Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers 2020 Season Preview


From Getty Images

       All eyes were on the Dodgers to start 2019, as they had come off of back-to-back World Series losses. Then, Cody Bellinger became an MVP winner, and Walker Buehler got better, plus Hyun-Jin Ryu had an ERA under 2.00 for most of the year. But, the Dodgers failed to even make in to the fall classic, falling to the eventual champions, the Nationals, in the NLDS. The offseason started off with the loss of Ryu and no big acquisitions. However, they traded for former MVP winner Mookie Betts and former Cy Young winner David Price days before the start of camp. With Betts and Price in the fold, expectations might be higher than last year.

         Offseason additions: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price, LHP Alex Wood, RHP Blake Treinen, RHP Jimmy Nelson, RHP Brusdar Graterol, OF Terrance Gore, RHP Edubray Ramos, RHP Zach McAllister.

         Offseason subtractions: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, OF Alex Verdugo, RHP Kenta Maeda, RHP Yimi Garcia, LHP Rich Hill, C Russell Martin, RHP JT Chargois, 3B David Freese, IF Jedd Gyorko.

         Rotation
The Dodgers will have Clayton Kershaw starting on Opening Day for the 9th time, barring injury. He didn't start on Opening Day last year for that reason. He made his 8th all-star team, but his 3.03 ERA was the worst of his career since he was a 20 year old rookie in 2008. He struck out 189 batters in 178.1 innings, so it is good to see his strikeout rate go back up after it was below 9.0 for the first time in awhile in 2018. His 1.043 WHIP was his highest since 2010. He allowed a career high 1.4 homers per nine. The Dodgers have another emerging ace in 25 year old Walker Buehler. Buehler was an all-star for the first time and received Cy Young votes after striking out 215 batters in 182.1 innings with a 3.26 ERA. He had a 1.0 HR/9, very low for 2019 standards. David Price comes in as a five-time all-star, although he hasn't made the team since 2015. He made just 22 starts for the Red Sox last year, with a 4.28 ERA. It was his worst ERA since 2009. He struck out 128 batters in 107.1 innings for a career high 10.7 K/9. Julio Urias is still only 23, but missed almost all of 2017 and 2018 after debuting in 2016 as a 19 year old. In 37 games (eight starts), Urias had a 2.49 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 79.2 innings, with a 0.8 HR/9. Alex Wood returns to the Dodgers after allowing 23 earned runs in 35.2 games over seven starts with the Reds. He was successful in four seasons with the Dodgers, capping in 2017 with a 2.72 ERA and 16 wins. Jimmy Nelson missed all of 2018 and most of 2019 with injuries. He had a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts in 2017 with the Brewers. Top pitching prospect Dustin May will likely make it as a reliever. In 14 games (four starts), May had a 3.63 ERA in 34.2 innings with a 0.5 HR/9. Another pitching prospect, Tony Gonsolin, may need to start in AAA. He had a 2.93 ERA in 40 innings last year.

              Bullpen
The bullpen is a big question after closer Kenley Jansen had his worst season in 2019. It could be filled with lots of starters as well. Jansen had a career worst 3.71 ERA with 33 saves in 63 innings, striking out 80. Still, his 11.4 K/9 was the second worst of his career, only beating his 2018 mark. Pedro Baez has been very consistent for the Dodgers in his six season career. He has a 3.10 ERA with 69 Ks in 69.2 innings. He has a career ERA of 3.03. Joe Kelly was very inconsistent in his first season in L.A. He had a career high 10.9 K/9, but also had a 4.56 ERA in 51.1 innings. Swingman Ross Stripling was rumored to be in a deal that would send him and Joc Pederson to the Angels, but Halos owner Arte Moreno called it off after being annoyed with the length of the time taken for the Betts trade to be completed. In 32 games (15 starts), Stripling had a 3.47 ERA with 93 Ks in 90.2 innings. He has a 3.51 ERA in his four year career. Former A's closer Blake Treinen had a 0.78 ERA with 38 saves over 80.1 innings in 2018. Nothing went right for him last year, as he had a career high 4.91 ERA with 59 Ks in 58.1 innings. He comes in on a low risk, one year deal. The last three spots are up for grabs with May likely getting one and Gonsolin in on another. The team will likely carry only one of Adam Kolarek and Scott Alexander. Both are lefties that will be hurt by the three batter minimum rule. In 28 games last year Alexander had a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings. After coming over at the deadline from Tampa Bay, Kolarek had a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings. They both struck out nine batters. Dylan Floro pitched in 50 games last year, with a 4.24 ERA. He had a 2.25 ERA in 64 innings in 2018.

