4 things we learned from Dodgers' spring

March 16th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers paused Spring Training in pretty much the same shape as they started, which was as good an outcome as could be expected.

Except for manageable injuries to outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Dustin May, Los Angeles headed home generally healthy and eager to resume with a loaded roster in a weak division.

Here are four takeaways from their five weeks in Arizona:

The Trade
Still stinging from last October’s elimination, coming to grips with the sign-stealing scandal and frustrated with no major acquisitions, the Dodgers rewrote the downbeat narrative with a February blockbuster that brought and to town. Betts immediately made an impact in the clubhouse, challenging his new teammates not to settle for just an eighth division title. While Betts’ bat at the top of the order was disappointing in Cactus League games, he gives the Dodgers a second MVP in the outfield to flank Cody Bellinger. Price, eight years after his Cy Young Award win, appeared to be healthier than expected coming off left wrist surgery. He should settle into the No. 3 starter role behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. That makes for a star-studded top of the rotation in an overmatched division. And in the sidebar trade, the Dodgers almost can’t believe how good reliever Brusdar Graterol looks for someone that throws an effortless 100-mph fastball but somehow failed the same physical exam that Alex Verdugo passed.

The Driveline bandwagon
Yes, even Kershaw made the trek to Kent, Wash., the hub of the data-driven pitching revolution. In his first spring start, Kershaw’s fastball topped at 93 mph, offering hope that with a healthier body and a better understanding of its functioning, he can improve on a 2019 that was already pretty good. Kenley Jansen is also a Driveline convert as he tries to recapture his cutter, as is Alex Wood, looking awfully healthy after making only seven starts last year. Add Joe Kelly to the Driveline list, as he seeks to better understand how his slender frame generates high velocity but also resulted in last year’s late fade. And that’s just the Los Angeles pitchers we know about. The staff fanaticism led the Dodgers to hire 24-year-old Driveline guru Rob Hill as a pitching coordinator.

Is the bullpen a strength?
That’s what manager Dave Roberts has been insisting, and he ticks off the assets -- a revitalized Jansen, a workhorse Pedro Báez, a healthy Kelly, Blake Treinen bouncing back, the versatile Ross Stripling, an emerging Dennis Santana, depth from Dylan Floro. And from the left side, Caleb Ferguson with a new slider and improved curve, a healthy Scott Alexander after left hand surgery and sidearmer Adam Kolarek. On paper, another loaded department.

Most improved
Remember ? Rookie of the Year, two-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger? He’s back. Last year’s version wasn’t whole, still on the rebound from right elbow and hip operations that ruined his 2018 season. The Seager on display this spring was different, healthy, ready to play every day and stronger than at any point last year. He also sounds more confident in his body, and it showed on the field.