The Dodgers are halfway through Spring Training and we’ve got our top 5 batters and pitchers (plus honorable. mentions) so far. So join us as we break down each of these players springs so far, and what we can hope for them in 2021.
- Corey Seager
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. He ended last year as the Dodger’s strongest hitter, and he’s starting the year as the Dodger’s strongest hitter. He looks exactly like he did for pretty much all of 2020, locked in. He had a 5 game HOME RUN streak and even his outs (if anyone gets him out) are hard hit balls. What has really stood out to us though is the oppo power we saw from Seager late last year, is already here in 2021.
Right now, he leads the team (or at least tied for the lead) in runs scored, hits, homers, RBI, and avg/obp/slg if you take into account the number of AB’s. Overall he’s OPSing 1.587 this Spring and looks ready to repeat last year as one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball. He’s just shy of qualifying, but his OPS is second to only Joc Pederson, who also leads the league with 5 homers.
We’re calling Seager for MVP, but we have been since 2015.
- Chris Taylor
Taylor came into this year without a set position, but the super utility player is happy as long as he’s on the field. And if he keeps batting like this, good luck keeping him off the field. He’s slashing a robust .304/.385.696 for an OPS of 1.080. Again, if he qualified, that’d be a top 10 OPS of the spring.
He’s scored 5 runs on 5 hits. 1 was a double, 2 have been homers. One of which was a grand slam that has upped his RBI total to 7 on the spring. He’s played all over the field and seems locked in to about 75% of the Dodger’s games this year. We’d be surprised to see him sit against any lefty this year.
- DJ Peters
DJ Peters may have put AJ Pollock on the trading block with his performance so far. The big man is hitting a well rounded .300/.440/.600 thanks to a new level of patience at the plate. As of right now he has an OPS in the elite level at 1.040.
We’ve loved watching the big man work his way back in several counts so far. Plus, we’re genuinely surprised at how well he can move. He could play center field at the MLB level, which means left field should be a breeze this year.
If we had to predict Peters performance in the MLB, we basically put him in between Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo
- Gavin Lux
Now this is the Gavin Lux we were all promised. The kid just can’t stop hitting. He added 2 more today to bring his spring average to an elite .417. The only downside? He hasn’t shown his power yet. Almost all of his hits have been singles, so the OPS is “only” .875. But the kid is hitting it all over the field and roping it into right like a young Corey Seager.
Other than that the top prospect looks ready to handle himself at second or short and has enough legs to make a difference on the bases. It seems like last year is behind Lux and he is ready to show the Dodger Kingdom that there’s a new prince in town.
- Austin Barnes
BARNESY! The long time defensive stud apparently just needed the right hitting coach or a little Mookie Magic. He may be the second best hitter on the Dodgers this spring. His slash line of .400/.478/.700 is only behind Seager with batters with at least 10 at bats (20).
He hasn’t racked up the counting stats, but his hitting performance has been pristine. Of his 8 hits so far, 3 are doubles, 1 is a homer, and he’s struck out only twice to 3 walks. Overall, he’s been a top 10 performer in all of baseball this spring in our opinion. Doc must miss the DH right about now when he’s deciding between Barnes or Smith.
- Honorable Mention
- Sheldon Neuse
We’ve been excited about Neuse from the get go. It’s becoming clear that if he was behind anyone not named Chapman or Arenado, he would’ve had his shot by now. Instead the Dodgers plucked another diamond out of the rough.
So far this spring, Neuse has shown his contact abilities producing a .333 batting average and his fielding prowess with his cannon of an arm. (Granted he overthrew 1st once already). He’s also stolen a base which we did not expect a 230 pound infielder to do.
The only downside is that he’s also only hit singles so far, keeping his OPS at .725. So what changes, his contact rate or his power? Considering his size, we’re going to bet his power goes up a lot more than his contact goes down from here.
- Jimmy Nelson
No one has surprised us as much as Nelson has so far. After the disappointing 2020 1 year flyer, Friedman and Co. resign Nelson for yet another 1 year deal. We had little to no expectations for a guy whose best year was a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts, but we’re starting to think a mid 3’s ERA or low 4’s is the floor for thee RHP.
