After Wednesday night’s win, the Dodgers have won four games in a row now. That followed a three-game losing streak, which was preceded by winning two straight games, which came after another four-game losing slide. In short, the Dodgers have been consistently inconsistent so far this year.
They’ll open up a three-game set with the Washington Nationals on Friday, who will be just one of two teams the Dodgers face with a winning record until May 21 st (the other being the Arizona Diamondbacks.) If they want to get back on the right track, they should probably take advantage of their schedule over the next month, when they play teams like San Diego, Miami, and Cincinnati multiple times. Here are some quick-hit Dodgers thoughts on this off-day:
Matt Kemp Can Still Hit
That shouldn’t really be news to anyone, but many still doubted Kemp’s ability coming into this year. He hit some big home runs in back-to-back games in San Diego, and along with Yasmani Grandal, he’s been the best hitter in the Dodgers’ lineup so far this year. I did an article on Kemp before the season started, you can check that out here. It talked about Kemp needing to be more patient at the plate. So far this year, he’s done that, and his offensive production has benefited. Kemp may not be the player he was back in 2011, but if he can continue to swing a hot bat, it should greatly boost a Dodgers offensive which has underachieved thus far, especially while being without Justin Turner for a bit longer.
What’s Wrong With Kenley?
I’m not sure who snagged #74 and started closing games for the Dodgers this year, but it sure doesn’t look like the Kenley Jansen we all have come to know. Kenley has struggled mightily so far. His ERA is a robust 8.10 and he’s already blown more Saves this year than he did all of last season. He walked his third batter of the year on Tuesday night. Last year, his third walk of the season didn’t come until July 24th. He gave up seven BB total in 2017 and is almost halfway to that mark two weeks into the 2018 season.
Batters are hitting him hard too. Opposing hitters’ hard contact percentage against Jansen is 38% so far this year, the highest it’s ever been (it was only 25.9% last year.) Jansen’s velocity has been down as well. The average velocity of his cutter this year is 91.9 mph, compared to 93.6 mph in 2017, and 94.2 mph in 2016. That’s probably a factor as to why batters are hitting him harder, although it doesn’t explain the lack of command. Jansen has insisted that he’s fine physically, and nothing is ailing him. Perhaps he’s still getting his feet under him after a slow spring. It’s still early in the year, and we’re still dealing with very small sample sizes here. Nonetheless, Kenley needs to get it together quickly for the Dodgers to have any sustained success.
Other Bullpen Woes
Staying on the bullpen topic, there’s a couple of weak links the Dodgers should be monitoring closely. Scott Alexander has not been the ground ball specialist the Dodgers had hoped for thus far and is walking far too many hitters. Wilmer Font just seems to get hit hard every time he takes the mound. The Dodgers have a variety of options down in OKC they could call upon if needed. Brock Stewart, Yimi Garcia, Pat Venditte, and Adam Liberatore (who was just called up after Rich Hill hit the DL) are just some of the players who’ve contributed at the big league level before, and who will likely get a shot at some point this year. So, the leash on Alexander may be getting a little shorter. The leash on Font should have probably been let go already.
Prospects Doing Well in the Minors
Speaking of minor league players, the Dodgers have some good ones who are performing really well early on. Andrew Toles, who many thought should have already been with the club out of spring training, was hitting the ball very well before he got hurt recently. He was placed on the DL last week with a pulled hamstring but should be back sometime soon. Before going down, Toles was hitting .462/.500/.731 with a 1.231 OPS in 26 AB… very nice! (Borat voice) Alex Verdugo has gotten off to a hot start as well. He’s hitting .340/.353/.580 with a .933 OPS and has clubbed 3 home runs already this year. The minor leagues cannot hold him much longer.
Then, of course, there’s Walker Buehler, who’s has a 2.08 and 16 K’s over three starts and 16 total innings. The Dodgers are allowing Buehler to pace himself down in OKC for a while, in hopes that when he gets called up to the Bigs, it will be for the rest of the year.
Those are just the players at the AAA level. The Dodgers have other prospects doing very well at other levels of the minors, including D.J Peters, Will Smith, Dennis Santana, Caleb Ferguson, and Connor Wong. The future still looks bright.
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