The Dodgers are off to one of their worst starts in history. Los Angeles finds themselves nine games out of first place just 35 games into the season. It certainly doesn’t help any that they have well over $75 million in payroll tied up with players on the disabled list as of today. Key components have gone down early and often, but help is on the way.
Yasiel Puig will go on a rehab assignment at Rancho Cucamonga tomorrow and be activated on Wednesday.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) May 6, 2018
The Dodgers will get one of their offensive pieces back today, and it looks like a few more soon. Justin Turner has progressed to taking infield and hitting live pitching, a good sign he will start a rehab assignment soon. Logan Forsythe is set to begin a rehab assignment this week with the Oklahoma City Dodgers, signaling a return. Forsythe is coming off of the 10-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
So the offensive pieces are coming back, but does that really mean the team is going to find it’s way? Even before these guys hit the disabled list, they weren’t exactly setting the league on fire. Puig was hitting 193 without a home run before he literally ran into a wall in San Francisco. His on-base percentage was sitting at a career-low 250. His strikeout percentage was also taking a bit of a leap up from last year, as he had gone down 19 times in 96 plate appearances.
The same can be said of Logan Forsythe. In what many had hoped would be a rebound year, Logie has disappointed in a big way. He went on the DL hitting 174 with a home run. Even his wins above replacement(WAR) was sitting at a lowly -0.2, a career-low. Like Puig, Forsythe was struggling long before an injury cut things short.
Just between those two offensive weapons, there is about $18 million in money sitting out. This is especially meaningful for a team that is trying to avoid any luxury tax implications that may hamper the team’s effort to upgrade positions. That’s not to say they will look to trade either of these guys though. Neither Puig nor Forsythe has any real trade value at this point in the season, despite being in contract years.
Justin Turner is the only one that fans should have high expectations for returning from the disabled list. Aside from the success he has enjoyed over the last few years, Turner was also having a great Spring Training. Turner was slashing 333/415/556 with a few home runs before a high and tight fastball put things on hold. So his return to the heart of the order should give the team some life. Temper your expectations with Puig and Forsythe though.
The biggest worry at his point is that the return of those two guys will, in fact, hamper the team’s performance. Alex Verdugo was called up as a response to Puig’s injury and has received the bulk of playing time to make up for him. In that time, Verdugo has hit 265 and sparked some offensive production at times with his aggressive baserunning. When Puig returns, it is likely that it will take away some at-bats from him if he stays up with the big league club.
Over at second base, Chase Utley and Kiké Hernandez have gotten the majority of the work. Utley is hitting 244, but Kiké has had the power. Hernandez has five home runs despite hitting just 229 in 83 at-bats. If Forsythe can return to hitting his career averages, he will already be an upgrade from the duo.
The team ranks ninth on-base percentage but lately, it seems like they cannot capitalize. Since Saturday, the Dodgers have left 33 runners on base. They have also gone 5 for 31 with runners in scoring position. Hitting 161 with runners in scoring position is not an exact recipe for success in the major leagues.
There is no quick fix for a struggling team, and the Dodgers getting some healthy players back is no different. There is no guarantee that Justin Turner will return to AllStar form, or that Forsythe will find his swing. There is no guarantee that Yasiel Puig will continue to progress from his severely disappointing 2015 campaign. All we can do is hope that these guys can provide some sort of spark to get the team moving in the right direction.
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