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Dodgers Nation Round Table: 2021 Season Predictions – Position Players



The Dodgers Nation team brings you our next roundtable of 2021, where we look at some often bold, never boring predictions. This edition focuses on position players. 

Check out the first article in this series here

Dodgers Nation Round Table: 2021 Season Predictions – Pitching

Question #1: Since there isn’t much drama around the 1st base position, let’s skip ahead to 2nd base. Do you think the Dodgers are ready to hand the reins over to Gavin Lux, or do you foresee a platoon with Chris Taylor?

Gail [@GJOH29]:  With the Dodgers, we know few things are set in stone, but based on the admittedly small sample size of Spring Training games so far, Lux looks solid, and it sure feels like it’s his time to finally show what he’s really made of.

Daniel Palma [@Daniel_Palma96]: Based on all of the words coming from Dave Roberts, it would appear that Lux is the guy this season. The good news is that the Dodgers have plenty of depth in Taylor and McKinstry, but I think the former top prospect will find a way to get it done this time around. 

Brian Robitaille [@BriRobitaille]: Quick, who was the last Dodgers top prospect to be a bust? Or not even a bust, but just under-achieve? Maybe Joc Pederson? Although he was an All-Star his rookie year and has a career OPS over .800. He’s a very solid MLB player. And we know all the other top prospects (Seager, Bellinger, Buehler, Smith) have not only lived up to the hype but even exceeded their high expectations. I only mention all this because it still baffles me as to why anyone would doubt a top-tier Dodgers prospect these days. And Gavin Lux is that next guy. I’m not saying Lux is guaranteed to be a star this year, or even in the near future, but I do know that I’m completely ready for him to get his full-time shot. So yes, I hope he’s handed the reins to second base. Chris Taylor is a great utility player and will get plenty of at-bats playing all around the field this year. But I don’t want to see a platoon at second.

Eric Eulau [@EEulau]: Gavin Lux will be given a significantly long leash in the starting role, but I don’t think Team President Andrew Friedman or Manager Dave Roberts will lose any sleep in plugging in Chris Taylor at second if Lux is underperforming in June. Hopefully, Lux doesn’t press at the plate, and all of his hard work this offseason pays off. Unlike last preseason, Lux is saying and doing all of the right things.

Eddie Espinosa [@therealmre23]: I think Lux has proven that he has the ability to get the job done at 2nd base with the show he’s currently putting on in Spring Training right now. I do believe he’ll get the majority of the time there but I feel as if Roberts will mix in both CT3 and McKinstry from time to time. Any of these 3 will certainly do great at 2nd but Lux should take the bigger role. He does seem a bit more relaxed than in previous years. Let’s hope this works out. 

Question #2: Barring catastrophic injury, there is zero doubt who will be playing the majority of games at shortstop this season. That being said, do you think this will be Corey Seager’s final season in a Dodgers uniform?

Gail:  Even though he understandably has no interest in opening up about it with the media, this will undoubtedly be a hot topic of discussion throughout the season and into October. My personal opinion is that if the 2020 World Series MVP puts in another season even close to last year’s production and stays healthy, the Dodgers will lock him up for many years to come. 

Daniel: To put it simply, no. Corey will be back. 

Brian: I certainly hope not, but we’ll have to see what kind of contract he demands after this season and what ownership is able/willing to do. Going out and getting players like Mookie Betts and Trevor Bauer were great additions over the last couple of years. But will that hinder the Dodgers from locking up some of their own young players like Seager? I’ll say the Dodgers find a way to bring Corey back.

Eric: Scott Boras, a new CBA, and a vaunted 2021-2022 shortstop free agent class loom large over this question. Seager will join Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Trevor Story, and as it stands, Francisco Lindor on the open market. A market that could have completely different economics than the last few previous winters. What won’t change is Andrew Friedman’s approach to marquee free agents. I would guess the Dodgers offer a very lucrative three or four-year deal so if Seager and Boras want to hit the open market again before Seager is on the wrong side of 30, they can do that. I think the Dodgers re-sign Seager, but I don’t anticipate it being more than four years. Maybe five with the fifth as a player option at the most. 

