It’s just about that time, and before the season starts, let’s look at some potential over/under propositions when it comes to the Dodgers and their players.
I’m going to try to steer clear of any player involved in my 5 bold predictions article from yesterday.
1. Walker Buehler wins: 12.5
This one seems pretty easy to me. In his first full MLB season, Buehler notched just eight wins. He logged 137 1/3 innings, but he should best that total by a significant amount in 2019. He’s a darkhorse Cy Young candidate to some and could, realistically, be the team’s best pitcher by season’s end.
The thing working against Buehler is the fact that no Dodger pitcher won more than 11 games last season, and that was Rich Hill. With the way the Dodgers are projected to handle their pitchers, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Buehler could miss out on some win opportunities if he throws too many pitches early in a game (thus being removed before the end of his fifth inning of work) and the team may not have scored enough runs (but that’s a problem for any pitcher). In 2017, the Dodgers had three pitchers win 13 or more games.
Despite the potential for early exits, Buehler had only two such starts in 2018. The truth is, he should pitch well enough to shatter the 12.5 win plateau. Over.
2. Justin Turner batting average: .290
This one seems like a no-brainer as well. Since joining the Dodgers, Turner has a .305 batting average. Before joining, he hit just .260. In the last two seasons alone, Turner has hit .322 and .312. It seems that Turner is only getting better with age, as the now-34-year-old is projected to hit anywhere from .286 to .319 — depending which projection system you want to use.
Turner is also a launch angle darling, and while fly balls aren’t good for BABIP, Turner hits the ball hard enough in the air to rack up the extra base hits. It seems about the only way Turner won’t hit better than .290 is if he’s consistently hurt, but he seems plenty healthy so far this spring. Over.
3. A.J. Pollock home runs/stolen bases: 15.5/24.5
I’ve included both of these numbers for Pollock. They almost seem a bit backward, as he’s coming off a career-high 21 home runs, which also came with a career-best .228 isolated slugging percentage. If new Dodgers’ hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc can continue to get Pollock to tap into his power (as he did last year as the Diamondbacks’ hitting strategist), Pollock should shatter the 15.5 home run mark. Over.
The stolen bases are a bit more difficult. Pollock swiped 39 in his banner 2015 season but hasn’t stolen more than 20 in a season since then. A lot of that has to do with the fact he’s missed time due to injuries, but also when you’re hitting for more power (as he has in 2017-18), there’s less incentive to run. I think he’ll get his fair share of steals, but I think he comes up short of 24.5 on this one. Under.
4. Joc Pederson home runs: 24.5
In three of his first four full MLB seasons, Pederson has averaged 25.3 home runs. The outlier is his down 2017 season that saw him hit just 11. On power potential alone, this seems like an easy over. But there’s a wrinkle with this one, and that wrinkle’s name is Alex Verdugo.
Verdugo is one of the Dodgers’ Top 2 prospects and has spent the last two seasons almost exclusively in Triple-A. He has nothing left to prove down there and is going to make the Opening Day roster. With Pollock set to be the every day center fielder and Cody Bellinger to replace Yasiel Puig in right field, that doesn’t leave a lot of playing time for Verdugo. He’ll get some plate appearances, but a lot of them could come in left field, and that could come at the expense of Pederson’s playing time. Oh, and Chris Taylor still exists, who will also get some plate appearances as a left fielder.
If this were just on Pederson’s merits, I’d take the over. But since there are other factors to consider with this one, I just can’t do it. Under.