Top Ten Dodger Player Questions… And Answers!

I have identified ten (10) Dodger players who are most vitally important to the Dodgers winning the NL West, NLDS, NLCS and World Series.  It’s not Manny Machado – he will get his.  It’s an adjustment, but he will befine, great!  It’s not Brian Dozier – if Doc lets him play everyday, he will put up MVP-type numbers the rest of this season. It’s not Clayton Kershaw – I think he will evolve, and if healthy, will lead this pitching staff. It’s not Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Yasiel Puig or Julio Urias, although all of those guys are important.

It’s also not Max Muncy. He was cooling off before the All-Star Game.    He is hitting .219 in the last 30 games.  .163 in the last 15 games and .150 in the last 7 games.  That’s a downward spiral that is hard to understand.  It looks to me that Max has been exposed.  Maybe not… but that is what it looks like.  I hope he hasn’t, but it does not look good to me. He had his 15 minutes of fame and it may be over… or not!Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest, opines why Muncy is floundering.

Here’s the guys who can make or break the Dodgers and my impression of what they will do.

  1. Justin Turner– A healthy and “locked-in” Justin Turner means so much on every level to the Dodgers: If he plays healthy and  with abandon, he is the catalyst! With Corey Seager out, he is the best hitter on the team and any run in the playoffs will have to include him.
  2. Cody Bellinger– Some people want Cody to go back to AAA, but compare him to Max Muncy.  In the last 30 games, Cody has hit .252.  In the past 15 games he is at .215 and in the past 7 games he is at .250, BUT, in the same time frames, his OB% is .353, .351 and .400.  Joc Pederson, whom everyone loves right now isn’t even close to Cody’s OB% in that period.  I believe Cody will be a force in the lineup.
  3. Chris Taylor–  He really is not that far off from last year – he needs to cut down his strikeouts (especially looking) and he needs to play everyday.  That’s what will do the most for this team: CT3 in CF!
  4. Matt Kemp– Matt has not lost it.  He may be dinged and in a slump, but he will be back with a vengeance. Write it down and book it.  Just a slump… move on.  This guy may yet be the Dodger’s MVP.
  5. Joc Pederson– As the #4 Outfielder in an All RH outfield, a hot Joc could make a huge difference.  He can play 3 or 4 days a week and make a big impact.
  6. Yasmani Grandal– He doesn’t have to be the hottest hitter in the NL, like he was in July, but he has to produce down the stretch.  In 2016, he was injured.  In 2017, his wife was undergoing a difficult pregnancy.  This year, if he ends the season with  close to 30 HR and healthy, the Dodgers might win it all.
  7. Dylan Floro– As a Dodger, Floro has a 2.19 ERA and an 0.49 WHIP.  He has pitched 12.1 innings and allowed 4 hits, 2 BB and 13 K’s.  If he can keep it up, this team is bound for glory. He has been as close to “Lock-down” as you can get.  Floro may be the 2018 version of Blanton and Morrow.
  8. Scott Alexander– He was down… way down to start the season and has been up and down a little.  Alexander and Floro are the closest thing to an 8th inning guy that the Dodgers have. He needs to deliver.
  9. Striker Buehler– Simply put, he has to pitch like an Ace, while waiting in the wings to be the Ace.
  10. Hyun-Jin Ryu– The Dodgers have plenty of starters, why is Ryu so important?  Well, he was the Dodgers best starter when he went down and if he can come back to pitch as well as he did before his injury, it forces another starter to the bullpen.  The “trickle-down effect” of that will change the whole bullpen dynamic. Wood and Ryu won’t like going to the pen, so maybe this is Doc’s skillset:  Make sure they love it!

Rants & Raves

  • Of course the Dodgers will try and re-sign Manny Machado, but there are so many factors to consider that I am totally focused on THIS season.  They will not just hand him a blank check, however.
  • Still want Kyle Bearclaw? His ERA since the All-Star Break is 23.10.  He makes John Axford like like Cy Young with his microscopic 14.85 ERA. In case you haven’t figured it out, relievers are incredibly hard to predict.
  • Tommy Joohn Surgery, back issues and now surgery on his hip?  Can we be confident Corey Seager will play SS again?  I’m not… and I’m a “Glass Half-Full Guy.”
  • There’s a great article inThe Athleticon Rich Hill who has had a 2.36 ERA in 50 innings since coming off the DL. He is using a sidearm and submarine delivery with great success.
  • Watch Rich Hill tonight – that’s all I’m going to say.



