Justin Turner Wins 12th Annual Roy Campanella Award

The Dodgers announced on Monday afternoon that third baseman Justin Turner was named the winner of the 12th annual Roy Campanella Award. This honor is given to the Dodger player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher. The award, which was voted upon by Dodger uniformed personnel, will be presented to Turner by Campanella’s daughter, Joni Campanella Roan, and his grandson, Cary Bell, during pregame ceremonies on Tuesday night.

Turner, 32, was initially signed by the Dodgers as a non-roster free agent with an invitation to Spring Training prior to the 2014 season. Since then, JT has emerged as an All-Star on the field and a strong leader inside the clubhouse. Turner has led the National League in batting average for much of the season and currently ranks second in the league with both his .321 batting average and .414 on-base percentage, while playing elite defense in 114 games started at third base.

This season, the Long Beach native earned the final roster spot on the NL All-Star team through the “final vote,” garnering a record-setting 20.8 million votes online and via social media.

While setting an example for his teammates to follow on the field, Turner has been just as impressive as a leader in the community, which this year culminated in his being named the Dodgers’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.

Turner, who was nominated by his teammates for the MLB Player Association’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award last year, frequently makes community appearances on behalf of the team and often schedules his own visits to Cedars-Sinai Hospital to spend time with patients and to the Los Angeles Dream Center – a nonprofit that assists homeless families with residential, foster care, medical, life skills and other services. He also has his own foundation, the Justin Turner Foundation, which focuses on helping homeless veterans, children and families battling life-changing illnesses, and military little league baseball and softball.

When Turner signed a four-year contract to stay in Los Angeles this winter, he helped counsel All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, who eventually committed to staying with the Dodgers for five years. When the pair met with the media together after signing their deals, Jansen had this to say about the 2017 Roy Campanella Award winner:

“To have me and Justin back here, it kind of sets a tone for the young guys to kind of see how the process goes,” Jansen said. “Justin signed here on a minor league deal and became a star. Me, being a catcher who failed and then becoming one of the best closers, for the young guys to see that, I think it will help us a lot to win a championship.”

Added Dodger manager Dave Roberts during the season, “J.T. is the epitome of what we’re trying to do going forward, the type of baseball player he is, what he stands for. Those are the guys you win with.”

Roy Campanella was a three-time National League Most Valuable Player in the early 1950’s, eight-time All-Star and a member of the 1955 World Championship team. He played in five World Series and his 142 RBI in 1953 set a franchise record, since surpassed by Tommy Davis. In 1,215 career games during a 10-year career, all with the Dodgers, he batted .276 with 242 home runs and 856 RBI.

Former Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal received the inaugural Roy Campanella Award in 2006, and since then the honor has been awarded to Russell Martin in 2007, James Loney in 2008, Juan Pierre in 2009, Jamey Carroll in 2010, Matt Kemp in 2011, A.J. Ellis in 2012, Clayton Kershaw in both 2013 and 2014, Zack Greinke in 2015 and Chase Utley in 2016.

(Joe Jareck provided the majority of information furnished in this report)

 

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Dodgers Playoff Roster Notes: Adrián González, Joc Pederson, Kyle Farmer & More

The Dodgers have finally clinched the division, and are one win away from reaching 100 wins this season. Their PECOTA projections was 98 wins, so in that respect they have exceeded expectations. What was not expected, however, is the makeup of the roster heading into the playoffs.

The core group is there, of course. Clayton Kershaw will be the game one starter. Corey Seager and Justin Turner will be anchoring the left side of the infield. Yasiel Puig will be in right ( he and Dave Roberts will work out whatever issues they are dealing with right now, I’m sure of it. Something would have to be incredibly egregious to not have the best right fielder in the National League at his position). Other than that, one would not have been able to foresee who would be manning the other positions.

Behind the plate, Yasmani Grandal would have no doubt been the starter through the playoffs with Austin Barnes just being the backup. But between Grandal’s horrid slump and Barnes’ solid play, it could very well be a righty/lefty matchup behind the plate. Barnes has played so well everywhere, that it could be that Kyle Farmer makes the playoff roster, to have to ability to use Barnes at second. Grandal has started to turn things around behind the plate lately, and I hope it continues. The team is better when his bat drops are a big part of the lineup.

At first base, it will be Cody Bellinger and not Adrian Gonzalez. It still remains to be seen if Gonzalez will even make the first round roster because of the injury to his back. AGon had never been on the disabled list prior to the season, and now hasn’t played the majority of the year. Bellinger was just hoping for a September call-up, and now has broken the NL rookie home run record, and has a very good chance to hit 40. It will be sad not to see the Butter and Egg man out there playing, but he will be behind the scenes helping the other players in any way that he can.