Eddie: I don’t think so. I feel that Friedman is a smart man and knows the challenge he has coming up especially with Scott Boras in Seager’s corner. I don’t see a long-term deal in any way which might be an issue since Seager could view the Mookie deal as a way to get what he wants, or what “Boras” wants for him. It’s a bit odd to throw this in the mix, but I feel once fans get the green light to be at 100% capacity it could change how players play. Fans do play a part in the way players play regardless of what players say. Seager will stay as a Dodger with a 3-4 year deal. 

Question #3: Which position players do you expect to surprise this year? Are there any players that you’re concerned about?

Gail:   Wait, if I expect it, then it’s not a surprise, right? I think a better angle is to ask who I hope which new Dodger will surprise the rest of the league this season, in the spirit of 2018 Max Muncy…and the answer to that question is Zack McKinstry. And speaking of Muncy, I will be concerned if his regular season production at the plate doesn’t improve drastically from last year. 

Daniel: Is it bad that I expect every Dodger to have a good season? If I had to choose just one that I think will have a breakout year, it would be Will Smith. His approach at the plate is just too good to have a down year in my opinion. To have a catcher hitting at a 41 HR per 162 game rate is ridiculous, but that’s the kind of production he’s put up in his short time in the majors. I fully expect Smith to be a top-5 catcher in baseball this season. As far as concerns, I would throw in the entire bullpen as the area I think has the greatest potential to fail. It’s not that I don’t believe that they have the talent, I just think that people’s expectations are so high after players like Graterol and Victor González broke out in 2020 that any signs of regression will be treated as an utter failure. 

Brian: Damn it, Gail, you stole my pick. I’m going with Zack McKinstry as well. He had a very good year in the minors in 2019 and added some pop in his bat. I think he’ll have a nice utility role, and he fits the Dodger mold of having great defensive versatility, so he’ll get in the lineup plenty. I really like his offensive skill set and expect him to be a big contributor this season. As far as concern goes, I think the easy answer is Kenley Jansen, but that’s almost too easy of a pick. So, I’ll go with David Price. I’m just not sure what to expect after he missed all of last year but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes him a little while to get fully up to speed. Also, while Price is a great veteran, he’s 35 now, and his last full season was one of his career-worst. So, it remains to be seen what type of David Price the Dodgers will get this year. I fully expect him to contribute, I just don’t know to what extent. And at the end of the day, he’s probably the team’s 6th or 7th best starter.

Eric: I might seriously regret this, but I’m picking AJ Pollock to surprise people this year. I think he’ll carry the momentum from his 2020 regular season success (.276/.314/.566) and be a consistent right-handed bat in the lineup. Yes, he’s not exactly a playoff dynamo (.176 lifetime playoff batting average), but after his professional struggles in 2019 and everything he and his family went through in 2020, I think he’s finally in a good space to really excel in a 162-game season. He has that “made it through the fire” feel.

I’m concerned about the health of Justin Turner and Corey Seager. Both incredibly important players, both always seem to have an annual soft tissue injury. The Dodgers depth can power them through the regular season if Turner and Seager miss time, but LA is going to repeat, the left side of the infield needs to be 100% healthy in October.

Eddie: The biggest surprise I feel coming is from both Lux, McKinstry, and DJ Peters. All are doing extremely well right now and I feel as they will bring a lot to the team. 

Lux will explode this year (finally) and silence the critics, including myself. I think he’s changed his tone since I felt that he was unhappy for other reasons besides his play. 

McKinstry is another fellow I see surprising us. He’s done very well in Spring Training so far. He’s hitting .375 and seems to be very confident and patient at the plate. Is he the new “Kiké”? Perhaps, but I see him contributing way more. 

If Peters makes the roster I see this guy being a stud later down the line. He was very impressive while he was at Rancho Cucamonga and he’s continuing to get better. Hitting .267 so far in Spring Training I can see him taking a part-time spot in the OF, especially with the uncertainty of Bellinger being ready for Opening Day. Sure CT3 can take the OF role as well, but I think Peters bat will be more valuable. He’s ready. 

