As the off-season approaches it is time to look forward to some new realities of the Dodgers for the 2020 season. I wrote a similar article around the same time last season. Instead of recovering from a World Series loss we are recovering from a first round exit. There were many great parts to the season but it ended as a huge disappointment. This article will lay out some truths that people will not want to hear but I will let the chips fall where they may.
Walker Buehler Is The Ace
I said this last year and now it is more true than ever. Who did the Dodgers go to when it really matter? It was Walker Buehler and he was excellent in both of his playoff starts. He will have some fits of inconsistency when people will see Clayton Kershaw go 6 innings and give up 2 runs, consistently. It will be natural to say Kershaw is still the ace but, when it really mattered, who got the most important playoff starts?
Dave Roberts Is Still The Manager
I wrote about some reasons why the Dodgers may kept Dave Roberts as the manager. I still don’t understand many of his playoff bullpen decisions over the last three years. However, the truth is, he is the manager for 2020. I do think it will be tougher for him in 2020 as many fans have turned on him. He should almost expect to get boo’d quite a bit, especially in the early part of the season.
The Farm System Will Continue To Surprise
The 2019 season flooded the team with some players who played key roles in the team’s success. Alex Verdugo was expected to contribute and he was excellent before he got hurt. Who would have thought Matt Beaty, Will Smith, Tony Gonsolin, Gavin Lux, Dustin May, Edwin Rios and Kyle Garlick would have been played such important roles. Don’t be surprised to see names like Josiah Gray, Jeter Downs, Keibert Ruiz, D.J. Peters, Omar Estevez, Logan Salow, Victor Gonzalez and Jordan Sheffield make their debuts in 2020.
The Bullpen Could Be Very Different
We’ve already heard Andrew Friedman not give Kenley Jansen a real vote of confidence during his post-season press conference. Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will contend for starting pitching positions and the playoff ace, Kenta Maeda will also start the season in the rotation.
Some of the starters might find themselves in the bullpen to limit some innings. We don’t know which Joe Kelly will show up. Adam Kolarek was a pleasant surprise after being acquired from the Rays at the Trade Deadline. One issue with him will be the 3 batter minimum.
Pedro Baez is one year away from free agency and the Dodgers have not been hesitant to trade players a year before free agency. There are a lot of question marks and Dave Roberts did not show much confidence in them during the most important outs of the last game.
I’m interested in seeing what Dennis Santana can do in the bullpen. It looks like the bullpen is in his future. Jordan Sheffield and Tony Gonsolin (if he isn’t in the rotation) could really change how the bullpen looks in 2020. Two very under the radar left handers include Logan Salow and Victor Gonzalez. It is not uncommon for teams to have a lot of turnover in their bullpens and the Dodgers could have a lot, depending on who is in the starting rotation.
Kenta Maeda Will Be In The Bullpen In The Post-Season
He will start the season as a starter and will get in about 140 innings before the Dodgers put him in the bullpen. I’d rather have him in the bullpen all season but his pride and contract basically demand he be a starter.
Some Hitters Have A Lot To Prove
Bellinger, NL MVP fave, was 4-for-19 (.211) with..seven K's. He’s hitting .178/.234/.326 in the postseason through three seasons
Corey Seager was 3-for-20 (.150) with eight strikeouts in this NLDS. He's .203/.275/.331 in 131 playoff plate appearances#Dodgers
— Roben Farzad (@robenfarzad) October 11, 2019
Too much of the offense really stumbled during the playoffs. I know it was over just five games but A.J. Pollock, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger have a lot to prove. Bellinger’s slash line in the playoffs for his career is .178/.234/.326 (AVG/OBP/SLG) while Seager’s is .203/.275/.331. Then there is Pollock’s 11 strikeouts in 13 at bats in the 2019 playoffs. With Bellinger and Seager being such key hitters during the regular season, they have to produce a bit more than their previous playoff efforts.
Some Key Guys Could Get Traded
Last year the Yasiel Puig trade rocked Dodgers fans quite a bit as he was a fan favorite and productive. He also had a nice 2018 postseason. Yet Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood were all traded to the Reds. Both Puig and Wood were one year away from free agency. Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernandez and Pedro Baez are eligible for free agency after 2020. Don’t be surprised if any or all of them are traded. Justin Turner is only one year away from free agency, but I don’t see him going anywhere.
Justin Turner Needs To Play A Lot Of First Base
Speaking of Justin Turner, I hope the rumors of Justin Turner playing more at first base are true. He begins the 2020 season at age 35 but he is still one of the best hitters on the team. It is most important that he is healthy and rested for the playoffs and playing first base could help towards those ends. We could also see he has slowed down a bit on defense, especially bunt coverages. Bottom line, try and put some bubble wrap on JT.
Gavin Lux and Will Smith Are Starters Moving Forward
These should be pretty obvious but Gavin Lux and Will Smith have done more than enough in the minor leagues and showed they should be able to handle major league pitching. My only fear with Lux is that they continue to platoon him. There is nothing worse than platooning your top prospects right out of the box. The only question I have is who will be the backup to Smith.
Clayton Kershaw Has Had Enough Chances To Be A Playoff Hero
Clayton Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He is also not the same pitcher he was 2-3 years ago. The Dodgers keep trying to make him some kind of postseason hero and it isn’t going to happen. He is good for 6 innings and 2 earned runs for each start. His fastball and slider are not very far apart in velocity and his slider doesn’t slide so much anymore. The curveball will be key for him getting past just being good and another pitch would be nice. I think the starting rotation in the playoffs needs to be strong enough where Kershaw only gets one start in a series. That means he would be the number 4 starter. The Dodgers need to put him in the best position for him to succeed based on where he is now, not 2-3 years ago.
Maybe the Astros should treat Justin Verlander the same way.
— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 24, 2019
A.J. Pollock and Joe Kelly Will Be On The Team In 2020
The “big” (for the Dodgers) free agents signed in the 2018-2019 off-season were disappointments on some levels. They each had some good moments but more was expected. I don’t expect the front office to admit any failure by trading either one of them yet. Let’s hope both can rebound in 2020.
The Fan Base Cannot Wait Until 2020
Nope, he's not a fraud and will prove it next year. 2020 is the Dodgers year, save this tweet. pic.twitter.com/ekTVskJSfA
— ?O.O? (@OraliaOnetti) October 22, 2019
The Dodgers clearly have a lot to prove and seeing how the fanbase is watching the World Series and thinking, “this could/should be the Dodgers.” I know I find myself thinking that it is weird to have almost a stress-free October. One thing the Dodgers fans know, the Dodgers should have gone further this year and it seems they can’t wait until 2020. Remember, the All-Star Game will also be at Dodger Stadium.
There's always next year #2020 . Still Bleed Dodger Blue!
— Adrian Carmona (@Acarmona31) October 22, 2019
This will be an off-season where the front office could do some things a bit differently. I do hope so. Nothing will surprise me this off-season including doing nothing. There are a lot of issues to deal with and these basic truths I’ve identified in trying to read the team will guide them during the off-season. I cannot wait to see what happens.