Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Not only have the Dodgers won the National League West each of the last two years, but SP Clayton Kershaw has won the NL Cy Young Award two years in a row as well. He’ll lead a new-look Dodgers team into a divisional race against the defending World Series champion Giants. Among the new faces on the team are SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Howie Kendrick and SP Brandon McCarthy.
Last season saw the Dodgers offense ranked second in the NL with a .265 batting average, .738 OPS and 4.43 runs per game; their 134 home runs were one below the league average. As you’d expect for a team with Clayton Kershaw, the pitching staff’s ERA was among the best in the NL, ranking fourth at 3.40. The team wasn’t as good, however, in terms of runs allowed per game; at 3.81, it was just the eighth best in the league.
While the Dodgers added some veteran hitters in the offseason, they also lost SS Hanley Ramirez — and his career .300 batting average — in free agency and traded OF Matt Kemp, who hit 25 home runs last season, as part of a deal in which they acquired young C Yasmani Grandal, who hit just .225 in 128 games in 2014. Rollins is getting up there in years and tied his career-low .243 batting average last year. OF Joc Pederson is playing his first full season in 2015 and he’ll have to have to put up good numbers in order to make up for some of the lost production of Ramirez and Kemp. He has a .302 average in his minor-league career so he can hit. With SP Hyun-Jin Ryu on the DL indefinitely with a shoulder injury, the newcomers to the Dodgers rotation, McCarthy and Brett Anderson, will be relied upon more than they would be a healthy Ryu. Both have put up good numbers in previous seasons, though both also have a history of injuries.
It was a winter of change for the Dodgers — some of it good, some bad. It’ll likely be tough to win their third-straight NL West title with the Giants and newly revamped Padres challenging the Dodgers for the top spot in the division. It’s hard to bet against a team with Kershaw, and I think they do have enough to stay ahead of the Giants to win the West once again. If not, they have a shot at getting a wild card, but I’m not sure they would with many improved teams in the NL in 2015.