2021 Dodgers Spring Training Preview

Photo Credit: USA Today

With Spring Training officially starting with Pitchers and Catchers reporting, we’ll take a look at what to expect from the Dodgers camp.

Coming fresh off their World Series victory, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the talk of the town not just as looking to repeat their World Series run, but because of their new additions. The one thing that immediately stands out is their depth as they are loaded with talent from top to bottom in terms of their bats and their fielders. They are also loaded up with rotation options too, by also adding the top free agent pitcher on the market in Trevor Bauer. The Dodgers will definitely be the powerhouse team in the National League and it will be hard not to pick them as favorites for the World Series yet again.

The PECOTA projections have the Dodgers at 103 wins which would be the most in the Major Leagues and it’s a fair assessment given the talent and depth that the team has. It will more than likely be a two team race as the projections have the Padres right behind the boys in blue with 96 wins. While it’s not necessarily a rivalry between the two teams yet given the Dodgers made quick work of them in the NLDS and then went on to win it all in 2020, the Padres certainly have talent worth recognizing and have added the pitching depth they needed with a flurry of off-season moves.

But this is a preview of the Dodgers, not the Padres, and there’s a lot to like about this team heading into the 2021 season. There will be questions heading into Spring Training that the Dodgers will love to have as most of these questions will regard depth.

Trevor Bauer And Shuffling The Rotation

The biggest talk will no doubt be the acquisition of Trevor Bauer, who was certainly the talk of the off-season as he let fans and reporters wonder where he would end up. Ultimately, the Dodgers ended up landing him and is basically the cherry on top of an already delicious looking cake. He signed a three-year deal that works as three separate one-year deals worth about $102 million when it’s all said and done with the chance for him to opt-out each year. He’ll fit in nicely with a rotation already stacked with Clayton kershaw, Walker Buehler, and David Price heading into the season.

The bigger question will lie with the 5th spot in the rotation as the Dodgers have plenty of options with the likes of Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin. The Dodgers could easily make it a six-man rotation which will give the other starters rest and possibly have a swing man that comes in for emergencies if need be. Either way, it’s near impossible to have all these starters make a turn in the rotation and that will be a question that Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts, will have to address as Spring Training progresses.

Who’s On Second?

One of the main battles to watch position wise will be at second base as the Dodgers need to figure out who will be their everyday second basemen. While going into it, Max Muncy is looking to man the position and it will more than likely be his to lose, but he finished the 2020 season with a .192 batting average and .331 OBP. The one thing he has going for him is his power as he hit 12 home runs in the short 60 game season while he struggles to make consistent contact at the plate.

His job will be on the line with another player that struggles during the 2020 season in Gavin Lux, who was the Dodgers first round pick back in 2016. Lux finished with a .175 batting average and a .246 OBP which doesn’t reflect what he’s been capable of as he was excelling at the minor league level. During 2019 between two different teams, Lux finished with a .347 batting average and a .421 OBP as he was dominating the minor leagues and was making a case for himself. Some of this could be to blame for the lack of time to get adjusted in such a short season, but he’ll definitely have to show the organization that he’s legit and that 2020 was just an off year.

The Bullpen And How It Shakes Out

On paper, the Dodgers have a bullpen that should be effective throughout the regular season, however, relievers can be very volatile and fluctuate up and down from year to year. As it stands, Kenley Jansen is figured to the team’s closer until further notice, however, he has been known to give Dodgers fans stress when coming in to the game as of late. In 2020, he finished with a 3.33 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched with 11 saves in the short 60 game season, which isn’t too bad, but during the postseason he had an ERA of 5.14 which was cause for concern.

The Dodger do have other options that they could go to if Jansen continues to decline with the likes of Brusdar Graterol and his effortless pitching motion that reaches 100 mph. However, because of his inexperience, he will more than likely be a set-up man or middle inning reliever until Dave Roberts can fully trust him with the 9th. Another option could be Blake Treinen, who has experience in that role and is still trying to find that magic that he had with the Oakland Athletics back in 2018 where he had a 0.78 ERA in 80.1 innings of work with 38 saves.

The Dodgers also have three left-handed options that they could turn to if need be in Victor Gonzalez, Caleb Ferguson, and Garrett Cleavinger. Both Gonzalez and Ferguson proved effective in the 2020 season in the situations they were used in and are looking to be that left-handed option that Dave Roberts could go back too. Cleavinger only pitched in one game in 2020, but looks to join both left handed pitchers in being another option to have no matter the situation. Needless to say, the Dodgers do have options in the bullpen and can attack hitters in almost any situation.

Dodgers Depth Could Be Key To Success

Finally, the Dodgers have an insane amount of depth at multiple positions which is a great problem to have. They have a lot of players that can play multiple positions that won’t hinder their offensive production and can come off the bench in key situations. Chris Taylor is one of those pieces that played a huge role in the Dodgers success last season as he can play shortstop, second base, and anywhere in the outfield. Last season, Taylor had a batting average of .270 with a OBP of .366 while also playing 183.2 innings in the outfield, 147.2 innings at shortstop, and 84.1 innings at second base.

Edwin Rios is another key player that can play both first base and third base effectively and still put up decent offensive numbers. Last season, Rios hit to a .250 batting average and a .301 OBP with 8 home runs and 17 RBIs as a platoon player and at times coming off the bench. Having a player like that works wonders for a team that is looking for a clutch hit or getting the team going and Rios can provide that kind of skill. With Justin Turner looking to get a majority of the time at third base, Rios will have to be used to being that plug in type of player that can come in at any given situation.

Jacob Cisneros is a writer for Dodgers-LowDown. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @_JacobCisneros.