Dodgers spring training: 5 takeaways from March action
By Sean Kaufman
Opening Day is nearly upon us, and with it comes a regular season fraught with expectations of repeating.
Eventually, we might all yearn for meaningless baseball again…or not.
As spring wraps up, I thought I’d share some of my observations from the Dodgers’ Cactus League showing so far.
The Dodgers should pay Corey Seager whatever he wants.
In case you haven’t noticed, Corey Seager has been obliterating the baseball this spring.
He’s currently slashing a ludicrous .375/.444/.825 in 40 spring at-bats, and is leading the Cactus League with six homers, including this lefty-on-lefty crime committed against former obscure Dodger Scott Kazmir, who’s making another comeback attempt with the Giants.
Just about everything indicates a monster year is imminent for Seager. In addition to the big spring, he’s healthy, just entering his prime, coming off an historic postseason run, and entering a contract year.
Detractors might point out he’s not as well-rounded a player as Francisco Lindor or Javy Baez, but Seager’s bat is a tier above the rest of the 2021 free agent shortstop class, and the Dodgers should do everything in their power to keep their homegrown star for the long haul.
Clayton Kershaw is going to be just fine.
Sure, it was a far cry from the example he made of the Brewers in the Wild Card Round last year, but I wouldn’t get too worked up about Kershaw’s not-so-stellar recent performance against Milwaukee. Giving up back to back homers to lefties to begin his outing was not the most encouraging sign, but we have to remember that it’s just a spring game.
Veterans like Kershaw use this time to fine tune their games and make mechanical adjustments. The 33-year-old lefty has a reputation for being a perfectionist, and I am confident that all the kinks will be ironed out before his record ninth Opening Day start.
It would be nice if we started seeing the velocity creep up to where it was last year, especially with the reduced workload, but Kershaw has gotten even better at changing speeds and working in the breaking stuff since he got into his 30s. He knows what he’s doing. Don’t fret.
The Dodgers…keep tying. It’s annoying.
This has absolutely no bearing on the regular season, but it still stood out.
Spring games don’t count. We hold them to let veterans get their bearings and to give some reps to the young guys, so there really isn’t a point in going into extras. It is a bit odd, though, that the Dodgers have amassed five ties this spring at the time of this article.
The Dodger record for ties in a single spring is eight, which was set in 2015. With only four games left on the calendar, the Boys in Blue will have to give a very average effort if they have any hope of surpassing one of the least consequential records in the team annals. I’m not predicting the Dodgers will play in a disproportionate amount of extra-inning games, so sorry to those expecting a greater share of free baseball.
Dodgers utility man Chris Taylor is off to a great start.
Often the forgotten man in the Dodger lineup, Chris Taylor has been making a name for himself so far this spring.
The veteran utility man is slashing .419/.486/.967 through 31 Cactus League at-bats. I’m in no way saying that Chris Taylor has miraculously turned into Ted Williams. We will definitely see some regression and it is just spring training, but it’s an encouraging start for Taylor, especially with the increase in playing time he’s likely to see following the departures of Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez.
CT3 is a valuable player regardless of how he’s doing at the plate because of his speed and defensive versatility, but he has the potential to be a strong offensive contributor, and if last year’s Statcast and his spring performance are any indication, I see a big 2021 in his future.
The Dodgers have plenty of bullpen depth to go around.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Brusdal Graterol, Joe Kelly, the newly-acquired Tommy Kahnle and the reacquired Brandon Morrow are all expected to not be ready for Opening Day. The good news is that the Dodger bullpen is still in good shape without them.
They were able to bring back sinker extraordinaire Blake Treinen on a two-year deal, and lefty Victor Gonzales proved that he can get big outs last postseason. Kenley Jansen was a big question mark last season, but he seems to have come back with a vengeance. Not that spring training is the be all, end all, but it’s nice to see the big man off to an encouraging start.
Speaking of pleasant surprises, the Dodgers’ ex-Brewer reclamation projects are having great springs. Both Jimmy Nelson and Corey Knebel have looked great so far, allowing just one run in 13 innings while striking out 16. Throw the surplus starters (May and Gonsolin?) in the mix and the Dodgers should still have plenty of late-inning firepower at their disposal, even while missing a few key names.