Who will be the Dodgers best pitcher in 2018?
Brandon: Hard to go with anyone besides CK, but I’ll throw Kenley Jansen in here, as I think he’s somehow going to improve on previous seasons.
Blake: This is an easy one: Clayton Kershaw. He is quickly approaching GOAT status for the club, and with each passing season he further cements himself as one of the top pitchers of all time. Want to know something amazing? Despite only logging 324 innings (48 starts) from 2016-2017, Kershaw still logged an 11.1 fWAR – good for FOURTH among MLB starters. And the three guys ahead of him logged, on average, 100+ more innings: Scherzer (429), Kluber (418.2), and Sale (441).
Clint: The political, easy answer would be Kershaw or Jansen. I feel like they both have excellent seasons, showing flashes of brilliance as they always have. I could also see Kershaw failing to make 30 starts, and some overuse of Jansen coming into play. I’m going to say that Kenta Maeda bounces back and forth between set-up and rotation as he’s called upon, and is phenomenal in whatever role he’s asked to perform. Maeda is named to the All-Star team and continues his strong finish from 2017 all the way through 2018 to win over the hearts of Dodgers Nation.
Gail: For the Dodgers? Clayton Kershaw. In the NL? Clayton Kershaw. In MLB? Clayton Kershaw.
Torsten: The Dodgers…the world…it’s going to be Clayton Kershaw. However, I do think Rich Hill will finish top 10 in the Cy Young voting, for whatever that’s worth.
Brian: Clayton Kershaw. Next question.
Who will be the Dodgers MVP this year?
Brian: Tough call, as it could be any number of players. I’ll go with Corey Seager though. I suspect Seager will put up great numbers once again, as he’s done in his first two big league seasons. And with Turner sidelined for the first part of the year, Corey could be the anchor for an offense that has plenty of weapons. He may put up the best overall offensive numbers on the team, all while playing a premium position at shortstop.
Gail: On a team with this kind of talent and depth, there was no clear answer to this question for the 2017 squad, and I expect much of the same this year. However, I believe that there is no player on the Dodgers who lends greater value to the team than Clayton Kershaw, and his spring training dominance should lead to (if it’s even possible) bigger and better things in 2018.
Clint: I really want to say Cody Bellinger for my own biased reasons. But I think things align well for Corey Seager to put everything together for a true career year. There has been little talk of Seager due to an injured spring. I think he guts it out, plays in 150+ games, hits .300 with 30 home runs and near 100 RBI and runs scored.
Blake: Before Turner’s wrist was fractured I would have gone with him. His combo of solid defense, clutch hitting, and leadership made him an easy choice. Beyond him I think I am going to go with Corey Seager, if, and only if, he stays healthy. His elbow raises a little concern, but he seems healthy now, and could be poised for a superb 2018 season.
Torsten: Matt Kemp! Kidding, kidding. He won’t have the gaudiest numbers, but he was the MVP for me last year, and I’m guessing he does it again this year, and that’s Chris Taylor. I don’t think he regresses much, if at all. If he gets on base at a .375 clip, hits 20 homers again and steals 30 bases, he’ll officially be a star.
Brandon: I really think Chris Taylor is going to take this another notch further, and improve his defense in CF. He’ll be a cog, and a truly valuable piece at the top of the order. Taylor’s going to put up an OBP north of .360, coupled with a slugging that pushes .500 and at the end of the day, he might win a gold glove.
Who will be the surprise player of 2018?
Brian: Obviously, there’s not going to be that Chris Taylor type player every year, who comes completely out of nowhere to be a key contributor for the team. But if I had to guess one for this season, I’d say Yimi Garcia. Behind Kenley Jansen, the rest of the bullpen roles are wide open. Garcia showed some good potential before his injuries, and I believe he’ll work his way up to one of the more trusted back-end options and perhaps eventually be the Dodgers set-up guy. I also like Tony Cingrani to have a very good year and surprise some folks.
Gail: Kyle Farmer looked strong in spring training and is yet another Dodgers catcher who can play other positions. Look for this versatility in the infield to be key for the team, especially with Turner out. Not necessarily a surprise for the Dodger faithful, but I think he comes into his own this year and makes a real impact.