OKC – 6-5 Loss to Reno Aces (DBacks)

Brock Stewart was breezing with a 3-0 lead for 6.2 innings allowing a pair of hits, and then as he so often does, just lost it. The next 4 batters he faced went as follows:  HR, HR, single, HR, and then he was pulled.  Manny Banuelos got OKC out of the 7th, but gave up two runs in the 8thto get the loss.  Alex Verdugo went 3-4, while Edwin Rios, Connor Joe, and Tim Locastro all had 2 hits apiece, with Joe’s hits both being doubles.

Rancho Cucamonga – 5-3 Win over San Jose Giants

RC hit 5 solo HRs to win this game (sound familiar). Connor Wong (17), Jared Walker (12), Carlos Rincon (2), Ed Yarnall (4), and Cristian Santana (19) all hit HR’s.  Ed Yarnall also added a double.  Leo Crawford started and went 5.0 IP, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks, with 5K.  Connor Strain followed with 2.0 IP allowing 2 hits to get the win.  Logan Salow and Andre Scrubb pitched a scoreless 8thand 9thto preserve the win, with Scrubb getting his 3rdsave.  On June 21, Scrubb was assigned to RC from Great Lakes and has pitched masterfully since.  In 23.2 IP, he has allowed 3 runs (1 earned) giving him a 0.38 ERA.  He has a 0.80 WHIP and 0.98 Batting Average Against.  He has 28 Ks in those 23.2 IP, but his Achilles Heel is the 11 walks he has allowed.  To truly become that closer prospect, he is going to have to cut down on the walks.

Great Lakes – 4-2 Loss to Lake County Captains (Indians)

Gerardo Carrillo started and went the first 5.0 innings allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk. One of the 8 hits was a HR.  Melvin Jimenez followed and went 1.2 IP giving up 1 run on 1 hit but 3 walks. He did have 2 K.  Darien Nunez pitched the final 2.1 innings allowing 1 run (HR) on 1 hit, but did register 5 Ks.  Offensively Gersel Pitre went 2-4 (2 doubles).

Pioneer League Mid-Season All Stars

Jose Chacin (Pitcher)

Jacob Amaya (SS)

Ronny Brito (SS)

Daniel Robinson (OF)


This article has 59 Comments

  1. Great list, Mark. Here’s an alternate top five of guys who will be pivotal IF we advance to the postseason (which is clearly now to be determined):

    1. Stripling–can he be either the elusive #4 starter for us or will he morph into the guy who comes in in the 6th inning to get six outs? Bet on the latter and if he’s right we have a new playoff weapon.

    2. Toles–can he bounce back from nowheresville and provide quality at bats down the stretch? He brings a missing athleticism and could be this year’s culbertson. Hedging this pick by mentioning verdugo in last sentence.

    3. Ferguson–if we found a live-armed compliment to stripling, We could have the middle innings secured before floro/alexander/Jansen arrive.

    4. Maeda-no dodger is craftier. No pitcher (outside of kershaw an hill) is smarter. Asian Orel? Haha autocorrect had a field day with that one.

    5. Keekay–can he get hot and stay hot? If he does, can Robert’s keep him in the damn lineup. Guys feed off his energy. Joc, Puig play better when engaged. We need a spark with Taylor unable to repeat his unrepeatable 2017. Why not him?

    1. There are 25 games remaining in the RC season. The Quakes are running out of starters. Edwin’s last start was 08/02 so he probably gets the start tonight, and if he does well, he should finish the season at RC getting another 4 starts. Congratulations to Edwin. Throw strikes young man!!

      1. In ranking our starting pitching prospects. I’d have to go santana, Ferguson, may, gonsolin, white, then Uceta. I believe in white but at a certain point pedigree and projectability have to take a backseat to production.

