What to Keep Your Eyes Out For This Spring

I am going to go out on a limb and make a few predictions as to what could or might happen during Spring Training.  Pitchers and Catchers are just hours away from reporting, so I am going to throw out a few things to look for.

  • Watch Kiebert Ruiz. You are going to be amazed at how good of a catcher he is and expecially his footwork behind the plate, but his calling cared will be his bat.  Before 2018 is over, he may be in the TOP 5 of all MLB Prospects.  Barring a trade or injury to Grandal or Barnes, he will not get a callup until September.  He is on track to be the 2019 Rookie of the Year!
  • Watch Walker Buehler.  Walker reminds me of Zack Greinke.  As an 18 year-old rookie in the minors, Greinke pitched 11 innings and then jumped to 140 innings as a 19 year-old.  At 21, Zack was up to the majors to stay and put up a 5.80 ERA as he was pounded pretty good.  Zack started as a high-schooler, who also had anxiety issues that were later controlled with medication.  Walker is from the collegete ranks, has had TJ surgery and is more mature at 23.  His body is more mature than was Julio Urias.  If he pitches well in Spring Training, I can see him making the rotation.  Of course, he has to do that.  If he doesn’t, it’s back to OKC.  I could see him pitching every fifth day until August and then going to the pen with Julio Urias taking his spot in the rotation at that juncture.
  • Watch Matt Kemp.  He is the key to everything because of $43 million reasons I don’t have time to list. They say he’s the worst OF in baseball. Watch what the fat Matt kemp did last year:

https://youtu.be/NgESgiJDf0A

I believe that a skinny, motivated Kemp can play at a level that is at least league average… probably better…. and his bat could be a nice substitute for Giancarlo Stanton.  Watch Kemp – I think it will be obvious what will happen after a few games.  Maybe he doesn’t have it anymore.  That is a possibility… but that’s why they play the game. I think he does, and I think he will surprise a lot of fans. He could be the Dodgers secret weapon.

  •  Watch Scott Alexander.  This time last year, Dodger fans ridiculed the signing of “old-has been” Brandon Morrow, who is currently the Cubs closer.  Who is the set-up guy this year?  The Dodgers didn’t have one at this time last year, either. Scott Alexander is just figuring out how to pitch and I think he will be a “lockdown reliever” for the Dodgers.  With the Dodgers infield defense, he could be devestating… possibly a sub 2.00 ERA!
  • Watch Yasiel Puig.  This could be great… or it could be bad. After bouncing back from a AAA demotion in 2016, Yasiel was the best defensive RF’er in baseball and blasted 28 home runs.  His talent level is not even being pushed yet.  He could be so much better if he played up to his talent… THIS year, but then his agents took the extraordinary action of firing him.  Something happened and it ain’t good!  Some writers know but they aren’t saying.  It is said that it is unlikely the Dodgers will take action.  The team knows what happened.  Writers know what happened. No one is saying, but this is all very troubling.  Agents aren’t in the practice of turning down money. Keep your eyes and ears open – I don’t think we have heard the last of this. It’s going to get “leaked”.
  • Watch Brock Stewart. I am of the opinion that Brock will struggle as a starter.  While it is admittedly a small sampling, in 2106, Brock Stewart had a 6.38 ERA as a starter and a 2.25 ERA as a reliever.  He was primarily a starter in 2016.  In 2017, he pitched more as a reliever and put up a 2.18 ERA out of the pen, while delivering a 5.27 ERA as a starter.  The stats say he is a reliver – you can’t argue with that.  The “eye test” aligns with the stats.  The Dodgers need to convice Brock he is a lockdown reliever and he will be.  His stuff is filty out of the pen.
  • Watch Yimi Garcia, Tom Koehler, Henry Owens, Dylan Baker and Wilmer Font. One or two could end up making the team and be very, very good.  I have no clue who that might be, but there is potential greatness here.

Of course, everyone will be watching the LF competition, but my guess is that Joc Pederson and Matt Kemp are the primary leftfielders.  Toles and Verdugo will likely go to AAA, unless Toles just tears up the Cactus League. The Dodgers will make every attemp to keep or trade Trayce Thompson since he is out of options, as it Wilmer Font.

There will be a surprise ot two and an injury or two – there always is!  Many players are drving to Arizona as we speak.  It’s almost time for Dodger Baseball.

Don’t be surprised if JD Martinez signs with Arizona.

Chase Utley is a done deal!

This article has 40 Comments

  1. Leaving Monday to visit some relatives on the way to ST. Tickets in hand for the first four games (two at home, two away). It is about an 8 hour drive so we make it an annual event. Lots of players to keep an eye on, and I think Kemp makes the team and surprises people this year.

