Los Angeles Dodgers 2021 Season Previewby Ben Fadden March 24, 2021 2 comments
The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming into 2021 as the favorites to win the World Series, but what will their Opening Day roster look like?
The Dodgers were the last team standing last year for the first time since 1988, winning the World Series over the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays in six games. Their addition of Mookie Betts ended up working out tremendously and they’ll have him in the outfield for the next decade.
Los Angeles was able to retain their two biggest free agents–Justin Turner and Blake Treinen in addition to bringing in Trevor Bauer to be their third starter after winning the NL Cy Young. Other than that, the roster is going to contain all of the same names that it did last season with the exception of fan-favorite Kike Hernandez, who went to Boston.
Opening Day is just days away on April 1 so the Dodgers are finalizing their roster. If I was in manager Dave Roberts‘ chair, here is how the roster would shake out.
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It will be the same catching group that it was in 2020 with Smith getting the majority of the starts. Smith is projected to have another solid offensive season, hitting 19 homers with a .475 slugging percentage.
Barnes is one of the best backup catchers in baseball and he becomes even more valuable because he can play other positions in a pinch.
Muncy didn’t have a great offensive season in 2020 as the Dodgers’ primary first baseman. He hit just .192 and barely getting into double digits in homers (12) but Los Angeles will say that the two-month season didn’t really give Muncy a chance to get in a rhythm.
Look for him to come back with a 2019-like season from an offensive standpoint.
Lux and Taylor will get the majority of reps at second base. They are the only solid options available to Roberts with Kike Hernandez leaving in free agency to the Boston Red Sox.
Taylor will move around the diamond as he usually does, so expect Lux to get his first real opportunity to be the starting second baseman after spending a good chunk of 2020 in the minors.
Seager is coming off of a tremendous postseason where he won the World Series MVP and has the incentive to have an even better year (if that’s possible) in 2021.
Seager is entering his walk year so if he can have back-to-back tremendous seasons on a World Series contending team, he should have plenty of suitors in free agency despite there being a ton of star shortstops in the market alongside him.
It was hard to imagine seeing Turner don another uniform because of how much he has accomplished in Los Angeles. He is back in what will likely be his last contract with the Dodgers after being an instrumental part of their championship team last year.
Rios would’ve probably taken over for Turner if he left in free agency and he seems to always come up big off of the bench. Despite limited playing time in 2020, the left-handed infielder still managed to hit eight home runs and own a slugging percentage of .645.
Pollock, Bellinger, and Betts are returning as the three starting outfielders from left to right. Bellinger and Betts are destined to have another solid year but don’t be surprised if their numbers aren’t as great because it’s a longer season and they are facing tougher pitching inside their division (Darvish, Snell, Musgrove, etc.).
Beaty plays both the infield and the outfield, so I stuck him in the outfield because he should get most of his playing time in left field if Pollock needs rest or lands on the Injured List.
Starting Rotation Projections
Kershaw is starting on Opening Day for what seems like the hundredth time with his sidekick Buehler as a pretty solid number two if you ask me.
Bauer signed a huge $102 million contract–an obvious overpay–only to be the third starter in the rotation. He just gave up three homers in one inning to the Mariners in his last start so he’ll be looking to be sharper come April, particularly when he has to face the deep lineup of the San Diego Padres.
Price has said that he’s willing to come out of the bullpen if that’s what is best for the team, but I think that Roberts will just keep Price where he has been for nearly his entire career.
The fifth spot in the rotation might not go to a single starter this year. There are three viable options (Tony Gonsolin, May, and Julio Urias), but to start the year May should be the guy.
May is used to being a starter so it would be best for the Dodgers to keep him where he is comfortable. On the other hand, Urias and Gonsolin both have recent experience out of the ‘pen and would help the team more in the bullpen because they need more depth there due to some question marks.
Kenley Jansen struggled yet again in the postseason but Roberts has told the media that Jansen is going to be the team’s closer to start the season. Treinen is a very nice safety net as we all saw in 2020 when he became Roberts’ most reliable reliever in October.
Knebel used to be one of the best relievers in baseball when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers so the Dodgers are taking a flier on him to get back to being the guy he was in 2017 and 2018.
As you can see, Alexander and Santana aren’t the flashiest of names. Nelson isn’t getting any younger so it will benefit the Dodgers to have Urias and Gonsolin coming into games in relief because there simply aren’t many guys that Roberts can be confident giving the ball to late in games.
Players to Watch For
Gavin Lux — I touched on Lux earlier already but he is certainly one of the most intriguing players that could impact the Dodgers in 2021. He hasn’t gotten a ton of playing time because Hernandez and Taylor have played so well for the Dodgers over the years but if he can get out to a hot start, it will make Los Angeles that much better because it would give Roberts the ability to use Taylor in a utility role instead of solely at second base.
Brusdar Graterol — After being traded from the Minnesota Twins in the Kenta Maeda deal last offseason, he didn’t have a solidified spot at the back end of the bullpen because he hadn’t really stayed completely healthy. He ended up staying healthy in 2020 and pitched in just about every big game the Dodgers played last October. If you recall, he was the pitcher on the mound when Cody Bellinger robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in the NLDS.
Currently, Graterol is injured for reasons that haven’t been disclosed to the public but if the Dodgers can get him back, it makes their bullpen a lot scarier—particularly if Jansen is pitching well.
2021 Season Prediction
The Dodgers are the best team in Major League Baseball going into the season but I see their streak of winning eight straight division titles coming to an end.
Why? Because the Padres are legit. You could make the case that their lineup is just as good as the Dodgers’ lineup is and they have a better rotation and bullpen.
The 19 games against each other will all be close. I could see the bullpens being the X-factor for who wins the season series (and probably who wins the division). What I do know is both teams are going to want to win the NL West because if not, they will be playing in a one-game playoff as a 90+ win team.
As for their World Series chances, in this scenario, they would have to get past the Padres in the Divisional Round if they come out of the Wild Card but if they can do so, then they should be able to win back-to-back NL pennants.
Record: 92-70, Second in the NL West
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