The Dodgers traded for Logan Forsythe during the offseason, and re-signed Chase Utley. More offense was expected from Forsythe, and I don’t know if anyone can quite put their finger on what could be the issue there. Although again, he, like Yasmani, seems to be on the upswing at the right time. Utley, affectionately dubbed “Granddad” by people on Dodgers Twitter, could be used in platoons with Forsythe, and still remains a formidable bat off the bench.

The outfield is the most surprising to myself, though. The year started with Chris Taylor in Triple-A, primarily he didn’t play the outfield. Fast forward to the end of the season, and he will be the starting center fielder in the playoffs, batting leadoff. Who could have possibly seen that coming? Andrew Toles‘ unfortunate injury started it off, and through bad play of other players, Taylor garnered more and more chances to prove himself, and has done a fine job of it.

Injuries make sense as a reason someone different is starting at certain positions. Joc Pederson possibly not starting the playoffs in centerfield is a little different, though. Joc has seen flashes of brilliance with the bat, but hasn’t quite gotten it all together. After a truly sub-par season offensively, a great deal of tinkering with his swing, and a stint in Triple-A, Joc is back with the team, but is not starting full regularly. Pederson defensively is the best center fielder the Dodgers have, but if his bat doesn’t improve he will find himself not on the roster at all, and Curtis Granderson in left.

Granderson is not such a surprise, in that who he is as a player and person is exactly what the front office looks for. Exemplary character both on and off the field. He’s not as great defensively as maybe he once was, and he has not hit well since he has arrived in Los Angeles. Like with Forsythe and Grandal, maybe he’s on the upswing offensively? Hopefully?

Andre Ethier is back to playing again, sooner than he did last year. Could he be in left and Taylor in center? So many interesting possibilities, and so many veteran, clutch hitters to have on the bench.

As far as pitching goes, there are none more surprising than Alex Wood and Yu Darvish. Wood had an incredible first half, after starting the season in the bullpen, so much so that he made the All-Star team. He has regressed a little in the second half, but has worked on his mechanics and velocity to where he is back to being dominate. There has been chatter about moving him back to the bullpen for the playoffs, but I don’t think you can find a better number four pitcher on another staff.

Darvish was the last minute acquisition at the trade deadline that all the fans were clammering for. The right-hander is a good compliment to the left hands of Clayton Kershaw, Wood and Rich Hill. This addition also makes it possible for Kenta Maeda and/or Hyun-Jin Ryu to be used out of the bullpen in the playoffs. Both could be quite formidable coming in for longer relief if needed.

Speaking of relief pitchers, Waker Buehler, the Dodgers’ number one pitching prospect, made his way from Single-A to consideration of being on the postseason roster in just one calendar year. That in itself is no small feat.

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that there could be a starter in the playoffs at first, left, center and behind the plate other than whom everyone was expecting, I don’t know if I would have believed you. Maybe one or two, possibly. We’re all aware of the injuries that have plagued this team in last years. But here we are. Oh, and still with a record higher than was projected, and the best record in all of the majors. I’d take all that, even if you told me there was a major slide somewhere there in the season. Still better than all the other teams, still a great bench, still winning the division. It doesn’t matter where the season goes, as long as you get to the goal in the end.

(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)

 

A Quick Glance at the National League Cy Young Picture

With a little over a week’s worth of games remaining on the regular season schedule, the race for the National League Cy Young Award appears to be completely up for grabs, as this year’s BBWAA voting is sure to spark plenty of controversy among followers of the game everywhere.

If there is a slight favorite in the eyes of the fans, it’s Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Scherzer is on the verge of his fifth-straight 200-inning season, and leads the senior circuit far and away with 253 strikeouts. He has a 0.91 WHIP, which also leads NL starters, and his 6.6 WAR and 2.59 ERA both rank second in the league. Despite his relatively solid peripherals, the 33-year-old righty only has 15 wins at the moment, which may cost him a good portion of votes, especially those from the writers who weigh more importance on the traditional statistics. Scherzer, who already has won the award once in both leagues, is making a bid for his third Cy Young Award—his second with the Nationals.

Gio Gonzalez, also a member of the star-studded rotation of the Nationals, actually has a better WAR than Scherzer at 6.9. He has the same number of wins, and nearly the same number of innings pitched as Scherzer. Gonzalez also has a very respectable 2.68 ERA, which ranks third in the National League. His 1.15 WHIP ranks fifth, but the fact that he has struck out only 179 batters over 191-2/3 innings may slightly harm his chances in the eyes of the voters.

Continuing along in the Washington rotation, next we come upon 29-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg. The San Diego State product has put together a 14-4 record with a 2.68 ERA—identical to that of Gonzalez, accompanied by 196 strikeouts, a 1.04 WHIP and a 5.8 WAR. If there’s one stat that could potentially hurt Strasburg in the voting, though, it’s the fact that he has 167-1/3 innings under his belt, which is about 30 less than both Gonzalez and Scherzer.