Question #4: Which player(s) will lead the Dodgers in the major offensive categories? (Avg., OBP, HRs, OPS, WAR)

Gail:  I can’t wait to see how wrong I am about these, as with these Dodgers, almost anything can happen, but here goes:

  • Avg:  Seager
  • OBP:  Mookie
  • OPS:  Belli 
  • WAR:  Mookie 

Daniel: 

  • Avg: Mookie Betts
  • OBP: Will Smith
  • OPS: Cody Bellinger 
  • WAR: Mookie Betts

Brian: 

  • Avg: Turner
  • OBP: Betts
  • OPS: Betts
  • Home Runs: Bellinger / Muncy (tie)
  • WAR: Betts

Eric:

  • Avg: Mookie
  • OBP: Mookie
  • OPS: Mookie
  • HR: Muncy
  • WAR: Mookie

He. Is. Just. That. Good.

Eddie: 

  • Avg:  Seager
  • OBP:  Betts
  • OPS:  Betts
  • HR: Belli/Muncy
  • WAR:  Mookie 

Question #5: Give me your projected Opening Day/“regular” batting order.

Gail:  Again, should be fun to see how badly I miss with this one. I haven’t gotten a single one right yet. Is this the year I finally get into Dave Roberts’ head? 

  • Mookie RF
  • Seager SS
  • Turner 3B
  • Muncy 1B
  • Pollock LF
  • Belli CF
  • Smith C
  • Lux 2B 
  • Kershaw P

Daniel: I’m gonna change this up and give what I suspect will be the “regular” lineup at season’s end. This is the group I would want to see out there in a playoff game. 

  • Mookie RF
  • Seager SS
  • Turner 3B
  • Bellinger CF
  • Smith C
  • Muncy 1B
  • Pollock LF
  • Lux 2B
  • Kershaw P

Brian: I’ll say the one below will be their “regular” lineup, or at least the one will see more often than not. For Opening Day, with the Rockies likely starting their right-handed ace, German Marquez, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the lefties (McKinstry, Beaty, Rios) get in there over Pollock, depending on if the Dodgers feel comfortable with any of them in left field. And I know Austin Barnes is Kershaw’s personal catcher, but I don’t care. Give me Will Smith.

  • Betts RF
  • Seager SS
  • Turner 3B
  • Bellinger CF
  • Muncy 1B
  • Smith C
  • Pollock LF
  • Lux 2B
  • Kershaw P

Eric: False. Bears, beets, and Betts batting leadoff. That’s all you can count on.

  • Betts RF
  • Seager SS
  • Turner 3B
  • Bellinger CF
  • Muncy 1B
  • Pollock LF
  • Lux 2B
  • Barnes C
  • Kershaw P

Eddie: Damn this lineup is scary good. 

  • Betts RF
  • Seager SS
  • Turner 3B
  • Bellinger CF
  • Muncy 1B
  • Pollock LF
  • Smith C
  • Lux 2B
  • Kershaw P

Final Thoughts

Next time we will dive deeper into full roster construction and discuss who may earn that coveted “final” roster spot on this already stacked team. If there is anything else you’d like us to cover in our roundtable discussions, please let us know in the comments below! 

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Written by Gail Johnson

Biggest Dodgers fan north of the border, living about 3,500 miles from my beloved Boys In Blue, in Moncton, NB, Canada. I think Dodger Stadium is the happiest place on Earth. I'll catch up on my sleep in the off-season.

Comments

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  1. Seager is smoking right now. He is killing it in spring training, picking up right where he left off last year. I predicted he would win at least one league MVP two years ago. So here’s the nightmare scenario for Seager that could actually happen. Seager could win the MVP this year, and then walk. Friedman needs to forget the luxury tax, hope for a CBA that is less restrictive, and sign Seager before he actually becomes a free agent.

  2. You know the way the baseball gods work because Seager is so hot right now he’ll probably go 0-23 or so to start the season! Not to worry though. If the Dodgers are willing to make a huge monetary commitment to Seager, why not wait? They need to see if he can stay healthy for 162. There’s no rush if Dodgers will outspend anyone for him. Boras will not let him give a home town discount.

  3. This was fun to read, thanks. One concern is Muncy. Having your 3rd baseman below the Mendoza line is not a recipe for success. Hopefully Muncy is able to get back to his previous performance.

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