Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s time for Dodgers baseball! The 2020 Season is going to be unusual, surely, but it is most likely happening. Do the Los Angeles Dodgers have what it takes to win the NL West for the eighth consecutive year? What effect will the shortened 2020 season bring about for the team? What are the chances of the Dodgers winning the World Series in 2020? These questions and more will be addressed in this article. The Los Angeles Dodgers Season preview starts now.

Looking back at the 2019 Season

2019 was an excellent season for the Dodgers in a lot of ways. It was also a rough year because the Dodgers lost a five-game NL Divisional Series to the eventual World Champions. Since the goal is to win the World Series, and the Dodgers lost in the Division series, it is hard to look at the season as anything but a failure. However, there were a ton of excellent achievements along the way.

The Dodgers set several franchise records including the most wins in franchise history, with 106. They barely passed the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, who won 105. They also won the most home games in Dodger Stadium history (59), falling one win short of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers. The 2019 Dodgers smashed the NL team home run record by 30, hitting 279 homers last year. There has been only one trio of Dodgers to each hit 35+ home runs in the same season. That feat was accomplished by NL MVP Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson in 2019.

The Dodgers won the NL West by the largest margin in history, 21 games. They were also the fastest team to clinch the NL West on both dates and games played. The Dodgers led the National League in Runs, Home runs, slugging, OPS, and total bases. That was just the hitting. In pitching, they led the league in ERA, fewest hits, fewest runs, fewest walks, and most strikeouts. In short, 2019 was not too bad for a “failed season.”

Key Losses for the 2020 Season

Most of LA was likely waiting for a full, consistent year out of Hyun-Jin Ryu. Those who were received exactly what they had been expecting ever since he placed fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2013. Ryu dazzled with a minuscule ERA of 2.32 through 182 2/3 innings. He had 163 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.007, finishing second in Cy Young voting. The wait was seven years, but it finally ended in 2019. The Toronto Blue Jays then promptly snatched him up in free agency.

Kenta Maeda went to the Minnesota Twins in a five-player-deal that also sent minor leaguer Jair Camargo to the Twin Cities. That deal yielded young fire-baller Brusdar Graterol, who looks to be the closer of the future. The Dodgers also received Luke Raley, who is on the 40-man along with Graterol. Maeda will be missed because of his versatility. He can strike batters out throughout a start as well as in relief.

Alex Verdugo is not going to be missed a whole lot because he is an up-and-comer who is trying to get his chance to shine, which he does most of the time he is in the lineup. Alex has been the victim of a Dodger outfield that for years has been jam-packed with talent. That situation held Verdugo down and overshadowed him a bit even though he’s been doing big things. Verdugo would be a starter in a lot of MLB outfields, which is evidenced by him being named the starting right fielder for the Boston Red Sox immediately. This is also why he could yield such talent in return from the Red Sox — Mookie Betts and David Price. So, while he is not going to be hugely missed, he is definitely a significant loss.

New Major Additions for the 2020 Season

What do you add to an outfield that features the 2019 NL MVP and two young sluggers in Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson, who combined for 83 home runs? How about 2018 AL MVP, three-time silver slugger, four-time Gold Glover and All-Star, Mookie Betts? That is three All-Stars, two MVPs, and 112 total home runs from 2019. The Dodgers also have another All-Star outfielder in a possible platoon with Pederson, AJ Pollock. That is a tough outfield to beat anywhere in baseball.

David Price could be in both categories because he came over in the same deal that brought Betts and lost Verdugo. Then he opted out of this season due to COVID-19, but he is still going to be under contract through 2022. Betts is just a rental, though there have been rumors about the Dodgers potentially trying to extend him. Price is a former Cy Young winner and five-time All-Star, so the rotation is definitely much better with Price in it, but no one will see him until 2021.

Alex Wood is back on the Dodgers and back in the starting rotation. Another All-Star pitcher, Alex has also finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting and is still in his 20s, so his peak is likely yet to come. Alex is fully healthy again after only pitching 35 2/3 innings in 2019. He attended Driveline Sports in the off-season with Kershaw and Jansen, so look for some good, solid production from this young man in 2020 — especially with a Gold Glove-heavy defense behind him and a pitcher’s park at home, as well as two other NL West parks.

2020 Season Depth Chart

The Dodgers depth chart shows one of the deepest teams in MLB — if not the deepest. Most of the players on the depth chart are on there multiple times. This is because most of them play multiple positions well. First things first, the starters at each position:

Catcher

The starting catcher is going to be Will Smith, who is coming off a rookie season in which he barely crossed the threshold with 170 at-bats. He batted .253 with 15 homers and 42 RBI. He also put up an OPS of .907 — very good for any player, but especially good for a catcher. Smith has been a highly anticipated arrival in the bigs, and his young career is off to a productive start after a WAR of 1.7. Backing up Smith is Austin Barnes, who himself is a good, young catcher.

First Base

At first base will be All-Star Max Muncy. Muncy made his first All-Star team last year and likely will not slow down in this, his 29-year-old season. He hit 35 home runs in each of the last two seasons and batted .251/.374/.515 last year with 98 RBI. Backing Max up will be Cody Bellinger, along with rookies Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios. First base is very deep.