  2. It is clear (at least to me) that if the Dodgers played to their best , and all of the other NL teams played to their best, the Dodgers would be the NL champs. They have the best team talent. But the game is played on the field and not on computers. The Dodgers are relying on 7 starters who have not been healthy for the full season, and most for the past several seasons. Many are relying on Cingrani, Fields, Urias all coming back healthy and providing a long deep effective bullpen. The bullpen will be supplemented by a couple or three starters who do not want to be relievers. Based on the number of pitchers who cannot relieve (Ryu and Buehler) and two who are not expected to relieve (Kershaw and Hill), that will push Stripling, Wood, and Maeda to the pen with one remaining in the rotation until the post-season. I am sure they will get over it, but it will not be easy.
    There are now 49 games for the regular season. There are 7 teams within 5 games of each other, and another 2 teams 2.5 games back from that. One can make an argument for any of the first 7 teams to make the playoffs leaving 2 out. Right now the teams on the outside looking in are the Dodgers and Rockies. Now is not the time to experiment. Put the best 25 man roster together, and play the best 8 every night. Let them play together as a unit. I can see a Kemp/Joc combo being one of the OF, and Barnes relieving Grandal once a week. Neither Muncy or Kike should start outside of injury. Belli should stay at 1B for the rest of the year. Will there be hurt feelings? Absolutely. It is then incumbent for Doc to be a manager, and not a friend, to advise the TEAM what is at stake. It used to be that the best played 162 games a year. Why is it difficult to ask young men, some of whom are playing for contracts, to give it their all for the next 49 games.
    If Puig does not go on the DL, I do not see how Verdugo, Toles, or Locastro are called up before September 1. The Dodgers have a glut of OF. They have 8 or 9 (if you count Bellinger) who can play OF at the ML level. I am a big supporter of FAZ, but I do believe they missed a chance to move some of the logjam to go out and get an experienced late inning high leverage reliever. This is now going to be a big puzzle that will have to be “fixed” after the season.
    For those looking for another reliever coming this month, if there is one it will not be a good one. It will be a waiver claim after all others have passed. It will be another Axford or Rosscup type. There will not be a quality reliever who will pass to the Dodgers on a waiver wire. Thus the bullpen will be Jansen/Alexander/Floro/Ferguson/Baez/Hudson/Axford/Rosscup for now. A questionable Cingrani/Fields/Urias should be available in September. And then 2-3 starters moving to the pen. For the last several weeks, I was pining for Jose Leclerc. From June 20, Leclerc has pitched in 17 games and has been scored on in only 1 of those games. In those 17 games he has pitched 16.1 innings allowing 7 hits, 5 walks, 1 HBP and with 23 strikeouts. What would it have taken to get young Jose. I do not beleive FAZ really looked at relievers. I believe they and Mark had the same plan. Hope that the three injured pitchers heal well enough to be effective, and hope that 2-3 of the starters can make the transition to reliever and not be bothered by it. It is certainly a supportable plan, but I would have much rather had 24 year old Leclerc and his upper 90’s fastball and 12.5 K/9, who has been healthy all year and has relieved all year. He has not been a starter since after 2015 in AA. He knows he is a reliever and relishes that role.

    1. I agree 100% AC. Leclerc or Kela was who I wanted. Kela had a bit of baggage attached. Leclerc may not have been available since he has four years of team control. The Pads had relievers way better than Axford. Even a hot and cold Ziegler appealed to me. I can’t think of one person that Axford is an upgrade from. He’s terrible and he’s been that way for quite some time.
      I believe the Dodgers face two lefties against Oakland. That’s the only time that Kike should ever start. He still pulls off the ball tremendously. He can hit a fastball riding in on him from lefties. This may give Puig the rest he needs coming off an off day. Hopefully facing two lefties jump starts Kemp but otherwise I’d rather see Joc in LF.
      Taylor’s always been hot and cold but he’s far from last year. He spent a large part of last season hitting .300 or above. He actually fell to his batting average at the end of last season. His .OBP was very good which is why the high K rate was acceptable. This year it has been swing at ball 4 and look at strike 3. To me he’s our CF unless the Dodgers have the balls to me Verdugo or Toles the CF.