From what we’ve seen so far, 2017 was merely a stepping stone to what he can do now. He’s just been too injured to show his growth since then. Meanwhile his stuff is looking practically unhitable. In his 5 innings so far his ERA is 0, WHIP is 0.40, and he has 7 strikeouts to 0 walks. We know this is a small sample size, but Nelson probably cracks at least 25 of the 30 MLB rotations.
We’re starting to think the Dodgers NEED a 6 man rotation or they’re wasting talent on regular season innings.
- Dennis Santana
Check out our recent article on Santana right here. He’s put on muscle, ticked up his stuff, and looks ready to explode after high praise from Roberts after mentioning Kelly missing opening Day.
- Tony Gonsolin
The Cat Man has been practically untouchable this spring. In his 6 innings so far he’s allowed one baserunner (a hit) while striking out 7. His ERA is 0. His WHIP is a mere 0.17. His average against is only .056. He doesn’t blow past batters, but instead uses a full arsenal of plus pitches.
His fastball may be one of the most underrated in baseball thanks to a lack of touching 100 MPH, but at 95 MPH he’s still in the 82nd percentile in speed, and 92nd in it’s spin rate. Mix that with his absolutely disgusting split finger change up, and he has one of the best 1-2 punches in the game. He follows that up with a slider and a curveball that are also above average pitches by a lot of metrics, and ELITE control.
Roberts named him as one of the biggest standouts of the Spring so far to him. Statcast isn’t surprised though. His most comparable pitcher on the site, Max freaking Scherzer. Sadly he is also on the outside of the deepest rotation in baseball despite him consistently over achieving at the MLB level. In his first 86.2 MLB IP, he has a 2.60 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. GIVE THE CAT MAN INNINGS.
- Victor Gonzalez
We called the breakout last year, and Gonzalez just continues to dominate as the new Josh Hader. His fastball slider combo is soul crushing against lefties and righties. He has a 0.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.56 so far this spring. He’s given up 1 hit and 2 walks against 6 strikeouts so far. If he can keep his pitches under control, he can be a future reliever of a year.
The one time starter will most likely never look back and will compete for save opportunities this year with Jansen, Graterol, and Treinen. And honestly, he’s our favorite of the group which is ridiculous to think about.
- Garrett Cleavinger
Cleavinger is starting to look more and more like Andrew Miller back in the day and we are HERE for it. This was another one of the Dodgers sneaky offseason pickups and he is a strikeout machine. The big lefty struggled in his Dodger debut but has been almost elite since then.
His ERA is sitting at 1.80 in his first 5 innings, granted he has 2 unearned runs as well. But the standout stat for the kid is his 9 strikeouts in 5 innings. And this isn’t new. Throughout the minors Cleavinger always struck out more than a batter an inning, and mostly trended up every season. He peaked in his last year (2019) with 14.5 K’s per 9 innings.
At that rate, he would’ve finished in the top 10 in all of MLB in that stat. Sandwiched between former Dodger Jake McGee and FA Trevor Rosenthal. And while strikeouts per 9 innings doesn’t guarantee success, only 1 of the top 10 (Kimbrel) had an ERA above 4, while 5 of the 10 had ERA’s under 3. We did a full breakdown of the new lefty here.
- Honorable Mention
- Kenley Jansen
You could argue that Jansen has been the top pitching performer for the Dodgers this Spring, but we’ve seen this dance before. Last year, Jansen started out incredibly hot and everyone was starting to think he was back. As the season went on, it felt like he got progressively worse until the Dodgers were relying on the quartet of Urias, Gonzalez, Treinen, and Graterol for high leverage innings that used to be Jansen’s.
That being said, Jansen is killing it right now even without his velocity. He has 5 perfect innings only giving up 2 hits against 9 strikeouts and no walks. The stats sandwich him between Gonsolin and Gonzalez at the moment, and should be enough to solidify his closer role for the first half of the season. But again, we’re not sold on Jansen being what he was and won’t be until he does it for 35+ innings again.