The Dodgers are off to a winning start in 2017. What questions need to be answered as the team moves forward in search of a 5th consecutive division title?
The Dodgers are fresh from a 3-1 series win against the San Diego Padres. They exhibited a little bit of everything: reliable starting pitching, explosive offense, and shut-down relief. This is a recipe for success going forward, but there are also questions to monitor as the team progresses. Now the squad is off to a challenging match-up with the Colorado Rockies for 3 games followed by a 3 game series against the Chicago Cubs.
Top Questions For 2017:
1. Will they be able to stay healthy?
Well, that didn’t take long. As I was writing this article I get that news alert that Hill is back on the DL. While this is a manageable injury, it nevertheless does weaken the top of the Dodgers’ starting pitching talent. It is unclear if he will only miss one start or a significant amount of time. Luckily, the Dodgers have the depth to withstand this currently on the roster. Both Alex Wood and Ross Stripling are on the 25-man, and of course, there are ample reinforcements in the minors. Last year, the Dodgers tied a major league record for most players placed on the DL (27). Not settling for a tie, the Dodgers willed another injury to set the MLB record for most players placed on the DL with 28. What will be the DL number this year?
2. Can they hit left-handed pitching?
Anyone could have guessed this was going to be on this list. It’s almost comical how bad the Dodgers were last year against lefties. Despite being absolutely terrible last year against lefties, the Dodgers still made it all the way to the NLCS. They even led the series at one point 2-1! Let’s halt the memory train there before the rest of the day gets ruined by depression and traumatic Toles dropping flyball flashbacks. They batted a mere .214/.291/.333 vs. lefties last year. Will the additions (either through a change in health, FA, or trade) of Scott Van Slyke, Kike Hernandez, Franklin Gutierrez, and Logan Forsythe be enough to buck the trend?
3. Yasiel Puig – Boom or Bust?
Yasiel Puig is off to the races in 2017. This seems to be as a result of a Justin Turner inspired swing adjustment. Turner is the poster child for going from rags to riches. He was DFA’d by the Mets, decided to add his old leg kick and loft to his swing, and is now a top third baseman in the majors. Yasiel Puig is making a conscious effort to elevate the ball:
Travis Sawchik has an excellent article over at Fangraphs breaking down this potential new approach. Puig’s history has been marred by perceived attitude issues, bad hamstrings, ineffective results on the field, and Puig-gonna-Puig moments. Will this adjustment be the reason Puig recaptures his 2013 form?
4. Can Adrian Gonzalez Get Back on Track?
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I wrote a post about Adrian Gonzalez’s past, present, and future production in the MLB. Last year, Gonzalez posted an 113 OPS+, which is his lowest mark since 2005. He also had his lowest HR output since 2012, and that was a year in which he was recovering from shoulder issues. Health has not been a major concern for Gonzalez. The man has clocked in for work to the tune of 600 AB’s for 11 straight seasons. Still, Gonzalez is in his 11th season and you wonder how long he can maintain this pace. Will Gonzalez bounce back from some of his career low power numbers, or will time finally catch up with the 35-year-old first baseman?
5. When Will Julio Urias Make His Debut?
It is well known that the Dodgers are handling Julio Urias with kid gloves this year. There isn’t really a playbook on how to handle a 20-year-old potential phenom who doesn’t have a minor league history of throwing 180+ innings in a season. The Dodgers see Urias as one of their future aces, and they are right to protect their investment. But at what point does the need overcome caution? Rich Hill is already on the DL. Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu have much to prove. Will the Dodgers bring up Julio when he is ready, or will they be forced to bring him up when performance or injury force the front office’s hand?
Many of the questions will be answered over the coming months, while others will require the whole season to completely answer. Fortunately, there is no question about when the season will finally start again – baseball is back!