  2. There are some players that I like and I don’t always know why. I always liked James Loney. Never thought much of Andy LaRoche. I was more than willing to go with CT3 at second rather than overpay for a second baseman.
    .
    That said, I still like Stewart a lot and hope he stays as a starter. I can see Font having a chance to do for the Dodgers what Morrow did last year. I think Yimi Garcia will do well this year but can’t get behind Fields. I would love to trade Baez, especially if he has solid trade value.
    .
    I like Toles much more than I do Verdugo. That is not based on who I think is better. I just haven’t warmed up to Verdugo. I would enjoy seeing if Toles could be converted to second base but not likely so I like him in LF and RF.
    .
    Kemp has reverse splits so that makes him a harder fit as a platoon player. Kemp in LF and Puig in RF has question marks on their ability to hit lefties. The odds of both erasing their reverse splits are slim.
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    I said good riddance to Greaike but I would trade Ryu and Kemp for Greinke in a heartbeat. AZ wants to re-sign Goldschmidt and Pollach and Greinke’s contract will make that hard to do.
    .
    I love Will Smith’s speed at the catcher position plus he has a very good arm. His bat teased us in the AFL.
    .
    I would still trade Puig.

    1. Neither have reverse splits for their career. JT couldn’t hit lefties in 2016, but crushed them last season. Kemp’s attitude about possibly being platooned is a much bigger issue than his reverse splits of 2017.

  3. I too like Ruiz, but I am not giving him the ticket to LA over Will Smith just yet. I recognize Ruiz is only 19 and his arm will get stronger, but it will never match Smith who has a plus plus arm. Both are very good defensive catchers. Where Ruiz seems to have an advantage is his ability to put bat to ball. His BA is excellent, and while he does not K much, he also does not BB much. Hitters like that have a tendency to see their BA drop as better pitchers find the weak spot and take advantage. Ruiz will need to prove he can adjust as he moves up. His BABIP is high, so the likelihood he continues his BA is of concern as the defense gets better. At 19, he is a potential perennial AS.
    .
    But IMO so is Will Smith. Smith has thrown out nearly 45% base stealers. Only 7 passed balls in his 1.5 professional seasons. His OPS was .800+ last year because of his ability to draw walks and show some ability to hit for extra base hits. What he is now working on is getting his swing more consistently elevated. Smith’s BABIP is very low, as many of his balls are hit on the ground. If Smith can get more elevation many of this batted balls will find OF grass and his VS should increase. If Smith can increase his BA as he did in the very competitive AFL, he could be a potential Yadi Molina. That is a very high ceiling but with his arm and feet he could be one of the best defensive catchers in the ML now.
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    Unless Grandal is traded, the earliest that Smith or Ruiz will be in the Dodgers dugout will be 2019. Farmer will be the first to get a call, then Smith, then Ruiz. I will be interested to see where both end up to start the season.
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    Joc and Kemp could make a very good platoon in left. That seems to be the logical consensus. I agree Trayce Thompson will get every opportunity to prove he can be a #5 OF. Toles and Verdugo will start out in OKC. Toles will get the first call if Joc or Kemp falter. Verdugo will get called up in September, and will not leave a ML dugout again.
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    I will be watching Yusniel Diaz to see where he plays and to see if he gets overwhelmed. Both he and Verdugo are going to need to develop some more power. I know many want to watch DJ Peters because of his raw power, but I am going to be more interested in Henry Ramos.
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    Scott Alexander is more of a known quantity. He is a ground ball pitcher who can rack up DP’s. I do not see him as a guy to become the lock down setup guy. I see him coming in the 6th or 7th with runners on to get the DP and get back in the dugout. I will also be watching to see if Tony Cingrani is completely reformed. He could become the lock down setup guy. Baez, Garcia, and Don’t will all get their chance to show if they too belong in that discussion. While he is not ready, Dennis Santana will be fun to watch.
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    Stewart, Stripling, and Buehler will all be stretched out in anticipation they will be starters. But they will all be starters in OKC. Josh Sborz, Andy Sopko, and Henry Owens will vary!e for #4 and #5. I will be pulling for Owens to become the next uncovered gen found by FAZ. Stewart and Sborz would be best served to move to the pen, but they are going to need to forced to.
    .
    Yes to Chase.

  4. I hate spellcheck. The Dodgers do not have a pitcher named Don’t. It is supposed to be Font. And VS is supposed to be BA.

  5. A friend and I have been talking about going to watch some spring training games. I’m not sure if we can make it this year or not. It is sort of a once in a lifetime deal for both of us. I was wondering if any of you might be able to give us some of the ins and outs of what to do and what not to do. Where to stay and where not to stay. We want to make the most of our time there. We may only get to do this once so we want to do it right. Do any of you have any suggestions. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Mark has a good write-up under the banner “2018 Spring Training” at the top of the page. If you really want to see the players working out you have to get there early (I think they open the gates at about 10:00am.), grab a Dodger Dog and then the game. Game tickets can be purchased at the Box Office the day of the game or at MLB.com.

