2021 Dodger Projections and Our Calls

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After the Padres made the move to acquire Snell, Kim, and still looking for more like Darvish, some Dodger fans are panicked. The Dodgers have yet to make a single significant (needle moving) signing this offseason even though they lost several players to free agency.

But we have one message, DON’T PANIC. Just because a team doesn’t add external depth, doesn’t mean it didn’t improve. The World Series Champs were younger than half of the MLB by the roster’s average age. So yes the Padres got better, but half of the Dodgers should improve from last year due to experience or underperforming in 2020.

So we’re going to break down how the Dodgers look right now for 2021 if they don’t make any more moves. We’ll dive into how the players are projecting according the fangraphs with ZiPs and others. And if you haven’t heard, we’re still the World Series Favorite for 2021.

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Highlights

  • Starting Rotation
  • Starting Lineup
  • Closing Options
  • Bulk of the Pen
  • Bench
  • Prospects to Watch
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Starting Rotation

  1. Walker Buehler
    • 10-4, 3.11 ERA, 189 K, 39 BB, 150.1 IP, 27 GS, 4.0 WAR
  2. Clayton Kershaw
    • 13-6, 3.21 ERA, 167 K, 29 BB, 154.1 IP, 26 GS, 4.0 WAR
  3. Dustin May
    • 10-6, 3.87 ERA, 144 K, 39 BB, 151.1 IP, 28 GS, 2.7 WAR
  4. Julio Urias
    • 7-4, 3.64 ERA, 134 K, 39 BB, 118.2 IP, 16 GS, 2.2 WAR
  5. Tony Gonsolin
    • 6-5, 4.72 ERA, 103 K, 41 BB, 101 IP, 22 GS, 0.9 WAR
  6. David Price?
    • 7-4, 4.04 ERA, 88 K, 26 BB, 89 IP, 16 GS, 1.5 WAR
  7. Josiah Gray?
    • 7-6, 4.82 ERA, 108 K, 35 BB, 125 IP, 27 GS, 1.0 WAR
  8. Jimmy Nelson
    • 6-4, 4.17 ERA, 95 K, 37 BB, 90.2 IP, 14 GS, 1.3 WAR
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We think Kershaw will definitely outperform these stats. Last year he bounced back to a low 2.16 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Over a full season, that’s won him Cy Youngs. Will he win a Cy Young this year? We doubt it. But he is a top 10 starter year in year out.

Walker for the first time has an issue that could trouble him throughout his career. His blisters. If he can adjust to avoid that discomfort, Buehler could also dip into the 2’s giving the Dodgers a top 1-2 punch.

We’re assuming 3-5 will be a team effort, but Urias and May deserve to start all year. Urias is ready to become the ace he was aways projected to be. Last postseason solidified that. Dustin May also has that potential but needs to miss more bats with his stuff.

4 of his 5 pitches have above average movement and May ranks in the top 10 to 2% in spin on almost all of his pitches. Yet he ranked in the bottom 7th percentile in whiff last year. We think it’s because he’s throwing in the zone almost 7% more than the MLB average. Batters are swinging the normal amount on zone pitches, but they made contact almost 5% more.

He’s clearly too predictable. Batters were sitting on his sinker which he throws half of the time. They had expected slashes of .327/.373/.515 against it. Hopefully he shifts up his pitch mix next year and adds in his curve and change more. They were far more productive last year.

And for some reason, Gonsolin is projected to stink. He’s shown in two seasons now that’s not the case. We believe in Cat Man. If Josiah Gray starts this upcoming year, we think he’ll blow those projections out of the water. But same goes for most of these projections.

We take 0.75 off of everyones’ ERAs and then these look more realistic to us.

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Starting Lineup

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
    • 32 HR, 117 R, 98 RBI, 24 SB, .899 OPS, 6.5 WAR
  2. Corey Seager, SS
    • 27 HR, 87 R, 109 RBI, 4 SB, .869 OPS, 5.0 WAR
  3. Cody Bellinger, CF
    • 38 HR, 99 R, 123 RBI, 17 SB, .911 OPs, 6.0 WAR
  4. Will Smith, C
    • 23 HR, 61 R, 83 RBI, 2 SB, .818 OPS, 3.3 WAR
  5. Max Muncy, 1B
    • 29 HR, 82 R, 99 RBI, 4 SB, .852 OPS, 3.1 WAR
  6. Chris Taylor, 3B
    • 18 HR, 71 R, 74 RBI, 10 SB, .778 OPS, 2.4 WAR
  7. Gavin Lux, 2B
    • 24 HR, 76 R, 89 RBI, 9 SB, .775 OPS, 2.8 WAR
  8. AJ Pollock, LF
    • 22 HR, 58 R, 69 RBI, 8 SB, .797 OPS, 1.6 WAR

As of right now, we would have Taylor at 3rd. Until they make another move, he seems like the best right handed internal option. Rios and Beaty are both great players, but having an all left handed infield doesn’t seem like the Dodgers way.

Smith seems to be the most undervalued Dodger starter. Smith hit the cover off the ball for the entire season. If we were managing the squad, we’d want to try Smith at 1st and 3rd as well. We could see him ending the year with a 9 something OPS.

We also think Seager will end the year as the most valuable Dodger, but most of these projections seem reasonable. Bellinger may be a little overrated here. He’ll likely be somewhere around a .260/.375/.475 hitter. Still great, just not elite.

