The Dodgers have won the division each of the last three seasons, but they have lost one of the key pieces of those teams to free agency, after SP Zack Greinke signed with the Diamondbacks in December. That leaves SP Clayton Kershaw without a strong No. 2 behind him in the rotation. Slotting in after Kershaw is SP Scott Kazmir, who signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers in December after splitting time between the A’s and Astros last season. The Dodgers also signed Japanese SP Kenta Maeda to an eight-year contract. He’ll be making his debut in Major League Baseball this season. Outside of those pitching additions, the Dodgers were part of a three-team trade in which they acquired some prospects from the White Sox while trading a prospect of their own, 2B Jose Peraza, to the Reds. The Dodgers were dealt a major blow earlier this week when OF Andre Ethier suffered a broken leg that is expected to sideline him for 10-14 weeks.
The Dodgers’ .250 batting average last season ranked in the bottom half of the National League, but they led the league with 187 home runs. 1B Adrian Gonzalez and OF Joc Pederson were the leading home-run hitters on the team, with 28 and 26, respectively, 2B Howie Kendrick‘s .295 batting average was the highest on the team. OF Yasiel Puig had a disappointing year, hitting just .255 with 11 home runs in 79 games as he dealt with injuries. The team’s 3.44 ERA was the fifth-lowest in the NL, with Kershaw and Greinke leading the way. Kershaw struck out 301 batters in 232.2 innings while posting a 2.13 ERA. In the bullpen, closer Kenley Jansen had a 2.41 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 52.1 innings while notching 36 saves in 38 opportunities.
If he can stay healthy this season, Puig should be able to bounce back from his down year in 2015 and get closer to the numbers he put up in his first two years in the majors in 2013 and 2014, when he hit .319 and .296, respectively, with 35 total home runs. Rookie SS Corey Seager takes over for SS Jimmy Rollins this season. He should some promising signs in limited time in the majors late last season, hitting .337 with 4 home runs in 98 at-bats. With Ethier out for several months, the Dodgers are expected to turn to a platoon of OFs Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke in left field, with rookie Trayce Thompson also likely seeing more playing time than he likely would have otherwise gotten. Outside of Kershaw and Jansen, there are a number of question marks regarding the pitching staff. Three of the Dodgers’ starters are going to begin the season on the disabled list, with SPs Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson potentially missing at least half of the season and SP Hyun-jin Ryu expected to be recovered from his shoulder surgery and ready to pitch sometime in May. That means pitchers Alex Wood and Mike Bolsinger should get some time in the rotation early in the season, to go along with Kershaw, Maeda and Kazmir, who has a history of injuries himself. If the guys at the back of the rotation don’t pitch well, that could mean trouble for the Dodgers in a competitive division.
The Dodgers are the defending division champions for the last three seasons, but it’s not going to be easy to make it four straight with the Giants and Diamondbacks having made moves to improve their teams, including the Diamondbacks signing Greinke and taking him away from the Dodgers. It should be a close race between the three teams at the top of the division.