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Dodgers: After Getting Mookie Betts, Are There Any Weaknesses to this Team?

After blockbuster trade, the club appears stacked with little room for improvement.



Here’s a news flash: The 2020 Dodgers appear to be a good baseball team.

This, of course, goes without saying. Even before the recent trade that brought in Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers were already expected to win an eighth straight division title, and were likely the favorites in the National League. Now, after adding one of the top players in baseball to a 106-win team, they’ve increased their stock even more, and many believe anything short of a World Series victory will be a disappointment for this team.

There’s no doubt the Dodgers have a stacked team on paper. The lineup is loaded. Their starting rotation has depth for days. And they made moves this off-season to improve a previously suspect bullpen.

With all that said, every team has areas of improvement and possible flaws with their club. So, it begs asking… what are this team’s weaknesses now? Are there any remaining holes on the Dodgers roster? What are the biggest obstacles they’ll have to overcome in order to win the franchise’s first Championship in 32 years?

Below, we take a look at what areas could still be questionable for the Dodgers this year, and how they might go about addressing them.

The lack of a true #2 in the rotation

While the Dodgers certainly have depth in their starting rotation, one could argue they don’t have a top tier 1-2 punch, which can be a very valuable attribute, especially in the playoffs. Walker Buehler has definitely established himself as a bona fide ace. After him, however, it gets a little uncertain about the quality of a true #2 starter for the team.

Now, before you start shouting, “its Clayton freaking Kershaw dummy,” let’s take a moment to acknowledge the situation.

For the record, yes, Kershaw is still a very good pitcher. Last year he went 16-5 while tossing 178 innings, and posting a 3.03 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, and 3.86 FIP. Those are quality number two starter type stats. However, those numbers are also his worst marks since his rookie year of 2008. The same dominance isn’t there, and with the fastball velocity still in decline, you have to wonder if that downhill trend may continue.

There’s also the history of Kershaw in October, but we won’t get into that right now. The point is, with this version of Kershaw behind Buehler, it’s not exactly the same 1-2 punch as a Cole-Verlander or Scherzer-Strasburg combo.

David Price is a former Cy Young winner and one of the best pitchers in the game over the last 10 years or so. But like Kershaw, his numbers have dipped over the last few years, and he’s had to battle some injuries. Price pitched only 107 innings in 2019 and his 4.28 ERA was the highest since 2009. The Dodgers hope he can reclaim some of his past success, and there’s reason to believe he’ll be a solid contributor. But to expect co-ace type numbers from him in 2020, is probably unrealistic.

Possible Solution:  A return to past dominance from Kershaw or Price would be one option. But if that isn’t feasible, the Dodgers could find a co-ace in other ways. Young guys like Julio Urias and Dustin May have the potential to fill such a role, and could develop into a top tier starter by years end. They’ll both likely be on innings limits throughout the season to keep them fresh, and though there’s no guarantee, they both have the stuff to be a dominant starter.

If all else fails, the Dodgers still have one of the deepest farms systems in the game, and could always try to acquire another arm at the trading deadline.

Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen

Repeated for emphasis. In all seriousness though, the bullpen has definitely been the team’s Achilles heel in the past. Sometimes it’s been the actual performance of the relief pitchers themselves, and other times it’s been the in-game management of those relievers. Either way, it’s been a reoccurring issue over the last couple of years.

Going into 2020, the Dodgers bullpen seems to be in better shape. They hope additions like Blake Treinen and Jimmy Nelson can bolster a group that still includes Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, and Pedro Baez. You can also add any starters that don’t make the opening day rotation, like May, Gonsolin, Wood, and Stripling. And there’s the new flame-throwing right-hander they picked up from Minnesota in Brusdar Graterol.

So while this bullpen has the potential to be a very good unit, we still just don’t know yet.

The biggest question will be whether Jansen returns to form or not. He’s coming off perhaps the worst year of his career, and if you have a closer who’s struggling to close out games on a regular basis, it’s going to be a problem.

There are other questions concerning the Dodgers’ bullpen as well. Can Treinen return to his 2018 All-Star form? Or will he be duplicate last year’s numbers, when he put up a 4.91 ERA, 5.14 FIP, and 1.59 K/BB?

What Joe Kelly will the Dodgers get, the first or second half version of 2019? Will Jimmy Nelson be healthy? How effective will young arms like Gonsolin and/or May be in relief?

Possible Solution:  The initial solution is quite simple. This group just has to perform to their capability. The talent is there to be a good bullpen. If there happens to be some weak links, the Dodgers are equipped with enough options that they can make adjustments. But again, Jansen returning to form will be the biggest help.

Too much depth?

Ok, I know… now we’re really nitpicking. But with a team like these Dodgers, you kind of have to.

Having too much depth is what many would call a “good problem.” And to be clear, it’s not the depth itself that might be an issue, but the utilization of that depth.

With the Betts acquisition, the Dodgers seem to have a pretty set everyday lineup. The one platoon that may be likely is in left field, where A.J Pollock and former future Los Angeles Angels great Joc Pederson might share time against righties/lefties. Every other position should be accounted for.

Assuming no further trades are made before spring training, the Dodgers will have a deep bench, with many players vying for playing time.

Getting at-bats for guys like Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez, and Matt Beaty might become more difficult than it’s been previously. Sure, there will be injuries and occasional rest days for starters. But will that account for the playing time that these guys have normally received?

Over the past three seasons, Taylor has totaled 568, 604, and 414 plate appearances. Hernandez has had 342, 462, and 460. It’s unlikely that any amount of injuries or rest days will get these guys that much playing time in 2020.

