The 2021 Dodgers open the regular season and their title defense on Thursday afternoon with a set of games in Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies. Clayton Kershaw will take the mound against German Marquez for the Rockies. Nevermind Coors Field being a total nightmare of a ballpark, the Dodgers are seemingly destined to win another championship this season and begin a delightful Dodger dynasty of World Championships. I prefer this. But even despite Bill Plaschke’s claims that this year’s Dodgers team will be the greatest of all time, the Dodgers do have a few minor weaknesses, on paper anyways.
Don’t get me wrong here, the Dodger’s roster is very very good. Perhaps the Dodgers are on paper one of the strongest clubs in MLB. Even the best teams do have a few kinks in their armor and the Dodgers are no different. There are a few.
- Second base
The Dodgers are giving the second base job to rookie Gavin Lux and he has to prove that he can hit major league pitching this year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do this since he was called up in limited action in 2019. He hit just .240 with an 85 OPS+ over 82 plate appearances in 2019 and then batted just .175 through 70 plate appearances in 2020. He’s only 23 years old and he was a first-round draft pick, so he has the youth and pedigree to be successful. However, he came straight from high school and my eyes rarely ever let me down. He just doesn’t look good at the plate. His contact skills are weak, and he has little power. He has looked better this spring and here is hoping a full regular season will help him find his swing. If Lux can’t handle full time playing the Dodgers can always plug Chris Taylor there temporarily until Lux figures it out. I hope Lux is not a bust, but it’s going to take real actual production from him in order to squash those fears.
- Weaker Bench
The Dodgers let Joc Pederson, and Enrique Hernandez walk in free agency, so the bench is arguably going to be considerably weaker. It’s not a major area of concern but replacing Joc and Kike with Matt Beaty and Zach Mckinstry will mean less production and versatility. Beaty a left-handed hitting outfielder didn’t do much in 2020, although he had little playing time. Mckinstry actually has minor league experience all over the diamond but has mostly played second base.
Beaty and Mckinstry are both career minor leaguers with Mckinstry being a 33rd round draft pick. They’re fringy utility guys with little MLB experience. Replacing Joc and Kike with minor leaguers is a definite downgrade no matter how you look at it.
- Left-handed relievers
No MLB team can have enough southpaw relievers in their bullpen. Yet the Dodgers seem to have a major shortage this season. With Caleb Ferguson still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Adam Kolarek no longer with the club, the Dodgers are left with Scott Alexander, Second-year rookie Victor Gonzalez and David Price. Gonzalez was terrific during the Dodger’s 2020 title run. He’ll likely get the brunt of the high leverage innings in 2021. But Alexander will probably pick up a lot too. Alexander has been mediocre for years now and the Dodger’s fascination with him is so weird. Sure, I get it that they don’t have many options in this department and Alexander gives them one. But let us not forget Alexander has a career long record of mediocrity and injury. He’s averaged nearly 4 walks every nine innings. And that is the main part of his issues.
He only has one true offering and opposing hitters don’t chase the sinker. But when he is able to locate it, he can be effective in getting those ground balls that clubs covet so much in the late innings. If he stops walking guys he can be useful. So can Price in his new role. The former Cy Young winner is taking one for the team by volunteering to go to the bullpen as a spot starter and long man. It’s probably for the best considering he hasn’t pitched in over a year and a half and with his age and injury history, it’s anyone’s guess what the Dodgers will get out of him. Besides, Dustin May is the best choice for the fifth starter and once Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly return from injuries, the bullpen might look a bit different.