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Dodgers Mid-Season Report Cards: Position Players, Turner, Betts, Bellinger & More

Grading how each player has done during the first half of the year



The Dodgers hit the All-Star break at 56-35, two games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. They’ve had their ups and downs this season and had to deal with injuries to some key players. Below, we break down how the team’s offense has done so far this year and assign grades for each player. This the first of a two-part series, with the second article covering the team’s pitching.

Team’s Offense Grade: B

Grading the Dodgers offense is a little tricky because it really depends on how much emphasis you put on their expectations going into the year. Currently, the Dodgers offense ranks 5th in the N.L in Avg (.244), 1st in OBP (.338), 2nd in OPS (.759), and 1st in wRC+ (119). They also lead the league in Runs Per Game, at 5.23.

On the surface, those team numbers look pretty good and paint a picture of an above average offense. But when you consider the expectations around the Dodgers lineup this year and look at some of the individual performances so far, it’s a little bit of a different story.

We’re somewhat grading on a curve here, but when you have the lineup that the Dodgers do, you kind of have to. Even with the injuries they’ve sustained this season, the Dodgers haven’t lived up to their offensive capabilities thus far. They also have gone into some prolonged slumps at times, when no one is hitting the ball particularly well.

On the other hand, they haven’t been fully healthy all year long, so that has to be taken into consideration as well.

Individual Player Grades

Catchers

Will Smith: B-

Since coming into the league in 2019, Smith has been the best offensive catcher in baseball, posting the highest wRC+ and second highest OPS over that timeframe. After a slow start this year, he still has the third highest WAR among catchers (2.6.) His defense can use some improvement, but his offense remains very good. Considering his potential, Smith’s numbers could get even better in the second half.

Austin Barnes: C-

What Barnes lacks offensively, he makes up for with his ability to call a game. His .655 OPS this year is slightly lower than his career .694 mark, and his .208/.327/.328 slash line isn’t ideal. But he’s not in the lineup for his bat, and he still remains Clayton Kershaw’s primary catcher. As far as backup catchers go, Barnes provides the Dodgers with a solid option behind the plate.

Infielders

Max Muncy: A+

If the Dodgers had an MVP for the first half of the year, Max Muncy would almost certainly be that player. He leads the team in practically every major offensive category (HR, RBI, OBP, Slg, OPS, wRC+, BB/K) and he basically carried the offensive load when other guys were either out with injury or slumping. His .972 OPS is 5th in baseball, and he’s been solid defensively, playing both first and second base when needed.

Gavin Lux: D

The high expectations for Lux may have been a little unfair considering his age and experience at the Major League level, but nonetheless, he hasn’t quite lived up to hype just yet. After a rough April, Lux improved a bit, but still has a team-worst OPS (.672) among qualified players. Another concern is his inability to hit left-handed pitching so far. Lux is slashing .145/.241/.174 on the year against lefties and he could be in danger of losing ABs if his struggles continue.

Chris Taylor: B+

Taylor is in the middle of one of his best seasons since his 2017 debut with the Dodgers. His 134 wRC+ is 3rd on the team, behind only Max Muncy and Justin Turner. His defensive versatility continues to be invaluable as well. If there was one area of improvement for Taylor, it would be his strikeout rate. His K% of 25.7% is the highest on the team among qualified players.

Corey Seager:  C

To be fair, Seager’s grade could easily be an “incomplete” given how much time he’s missed since going down with a hand injury in May. After putting up career best numbers last year, and then having a great postseason, expectations were sky high for Seager this season. He hasn’t been great so far (his .783 OPS would be a career low), but again, he’s only had about a quarter of a year’s worth of plate appearances. The Dodgers are surely looking forward to his return in the second half.

Related: Corey Seager Might Not Need a Rehab Stint After the All-Star Break

Justin Turner:  A-

Turner had a red-hot start in April and has continued his success throughout the first half, slashing .307/.394/.500. Among third basemen, Turner has the highest wRC+ (149) this year and only Rafael Devers has a better OPS than Turner’s .894 mark. He continues to be one of the most consistent hitters on the team, as he’s been throughout his 8-year tenure with the Dodgers. His defense may have taken a step back, and at age 36, Turner might need more rest days than before. But he remains a key cog in the middle of the order and his offensive production hasn’t missed a beat.

