Jacob Dunne | March 11th, 2020
We head to the West Coast to check in on the Los Angeles Dodgers. They made significant additions to their already stacked lineup and bullpen over the offseason, but will it be enough to get them over the hump and win the World Series?
Make sure to check out our other Team Previews here.
The Dodgers finished with a franchise-record 106 wins last season en route to winning their seventh consecutive NL West title. The Arizona Diamondbacks were the only other team in the NL West with a winning record but still finished 21 games behind the Dodgers. Andrew Friedman is entering his fourth year as the Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations and has assembled a successful staff from top to bottom.
Could this be the year the Dodgers finally breakthrough and win their first World Series title since 1988? Let’s take a look at the squad Dave Roberts will be managing this season.
Smith enters the 2020 season as the Dodgers’ primary backstop after recording 15 home runs in just 170 at-bats as a rookie. He has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs if given 400-plus at-bats. Muncy has hit exactly 35 home runs in each of his first two seasons. Expect massive power numbers from the third-year first baseman. Before being called up to the major leagues at the end of the 2019 season, rookie Gavin Lux was crushing Triple-A pitching recording 13 home runs and 39 RBI with a .392 batting average in just 199 at-bats. Lux has no holes in his game and should be the favorite to win ROY. Not long ago, Seager was one of the Dodgers’ most talented hitters, but serious elbow and hip injuries have slowed him down. He still has the ability to be a very productive hitter for this team. Turner is as reliable (albeit boring) a hot corner option as they get. Over the past three seasons, Turner has averaged 24 home runs and 68 RBI with a .302 batting average. Expect more of the same in 2020.
Manager Dave Roberts said Pollock and Pederson are expected to share time in left field this season. Pollock has dealt with myriad injuries throughout his career but has been highly productive when healthy. Pederson had an incredible 2019 campaign hitting a career-high 36 home runs. Even in a part-time role, Pederson should be able to hit 25-30 home runs. The reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger finds himself as the centerpiece of a stacked Dodgers lineup. The 25-year-old will look to build upon the 47 home runs and 115 RBI he recorded in 2019. Betts was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Dodgers over the offseason. He has averaged 28 home runs, 84 RBI, 127 runs scored and 23 stolen bases with a .304 batting average over the past three years. He brings MVP-level talent to a Dodgers lineup that was already chock-full of talented hitters.
Starting Pitching Projections
Kershaw’s 3.03 ERA last season was the highest it’s been since his rookie season. He’s not the same dominant pitcher he once was, but even at age-31, he remains one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. Buehler is entering the 2020 season fresh off his first 200-plus strikeout season. He is widely considered one of the top pitchers in baseball, and the Dodgers need him to have a Cy Young-level performance this season if they hope to contend for the World Series. Price joined fellow teammate Betts in the trade that sent him to Los Angeles. Price immediately slots in as the Dodgers third pitcher behind Kershaw and Buehler and should pitch quality innings, if he can stay healthy. Urias pitched just shy of 80 innings last year in a hybrid role where he was a relief pitcher and spot-starter. The Dodgers have been careful with his workload over the past few seasons after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2017. Urias is the fourth starter for the Dodgers and is projected to pitch 100-150 innings this season. He has the skills to be a quality starter and should flirt with sub-3.00 ERA numbers this season. Wood will start the year off as the Dodgers’ fifth starter. He signed with the Dodgers over the offseason after spending an injury-riddled season with the Cincinnati Reds. He has the skills necessary to keep his spot in the rotation, but the Dodgers have too much pitching depth to stay the course with Wood if he struggles early.
Jansen is entering his ninth season as the Dodgers closer. Last year, Jansen recorded a career-worst 3.71 ERA while recording 33 saves against eight blown saves. He’s not the dominant pitcher he once was, but he is still a quality pitcher with plenty of closing experience to get the job done. Setting up Jansen will be a combination of Pedro Baez, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, and Adam Kolarek. Baez looks like the closer-in-waiting if Jansen should falter. Baez has averaged a 2.98 ERA with 65 strikeouts over the past three years as a reliever. Treinen signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers over the offseason. He’ll look to bounce back after a horrendous season where he recorded a 4.91 ERA. Joe Kelly got off to a rocky start to begin his tenure as a Los Angeles Dodger recording an 8.38 ERA to begin the first three months of the season. He turned it around by recording a 2.58 ERA to finish off the final four months of the season. Kolarek was traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Dodgers last July and ended up with a 0.77 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 11.7 innings pitched. The Dodgers have a talented group of veteran relief pitchers to help close out games.
Players to Watch For
Dustin May – Since being drafted by the Dodgers in 2016, May has pitched well at every level in the minor leagues from Rookie League to Triple-A. Across four minor league seasons, May has averaged a 3.50 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while averaging 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. With the Dodgers boasting a deep rotation, May will most likely begin the 2020 season in the minors. He is the best pitching prospect in the Dodgers organization, so he should get the call-up right away if an injury occurs.
Brusdar Graterol – The Dodgers were able to land flamethrowing pitcher Graterol in a deal with the Minnesota Twins over the offseason. He was originally apart of the Mookie Betts blockbuster trade, but the Boston Red Sox backed out after viewing Graterol’s medicals. His sinker not only clocks in at 100-plus MPH, but it has plenty of movement to go along with it. Last season, Graterol had a 1.92 ERA and 0.98 WHIP across three leagues (Rookie, Double-A, and Triple-A). Graterol likely won’t start, but he could be a valuable relief pitcher for the Dodgers in 2020.
With the addition of Mookie Betts, the Dodgers have the look and feel of future World Series champions. They are a lock to win their division and should contend for the best record in all of baseball. If the Dodgers have any holes in their game, it is not evident. They have elite hitting, starting pitching, relief pitching, and farm system. It’s World Series or BUST for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
2020 Predicted Record: 108-54 1st in the NL West
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images