The Los Angeles Dodgers didn't make too many changes to their roster, other than primarily adding depth to their pitching staff and a pair of new Cuban prospects. Their goal remains the same, though, as they continue to pursue their first World Series title since 1988. When it comes down to it, it's a matter of remaining healthy and getting top performances from key guys. Just who are those key guys for LA? Take a look.
Ah yes, perhaps the most polarizing player in baseball tops the list of the four most important people to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014. Puig had a brilliant rookie year in which he appeared in 104 games and made an impact in just about every facet of the game. He reached base at a fantastic .391 clip, while posting a 160 wRC+ on the year. He flashed the power, with 19 home runs, and added a few swipes as well. There are questions about whether or not his "reckless" style of play will cause him to burn out quickly, but with a year under his belt to adjust to the Major Leagues, Puig should be able to build on that heading into the new season.
Of the four outfielders that the Dodgers currently boast on their roster, including Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier, Kemp may be the most important and the player with the most upside. He's a clear MVP candidate when healthy, but it's the when healthy part that has been the issue. He's struggled to remain on the field in each of the last two seasons, and continues to rehab from an ankle injury that ended his 2013 campaign. If he can get back on the field for anything above 120 games, he's a major factor for the Dodgers. He's a five-tool guy who makes the Dodgers better every time he steps on the field. It's a matter of getting on the field and staying there that will be the toughest thing for Kemp.
It's pretty much impossible to omit Clayton Kershaw from a list of key factors for the Dodgers in 2014. The bottom line is that if he is as dominant as he's been in each of the last couple of years, the Dodgers are a World Series threat. He's the best pitcher in baseball with a fat new contract. He posted some absurdly gaudy numbers last year, walking less than two hitters per nine, striking out almost nine, and going for a brilliant 1.83 ERA. It shouldn't be anything resembling a surprise if you see Kershaw's name at the top of the Cy Young contenders by the end of the year once again.
Hanley Ramirez heads into the 2014 season in a unique situation. He's a free agent next winter and would have no shortage of takers if he were to hit the open market. However, he's stated his desire to remain a Dodger for life, and a big year in 2014 should help to earn him a nice large contract with the Dodgers to cement his place in Hollywood for the next several years. He's a key player for this team on offense and you could have easily made the argument that he could have been in the mix for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. And that's with dealing with some nagging injuries throughout much of the season. A healthy Ramirez should be a force for LA this season.