Dodgers Thoughts: Missing Opening Day

There is a sense of sadness over the world Thursday, and not just from the Coronavirus. That’s not to downplay the worldwide pandemic, because nothing at this point in time is more important or worthy of our thoughts and actions. (Stay home!)

But today, Thursday March 26th, was to be Opening Day for baseball, the best unofficial holiday there is. In normal times, it is the day we look forward to the most. It signifies so much more than just the start of a new season – every team has a fresh slate. Every team has a chance. The dreams and wonder of what is yet to come. The anticipation of walk-offs, stolen bases and bat flips. Beating division rivals, monster home runs and that filthy strike out by your closer to end the game.

Sports have taken up such a huge part of our lives that we set our internal calendar by them. Late August and early September are celebrated by the start of football season. Late fall brings hockey and basketball. But nothing is as special as Opening Day in baseball. Timed perfectly with the beginning of Spring, it offers all of the best yet to come.

In times of need, sports have always been there. Indeed they were delayed for awhile after 9/11, deservedly so. But they came back and helped the country heal some, or at the very least, provide a distraction. When the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl a few years after Hurricane Katrina, the joy was a culmination of all of the hurt, despair and pain the city had endured, and gave them all something to celebrate.

Now when we need them most, sports are not there for us to consume and disappear into. With what is going on, they absolutely should not be – the safety of everyone is paramount. Across all of sports, athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, and if they were to continue it would only make the situation so much worse.

Major League Baseball has been busy trying to figure out when and if baseball will return this season. At this point, the earliest arrival of baseball to our lives would be early June, after another two weeks of resumed Spring Training. However the more likely scenario at this point seems like it would be July.

When the season would end is also up for debate. Some have a shortened regular season ending in October, with the playoffs going through November. Some have the full season being played, with the World Series being played at Christmas. I personally can’t say I like that scenario. The weather around the country couldn’t possibly support baseball going that late into winter. In that same vein, a neutral site scenario has also been discussed, with the World Series being played in Miami or some other warm weather city.

Whatever happens, to me, the worst part is the uncertainty. I completely understand why MLB cannot at this point say if or when the season will start. But having a definitive day to look forward to might help the situation- an event to look forward to while we are all distancing ourselves from friends, family and work.

Like spring, baseball, and all other sports, will return again. We will talk of the time of quarantine with gratefulness that we survived and came out the other side and hope that we never have to go through that again.

In the meantime, we can re-watch old games, read books about baseball, and daydream of when it will be back in our lives again for real. This too shall pass, even if it’s going to take a whole lot longer than any of us would like. In the meantime, I will leave you with the wonderful story from Tim Brown’s article today in Yahoo Sports, in which Clayton Kershaw describes his favorite Opening Day ever:

In the words of Kershaw, I hope we never have to do this again.

 

Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Closer Look at Andy Pages

When we put together a story about MLB Pipeline‘s new prospect rankings for 2020 a few weeks back, we noted how the list for the Dodgers contained quite a few new faces, specifically a new crop of youngsters that seemingly created yet another exciting wave of farmhands.

On that list was 19-year-old outfielder Andy Pages, making his Top 30 team debut as the organization’s 14th best prospect.

Coincidentally, the list appeared about a month after it appeared Pages would no longer be a part of the Los Angeles organization. Just when the Mookie Betts blockbuster deal was coming to a head in early February, there was a supposed deal to quickly follow that would see Pages, outfielder Joc Pederson and swing man Ross Stripling traded to the Angels for a package centered around infielder Luis Rengifo.

While some did not understand the logic of the deal with Anaheim, others felt it was a salary dump to keep the Dodgers under the 2020 Luxury Tax after adding the salary of Betts and about half of David Price‘s remaining contract.

Regardless, the deal eventually fell through, and Pages remains in the Los Angeles system for the near future. It’s a good thing, though, because the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder may have some of the best raw tools in the organization.

The righty hitting Pages agreed to terms with the Dodgers as an international free agent in October of 2018 for a $300,000 signing bonus.