Outfielders

Mookie Betts:  C+

To be clear, Betts isn’t having a bad year by any means. But if we’re going by Mookie standards, he’s definitely not where he needs to be offensively. He’s hitting only .256, and although he’s still getting on base at a good clip (.366 OBP), his .839 OPS is almost 100 points lower than last year. Mookie has got hot recently though, clubbing three home runs in his last five games. He’s too good to keep down for long, so don’t be surprised to see Betts have a monster second half.

Related: Mookie Betts is Not Happy with His 2021 Season so Far

Cody Bellinger: D-

Like Seager, Bellinger could get an “incomplete” grade being that he’s only had 141 PA on the year. He’s battled multiple injuries and IL stints this year but he’s only slashing .176/.291/.303 with four home runs and a dismal .593 OPS. He still offers plenty of value with his defense and base running, but Bellinger’s offense hasn’t been there so far. Of course, he could still be getting into his rhythm after missing so much time to start the year. Still, even with a fairly small sample size, his offensive struggles in the first half have been significant.

A.J Pollock:  B-

In the shortened 2020 season, Pollock put up some nice numbers (.881 OPS) and really excelled against LHP. After a slow start this year, his production has seen an uptick lately, and he’s now slashing .271/.332/.518. Pollock also has a .911 OPS against lefties this season, and although his numbers vs righties are not quite as good, he appears to have settled into his role as the everyday left fielder.

Those are my thoughts. If you agree or disagree, leave a comment below. And be sure to check out the second part of this article, which will assign grades to the Dodgers pitchers.

NEXT: Could LA Swing a Trade for Cubs’ Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel, or Kyle Hendricks at Deadline?

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. taylor over bellinger, mckinsey over lux, ruiz over barnes. No need for a starting pitcher assuming kershaw is ok, kershaw, buehler, urias, gonsolin, price, with spot starts for gray and pepiot to give top 5 a break. Bye bye bauer. Its been a kind of mediocre first half, though they are right there. Things could be setting up for them to peak at just the right time. betts, seager, and maybe even the lost in a haze bellinger could all get hot together just by regressing to the mean… then its separation from the pack.

    • I beg differ – anything but mediocre first half. With all the injuries to key players, they still raked! Stats matter

  2. Grading players is a waste of time because it’s subjective. Also, you mentioned nothing about the pitching staff which is clearly the teams strength. When you have a pitcher like Julio Urias who at the break leads the mlb in wins with 11 and doesn’t get selected to be on the all star team will tell you that the Dodgers Pitching Staff is the best in baseball. A case could have been made that Urias, Kershaw and Bauer deserved to be on the all star team. Kershaw with 9 wins and Bauer led all of baseball in quality starts should have been enough. The bullpen has done a good job and Kenley Jansen has improved from last year. I do think Roberts could and should use Blake Treinen more. His slider breaks a foot and is in the low 90’s. Almost impossible to hit. The chase rate on that pitch alone should make him the closer in this years postseason and next year. Roberts loyalty to Jansen in the closer role is an Achilles Heal headed into any postseason. On the brighter side Phil Bickford who was on nobody’s radar has done a great job when called upon. The staffs inability to hold runners on along with Smith and Barnes inability to block pitches because of poor technique makes you wonder who is really in charge of improving those areas and now has become a serious problem especially in division games against the Padres and Giants as these teams have run wild against the Dodgers.
    The offense in my opinion has over achieved as scoring runs has not been issue except during a stretch earlier when the team went 5-15 along with a list of IL stints from Bellinger and Seager. Muncy and Turner have turned it up and the team has gotten solid contributions from Pollock and Taylor. Gavin Lux has been inconsistent both on offense and defense but it looks like he has shaken the yips when it comes to throwing and lately has done a much better job. I would like to see him steal some bases as he clearly is the fastest on the team maybe in all of baseball and it should be used as a weapon for the offense. He’s still learning how to play at the major league level so give this kid a break and let’s watch him grow. I believe his emergence makes him the shortstop for the future. Corey Seager will demand big money with multiple years and with his history of landing on the IL makes his signing a non priority. Cody Bellinger plain and simple is a disaster. In my 50 years of following baseball I’ve never seen a player with that type of talent and athletic ability with the pedigree and accomplishments on his resume show a complete lack of ability to make adjustments to his approach at the plate. Thankfully, he’s a free agent and most likely will seek a long term deal elsewhere. It’s a shame because the dude can play gold glove defense at multiple positions. In the end the season probably will come down to getting Bauer and Seager back and somehow have Cody Bellinger dig his way out of a two year slump. It’s a lot of ifs in trying to repeat as champs.

