The time has arrived – Spring Training is finally here. After a long and painful off-season of remembering how close the Dodgers came to the promised land, baseball is back! Our Boys in Blue are back. And boy oh boy did they return with a flourish in their first game. After belting four home runs, including a three-run shot by Matt Kemp, they crushed the White Sox 13-5. With Dodgers baseball roaring back onto the scene, fans have a lot to look forward to this year. But here are five bold Spring Training predictions for your entertainment.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 23, 2018
Number One: Kenta Maeda Will Break Camp in the Bullpen
Depending on the fan this may or may not come as a surprise. This isn’t to say that Maeda is not a good starter, but rather that the team may look at his value he can bring as a swing-man out of the bullpen and decide to place him there instead. Despite only logging 8 innings as a reliever in the regular season, Maeda was dominant there. Giving up only 1 ER, striking out 10 and walking only 1. Additionally, in the post-season he threw 10.2 innings from the bullpen and again only surrendered 1 earned run. Now, just because he will start the season in the bullpen doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all year. But don’t be surprised to see him in the bullpen to start the season. Hey, you wanted bold predictions, so I gave you one.
Number Two: The Dodgers Will Acquire a Right-Handed Starter
It’s no secret that many fans, and baseball pundits, thought the Dodgers would acquire pitching this off-season. But with a slow moving market and many options still available, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Dodgers acquired someone. This despite the Dodgers’ relative inactivity this off-season. In the free agent market there are names like Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn. As for the trade market there are a couple names like Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman.
But instead of one of these four names, I would suspect a much lower-key acquisition. Alex Cobb is a viable option and may not cost much to acquire. Though a contract to acquire him may run in the 3-4 year range. Ivan Nova of Pittsburgh could be a trade option for the rebuilding Pirates, and thus a target for the Dodgers. Either way by moving Maeda to the bullpen, the Dodgers will acquire a righty to replace him there at the outset.
Number Three: Trayce Thompson Will Break Camp With the Dodgers
With all the intrigue surrounding Matt Kemp’s return, to questions about whether Joc Pederson’s post-season bodes well for 2018, and hope for Andrew Tole’s return, there is one outfielder lost in all this shuffle: Trayce Thomspon. Forgotten even by yours truly, Thompson is merely one year removed from a very solid start to 2016 before succumbing to back injuries. Now, he has had essentially a full year to recover and is ready to contribute once again. That and he is now out of options.
With a lineup that has its fair share of lefties, Trayce Thompson may yet be the dark-horse fourth or fifth outfielder to make the roster. Scott Van Slyke used to be the lefty-killer bench outfielder. Thompson could easily take up that mantle instead and share roving outfield duties with Joc Pederson and/or Matt Kemp. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions, is only 26 years old, and has shown great promise before. So far he has impressed in Spring Training, so we will see what happens. Don’t be surprised to see Thompson break camp with the big league club.
Number Four: Matt Kemp Will Not Be the Left-Field Starter
Whoa, say what? But Kemp just hit a three-run home run in his first Cactus League appearance. Yes, you would be correct. However, Spring Training still has over a month left, and Matt Kemp doesn’t really need to prove anything with his bat. Rather he needs to convince the front office with his glove. And, as highlighted before, his glove has serious issues. He has not had positive defensive metrics since 2009, and has cost his teams 50 runs since being traded to the Padres. The Dodgers were one of the best defensive teams last year. Even with a non-permanent solution in left-field. And as much as Matt Kemp’s bat would be nice in the lineup, his glove could create more problems than it’s worth.
Being he is on the wrong side of 33 years old, it is much more likely Joc Pederson returns to his 2016 form (3.6 fWAR) than Kemp returning to his glove-work levels when he was 23 years old. I hope I am wrong, but the odds are certainly not in his favor. If his bat is great then maybe some AL team will take him on as a DH. Or maybe the Dodgers bite the bullet for now and have him as a right-handed option off the bench. Either way, unless he completely reverses a decade of terrible defense, he will not break camp as the starting left-fielder.
Number Five: The Dodgers Will Lead Spring Training in Home Runs
Though Spring Training standings rarely have any truly meaningful indication of the season to come, many times you can ascertain where players are at going into the season. Now, not all players that absolutely crush it in Spring Training see that translate into the regular season. And vice versa with those who struggle. However, one thing I feel is safe to say is the fly-ball happy Dodgers will lead all of Spring Training in home runs. If the first game was any indication, this will definitely hold true. And this continued push towards becoming a fly-ball heavy team should help that cause. Oh, and the team leader will be Yasiel Puig for bonus points.
Tell us what you think will happen in Spring Training. What are your bold predictions for the Boys in Blue?
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