So, the question is, will Dave Roberts force the issue? He’s mentioned before that he feels the need to get players at-bats to stay fresh. Will that come at the expense of platooning rookie Gavin Lux? Will Pollock be relegated to a platoon role after signing a $60M deal just last off-season?

Again, this is a “good problem” to have. But it may be one nonetheless.

Possible Solution:  Roberts has managed this team for a few years now, and knows how to divvy up playing time. But this year’s lineup does seem a little different with a limited amount of wiggle room. Hopefully, it’s a non-issue. Also, the Dodgers showed a willingness to deal from their depth with the nixed Pederson/Stripling deal, so another trade could always happen in the future.

Final Thoughts

The Dodgers have very few weaknesses or holes, and will unquestionably be the team to beat in the National League. The issues above seem like minor matters for now, but they may be areas that need addressing as the season progresses. Regardless, one thing remains clear… the Dodgers will go into 2020 with an absolute stacked club.

 

Written by Brian Robitaille

Originally from Southern California, and currently stationed in Northern Virginia, Brian is a devoted Dodgers fan, and has been since he was a kid. He's an Active Duty member of the U.S Air Force, and has been serving for the last 16 years. While he loves all things sports related, and supports all his teams (Lakers, Steelers, L.A Kings, & USC) his true passion is the Dodgers, and loves writing about the boys in blue.

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  1. On paper this team is scary good! If they get off to a fast start I’m sure Roberts will rest guys (both pitchers & regulars) so that the guys down the depth chart get plenty of rep’s to be ready for October. They still have to play the games and stuff happens. But, on paper the Dodgers haven’t had a team this good in 40-50 years?

  2. Think you pretty much nailed it no true number 2 starter… not one that’s dominant and scary like we’ve seen on some of these World Series championship teams.

    There’s still some?s in our bullpen as well. although we might already have the pieces to string together a dominant bull pin we will have to see as the innings stack up and the season goes on.

    3rd bases the only situation I feel like the dodgers still need to address although Justin Turner is a phenomenal player hes not the Spring chicken and a used to be. I feel like a long season at their base could rack up unwanted injuries and it would be best for all parties involved to move him over to 1st and have him take up the majority of his plate appearances as a first baseman.
    Other then that there is a very small list of weaknesses on This Dodgers baseball team.
    Go Dodgers

    • Turner played in the most games since 2016 last year. He’s not getting younger but he ought to have a good year, his final with LA

  3. Yes, there are concerns about the rotation and pen…that current players may not perform up to expectations…otoh, and to be fair, there is just as much of a chance that a young player not expected to do so will step up if those in question falter.

    I do not think that any team in baseball has a better team on paper…now we just need to play the games to see…

  4. Their biggest obstacle will be if Roberts doesn’t improve upon his in-game pitching decisions. The loss to the Nats last year lies squarely at his feet. Bizarre wrong-headed decisions can bring the whole thing down rather quickly.

  5. You kind of danced around it, but here’s hoping that Roberts’ pitching management issues are finally put to rest. There have been times in recent playoffs in which he has not put players in the best positions to win. He has the roster to dominate (I have to believe that some of those unknowns in the rotation and bullpen will sort themselves out). Now he has to let them play.

  6. Bad decisions can make the best armies fail. Please, no more boneheaded ideas like removing pitchers who are doing well.

  7. I’m still not sold on Smith after his horrendous Sep and then in the playoffs. If he gets injured, or performs where he left off, we only have Barnes! Let that sink in.. I still feel not paying Grandal to stay was a mistake.. Smith should have been eased in, not thrown in then burned out before Oct..

    • I concur to a degree , if for no other reason that if Smith falters to a point or gets injured, we thus will see Rocky Gale of all people up here as a back up for Barnes, and that only means NO offense from the catching spot to speak of. And kirk I believe you know what I said about Gale offensively.

      • Yes, I think your reply regarding Gale resembled that of the great Tommy! ” that kid wouldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat!!!”

  8. Which brings yet another intriguing question…….. Which one of them do we send to the Orioles for a box of rocks?

  9. Hitting is excellent – no concerns there. Pitching is still a concern. Kershaw is on the downslope, and they lost two starters – including Ryu…who was arguably the best pitcher in baseball for 90% of last season. The potential replacements for Ryu and Maeda are all question marks at this point. As for closing, Kenley was very shaky last year. Definitely enough to keep you up at night worrying about the post season…

  10. Kershaw would be more effective, and could extend his career if he adds one or 2 off-speed pitches to his repertoire. He should learn a good knuckleball, which would make his fastball and slider APPEAR 5-7 mph faster. Tom Candiotti had a great one, and should help Clayton. Also, get Fernando Valenzuela to teach Kershaw his wipeout screwball ! Jus’ sayin’….

  11. Urias will emerge as a legitimate #1 or 2 as he has the pitch selection and gained enough experience to understand how to pitch in the majors. Kershaw must figure out how to throw an off speed pitch to complement his fastball and slider.
    Price had the cyst removed that had bothered him for several years, we will see if he can contribute or if he was simply a salary dump by the Sox and the Dodgers took him to get Mookie.
    Turner is on his last contract year and played a lot of games last year. I would like to see him rested to keep him fresh for the playoffs. There are numerous options for guys that will need playing time like Beaty, Taylor, Hernandez and if he makes the roster Rios. to sub in at 3rd base.
    I continue to believe the Dodgers should trade Pederson and possibly Stripling to get more playing time for the other players and get prospects back for the Future. I think the Dodgers will trade a couple of players off of their 26 man or 40 man roster this year to give them roster flexibility. That said I did not believe the Dodgers were getting a good return from the Angels for those two players. Arte Moreno is out of his mind and will have a perpetual losing team as he takes everything personal and does not rely on his baseball people to make decisions. .

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