I thought that finding offense from the new Dodger lineup would be the biggest area of concern going into Spring Training 2015 after losing Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez this offseason to trade and free agency. The offense has been exciting, but the pitching is oddly the area of concern. Spring Training is winding down, and it has been a wild ride indeed for the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. They have hit 40 homeruns, made history with 6 Cactus League ties, Yasiel Puig is hitting monster homeruns and a kid named Joc has burst on to the scene readying for his Opening Day nod in center field.
The bullpen and pitching injuries have made me worry about the usually consistently excellent pitching the Dodgers are known for. While veterans and young up and coming players were busy hitting grand slams (watching Matt Carson hit his grand slam live at Camelback Ranch was a highlight of my trip to Arizona this year) and showing off the promising future, the Dodgers have yet to whittle down the bullpen.
I haven’t been overly optimistic about the bullpen nor the backend of the starting rotation going into Opening Day with the Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen disabled, their third-best starter Hyun-jin Ryu also beginning the season on the D.L. and the uncertainty of several key relief pitchers including Brandon League (shoulder), Adam Liberatore (groin), Chad Gaudin (nerve discomfort) and Erik Bedard (teres major muscle strain).
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Interestingly, the Dodgers have the most Spring Training homeruns in the league so far (40). The Arizona D-backs have only hit 10. Stolen bases will be at a premium this season with Dee Gordon now in Miami. The Dodgers have only swiped 10 bases this Spring. The Dodgers have the most runs (150) and hits (248), and they are hitting a combined .285. These offensive stats, although merely Spring stats, are still quite promising.
New Dodgers Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are both having a superb Spring while adding bolstered defense for the Dodgers in the infield as well as contributing consistently at the plate as well. Yasiel Puig has the most Spring homeruns (5) on the team, and there have been a number of memorable offensive showings from Joc Pederson, Justin Turner and minor leaguers Matt Carson, Darnell Sweeney and Scott Schebler. Even Andre Ethier, who many have given up on, has been offensively charged this Spring.
Joctacular. Joc Pederson is having a fantastic Spring, and he is tied for 3rd in the league in batting average this Spring (.400) with 4 homeruns, 9 RBI, 12 strikeouts and 3 walks over 45 at bats. While the strikeouts will certainly be his weakness offensively, his Spring showing will hopefully transition into the regular season giving the Dodgers an exciting rookie center fielder who can add power and speed to this Dodger lineup as well as solid defense in the outfield.
Last season, the Dodgers were 6th in the league with 134 homeruns. Unfortunately the 40 round trippers they have collected this Spring don’t count, but it definitely eases my worries about run production and power from the revamped lineup.
Here’s my Opening Day lineup prediction:
Mar 25, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson (31) points to the sky after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Yasiel Puig RF
Juan Uribe 3B
Joc Pederson CF
Vin Scully is back on Friday night to call his one and only game from Camelback Ranch! This will mark Vin’s first appearance for 2015 in the broadcast booth and kicks off his historic 66th season with the Dodgers. If you don’t have SportsNet LA for the 7:05 pm game, you can tune into the good old radio to hear Vin’s beautiful voice.
It has been a Spring to remember. Last year’s shortened version perhaps didn’t allow the Dodgers to fully prepare before they departed to Sydney, but this Spring the revitalized roster has showcased its depth, youth power and versatility.
An Opening Day homerun for rookie Joc Pederson off James Shields would be sweet, wouldn’t it?
What was your favorite moment during Spring Training? Let me know in the comments section.