Posted on March 9, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Los Angeles Dodgers Max Muncy
Image via ESPN.com

After losing in the World Series in back-to-back seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers are not giving up their quest for their first championship in over 30 years. But what will be different this year? Can the Dodgers finally get over the hump in 2019 and win that long-awaited ring or will they fall short yet again?

Rotation

The Dodgers, by far, had the lowest ERA in the National League last season. However, replicating that may not be so easy. Ace Clayton Kershaw continues to deal with questions about his health. Obviously, he’s one of the best in baseball when healthy, but he’s averaged less than 25 starts per season over the last three years, which is a problem. The Dodgers also traded Alex Wood over the winter, taking away another frontline starter and depleting some of their depth.

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Of course, the Dodgers still have Rich Hill, Walker Buehler, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Hill’s issues with blisters that could sideline him at any point are well-documented. His health, much like Kershaw’s, is a concern. But Ryu was arguably the best pitcher in baseball last year during the 15 starts he was healthy. Meanwhile, Buehler had an impressive rookie campaign, posting a 2.62 ERA, while Maeda remains a quality mid-rotation starter. The Dodgers also have Ross Stripling, who was an all-star last year, and Julio Urias, who has long been one of their top prospects. That should be enough depth to survive if Kershaw misses time yet again. Health will determine if their rotation is the best in the National League, but the Dodgers have more than enough talent to among the best in baseball.

Bullpen

The Los Angeles bullpen was one of the best in the National League last year, and the same cast of characters is back this year. Kenley Jansen wasn’t quite as dominant last year as he’s been, but he’s still one of the most intimidating closers in baseball. Los Angeles also signed Joe Kelly to join Pedro Baez, Scott Alexander, and Josh Fields as the team’s top setup men. That contingent should ensure that the Dodgers continue to have a top-5 bullpen in the National League.

In theory, that bullpen could get even better if their starters remain healthy and pitchers like Stripling and Maeda are able to move to the bullpen. Of course, the Dodgers could also be forced to use young, unproven pitchers to fill out the final spots in their bullpen, so things could go the other way on them depending on the health of Kershaw, Hill, and their other starters.

Lineup

The Dodgers have consistently been one of the best offensive teams in the National League in recent years, but their lineup will look a little different in 2019. Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Yasmani Grandal are gone, as is Manny Machado, who helped out Los Angeles the second half of 2018. However, the Dodgers have always had great depth and they’ll also be introducing some new players to their lineup in 2019.

Obviously, things will revolve around Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner. But the Dodgers will also bank on Max Muncy continuing to produce after coming out of nowhere to hit 35 home runs last season. Of course, he remains a bit of an X-factor since he has just one good big league season under his belt. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they welcome back shortstop Corey Seager after he missed most of the 2018 season. Los Angeles also added center fielder A.J. Pollock over the winter. He should make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball.

The Dodgers also remain a fair amount of depth. Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez will share the duties at second base, but they can both play anywhere on the field. The likes of Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo will help fill out the outfield. The lone question may be how much offense they get out of the catcher position between Austin Barnes and the aging Russell Martin.

Prediction

Heading into 2019, the Dodgers have a few questions they’ll have to answer. But they still have plenty of depth on their roster, so they can survive a couple of things going wrong. After going 92-71 last year following a slow start, look for the Dodgers to finish 98-64 this year, winning their seventh consecutive NL West and heading to the playoffs as favorites to return to the World Series.

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