The 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers have completed Spring Training and are heading to Denver to take on the Colorado Rockies in the Opening Series of the 2021 season. This is not a drill. The baseball season has come again and, once again, “It’s time, for Dodgers Baseball!” The questions from the Spring Training Preview have been answered, and now is a great time to preview this 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers season. The expectations are very high for the Dodgers fresh off their World Series win. However, the Dodgers are clearly having fun and playing some good baseball this spring.
The Dodgers ended their Spring Training on a high note this year. They hit four home runs in each of their last three games of the spring against the Los Angeles Angels. Gavin Lux has burst onto the scene this spring, as many expected that he would. Corey Seager has picked up right where he left off after winning the NLCS and World Series MVP awards, and also finished in the top 10 in MVP Voting (9) for the second time in his young career. Seager was not the only Dodger who finished top 10 in MVP voting, however. He was joined by Mookie Betts (2), and Trevor Bauer (10). That is what happened last year. So, let’s take a look at how this season is shaping up.
2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Starting Rotation
Dave Roberts named the starting rotation for the beginning of the regular season, just prior to their final spring game. When the 10 best rotations for 2021 were ranked, the Dodgers were first, and they had seven pitchers in the rotation. MLB.com listed the rotation as Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, David Price, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin. It is not hard to see why they were ranked the best rotation of 2021. There are three Cy Young Award winners in that rotation. No other rotation even has two. However, the starting rotation is five pitchers, so two are starting on the taxi squad this year.
The actual starting rotation will be Kershaw, Bauer, Buehler, Urias, and May. That leaves Price and Gonsolin on the taxi squad to start the year, which will include spot starts. Andrew Freidman and Dave Roberts both said this week that all seven guys are going to be starting games for the Dodgers this year. It is not surprising that Price needs some more time after opting out of the 2020 season. Either Price or Gonsolin would likely be included in almost any rotation in baseball. This is a testament to how strong and deep this rotation is. Expect good things to happen this year from all seven.
Dave Roberts has said that despite any rumors or rumblings, Kenley Jansen is the Dodgers closer. This spring was reminiscent of the Jansen Dodgers fans are used to seeing. His velocity has been up around 93 MPH on his cutter, and he has added a sharp slider to his arsenal. His spring numbers include an ERA of 1.23, WHIP of .955, and 13 strikeouts in seven and one-third innings. Those numbers are indicative of a high-leverage guy, which Jansen has always been. Joining Jansen in the high leverage spots will be two excellent, former closers in Blake Treinen and Cory Knebel. These two high-leverage/setup guys have 129 saves between them at the MLB level. It must be comforting for Roberts to know that he has three good closers at his disposal.
Victor Gonzales, Jimmy Nelson, and Scott Alexander will be handling the lower-leverage/shorter relieving duties. These pitchers were strong for the Dodgers last year, and they are looking strong coming into the season now. The Dodgers bullpen has been a weakness on what has been one of the strongest teams of the last six years or so. Even after posting the best bullpen ERA in baseball last year, as well as adding Knebel, the Dodgers bullpen is only ranked sixth in MLB. Regardless of their rank, the Dodgers bullpen looks like they are up to the challenge so far. Time will certainly tell.
The outfield is also one of the best in baseball. From left to right, it is AJ Pollock, Cody Bellinger, and Mookie Betts. All three outfielders are All-Stars and Gold Glove winners. Betts and Bellinger have also won Silver Slugger awards as well as MVP awards. This outfield is highly-talented, and they are coming into the season with a full head of steam. Betts came into the final game of the Freeway Series with zero spring training home runs. He hit two in the final game of spring, while Bellinger and Will Smith hit one each. It is safe to expect good things from this outfield both offensively, and defensively.
Dodgers Starting Infield
The 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers infield is absolutely on fire this spring. Will Smith is going to be the primary catcher, and he started off hotter than he finished last year. He is slashing .366/.422/.585 with three doubles and two homers this spring.
Max Muncy will play first base again this year. Muncy started off very slowly this spring, but even when he was not making good contact, he was still leading the team in walks. Muncy has since come on strong and improved his slash line to .239/.352/.457 with three bombs. He is finding his groove at the plate just at the right time. Muncy is going to be settling in as only a first baseman, without having to worry about playing other positions this year as he has in the past. This will likely make him even more comfortable this year. Regardless, he will likely continue to hit the ball hard, while being near the top of the team in walks.
The long-awaited arrival of Gavin Lux is finally over, as he will be the starting second baseman this year. After a year in which he was expected in the majors but it never really materialized, the suspense was mounting. He has come to camp prepared and won the job at second. Lux slashed .333/.360/.479 with four doubles and a homer this spring. Lux impressed a lot of people this spring. There were originally questions as to whether he would even break camp with the club. He may be poised for a breakout season in 2021.
Corey Seager is another Dodger that has had an amazing spring. As mentioned earlier, he has picked up right where he left off, slashing .347/.429/.837 with eight homers, 16 RBI, seven walks against only nine strikeouts. Seager seems poised for a big year. This is the perfect time in his career to have a breakout type of year since it is also his final season before free agency. The stars seem to be lining up for Seager and he is poised to go for it.
Justin Turner will continue his tenure at the hot corner, after re-signing with the Dodgers late this offseason. People know what they can expect from Turner. He will play solid defense at third. He has come into camp 10-15 pounds lighter than usual, so that may help his mobility at third. That is important because it seemed like he had lost a step on defense last year. The guy is a great third baseman, so he is still going to be a solid third basemen. However, he did not seem to make as many gold glove-caliber plays as he usually does. He will likely still be one of the best hitters in the league as well.
2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Outlook
The Dodgers are the defending World Champions and they want to repeat. They certainly have the talent to do it. However, repeating World Championships do not happen very often. It has happened only 16 times in history. This is because of all the ups and downs of a 162-game season. Anything can and will happen over the course of the year. There are injuries, hitting streaks, winning streaks, losing streaks, slumps, and more. Also, there are teams out there like the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves, that have fierce teams. Repeating even the NL West is not a given, let alone the World Series.
The Dodgers arguably have the best team on paper, which is well-known not to win games. However, the Dodgers are a very good, very deep team full of All-Stars, Cy Young Winners, MVP winners, and good, young players coming up. This group of guys is also having a lot of fun together, which is another sign that they are confident and relaxed. The pressure will be there, as usual, but this team seems to perform well under pressure. The Dodgers have put themselves in an excellent position to go for the repeat, and this is going to be a fun and exciting year to watch. On to Denver!
Embed from Getty Images
Gavin Lux, Corey Seager, Mookie Betts, Trevor Bauer, Dave Roberts, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, David Price, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Cory Knebel, Victor Gonzales, Jimmy Nelson, Scott Alexander, AJ Pollock, Cody Bellinger, Will Smith, Max Muncy.Justin Turner,