We are one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting. The joy of hearing balls crack off bats and fastballs popping into catchers mitts is soon upon us. With that said the Dodgers are still one of the best rosters in baseball. They are not just good on their 25 man roster, but also on their 40 man and beyond. There are a small handful of teams that could make the argument for superior rosters, and many more wish they had the kind of talent our Boys in Blue have.
Despite all this there are a few players who had rough 2017 seasons and fell short of expectations. If any one of these players can rebound nicely to 2015-2016 levels it would surely make our already excellent club even better. So, with that in mind, let’s look at potential comeback player candidates for 2018.
This is the obvious first choice here. A young, 25 year old centerfielder coming off a 3.6 fWAR/3.4 bWAR season enters 2017 with high expectations. Though many long for him to reach the heights of his 2015 pre-All Star Break levels, many recognize that is also unsustainable. But at the same time it offered us a glimpse of his ceiling.
His triple-slash of .246/.352/.495 with above-average defense in 2016 was exactly what we needed. Then 2017 came about. He limped out of the gate, hitting a meager .200/.309/.314 through May 23. Next was a DL visit, followed by an actually rather superb June.
But even still he continued to struggle for the remainder of the season, being demoted to AAA even in August. Rumors swirled about him retooling his swing at Oklahoma City, and results weren’t pretty in September. However, the playoffs became a different story.
Hitting a robust .304/.360/.826 with 3 home runs, 2 of which were clutch homers, he showed a new type of Joc. Granted this was only a small sample size of 11 games, but it still has given us a glimmer of hope. We have talked about previously how Joc, despite his poor 2017 overall, showed signs of improvement from 2016. His strikeout rate improved by 6.2% while his walk rate held fairly steady. His overall contact rate jumped by almost 3%.
The problem was Joc did not make nearly as much hard contact. That familiar Joc Pop just was not present in 2017, as evidenced by his near 6% drop in hard-hit balls, and 7% jump in ground-balls. In a year dominated by talk of the fly-ball, Joc trended the opposite direction here.
The postseason has shown us that Joc was able to make adjustments back towards his strengths. We all know Joc will never be a consistent .300 hitter. But he can certainly hit around .250 while hitting close to 30 bombs and taking plenty of walks. During the 2017 regular season he only hit fly-balls 34.5% of the time. But during the playoffs he hit fly-balls at a rate of 53.8%. The results speak for themselves.
Joc Pederson has five hits in the World Series: three home runs and two doubles.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 1, 2017
Going into 2018 Joc Pederson does not have a set position. Instead he is relegated to competing with a couple other players for a spot in left-field. If Joc can return to his 2016 levels, he will easily win the job outright. Currently FanGraphs projects him to play 111 games, slash .244/.357/.474, and have a 2.5 fWAR. That kind of left-field production would be excellent for sure, and hopefully then some.
Oh Logie Bear, how misunderstood your 2017 was. Believe it or not, Logan Forsythe actually had a solid 2017. He had a 1.7 fWAR and 1.8 bWAR. Now most of this was driven by his league best defense at second-best. In a GM Mondays a few weeks ago, we discussed how his defense really saved his season. But for most of us fans, while defense is nice, slashing .224/.351/.327 aint going to cut it. Part of the disappointment too was that we traded one of our former top prospects Jose De Leon to Tampa Bay to acquire Forsythe, and passed on Brian Dozier.
Granted the Twins were also pushing for us to include Cody Bellinger, but nonetheless, fans expected more from Forsythe. Overall none of Forsythe’s peripheral stats changed significantly, save one. His walk rate doubled from 8.1% to 15.7%. Despite this his contact rate actually went up slightly.
Like with Joc Pederson, what does this all mean? In all honesty, no one really knows why his OPS dropped so deeply in 2017. But again, like Joc, Forsythe’s solid postseason (.297/.435/.351) gives us hope he can rebound nicely in 2018. He has shown the ability to be an above-average hitter with the Rays, and his defense was his best ever last year. If he can find a way to mix the two together, his 2018 season looks bright, as second-base is his to lose.
The Bottom Line
Because our roster is so deep and so good, we don’t really have many true bounce-back candidates. But the two we do have are obvious ones. And if either Pederson or Forsythe can rebound closer to their 2016 selves, it would easily vault us to becoming the undisputed best team in the Majors. 2018 is going to be an exciting season. Here is to hoping these two players can make a comeback, and help us finally take home that World Series Title!