We’re also talking about a roster that should actually get better with one more year of experience under their belts.
In the middle of the Dodgers lineup going forward are 21-year-old Seager (who played in just 27 games this season but slashed .337/.425/.561 with four home runs and 17 RBIs), 23-year-old Pederson (who had 20 home runs and a .364 OBP in the first half of the season before going into a tailspin), 26-year-old Grandal (who had a .927 OPS in the first half before deciding to try and play through a shoulder injury that will likely require surgery.
There’s also the 24-year-old Puig (who is just 12 injury-plagued months removed from a season-and-a-half stretch in which he posted 10.4 WAR and slashed .305/.387/.502). Add in Peraza, a 21 year old who was ranked the No. 24 prospect in baseball by MLB.com and No. 26 by Baseball America in July, and, well, you get the picture.
But what about the pitching?!?
Oh, you’re right.
First, there’s that Kershaw guy — who will be around for something like eternity (hopefully). Then there’s Ryu, the 28 year old who missed all of 2015 with a shoulder injury, but who posted two fantastic seasons in 2013 and 2014 — with ERAs of 3.00 and 3.38 (a 2.62 FIP in 2014!) along with WHIPs of 1.20 and 1.19.
Behind Ryu is McCarthy, the Dodgers big offseason signing last summer who turned out to be the health-gamble everyone thought he was when he missed all but four starts this season. Look, McCarthy isn’t great (and he’s also out for part of 2016), but if he’s your No. 4 or 5 starter, he’s a massive upgrade over Mike Bolsinger.
Finally, there’s 24-year-old Wood, who the Dodgers acquired from the Atlanta Braves. While many expected Wood to be the mid-season pitching acquisition they were hoping for (read: David Price, Cole Hamels), the reality is those expectations were far too high.
The good news, however, is that Wood is both young and a really good pitcher. In 2013 and 2014, he made 35 starts for the Braves (remember — he would have been 22 and 23 at the time) and 20 relief appearances, posting a FIP of 2.65 and 3.25, and an xFIP of 3.18 and 3.19 respectively.
For comparison’s sake, Zack Greinke’s xFIP was 3.22 this season (note: Wood is not Greinke, I’m just saying the guy is probably way better than you give him credit for).
Add in the $50 million the Dodgers probably spend on pitching this summer (at least one starter — COUGH — Greinke — COUGH), and a rotation of those five is nasty. And that’s assuming they only sign one elite starter.
Oh, and we haven’t even gotten to the prospects yet!
As of July, the Dodgers two pitchers in the Top 25 prospects: Julio Urias (No. 4) and Jose De Leon (No. 23), in addition to the No. 58 prospect (Grant Holmes). While none of these guys project to be ready by Opening Day 2016, all three could be in play by the end of the season.
Finally, just for the sake of being comprehensive, let’s take a look at the bullpen. You’re not going to believe this, but the Dodgers are young.
Jansen is 28, Avilan is 26, Baez is 27, Garcia is 25 and Carlos Frias is 25. All five of those relievers are entering the prime of their careers.
Add in 30-year-old Hatcher, who morphed into a fantastic setup man by the end of the season, and other supplementary pieces like Juan Nicasio, J.P. Howell and whatever newcomers are added to the bunch, and for the second straight season, the Dodger bullpen should be much improved.
By now I hope the depression-tinted glasses have faded from sight and the promise of the future is clearly staring you straight in the face. Yes, disappointment is normal and expected after an 0-for-their-last-11 with runners in scoring position performance (in a one-run-loss, no less), but as Dodgers fans we have the luxury of knowing (almost indefinitely) that next year will be better.
The Dodgers somehow both rebuilt and re-tooled during the 2015 season — their first under a new brain trust consisting of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi.
The 2016 roster is in excellent shape, and the players mentioned above are guys returning — meaning this doesn’t even include what should be another busy offseason, especially on the pitching front.
So yes, the present is dark, but the future is bright. Cheer up, Dodger fans, we’ll be back — and better than ever.