    • Bauer isn’t coming back this year, just based on the facts we already know. He may or may not be arrested, but he will definitely be suspended for this season, then based on the findings of the investigations, he may be gone for longer. Punching and choking a woman, whether consensual or not, will have severe consequences. Bellinger is not a free agent, not until after next season. I’d explore what we could get for him in a trade, because he is lost looking, and even in his good seasons, a disaster in the post season. I wouldn’t pay him the big bucks an Ex MVP will demand. Lux is super fast, he looks like the Flash when he runs around the bases. But he has no speed game whatsoever, due to Dodger general strategy, which is a shame, and kills his value. No bunts, no slashing to left to beat the shift, no stealing or hit and run, he might as well be Pujols. And he is worse than Joc against lefties, and like Joc, shouldn’t be hitting against them, and when Seager comes back, doubt that he will.

    • this article was offense only. You missed the part where he said next article will cover pitching. I do agree – individual rankings are subjective, unless we stick to the stats

  3. Your grading of a player is focused mostly on their offense only, which is pretty accurate based on stats. However, the overall grade of a player should also include more of their defense, speed, and athletic abilities that can impact a game. Ie. assist, DRS, steals, DWAR, FPCT, and presentation day in day out, Equal importance of the offense and defense gives a better picture of a player’s overall performance.

  4. I believe the issue of Cody comes down to 2 things, both are his offense: he’s forgotten the “2 strike” approach ha employed in 2019 and his rigid batting stance (IMPO) With all the gifts he has, he’s looking like he lacks the ultimate “gift” at the plate: intelligence.
    All in my own uninformed opinion.

  5. Concur on comments about Bellinger and Seager for the most part. Yes, Dodgers need to give Lux more runway, but if he continues to struggle big time with LHP, he may find his playing time reduced to only starting against RHP. I said before that Barnes gets a little pay because this year he’s hitting in front of the pitcher, as opposed to last year when he hit much better hitting 9th in front of Betts. All due to having a DH last year and not having it this year which IMHO has affected the offense. Last year Smith had more consistent AB’s being able to DH whenever Barnes caught. Now this year he sits when Barnes catches while we have to settle for the pitcher batting instead.

  6. Brian – you wrote “the Dodgers offense ranks 5th in the N.L in Avg (.244), 1st in OBP (.338), 2nd in OPS (.759), and 1st in wRC+ (119). They also lead the league in Runs Per Game, at 5.23.” Those stats make the grade in A or A- range, not a B. It is not just very good, but bordering on great. Especially because they did this DESPITE all the injuries to hitters. So c’mon lets be realistic – Dodger offense has been one of the best in MLB this year. and next article when you get to pitching, it’s the same grade: A or A-. Stats mean something in baseball

    • As I mentioned in the article, I was grading a bit on a “curve” because of the expectations around the Dodgers lineup this year. Yes, they have put up decent numbers overall and are near the top of the league in several categories. But when you consider what kind of lineup they have, their offense has somewhat underachieved a little, at least in my opinion. Just look at the numbers for Mookie, Cody, Seager, and many of their depth/bench guys. The only 3 players that have really played up to their capability is Muncy, Turner, and Taylor.

  7. Bellinger is finished as a starter. It’s only a matter of time before he’s benched. Embarrassing: .189
    Good riddance as far as I am concerned. He hasn’t done anything significant since the 1st half of his MVP season. Then his drastic tailing off in the 2nd half was just a harbinger of his disastrous 2020 season and 1/2 season so far. Then to top it off, he dislocates his shoulder during the playoffs last year celebrating a rare clutch hit. No wonder he was elated.

    Bellinger we hardly knew ye.

  8. Bellinger would get an F in my book. Everybody continues to make excuses for a guy that has a terrible swing and a very poor approach at the plate. Stop giving him a pass, and the “Lux is young” argument is tired as well, very similar issues to Belli. The rest I totally agree with.

  9. I agree.
    Belli: So much talent, so little brains at the plate, it seems (unless there’s something really going on with him physically)….or is he just pigheaded…..or…WHAT??? He won’t be around much longer if he continues hitting .100 (last 8 games?) and lower after his tonight’s futility fiasco.
    Lux…..” this proverb comes to mind: Many are called and few are chosen”

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