We're only a week into 2016, but baseball fans are eagerly awaiting the beginning of spring training and the onset of another season. As we near closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, let's take a look at the Dodgers' resolutions for the New Year.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Puig returns to form
Considered one of the most promising players in baseball in 2013 and 2014, Yasiel Puig tapered off in 2015. A pair of hamstring injuries and a general failure to remedy his weaknesses rendered a major decline from the 25-year-old right fielder, who hit .255/.322/.436 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 79 games last season. As reports routinely surface about his apparent polarizing personality in the clubhouse, 2015 is a make-or-break season for the electric outfielder. The Dodgers could do special things in 2016 if he plays like he did when he first came up; otherwise, their patience with him will be exhausted if he fails to have a productive season.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Pederson produces (all season)
Joc Pederson had a terrific opening two months of his rookie season, and hit 26 home runs with 54 RBI in 2015, but he had an atrocious second half, hitting only six of those home runs and producing 16 of his RBI with a .170/.300/.284 split from July to October. Pederson's plight is hardly a rarity in baseball, as the opposition eventually gains an edge on young players with advanced scouting reports. However, his sophomore season will determine whether or not he's capable of excelling at the major-league level. Pederson, who will be 24 this coming season, can bolster the Dodgers significantly if he can consistently drive in runs throughout the year.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Pitching rotation pans out
After whiffing on a handful of top-tier free agents, including their own former righty Zack Greinke, the Dodgers' front office is under the microscope for the pitching rotation they've constructed this offseason, which now includes lefty Scott Kazmir and Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, in addition to ace Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Hyun-jin Ryu, Alex Wood (potentially), and Brandon McCarthy (scheduled to return mid-summer). If the Dodgers have one of the best rotations in the NL, Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and co. will look like geniuses; however, if they don't, they'll be criticized endlessly. More importantly, a strong rotation will be necessary for Los Angeles to make a deep postseason run and overcome their NLDS hump of the past two seasons.
Roberts creates new clubhouse culture
Former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was said to be a players' manager, but he was unable to command full respect of the clubhouse and occasionally clashed with some of his players (Ethier, Kemp, Puig, etc.) in the media. New skipper Dave Roberts, who is also heralded as a players' coach, is said to carry infectious enthusiasm that could alter the dynamic of the Dodgers' clubhouse if it spreads. If Roberts can induce camaraderie and consistent energy amongst the clubhouse, the Dodgers would be more likely to play to their potential on an everyday basis – which has hampered them over the past few seasons. If Roberts' first season as Los Angeles' manager is a successful one, the Dodgers could produce a special season in 2016.
As impressive as the Dodgers' three consecutive NL West titles are (longest streak in franchise history), the ultimate goal for the team is to win the World Series, a goal of which it's fallen drastically short the past two seasons despite great expectations. If the front office can further fortify the bullpen this offseason, and the starting rotation pans out, Los Angeles should be in good shape to reach its first World Series since it last won the Commissioner's Trophy in 1988. Expectations will be as high as ever for the Blue Crew in 2016, and fans – most of whom still can't watch the team play on television – will continue to grow restless if the Dodgers flop in the postseason once again.