Los Angeles Dodgers: The 5 Most Disappointing Players in Spring Training so Far
The Los Angeles Dodgers have looked like what they are this spring: a deep, talented team capable of winning a fifth straight division title and competing for the franchise's first championship since 1988.
Still, like every club, the Dodgers have endured some disappointing performances.
The usual grains of salt and small-sample caveats apply. But let's run through five Los Angeles players who have left something to be desired in the Cactus League, from a top-rated prospect in his first big league camp to a top-of-the-rotation left-hander not named Clayton Kershaw.
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF
Cody Bellinger is the Dodgers' highest-rated prospect, according to MLB.com, and appears to be their first baseman of the future.
This spring, though, the 21-year-old has shown why the future isn't now.
Bellinger has struck out 14 times in 37 exhibition at-bats while looking frequently overmatched, and he is hitting .189.
As J.P. Hoornstra of the Orange County Register put it: "Bellinger has been exposed to more major league pitching in the last week of his life than, well, ever, and the gap in experience is beginning to show."
That doesn't mean he won't be a high-level big leaguer, and no one should be panicking over a handful of rough at-bats.
Clearly, though, the kid has some developing to do.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Speaking of first basemen, the Dodgers' veteran incumbent isn't exactly lighting the exhibition slate on fire, either.
Between his time in Dodgers camp and his stint with Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, Adrian Gonzalez is 2-for-20 and doesn't have an extra-base hit.
He made headlines for blasting the WBC after Mexico was controversially eliminated from the tournament under its head-scratching tiebreaker rules.
"They're trying to be the World Cup," he said, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, "but they're not even the Little League World Series."
Now, Gonzalez needs to let that go and focus on being a lineup anchor for Los Angeles.
It's silly to put much stock in the spring performance of a veteran five-time All-Star. Then again, Gonzalez turns 35 in May. Last season, he posted his lowest OPS (.784) since his 2005 rookie year.
And, as we just discussed, his heir apparent isn't ready for prime time.
Josh Fields, RHP
In 19.1 innings with the Dodgers last season, Josh Fields posted a 2.79 ERA with 22 strikeouts. A strong, or even decent, spring would have all but guaranteed a spot in L.A.'s pen for the 31-year-old right-hander.
Instead, Fields has been something of a tire fire, surrendering 10 hits and nine earned runs in four innings.
His fastball typically sits in the mid-90s but has clocked in the 91-92 mph range, as manager Dave Roberts noted, per McCullough.
Fields has an option remaining, so unless he suddenly discovers a magical velocity amulet under his bed, he'll go from a presumed Opening Day roster spot to Triple-A.
Scott Kazmir, LHP
After signing a three-year, $48 million contract with the Dodgers last winter, Scott Kazmir posted a 4.56 ERA in 136.1 innings and battled hip, back and neck problems.
It can't be comforting to Los Angeles, then, that Kazmir exited his second spring start March 9 with hip soreness.
"It was during [pregame] warm-ups where everything started tightening up on me, pretty much every part of the hip," Kazmir said at the time, per ESPN.com's Doug Padilla. "I couldn't fire my back hip, my back leg and there was no power or direction. That's a tough way to pitch."
He threw a simulated start Thursday, but his fastball topped out in the low-80s, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reported (via the Los Angeles Daily News).
"We've got to see the improvement in velocity at some point in time," manager Roberts said, per Plunkett. "I think he'll say the same thing."
The Dodgers have enough rotation depth to absorb the loss of Kazmir. If the 33-year-old can't work his way back, though, he'll become a painfully expensive spectator.
Rich Hill, LHP
Apparently, sometime over the winter, Rich Hill did a Freaky Friday-esque body swap with Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams.
OK, those totally-not-timely references are a tad hyperbolic, but Hill has not been himself in the Cactus League.
Through 8.2 innings spread over four starts, Hill has yielded five hits (fine), seven earned runs (bad) and 10 walks (yikes).
Broken record alert: It's spring. Pitchers and hitters are working out the kinks, aware that the results matter far less than the process.
"I don't think I've ever really had a great spring training," Hill said, per McCullough.
On the other hand, Hill is 37 years old and has never eclipsed 200 innings in a season. The Dodgers took a calculated gamble when they signed him for three years and $48 million (aka Kazmir money) this winter.
Soon, they'd surely like to see that gamble pay.