  6. A video of Matt Kemp catching and flopping for a routine ball that the rest of the Dodgers LF candidates catch standing up. I agree that there a lot of people to keep an eye on this spring. Whether Kemp is a Dodger won’t make or break the team. I hope he shows up and crushes the ball if not between Joc and Toles the Dodgers will be just fine.

  7. If Kemp can play adequate defense, I don’t see Kemp platooning with Joc.

    I still haven’t heard anyone say that Kemp can’t hit, anymore.

    And Kemp is a far better hitter against both lefties, and righties, then Joc is.

    And I would much more concerned with what Joc did, against both righties, and lefties last year.

    Then worrying about the reverse splits, that both Kemp and Puig had against lefties, last year.

    Because both Kemp and Puig, have had good numbers against lefties, throughout their careers.

    And Joc’s numbers against righties last year, were nothing to brag about, either.

    1. Kemp had an .OBP of .312, .304, and .318 the last three year. That is beyond terrible He has had zero plate discipline the last few years and rolls into a bunch of weak DP’s too. At this point, I’ll take Joc’s .OBP and defense over Kemp’s.

      1. Hawkeye

        Kemp is going to have much more motivation, with the Dodgers.

        Joc’s OBP is higher, because he bats eighth most of the time.

        I rather have someone that can actually hit, because that is better for the team’s offensive production.

        Joc is the reason we got Granderson last year, and that was not the first time he has stopped hitting, in the last three years.

        And you were so right about Granderson, and you said that, on day one!

        If Kemp plays defense adequately, I don’t see a contest with these two.

        Because Kemp can still hit better then any of our outfielders, and that is just the truth.

        And he might be great protection for Cody, in the line up.

        But like I said, it depends on Kemp’s defense, and his attitude.

        I have also heard that a lot of athletes have come back and played as well , as they once did, after having the surgery, Toles had.

        And I am talking about Olympic skiers.

  8. Yu Darvish to the Cubs for 6 years $150M (believed to be). Way more than most beleived he would actually get. Same AAV as Strasburg. I do not believe MLBPA can argue collusion. Maybe anti Scott-Boras, but no collusion.

    1. Now it has been revised to 6 years at $126M with incentives that could get to $150M. That is more reasonable. The Dodgers were also in that range but it was contingent on shedding salary.

  9. Would have been nice to have Darvish as an inning eater, but I trust in FAZ and we move on. If they had truly wanted him, and thought we would have been better for it, they would have pulled the trigger. Cubs lost Arrietta, had to do something. Don’t think Darvish is going to give the Cubs 5 or 6 good seasons, and FAZ didn’t either. Still feeling jiggy about us going into Spring Training.

  10. Last year, Cody Bellinger surprised some people. Who will be the surprise of 2018?

    I also like Henry Ramos a lot – I’m not sure where he fits, but he is potentially a guy who is suddenly putting it all together… kind of like JT or CT3!

    1. If Toles and Buehler do well I don’t think that will be a surprise. My surprise picks are Font, Stewart, and Will Smith.

      1. I like Will Smith a lot. Lots of people like Will Smith… and he will be a good MLB Catcher, however Kay Bear is only 19 and Will Smith will be 23 next month. Will Smith may be a an occasional All-Star. Kay Bear has Buster Posey genes (except the arm). Just my opinion.

        That said, while Smith can play 3B and 2B, Ruiz has incredible soft hands and his arm is not up to Smith’s caliber. I could see Ruiz moving to 2B in time. If Smith can be a very good staring catcher, move Ruiz to 2B – his footwork and glove give him a leg up. In fact, if I were the Dodgers, I would flip him now. His arm can get stronger and he can make up for it with technique, but he will never have a cannon. The Dodgers need a young 2B and Ruiz could be that guy in 2019… if they start him now.

        Ruiz is Craig Biggio-esque!

        1. That would be cool. If his arm does get stronger, might he also add third base to his repertoire?
          .
          The Dodgers have much more depth for the outfield that Taylor might be a longer term solution for second leaving Ruiz as a long term solution for third.

  11. Jim Bowden of The Athletic says this about two Dodger rookies:

    LOS ANGELES DODGERS

    Walker Buehler, RHP, 23, 6-2, 180, Bats: R, Throws: R

    Buehler is the Dodgers’ top prospect and the one player in their system they will not talk about in trades. Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Josh Byrnes gave me this scouting report: “He’s very twitchy and athletic. Fastball is consistently in the 95-100 mph range. When he’s on, he shows very good command and also gets a lot of swings and misses on his fastball. His power curveball is plus. After the Tommy John surgery, he is still regaining the feel for his slider and changeup, but he should become a power pitcher with four distinct offerings and above-average command. He is smart and extremely competitive.” He profiles to be a No. 2 starter. He’ll start the year in the minor leagues but he’s such a great talent, he’ll find his way to the show by the summer.