Everyone seems mostly secure in their roles outside of Taylor and consequently Lux. If Turner resigns, each one moves a spot down the depth chart.

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Closing Options

  1. Kenley Jansen
    • 4-2, 3.72 ERA, 72 K, 18 BB, 58 IP, 0.7 WAR
  2. Brusdar Graterol
    • 5-2, 3.35 ERA, 46 K, 17 BB, 53.2 IP, 0.9 WAR
  3. Victor Gonzalez
    • 5-3, 3.79 ERA, 88 K, 35 BB, 95 IP (13 GS?) 1.5 WAR
  4. Corey Knebel
    • 3-2, 4.02 ERA, 64 K, 25 BB, 56 IP, 0.3 WAR

Jansen is this team’s closer until he performs so badly they have to do something. As long as his ERA stays in the 3’s expect him to close in LA most nights. Still it’s nice to see young studs like Graterol and Gonzalez perform and get eased into high leverage roles. For example, Graterol came in during low leverage losing games early on last year. By the end of the year he had his first save.

And if Knebel gets back to his 2017 form, the fans may demand for him to be closing. At the very least using him against the meat of the lineup for the last time. All the projections look ok except Gonzalez. If he starts, it looks fine. However, we see him coming out of the pen all year. If he starts, it will probably be as an opener.

Bullpen

  • Dylan Floro
    • 4-2, 3.92 ERA, 46 K, 16 BB, 57.1 IP, 0.4 WAR
  • Adam Kolarek
    • 5-3, 3.61 ERA, 39 K, 15 BB, 52.3 IP, 0.6 WAR
  • Joe Kelly
    • 3-2, 3.80 ERA, 49 K, 22 BB, 45 IP
  • Scott Alexander
    • 4-2, 3.91 ERA, 39 K, 21 BB, 48.1 IP, 0.4 WAR
  • Brandon Morrow
    • 1-1, 3.72 ERA, 19 K, 6 BB, 18 IP, 0.2 WAR
  • Mitch White
    • 5-4, 4.42 ERA, 80 K, 30 BB, 79.1 IP (17 GS), 0.8 WAR
  • Gerardo Carrillo
    • 0-0, 5.63 ERA, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 IP, 0 WAR
  • Andre Jackson
    • 4-4, 4.91 ERA,78 K, 58 BB, 80.2 IP (20/20GS), 0.6 WAR
  • Dennis Santana
    • 6-5, 4.76 ERA, 95 K, 40 BB, 87 IP, (13 GS), 0.6 WAR
  • Edwin Uceta
    • 7-6, 4.94 ERA, 116 K, 52 BB, 118.1 IP, (25 GS), 0.8 WAR
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The Dodgers pen lost some key contributors but has so much talent knocking on the door it shouldn’t be an issue. Dylan Floro continues to be one of the most underrated pen arms in the game. Same with Kolarek and Alexander from the left. Long live Joe Kelly. And were excited for some of the new guys and long shots.

Brandon Morrow is not that far removed from greatness in LA. Carrillo looks like another Graterol flamethrower. And Edwin Uceta has had our eye since last spring training with his electric stuff.

Bench

  1. Austin Barnes, C/2B
    • 6 HR, 40 R, 35 RBI, 5 SB, .671 OPS, 1.2 WAR
  2. Edwin Rios, 1B,3B, OF
    • 24 HR, 53 R, 76 RBI, 0 SB, .752 OPS, 0.9 WAR
  3. Zach McKinstry, IF, OF
    • 10 HR, 43 R, 43 RBI, 4 SB, .659 OPS, 0.2 WAR
  4. DJ Peters, OF
    • 22 HR, 61 R, 73 RBI, 2 SB, .641 OPS, -0.1 WAR
  5. Keibert Ruiz, C
    • 12 HR, 43 R, 43 RBI, 0 SB, .692 OPS, 1.2 WAR
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The Dodgers will likely have a rotating bench based on need and performance. Barnes is safe for now, but if he starts slumping and Ruiz starts the year hot, they could switch spots. We gave Edwin Rios the edge over Matt Beaty because he plays all the same positions and fits the Dodgers lineup style better.

Zach McKinstry will most likely have a decent opportunity at some point this year, especially if his spring training is anything like his last. Still, if, and more likely when, the Dodgers resign Turner, he’ll likely be the odd man out of the opening day roster. As of right now though, he holds a left handed Kiké type role for this squad.

Finally, we actually think this is the year for 25 year old DJ Peters. The big, 6’6″, 225 lb, right-hander plays center field as of now, but we would love to see what he can do at 1st. He’s never done it at the professional level, but he could be a perfect fit for the typical 1st baseman if his glove can keep up. He got promoted to AAA in 2019 and slashed .260/.388/.490 with 12 homers in a little over 200 ABs.

Names We’re Watching Heading Into Next Year

  • Josiah Gray, RHP (1st)
  • Kody Hoese, 3rd, (3rd)
  • Clayton Beeter, RHP (8th)
  • DJ Peters, OF (11th)
  • Miguel Vargas, 3rd (13th)
  • Landon Knack,RHP, (15th)
  • Gerardo Carrillo, RHP (16th)
  • Devin Mann, IF (19th)
  • Edwin Uceta, RHP (22nd)

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