Dodgers Featured on ESPN Players to Watch List

October 8, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) during workouts before game one of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
October 8, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) during workouts before game one of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

With Spring Training slowly approaching, ESPN released a list of 16 players to watch. The Dodgers have two players (and one former player) on the list.

It’s finally time to start talking about Spring Training, and ESPN released their list of players to watch as teams prepare for the upcoming season. The Dodgers were the only team with two featured players to watch, and both of them were Dodgers last year. 

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The first, of course, was Yasiel Puig. I wrote about Puig bouncing back in 2016 here, and ESPN seems to agree that he’s going to be vital to the Dodgers’ success. Puig is one of the most divisive figures in baseball and through his first couple years, was productive enough to dismiss some of the off-field stuff. Last year was a different story, with injuries limiting Puig to only 79 games and 311 plate appearances. All his numbers dipped and he enters the season as a bit of an unknown. He seems to be in better shape than in years past, which could keep him on the field more consistently. A healthy Puig is one of the most electrifying players in baseball and could mean the difference between a shorter season and a fourth consecutive NL West crown.

The second Dodger on the list is Corey Seager, who will almost assuredly be the everyday shortstop in 2016 and for the next 15 years hopefully. Seager is a huge upgrade from Jimmy Rollins, who is still on the free agent market after a disappointing year in LA. Seager got a cup of coffee with the Dodgers and was even more impressive than we could have hoped, hitting .337/.425/.561 in his first 113 plate appearances. He started four of the five postseason games and struggled a bit against the Mets’ power pitching, but then again the whole team struggled against them.

ESPN points to the success of rookie shortstops last year as the bar for Seager in 2016. Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor made their debuts last year and were absolutely amazing, and if Seager can come close to their production, he should be a frontrunner for rookie of the year. ESPN also pointed to Seager’s .344 average against lefties across three levels of baseball last year, proving that the Dodgers won’t need to worry too much about Seager facing same-handed pitching. His demeanor, skillset and age all point to him being a star in the future, and it will be fun to watch him head into his first spring training as the man.

The list of 16 also included a former Dodger, an almost Dodger, and a new Giant. ESPN thinks Zack Greinke will have eyes on him as the ace in Arizona and wonders whether the Diamondbacks paid $206 million for a guy was lucky last season or was dominant last year (my money is on a little column a, little column b). ESPN wrote very briefly about almost-Dodger-now-Yankee Aroldis Chapman, who could face suspension. ESPN’s blurb on him isn’t very noteworthy, but this piece by Vice Sports’ Molly Knight is a must-read.

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ESPN also think Johnny Cueto will be a guy to keep track of in Spring Training. Rather than making himself money in his contract year, Cueto probably cost himself a bit of cash with an uneven season and more than his fair share of arm scares. He surprisingly struggled after being traded to Kansas City (bigger ballpark, better defense) from Cincinnati (ehh defense, very hitter-friendly ballpark). He now joins the Giants, where he won’t have to be the ace, will have a great defense and pitch in a very pitcher friendly ballpark. Cueto is a bit of a question mark, but could prove to be a huge signing for the Giants as they try to catch up to the Dodgers in the West.