The Dodgers opened up their 2017 season with a bang against the San Diego Padres. The Opening Day game may have given us some insight into the team’s true offensive ability.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were a middle-of-the-pack offensive team last season, but that can partially be attributed to injuries and slow starts to multiple key position players. This is why, going into the season, not many were 100% sure what to make of their lineup. It certainly isn’t a cheap one, so would the talent and production live up to the money?
Well, we may have gotten our answer on Opening Day. Now granted, it is just one game and just one game against the San Diego Padres, so we should not overreact. However, overreactions are a big part of sports, so pardon me. In addition, great offenses are supposed to dominate the weaker teams on their schedule, and 14 runs is nothing to scoff at. Plus, it’s not like these Dodger players just randomly broke out in this game; they truly showed that they can be special.
Joc Pederson hit a grand slam, Corey Seager hit a home run, and Yasmani Grandal pitched in with two dingers. The entire starting lineup (including Clayton Kershaw) collected a hit and the team as a whole had 14 hits.
This game showed me, and hopefully others, that when the Dodgers’ lineup is healthy, it is as deep and dangerous as any offense in the league. If it can live up to its talent, then it will be comparable with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, and even the Houston Astros.
The Dodgers have a speedy leadoff hitter in Andrew Toles who hit .314 in 2016, albeit in 105 at-bats. His ability to get on-base and utilize his speed will make this offense even more dangerous. I pegged him as a regression candidate, but he is still a very talented hitter who will hit for a relatively high average (.280-.290) and steal lots of bases.
Then you get to the 2-8 hitters, players that have 20+ home run potential. Sitting in the number two spot, the Dodgers have rising superstar Corey Seager, who hit .308 with an OPS of .877 and 26 home runs as a rookie in 2016. He is almost a virtual lock for a .300 average and 20+ long balls, barring any unforeseen sophomore slump. Right behind him you have Justin Turner, who is coming off a breakout campaign of his own that saw him hit .275 and 27 home runs, while finishing the season on a tear. He will hit .280+ and get you 25-30 home runs.
In the cleanup spot you have Mr. Consistent, Adrian Gonzalez. Now, he may not be what he once was, but he can still get you close to 20 home runs and 100+ RBIs, if healthy and given the proper playing time. He probably won’t reach those numbers, because he’ll be resting a lot more this season, but he brings that kind of ability and “clutchness” to the table.
The 5-8 spots, however, are what make this lineup truly intriguing. New addition Logan Forsythe protected Gonzalez from the five-hole in the first game. He is coming off a season that saw him hit a career-high 20 home runs. He may not have Brian Dozier kind of power, but he is still a comparable hitter. He should improve this season, as he is part of a better offense with better lineup protection around him. He should hit around .270 with 15-20 home runs this season.
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The six , seven, and eight holes will determine whether this offense is truly one of the best or a second tier one. You have Joc Pederson batting sixth and we all know the power he possesses. He’s hit 51 home runs in his first two seasons and he’ll improve this season en route to reaching at least 30 dingers. He is working on becoming a more balanced hitter, and if last season was any indication, he should, even if it’s incremental. He has a big year in-store for us.
Yasmani Grandal, out of the seventh spot, has a strong argument for being the best offensive catcher in baseball. He had a low batting average in 2016, but still had 27 home runs. However, this might be the year he breaks out. He hit two home runs in the opener, which should be a sign of things to come.
Many people don’t remember, but he was in the middle of a true breakout season in 2015 before getting hurt. Up until the first week of August (89 games for him), he was hitting an excellent .295/.400/.513 with 15 home runs. That’s a 27 home run pace with an elite .913 OPS. Then he got hurt and played most of the second-half with an injured shoulder. I’m no expert, but I believe that an injured shoulder would immensely limit your ability to swing a bat.
There are reports saying that Yaz is in the best shape of his career now, which is truly exciting to hear. He had an excellent spring and has started off the season strong. He just needs to improve as a right-handed hitter (he’s a switch hitter) to truly take his ability to the next level. He hit a home run from both sides of the plate in yesterday’s game, which is a nice start. He seems like a man on a mission and you can expect a breakout season from him.
Now comes the biggest wildcard on the whole team: Yasiel Puig. His problems have been well-documented so there’s no need to get into them. However, he is a true freak of nature and one of the most talented players in the league. He has the ability to slug around 20-25 home runs, while hitting for a good average.
He had a good September in 2016 and has altered his swing this year so I expect the 2017 season to be where he gets passed his attitude and off-the-field issues and puts everything together. This would leave the lineup with a singular weakness.
This one thing holding the Dodger offense back is hitting left-handed pitching. It’s a serious problem, but, they can’t be as abysmal as they were last season, so I am cautiously optimistic. Throw in the addition of Forsythe, an improved Puig and Grandal, an extra developmental year/offseason for Seager and Pederson, and they should definitely improve in that department.
Best-case scenario is they finish with a top-5 maybe top-3 offense. However, things don’t always go as planned so be prepared for a curveball. Still, this lineup is finally healthy, has power, high-average hitters, clutch hitters, adequate speed, better balance throughout, and can legitimately hurt you at any time, so things are only looking up. I mean how many teams can say that their 6-8 hitters also have the ability to hit for a solid average and over 20 home runs?
After watching the first game, there seems to be a mystic stigma around the Dodgers so I have a gut feeling that this high-powered offense will do something special in 2017.