Spring Training is officially underway. Pitchers and catchers reported on Wednesday, which means the position players aren’t far behind. After hoisting the trophy in 2020, the Dodgers are the Vegas favorite to repeat in 2021.
The Dodgers are the +300 betting favorite to repeat as World Series champions.https://t.co/739pRt1tsU
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) February 10, 2021
To continue the Dodgers Nation Season Preview Series, we’ll be taking a look at the Dodgers infield. Note, catchers were covered in a separate piece.
Projected Starting Infield
- First Base: Max Muncy
- Second Base: Gavin Lux
- Shortstop: Corey Seager
- Third Base: Justin Turner
As of last week, a right handed third baseman with pop was the only thing the infield, and the lineup, was missing. The return of Justin Turner to the Dodgers filled that need and then some. His declining defense at the hot corner shouldn’t be glossed over, nor should it overshadow his productivity at the plate or vaunted clubhouse leadership.
— Justin Turner (@redturn2) February 14, 2021
JT slashed .307/.400/.460 in 2020 and is still one of the best contact hitters in the game.
Speaking of one of the best in the game, shortstop Corey Seager enters 2021 fresh off of winning the NLCS and WS MVP awards. If Seager can stay healthy, there’s no reason he can’t turn in an OPS over .950.
2020 Shortstop League Leaders OPS
- Trea Turner: .982
- Corey Seager: .943
- Fernando Tatis Jr: .937
- Tim Anderson: .886
- Trevor Story: .874
The advanced defensive stats aren’t pretty (-3.5 UZR in 2020), but Seager might be the best hitting shortstop in the game. As if he needed any extra motivation, 2020 is a contract year for Mr. Seager.
First base figures to be Max Muncy’s primary position this season. Which is great because he hates third base. A lot.
Although he rode shotgun on the 2020 struggle bus, his .203 BABIP (around .300 is league average) indicates a lot of bad luck. Despite hitting sub-.200, he still produced a sterling walk rate (15.7%).
A batter’s eye that good is sure to produce results over 162 games.
Once again, Gavin Lux will have every opportunity to earn the starter role at second base this spring. His 2020 might have been rockier than Denver, but the departure of Kike Hernandez paved the road to a starting role. All the talent is there, but he’ll need to bring a major league mentality to Camelback Ranch this time around. There’s too much upside to not give him a shot.
Major League Depth
- Cody Bellinger
- Chris Taylor
- Edwin Rios
- Matt Beaty
Including Bellinger on this list feels like a cardinal sin, but he did start 36 games at first base even in his Gold Glove season in the outfield in 2019. Considering Bellinger is coming off of November shoulder surgery, additional time at first for the 2019 NL MVP wouldn’t be a surprise.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger underwent surgery Tuesday to repair the right shoulder he dislocated celebrating a home run in Game 7 of the NLCS, sources tell ESPN.
Bellinger is expected to miss 10 weeks, which would put him on track to return by spring training.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 17, 2020
You have to be pretty damn versatile to get included in both the outfield and field team previews. That’s Chris Taylor for you. Honestly, this writer half considered creating a sixth infield position just to include him in the starter portion. Taylor had his second best season by OPS last year (.842) and is a great backup option if Lux struggles. As usual, he should see time all around the yard.
GAME. OVER. pic.twitter.com/rBVrFoZHYB
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 6, 2020
Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios both provide left handed power off the bench and can fill in as starters when needed. Rios should see more playing time since keeping Justin Turner fresh and healthy is major priority.
Minor League Depth
Another versatile player, Zach McKinstry has plenty of Dodger fans excited. On top of hitting .382/.421/.753 in 26 games in AAA in 2019, McKinstry can play second,shortstop, and third base. Music to Mr. Friedman’s ears.
Sheldon Neuse, acquired from Oakland in the Adam Kolarek deal, could be another diamond in the rough. If he can continue to get on base like he did in AAA in 2019 (.389 OBP), he could find himself in the Dodgers dugout for September.