Weekly Roundup: Spring Training Week 1

Hi, I am Ian E. Nielson, Lead Beat Writer and Contributor for Dodgers LowDown. This is “Weekly Roundup”, published at the beginning every week this MLB season. You know the drill. I address the biggest story lines, give insight and give my hot take of the week. Without further ado, let’s get after it.

What is up with Clayton Kershaw?

As the Dodgers all find their way to Arizona for Spring Training, baseball activities officially resume, at least as an entire team. What else does this mean? The media is back and EVERYBODY is back in the public eye. This was the case last week.

After throwing a bullpen in the middle of the week, Clayton Kershaw left disappointed, and the only thing the fans knew is that he “didn’t feel right” per Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts. This struck fear into the whole city of Los Angeles, or at the very least Dodgers Twitter. Everybody began bracing for the worst, as Clayton Kershaw has missed significant time throughout the last three seasons.

For now, Dodgers fans can breathe a sigh of relief. On Sunday, Dave Roberts spoke with the media and addressing the elephant in the room. According to Roberts, Kershaw is simply experiencing mild shoulder discomfort and will take a break from pitching. In addition to that, Kershaw is taking anti-inflammatory medication in order to treat his symptoms. However, Kershaw will not even require an MRI and Roberts reassured the media and fans that Clayton Kershaw will be on the mound for Opening Day.

As for right now, the Dodgers are conservative in their approach with the future Hall of Famer. After all, there is no reason to rush him back into action with the season still a month into the future.

More importantly, for the first time since his debut, the Dodgers are not beholden to Clayton Kerhsaw. This team is capable of winning with or without Kershaw. By no means am I saying that Kershaw is unimportant to the success of the team, having Kershaw available is a major key to the success of the team. But for the first time in a decade, Kershaw is not the best pitcher in the Dodgers rotation. Nor is he the glue holding a weak rotation together.

The emergence of Walker Buehler and the depth of the Los Angeles rotation afford the Dodgers something they have not possessed in a long time, another ace and a staff of pitchers that can shoulder a load without depleting the bullpen. Back in 2016, the Dodgers fought real uphill battle after Kershaw went down because of Zack Greinke’s departure. In 2017, it was a bit simpler because the monstrous offense and lock down bullpen carried the team. In 2018 everybody was hurt but the Dodgers still found a way to make it all the way to the World Series.

What is the lesson here? The Dodgers have proven they are capable of winning games without Kershaw. Now more than ever, they are built to withstand a set back. Fear not Dodgers fans, this team has a plan B, plan C, plan D and so on.

Dodgers officials meet with Bryce Harper in Las Vegas

At the onset of the offseason, there was some optimism that the Dodgers may land Harper. It is Los Angeles after all and who loves the biggest stage more than Bryce Harper? But as the Winter Meetings came and went, with no offer from the Dodgers and denial of even meeting with the superstar, it appeared as though Los Angeles would not be the home for Bryce Harper. The rumors appeared to have come to a screeching halt in late January at Dodgers Fan Fest, when President Stan Kasten aggressively told the media the team was not in need of a star free agent.

However, in an article published by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Dodgers Chairman vehemently denied that there was any direction to stay under the luxury tax threshold. According to Walter, “Friedman and Kasten make all of the decisions, and they do what they think is the smartest thing to win.”

Late Sunday night, MLB insider Jesse Sanchez reported that Los Angeles is back in the mix to sign the star free agent. Sanchez claims that team officials, including Manager Dave Roberts were spotted in Las Vegas on Sunday night. On Monday morning, Dave Roberts confirmed the reports in a rather optimistic manner.

This news is quite significant, specifically Roberts confirmation of the reports because for the first time all offseason the Dodgers are officially in the mix for Bryce Harper. Back in December, it was reported that Los Angeles legend and part Dodgers owner Magic Johnson had met with Harper in his hometown of Las Vegas, but Johnson wasted no time to deny the reports.

The fact that such a well run organization like the Dodgers is allowing itself to not only be caught up in rumors but actually confirm to the media that they met with Bryce Harper conveys a certain level of confidence that a deal may be reached. If Bryce Harper and his agent Scott Boras are willing to take a contract with fewer years but a high average annual value, the Dodgers may have themselves a deal with the MVP.

Dodgers prospects impressing at Spring Training

If there is one certainty, it’s that the Dodgers farm system is one of baseball’s best. As we have seen in recent years with the likes of Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler among others, the Dodgers have a knack for producing MLB level talent from their farm system.

Outside of Alex Verdugo potentially, no Dodgers prospects have much of a chance to make the Opening Day roster. However, many of the top prospects have been invited to Spring Training and many of them have impressed in such a short amount of time.

Although spring games do not count and they’re simply exhibitions, these games are worth while for fans to watch. If you have the opportunity to make it out to Arizona for Spring Training, I would highly suggest going and watching these young guys play and practice. This is our opportunity to interact with tomorrow’s stars before they make it.

Hot Take of the Week

Bryce Harper signs with the Los Angeles Dodgers

There, I said it. Bryce Harper is going to sign with the Dodgers. Back in December I wrote about why Harper to Los Angeles but I did not fathom that dream becoming a reality. Los Angeles is the perfect city for Bryce Harper to play his prime years. He is one for the big stage, a rare star in the MLB who actually has the ability to capture the attention of fans. He is captivating like nobody else in Major League Baseball.

After the reports that I mentioned earlier surfaced, there is reason for Dodgers fans to finally become excited. Well run organizations keep secrets and do not allow stories to be leaked to the media. The Dodgers are the best run organization in Major League Baseball and they are confirming the reports of not only having interest in Harper but also having met with him. It may seem small on the surface, but Dave Roberts confirmation of the meeting in Las Vegas coupled with Mark Walter’s statement on team expenditures speaks volumes. VOLUMES.

Ian Nielson has served as a writer and contributor for @DodgersLowDown since 2018. Follow him on twitter @inielson23