The Los Angeles Dodgers overhauled their front office this offseason, adding Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays and Farhan Zaidi from the Oakland Athletics. From there they proceeded to make several trades which reshaped their roster. Los Angeles goes into the 2015 season as the presumptive favorites in the National League West.
The Dodgers pitching staff is the best in baseball. Clayton Kershaw, the reigning NL MVP, frontlines the rotation. Kershaw is still just 26 years old, though he’s been the best hurler in baseball for several years now. Despite missing six starts with a back injury, he still hurled 198.1 innings with a remarkable 1.77 ERA. He posted career-best strikeout and walk rates of 31.9 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.
In his second campaign with the Dodgers, Zack Greinke was once again excellent. In 2014 he pitched to a 2.71 ERA and enjoyed a 25.2 percent strikeout rate, his top mark since 2011. He also walked just 5.2 percent of hitters, his lowest rate since his debut season of 2004. His swinging strike rate of 11.6 percent was a career-high. Greinke would be an ace on most teams, but on the Dodgers he’s overshadowed by Kershaw.
With a career ERA of 3.17, Hyun-Jin Ryu would profile as a No. 2. However, he’s the Dodgers third-best arm. After a solid debut season in 2013, the 27 year-old left-hander authored strikeout and walk rates of 22.0 percent and 4.6 percent last season. Ryu dealt with arm injuries which limited him to 152 innings, but when he’s healthy he’s a formidable opponent.
Brandon McCarthy, who the Dodgers signed to a four year deal this offseason, got roughed around with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He enjoyed a lot more success after being traded to the New York Yankees, and posted an xFIP of 2.87 which was one of the best in the major leagues. McCarthy boosted his average fastball velocity up to 93 miles per hour, an increase of two miles per hour from previous seasons. That helped him to produce career-best strikeout and groundball rates, and his walk rate was a minuscule 4.0 percent. Spacious Dodger Stadium should help with the home run problem he suffered in 2014. He projects as a solid rotation option, but if his fastball velocity sticks, he could be one of the better pitchers in baseball.
If the Dodgers have a weakness in their rotation, it’s depth. Josh Beckett retired after the season, and Dan Haren was traded away to the Miami Marlins. They signed Brett Anderson to a one-year deal, but the 26 year-old left-hander has struggled mightily with injuries over the last few seasons. He hasn’t made more than eight starts since 2011, and has made more than 19 starts just once in his career. Anderson is intriguing, but hardly an option to be relied on. The Dodgers option beyond Anderson are limited, and consist of journeyman Juan Nicasio, and minor league options such as Joe Wieland, Carlos Frias and Zach Lee.
The Dodgers are one of the best teams in baseball, and they have the sport’s premier rotation. Clayton Kershaw headlines the group, but there are plenty of strong arms behind him.