It’s hard to match the Los Angeles Dodgers and their ability to consistently build winning baseball teams.
Los Angeles has made the playoffs in ten consecutive seasons. The last time they finished below second place in the NL West was 2011. What’s crazier is the Dodgers won 106 games in 2021 and still had to settle for the NL Wild Card because the rival Giants won 107.
The 2022 season should be another challenging one for the Dodger Blue. They’ve got serious holes heading into Opening Day and the Padres look like a serious threat. They also have a tougher schedule, what with full interleague play as opposed to divisional. This means meetings not only with their NL rival Mets, but their historical adversaries, the Yankees.
The history between all three teams speaks for itself. The Dodgers and Yankees were longtime World Series rivals dating back to the former’s Brooklyn Days. New York may have won eight of 11 total matchups, but the Dodgers won the most recent in 1981.
The Mets’ history with the Dodgers is more recent, even though Los Angeles won a hard-fought seven-game series in the 1988 NLCS. New York famously upset the Dodgers in the 2015 NLDS en route to the World Series and could easily be playoff foes again this year.
That means that while the Yankees’ visit to Dodger Stadium in June will be nice, the Mets’ hosting them right after the All-Star Break could mean more.
Greatest Addition: Noah Syndergaard. It’s easy to miss how banged up the Dodgers’ rotation is this year after leading MLB with a 2.80 ERA in 2022. Clayton Kershaw can’t stay healthy and Walker Buehler is still recovering from last August’s Tommy John surgery. Tony Gonsolin is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle and Dustin May has never pitched a full season.
Enter Syndergaard, the former top Mets prospect turned their greatest troll. He posted a 3.94 ERA with the Angels and Phillies last year and did a good job making the change from strikeout artist to control pitcher. Syndergaard has also pitched to a 0.96 mark in spring training. He’ll help Julio Urias carry the innings load once Kershaw’s back is an issue again.
And if it’s his turn to pitch against the Mets in July, it will be his first start against his former team. Don’t be surprised if he uses a potential playoff preview to reach back for a little something extra.
Greatest Loss: Justin Turner. The born-and-raised Angeleno was the ultimate hard worker, his collar as blue as his Dodger colors. He spent nine years with the organization, batting .296 with the Dodgers and winning a World Series in 2020. Turner was also a strong clubhouse leader when he wasn’t holding his own at third base.
And though Turner hit a respectable .278 in 2022, he hit just 13 home runs in 128 games. Throw in his turning 38 in the offseason and Los Angeles was happy to let him go in favor of younger talent. He signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox, truly marking the end of an era out west.
Between his leadership and playoff heroics, Turner will be sorely missed in Dodgertown.
Greatest Strength: It’s always been player development. The Dodgers’ farm system and its success rate goes back to the days of Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda and Walter Alston before him. Los Angeles’ system works so well that the Dodgers produced five consecutive Rookies of the Year from 1992-96.
The Dodgers’ latest crop of youth should still excite in 2023, even without Lux. Cuban prospect Miguel Vargas is a .313 lifetime hitter in the minors and should start the year at second base. Michael Busch hit 32 home runs across two levels in 2022 and could debut in the outfield this year. Righty Bobby Miller could make Buehler’s absence barely noticeable if he debuts this year.
This means that regardless of how the Dodgers finish in 2023, their next round of youth is close enough to stave off any steep decline.
Greatest Weakness: Chris Taylor. He signed a new four-year, $60 million contract with the Dodgers ahead of last season and hit .221 with a .677 OPS over 118 injury-riddled games. Taylor also played seven different positions for Los Angeles last year, including all three outfield spots.
The greater issue is Taylor is overpaid, at least compared to other super-utility players like DJ LeMahieu. He’s a .256 career hitter with average power and saw his strikeout rate (K%) balloon to a career-worst 55.2% in 2022. His defense is also streaky for someone who plays multiple positions and, unlike LeMahieu, his glove doesn’t stand out anywhere in particular.
The fact that Miguel Rojas and his sub-average bat are taking over for Lux at shortstop says it all. It isn’t his +36 defensive runs saved (DRS) at the position compared to Taylor’s -5. Rather, Taylor is batting .135 in spring training. He could very well need to earn any and all playing time this year.
Three years, $45 million to go for the former playoff hero.
Should the Dodgers worry in 2023? Yes, mostly because of questions surrounding the pitching staff. The bigger elephant in the room is the rival Padres being ready to swing their way to the top of the NL West. That’s saying something, especially given how the Dodgers led MLB in scoring last year.
All this to say that the Dodgers are still a playoff team. They can make a deep playoff run either as the NL West champs or a Wild Card team. If they aren’t playing postseason baseball, something has gone horribly wrong.
Thankfully, three June games at home with the Yankees and another three in Queens with the Mets in July (plus the Mets’ visit out west in April) should all have October energy. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be full-on teasers for the NLCS and World Series.
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