According to Baseball America, Pages was one of the top hitters in his age group in Cuba. In the country’s 15U league in 2015, he hit .364/.484/.581 with 25 walks and just three strikeouts over 161 plate appearances, ranking third in the league in slugging percentage. He played the 2016 season as a 16-year-old in the much more mature 18U league, hitting .248/.384/.376 in 129 plate appearances, with his three home runs tied for second in the league.

Ben Badler opined that “Pages’ bat is his best tool. He has an efficient swing and good hand-eye coordination, leading to a high contact rate in games with average power.”

Upon signing with the Dodgers, Pages arrived stateside with enough time to appear in 10 games with the Arizona League Dodgers after hitting .236/.393/.486 with nine homers and nine stolen bases in 42 games in the 2018 Dominican Summer League.

Playing exclusively for the Ogden Raptors in short-season Rookie league last year, the Cuba native slashed an impressive .298/.398/.651 with 22 doubles and 19 long balls over 63 games.

As stated by MLB Pipeline, “Pages has an advanced understanding of his right-handed swing and how to create bat speed and use his leverage to generate well-above-average raw power. Though he had a 28 percent strikeout rate in 2019, Los Angeles is confident he’ll make enough contact to damage because he has a sound right-handed swing and is an intelligent hitter. He needs to clean up his plate discipline and perhaps tone down his leg kick.”

Additionally, “Pages offers one of the best combinations of strength and speed in the system, though he’ll probably settle in as more of average runner once he’s physically mature. His instincts help him cover ground in center field and may allow him to stay there in the long term. He easily profiles in right field with his power and an arm that earns plus-plus grades from some evaluators.”

As it stands, there’s no telling how the 2020 minor league season will play out, if there turns out to be a season at all. However, once the Los Angeles farm kicks back into gear at some point down the road, Pages will be certain to continue his rapid climb through the system.

 

Remembering the 2014 Opening Day Roster

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With the existing viral pandemic not appearing to be improving, coupled with the fact that most players have left their respective spring camp locations completely, Opening Day 2020 isn’t even on the radar for pretty much anyone associated with the game of baseball.

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Start of 2020 Regular Season Could Be Delayed Longer Than Expected

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Not much news emerged out of Camelback Ranch on Friday, but one bit of information that surfaced was something we began to fear on Thursday evening—the start of the regular season will likely run past the delay that the MLB front office initially anticipated.

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Dodgers News: MLB Suspends Spring Training, Delays Start of Regular Season

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(AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

In a move many fans feared might happen, today Major League Baseball announced that Spring Training has been halted, and that the start of the season has been moved back at least two weeks to April 8th while worries about the coronavirus abound.

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Dodgers 26-Man Roster: Exactly How Good Is the Bullpen Depth?

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(Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

As we’ve been talking about the prospective Opening Day roster for quite some time now, there’s no doubt the bullpen is an area of the team which may not be solidified until the final days of camp.

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MLB Pipeline Ranks Dodgers’ Farm System Third-Best in Baseball

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(MiLB.com photo)

Not long after MLB Pipeline released its annual player rankings for each team last week, the overall league rankings were issued a few days later with the Dodgers netting the third place spot.

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Dodgers News: Catching Depth, Opening Day Starter Announcement & More

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As Dennis stated in his column yesterday, we are now halfway through Cactus League play. The Dodgers will open their season Thursday, March 26 at home against the San Francisco Giants.

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Dodgers 2020 Cactus League Play: Who’s Hot & Who’s Not at the Halfway Point

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(Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

For the Dodgers, Saturday’s 7-1 victory over the Rockies marked the exact halfway point of the 2020 Cactus League season. While some folks don’t put an overwhelming amount of importance on either individual or team performances during spring games, others still like to peek at the overall stats just to get an idea where the numbers are trending.

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More Thoughts About Left Field

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(Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

While most of the team progress surrounding the Dodgers so far this spring has been optimistically steady, one of the most frequent topics of conversation has been the nagging side injury of Joc Pederson and how it may affect the dynamics of the Opening Day roster.

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