Posted on March 8, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
It was a quiet offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, at least until a week before spring training when they pulled off a massive trade for Mookie Betts and David Price. That trade was a good reminder that the Dodgers are willing to do whatever it takes to win their first World Series since 1988. Is this finally the year they get to the promised land and win or will 2020 end in disappointment once again?
The L.A. rotation might be the most left-hand heavy in baseball, although that might not be a problem. Clayton Kershaw remains the ace with Walker Buehler lined up to be the no. 2 starter and perhaps the only righty in the rotation. Price, Julio Urias, and Alex Wood are set to fill out the rest of the rotation. If healthy, that is an above-average rotation. However, Price is coming off a down year, Urias has never pitched a full season in the majors, and Wood is coming off an injury-plagued 2019 season.
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Plus, a lot of the depth the Dodgers have had in past seasons is gone with Hyun-jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, and Rich Hill all elsewhere. Ross Stripling is a good swingman who can fill in if necessary. But if there are injuries or pitchers like Urias and Wood underperform, the Dodgers may have a little trouble at the back of their rotation until prospect Dustin May is ready.
The Los Angeles bullpen was good but not great in 2019, creating some uncertainty heading into 2020. Kenley Jensen is still the closer, but he had nine blown saves last season. With an ERA over 3.00 in two straight seasons, it’s fair to say that he’s not the same elite closer he was a few years ago. In theory, the Dodgers have a nice collection of setup men with Joe Kelly, Pedro Baez, and Blake Treinen, who was one of their few offseason additions. However, Kelly and Treinen weren’t that impressive last season, so that doesn’t look like the makings of an elite bullpen.
The good news is that the Dodgers have a good amount of depth in their bullpen. If Stripling isn’t needed in the rotation, he’ll be a key guy in middle relief and could even move into a setup role. Adam Kolarek, Caleb Ferguson, and Scott Alexander also provide Los Angeles with a healthy contingent of lefties.
Even before acquiring Betts, scoring runs wasn’t likely to be a problem for the Dodgers. After adding a former MVP, Los Angeles is likely to lead the National League in runs once again. Betts and Cody Bellinger in the same lineup is bound to lead to some offensive fireworks. The Dodgers also have A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson in their outfield, creating plenty of depth.
On the infield, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner will give the Dodgers three more guys who can mash, as all three had an OPS over .800 last year. There are also high hopes for young second baseman Gavin Lux, who was off-limits in trade talks this winter, and catcher Will Smith, who registered an OPS over .900 in 170 at-bats last season. Just for good measure, the Dodgers still have useful utility men in Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez to help keep players fresh and fill in if there are injuries.
After winning 106 games and their seventh straight division title in 2019, the Dodgers are only projected to win 100.5 games in 2020. While there are some questions about the rotation, that group also has a high upside. Plus, the Dodgers are going to win a lot of games this year simply by outscoring teams and having enough capable arms in the bullpen. Look for the Dodgers to win more than 100.5 games and their eighth straight NL West title this year, although they might not be runaway favorites once the National League playoffs get underway.