The Payoff Pitch: 3/17/2016

Andy Van Slyke is still a Dodger and still looking for more at-bats. (Photo by Joe T.)

Andy Van Slyke is still a Dodger and still looking for more at-bats. (Photo by Joe T.)

Los Angeles Dodgers

Last Year: 92-70, 1st in NL West

Key Addition: AJ Ellis (Addition by not subtraction)

Key Loss: Aroldis Chapman, trade cancelled

Outlook: The Dodgers off-season was bad, they lost Greinke and Chapman and everyone else they pursued. The Dodgers depth is a strength. The Dodgers still have the highest payroll.

The Dodger narrative is oft-told and well known. But, as Benchwarmers, we had a different view of the game than everyone else, so we plan to offer a different view of everything than what others have to give.

The Dodger offseason? Not as bad as everyone says. The reason lies behind the two overlooked aspects of the Dodger offseason. First, the Dodgers avoided the bad free agent contracts that have plagued them in the past (here’s looking at you, Ned). Second, the Dodgers signed the veteran leader types, such as Ellis, Chase Utley and Howie Kendrick, that they let go of in years past, such as Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Mark Ellis. The Dodgers were also active in the trade market, garnering Trayce Thompson and Frankie Montas, two pieces that will be valuable to the Dodgers, either as contributors or trade pieces.

The depth, on the other hand, might be worrisome. The rotation will have as many established starters as the DL at the start of the season, and the immediate potential seat fillers are somewhat uninspiring. News broke recently that Corey Seager will miss two weeks of spring training, leaving a void at shortstop. Kike Hernandez will spend the bulk of the time there, but there is little else. The Dodgers do have depth… in the OF, at the corner infield spots, and at catcher and second base. The issue is the current injuries and need happen to be at none of these spots.

With all the focus on what the Dodgers DON’T have, it’s important to note what the Dodgers DO have. The team may not lead the NL in home runs and on-base percent again, but the offense will be just as strong, if not stronger. Joc Pederson will have a year under his belt, Yasiel Puig looks like he finally mastered the offseason, and Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke and Carl Crawford should fall into well defined roles. Adrian Gonzalez has been a beacon of consistency for the Dodgers while it’s not a stretch to think Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner can have duplicate seasons from a year ago. Ellis and Grandal will be back ad healthy, and, of course, there will be a full year of Corey Seager manning short.

The pitching is less than stellar, but the Dodgers still have Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jensen. Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, and the return of Hyun-jin Ryu give the Dodgers a solid, if unspectacular, rotation that can always be upgraded via trades. The bullpen, which returns lefty strongmen J.P. Howell and Luis Avilan, can only get better (we hope). Chapman would have immediately given the Dodgers a formidable back end to the bullpen, but the bet here is the Dodgers’ pen will show improvement over last year’s struggles.

Best Benchwarmer: Enrique “Kike” Hernandez, Util. Although technically a starter at this point, the reality is Kike will return to his super sub role as soon as Seager is healthy. In the spirit of March Madness, Kike is the Monmouth Bench of baseball benchwarmers. In fact, he was the Monmouth bench before the Monmouth Bench was the Monmouth Bench (side note: they should be in the tournament). His character, antics, and overall likeability are the catalyst to the chemistry that was lacking for the Dodgers in previous years. We highly recommend following the rally banana on Twitter or Instagram- it will be worth your while.

Prediction: The actually good offseason and questionable depth provide a great snapshot for the Dodger franchise. This year has the potential to be a “down” year- it’s likely they will be in a dogfight for a playoff spot, and after using Kershaw in their first playoff game, will face an uphill battle for a World Series, the rest of the way. But, with a plan in place and the front office’s firm grasp on the heartbeat of the franchise, the Dodgers will be setting themselves up for success for years to come.

Final Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL West (Wild Card) – NLDS loss

Next week we’ll continue with part five of our five-part series previewing each NL West team and predicting their fate for the 2016 season.

Those Bench Warmers are Derek Cheng (on twitter @DCheng110), Rob Diaz (@_RobJoc) and Riley Saxon (@coachrileysaxon). They enjoyed their time on the bench during their playing days and produce a weekly Youtube show on Tuesdays. Those Benchwarmers can be reached by email at thosebenchwarmers@gmail.com or on twitter @warming_benches.

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