In most respects, the Dodgers had a successful 2017 season. In terms of regular season games won, they were second only to the 1953 side of Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Duke Snider. They were solid on the road, extremely good at home, and also recorded one of the greatest streaks in baseball history.
Going into their game on June 7th, they had a 35-25 record and were two games behind the Rockies, but then unleashed a 56-11 run, including a 29-4 stretch. By August 25th, their record stood at 91-36, giving them a 21-game lead over their Divisional rivals, and were closing in on the all-time regular season wins tally of 116. A run of 13-22 over their final 35 games put an end to that talk, but they still finished 11 games clear of the Diamondbacks.
And then there was that World Series. It will go down as one of the great World Series of all time, particularly the fifth game, and the way that the Dodgers bounced back after that epic 13-12 loss to set up the decider was testament to their character.
However, the memory of that tame surrender in game seven will serve to motivate everyone at the franchise to improve in 2018. While there are no particular weaknesses in the Dodgers roster, they will be hoping to add depth, and spring training therefore represents an opportunity for fringe players to bring themselves into the reckoning for the long season ahead.
The betting markets for the upcoming season don’t suggest that there’s much wrong with the Dodgers. If you want to place a wager with Stakers.com on the MLB this year, you’ll find the Dodgers ranked close behind the Astros and the Yankees for favorites. However, this is a franchise that doesn’t settle for second best, and there is no doubt that they will be striving for further improvements. Here are five areas that the Dodgers need to focus on in 2018.
The Dodgers lined up a surplus of starting pitchers for 2017, but Julio Urías didn’t work out, Scott Kazmir missed the whole season, and Brandon McCarthy was unreliable. Fans will be relieved to see Yu Darvish leave the roster, but the franchise needs to emerge from spring training with a settled line-up in this role. Walker Buehler looks likely to be the preferred option, with Urías still on the disabled list.
The biggest weakness in the roster last season turned out to be left-field. Enrique Hernández took his opportunity and enjoyed the game of his career to clinch the National League Championship Series, but the Dodgers have also moved to bring in Matt Kemp from Atlanta. Kemp and Hernández will be auditioning for the starting role during spring training, along with Joc Pedersen, Trayce Thompson, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo.
Providing high-class, reliable support for Kenley Jansen is an annual problem. Pedro Báez hasn’t yet stepped up to claim the job, while neither Joe Blanton nor Brandon Morrow proved to be the solution. Scott Alexander could be the answer, and it will be fascinating to watch the former Royals pitcher tussle with Báez in spring training.
Perhaps the one remaining area of weakness on the roster is at left-handed reliever. Tony Watson and Luis Avilán have gone, and Grant Dayton (who was also traded) is recovering from surgery. That leaves Adam Liberatore and Tony Cingrani as the best options, and Dodgers fans will be looking for strong performances from both players ahead of April. There is also the opportunity for a new talent to emerge from the ranks and fill this position.
Forsythe v righties
Logan Forsythe was one of the heroes of the 2017 postseason, giving the Dodgers a reliable fielder, a great locker-room asset, and a solid performer against left-handed pitchers. His weakness was against righties, but there were signs in the post-season that this was changing, and we can expect this hard-working professional to continue to improve in this area.
The Dodgers arguably possess the most talented roster in the MLB and are aiming not just to go one better in the World Series but also to dominate baseball for many years to come. Spring training will be an opportunity for the team to work on their minor weaknesses and to make a strong statement of intent ahead of the 2018 season. After recovering from last season’s disappointment, Dodgers fans are ready to go again and roar their team to the top.