San Francisco Giants: Who’s New to the Rivalry, Part 3
See someone in Dodger blue, and one thing is certain as a San Francisco Giants fans: a strong sense of disdain will be invoked. Here the name Clayton Kershaw, and it probably makes you groan. Yasiel Puig? You probably want to bat-flip him. Tommy Lasorda? You’re already daydreaming that you’re Pedro Martinez and he’s Don Zimmer.
So, it doesn’t take much to develop ill feelings toward anyone associated with the Giants’ biggest rival. But it doesn’t hurt knowing who exactly the Giants are battling. Here’s a look at the Dodgers’ most notable offseason additions and intriguing prospects heading into the 2016 season.
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The Dodgers’ most notable offseason addition didn’t involve anyone on the team’s 25-man roster, but rather the man who will be directing the team. Manager Dave Roberts, who finished his playing career with the Giants in 2008, takes over for Don Mattingly, who now heads the Miami Marlins. It’s Roberts’ first managerial gig, so there’s no track record to suggest how he’ll do as skipper. But he is considered a people person, which suggests he’ll be expected to manage personalities (of which there many on the Dodgers) as much as anything else.
Corey Seager made his major league debut in 2015, but 2016 will be his first season as the Dodgers’ undisputed starting shortstop. The top-rated prospect in baseball, Seager stands 6-foot-4, bats left-handed, and flat out rakes—he topped 70 extra-base hits in each of the past two seasons. The younger but more talented brother of all-star Kyle Seager, Corey will likely be for the Dodgers what Buster Posey is for the Giants.
After losing Zack Greinke in free agency, the Dodgers opted for the cheaper and less durable Scott Kazmir as the No. 2 in their rotation. The southpaw has had a rollercoaster career, as stretches of success have been interrupted by periods of injury recovery. While Kazmir dominated in Oakland for the first four months of last season, he looked average after being traded to Houston. And after having struggled to keep injury-prone pitchers Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy—both free-agent signees in recent years—on the mound, the Dodgers are hoping Kazmir regains his effectiveness while staying healthy.
A similar thing could be said about Kenta Maeda, this offseason’s most anticipated Japanese free agent. While in the same class as Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish (he had a 2.39 ERA over eight seasons in Japan), the Dodgers publicly expressed concerns about his elbow, which is said to show signs of possibly needing Tommy John surgery someday. They signed him anyway, to a team-friendly, incentive-heavy contract, and are hoping he and Kazmir hold up. At least until…
…Julio Urias is ready for the Big Leagues. Only 19 years old, Urias has been on the Bryce Harper development plan, dominating minor league levels well before someone of his age could possibly be expected to; last season, as an 18-year-old, he posted a 2.77 ERA in Double-A. Now, he might not be able to dominate major league pitching so easily upon his arrival, but he should arrive this year—and be a problem for the Giants in the years to come.
If you’re a Giants fan, there’s a good chance you’re a Golden State Warriors fan. So you might be disappointed to know that one of your favorite basketball players, Klay Thompson, has a brother, Trayce Thompson, who plays for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has a crowded outfield, but the 25-year-old Thompson, who came to the Dodgers in a trade with the White Sox, offers an intriguing power-speed combo that could earn him some playing time.
The Dodgers also received pitcher Frankie Montas in that same White Sox deal. He had a largely underwhelming minor league career as a starter, but the Dodgers are trying him in the bullpen to see if that might be better use of his blazing fastball—it’s been recorded as high as 102 mph.
Next: New to the Rivalry, Part 2
Since the influx of Cuban nationals to the major leagues ramped up earlier this decade, the Dodgers have been, by far, the most aggressive organization in pursuing this now-more-accessible source of international free agents. That trend continued this offseason with the signing of 24-year-old pitcher Yaisel Sierra. He’s a complete wild card, however. While Sierra throws 92-94 mph, his career ERA in Cuba was well above 4.00. Then again, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias didn’t have overly impressive numbers in Cuba—as a reliever, no less—but is now considered an up-and-coming starter after an impressive major league debut in 2015. No two players are the same, of course, so it’s not fair to look at Iglesias and say Sierra will follow a similar path. But it does show that a talented pitcher from Cuba can quickly prove his worth to a major league club after very little time in the minors.