      1. Hawkeye

        Kike is not hitting lefties well this year.

        And in July he only hit 149 overall, in 74 at bats, he only had 11 hits, but he is doing better early this month, so I bet he has somewhat, changed his approach.

        But you were right, he was over played, and you can’t have another bat in this line up, made up of mostly average hitters, that is a black hole in the line up, like Kike was, in July.

        And I like Kike, but he needs to change his approach more often, to be that bat in the line up, but I could say the same, about a lot of players, in this line up.

        Toles had a day off last night, so he only got one at bat against the starter they were facing last night, that had an era over 5 before last night’s game, but he got a hit, in that one at bat.

        And now that starter’s era is over 6, after last night’s game.

        I agree with AC, no one is coming up before September, unless someone gets hurt, excluding pitchers of course.

        There are currently to many players to plug in this line up, as there is.

        But some decisions will have to be made, on what line up is best for the team.

        1. He’s got more opportunities this year than ever before. He’s just not an everyday player and needs to focus on what he does best. Like you, I like him too.

    2. Ac how about Brock Stewart again? He went 6 strong with 8 ks last night until imploding. I wonder if he has recovered his velocity? If he has he could be a bullpen piece. The fangraph article about urias is discouraging. I wonder if he ever pitches in la? He appeared to have a great future but great is certainly questionable and if at all is yet to be determined. I sure hope he can recapture his health. Unless his velocity ticks up in August I doubt he pitches this year.

      1. I was set to watch Stewart last night, but my computer crashed, and I hate watching a game on my iPhone. Per his manager & pitching coach, his numbers reflect his comfort and familiarity with starting. That is what Stewart wants to do. He is at least no better than #8 starting pitcher for LAD, and with Ferguson and Santana, he would slide down to #10 starter. Getting AAA batters out is a lot easier than MLB, especially 2nd and 3rd time through the lineup. With May, White, and Gonsolin coming, there is not a lot of need for Stewart to be a Dodger starter. I have always liked Stewart as a reliever, and maybe it is going to take him to be non-tendered as was Andrew Miller in 2011 to get him to realize that he is a reliever, and that there is nothing wrong with that. But it took Terry Francona a lot of time to convince Miller to come back to Boston to learn to be a reliever rather than continue to look for starting opportunities, where he was not good. Who can be the Terry Francona for the Dodgers.
        If Stewart does not want to relieve, then he needs to be traded with his value up right now. KC, Tampa, Baltimore, Miami, Cincinnati all have need for a ML ready starting pitcher. Even Pittsburgh.

  3. Chase Utley had a hip surgery after the Phillies won their championship, so Corey has someone to talk to about this surgery, and after this surgery, and that happens to be his mentor, so Corey is in good hands.

  4. The Dodgers have to be thinking that Seager might have to play first base and that means signing Manny to a free agent contract is more of a possibility. Bellinger would have to move to CF and Taylor to second.

    1. I’ve not heard anyone from the Dodgers say anything close to that. Just people like you and me speculating on blogs that JT or Turner could play 1st.

      1. I think that would be the last thing anybody in the Dodger organization would want to say. I mention it because I want Seager on the team, preferably at short stop but if it is first base, I’ll take it.

  5. The Dodgers, are in a dogfight with Arizona and Colorado for the division with the giants only 6 games back, and they have 6 games remaining with the Dodgers. It’s really simple, play the best 8 players, and give the team their best chance to win. Let’s see what happens.

  6. Hawkeye’s linked Fangraphs article on Urias and Sheffield were not surprising but should be alerts. I never expected Urias to be able to come back this year and pitch as he did prior to his injury. If he did, great…another weapon. But it is too unrealistic to think a pitcher after major shoulder surgery and not pitching for nearly 15 months will be able to be as effective. I do beleive he should come back to pitch in September (not before) in non high leverage situations to gauge his rehab development. I hope he comes back fully, but I think that it is wrong-headed to count on it.
    Sheffield is another story. He needs to become a reliever now. He is a solid two pitch pitcher and can occasionally come with that 3rd pitch. But he needs to concentrate on the fastball and curve with control. I think he is much more Tom Gordon than Pedro Martinez. If he has a career reminiscent of Gordon’s 21 years, he will have a tremendous career.

