Know Your Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers

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Mar 30, 2015; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Brett Anderson (35) throws during the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Part one of our preseason look at the Rockies’ opponents in the NL West begins with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Will they win the West like they should? 

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team in the NL West, and no one not in San Diego is really debating that. The club was good last year until a playoff meltdown that included an unlikely goat in Clayton Kershaw, but this year they may actually be better in some ways.

It’ll be a long road in Los Angeles for the Rockies this summer (isn’t it always?), but the Dodgers do have some issues, too.

What they’re doing right. Well, they lost Hanley Ramirez at shortstop but added Jimmy Rollins, which is probably a net improvement. Rollins will play much better defense and he’s a natural clubhouse leader.

In addition, they traded away Dee Gordon to the Marlins and picked up Howie Kendrick from the Angels this winter. Don’t you wish the Rockies could wheel and deal this much?

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The payroll helps, too. When you can spend money to acquire Hector Olivera just because you can… well, the rest of baseball should be envious.

Sure, Olivera (and another Cuban acquisition, Alex Guerrero) may help next season if Juan Uribe walks in free agency after the summer, but still, these guys throw money around like nobody in baseball.

New front office executives Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have shown that they understand the team dynamic, though, and have added some important pieces to the roster. They brought Yasmani Grandal in as a backup (or maybe platoon) catcher in the Matt Kemp trade.

And trading Kemp, of course, was a smart move to open up the outfield logjam and give some time to phenomenal rookie Joc Pederson.

Pederson has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, especially as the club looks to deal Andre Ethier, too, but if he’s as good as he’s consistently shown in the minor leagues, he could be this year’s version of Yasiel Puig.

And oh, yeah, Puig. Call me crazy, but I think he’ll win the MVP this year.

What they’re doing wrong. It sounds funny to say this for a team that has Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu, but the Dodgers have issues in their rotation and the bullpen.

Ryu is already going to miss at least the first few weeks of the season with a shoulder issue. They two back-end starters the Dodgers acquired this offseason were – wait for it – Brandon McCarthy and old friend Brett Anderson. Two guys not exactly known for staying healthy.

Can manager Don Mattingly get 60+ starts combined out of the two of them this summer, especially with Ryu fading quickly and set to miss at least several weeks?

Behind the first five, rotation depth is also an issue for the club. This is a team that brought in Erik Bedard and Chad Gaudin as their rotation depth options (yikes) and then both those guys got injured during Spring Training. So, the Dodgers just signed Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal. Yes, that Freddy Garcia.

The Dodgers are one Greinke-or-Kershaw injury away from a disastrous rotation situation.

The bullpen is another conundrum for Friedman and Zaidi. Closer Kenley Jansen will miss at least a month of the season with an injury and the club doesn’t really have a guy to step into the role, so it may become a platoon situation.

They acquired Chris Hatcher, a converted catcher (like Jansen) from the Miami Marlins, and old friend Juan Nicasio figures to see some time in the ‘pen, as well (yes, really).

There are no real world-beaters coming out in relief for the Dodgers this summer. I can’t get too excited about Joel Peralta and Brandon League (who’s now injured, anyways).

Mar 18, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training game at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One player to watch. Pederson. I believe Pederson is going to go through the scuffles that virtually every rookie deals with, and he may even spend some time in AAA this summer to right the ship.

Nevertheless, he’s a very talented player who had a 30/30 season in the Pacific Coast League last year – the first person to do that in nearly eight decades.

He’ll be a very good player very soon, and probably torment the Rockies quite a bit.

What they should do this year. Win the NL West. Really, if you look at the expectations in Los Angeles, they should win the World Series.

Anything other than that will be a disappointment considering their payroll and roster, and Don Mattingly would stand to be on the hot seat if he can’t guide them to postseason glory.

The bottom line for the Rockies. It’s going to be a long 18 games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but depending on their pitching situation, maybe it won’t be so bad.

We’ll see them first April 17-19 at Dodger Stadium.

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