Clint: Andrew Toles. We saw flashes of the ability in 2016. He likely would have came into his own in 2017 without the gruesome injury. Even if he starts the year in AAA, one thing will lead to another and he will get his shot. Someone gets hurt or traded, and Toles ends up being a 300 to 400 at-bat player who hits .280, steals some bags, and plays plus defense.
Blake: I am going to go with Logan Forsythe for a couple reasons. One, expectations are not particularly high going into the season after a lackluster 2017. However, a swing change late in the season led to him having a solid last couple weeks and postseason. His defense is well above-average, even elite, at both 2B and 3B where he will be spending most of his time. And I think his offense makes the climb back to his 2015-2016 levels with the Rays. If he does that, he’s easily a 4-5 WAR type player.
Torsten: For me it’s a toss-up between Kemp (this time I’m serious) and Kik?. Kemp sort of already is, in that nobody expected him to still be on the team, let alone hit his way into the conversation of “who is starting in left?” With Kik?, this might be the year we can finally learn what he’s capable off given 450 plate appearances.
Brandon: I think Tony Cingrani is really going to blow us away out of the bullpen. He’ll look to grab more high leverage innings and build upon the success he had at the end of the 2017 season with the Dodgers. I wouldn’t be surprised if he steps into the 8th inning role and dominates.
What minor league player(s) do you see making an impact this year?
Brian: I’ll go with the obvious choice here, and say Walker Buehler. The Dodgers will surely be careful with their young prospect and he’ll likely start the year down at AAA. But with the starting rotation filled with injury concerns, and the Dodgers desire to use the 10-day DL as pretty much a rest period throughout the year, I’d say Buehler will get a shot sometime soon. Whenever he does, he has the stuff to be special. I think he’ll make some meaningful starts for the Dodgers, and have success. My sleeper pick would be Matt Beaty, who could fill in at 3rd base while Turner is out, but I doubt the Dodgers give him a shot unless further injuries occur.
Gail: Walker Buehler just LOOKS like a major leaguer, despite his age (and not because he bears a striking physical resemblance to Orel Hershiser). He may begin the year in the minors, but he won’t finish it there.
Clint: Given the state of the current roster – this might be one of the tougher franchises in all of baseball for a minor leaguer to make an impact at the current time. The Dodgers are geared up for a pennant run, so playing time for the younger guys is going to be sparse. That’s almost astonishing to say when you think about the Dodgers piling up Rookie of the Year Awards with regularity. I would love to see Alex Verdugo get regular playing time, but I just can’t picture it right now. I’ll go with Walker Buehler. With the absence of a true lock-down set-up man, Buehler could be used in that type of a role to get acquainted to the big leagues again. I think his stuff plays well in that role early on in his career.
Blake: I’ll give a two-fold answer to this. First, which prospect do I think will make the most impact at the Major League level this year? Walker Buehler for sure. He’s our top prospect, and he has the clearest pathway for the most playing time. He will certainly make a few starts, and will probably have a multi-inning role in the bullpen down the stretch. Alex Verdugo just doesn’t have a clear path to playing time right now. He will contribute, but not as much as Buehler.
As for a prospect making a big splash in the Minors, I’m torn between Keibert Ruiz and Dustin May. Ruiz could possibly reach AAA and continue mashing, cementing himself as a top 25 overall prospect by midseason, and top catching prospect. May also has been quietly flying under the radar, but should be breaking into many top 100 lists, and our own top 10 list, this year.
Torsten: Walker Buehler. The bridge to Kenley looks wobbly at the moment, and I think come May, they’ll want to steady it with Buehler and his 100mph heater.
Brandon: Since he’s still minor league eligible, even if he’s a little old, I’m going to go with Kyle Farmer. The changes he made in the offseason bore a ton of fruit in spring, and with Turner’s injury, he looks like he might make the roster. I think he’ll really show what he can bring to the table, and will alleviate some concerns when Grandal tests free agency in the offseason.
Predicting the N.L West Standings:
Clint: I am sitting here staring at my computer. Do I go with my heart, or my gut? I’ll say this: I don’t think the Dodgers are the lock that many around baseball feel they are to steamroll the division again. The problem is I don’t see a true worthy challenger. The Dodgers win the West in an absolute dogfight that has people thrilled one night and sleepless the next. LA/COL/AZ/SD/SF.
