Nine Innings/Questions with Dodgers Blue Heaven

If you like what you read below, check out more from Ernest Reyes at his site, Dodgers Blue Heaven!

This is the first in a series of me asking fellow bloggers from the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) 9 innings worth of questions about their team. The goal is to do this for as many teams as possible (all 30 would be ideal) a few times a season. This one is a pre-All Star edition, then a post-All Star edition, another down the stretch (towards the end of the season) and then either a playoffs edition or off season edition or both!

So, without further ado …

  1. How are the Dodgers’ offseason acquisitions working out so far? Any concerns?

This is a bit of a mixed bag.

Kenta Maeda has been fantastic.  His veteran experience and command of a variety of pitches has allowed him to succeed beyond most expectations.  Unfortunately, a big workload is starting to lead to fatigue during games.  In Japan, Maeda pitched only once a week, but in the Majors he is expected to go every fifth game.

Another ballplayer who has been a welcome surprise is outfielder Trayce Thompson.  He came over in a three team trade for a group of prospects (some very well thought of) who weren’t likely to stick in LA.  So far, Trayce has hit six home runs and slashed .307/.358/.613/.971 in limited play.  There have also been calls for him to start on an everyday basis in left field – over the aging and moribund Carl Crawford.

Starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, so far, has been a disappointment.  He has yet to show the kind of command and guile on the mound that allowed him to regain his position as a top starter in the Majors.  On the other hand, it’s hard not to compare him to the starter he was cast to replace – Zack Greinke.   So, maybe it’s our fault for expecting more than what is reasonable.

  1. Who has been the most disappointing player so far this season? Will they improve as the season goes on?

The Dodgers have been extremely poor hitters at Dodger Stadium.  As a team they are slashing .223/.291/.370/.661 at home, and seen some remarkably poor at bats from several veteran players; including Yasiel Puig.  In fact, his results, thus far, have been the most disappointing.

At Dodger Stadium Puig is slashing a decidedly bush-league level .189/.200/.284/.484 and .232/.273/.373/.647 overall.  It was hoped that a new manager and cast of new faces in the coaching staff would bring about a renewal of what made him one of the more exciting players in the game.  Unfortunately, that has yet to happen.  He has looked lost in recent at-bats and continues to swing at pitches outside his comfort zone.  Fortunately, not all appears to be lost.  For whatever reason, his stats on the road are significantly better than at home, and you have to think that sooner or later his overall numbers will improve with time.  On the road he is slashing .279/.347/.471/.817.

  1. Who has been the most surprising player so far this season? Can they sustain this pace?

This answer is surely not something you’d expect.  The most surprising player has been right-handed reliever Louis Coleman.  He had come over as a free agent over the winter, and has been a fairly reliable arm within a bullpen that has been shaky, at best.  Since April 25th he has not given up an earned run and allowed just one inherited runner to score in 10.1 innings pitched.  Over that span he has recorded 12 strike outs, walked only two and the opposition is slashing .088/.139/.118/.257.  Of course, this is a small sample size, but you have to like the results so far.

  1. What top prospects might we see before the All Star break (What type of player are they: 5 tool player, speedster, defensive, power hitter, etc.)? What will be their impact on the team?

If the Dodgers know what’s good for them, they won’t do what many have been clamoring for.

Word has been spreading fast that the Dodgers are looking at bringing up highly touted left-hander Julio Urias.  The 19-year old started the season as the youngest player in AAA, and has just blown away the competition.  His fastball has both superior velocity and movement, and he can throw it anywhere at any time.  In fact, his overall command of the plate is impressive.  On top of that, he throws plus off-speed pitches.  He has shown command of both a curveball and slider that many believe is Major League ready.

Unfortunately, I just don’t think it’s wise to bring him to the “Show” so soon.  Still a teenager, he has yet to throw more than 80 innings in any professional season, so he needs to stretch out his arm a bit.  Furthermore, I fear that rushing him could do more harm than good to his development.  If he were to come to the Dodgers he’d be placed in the bullpen – only to get minimal innings that won’t do anything to help him progress.  Urias needs more experience and consistent innings, and should not be used as a stopgap to assist an ailing bullpen.

  1. What top prospects are currently being blocked by current players on the big club? Will this make them trade bait, will they switch positions or will the vet eventually be traded?

Austin Barnes is a converted infielder, turned catcher, who would be in Los Angeles if not for the tandem of Yasmani Grandal and AJ Ellis.  He has the tools to play behind the dish on the Major League level, but is currently stymied.  As a result, he has played multiple positions in AAA in order to give the Dodgers more options should he be brought up.  For now, though, he provides depth for a team that is lacking that in their system.  Considering this, there’s no way they would trade him.  It’s also unlikely they trade a catcher since their backup, AJ Ellis, provides the kind of experience and knowledge a team dependant on pitching desires.  For now, he’ll have to bide his time in Oklahoma waiting for a spot to open up.

  1. What is the team lacking that either wasn’t addressed in the offseason or the offseason acquisition(s) isn’t cutting it?

Clearly, the pitching staff has not been up to par.  A flurry of injuries in the early going forced the club to dig deeply into their starting pitching depth, and they found that there wasn’t much there.  In fact, beyond Clayton Kershaw and the surprising Kenta Maeda the teams’ staff is filled with bottom of the rotation starters.  The relief staff has also been far too inconsistent.  Although, statistics show that the Dodgers are decidedly average when compared to the rest of the league.

All that being said, it would be impolite to not point out that the Dodgers long range plan necessitated a more conservative approach to building their starting staff.  The Dodgers, over a fairly short period of time, have built a minor league system awash with pitching talent, and many of these high-flying young arms are within earshot of being Major League ready.  Therefore, they purposely want to leave spots open should one of their prospects force their way into the rotation.  Therefore, many of the new contracts they’ve signed have short term commitments in order to allow an orderly transition from old to new over the ensuing several years.  In other words, there is a reason for the madness (or the lack of spending from the wealthiest team in the league).

  1. Are they better or worse off now than they were at the end of last season?

By the numbers, they are worse off.  Last year they had two aces in the rotation.  This year we’re lucky to have one of the best pitchers in the game starting every fifth day and a closer who is just as good.  Our offense has struggled, especially at home, and unless we see a turnaround by certain bats we might not come out of this with another playoff berth.

  1. What is your predicted outcome for the team this season? Why?

I am an unabashed homer.  I firmly believe that the Dodgers will end the season leading the National League West; primarily due to a division that might be the weakest in the league.

As for what do they do in the postseason?

I dunno.  I have to hope that Kershaw can beat back his demons and lead the club to a championship… And, maybe Corey Seager and the other youngsters on the team take over the reins.

  1. What players need to go (traded, released, etc.) & why?

Carl Crawford is nowhere near the $20 million player he used to be, and at this point is taking up a position that might be better served by an up-‘n-coming youngster.  Fortunately, after this season he has one year left on his bloated contract, so it should be easier to find a new home then.

 

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