  7. I am perplexed about all of the negative thoughts about the prognosis of Corey Seager and his return to SS next year. He had TJ surgery, and in reviewing the long list of baseball players with TJ, the number of ML shortstops on the list was Zach Cozart. The problem is that Cozart had surgery on his non-throwing elbow. So for a regular ML SS after TJ, this is really uncharted waters. Doctors do not seem to feel that his surgery will impact his ability to throw from the SS position. Maybe they do not know what they are talking about, but since I do not have a medical degree, I am going to side with the doctors until proven he cannot compete at SS.
    With respect to hip surgery, MJ is correct that Chase had the surgery in November 2008. The initial prognosis was that Chase would be out until the 1st week in June. But at 30, he started in Game 1 and played 156 games in 2009 and was an AS and a top ten MVP recipient. He was also a plus defender.
    I am not ready to concede that Corey needs to move to 2B or 3B, much less 1B or LF. To me this is too much about people wanting Machado and not worrying what impact it will have on Corey’s psyche. Get Machado at all costs and we will worry about Corey later. Maybe I will get there, but I am not there yet, and I am sure that Corey isn’t.
    Yes, Seager is my favorite MLB player, and my viewpoint may be jaded. Even my grandson comes up to me at least once a week asking me if #5 is playing yet. That is the only player he really thinks about, but he knows how I feel about him.

  8. There is a taller hurdle this season than the last couple to get to the post season. But if Dodgers clear it I’m gonna stick with my heroes of Kershaw, Jansen and Turner being the ones to shine brightest. I think Kershaw’s woes in past post season runs stem from sticking to a plan that the opposition counted on to counter against. That is on Honey as well and this time around it won’t be another repeat. Jansen will do as he does….close. Turner will show clutch big time. Do not doubt. I saw it in my crystal ball!

  9. If Seager comes back like new then I would love to see him at SS and Bellinger at 1B. If Dodgers sign Machado for $30+M per year, Machado should be more than willing to play wherever he is told. If it is third, then Turner probably moves to 1B through the end of his contract (2021) and the Bellinger moves back to 1B. That would give the Dodgers a couple of years to find a center fielder, be it inside the organization like Kendall or outside like Trout whose contract ends simultaneously with Turner’s.

  10. Brewers just claimed Ariel Hernandez off waivers, That means that Axford cost the Dodgers Corey Copping and Ariel Hernandez. I do not see that as a good trade-off. I can see Hernandez in MLB next year. He could be a flop, but he could be a lights out reliever. I cannot see Axford as any where near being a positive pitcher coming down the stretch. I hope I am wrong.

    1. It’s not a good trade off at all. It seemed more like doing something to say you did something. When Wood and Ryu come off the dL, Maeda and Stripling need to go to the pen.
      I agree with you about Seager’s future health too. Although I’m in the re-sign Machado and then work it out camp. Seems to me Caesar Izturis had TJ surgery.

        1. How about the Yankees young second baseman, they got in the Chapman trade, I believe he had TJ surgery?

      1. I would remind everyone that return from Tommy John surgery is not a foregone conclusion for position players. The National Institutes of Health published an abstract from the American Journal of Sports Medicine which is not so sanguine on the subject.
        None of us who post here are doctors as far as I know but the studies show that about 1/2 of the players who returned after TJ surgery returned to a difference position after surgery. The one thing that Seager has going for him is youth. 89% of players under 30 made a return vs. 48% over 30. Mean return time is just under a year.

