With pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch for the start of Spring Training in 10 days, the Los Angeles Dodgers on track to enter the 2016 season with much of the same roster from last year.
Of course, there’s the noteworthy loss of Zack Greinke to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and tweaks in the bullpen and at shortstop. Returning the same group can certainly be viewed in a positive and negative light.
On the one hand, the Dodgers won a third consecutive National League West division title last season for the first time in franchise history. They also posted a third straight season of at least 90 wins for the first time since 1976-78.
However, Los Angeles failed to advance beyond the NL Division Series a second year in a row. That being said, their regular-season success was achieved despite a slew of injuries.
Yasiel Puig was chief among the players who suffered injury and never quite found a rhythm at the plate; multiple hamstring strains limited Puig to a career-low 79 games. He’s spent the offseason shedding weight with the hope it will lend to better health this season.
In an interview with ESPN’s Hannah Storm, Dodgers part owner Magic Johnson gave his optimistic assessment of the team, and called Puig a linchpin for the club’s success in 2016:
“We feel we have a really good team and have a chance to go all the way to the World Series. Even without Zack (Greinke). I love Zack, wish Zack was back with us, but he’s not. Our team is solid. Clayton (Kershaw) at the top, (Hyun-Jin) Ryu if he can come back strong from his injury, he’s going to really make our starting pithing staff formidable. But, the key will be Puig. If he can perform at the level we saw a couple of years ago, I think we’re going to go to the World Series and have a chance to win it all.”
Upon making his Major-League debut in June 2013, Puig hit .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs, 21 doubles and 42 RBIs over 104 games, while also providing an electric arm in right field. Puig’s production dipped in 2014, though he was named to his first career All-Star Game, and also participated in the Home Run Derby.
Despite a down 2015 season in which Puig hit .255/.322/.436 with 11 home runs, 38 RBIs, .328 wOBA, 111 wRC+, 66 strikeouts and 22 walks in 311 plate appearances, he reportedly drew trade interest from the Chicago White Sox.
However, the Dodgers have maintained their stance of sticking by their dynamic outfielder with the belief the club is in better position to succeed with Puig on the roster.