Dodgers: Sizing Up the Competition in the NL West

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Clayton Kershaw
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Clayton Kershaw /

Baseball games are just five days away. The offseason, while it has been slower than ever, is more or less done for the NL West teams thus it is time to start examining what the Dodgers will go up against this season.

Starting with the Dodgers themselves, this will be a five-article series thoroughly examining the additions, subtractions, and players to watch from each NL West team. The division should remain one of the most competitive in all of baseball and these articles will break down exactly why that is. Each piece should make it very clear what the offseason means for the Dodgers this year.

This offseason was a rather quiet one in Los Angeles. The team’s only new faces are pitchers, Scott Alexander and Tom Koehler, and two batters, most notably Matt Kemp and to a lesser extent Jake Peter. Chase Utley was also resigned to a two year, two million dollar deal. The team also added Dylan Baker and Henry Owens to the roster all though the two of them will almost certainly begin the season in the minors.

While the additions were minimal this offseason was more about who left the team than it was about who they added. The team traded away a huge chunk of last year’s roster including Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, Luis Avilan, Josh Ravin, Grant Dayton, and Trevor Oaks. The team also lost Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow to the Cubs, Tony Watson to the Pirates, and Curtis Granderson to the Blue Jays. In doing so, the front office brought the team under the luxury tax and has also kept the competitive and successful core of the team intact.

Coming off a World Series loss, the Dodgers goal is simple: win just one more game than last year. The major assets to the team are still in LA, the roster is cheaper, and the overall productivity may be exactly the same with the returns of Andrew Toles and a full season of both Alex Verdugo and Walker Buehler.

As promised, each article will talk about both a pitcher and a batter to keep an eye on in 2018.

The obvious pick for a Dodger pitcher is Clayton Kershaw but the reason may be less obvious than you may think.

Kershaw is coming off his second consecutive season plagued by a back injury. It arguably cost him his fourth Cy Young Award but more importantly cast a shadow of doubt over the skeptical fans. The question raised is can Kershaw stay healthy and remain dominant? The answer will

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become clear this season and for that reason, he is my pitcher to watch.

As for batters I will cheat here and pick two. The first is Chris Taylor. Chris Taylor had a career year last season leading the Dodgers in doubles, triples, and stolen bases and ranking in the top three in hits, on-base percentage, batting average, runs, and slugging percentage. But, a season like this was unexpected from the 26-year-old infielder and outfielder. He is as big a threat as any to other NL West teams but I would watch to see if he can remain on his elite level like he did last year.

My second batter is Andrew Toles. Toles got off to a hot start last year but is coming off a season cut short by a torn ACL. His health is a huge concern but so too is how much that knee injury will affect him this season. If Toles can come back strong, he is easily one of my favorite batters on this roster as he is a threat with his speed, power, contact hitting, and defense. A healthy Toles is a weapon.

Next: Dodgers: Is Cody Bellinger Conditioned Enough for the 2018 Season?

Overall, the Dodgers project to be not only the best team in the division but in all of baseball. They are an early favorite to get back to the World Series and even a favorite to win it. If everything goes smoothly, there is no reason to think that is not true. The Dodgers, despite a quiet offseason, are still the biggest powerhouse in the NL West.