We made it! We’ve finally made it to number one. Not only that, but it’s finally Opening Day. Just a few months late, but it’s finally here. If you didn’t guess by now, the Los Angeles Dodgers are my pick for the best team in baseball heading into 2020.
The Dodgers were the best team in baseball on paper last year, but ran into a hot Nationals team that knocked them out of the playoffs. That team was so good that you wouldn’t think they could get much better right? Wrong. The Dodgers said let’s go trade for the second best player on the planet in Mookie Betts. They gave up Alex Verdugo, Kenta Maeda and Jeter Downs in order to acquire the 2018 AL MVP. As if that wasn’t enough, just yesterday, they agreed to a 12 year extension worth $365 million, the second most valuable contract in baseball history only behind Mike Trout’s $420 million contract from last spring.
Now that we tackled the elephant in the room, let’s break down the rest of the lineup. The Dodgers have two of the five best players in baseball in there in Betts and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger. Not many teams can say that they have two MVP’s in their lineup, let alone two consensus top five players. Actually, nobody else can say that, not even the Yankees. In between those two are veterans Justin Turner and Max Muncy, both of whom have seen tremendous success in recent years, especially Muncy who broke out in a big way in 2018. There’s one guy people sleep on in this lineup and its Corey Seager. He’s only a few years removed from a Rookie of the Year and top three MVP finish. He’s still a really good players who hits for power and a decent average. People mostly forgot about him because he had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and he struggled a bit for his standards in 2019, but he still put up above average numbers to prove why he was an All-Star. The rest of the lineup is filled with solid players to hold down the fort in Chris Taylor, Will Smith and AJ Pollock. The DH spot will likely be split between a few players and also used to get some guys an off day without coming out of the lineup.
The Dodgers rotation is as strong as ever, even without the newly acquired David Price who opted out of this season due to the pandemic. Clayton Kershaw will start tonight on Opening Day for the franchise for a record ninth time. Kershaw quietly had a really good season in 2019 but recorded an ERA over three for the first time since his 2008 rookie year. People have seemed to forget about Kershaw who has seemingly been overshadowed by the emergence of Walker Buehler, but Kershaw was an All-Star for the eighth time last year and quietly finished eighth in the Cy Young voting. Kershaw is without question the best pitcher of his generation and may be the most well rounded pitcher in baseball, so don’t sleep on this future Hall of Famer who has plenty left in the tank. The afore mentioned Buehler has emerged as a dominate pitcher in baseball, with the kind of swing and miss stuff most pitchers dream of having. Behind him, you have a guy who I believe is a breakout candidate this season in Julio Urias, who most people forget was once a top prospect in baseball and debuted at the young age of 19. Alex Wood and Ross Stripling will round out the rotation, both of who can be All-Stars if they pitch to their potential. The rotation will need to carry the bullpen this season, which could be a bit shaky as they don’t have any truly dominant arms, but Blake Treinan was an interesting signing that could be that guy if he can find the 2018 version of himself again.
The Dodgers are notorious for holding on to their top prospects, although that didn’t stop them from dealing Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs to the Red Sox to get Mookie Betts and David Price, a trade what was highly praised throughout baseball. I didn’t even mention the number two prospect in baseball Gavin Lux, who was surprisingly sent to the alternate training site yesterday, but will be up with the Dodgers to man second base at some point this season, likely sooner rather than later. Overall, the Dodgers farm system ranks fifth in baseball according to Bleacher Report.
While Lux is the team’s top prospect by far, let’s talk about their number two prospect, Dustin May. May made his major league debut last season and made four starts and ten appearances out of the bullpen, pitching to a 3.63 ERA in 34.2 innings while striking out 32. May possesses elite stuff and spins it with the best of them, making his fastball very difficult to hit. He doesn’t throw a typical straight four seam fastball, he throws a hard two seamer with good hard sink. He pronates well to give it its movement and when you combine that with his elite spin rate, that pitch is practically unhittable, likely why MLB.com grades it as a 70 grade pitch. The rest of his repertoire is really good as well, with a plus cutter he developed in 2018 and a nasty curveball to compliment his sinker. May has the makeup to be at the top of the rotation starter, and could form a fearsome trio at the top of the Dodgers Rotation with Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw for years to come.
In my opinion, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. I’ve listened to arguments for the Yankees being better but when you do the research, the Dodgers are simply better, and its not even remotely close. I expect great things from the Dodgers this season, and spoiler, that may include raiding the Commissioner’s Trophy when all is said and done.
Top Acquisition – Mookie Betts
Biggest loss – Tommy Pham
MVP – Cody Bellinger
Projected Finish – 1st in AL West
Mookie Betts, RF
Max Muncy, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Cody Bellinger, CF
A.J. Pollock, LF
Corey Seager, SS
Will Smith, C
Chris Taylor, 2B
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