It has been 29 long years since the Los Angeles Dodgers have made an appearance in the Fall Classic, which is completely unacceptable for a team with an infinite amount of money to toss around and attract high-caliber free agents. However, the Dodgers fans can take some solace in the fact that they come into the season as four-time defending National League West Division Champions.
The Dodgers finished last season with a record of 91-71, four games up on their in-state rivals from San Francisco. This time around, though, they weren't the NL pennant favorites thanks in large part to the outstanding season the Chicago Cubs were having. They were allowed to slip under the radar yet still managed to find a way to disappoint the fan base once again. They were up 2-1 in the NLCS against the Cubs before allowing Chicago to storm back and win the next three games to get them into the World Series. We all know what happened next.
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This year, however, manager Dave Roberts should benefit from the luxury of a healthy rotation (knock on wood) and a young and extremely-talented group of players with a ton of postseason experience. The onus and blame will fall on Roberts' shoulder should the Dodgers fail to reach the World Series for the 30th straight season.
The Dodgers will open the regular season on April 3 with a four-game homestand against the San Diego Padres. Clayton Kershaw has been tabbed to get the opening-day start, and the Dodgers will likely be favorites upward of -190 . Speaking of odds, the Dodgers are currently + 900 to win the World Series , +500 to win the NL Pennant and -210 to win the NL West. The Dodgers have an "over/under" win total of 93.5, with both at -115. Corey Seager is +1200 to win the NL MVP, and +6600 to lead the majors in homers. Clayton Kershaw is the favorite to win the NL Cy Young (+160). All odds are courtesy of Bovada.
Dodgers 2017 Projected Lineup
The Dodgers lineup is one year older, one year wiser and hopefully one or two additions away from taking the next step towards glory. They will feature the unanimous NL Rookie of the Year in Corey Seager. He will be eager to build off of his 40 doubles and 26 home run season. He committed 18 errors last year, which should get cut in half, while striking out 133 times. From a fantasy perspective, he may just be worthy of a second-round pick as one of the top three shortstops available. He is slated to bat third, behind Andrew Toles and Yasiel Puig.
Further down the lineup, first basemen Adrian Gonzalez will be looking to replicate his 2016 season after hitting .285, 18 HR and 90 RBIs. Despite his age, he is very durable, having played at least 156 games in every season since 2006. He is slated to bat clean up and play first base, which should come as no surprise. The bottom half of the lineup will be crucial to the success of this team. If they can have Justin Turner hit for .275/27/90 and Yasmani Grandal drive in 72 runs and hit 28 homers, this team will be in good shape offensively.
The Dodgers also added Logan Forsythe from Tampa Bay. They expect him to provide some protection behind Joc Pederson, as Forsythe offers up an added power threat to the lineup. Forsythe batted .264, hitting 20 home runs and 52 RBIs.
And last, but certainly not least, Yasiel Puig. Puig had a terrible season last year, hitting just 11 home runs and driving in 45 runs. Dodgers fans hope that Puig has found a level of maturity missing from his game and that he can be productive on the field instead of having problems off of it.
Dodgers 2017 Projected Rotation & Closer
The Dodgers used 15 starting pitchers last season, with Kenta Maeda the only pitcher to start more than 26 games. Maeda also led the team in innings pitched (175.2) while no other pitcher reached 150. This season should be very different barring another injury to Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw missed a good portion of the 2016 with a back injury and is said to have recovered fully and is ready to go for opening day. A healthy Kershaw provides the Dodgers not only with a certified ace but also a pitcher that gives the bullpen a much-needed rest once in a while.
Behind Kershaw, the Dodgers are expected to trot out Maeda, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Julio Urias, Scott Kazmir and Hyun-Jin Ryu, in some combination that we haven't heard of yet. I would be very surprised if Rich Hill keeps his spot in the rotation, considering he is 37 years old and that youngster Urias will be pitching without any inning limitations. Urias finished last season with a record of 5-2 and a 3.39 ERA. He pitched 77 innings and surrendered 81 hits, 31 walks and just five home runs. He will look to improve and hold down the back end of the rotation.
The problem with this rotation is that they saw a lot of pitchers walk away in the offseason that will likely take up big roles with their new teams. Right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton left to go play for the Washington Nationals, while J.P. Howell left for the Blue Jays, Brett Anderson went to the Cubs and Jesse Chavez went to the Angels. Those four guys will be tough to replace -- Blanton especially as he was lights-out (1.01 WHIP, 9.0K/9, .194 BAA) in his first full season in relief.
The Dodgers replaced him with Sergio Romo, who had a down season last year with the rival Giants. Should he not bounce back, the Dodgers could find themselves in a precarious position after the starters exit the game. Kenley Jansen will be closing games for the Dodgers. And while he is an elite closer, the relievers may cough up one or two leads before the Dodgers can get him in the game.
Dodgers 2017 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Los Angeles to finish 94-68 and win the NL West by seven games over San Francisco. The Dodgers are definitely the best team in the NL West and should make it five consecutive division banners - barring another injury setback to Kershaw. The lineup looks solid one through nine, and the only real concern I have is the relief pitching. The starting pitching should be able to navigate the pitcher-friendly parks in the NL West, thus leading me to believe that a play on the "over" 93.5 wins is in order.
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