In less than a month, it will be time for the immortal words that every fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers knows: Dodger Baseball. The Dodgers won the World Series in 2020, but can they be the first team since the 2000 Yankees to win back to back? Let’s look at the team, who’ll be on it, and how I think they’ll do.
Will Smith and Austin Barnes
The Dodgers used a two-catcher system with Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes until 2019. In 2019 and 2020, it was the same, but with Will Smith replacing Grandal. Will Smith is likely to have another good season and I think it’s reasonable to expect an all-star spot, or at least consideration for one. As for Barnes? He’ll do the same as always. Solid batting, above-average fielding, starting every time Kershaw pitches.
Max Muncy, Gavin Lux, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Edwin Rios
A key part of the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series was their stellar infield. Max Muncy did have a down year, but still hit 13 homers and looks poised to bounce back in 2021. Gavin Lux was the Dodgers’ top prospect a year ago, and has looked pretty good in Spring Training. Corey Seager and Justin Turner had excellent years yet again in 2020. Finally, Edwin Rios, a rising star in the Dodgers organization. I think Rios is going to be groomed to take over at third base when Justin Turner retires, presumably in 2022.
Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock, and DJ Peters
With two former MVPs in the outfield, the Dodgers are just fine here. Betts finished second in NL MVP voting in 2020, and is arguably the best player on the Dodgers, as he was their missing piece to win the World Series. Cody Bellinger again had a down year, but hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the NLCS, and has shown he can bounce back from bad years (see: 2019 season). AJ Pollock tied for the team lead in homers last year, and showed how good he can be when he’s not injured. Finally, DJ Peters. I think the Dodgers will look for their fourth outfielder in the trade market, but if they can’t find one, Peters is a solid power hitter.
Chris Taylor and Zach McKinstry
An underrated part of the Dodgers’ success has been their utility men. Having guys that can move all around the field helps when there is an injury or a rest day to one of their better players. Chris Taylor has been the Dodgers’ premier utility guy for a while, and that role is unlikely to go away. However, Enriquè Hernandez left for Boston in the offseason. This does open a role for Zach McKinstry, who is likely to replace Hernandez and put up similar production.
1: Mookie Betts-RF
2: Corey Seager-SS
3: Justin Turner-3B
4: Max Muncy-1B
5: Cody Bellinger-CF
6: AJ Pollock-LF
7: Will Smith-C
8: Gavin Lux-2B
Overall, the Dodgers may have the best hitting in the game. Expect several All-Stars, as Justin Turner, Will Smith, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts are all conceivable to make the All-Star Game in Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers look poised to repeat, and the batting will help carry them there.
Photo: Tom Pennington