Every year, certain players regress, some stay the same and others breakout. It’s hard to predict who will do what, but there are a few clues that might be there as to which players may be “Breakout Candidates.” Justin Turner “brokeout” with the Dodgers. So did Chris Taylor in 2017. JD Martinez brokeout as a Tiger. Scooter Gennett brokeout as a Red. Breakout years happen all the time… sometimes when you least expect it. I have picked a few Dodgers that I believe could improve dramatically in 2019 and I will articulate why. I am sure some may disagree…
Chris TaylorIn 2017, CT3 burst onto the Dodger scene. He “brokeout” and hit .288 with a .354 OB% while OPS’ing .850, but in 2018 regressed to .254 with a .331 oB% and a .775 OPS. While not as good as 2017, it was not a horrible year – it just wasn’t what we expected. He struck out 178 times… almost 25% of the time looking. I think he was conflicted with his hitting approach. He has worked with Robert Von Scoyoc in the past and I think Turner Ward’s preaching looking at pitches and patience sometimes left CT3 in no-man’s land. It’s good to work the count, but I have seen so many Dodgers the past three years (during Turner Ward’s Tenure) let that “sweet” first pitch “right in their wheelhouse” go.I think he will cut-down on his swing with two strikes, hit the other way, utilize his speed and reduce his strikeouts… pretty dramatically. He will still hit 15-20 HR, but I can see his BA jumping 40 to 50 points. He doesn’t need a makeover, just a tweek! A few small changes can turn out to be big for CT3. I look for a bounce-back year for him in 2019… maybe better than 2017. Where he will play is yet to be decided.
Cody BellingerAgain, Cody did not have a horrible year. His HR’s dropped from 39 to 25 and his BA and OB% dropped slightly. He is still very young, very coachable and very adaptable. He will have years where he will hit 50 HR, but I don’t think it will be this year. I do think he will improve under RVS and hit 35+ HR again with a slight uptick in batting average. Again, where he plays is still up in the air. Gold Glove CF or Gold Glove 1B. Has there ever been that combination before?
Enrique HernandezLast year, I said that Kike could breakout and become JD Martinez. In case you failed to notice, I was wrong… but I have not given up on Kike. Some people complain that he strikes out too much. No, he doesn’t. He struck out 16.% of the time in 2018. In 2017, it was 23% and in 2016 it was 26%. He is making progress and I have a lot of hope that Kike can breakout in 2019. He was solid last year and in 2019, with RVS as his coach, I could see that breakout I have been predicting become reality. He is learning to hit RH pitching much better and Chase Utley took him under his wing. Again, where he plays is to be decided, but he could be the starting 2B. The problem is: He plays good defense anywhere.
Austin Barnes & Russ MartinBoth players need to comeback, bounceback and breakout. Russ Martin has never been the player he was early in his Dodger career. I blame it on wine, women and song…. not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at 65, I barely remember it. I have been married for 22 years… but I digress. I have looked at the metrics and analytics and I think RVS will help both catchers. Yes, I am putting a lot of faith in RVS… I know, but I think both will benefit greatly from a new, focused approach. Also, why do fans think that at 35 years old Russ Martin can’t have a comeback year and yet 36 year-old Yadier Molina can be an All-Star? Martin could be Comeback Player of the Year. The Big Dodger in the Sky often smiles when the prodigal Dodger returns.
Scott AlexanderSo, I like Scott Alexander a lot… and there’s a lot to like even beyond the stats, which are not eye-popping. In 2017, his ERA was 2.48 while it ballooned to 3.68 in 2018, but his WHIP actually went down. He just needs to trust his stuff a little more and not try and be so precise. Even if that ball is over the plate, hitters are not going to square that sinker up. I’m sure I could roll out other metrics, but I often go by the “eye test” and I think Scott Alexander will be a lockdown reliever in 2019.
ConclusionThose are the players I think can “breakout” or at least improve greatly. Can Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts plan on all of that? I will tell you a resounding “NO.” But, some of them will step up… maybe even all of them. I am of the opinion that if a player can hit a certain threshold one season, he can do it again. Will he? That’s the question… but those are my nominations.
The “Unofficial” Bill Haselman StoryI see a lot of morons on other boards slamming the Dodgers for not making Bill Haselman a coach and some have even said that he left his job as Manager of OKC becasue of it. They all start with the pemise that Friedman is horrible and work backward. They also never let facts stand in the way of their moronic beliefs! DISCLAIMER:This is not directed to anyone on this blog! Actually, the Dodgers may have put him on the MLB staff, but instead, he is still in the organization as a roving minor league instructor. The Dodger like Bill Haselman a lot and he will be a great manager… like in 2020 when he becomes the Giants manager. I think Farhan Zaidi wants Haselman to manage the Giants when Bochy’s deal runs out after 2019.The Dodgers love Haselman, but know this is great opportunity for him, so they re-assigned him for one year until he is named the Giants Manager. I don’t think Farhan wants Haselman breathing down Bochy’s neck, so the Dodgers are keeping Haselman in the organization, hoping not to burn any bridges with him. He’s a great manager in waiting and hopefully he will help the Dodgers this year. He is a high-characer person, so there is that. Haselman was born in New Jersey but went to high school in Saratoga, California, which is near the Bay Area. All of this is conjecture on my part, but watch and see what happens. If true, this also tells you a lot about Andrew Friedman’s Dodgers.
22 Days Until Pitchers and Catchers ReportYou are going to see some movement this week… I promise… I hope… I wish! Who knows?
Puig or Grandal?MLB.com recently named Yasiel Puig the 8th best RF in baseball. This was evidently after several drinks… and many Dodger fans are aghast that he was traded, but they also don’t want Yasmani Grandal back whom MLB.com rated the 3rd best catcher in baseball. I don’t want either of them back… but I just wanted to point that out. Everything is so subjective.