Ranking right up there with the Washington trio is Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks. At 17 wins, he has more than any of the Nationals’ candidates, and his 211 strikeouts and 1.04 WHIP rank second and fourth in the league, respectively. His 6.1 WAR ranks third in the league right behind Gonzalez and Scherzer, but his 3.18 ERA has recently been trending downward, and presently ranks sixth in the NL among all qualified starters. On Friday evening against the Marlins, Greinke’s ERA rose a few more ticks, as he surrendered eight earned runs on nine hits—including three long balls—in an even four innings of work.

The ace of the Dodgers’ staff, Clayton Kershaw, perennially appears in the conversation for the award, and 2017 is no different, despite missing a little over five weeks with a herniated disk in his back. Despite the injury, Kersh leads all qualified NL starters with a 2.26 ERA, and is tied with Greinke for first in wins with 17. His 0.91 WHIP is second only to Scherzer, and although his 10.71 K/9 ranks third, his 194 strikeouts rank ninth, resulting from his absence. He’s been a little murky as of late, having surrendered nine earned runs on 18 hits in 15-2/3 innings of work over his last three starts.

One final name sure to garner a high number of top-ten votes is Kershaw’s teammate, Kenley Jansen. His 40 saves rank second in the National League, but more importantly his 1.36 ERA and 0.74 WHIP are astronomically low. His 14.32 K/9 destroys the mark of any of the starters we discussed, and what’s even more impressive is the fact that he’s walked just seven batters in an even 66 innings of work.

For those keeping track of all the latest stats in real time, Scherzer is on the bump on Sunday afternoon for the Nationals against the Mets in New York, while Kershaw is seeking his league-leading 18th victory against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

Dave Roberts Hopes to Restore Team Continuity During Stretch Run

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With eight games now remaining in the regular season, Dodgers‘ skipper Dave Roberts hinted to the media on Friday that he will revert to using the best possible lineups down the stretch run of the schedule, indicating that the most important matter is getting into a consistent pattern of playing good baseball, as there will be enough time for players to rest between the season finale and the beginning of the NLDS on October 6.

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Dodgers Clinch Fifth Straight National League West Title

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With a win over the Giants on Friday evening, the Dodgers clinched the 2017 National League West Division Championship. It’s the Dodgers’ fifth straight and 16th overall NL West title, as the club reached the postseason in five consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.

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Several Reasons to Stay Optimistic as Postseason Approaches

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It’s been a rather depressing end of summer for Dodgers fans, as the Boys in Blue couldn’t quite get much going through the end of August and the month of September. But today the Northern Hemisphere turns to autumn, and the Dodgers will be celebrating Clinchmas, and hopefully those losing days will fall behind them.

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Dodgers 2017 Playoff Roster Projections: First Edition

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

As there’s still the matters of wrapping up the division, vying for home-field advantage, and putting together some much-needed continuity inside the final nine games of the regular season, many fans of the Dodgers can’t help but look ahead and wonder which players will be called upon for the 25-man roster when the postseason arrives in just a few short weeks.

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Better Playoff Roster Option: Kenta Maeda or Hyun-Jin Ryu?

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Among the minds of many fans of the Dodgers, there seems to be the speculation that there are quite a few auditions currently being held for spots on the prospective NLDS roster. Yet, outside of perhaps one or two last minute decisions, the roster is probably close to being solidified—at least in the eyes of the management crew. One of the final contemplations, however, will be trying to figure out how to put the finishing touches on the bullpen, which could very well boil down to the inclusion of either Kenta Maeda or Hyun-Jin Ryu.

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Kershaw and Jansen Will Lead Dodgers in the Playoffs, but They Can’t Win by Themselves

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(Mandatory Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

Clayton Kershaw. Everybody knows that name. It’s a name that is often followed by these words: “The Best Pitcher on the Planet.” I agree with that statement, and not just because I’m a fan of the Dodgers. I agree with it because it just makes sense. People often say that Kershaw has the potential to be the best pitcher baseball has ever seen, all he needs to do is win a World Series. The Dodgers have as good of a chance at a championship this year than they ever have before.

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Dodgers Prospects: An In-Depth Conversation with Dennis Santana

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(Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Davis)

For those of you who follow the farm system of the Dodgers closely, you’ll know that the Double-A Tulsa Drillers had one of their best seasons in recent history. Anchored by the Texas League batting champ and MVP Matt Beaty, coupled with some of the best pitchers in the entire organization, the Drillers came up just one game short of bringing home their first league championship in 19 seasons.

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