        We don’t know why he had hip surgery. Given that it is arthroscopic, I assume an impingement. Anyone who is interested in what this is and so forth should go here:

  11. 1 – For all of those relying on Julio Urias to rescue the bullpen this year, read Dodgers’ Digest latest on the subject:

    Also read DD’s take on the Dodger bullpen. I agree. The big egg that the Braintrust laid on improving the ‘pen at the deadline may be what keeps the Dodgers from failing this post-season.
    2 – The Dodgers will go as far as their best players take them. Anyone who leaves Kershaw and Jansen off of the list of the guys who will influence the post-season the most isn’t thinking things through.
    3 – I agree 100% with AC about what Roberts needs to do – tell his team that the 8 guys who give the Dodgers the best chance to win that day will play. If that means that guys like Dozier and Machado will play every day then the reserves need to get over it.
    4 – Against RHP, I start:
    C – Grandal
    1B – Bellinger
    2B – Dozier
    3B – Turner
    SS – Machado
    LF – Kemp
    CF – Pederson
    RF – Puig

    Against LHP, I start:
    C – Grandal
    1B – Bellinger
    2B – Dozier
    3B – Turner
    SS – Machado
    LF – Kemp
    CF – Taylor
    RF – Puig.

    I recognize that Turner, Kemp and Grandal are all going to need days off and so they should pick and choose on that. That’s where Muncy, Kike, Barnes and Taylor can pick up extra AB.

    1. Tonight’s Dodger lineup at Athletics:
      Dozier 2B
      Machado SS
      Turner 3B
      Hernández CF
      Kemp DH
      Taylor LF
      Bellinger 1B
      Puig RF
      Barnes C
      (Hill P)

    2. Puig struggles against lefties. Kike’ not doing well against them either this year but it might be a way to keep Kike’ sharp(er).

  12. just for old times sake and those who loved the broken starting pitcher signings in the last few years

    if we don’t win Wednesday night, the world may end.
    Kershaw vs some pitcher by the name of Anderson, B.

  13. On Seager:I am skeptical of a person who plays SS at a high level being able to continue after TJ because of the variety of angles with which throws have to be made. In the hole, across your body, underhanded, sidearm, over the top, falling away, on your knees. Yes, pitchers come back, but they don’t throw from all different angles. I think SS might be the most difficult position to come back from TJ. Just my opinion.

      1. Uceta tossing another nice game: 5 ip 3 h 2 r 0 bb 8 k. He’s at 76 pitches so might go another frame.

    1. When Ryu had his shoulder surgery, he had to be shut down a few times. That is because of normal impingement from scar tissue. Fangraphs and others fail to consider that Urias had NO damage to the labrum and has experienced no impingement. If he makes his next start on schedule, he will be in LA before September 1st. Believe Dr. Timmons. 😉

  14. That was taking small ball too far. 1st and 3rd no outs, and with Barnes to be followed by the top of the order. Absolutely no time for a squeeze play.

  15. Repeat but we got machado to be a difference maker. He could have broken this game open or at least gotten us a run. I don’t believe he has a clutch hit yet. Maybe he is pressing, move Turner into 2 spot and machado 3. I hope he gets it going as we need him to make a difference.

    1. He’s a little pull happy right now. He was going with the pitch more when he first joined the team. He will snap out of it.

      1. Somebody needs to get a key hit . We do this over and over where one key hit could break the game open. Hill was obviously done after getting out of a stressful fifth but now we have opened the door.

  16. That was one fastball too many. Not good, especially after Dodgers blew a chance to widen the lead in the top
    of the 6th.

    1. I think Orel had the right idea. Hill should have tried to get him to chase out of the zone.

  17. Good win against a hot team.

    Pleased for Joc. The quality of his ABs has really improved.

    Alexander & Chargois look the most reliable BP parts & Kenley appears to be rounding into form.
    Good signs.

  18. The Dodgers source that I trust the most tweeted out tonight that the Dodgers were more interested in Assdribble Cabrera than Dozier. It wasn’t until Cabrera was dealt elsewhere that they shifted to Dozier. Also, the Dodgers plan on being on in on Machado, but don’t want to go past a 5-yr deal. They will probably offer an opt-out after two or three years so he has the ability to hit free-agency again in his prime. They will break the bank to go after him.

  19. Wow beat us a good/hot team!!!
    Squeeze play…Be still oh heart of mine…
    One game at a time…
    Lock it down Kersh and lets head to my least favorite park to see a game of baseball played…

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