Blake: I’m a numbers guy, and the numbers don’t lie: the Dodgers will win the NL West again, handily. PECOTA projects them for 99 wins – and PECOTA is pretty reputable. Nearly the entire roster returns, and even if you talk about slight regression and injuries remember this. Turner was hurt for part of last season. So was Kershaw, Hill, and pretty much every other one of our starters. The Dodgers expertly utilized the new 7 day DL rule to keep their rotation by and large healthy. 2016 Kershaw went down for a good part of the season, and the Dodgers went on a tear. Even if they regress slightly the Dodgers will win, at worst, 90-92 games. The D-Backs rotation is projected to regress, the Rockies bullpen isn’t as strong this year, and the 40% of the Giants rotation just got injured to start the season. Dodgers win, and by 8-10+ games. LA/AZ/COL/SF/SD.
Torsten: LA/CO/AZ/SD/SF. I’m cheating a little because I’m writing my bit after learning of the MadBum injury. Also, I’m not as confident in the prediction systems as Blake is. It will be a struggle for any team in this division to win 90 games, including the Dodgers. Everyone, including San Diego, is pretty tough now. They’re going to beat up on each other a lot.
Brian: AZ/LA/SF/COL/SD. You homers! Ok, I’ll be the one to upset everybody. I got the Dodgers finishing 2nd in the West, but nabbing one of the Wild Card spots. Look, I certainly think the Dodgers can win the division once again, and I hope I’m wrong. But winning the division six years in a row and having the ongoing success the Dodgers have had is extremely difficult. All it takes is a key injury or two, or a couple of players who under-achieve to make a difference. Also, the N.L West should be one of the tougher divisions again this year. Arizona and Colorado figure to be competitive again, and as much as it pains me to say it, I see the Giants being much improved from last year.
Gail: LA/COL/AZ/SF/SD. (I am a proud homer). Even before Mad Bum’s injury, though, I didn’t think the Giants have improved enough to contend. They likely won’t finish last in the division, but they’re still not better than Arizona and Colorado. The Boys in Blue won’t win as many games as last year, but they won’t need to.
Brandon: LA/COL/AZ/SF/SD. I’m pegging the Dodgers for over 95 wins because I have a bet with Torsten on the table. Colorado made some very strong pitching improvements, while Arizona didn’t address the departure of JD Martinez. Bumgarner injury or not, I feel like the Giants offense takes a huge leap forward and their pitching, held together by bubble gum and masking tape, should keep them closer than last year until he returns. San Diego, with a future that looks scary, likely cellar dwells this year as they look to wrap up their rebuild. But the West, unlike other divisions (COUGH NL EAST COUGH), will be a gauntlet.
Bold prediction for 2018:
Brian: The Dodgers don’t win the division for the first time in six years, but get a Wild Card and end up winning the World Series… there, happy now?
Gail: Matt Kemp, NL Comeback Player of the Year. (I also second Brandon’s prediction)
Brandon: Rich “Based Rake God” Hill smacks his first career dinger.
Clint: The Dodgers have a little bit of a hangover year. With a lineup that looks a bit bare without Turner, there isn’t a ton of rotation depth either. I am not in love with the bullpen. The Dodgers will be a decent team based on talent level and guile; but this season resembles nothing like the paradise of 2017, or even 2016. The Dodgers finish with 89 wins to win the West, but lose in an opening series of the NLDS to the eventual champion Chicago Cubs. I’m going to go take a shower now, I feel dirty.
Blake: Y’all are some pessimists on here. Just kidding, but for mine it’s pretty straightforward. No Dodgers starter has an ERA north of 4.00, and no starter pitches less than 130 innings, and our rotation ends up tops in fWAR for the season. What can I say, I love my numbers.
Torsten: I already mentioned that I think Rich Hill finishes top 10 in the Cy Young voting. So how about this: Yasiel Puig leads the team in home runs with 38, two more than Cody Bellinger.
[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/cody-bellinger-will-hit-third-in-justin-turners-absence/2018/03/24/”] Cody Bellinger Will Hit Third In Justin Turner’s Absence[/button]