2018 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview

The Dodgers come into 2018 in a familiar position as the last 5 seasons. The favorites. It’s pretty simple for LA. They’re very good, they produce great talent, have power, get on base and have good pitching. Justin Turner and Corey Seager have turned into legitimate studs on the left side of the infield. Puig had a coming out party last year and sweet swingin Cody Bellinger cranked 39 in his rookie season. They’ve won 90+ games the last five years and will look to do that behind the best pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw and his minions.

Key Additions:

Matt Kemp, OF

Tom Koehler, RHP

Key Losses:

Yu Darvish, RHP

Charlie Culberson, SS

Brandon McCarthy, RHP

Curtis Granderson, OF

Andre Ethier, OF

Why they can win: They have the best pitcher in the entire majors whose highest ERA since 2009 is 2.91. Their pitching was incredible last year posting a 3.38 team ERA, which boasts great depth and one of the best closers in the league. They have 4 guys in their lineup who can hit 25+ homeruns. They have good secondary pitching and hitting that can get the job done with guys like Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Matt Kemp and Chris Taylor. They’re the favorites for a reason and they should win a lot of games

Why they can lose: There are actually a few relatively big concerns when it comes to the Dodgers. The first and most important thing is Clayton Kershaw’s back. He has had issues with it and is headed into his age 30 season. If he goes down, who knows what the Dodgers turn into. Can Chris Taylor produce another 4.7 WAR? Finally, it’s scary at which the rate Cody Bellinger swings and misses and if he can’t figure that out and the league figures out to pitch to him, he seems like a guy who could hit .230 with 35 HR.

Bottom Line: The Dodgers will be fine. They have great resources, they’ll always spend and find a way to get to the big dance. A few question marks but they have some really good pieces to build around like one of the most underrated superstars in the league, Corey Seager. Kemp and Pederson will split time and while they’re not analytically productive, a tandem that produces 30 HR and 94 RBI is doable. They also have a good farm with guys close to the show, which is exciting.

Major4 Numbers Game:

Stud: Clayton Kershaw, SP

Well it’s only fitting that a day after reporting on the best player on earth we follow with the planet’s best pitcher. I don’t care that he didn’t post the highest WAR on his team (4.6 in only 27 starts) he was absolutely lights out. He actually posted his worst FIP since his third season (3.07), but was still t-6 in the majors. His outstanding advanced metrics were aided by the second best BB% in the majors (4.4!) and 5th in K% (29.8). His ability to dictate the strike-zone has been phenomenal, with only Sale, Kluber, and Scherzer being in this elite territory. He also posted a ridiculous swinging-strike rate of 14.1% and contact rate of only 72.1%. He makes hitters look absolutely foolish at the plate. The only thing that has hindered him the last two years is a bad back. He’s in his walk year, so Kersh is gonna get PAID (again…). Hot Take: Kershaw exceeds 200 IP, posts a WAR of over 7, wins the NL Cy Young, and gets over $35M/season in the offseason.

Sinkhole: Hyun Jin Ryu, SP5

Ryu came into the MLB with high expectations and he matched them with back to back 3+ WAR campaigns. The last couple seasons have been riddled with injuries and mediocrity on the mound. He did post a respectable 3.77 ERA, but that can’t be expected to hold up when he left an astound 81% of baserunners (10% higher than league average). He allows a lot of hard hit contact (36.1%), and possess well below average velocity (90.3 MPH). Despite his pedigree as a sought after foreign free agent, he may not be able to hold on to his rotation gig. Buehler, Font, and former super-prospect Julio Urias will be charging for innings. It’ll be difficult for him to provide surplus value on his modest $7.8M salary with young studs pushing him to the bullpen. On a team with stars and depth, Ryu may not be a true drag on their roster, but he is arguably the least valuable player on their projected roster.

Regression Candidate: Chris Taylor, CF

I mean, he has to regress, doesn’t he? In 2017 he posted a monster 4.7 WAR, 21 HRs, 17 SB after being nothing more than a replacement-level player in his previous 3 seasons. He did post a solid batted-ball profile (51% medium and 32% hard contact rates), but walked at a below average clip (8%) and struck out above league average. He also posted a league average 87 MPH exit velo, so expect the power numbers to regress closer to the 18-20 range, despite his prime launch angle. His solid defense will help keep him as a high value piece on the Dodgers, even if his bat regresses slightly. To us, he looks more like a 2.5 WAR player, instead of the all-star caliber player he was last year.

Impact Acquisition: Scott Alexander, RP

Acquired from the Royals in a deal that flew under the radar. Alexander is a very solid lefty, who is reminiscent of Zach Britton, as he relies on his sinker to gather ground balls at a silly rate (73.8%). Despite the fact he doesn’t miss a whole ton of bats (20.9 K%), but he’s never gonna have issues with the long ball as long as he keeps getting grounders at his ridiculous clip and inducing a high percentage of soft contact (26.5%). He could be next in line for save opportunities as he is a rare lefty who is just as effective against LH and RH batters.

Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):

Walker Buehler, RHP (12)

Alex Verdugo, OF (33)

Keibert Ruiz, C, (52)

Yadier Alvarez, RHP

Why We Love Them: Benny The Jet. How many guys can steal home and then point up to their best friend announcing the game? They have the funnest pitcher to watch maybe in the history of the game, not to mention Justin Turner’s gorgeous red mane. They’re the Yankees of the west. They’re classy, they win, have a great stadium and classic unis.

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