Why Bother? The Los Angeles Dodgers Are Poised to Repeat in 2021
It took a long time for the Los Angeles Dodgers to build their championship squad. Not only was it 32 years since the last time they won a World Series, but they also had to deal with several disappointing playoff exits in the preceding years. Keep in mind that 2020 was the team’s eighth consecutive season winning the NL West. Along the way, the Dodgers lost twice in the NLCS and twice in the World Series before finally breaking through against the Rays.
Now that they’ve reached the top of the mountain, don’t expect the Dodgers to go away anytime soon. In fact, here’s why the Dodgers will remain a title contender for years to come and why they’re poised to repeat as World Series champions in 2021.
The Betts and Bellinger Bunch
The biggest reason why the Dodgers have a serious chance of repeating is that the core of their incredibly talented team remains largely intact. Most notably, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. Outside of Mike Trout, Betts and Bellinger are arguably the two best position players in the majors. Bellinger didn’t even have a good season in 2020, although he woke up in October and hit four massive home runs in the playoffs. If he gets anywhere close to how MVP form, a lineup with him and Betts together is going to drive opposing pitchers crazy.
Meanwhile, Corey Seager is also back after winning World Series MVP honors and along with Betts and Bellinger, gives Los Angeles a trio of offensive players that no team can match. The Dodgers also have the likes of A.J. Pollock and Max Muncy in supporting roles. That’s no less than five established veterans in the Los Angeles lineup who are all capable of performing at an All-Star level with at least three of them capable of winning MVP. It’s hard to find another team that can come close to matching the potential the Dodgers have offensively with those five players alone.
It’s not just the trio of Betts, Bellinger and Seager that makes the Dodgers a title contender. For years, the Los Angeles farm system has been stocked with young talent, giving the Dodgers a steady stream of newcomers that always seem ready to contribute. At age 25, catcher Will Smith has just scratched the surface of his capabilities, posting an OPS of .937 over the first 284 at-bats of his career, not including six extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in the playoffs.
In addition to Smith, the Dodgers could practically field an entirely new infield with young players. Middle infielder Gavin Lux has long been seen as an untouchable prospect because of his high upside. At 22, all he needs is an opportunity to play regularly to solidify a spot in the team’s future. With Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios, the Dodgers also have reinforcements at first and third base, respectively, on the way. Having that contingent of young players ready and available will enable the Dodgers to be among the deepest teams in baseball. That depth could prove quite useful if the DH ends up becoming a permanent fixture in the National League in 2021.
Nobody will deny that Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler are still the main attractions in the Los Angeles rotation. Kershaw made a legitimate run for the Cy Young by going 6-2 with a 1.62 ERA during the regular season. Meanwhile, Buehler was nothing short of spectacular in the playoffs, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.80 ERA over his five starts. Those two alone are almost enough to make the Dodgers favorites in the NL West next season. But it’s a contingent of young arms that are poised to put the Dodgers over the top next season, much like they did in 2020.
After battling injuries for many years, 24-year-old Julio Urias finally had a breakout campaign in 2020. He has the stuff to challenge Kershaw as the best lefty in the Dodgers' rotation. Likewise, Dustin May could give Buehler a run for his money as the best right-handed pitcher on the staff. While he still lacks polish, May posted a 2.57 ERA during the regular season and earned value postseason experience in October. That could leave the equally impressive Tony Gonsolin to be the team’s No. 5 starter in 2021. While he struggled in the playoffs, not many teams can boast about an end-of-the-rotation starter who notched a 2.31 ERA. Just for good measure, top-prospect Josiah Gray isn’t that far away from contributing while David Price could also rejoin the rotation in 2021.
Next Generation Bullpen
The bullpen will surely be the biggest question mark for the Dodgers ahead of the 2021 season. It was good enough during the regular season but far from dominant, which is why a starter like Urias played such a vital role by pitching in relief during the playoffs. Moreover, Blake Treinen, Pedro Baez, Jake McGee and Alex Wood are all free agents, so there could be considerable turnover.
That being said, there are plenty of horses left in the barn. Despite some stumbles in 2020, Kenley Jansen is still an above-average closer. The Dodgers also have two lefties in Dylan Floro and Adam Kolarek who were outstanding in 2020 and are reliable setup men. Joe Kelly is also a proven reliever who can help serve as the bridge to Jansen.
More importantly, the team’s contingent of young, rising stars includes several bullpen arms. Brusdar Graterol could be a long-term asset for the Dodgers and has the stuff to be a back-end reliever. The same can be said of Victor Gonzalez, who gives the Dodgers another lefty who was actually better against right-handed hitters. Even if the Dodgers lose Treinen, Baez, and others in free agency, Graterol and Gonzalez will ensure that the L.A. bullpen has plenty of depth.
The Resources to Reload
In addition to the incredible amount of talent and depth that the Dodgers have on their roster, perhaps the biggest reason why they are poised to repeat as champions in 2021 is that the organization is committed to winning. The front office and ownership have shown in recent years that they will spare no expense when it comes to putting together a championship-caliber team. They proved that beyond any doubt when they traded for Betts earlier this year, and there’s no reason to think that will change with one championship.
In addition to several bullpen arms, the Dodgers could potentially part ways with players like Justin Turner, Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez. For most teams, that would create a sizable hole on the roster to fill. But the Dodgers have enough young talent in place to replace them. Of course, if the Dodgers don’t want to put all of their faith in young players, they won’t hesitate to fill the holes with players from outside the organization.
Even coming off a championship, there is no move that’s off the table for Los Angeles. The Dodgers could make a big splash in free agency or trade for a star player, much like they did for Betts this year. If there’s a trade on the table or a free agent who wants to come to L.A. who can help the Dodgers win another World Series, the club will pull the trigger.
In short, the Dodgers will continue to do whatever it takes to chase another championship, and that might be the biggest reason why they will repeat as champions in 2021.
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