With spring training still months away, and plenty of off-season moves still to be made, trying to predict anything about the 2019 regular season with any certainly seems like a foolish endeavor. So, I figured that’s right up my alley.
So, here they are. My bold predictions for the Dodgers 2019 season, January edition. They could very well be wrong. But they also have a small possibility of being right… so there you go.
The Dodgers will not sign Bryce Harper
Not what you wanted to hear, I know. And you’re not alone, that’s for sure.
Not signing Harper may not be that “bold” of a prediction considering so many teams are in the hunt for the superstar. However, after the huge trade the Dodgers recently completed that sent Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp out of town, while also clearing out some payroll, the Dodgers have been considered the front runners to land Harper.
While I don’t think it’s out of the question that the Dodgers land Harper, something tells me the front office won’t be willing to dish out the crazy amounts of money that he’ll demand, and more importantly, the years he’ll demand. Giving out huge free agent contracts hasn’t been Andrew Friedman’s MO so far, and I’m not sure that is going change now.
I still have a feeling Harper ends up in Philadelphia. I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll soon find out.
The Dodgers stand pat at second base, make a move for a catcher
When looking at what needs the Dodgers still have to address this off-season, most agree that catcher and second base are two of the bigger concerns.
For second base, I think it’s entirely possible that the Dodgers will stay with their in-house options. Both Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez are more than capable of filling that role. Excluding Austin Barnes, both Taylor and Hernandez put up the lowest offensive numbers on the team last year in terms of OPS and wRC but still had above league average totals (113 & 118 wRC respectively.)
Looking at the free agents, none stand out as a very big improvement. Jed Lowrie has had two very productive years in a row, but before that, he was a pretty underwhelming player. Chris Taylor’s 2017 season (.850 OPS) was better than any year Lowrie has ever put up in his career. If Taylor can resemble his 2017-self more next season, that would be a huge boost for the Dodgers.
Other possible second base options all have questions. Can DJ LeMahieu hit away from Coors field? Brian Doizer? The Dodgers caught that show last year and saw how slump prone he could be. Josh Harrison? He had a .656 OPS and 78 wRC last year, well below Taylor and Hernandez’s numbers.
As far as the catching situation, that’s a different story. I fully expect the Dodgers to make some sort of move there, as Austin Barnes just won’t cut it as the sole starter. If the Marlin’s asking price for J.T Realmuto remains outrageous, there’s still other options the Dodgers can pursue, whether it be via trade or free agent signing. Although none of the free agent catchers are very appealing, they could be a one-year stop-gap until Will Smith and/or Keibert Ruiz are ready.
Max Muncy will lead the team in homeruns
Quick, who led all of baseball in homeruns per at-bat last season? If you guessed Max Muncy, you’d be right. You also probably guessed it from the sub-headline, but that’s okay.
Averaging one homerun every 11.3 ABs, Muncy led all of baseball. Let that sink in for a moment. It wasn’t Giancarlo Stanton, J.D Martinez, Aaron Judge, or Khris Davis. Not Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jose Ramirez, or Nolan Arenado either. Instead, it was Max Muncy.
So, why is this prediction such a “bold” one? Well, for starters, not many believe Muncy can replicate the year he had last season. And with the kind of numbers he put up (.973 OPS) it would be hard not to fall off at least a bit.
While not technically his rookie year, last season was the first time Muncy got regular playing time at the major league level. Some may think his 2018 production was an anomaly, and that he’s due to come back to earth. Chris Taylor had similar concerns surrounding him entering last year after he came out of nowhere in 2017, and some of those concerns turned out to be reality. Taylor led the league in strikeouts last season and his OPS fell 75 points compared to 2017.
Personally, I don’t think Muncy will succumb to a drastic fall-off in 2019. His approach really seems to indicate he has turned into a legit major league hitter, and one that can hit for power. I like his chances to lead the team in homeruns if he can get regular playing time, which he certainly should.
Caleb Ferguson makes 10+ starts for the Dodgers
I’m pretty high on Ferguson and his future. He had a very solid rookie year last season, and went from AA at the start of 2018 to being a key bullpen piece for the Dodgers. Although it doesn’t seem like there’s much room for him in the rotation at the moment, Ferguson is a starter by trade. And things can change. Injuries happen. Players struggle. Trades can be made.
Ferguson will likely either return to his relief role to start next season, or perhaps get sent down to AAA to continue developing as a starter. Either way, I think he’ll get a call to start some games for the Dodgers at some point in 2019, and I suspect he’ll have success.
The Dodgers use a six-man rotation for portions of the year
The Dodgers currently have a surplus of starting pitchers. The rotation has mainstays like Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Kenta Maeda. Additionally, they have Julio Urias, who might need a delayed start to keep his innings manageable, but is undoubtedly a starting pitcher when he’s ready, not a reliever. He’ll be making starts at some point this year.
Add in guys like Ross Stripling, the aforementioned Caleb Ferguson, and possibly Dennis Santana, and you have some serious depth.
I think the Dodgers will do their best to keep their starters fresh throughout the year. That may mean rotating some guys between spot starts and the bullpen. It could also mean some phantom DL stints for guys who aren’t really hurt, but could use a rest.
So, they may not call it a “six-man rotation” but it will effective be just that. And that could be a good thing for the health and durability of the starters.
The Dodgers’ Bullpen will lead the league in ERA
Last year, the Dodgers bullpen certainly had its struggles at times, and in the playoffs, there were some big spots when their weakness was magnified. Coming into next season, they’ll return a good portion of that same group but will also add Joe Kelly to the mix, who figures to be the primary set-up guy behind Kenley Jansen. A full healthy year of Tony Cingrani will likely help as well.
The Dodgers could still make some other moves before the start of the year, but if they don’t, the unit they have is capable of surprising some people. Also, I never said they’ll be the best bullpen if baseball… simply that they’ll lead the league in ERA. Dodgers Stadium is a pitcher park, and tend to boost pitcher’s numbers a little. I’ll say it’s enough to give the Dodgers’ relievers the best ERA in the league.
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