Per JT on the Suits:
“We trust them,” said the third baseman and team leader. “The front office has done a great job. They build a 40-man roster, not a 25-man roster, and that’s the biggest difference between the Dodgers and other teams.”
I have been saying that for 4 years running. AF is a master at building the 40-man roster to play in a 162-game season. The Dodgers should always contend. As AJ Pollock surmised,
“Every time they step on the field, they anticipate that they’ll win that game and that’s pretty cool. Not a whole lot of teams out there are like that,” Pollock said. “They expect to be in the World Series and win the World Series. When [Clayton] Kershaw steps out there, he’s an animal and he expects to win and you feel that on the other side, for sure.”
But where they draft and the financial constraints they place upon themselves, it is going to be hard to find that Ace or future MVP face of the franchise. Not impossible, but certainly harder to find. They rely on depth and a certain type of player (competitor). Those type of players are not necessarily future HOF, MVPs, or CY winners. But they do compete to win every pitch, every inning, every game, That is why last year was such a disappointment for me, because that approach was not evident. The all or nothing HR approach does not define this team. It didn’t the year before when they were seemingly never out of any game (except Game 7 of the WS). Now, I recognize that a lot of that had to do with an injured Corey Seager and Justin Turner, the glue and heart and soul of that team. Kershaw has not been healthy for four years. KJ was in a funk since the beginning of the 2017 WS throughout the 2018 season. It took a rookie Ace in waiting, 2B the Oakland A’s thought so much of that he was DFA, a journeyman RHP who nobody knows whether he is a starter or reliever, and a 21-year-old TJ survivor showing his mettle in the bullpen in a pennant race, to turn the season around. Sure, the Machado addition helped, but he was more of the all or nothing approach already swallowing the team. The absolute failure of the FO to recognize that the team NEEDED bullpen help at the trade deadline was critical. I give the FO credit, but I am not blind when they swing and miss. It was the grinding of Walker Buehler, the slugging of Max Muncy, the timely “pitching” of Ross Stripling, and the heart of Caleb Ferguson that got the team to the playoffs and then WS.
AJ Pollock gives every indication that he will do whatever it takes to win. He will replace Chase Utley in the clubhouse in that regard. Scooter Gennett, Whit Merrifield, DJLM, Charlie Blackmon are similar type ofBASEBALLplayers. They would be welcome on my team anytime. Grinders and special defensive players define winning baseball to me. That is why very early on I was pushing for AJ Pollock and DJLM. I was pushing these guys early last season as players to watch at FA. Got one of them, so I am happy.
AF was smart enough to know that Walker Buehler was special, and fortunate enough to have teams not want to take a chance in the first round on a pitcher that obviously needed TJ surgery. The Dodgers were fortunate with Caleb Ferguson even though he lasted to round 38. And they may have been fortunate again with Michael Grove. I think they will be rewarded again. IMO, the Dodgers will be rewarded this summer with yet another TJ survivor with Jesen Therrien. As an aside, I think it is comical about the AF “haters” bashing him for going after injured pitchers, but never bringing up Buehler or Stripling or Ferguson. I know that Strip and Ferguson predated AF, but AF kept tham and pushed them. I am sure that both Strip and Ferguson were much sought after pitchers this winter. AF survived the Kazmir/McCarthy/Anderson problem, but will flourish with Buehler, Stripling, and Ferguson for several seasons, and IMO both Grove and Therrien in the future. If you have enough pitching at the ML level, you can be patient for those special pitchers with arm injuries. The Dodgers are loaded with 3-4-5 rotation starters and now have a bountiful of relievers in the organization. As long as Buehler, Kershaw, and potentially Urias continue to wear Dodger Blue the 1-2 slots should be in great hands. That is not to say that someone like Corey Kluber would not be welcome. That is also not to say that any of May/Grove/Gonsolin will not get there. Maybe all three.
