As we inch ever closer to the start of spring training and wait to see what the Dodgers‘ front office will do, I thought I’d take an early look at what storylines will be worth watching in the 2019 season.
Catcher—I think, first and foremost, what’s in most fans’ minds is who besides Austin Barnes will be behind the plate. Unless the Dodgers somehow pull off a stunner of a deal with the Marlins, it won’t be J.T. Realmuto. It could be Francisco Cervelli, perhaps, or it could just be Barnes and Rocky Gale. Or, it could be Barnes and Gale until the trade deadline. A surprise catcher may be acquired. Who knows?
Pitching—There are a couple of storylines here. Will the starting rotation be able to maintain its health throughout the year? This problem has plagued the Dodgers in every season in recent memory, especially in the case of Clayton Kershaw.
Speaking of Kershaw, will this be his last season as Ace of the team? Or will Walker Buehler end up taking over that mantle sooner rather than later? Also, how will Kershaw deal with all the issues he’s had in the past few years—his back, his declining fastball, and his postseason issues?
With Alex Wood now a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, the rotation is Kershaw, Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda, in some order. Where, if anywhere, does Julio Urias fit into that rotation? Probably starting the year in Oklahoma City, as Dennis highlighted here, working those innings back up. But it will be fun to watch the young pitcher finally have a full, healthy season.
And, as I’m hesitant to put this out into the world, Kenley Jansen‘s health must always be something to keep an eye on. I, for one, am glad that Joe Kelly will be there who help in case he has some setbacks.
Second base—The last free agent that the Dodgers were said to be looking at, DJ LeMehieu, reportedly is signing the New York Yankees. But that’s not really a loss—Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez will handle the time at the keystone just fine. The Dodgers definitely have bigger worries.
The Return of Old Friends—Dodger fans have lost Matt Kemp before, and he will he warmly greeted, especially after his comeback year last season. Yasmani Grandal, who just signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, may not be greeted so warmly, as most fresh in Dodger fans’ minds is the many passed balls in the postseason. But Yasiel Puig was a most beloved member of the Dodgers, and will be greeted with the most enthusiasm. And I have no doubt he’ll pop off some homers in his return to Dodger Stadium.
The front office has a plan, and while they don’t need to expose it to the fan base and the world, fans are getting restless with the lack of moves. Every other contender has made upgrades to make themselves serious contenders, and the Dodgers seem content to stand pat. While they are good enough to win the NL West, are they good enough to win it all? That is the most interesting thing of all to watch.