Second Base

At second base is the #2-ranked prospect in MLB, Gavin Lux. Lux is another young phenom with huge expectations in his rookie season. Gavin came up for a sip of coffee last year at the age of 21 and turned in 75 at-bats for the Dodgers. Gavin grades out at 60 in Hit, Run, and Power—65 overall. He will likely be fun to watch this year. Lux will be backed up by Muncy, Enrique Hernandez, and Chris Taylor.

Shortstop

Corey Seager will be starting at short. The 2016 Rookie of the Year has multiple Silver Sluggers and All-Star selections. He also finished third in MVP voting in his rookie year. Last year, in his return from Tommy John surgery, he hit 44 doubles and 19 homers while batting .272/.335/.483. Seager, 26, is backed up by Taylor, Lux, and Hernandez.

Third Base

As usual, third base will be manned by All-Star and 2017 NLCS MVP Justin Turner. Turner tied his career high in 2019 with 27 homers. He also turned in 67 RBI while batting .290/.372/.509. Not only can Turner hit with the best of them, but he is also a career .967 Fielding percentage guy. Turner will be backed up by Hernandez, Muncy, Beaty, and Rios.

Outfield

The Dodgers outfield is stacked. There are four All-Stars, two MVP, two Silver Sluggers, three Gold Glovers, and a batting title out there. The outfield combined for 127 homers, 316 RBI, 388 runs scored, 37 stolen bases in 2019. This outfield consists of Bellinger, Betts, and a platoon of Pederson and Pollock. It is safe to expect good things from the outfield in the 2020 season. Finding a better outfield anywhere in MLB would be challenging.

2020 Season Starting Rotation

Price opting out removes a Cy Young-winning pitcher from the rotation. This also creates a space that needs to be filled. Luckily, the Dodgers have depth. Their rotation is left with their other Cy Young-winner. Clayton Kershaw has won three Cy Youngs, five ERA titles, a Gold Glove, Triple Crown, MVP, and ML PoY. He is also an eight-time All-Star and is only 32. Kershaw has already been the ace of this staff for the last 10 years. He will be joined by fellow All-Stars Walker Buehler, who led the league in complete games last year, and Alex Wood.

The rotation will be rounded out with young Julio Urias. Urias is only 23 years old, but it seems like he has been on the Dodgers for a long time since he debuted at 19. He is looking to carry his success from 2019 into his full-time rotation spot. The fifth spot in the Dodgers rotation is officially unclear. Manager Dave Roberts recently said that he is not ready to name a fifth starter. A lot of people who follow the Dodgers expect Ross Stripling to take that spot, and rightfully so. It could also be Tony Gonsolin or Dustin May. These young pitchers have all done very well when given opportunities. So, there are plenty of options. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

2020 Season Bullpen

The bullpen has been an area of major concern for the Dodgers over the last few years, yet it has been a part of some very successful teams. Last year the Dodgers won 106 games despite being tied for 22nd in baseball with 3.8 relief wins below league average. They collectively blew 29 saves, despite still winning five of those games. Ironically, they were ahead of only the Washington Nationals in win probability added with -2.51. Imagine if they only blew half of those 29 saves, rounding down to 14. That would have been 14 more wins for an already great 106-win team (120 wins). Unfortunately, the Dodgers had three pitchers in the top 22 for blown saves, which needs to be addressed.

The highest leverage guy on the Dodgers is another All-Star in closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen has been a dominant closer ever since he was Rookie of the Year in 2011. Kenley seems to have his swagger back after attending Driveline Sports in the off-season. He is a potential comeback player of the year. Jansen will be joined by a much stronger group of guys featuring newly-acquired All-Star closer Blake Treinen and a rookie fire-baller, Graterol. The Dodgers are also bringing back Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly, Scott Alexander, Dylan Floro, Scott AlexanderDennis Santana, and Caleb Fergeson.

Dodgers 2020 Season Outlook

For years and years, the Dodgers have been known as fast starters who dominate the first half then fizzle in the second half. The 2019 Dodgers won the NL West by 21 games. They absolutely punished their division. They were 11-8 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and 12-7 with the San Francisco Giants. It got ugly with the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies — 13-6 and 15-4, respectively. That combines for a record against the NL West of 51-25 — an annihilation of the division.

One question is how will the Dodgers do in a shortened season with the addition of a DH and most of their games against division rivals. If they come out of the gate and dominate the way they have in the past, then they will find themselves in the World Series rather than in first place at the All-Star Break. The Dodgers beat up on the NL West last year, and this Dodgers roster has gotten much better for the 2020 season. If that success against the West carries over to the 2020 season, and most of their games are against the NL West, then that puts the Dodgers in a pretty good position to once again win the West.

There likely will not be a single DH. Roberts will probably use the spot to give starters a half-day, and/or use the depth of his bench to play the match-ups and put in whatever hitter will likely be the most successful against that particular pitcher. The DH just allows the Dodgers to add one more of their great hitters every time through the lineup instead of a pitcher.

Conclusion

There are a lot who predict a Dodgers vs Yankees World Series, like back in the Brooklyn days. One thing is for certain. No matter how good a team is on paper, the only thing that matters is how good/hot your team is once the playoffs start. That is when anything can happen. This will be a crazy, exciting season with twists, turns, surprises, and shockers. Buckle up, because this wild ride is about to get underway.

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