                Catchers
The Dodgers and their fans got jiggy with rookie catcher Will Smith. He hit 15 home runs in 54 games with a .907 OPS. Even with Smith in the fold, the Dodgers will not trade top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz, who could debut in 2020. Austin Barnes was great in 2017, but has been awful at the plate since. In 75 games last year, Barnes hit .203 with a .633 OPS and five home runs.

                  Infielders
Max Muncy almost copied his surprise 2018 season, hitting exactly 35 home runs again. He finished exactly 15th in MVP voting once again, this time with an all-star appearance. His .889 OPS was a big drop-off from his .973 mark in 2018. Gavin Lux will be the biggest prospect to play in 2020, with Wander Franco years away. MLB Pipeline's 2nd best prospect in the league, Lux hit two home runs, stole two bases and had a .705 OPS in 20 MLB games late last year. He had a .347 average and 1.028 OPS in AA and AAA last year. Corey Seager is still the Dodgers shortstop, although I personally would shop him for a superstar like Francisco Lindor. He hit 19 home runs with 44 doubles last year, the latter tied for the league high. He had an .817 OPS which is good but a little underwhelming after his last full season of 2017. Justin Turner has only made one all-star team, but he is the heart and soul of the team. He hit 27 home runs with a .290 average and an .881 OPS in 135 games last year. He was even willing to change positions if the team could sign Anthony Rendon in free agency (they couldn't). Utility infielder Enrique "Kike" Hernandez can also play center field. He hit 17 home runs in 130 games, but he had a very low .715 OPS. In his rookie season Matt Beaty hit nine home runs with five stolen bases and a .775 OPS. He can play first base and left field.

                     Outfielders
While the addition of Betts is exciting, he is not even the Dodgers' best outfielder. Cody Bellinger won MVP, as well as a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, while hitting 47 home runs with 15 stolen bases, a .305 average and a 1.035 OPS, making him a bona fide superstar. Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, had a down year for his standards, with 29 home runs, 16 stolen bases (almost half of his 2018 total), a .295 average and .915 OPS. He won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove and third Silver Slugger in those four years. The Dodgers will move either Betts or Bellinger, both right fielders, to center. Joc Pederson was insane at the Home Run Derby, and hit a career high 36 home runs while in Bellinger's shadow. His .249 average and .876 OPS were also career highs. AJ Pollock is set to be the best and most expensive fourth outfielder in the league. Signed prior to 2019 to a four year, $55 million deal with an option, Pollock hit 15 home runs with five stolen bases and a .795 OPS last year. He has an .804 OPS in his career. Chris Taylor can also play second base and shortstop. He hit 12 home runs with eight stolen bases and a .794 OPS last year.

                        Projected Opening Day Lineup
RF Mookie Betts (R)
CF Cody Bellinger (L)
1B Max Muncy (L)
3B Justin Turner (R)
LF Joc Pederson (L)
C Will Smith (R)
SS Corey Seager (L)
2B Gavin Lux (L)
Pitcher

                        Projected Rotation
Clayton Kershaw (L)
Walker Buehler (R)
David Price (L)
Julio Urias (L)
Alex Wood (L)

                         Projected Bullpen
Kenley Jansen (R)
Pedro Baez (R)
Joe Kelly (R)
Ross Stripling (R)
Joe Kelly (R)
Adam Kolarek (L)
Dustin May (R)
Tony Gonsolin (R)

                          Projected Bench
C Austin Barnes (R)
UT Kike Hernandez (R)
UT Chris Taylor (R)
1B/LF Matt Beaty L)
OF AJ Pollock (R)

                           Prediction
The Dodgers will undoubtedly be one of baseball's top teams in 2020. They have a great lineup, great rotation and a good bullpen, with great depth and a great farm system. They will take the NL West title again, and lose to the Yankees in the World Series.

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