But pitching is only one facet of the game. We have already discussed in great length on the strength and depth of the catchers in the organization. Ruiz/Smith/Cartaya/Wong/Feduccia. I do not think I need to say more. With Lux ready to assume 2B in 2020, the Seager/Lux combo at SS/2B should be solid for many years. Jeter Downs should be a solid support for the duo. I am also high on future middle infield prospect Jacob Amaya. The Dodgers have more than enough 1B in the organization. Where the Dodgers organization is lacking is at 3B and OF. I will save 3B for another segment.
The Dodgers have four OF in their top 30 and NOT ONE is even remotely near a “sure thing”, and right now only one should be counted on to give the future any hope of a solid OF prospect, and that is Alex Verdugo. I am not convinced that Verdugo is the answer. Listening to the BA podcast with Kyle Glazer that Bluto recommended only gave me reason to trust my eyes over the platitudes given to those who seemingly have so much talent. It is easy to get distracted by “talent” evaluators and ignore the whole person. Glazer talked about the rumors of Verdugo losing focus and lack of hustle, and even discussed how the Dodgers FO is spinning that he has grown and matured since those early days. But Glazer went to the OKC players and they confirmed that Verdugo does not play with heart (my word) and focus. He is not a teammate. That is exactly what I saw last summer when he played in Sacramento. He didn’t even make it to 1B on a ground ball to 2B. The way he treated Toles was rude at best. The Dodgers just rid themselves of a player with much more talent than Verdugo but with an inability to show that talent night in and night out because of outside influences (whatever they were). RF is the biggest question mark on this team.He is not Tony Gwynn, and never will be Tony Gwynn. The best current player ceiling comparison I have heard has been Nick Markakis. If he achieves the status of Nick Markakis he will be a decent to good OF, but if he doesn’t “ball out” every night, he is not good enough to help the team. He is not Bryce Harper. IF the Dodgers are going to have a prima donna play RF, I will take Bryce Harper. But I will be more than fine with Cody in RF and Muncy/Freese at 1B than go through Verdugo’s continual growing pains. Is it any wonder that the Marlins wanted 2 of 4 players for JTR, and not one was named Alex Verdugo?
Then there is the next best OFers in the organization…DJ Peters, Jeren Kendall, and Starling Heredia. Not one of those players gives me hope for home grown Dodger OF talent. I would prefer players with ceilings of 4thor 5thOF like Kyle Garlick, Zack Reks, Logan Landon, Donovan Casey, Cody Thomas…than players who know they have a problem making contact and do nothing to change it. I do not know enough about Heredia to know if he is just not yet comfortable in the US and is going to take a little more patience. But DJ Peters and Jeren Kendall are different. They have the ability, but perhaps not the desire. Kendall especially disappoints because he has ML speed and defense right now. All he has to do is put the bat on the ball. He needs Ichiro to work with him. I have suggested multiple times someone like Brett Butler who turned a 23rdround pick into a 17-year ML career. Who has more God given talent, Butler or Kendall? Who is going to make the most of what they have, Butler or Kendall? I am hopeful that Kendall may in fact have had a breakthrough as he has been spotted working with RVS this winter. So maybe….
Outside of the three pitchers Kazmir/McCarthy/Anderson, no Dodger player has been as ridiculed by more fans than Joc Pederson and Pedro Baez. I also do not believe any other Dodger has more team support than Joc Pederson and Pedro Baez. It would have been easy to cut either of them loose when they were going bad, but by ALL accounts they are great teammates and will do whatever they have to do to win. Does Joc want to play every day? Absolutely. But there is no evidence that he gave the team one bit of trouble when he was benched and is now a platoon OF. He is happy being a Dodger. He is not as talented as Puig, and yet Joc is a Dodger and Puig is a Red. I know Puig had a couple of big HRs in the post-season last year, but I will repeat what I wrote a couple of weeks back..It was the lack of KJ and Clayton coming through for the good guys that cost Joc the 2017 WS MVP. Again, it is not the individual talent that defines this team, but the collective talent. I am hopeful that Verdugo embraces his chance and understands what the Dodgers gave up to give him this chance. And I hope that it is AJ Pollock that will help him understand what it is like to be a Dodger. How ironic is that?