It was a long, strenuous winter but we’ve finally made it. Spring Training has arrived and the Los Angeles Dodgers are about to embark on a season long journey that hopefully ends in their 7th World Series title. Despite winning three consecutive National League Western Division titles, LA still needs a quite a few things to go their way in order to return to the Postseason. Here are five keys for the Dodgers going into the 2016 season:
1. New Skipper in Town
Manager Dave Roberts will be getting his first crack as a Major League skipper in 2016. Most people around baseball believe he is well suited for the job, but the expectations in LA are going to be at their highest going into the season. How Roberts handles these expectations and figures out his roster over the course of the year will be crucial to the Dodgers’ season.
2. Figuring Out the Rotation
The loss of Zack Greinke to Arizona certainly hurts, but the Dodgers have recovered nicely signing Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda to build solid rotation depth. A healthy Hyun-Jin Ryu will be extremely important as he will provide support behind Clayton Kershaw. A good problem the Dodgers have is the amount of arms they have available. Last season they were a little thin in the back end of the rotation, so adding a few quality pitchers is always a plus, especially with the bullpen being more of a weakness than a strength at this point.
3. The Outfield Situation
For the last several years, LA has had an issue with the amount of quality outfielders on their roster. At times it has served them well, being able to get through injuries without losing any offensive firepower. But it has also held back certain players at times from getting into a solid rhythm over the course of the season. With Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier figuring to both be on the roster when the season starts, it will be interesting to see how Dave Roberts mixes them in with Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Kike Hernandez, and Scott Van Slyke.
4. Will Young Stars Emerge?
Last season was supposed to be a breakout season for young outfielder Joc Pederson. While his first half earned him a start in the All-Star Game, he struggled throughout the second half and eventually dropped out of the starting lineup late in the season. Most people in the Dodger organization expect him to put it all together in 2016 and become the superstar he was expected to be going into last year. Shortstop Corey Seager is in a similar position this year. He is the #1 ranked prospect in the game according to Baseball America and showed flashes of greatness last year after being called up in September. If both Pederson and Seager can maximize their potential this year, the Dodgers could be on their way to something special.
5. The Yasiel Puig Factor
The last few seasons have been underwhelming for outfielder Yasiel Puig, who burst on the scene in 2013. Puig’s energy and production were crucial to the Dodgers making the Postseason that year. But he’s been very up and down since, dealing with injuries and slumps that get him visibly frustrated. As one of the most talented players in baseball, Puig could be the difference between the Dodgers being a championship contender or falling out of the race.
The Dodgers are going into 2016 as a contender in the National League, so having all of these keys go their way will be vital in order for them to meet the high expectations they’ve placed on themselves.