    Alex Verdugo, OF, 21, 6-0, 200, Bats: L, Throws: L

    Verdugo, 21, is a gifted hand-eye athlete. He’s very calm and can hit deep in the count. His hitter’s rhythm is advanced and he has the feel to handle various pitches and locations. He’s also a really good defender with a plus arm that is a weapon. It’s doubtful he’ll beat out Joc Pederson, Kiki Hernandez and Matt Kemp to win the left field job in spring training and is expected to start the year in AAA.

  12. The Cubs are now at $185.3M salary. So they have some left to spend in July if they need to. The Cubs lost Arrieta, Lackey, and Wade Davis. They replaced them with Darvish, Chatwood, and Morrow. Cubs fans are already calling for WS tickets, and I do not see where they have actually gotten better. They are good, and should win NL Central, but I still do not believe they are as solid as the Dodgers or Nationals.
    .
    The Cubs have signed contracts totaling $37.875M for 7 relievers (Morrow, Cishek, Smyly, Strop, Wilson, Duensing, and Grimm). That does not include Montgomery and Edwards. That is a lot for a bullpen with no proven closer. For next year, they have $25.5M committed in Morrow, Cishek, Smyly, and Duensing. Strop has a $6.25 option, and Grimm will be entering his final year of arbitration.
    .
    Assuming the Cubs pick up Quintana’s $10.5M contract, Wilson and maybe Strop are the only players not signed for next year.
    .
    Next year the Cubs already have $145.607 committed with Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell, and Justin Grimm all continuing with their arbitration years. For 2018 their arbitration driven salaries totaled $20.425M. That group should exceed $30M. Pedro Strop would add another $6.25M. Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Mike Montgomery, and Carl Edwards Jr. will be entering Arbitration Year #1 (assume $7M). With another $20M for benefits and remaining team control on 25 man, and 40 man contracts when called up, they will be pushing (if not surpassing) the luxury tax without adding any significant contract. I do not see a Bryce Harper in their future.

  13. What fun watching the Moon Man use that inside out swing to making a mockery of that chinese curtain at the L.A. Coliseum…
    Brock Stewart… Spoiled kid… Were not asking him to fold and stack jocks at ST… Does he even notice the $$ middle and set up guys are making now??? I see him as a shut down set up man for K.J.
    I’ll ask again, with Seager’s back issue(s) is anyone thinking of moving him in the near future??? 2B or 3B?? I want the kid to be a Dodger for a long time…

    1. With Bellinger’s ability to play the outfield, first base might be the future spot for a Seager that is protecting a back. Hopefully he stays at short for about 10 years.

  14. Darvish signs with the one team that I hoped he wouldn’t sign with. Honey will have done the preliminary work to fix his mechanics and the Cubs will reap the benefits. $21 million AAV I would have done, but I would have had a hard time going 6 years. The Cubs also removed a pitcher that blew them away during the playoffs. I hope Buehler progresses quickly. Darvish has an opt-out after year two. The Cubs chose to get creative with incentives and opt-outs like I mentioned yesterday. Cueto money, not Strasburg became the target.

    The Cubs take Morrow and Darvish from the Dodgers. Both were very good against them during the playoffs. Morrow continued to be good in the WS with the exception of a game where he had no business being out there. Do the Nats answer by signing Arrieta? Darvish is a top 15 pitcher in the league with much better stuff than that. If Hickey and Madden can get the most out of him the Cubs made themselves much better today.

        1. Me too at times. His report was the Dodgers offered a similar deal with a contingency of moving money first. Of course, if the entire league knows that Dodgers want to move money to sign Darvish no one is going to help them accomplish that. AA already did what he could to help them out. The Cubs swooped in and took advantage of the Dodgers and Yankees not wanting to go over the luxury tax as well as Darvish not wanting to play in Minnesota or Milwaukee.

  15. Here’s what happened to Puig. He’s a year away from arbitration and two years away from free-agency. He’s nosing around for a new agent so Wasserman chose to cut ties before Puig cut ties. Last week Puig shaved his head to support the kids with cancer at a local hospital. He also did his deal at McDonald’s buying people food. I have a hard time believing his behavior was anything more than shopping for a new agent.

        1. Here’s the problem: If that is the real story, why can’t it be told? It leads me other directions….

  16. Was hoping the Dodgers could find a way get Darvish signed. I’m a bit concerned we are a bit thin and potentially brittle in the SP arena. Hill, Wood, Ryu and Kershaw all had DL stints last year (I believe) and having to rely upon Stewart, Stripling, Buehler, Font et al as reinforcements has me worried.

    I hope the youngsters continue to develop and can fill in the slots vacated by injuries and needed rest and the FO can acquire additional SP at the deadline.

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