Some of the Dodgers players during spring training. (Los Angeles Dodgers)
With the 2014 season ending in disappointment with a playoff run ended short by the St. Louis Cardinals (for the second year in a row) and the departure of Matt Kemp (Padres) and Hanley Ramirez (Rex Sox), every Dodger fan was anxious to see what this front office has cooked up.
To fill the void left by Ramirez in the 6 spot, the Dodgers went out and got ex-Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Rollins had spent his whole 15-year career in Philadelphia before coming to L.A. While in the red and white, Rollins hit .267 and acquired a championship ring when the Phillis won the World Series back in 2008.
Rollins will be a huge upgrade on the defensive end; he has a career fielding percentage of .983. In comparison, Ramirez has a career fielding percentage of .967.
The Dodgers also went out looking for a household name to fill the second base position. Players such as Mark Ellis, Justin Turner, Nick Punto, Elian Herrera and Dee Gordon (now with the Marlins) have covered second over the previous years, but this season the Dodgers traded for Howie Kendrick.
Kendrick spent nine years with the Angels, batting .293 in the process.
The middle-infield duo of Rollins and Kendrick will provide plenty of flash with the leather, so be on the look-out for plenty of top-10 worthy plays.
With the infield pretty much locked, it’s the outfield that greets the preseason with the biggest uncertainty.
Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson are your main candidates for the job of surveying the outfield.
Ethier looks to be the odd man out as of now. Puig will most likely be inserted into right field, while Crawford in left field and Pederson in center field.
Pederson is showing the kind of skill at the plate this preseason, reinforcing the idea of the fans and management that this kid is the future. He is currently batting .472 in 36 at-bats with three homeruns to boot. He also leads the Dodgers with eight RBIs thus far.
The Dodgers have been hit with a few injury woes, especially on the mound.
Last year’s NL Cy Young and MVP Clayton Kershaw took a baseball right to the jaw this weekend. But it wasn’t severe or serious, and he should be ready to pitch on opening day against the Padres.
On a more serious note, Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the season on the disabled list as he experienced discomfort in his left shoulder when tossing the ball around on Sunday.
Ryu has a record of 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA in his two seasons in the big leagues.
The Dodgers also signed ex-Yankee Brandon McCarthy to a four-year contract. McCarthy’s numbers won’t jump out of your screen, but 2014 was the best season he had in his career.
He went 10-15 with an ERA of 4.05. The 10 wins and 175 batters he struck out were both career highs. On top of that, he was able to remain healthy.
With opening day fast approaching, be on the lookout for fringe players on the cusp of the big leagues. Players like Darnell Sweeney (.421 in 19 ABs) and O’Koyea Dickson (.353 in 17 ABs) can leave an impression manager Don Mattingly won’t forget as he begins to finalize his opening day roster.