark Mayer
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 25th of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Friday, the Cleveland Indians.)
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Justin Turner liked the doctors’ second opinion much better than the first.
Turner, the NL All Star third baseman last season, is still expected to be sidelined until early May with a wrist injury but it’s a lot better prognosis than dealing with surgery. The wrist is also a concern for shortstop Corey Seager, but he has gotten some at-bats this spring.
The Turner hit by pitch became the overriding issue in the spring with the Dodgers, who have posted five straight seasons of at least 91 wins including a high of 104 last year on the way to the NL pennant and dramatic 7-game series with the Houston Astros.
The two major moves were bringing Matt Kemp back to LA and letting Yu Darvish go to the Cubs. So long as Clayton Kershaw is healthy, all is good. Manager Dave Roberts has a lot to like with the Dodgers who have loads of depth. In fact, Kemp has been so impressive this spring that he may have won a job in left field on Opening Day against the San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers are young and their core group is outstanding. Seager, 23, hit .301 last year. First baseman Cody Bellinger, 22, hit 39 homers and drove in 97 as a rookie. Joc Pederson, 25, has already hit 62 homers in his short time with the Dodgers. Chris Taylor, 27, had a breakout season with 21 homers and can play numerous positions in the infield and outfield.
And there’s the mercurial one Yasiel Puig, who hit 28 homers and at 27 is just reaching his prime if the Dodgers can calm his down. Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA) is at age 30, well, Kershaw. The three-time Cy Young winning lefty continues to be chasing Sandy Koufax as the all-time greatest Dodgers pitcher. His health, of course, is essential for a return to the World Series but so far so good.
LA also has the NL’s best closer in Kenley Jansen (41 saves, 1.32 ERA, 109 strikeouts in just 68 1-3 innings). The Dodgers are projected for 95.5 wins this season and 1-to-3 odds to repeat as division champs, but it’s not likely to be the runaway of 2017. It’s an even year which means the Giants figure to roar back, while Arizona, Colorado and new look San Diego all figure to be better than a year ago.
The Kemp deal, first seen as insurance for the outfield, could turn into the steal of the offseason should he recapture his form from a few years back with LA. That said, winning 100 games is going to be difficult but figure LA for another 91-plus and likely playoff appearance.
Encore: The Dodgers and Giants play seven times in the first 10 games. Six of those 10 are on the road.
2017 record: 93-69
2016 record: 93-69
2015 record: 78-84
World Series win odds: 10-1
Odds to win AL East: 15/10 2nd
2018 season win total: 91.5