Dodgers Take on Weak NL West As Dave Roberts Era Begins

The good news for new manager Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers is that they still play in the National League West division, yet again Major League Baseball’s weakest of its six divisions. Baseball’s two Central Divisions, both the NL and AL variety, and the AL West shape up to be the three toughest in baseball as 2016 begins, and as each Eastern division includes at least two powerful teams (Blue Jays and Red Sox in the AL, perhaps

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also the Orioles, and the Nats and Mets in the NL), those divisions are clearly next in line. Lonely at the bottom is the NL West, with vastly overrated teams that will each struggle to see 90 wins and a division title.

The Dodgers do appear to be the favorite, but only because the Giants made a couple of serious blunders in spending their free agent bounty (See “2016’s Worst Free-Agent Signings”). The Giants, not unlike the Dodgers, have a solid everyday
lineup, and a star at the top of their rotation, but the rest of the starting staff is very questionable. While the Dodgers failed to spend their bucks to replace the departed Zack Greinke and other holes, and will again rely on a return to work by the wounded and infirm (Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Mike Bolsinger, Brandon Beaachy, etc – check it all out at “Dodgers’ Spring Training: The Starting Staff”) the Giants spent the big bucks, but no so wisely. Still, those are the two teams that will view for the division, with the as always Diamondbacks still nothing more than pretenders.

After dominating the 2014-2015 off season with a massive, high-priced re-build that blew up in their faces during the season, San Diego management took a more modified position this off season, giving up on some of the prior year’s high-priced acquisitions and bringing in a couple of less expensive but maybe better suited talent, such as new center fielder John Jay, a real bargain at $4 M, especially when standing between right fielder Matt Kemp ($21 M) and that guy in left, the one with the .244 lifetime batting average who hit five home runs last year but will be paid $15 M for 2016. You know, the guy that keeps changing his name so no one will remember how bad he is. Melvin, that’s it, Melvin! If the Padres are to improve on last year, it will, however, be up to the pitching, and looking at their staff, I would have to bet San Diego fans are in for a worse season that last year, despite my prediction, once again, of Kemp having a great year. But when I see that their designated closer is Fernando Rodney, then you KNOW they are in trouble. Rodney’s horrid 2015 (4.74 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and seven blown saves out of 23 opportunities) plus being yet another year older at 39, would seen to be a red flag for most management types, but A.J. Preller and company disdain the facts and forge ahead on the shoulders of Rodney, racing to the bottom of the division.

Of course, the Padres are again likely insulated from last place, as they have the Rockies to lean on. While Colorado again figures to knock the cover off the ball in Denver, so will the

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opposition, and the Rockies pitching staff again figures to be a horror show, home and away.

But, back to the Dodgers and the opening of the season. With Howie Kendrick beginning the season on the disabled list, former Rockie Charlie Culberson has made the team as a reserve infielder, but he figures to stay only a week or so. And speaking of the DL, the Dodgers start the season with TEN players on the list, EIGHT of them who would be on the major league 25-man
roster, and including FOUR major league starting pitchers (Ryu, McCarthy, Anderson and Bolsinger). Yasmani Grandal on the DL is good thing – most over rated player in the game. I’ll take a healthy A.J. Ellis plus the future in Austin Barnes behind the plate.

Can the possible return of some of the wounded pitchers make a difference in the postseason? Maybe, but not likely. It’s between the Cubs and Mets, and the Mets’ pitching will be the difference.

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