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Sizing Up the Competition for 2015: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

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The Arizona Diamondbacks certainly have their work cut out for them this season. The World Champions are in the same division along with a tough club from Los Angeles, who are the reigning N.L. West Champions. Add to it a Padres nine that have aggressively gone out and made a few blockbuster deals to become very competitive has certainly “turned up the heat” in an increasingly tough division in baseball.

So, for this article we’ll take a look at the reigning N.L. West Division Champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers came off of a great year, recording a 94-68 season, with a season highlight on April 30th, picking up the club’s 10,000th win since joining the National League in 1890.

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Obviously the starting rotation, with the enormous one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke led the way for a club whose staff ERA was a modest 3.40. Kershaw led the club with 21 wins, 239 strike outs and an anemic 1.77 ERA over the course of the season. With the depth-chart for the Los Angeles Dodgers remaining the same, it looks certain that the starting pitching for the Dodgers nine will give the Arizona Diamondbacks hitters plenty of headaches.

Offensively speaking, the Dodgers lost some spark this year with Matt Kemp leaving for San Diego.

The offensive spark plug of the Dodgers is OF Yasiel Puig. If he cant cut down on the strikeouts, then he should be a prolific offensive player in the Major Leagues He seems to make a highlight reel play every game, and you never know what your going to get with him on a nightly basis.

Also, enter the potential drama for a Spring Training battle between Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly put his opinion on a potential battle for the center field job and any drama by saying “I never expect Andre to be a problem. He’s always been a professional. I think you have a understanding when a guy isn’t happy, not playing as much as he wanted to last year. I understand that. He was a pro about it,” Mattingly said. “We didn’t have a problem last year, I don’t think we’ll have a problem this year. If there is, we’ll just talk about it and deal with it.”

Sure, each club has its rumored position battles, and fair share of drama. Also keep in mind that it’s unlikely that Crawford will play 162 games. What might be in doubt is Either’s offensive production. Last season he played in 130 games, but only hit a weak .249/.322/.370 while in center field. FanGraphs projects Ethier won’t do much better this season, only picking up his batting average by a slim four points to .264. I’m sure the Dodgers are worried about offensive production.

Another worry for the Dodger’s front office is the age of their infield. The average age for all four players is 31. First baseman Adrian Gonzales is 32. Second baseman Howie Kendrick is 31. Third baseman Juan Uribe is 35, while Short Stop Jimmy Rollins is the “old man” of the group at 36. This could help the Arizona Diamondbacks on a a few close calls, but not many.

If the Dodgers are going to score a lot of runs, then there going to have to get big years from Gonzalez and Puig. Then there is Joc Pederson. The Dodgers are hoping that he can take the next step and become an everyday major league player.

The ZiPS projections have been out for a few weeks, and it looks like the Dodgers will do quite well behind the pitching of Kershaw, who is projected to go 212 innings pitched, while striking out 238 batters for a respectable 2.17 ERA. ZiPS also projects strong offensive production for Carl Crawford, hitting .278 in center field.

Considering that their pitching staff is healthy, and will return relatively unchanged this season, I think the Diamondbacks have a major concern here. They have to find a way to compete with the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks have a pitching staff that can stay competitive and hang in on close games provided that the offense jumps on the Dodgers starting pitchers to get whatever runs possible early. I think this will be a key to victory this season – getting ahead in the count and jumping on an opposing pitcher early. Anything else doesn’t favor the Diamondbacks.

I think there’s some solid clubs in the N.L. West this season. I also think this year could be the most competitive that we’ve seen in quite some time. The baseball fan inside me can’t wait.

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