SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — This is a team we should be quite familiar with, considering the Cubs and Dodgers played 13 times last year, seven in the regular season and six in the NLCS. (The Cubs won eight of the 13 games, including the last three really important ones.)
So you don’t really need me to tell you that Clayton Kershaw, healthy again, is probably the best pitcher on the planet, and the Dodgers have several other good starters behind him: Rich Hill (amazing at age 37), Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias, who won’t turn 21 until August. Their bullpen is anchored by Kenley Jansen, who tested free agency before signing a multi-year deal to return to Los Angeles.
So we know the Dodgers will be pretty good at preventing runs. Last year they were fifth-best in the league, even missing Kershaw for about a third of the season.
How about the offense? The only real change here is the addition of Logan Forsythe, who was acquired by trade from the Rays for pitching prospect Jose De Leon. Forsythe is a good hitter, but probably only a marginal upgrade over what Chase Utley gave L.A. last year. And Utley’s still around to back up Forsythe.
Andrew Toles, who played some left field for the Dodgers last year, will likely be the full-time left fielder with the departure of Howie Kendrick. Toles was quite the base stealer in the minor leagues, but stole only one base in 48 big-league games last year.
And Corey Seager, whose outstanding rookie season got him named N.L. Rookie of the Year, can only get better. Like Kris Bryant after his RoY season, Seager is a legitimate MVP candidate.
Note to Dave Roberts: Please, please get Pedro Baez to work faster. Thank you.
There were quite a number of baseball writers over the offseason who pronounced the Dodgers the best team in baseball. They could very well be right; the Cubs are about the only team that could give them a run for that. The Dodgers have won the N.L. West four years in a row, winning at least 91 games each of those years, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they won’t do that again in 2017, as long as they stay healthy.
And as such, we all have great anticipation for the Cubs’ home opener this year, which will not only be a celebration of the World Series win, but to face the Dodgers again. They will be at Wrigley for a three-game series that night, April 10, then two more games April 12 and 13. The Cubs’ only visit to Dodger Stadium this year is May 26-27-28.
So that’s interesting in and of itself — the complete season series between the teams finished before Memorial Day. It seems quite possible they’ll meet again in October.