Los Angeles Dodgers 2022 Season Previewby Andrew Atkins April 6, 2022 0 comments
The Los Angeles Dodgers have spent the past nine seasons building a dynasty in the National League. Across this span, they have won at least 90 games each year (except of course the pandemic-shortened 2020 season where they finished 43-17), made it to six Championship Series, appeared in three World Series, and of course were the champions of the 2020 World Series. The 2021 season was no exception for the Dodgers. They finished with 106 regular-season wins and an appearance in the NLCS. Although the Dodgers fell short of the World Series, they have many of their core players returning in 2022. They also were able to make some key acquisitions this offseason to further bolster their roster. The Dodger lineup has been fierce in the past, but the projected 2022 lineup may just be one of the best in Major League history.
Make sure to check out all of our other Season Previews.
Despite their 106 wins in 2021, the Dodgers finished in second place in the NL West. They have spent this offseason acquiring both new talent and retaining some of their own key free agents. While some stars left via free agency, the Dodgers were able to lock up All-Star utility man Chris Taylor to a four-year, $60 million contract. They also brought back future Hall of Fame starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw on a one-year, $17 million deal. Pitchers Tyler Anderson, Danny Duffy, and Daniel Hudson were additionally added to add some additional stability to the staff.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Six Years, $162 Million
Freeman and the Atlanta Braves capped off the 2021 campaign as World Series champions, but it also marked the end of the star’s storied career in Georgia. Many thought that Freeman would play his entire career as a Brave. However, after the two sides failed to reach a long-term deal, the Dodgers made a strong enough push to land the left-handed hitter. In his 12-year career, Freeman has been a five-time All-Star, a three-time Silver Slugger winner, a Gold Glove winner, and the MVP of the 2020 season. He is coming off an extremely strong season in 2021, slashing .300/.393/.503 with 31 home runs, a league-leading 120 runs, and posting a 4.5 WAR.
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Trade
In a deal that went down just under a week before Opening Day, the Dodgers landed the eight time All-Star closer. The Dodgers sent outfielder AJ Pollock to the Chicago White Sox in return for Kimbrel. The right-handed thrower split time between the White Sox and Chicago Cubs last season, posting a combined 2.26 ERA, 24 saves, and a 2.5 WAR across 59 ⅔ innings. Kimbrel will slot in very nicely as the new closer in an already elite Dodger bullpen. In his career, Kimbrel has tallied 372 saves, a 21.9 WAR, and 1,026 strikeouts across 628 ⅓ innings pitched.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, One Year, $8.5 Million
The left-handed starter joins the Dodgers as an option to fill a spot in the back end of the rotation. Heaney has spent the majority of his Major League career with the Los Angeles Angels but was traded to the New York Yankees at last year’s deadline. Heaney struggled in 12 appearances with New York down the stretch, posting a 7.32 ERA and allowing opponents to slash .268/.325/.634 against him. The Dodgers will hope that Heaney can pitch closer or better than his career ERA of 4.72 over 634 ⅓ innings. The 30-year-old will be given a shot to keep a spot in the Dodger rotation all year.
Simply looking at the subtractions from the Dodger team may be cause for some uncertainty heading into 2022. However, it is important to remember that the Dodgers in fact had an embarrassment of riches on their roster. They have All-Star phenom Trea Turner ready to take over shortstop duties, All-Star Max Muncy perfectly capable to shift from first base to second base, and of course Taylor able to play a myriad of positions. In addition to the following subtractions, the Dodgers also lost right-handed reliever Corey Knebel, right-hander Joe Kelly, and first baseman Albert Pujols via free agency.
Corey Seager, SS, Texas Rangers
A former first-round pick of the Dodgers in 2012, Seager agreed to terms with the Rangers on a 10-year, $325 million deal back in November. Seager battled injuries at times during his seven years in Los Angeles but was a dynamic presence while on the field. In his career, the soon-to-be 28-year-old has slashed .297/.367/.504 with 104 home runs, 364 RBIs, and a 21.3 WAR across 636 games. Seager has additionally twice been named to the All-Star Game, won two Silver Slugger awards, was named the 2016 Rookie of the Year and was both the NLCS and World Series MVPs in 2020.
Max Scherzer, RHP, New York Mets
The right-handed hurler started just 11 games for the Dodgers in 2021 after arriving via a midseason trade with the Washington Nationals. That being said, these 11 starts were arguably the most dominant stretch of his Hall of Fame career. In fact, the Dodgers did not lose a game that Scherzer started until the NLDS. The 37-year-old went a combined 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA, a 0.864 WHIP, and a 5.2 WAR in 30 starts between the Nationals and Dodgers. The three-time Cy Young award winner inked a three-year, $130 million with the Mets late last year.
Kenley Jansen, RHP, Atlanta Braves
For over a decade Jansen was a staple at the back end of the Dodger bullpen. Across 12 years with Los Angeles, the righty saved 350 games, finished with a 2.37 ERA, and had an 18.4 WAR. Despite not being his former unstoppable self, the 34-year-old still had a solid season in 2022. In 69 games Jansen registered 38 saves, a 2.22 ERA, and a 1.043 WHIP. He agreed to terms with the reigning World Series champion Braves on a one-year, $16 million contract earlier this offseason.
AJ Pollock, OF, Chicago White Sox
A victim of the star-studded outfield crisis in the Dodger organization, Pollock ended up being the odd man out between Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Gavin Lux, and Taylor. As a result, the Dodgers shipped Pollock to the White Sox in exchange for Kimbrel earlier this month. In his ten-year career, the right-handed hitter has slashed .281/.338/.482 with 126 home runs, 414 RBIs, and collected a 22.8 WAR in 895 career games. Pollock has a one-year player option on the table for the 2023 season, should he choose to exercise it.
The Dodgers enter the 2022 season once again as a favorite to win not only the National League but the World Series. With a lineup consisting of All-Stars such as Betts, Bellinger, Freeman, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Muncy, and Taylor this is not at all an outlandish take. This will be a big year for Lux, as he will finally get a chance to settle into an everyday role and get substantial playing time. A former first-round pick, Lux is already 24 but only has played in 144 games across the past three seasons. If he comes close to his full potential this year, the Dodger lineup very well may be unstoppable.
MLB Pipeline ranked the Dodger farm system as the fifth-best in all of baseball in their preseason ranking. This includes five prospects in the top 100. Barring a completely unforeseen circumstance, the Dodgers will once again be buyers at this year’s trade deadline and will likely liquidate some prospects in order to fill whatever void they may have at the Major League level. One area they may end up trading for is starting pitching. The Dodgers have three dominant starters in Walker Buehler, Kershaw, and Julio Urias, as well as a solid option in Tony Gonsolin. They have several options that could slot in at the fifth spot, but trading for an additional All-Star-caliber starter could help them win a playoff series come October.
Despite how good they were last season; the Dodgers may very well be a better team in 2022. They added one of the top players in the world in Freeman and will be able to utilize their offense even more with the implementation of the designated hitter in the National League. The Dodgers should win over 100 games for the third time in four years, should all go according to plan. It of course is tough to predict a team to be this dominant, but the Dodgers are certainly built to win. In all sports, especially baseball, the best team does not always end up winning the World Series. That being said the Dodgers are poised to either return to or once again be on the cusp of a World Series berth in 2022.
Follow Andrew Atkins on Twitter @doubleA_double2
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images