The Dodgers set the MLB record for most players sent to the Disabled List in 2016. Several of those who missed a majority of the season due to injury can potentially be key players in 2017. What can we expect from them as they work closer to playing full time?
The South Korean left-hander has been missing for over a year. He made one start in 2016 but was rocked by the San Diego Padres. Ryu underwent shoulder surgery in 2015 and elbow surgery last season. Two surgeries in two different places on a throwing arm are not something to be optimistic about, but Ryu seems to be making progress nonetheless.
He threw live batting practice on Friday, where he “impressed” pitching coach, Rick Honeycutt. Live footage of his session seemed to back up reports, as his changeup looked polished and fooled the likes of Yasiel Puig twice. Ryu’s velocity is down from his first two seasons, but velocity was never his forte. Ryu can be an effective pitcher this year if he learns to consistently fool hitters with his changeup, and master command of his fastball. Ryu will likely start either a simulated or real game later this week.
Thompson impressed in his first year with the Dodgers until a back injury sat him out from July on. The Dodgers are being extra cautious with Thompson, who is coming off of back surgery. He most likely will not see any real game action in these next two weeks. He hasn’t seen live pitching since his injury and is yet to play at full speed. However, he is still on track and currently working out in the outfield.
Thompson will have to be even more impressive if he’s to find a spot in the lineup this year. The Dodgers have an outfield consisting of Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, and others who could probably rotate in. Luckily for Thompson, two of those names are on the same road to recovery as he is.
Another left-handed starter on his way back is the veteran 33-year-old, Kazmir. The southpaw wasn’t anything to write about in his first season with the Dodgers, posting a 4.48 ERA. However, he was somewhat durable, going 10-6 in 26 starts. Kazmir was shut down due to back spasms late last season. Like Ryu, Kazmir was impressive in his latest outing. He’s been working on his mechanics to better synchronize his motion with his back. If all goes well, and Kazmir stays healthy, he can be a solid innings eater for the Dodgers.
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Ethier looks to make a bounce back after missing nearly all of the 2016 season due to a broken leg. A bright start is that he looked good in the few games towards the end of the season, including getting a couple of key hits in the postseason, a home run included. If Ethier has full mobility of his leg he can become a mainstay in the Dodgers outfield. He, along with Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and Logan Forsythe are all candidates to hit lead-off. Ethier hit very well in Spring Training last season in the lead-off spot. If Ethier can maintain his consistent bat, it will be a major boost to the Dodgers’ 2017 success.
Last but not least, the “wild horse.” Puig hasn’t been able to find his successful 2013-14 form. Multiple hamstring injuries, discipline trouble, and poor swings landed him in the minors last year. Puig technically wasn’t injured for the majority of the season, but he has been a lost force since the Dodgers’ 2013 success. The news for the names on this list seem overall positive, but not in the case of Puig. Unless he completely changes his swing, it’s hard to see him bounce back to his rookie form. Though he did make a few adjustments last season, he is still getting beat inside and lunging for off-speed outside. If Puig can figure out a way to shoot the gaps with a more inside-out approach, I’ll be able to say I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.
The Dodgers are fortunate to have a lot of depth at multiple positions. The pitching and outfield depth gives these players time to make sure they’re fully healthy. They can each be big factors for the Dodgers achieving their World Series goal only if they are healthy.