Christmas is just around the corner, and kids all around the world have written letters to Santa, wishing anything from a new toy, new clothes, or a new puppy. But what could Dodgers fans be asking Santa to wish for a happy 2017 Dodgers season? Let’s take a look and see.
The Dodgers make improvements against left-handed pitchers.
This was undoubtedly the Dodgers biggest issue of last season. Whenever a left-handed pitcher pitched against the Dodgers, the Dodgers lineup tightened up. For example, Yasmani Grandal switched to hit right-handed when faced against left handers, and that didn’t work in his favor as he lost some of his slugging capabilities (.497 against righties but only .385 against lefties). Joc Pederson’s struggles against lefties were widely documented as well. Last year, Pederson only hit one home run against left hand pitching while hitting 24 against righties, his OPS (on base + slugging percentages) was .469 against lefties and .918 against righties, and overall had a .125 batting average.
These guys are everyday players in the Dodgers lineup and are here to stay. So how do you solve this problem that’s more of a nightmare? I would turn to two guys: Kiké Hernandez and Trayce Thompson. Can Kiké recreate some of his rally banana magic two seasons ago and smash off lefties other than Madison Bumgarner? And can Trayce Thompson come back healthy, secure an everyday position in the outfield, and improve hitting off lefties in a full season of work (He hit .219 against lefties)? Right fielder seems to be an open position with Josh Reddick leaving for Houston combined with Yasiel Puig’s struggles.
Figuring out how to replace Joe Blanton’s production.
Joe Blanton was quietly the Dodgers best reliever last season, having career numbers while surprising everyone in the process. Last year Blanton held his opponents to a 1.94 average while maintaining a 1.01 WHIP. He is currently a free agent, and there hasn’t been a lot of information whether or not the Dodgers will resign him.
Blanton is also 36 years old which doesn’t supply any long-term stability with the bullpen. The easy answer is to resign Blanton to a one year deal, which very much can still happen. But if that doesn’t happen, I would be intrigued with what Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling can do coming out of the pen. Kershaw, Hill, and Maeda aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Julio Urias and Jose De Leon figure to take the back end of the starting rotation, assuming De Leon doesn’t get traded. Striping and Stewart are 27 and 25 years old respectively. They’ve shown some moments last year, like when Stewart pitched five shutout innings and struck out eight against the Cubs in the regular season. If they find their niches in the bullpen, this would lower the need to hand the ball to Luis Avilan and Chris Hatcher, two shaky options at best.
Hyun-Jin Ryu finding a place on this team
I would say that Ryu can be called the “forgotten Dodger” when looking towards this season because as of right now, his role on the Dodgers is up in the air. Excluding this season (where he only played one game before going back on the DL), let’s not forget that Ryu was a quality arm for two seasons pitching after Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke.
Now that Maeda has taken over as the third guy, is Ryu (assuming he comes back healthy) the fourth guy, moving Urias to the fifth slot? But the fifth guy doesn’t get as many opportunities guys slotted 1-4 get, which might hurt Urias’ growth as a young pitcher. Maybe Ryu competes for the 5th spot with Scott Kazmir, or becomes the long man out of the bullpen. No matter what happens, Ryu has a lot to bring to this Dodgers team, and if he’s used right, the Dodgers have another quality weapon they can go to.
Corey Seager excels yet again and wins NL MVP.
Without Seager, the Dodgers would be nowhere near where they were last year. Seager always brought something to the table and delivered, such as when he broke up Matt Moore’s no hitter, or when he started off the Dodgers postseason with a homerun to centerfield. Seager has a .308 batting average with 26 home runs and 72 RBI’s last season.
Seager is only 22 years old, and the sky is the limit with him. If Seager endures a “sophomore slump”, the Dodgers will slump, it’s that simple. But let’s hope Seager performs much like Kris Bryant did in his sophomore campaign by lead the Dodgers to the World Series while winning the NL MVP. If the Dodgers want to reach new heights, it starts with Seager.