When you don’t post daily about the Dodgers, a lot builds up. So here’s a stream of thoughts that have crossed my mind in the final days before Spring Training ends and Opening Day arrives for the Dodgers …
- The Opening Day roster is just that — the roster for Opening Day. You know this organization likes to move players in and out of the clubhouse. Did the player you were rooting for miss the 25-man squad? Just wait a minute and he’ll probably show up …
- The robust situation in left field is one that figures to remain very much in flux. As big a Matt Kemp as I have been in the past, I’m not entirely sold on his comeback. Of course, I’m not ruling it out, but hitting the ball hard in Spring Training is just the beginning. (Not that this matters either, but entering today, Kemp was in a 3-for-20 slump in his past seven exhibition games, with one walk and no extra-base hits.)
- By the same token, Kemp has historically been a great player in April, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get off to a strong start.
Matt Kemp needs 18 homers to reach 200 as a Dodger. With 30, he would pass Steve Garvey for the No. 3 spot in Los Angeles history. pic.twitter.com/w5AtkM2reS
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) March 22, 2018
- We’ve been focused on the left side of the Dodger outfield during Spring Training, but neither Chris Taylor nor Yasiel Puig will play 162 games this year. There will be plenty of opportunities for two of the left-field candidates to start the same game.
- Joc Pederson is in the doghouse for many fans this year, his sluggish spring seemingly erasing his outstanding World Series, just as his terrible second half in 2017 subsumed his strong first half (.825 OPS entering August). Pederson only turns 26 this year. It’s simply too soon to jump ship on him — as was the case with those ready to give up on Yasiel Puig a year ago.
“There’s no salvaging Joc Pederson’s career, I’m tellin’ ya –man, isn’t Puig awesome this year?!"
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) October 18, 2017
- Andrew Toles’ potential relegation to Triple-A Oklahoma City to start the 2018 season is likely to be as controversial as it is temporary. As Ken Gurnick of MLB.com points out, Toles (like Kemp) has cooled off in Spring Training — 4 for 22, and overall, he has walked only once compared with 13 strikeouts.
- Again, I’m not trying to make those exhibition stats seem at all significant. I mention them only to show how fast a hot start can disappear. I absolutely believe in Toles has an important role to play.
- If forced to pick a favorite Spring Training stat, it would be Taylor’s 10 walks (against six strikeouts).
- Kyle Farmer, who could probably play all nine positions if called upon, making his first Opening Day roster at age 27 would be a great story.
- It’s no mystery why it’s happened, but I still am disappointed that Andre Ethier still waits at the gate.
- Wilmer Font looks like he will make the Opening Day bullpen, not too surprising given his Pacific Coast League stardom in 2017 and the fact he is out of options. He becomes a de facto Rule 5 presence — use him or lose him. Here’s hoping he can harness his stuff. If not, rest assured, there are pitchers lining up behind him.
- One of those is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, and though he has been told he will start the season in Oklahoma City, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, Venditte did nothing to hinder his chances of making the roster down the road.
- A bigger surprise for me is the fast emergence of J.T. Chargois, who only came into the organization one month ago today, off waivers from Minnesota. Given that Chargois was a second-round Twins draft pick in 2012, the potential was always there. But the idea that it all might be coming together makes him a potential Brandon Morrow-level steal for the Dodgers. And remember — Morrow didn’t even make his Dodger debut until May 29.
- Chargois’ first name is Jon, it turns out. Just another reason to root for him.
- If I have a worry about the 2018 Dodgers, it remains their starting pitching depth, but at the same time, it’s not a particularly overwrought concern. Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu (who Thursday became the first pitcher to strike out Mike Trout in 2018) form an above-average starting five. Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart (optioned) and Font can step up for spot starts, and most intriguingly, Walker Buehler is poised to bring the youthful fire we expected from Julio Urías last year.
- As much time as I spend thinking about what could go wrong for the Dodgers — injuries or regression hitting key players — I also spend thinking about what could go right. Universally, Dodger fans (and almost universally, baseball fans) are lamenting Justin Turner’s fractured wrist. But what if it creates an opportunity for Kiké Hernández to shine and prove himself a full-time player, just as the costly injuries in 2017 to the three As — Andre Ethier, Adrian González and Andrew Toles — opened the door for Cody Bellinger?
- Here’s another big one: What if Clayton Kershaw is actually healthy for the entire season? Salivating …
- The Dodgers haven’t lost on Opening Day since 2010, when Vicente Padilla was their starter. Over the past two Opening Days, they have scored 29 runs. The results the past seven years:
- 2011: Dodgers 2, Giants 1
- 2012: Dodgers 5, Padres 3
- 2013: Dodgers 4, Giants 0
- 2014: Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1
- 2015: Dodgers 6, Padres 3
- 2016: Dodgers 15, Padres 0
- 2017: Dodgers 14, Padres 3
- For the first time in 25 years, I won’t be in town for Opening Day. (That whole March 29 thing caught me off guard.) Here’s to it being a great one!